Essays / tag / gear

In this edition of “What’s In My Bag” I’ll go over one of my favorite toys, my “Frankencamera” setup for stills using a Pentax Q.

What’s Actually In The Bag

Let’s first start with the bag itself, my old Dome F-803 Messenger Bag. It’s an old bag, so old the strap has worn off so I went and purchased a military bag strap made of the same canvas at an Army/Navy surplus. As you can see besides the strap, this bag has lasted me about twenty years! The F-803 is usually a 6 pocket affair that comes with an insert to make the main compartment a three pocket setup. I’ve taken the insert and use it in my F-802 that you’ve seen in the previous edition of this series.

The rig itself is from an old Sunpak Slave flash as well as an IKan cold shoe. The video light is used as a focus assist light in this setup while the three F-18 flashes have diffusers made from tracing paper sandwiched between plastic from a clear plastic folder and held on by gaffer’s tape. To trigger all this I use a Pentax 2P Hot Shoe Adapter that has a pass through to allow the flash mounted on the hot shoe of the Q to fire as well as a PC Port with a splitter to connect the other two flashes via sync cables. Basically this whole rig cost at most $80 from parts that are readily available In another article I’ll go over shooting with this rig and how I post process everything.

Enjoy the tour!


This little video goes over what I carry each day in my daily camera bag. This is basically what I have with me when I walk around daily, and whenever I do documentary photography. For the most part the why's and wherefore of the individual cameras and digital gear are covered in earlier articles here about mobile photography. Just click that tag on the left and you'll find them. The only thing I really didn't talk about was the bag itself, the Domke F-802.

I love Domke bags. My old F-2 and F-1x have been with me for a couple of decades along with the F-803. The way these bags are made out of military grade impregnated canvas is just bulletproof. Outside of a Pelican Case, nothing is better than a Domke. They may not be as flashy as say a Billingham, but they do the job well and for the most part are designed much like the cameras that were around when Bill Domke created the bag when on the staff of the Philadelphia Enquirer, to last a lifetime.

As far as the large number of notebooks I carry, what can I say. I do use them heavily, and have a fetish for Moleskin notebooks specifically. There is just something about a well crafted little notebook like the ones they make. Something very Zen, much like shooting film on an old Leica Rangefinder. To be honest that is why I love shooting documentary (or euphemistically "street") photography. I don't shoot it to get into Time Magazine or anything like that. I shoot it to document the world I see and in all honesty to relax and almost meditate. I try not to worry about much when I shoot street and while for time and cost primarily shoot this work digitally, on occasion I will break out one of my old film cameras, many of them without built in meters and shoot the old fashion way, f/8 and be there as well as Sunny 16.

Enjoy the video, and do read the articles that go in more detail about the items I carry.


In the last article we discussed the various capabilities in using old lenses on modern digital cameras, MILC to be exact. In this article we'll go through the complete process of developing RAW files with an eye on how to correct or enhance the unique look of these optics using the Pentax Q and Kern Paillard lenses from the late 50's.

What you see above is my Pentax Q with a C-Mount adapter to use the Kern Palliard (KP) SWITAR 25/1.5 lens. C-Mount lenses cover a 16mm film frame and currently are available in two types - motion picture and CCTV. Now while the modern CCTV lenses are multicoated affairs, they are optically inferior to their motion picture brethren. The KP's (the one on the camera is from 1956) are considered to be the Leica of 16mm motion picture lenses, with incredible optical quality. The downside of using vintage motion picture lenses is they are made of either single or uncoated optics that can cause a bit of chromatic aberration that can be difficult to correct for. In this case we have a single coat optic.

Since this article is about dealing with these sort of optics let's just dive right in. Above is a shot of Cory Nova from the Q shot using the KP. As you can see the contrast is a bit low and the color a tad cool. What really stands out though is while technically sharp the lens due to being single coated has a certain softness. The first thing we must address is the color and contrast.

