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Vanguard 2Go-46: Backpack 2Go with!

Photography is all about capturing the moment. When you are traveling, most often there are times when you see something that catches your attention and by the time you reach for your camera bag, unzip it, pull the camera out, take the lens cap off, meter and fire away, the moment passes. While some of these steps cannot be avoided, some can be definitely sped up. Especially, the time required to access the camera. When you are traveling, you cannot always have the camera dangling around your neck. Not only will it hurt your neck after a while but your camera will be prone to the weather elements as well. Dust and humidity are not really your camera’s best friends. When you have invested in expensive gear, it is as important to invest in the right kind of a bag.

When it comes to bags I have always preferred the ease of a slingshot bag because it provides quicker access to my equipment. But anyone who has used a slingshot would know that it is not comfortable on shoulder for long hours. Backpacks on the other hand distribute weight more evenly and naturally than a sling bag.

I have been a recent fan of Vanguard products because of their quality and great value. So when I got my hands on the Vanguard 2Go 46, I decided to put it through its paces. I took it along on my trip to Vrindavan to shoot the Holi festival. Holi, the festival of color, is a fantastic photo-op but shooting it needs a lot of preparation. You need safety covers for your bag and camera gear. Holi in Vrindavan is played by a very enthusiastic crowd and once you start shooting, in no time you will be doused with colors. It is not just you but also the camera and the bag that takes the hit. Having the right bag that is capable of protecting your gear and at the same time allowing you to easily load and retrieve your camera is of utmost importance during such shoots.

Vanguard 2Go46

Vanguard 2Go 46 is a mid-sized day-bag which can easily fit a DSLR with a medium zoom attached and 3-4 additional small lenses and accessories. Its dual compartment design provides ample space for personal items too. It can also carry a 14 inch laptop or a tablet. However keep in mind that it cannot really hold pro telephoto lenses like 70-200 mm or 100-400mm. Well, it was never meant for these professional lenses in the first place. The size of the bag is just about right for me and the bag in itself is quite light at around 1Kg. Click to read more

Shooting the Tweety Bird!

My facebook page just crossed 1,25,000 followers! I can’t express how thankful I am for all your support and encouragement. Thank you everyone! To mark this small milestone, I am planning to launch TwitHour – a one hour weekly sessions on twitter where I would be answering your photography questions or just talking about photography.

I try my best to respond to all emails and messages I get, but lately I get so many of them (30-50 a day) that it has become difficult to write back to each one of you amidst all the work that goes into being a professional photographer. When people write to me about their questions in photography, I do want to write back. But if I don’t reply back, it’s not because I don’t care anymore or because I am losing my disposition. It’s sheerly because of the lack of time in my life.

Believe me when I say this; Being a professional photographer is not just about shooting and post-processing. It involves so much more – from marketing, meeting clients, networking, meeting vendors, learning and honing one’s skills, constantly making an effort to get better, keeping oneself updated on latest technology, answering emails and phone calls, location scouts, planning shoots, billing, payments, contracts, releases, traveling and time spent in traffic, shooting and editing, deliveries, managing website, managing Facebook page, blogging etc. All this is done in between personal time and family time which is getting shorter by the day!

I am trying very hard to get things organized in my life. I think the best way to answer your queries would be on twitter which is concise and to the point. I would still love to hear from you on other platforms like Facebook and emails etc. But if you have any specific questions on photography or about being a professional photographer or you just want to talk about photography – you can do so on twitter . I will pick out the best tweets and answer back during the twithour (Monday 7pm-8pm) every week.

To participate,  and  your query / message along with the hash tag – #twitHour.

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Twithour goes live tomorrow – Monday 22nd April 2013 at 7pm.

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To best utilize our time together, here are a few sample questions that you can avoid:

1) Please give me feedback on my portfolio - This takes a lot of time which I do not honestly have. Although I would love to see the photos, I unfortunately have too many things going on in my life right now. I simply cannot afford to spare that kind of time. Also, most people simply do not like to hear sincere feedback. I really would not want to discourage anyone. So no, I will not review portfolios.

2) My budget is 25000. Which camera should I buy? - You need to give me more specific questions than these. Do your initial research and then ask me “I have shortlisted two cameras A and B. A costs 10000 more than B because it has X and Y features. Do you think it’s worth paying for these features?”

3) Can I come along with you on your shoots? – Unfortunately, this is not possible. My husband has called dibs on that!! :)

4) Please guide me!! – I would not know where to begin. Remember I have no knowledge of where you stand in photography, what are your strengths and areas of improvement. Think about how you can best utilize my time. Ask me more specific questions.

