Cambo Actus and the Fuji X-T1

This afternoon I got to do some preliminary testing with the Cambo Actus fixed to the Fuji X-T1.

This, I believe, will be a great addition to the landscape photo kit I travel with. I tested the Nikkor 75mm and Schneider 90mm and discovered that the Schneider 47mm would not focus to infinity, but as a macro or even close portrait lens, this lens will work superbly.

There was not much difference between coverage of the 75 and 90mm lenses, and I liked the results with the latter quite a bit better.

The images (on the linked page below) with the proprietary Fuji and Zeiss fixed focus lenses at 12mm, 23mm, and 35mm.

The 90mm Schneider comes close to the coverage area of the 35mm lens. Although not very wide for landscapes, the Cambo Actus will provide for some incredibly sharp images in many instances.

Tomorrow morning I will go to one of the few scenic spots in town and see how it does in the field. This way I can test the system including a Lee polarizer and some graduated filters.

Here is the link to the test images shot.



Digital photography opened the door to millions of new hobbyists who had never considered the craft when there was a need to learn metering, composition, aperture, or shutter speed before you could take a decent photo in the “old” film days.

Today, just like in photography, Kickstarter has given tens of thousands of people a peek into the world of R&D, prototyping, and manufacturing.

What used to be a simple click of the mouse or a visit to a retail location to pick up a new, cool gadget, Kickstarter has allowed these same consumers to get in on the ground floor of a gadget’s introduction to the market.

It is funny to read all the notes and comments that are being left by “investors” who provided seed money for a new project.  Okay, maybe not funny from the consumer perspective, but quite funny from a manufacturer’s or designer’s perspective.

No gadget, car, pillow, deodorant, plastic spoon, or you name it comes to market without the engineering, tooling, and most importantly retooling of molds, dies, etc. that always precedes the final “perfect” item shipping to a store near you.  The only difference is the consumer was never made aware of this timeline until now.

In many cases, the next irritation is already in the design stages when the preceding version is shipping to their distribution points for the very first time. And, no, most companies will not divulge this to their own salespeople. So, don’t bother asking when the next big thing is shipping; the salesperson is usually the last to find out! That is why we now have rumor sites that try to get this data from (likely unethical) vendors, designers, or partners.

I got in on two gadgets that I think will make my photographic life much more fun. There was no actual need for any of these, but there was a “want”.  So, as long as there is no dire need, there is no rush.

This cool gadget, ought to make landscape panoramas a lot easier, but that is all.  Looks like a neat toy to add to the camera bag, but it is not a lifesaver.  I am looking forward to receiving my all-black version sometime next year.  Is there a rush? Heck no, I want it to work. And work well.

What photographer does not have a gazillion camera bags that never get used, all in the name of finding the perfect bag!  Although two come close, this belt is a brilliant idea. The heck with bags, just carry the lens on a mount attached to a belt. How cool. Again, it is not a life changer but a cool gadget. Let’s be patient and get it right before it is shipped. I am sure neither the creator nor I want a $4,000+ lens to drop to the ground.

What are my 2 near-perfect bags?  One is the Kiboko 30L that handles all my gear on a safari or birding trip.  Yep, it will take the 500mm, 300mm, 24-70mm, two camera bodies and much more AND still fit in the overhead of a small regional jet. The other is a small bag that doesn’t weigh a thing and still holds enough for any photo shoot or short trip – plus a 17” Macbook Pro.  It is the ThinkThank Shape Shifter. Both bags have straps for my tripod.

So, just as digital technology has done an incredible job for relatively small camera manufacturers, Kickstarter will do the same for many small companies trying to launch the next big thing. But, unlike using your camera in “P” mode*, getting in on the ground floor of a great idea doesn’t mean all will be easy or smooth sailing! Kickstarter will make many thousands of investors a much better consumer by finally learning the ins and outs of launching a product.

*  The “P” stands for Program. I like to think it stands for Pray your image will be what you intended it to be!


Give to forget, don’t forget to give….

The story begins with a Jew and Muslim sitting next to each other…

Really?  Yep.   Trust me, read on!

During a short flight to San Antonio, two guys sitting next to each other got into deep conversation about life, religion, and travel.  Both had come to the USA to study and both had made the decision to stay and build a new life in a strange land.

It was incredibly easy to go from one subject to another, and we quickly realized that we shared a passion for fried chicken (albeit from opposite sides of the counter), driving in the comfort of our Rolls-Royce, and traveling the world with our kids.

We were there with a common goal: to greet and visit with the children and widow or widower being shuttled on their very own American Airlines charter to the 2012 Snowball Express held this weekend in the Dallas – Fort Worth Metroplex.

Snowball Express is an all-volunteer, very young charity focused on providing a great, albeit brief, memory to children of military members whose lives were cut short by war since 9-11-2001.

And that was exactly what we were doing aboard this AA flight. Giving so that these youngsters could forget. For four days, they are treated as VIP’s. From the volunteer baggage handlers to the nametag, everything pointed to the VIP status of these kids.