First off we address the color by shifting it just a tad warmer. We also drag down the highlights and bump the shadows up ever so slightly. Oddly we decrease clarity and do nothing in the contrast. The clarity drop is to give the skin a smoother look. Increasing contrast is not done as that would tend to contract the histogram, giving less leeway when doing post production in Photoshop. Please note this is the ACR control panel, not Lightroom. We'll delve far more into that application when I publish my 645Z articles. So if I didn't add contrast how did the contrast increase ever so slightly?

In the latest versions of ACR and Lightroom there is an FX tab that has a wonderful feature when dealing with the "haze" that single coat optics have on digital sensors - DeHaze. This is a bit different and not as destructive as just cranking up the contrast slider. The idea here is not to use too much. A small amount goes a long way. One thing you'll note is that I did not address the "sharpness" of the image yet. I don't in the ACR, but do in Photoshop. At this point I export out a 16 bit TIFF and move to the next step.

One reason I use Photoshop over Lightroom is the extensive retouching one does in much of the work I do. It is by adapting the technique I use for retouching images I can increase the "sharpness" of the final image. Above you see the final exported image. The next step is prepping this image for retouching by making two duplicate layers. 

The first layer is what we call a "low frequency" layer. It is created by duplicating the original image onto a new layer then applying a slight gaussian blur. This is the layer we use to correct color and such. 

The next layer is the "high frequency" layer. This again is a duplicate layer, this time applied to the low frequency layer and creates a grayscale image that contains all the detail information for retouching. At this point I do all my retouching work. Once done I duplicate the high frequency layer leaving the blending option at "Linear Light".

Much like the ""high frequency" layer this adds detail. I drop the opacity to around 50% so as not to over sharpen the image. From this point I flatten the image and carry out my final post process procedures. Now while this may seem a bit long and involved it really isn't. About the best way to perhaps save time in this process is to create a custom lens profile for the ACR module. Now since this is just a small MILC and not a Medium Format legacy camera like say a Mamiya RZ or Hasselblad 500CM using a Phase One back, I really see no reason to go through all that. In the future however I will do an article on this in case any of you do want to do this. I'll leave you off with the final image to enjoy and hope you all join me here for my next article.

Feel free to ask any questions below.

So in my last entry on mobile life I discussed the various cameras and other sundries I carry in my daily camera bag. In this article I will discuss the software I use when being mobile. The first step is however getting the images onto the tablet I use. Luckily the Android OS allows for the use of USB mass storage devices. A simple cable is all I need to attach a card reader and transfer or read directly from the memory card of my camera, in this case my Ricoh GR.

What you see above is the initial screen for PhotoMateR2, the RAW conversion software I use on my Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition tablet. What you have is basically a file manager much like what you have on a PC or in Lightroom CC, with folder views and easy to navigate touch interface. This is the major reason why I switched to Android over iOS. The ability to control where your files go and the support for mass storage devices via the USB port. If you use an app like Camera FV-5 which supports DNG Raw capture with your cell phone an app like PhotoMateR2 is an absolute must.

PhotoMate does provide a viewer which does take time to render the images as you see above. The faster the card and of course how large the files are, the faster it will render. Usually for me the RAW files from my Ricoh GR, Fuji X100, Pentax Q and Sony NEX-6 all read quite quickly. My Pentax K-3 takes a bit longer and my Pentax 645Z can take quite a while. That said it is amazing that my tablet will handle (or any mobile device) a 51mp image of the type my 645Z generates. If you shoot JPG you could se a WiFi card like an EyeFi Mobi, though to be honest if you are shooting a modern compact you most likely won't be shooting JPEG. 

Once you select and filter out the images in the review module using a procedure that transfers directly to Lightroom CC or Adobe Bridge as it is compliant with those packages, you can develop those images in PhotoMate as seen in the screen above. The controls for development are not that different from those you will find in Lightroom CC as you can tell from the above image. I must say that I find it a lot easier to deal with adjustments using a stylus over my finger. I do have PhotoMate on my Galaxy S5 as well as on my tablet so the larger screen is a definite benefit. Once done the image can be exported in either TIFF (both 8 bit and 16 bit) as well as JPEG. Unfortunately there are very few apps in the Android environment that support TIFF for post work unless you want to play with the current GIMP build for Android. Usually I export right back to the card as a JPEG.