5) Give me some tips! - Same as #4

6) Please like my photography page – I have very little time to spend on my news feed in Facebook and I subscribe to selected pages and people so that I get only those updates that I want to see. I cannot follow all pages.

Let’s talk photography.

-Neeta

TwitHour – Monday 7pm-8pm

Vanguard Alta+ 233 AP Tripod – One for all

For some time now, I have been looking for a lightweight and compact tripod that is sturdy and easy to use.
As a photographer who travels quite frequently, I have most often detested carrying a tripod along because of the additional weight. My photography equipment is heavy enough, and to add to that when I have to walk around with a heavy tripod especially in sunny weather conditions, it just kills the joy of traveling for me. But as Murphy’s law would have it, it’s always when you don’t carry a piece of gear that you will need it the most! If you’re serious about your photography, a tripod of any type is a must.

Performance and Pricing

It was only recently that I picked up a Vanguard Alta+ 233 AP tripod for one of my out-station shoots. I must say that I am impressed with the quality it offers at such a reasonable price. The tripod sells with the head PH-22 for a little over 8000 INR in India and offers all the features that most professional tripods offer. Since most of the good tripod and head combos I have used earlier have cost more than double, I was a little apprehensive if the tripod would be sturdy enough for my gear (5d Mark III, 24-70mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II). However, after using it extensively for over a week, I am pleasantly surprised!

The size and weight of the tripod is just about perfect! In fact, it’s compact enough to fit into my check-in luggage. This way I don’t have to worry about my tripod getting damaged in transit or about forgetting to collect it after landing. Additionally, it comes with a tripod carry bag which is a nice touch. It weighs just under 1 kg with bag which makes it quite easy on the shoulders!

Strong, Sturdy and Smooth

One of the first things you notice in this tripod is its fine finishing. The legs have soft foam grip and the tripod in itself looks elegant. It’s made of aluminum alloy which makes it strong and durable. While carbon fiber is more preferable material for a tripod, it comes at a price! Carbon supposedly dampens vibrations better, how much this matters is a personal call. For most of my work, this aluminum alloy tripod held its own and was reliable. Vanguard claims it can hold up to 3kgs weight which makes it suitable with all contemporary DSLRs and lenses. I used it all the time outdoors with my 5D Mark iii and 24-70 f/2.8 under slightly windy conditions and the tripod was stable as a rock. I also tried it with the heavy 70-200 2.8 and it was surprisingly sturdy even when the legs were completely extended (total weight being about 2.5+ kg).

The tripod also comes with an accessory hook (to hang your accessory bag, or a bag of weights) for better stabilization. I am yet to try the tripod in extremely windy and testing conditions. But my bet is that it can surely perform well with additional weights attached.

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The Alta 233AP not just holds the camera steady but also holds its own against its competition!

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What is truly splendid about this tripod is the attention paid to detail. It comes with a shock control rubber ring that absorbs the shock caused by accidentally releasing the center column. In addition, the tripod consists of a dual locking system which helps avoid the possibility of accidentally dropping the camera! The safety lock snaps automatically into locked position when the quick release plate is placed on the tripod head and is released only when you simultaneously push a button and pull the lever. Unlike other tripods I have used, quick release plate can be tightened and loosened on camera without much hassle.

I simply love the way the center column dismantles for various uses. You can detach the accessory hook with the press of a button and unscrew the hook from it to convert it to a low-angle adapter. You can also detach the pan-head from the center column using an Allen key (provided with the tripod). The rubber feet can be rotated by hand to expose metal spikes for stable use on uneven surfaces like mud/grass. Vanguard has indeed put in a lot of thought into designing this product!

The tripod stretches to a height of a little over 5.5 feet when completely extended which is just about right for average Indian height. The tripod legs can be adjusted and locked at 25, 50 and 80 degrees with the help of buttons. (These buttons are a little hard but works fine). The PH-22 head is made of magnesium alloy. It has two bubble levels for precision. The pan-head has two levers controlling motion in three directions. One of the levers controls motion in two directions (one for panning and another for angle adjustment). Completely tightening the lever will restrict both movements while loosening the lever by a thread will allow 360 degree movement.

This tripod is great for shooting the following;

1) Long exposure / night photography

Great for shooting in low light. It holds the camera steady in most field conditions. I would recommend using the 2-sec self-timer or a shutter release for all the shots to avoid causing any vibrations.

2) Low angle photography

How-to: To shoot at a low angle, just extend the tripod legs to 80 degrees and snap it into position. Remove the accessory hook from the center column and detach the column from the tripod. Unscrew the accessory hook from its attachment which can now be used as a low angle adapter. This can be snapped into place (with the help of a button) onto the tripod. The camera can be directly attached to this screw for an extremely low angled shot. You can shoot as low as 5 inches from the ground.