As our lives are just slices of memories stacked on top of each other, these four days are a wonderful way to be able to add some positive slices within the stack of life.

American Airlines provides the greatest chunk of support though the “loan” of aircraft, revenue seats for those families who cannot reach a charter point of departure, and all cockpit and cabin crew who do this on their own time. Next time you see an AA pilot or attendant, thank them for their support to this incredible program.

We picked up the first group of families and saw that Santa had already made it to the gate and was greeting the children who were anxiously waiting for their flight to DFW.

The crew who would be flying the plane back to DFW

The crew who would be flying the plane back to DFW

Mr. & Mrs. Claus will actually celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on December 25th

Mr. & Mrs. Claus will actually celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on December 25th

At our second stop, a steel band was there to give the families a festive send-off. Now shown are the bomb sniffing dog that was a great hit with the younger crowd, and the 30+ men strong Honor Guard.

At our second stop, a steel band was there to give the families a festive send-off. Not shown are the bomb sniffing dog that was a great hit with the younger crowd, and the 30+ men strong Honor Guard.

From the very first minute these children step aboard, the crew does everything possible to begin a memorable 4-day weekend. The airplane was fully decorated prior to departure and during the shuttle to our first destination.  A stuffed animal was placed on each seat assigned to a younger participant.

Now, why can't we fly like this every day. How can you not get off the plane with a huge smile?

Now, why can’t we fly like this every day. How can you not get off the plane with a huge smile?

Experts are asked to make the pre-flight announcements

Experts are asked to make the pre-flight announcements


Just in case we fill up, volunteers were asked if they would give up their seat and be stowed in the overhead compartments.

Just in case we fill up, volunteers were asked if they would give up their seat and be stowed in the overhead compartments.

Upon arrival at DFW, the volunteers – some 60 to 70 people – made sure the music was at full blast and the volume level of other noise makers was at its peak. For many it was the first reality check that this trip would indeed become a memory filled with laughter, all-day fun, and pampering for the moms. Some families were here for the second or third time; children are welcomed back from the age of 5 until they turn 18.

I made sure I was the first off the plane to capture the reactions of the children getting off the 737.

I made sure I was the first off the plane to capture the reactions of the children getting off the 737.



Indie Racer, the Brit Martin Plowman, was there to sign photos, pants, shirts, you name it. Even the full-scale fiberglass replica of the actual racecar sporting the Snowball Express logo was in the hotel lobby for the weekend.

The AT&T Center for the Preforming Arts hosted an event, there was a Children Parade, there was Six Flags Over Texas, Fair Park, The Stockyards, and Neiman Marcus opened their store so that kids could buy a Christmas gift for their mother or father. Of course there was no register where they had to pay for the gift selected.  No parent was allowed in the store – this was a kids-only event.

No matter where the event was held, the buses were always escorted by the Patriot Guard Riders.  I am sure these guys were ecstatic with this year’s weather. 70 degrees beats 20 on any day when you are riding a motorcycle.

Martin Plowman posing with one of the Patriot Guard Riders

Martin Plowman posing with one of the Patriot Guard Riders

The highlight (especially for most moms) was the evening at Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth.  Performing this evening was none other than Gary Sinise, the actor famous for his roles in Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, The Green Mile, and the hit show CSI New York. Mr. Sinise is also an accomplished musician who not only is extremely liberal with his wallet but also performs for the Troops and causes supporting our Troops with his band, The Lt. Dan Band.

So, were there any slices added to my stack of memories. Absolutely.

Take the 5-year old girl who asks if she can sit on my lap on the bus ride from DFW to the hotel.  She talked about her first birthday party and the people who were there then but not now.

Or, the 3-year old boy who held the dance instructor by the hand and did the electric slide and a Texas Two-Step without missing a beat.

Or, the mom who told about her 6-year old insisting on packing all his clothes in a suitcase back in July for his second trip to the weekend party.

Or, the 12-year old boy wondering if Dallas is where his Dad had gotten the family Audi. All he was sure about was that it shipped from Texas to the house in Colorado.

Or, the young man being helped out of his wheelchair and held up by his mom on the dance floor. Smiling all the way.

Or, the love shown by Gary Sinise towards these children, entertaining them, spending time chatting with anyone and everyone who wanted a minute of his time.

Or, the AA crew who gave so liberally of their time and caring to shuttle the families to and from DFW.

What was planned to be a few hours of “work”, ended up being (start of smile and big wink) too many hours (heck, just keep smiling) hours of volunteering to capture smiles and recording that moment in time when each child “realized” it was okay to  have fun.

A big smile to the front row family members in wheelchairs

A big smile to the front row family members in wheelchairs

I think I can do it on my own now, it's okay to let go on the instructor's hand for a moment!

I think I can do it on my own now, it’s okay to let go of the instructor’s hand for a moment!

I am sure this went to Facebook before the song was over!

I am sure this went to Facebook before the song was over!

This little gymnast has that smile you can never forget

This little gymnast has that smile you will never forget

She is ready for Christmas!

She is ready for Christmas!