At this point I take the developed files over to Snapseed 2.0. Above you can see the UI. What I love about Snapseed is that it works in nondestructive and adjustable layers. These layers can then be copy and pasted on other images and of course readjusted ad nauseum. Again I find using Snapseed a lot easier, especially the new Brush adjustment feature, with a stylus. Really this app has replaced Adobe Photoshop Touch as my go to post production app. Touch BTW recently has had support discontinued as Adobe will be replacing it  soon with a new app first on iOS and later on Android. 

Let me close out this article with some shots from a walk I recently took at a decommissioned hospital grounds all taken with my Ricoh GR and developed and post processed on my tablet using the two apps discussed here.

Finally for those who subscribe to the Flipboard version of this blog, I've flipped in an article on why shooting RAW is a good thing.

One thing you always hear when using a wide angle lens is to "get close". Since the typical FOV for a cell phone camera is about 28mm, I thought to give this a shot...

Shot on my Samsung Galaxy S5 with post work in Snapseed 2.0.  Lighting is a video light inside a Gary Fong Lumisphere and a table top light box. This entry entirely done from my Galaxy S5.  

So on the last entry I discussed very briefly what I use as a camera phone. It was very brief. Simply put I have a Galaxy S5. Now why a Samsung and not an iPhone? The reasoning is simple, I like that an Android phone has more options as far as OS flexibility for the power user. I didn't just buy an S5 for the camera, but primarily as a phone that I use for a lot of functions. While the camera is important to me, and was a factor, primarily it is a phone and scheduling device for me.

As a point of disclosure I do also have an Android based tablet that I write this blog entirely on. It is a Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 10.1 2014 Edition. The major reason I have this over say an iPad is again the power user aspects. It has a nice USB port that I can hook up a 240GB external SSD for file storage when shooting. I can run Photo Mate R2 which is basically a great Raw developer for Android which reminds me more of Lightroom than Lightroom Mobile does, we'll at least the development module of it. For post processing work I use two apps heavily and a suite of tools primarily for certain unique function. I'll go over the software I use in a later article, but let's first take a look at the main instruments of this mobile workflow - what I capture images with.

Usually when wandering around New York I carry three cameras on average at all times. This is primarily because I like keeping things simple. When I did this shooting film I did nearly all my work with a 35mm FOV lens, be it the 25/2.8 Olympus Zukio for my PenFT or the 35 Summiron on my old Leica. For that I carry with me everyday for the most part a Fuji X100. Not the new one, just the original 12mp model. Does a fantastic job. That being said many of you will say "three camera is simple"? Well yes when you consider the cameras.

My second camera pretty much falls into the small easy to carry category. That would be my Ricoh GR. Recently Ricoh released a GR II which is basically the same as the original GR but with WiFi. The GR is a 28mm FOV which I am finding more and more enjoyable, but to be honest I still prefer 35mm. That said I do find myself using this camera more and more often. The slightly wider FOV does get a bit getting used to especially since I am a zone focus sort of shooter, something the GR excels at due to the Snap Focus feature.

As I mentioned earlier in the article I do use as my third camera my Galaxy S5. Using it with an app like Camera FV-5 basically gives me near total control over the camera, and depending on the phone you use, DNG capture and full manual control over exposure and focus! Overall I've been much happier using this camera phone over the one made by Apple on the iPhone.

Finally I carry a few Moleskin notebooks, either for sketching or taking actual notes that eventually get digitized into Evernote. That is my daily bag. All carried in a Domke messenger bag. I love Domke bags. They are quite durable and look great. Best functional camera bag ever made. Next article I'll discuss some of the software I use. Also I promise a lot more timely and frequent updates.