If you would like the ability to adjust the angle, then you can un-mount the head from the center column (using the Allen Key) and attach it to the low angle adapter. This may be a little tedious while on field. I would highly recommend carrying a small pouch to throw the small screws into.

3) Macro Photography

How-to: To use this tripod for macro photography, detach the accessory hook, pull out the center column and reverse it from under the tripod, snap the accessory hook into place on the top.

A tripod is extremely essential while shooting macro since we are working with such shallow depth of field. A small vibration and you could lose your focus. There were noticeable vibrations when I released the shutter button while the camera was attached upside down for macro photography. This is not much of a bother for me as I always use a cable shutter release for macro shots.

4) Video, Panoramic images, Panning, Motion blur

The pan-head offers easy 360 degree panoramic movement which suits photos as well as video. With almost all DSLRs today offering HD video abilities, this pan-head is a big plus for video enthusiasts. The panning is silent and smooth.
Pan Head is also quite convenient for capturing panoramic images, panning shots and motion blur.

While two-lever head is fine for video, it takes some getting used to for panoramic images and panning shots. I would have preferred a 3 lever head or a ball head.

Final Words

There are some run of the mill tripods available in the market but these are flimsy and will not hold the weight of DSLRs with heavy lenses in the field. They are best suited for compact cameras. However, if you are planning to invest in a good and reliable tripod with professional features, Alta+ 233AP is a steal!

Pros:

  • Light-weight, Compact, and ideal for travel.
  • Well-engineered
  • Value for Money
  • Sturdy and reliable and effortlessly takes the weight of professional equipment upto 3 kgs.
  • Suitable for both Photos (including low angle and macro photography) and Video

Cons:

  • Made of Aluminum Alloy (Carbon Fiber is generally lighter and more rigid but a lot more expensive.)
  • While shooting Macro with the camera attached upside down, the vibrations are noticeable. Use of a shutter release will avoid vibrations.
  • Tripod comes with a pan-head which is great when you shoot both photo and video. But for someone like me who does not shoot videos, a ball-head would be more convenient. (A ball-head can be purchased separately and used on the tripod.) I would want an option to purchase the tripod with a ball-head.
  • Instruction booklet is all pictures and takes a while to understand.

These cons however are not really major and I highly recommend this tripod to anyone who cares for value for money.

You can buy Vanguard Alta 233AP from Flipkart

P.S. The opinions expressed in these reviews were made from my first-hand experience with the equipment in everyday shooting conditions. The equipment may or may not function the same when used in extremely testing conditions.

Introducing Gear Reviews

Photography is probably the most commonly pursued hobby these days with the advent of digital cameras and social media. While digital cameras have become a lot cheaper than what they were in the yesteryear, the complete DSLR kit and accessories can still burn a big hole in one’s pocket. One can never have enough when it comes to lenses and other accessories!

When I started off with photography a few years ago, one of the difficult decisions was about which equipment to invest my money into. While I never really regret any of my purchases, it did take me some time and research to figure out what best suited my needs and was also value for money.

Most people discard their camera gear as useless even before they learn how to use it to its best potential. Most people also believe that more expensive the gear, the better pictures one can shoot.

I believe you will shoot the best only when you learn to see light and use your gear well. There is almost always a workaround for every limitation in your gear.

With technology around digital cameras growing ever so rapidly, this will surely be one of the “most innovative decades in history” for photography.. With so many brands and products to choose from, each claiming to offer something new and unique, the choice becomes harder and harder. Hence I hope to review worthy equipment that I can get my hands on. These hands-on reviews will be aimed at providing insights to using the product to its best. For everyone who has been posting equipment related questions on my Facebook page, I hope this helps you make better informed decisions.

The picture below was shot using a product whose review I am going to be posting first. Take a guess! Drop in a comment!

Long Exposure

Happy Valentine’s Day

Just back from shooting a lovely couple. What’s better than to witness and capture love on Valentine’s Day!

I generally don’t share anything personal on my blog/page. But today I am making an exception. After all it’s the day of love!

2012 has been a very eventful year for me. In FB lingo, my timeline acquired 3 huge milestones. I got engaged to and then married my best friend. I quit my day job and now my passion is also my profession.

On this Valentine’s Day, this blog post is dedicated to my husband who has been so perfect all along. He cheers for me even for the smallest of achievements, never complains about the burnt toast, never notices the extra pounds (thanks to all the wedding lunches and dinners), never stops his encouraging banter in times of my self-doubt.

Here’s wishing him and all of you a very happy Valentine’s Day. The pictures below were shot quite some time ago by my brother, friends and myself.

 Note to self: Time to make new memories.

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