Vocalist Molly Callinan

Vocalist Molly Callinan

Vocalist Julie Dutchak leading the Conga line

Vocalist Julie Dutchak leading the Conga line


I have given time and funds to many charities or programs over the decades, but this particular weekend will go down as the most incredible experience ever. It does not compare with providing Polio vaccine in Asia, building an orphanage in Haiti, helping at a medical clinic in South America, shivering in a snowstorm to ring bells for the Salvation Army, or comforting and holding the hand of a Hospice patient. Yet, each of those – and so many more – is a wonderful slice in the memory bank.

So, therefore my title…. We gave so the youngsters could forget.

In this season of giving, do your share and give a child an opportunity to smile. Whether this is in time or money, please do your part, but….. Don’t Forget to Give!

I know, this was a long post, but I hope I was able to share some of the great moments that were had by all attendees.  If you want to learn more about the Snowball Express or want to give a donation, go to their website by clicking on THIS LINK.

No matter where the 2013 weekend is held (Dallas is most likely to host it again though), you will be able to volunteer at a point of departure or in the city that will host the 2013 event.

A heartfelt THANK YOU to all the organizers and volunteers who make this event successful.

Finally, if you made it this far, hit the “like” button below so I know at least someone read this. And, if you actually liked it – share this post with your friends! The more people who know about this fine orgsanization, the better off we all will be.

Last, but not least - a photo of one of the volunteers in the make-shift photo studio on the 2nd floor of the hotel!

Last, but not least – a photo of one of the volunteers in the make-shift photo studio on the 2nd floor of the hotel!

p.s.  More about the Nikon D4 crapping out yet again on my next post!


When photographing landscapes or cityscapes our brain tends to quickly eliminate any repeating patterns after a quick glance of  patterns.

A hedge, a hay field, a row Aspens, windows in a skyscraper.  As long as this pattern is of the same color and goes in the same direction, the brain stores the information and allows you to focus on the main subject – usually something that contrasts the “pattern”.

One way to keep the viewer’s attention on the image is by throwing off the brain by having a repeating pattern that does not make sense. My favorite way of doing this is to photograph reflections of the pattern or to pan the camera in the direction of the energy in the image.

Here, Aspens and a clear blue sky are being reflected off a lake.  It was a windy day, so I added a 4-stop ND filter to allow for longer exposure that would neutralize the waves into a “flat” surface.

Although these are “normal” patterns, the eye stops for a moment because the “upside-down” trees. This is not a normal occurrence so the brain needs to process the photo.  You have now captured your audience!

Reflections on North Lake, CA

Reflections of Aspens


In this image, I used a small aperture to allow for a 1/30 exposure.  The waves were coming from left to right, and I began by panning in the same direction. While turning at the hip at the moment I had a steady motion, I clicked the shutter.

Try something different!  Sometimes the results will surprise you!

Let it rain (or go dark)

Over fifty photographers stand at the lake’s edge anxiously waiting for sunrise to click the shutter at the precise moment when the early rays fill the sky with the most intense colors that cannot be described by mere words.

Imagine the collective gasp when at first light you notice there will be no magic because it is completely overcast, and actually some sort of moisture in the form of rain begins to fall on your gear.

Out of the fifty or so photographers, 48 begin to pack it in.  Not you.  Why not you?

Well, you are looking at all sides of the scene and notice that the totally overcast sky is actually acting like a giant scrim, softening whatever light there might be.  You stare back to the East and notice there is a bit of pink beginning to show before the sun has risen above the horizon.

A bit of pink lit from one area through a giant diffuser… mmmm.  Just in case, let’s get the camera ready. Shower cap or whatever protective gear you have over the setup, but ready for that moment should it occur.

You shoot some images every couple of minutes to make sure your metering is accurate (or very close to) and you adjust for the additional light.  You are ready, but will nature cooperate?

The suddenly the few pink rays turns into a completely pink sky and voila……

Mono Lake, California

Two minutes later and the color had disappeared.

No luck, well maybe a little bit. A lot more patience and a bit of pre-visualization than luck – that is for certain!

Here is another photo that was carefully composed at least an hour before the right opportunity arose to click the shutter on the Nikon D4. This is a single image, no HDR!

Chihuly exhibit at the Dallas Arboretum with a storm approaching from the northwest.

 My photos can be seen here:

The tilt – shift lens in landscape photography

Coming from the good old film days of photography and having used large and medium format cameras that allow for plenty of movement of the lens and / or film boards, the tilt – shift lens has been a favorite of mine for many years.


By tilting the lens in the direction of the focal plane, you can keep both foreground and background tacksharp while maintaining a relatively wide aperture. 


There are several advantages to using these types of lenses, and they are:

  1. The image circle on these lenses is much larger than on an equivalent focal length lens thereby making the image captured much sharper from edge to edge.
  2. By tilting the lens (ever so slightly) towards the focal plane, one can photograph finely focused near to far at a relatively wide aperture allowing for motion stopping of leaves or anything else that moves.
  3. By using the shift function of the lens one can take a panoramic photo of the subject and give a much wider perspective with tons of detail.
  4. By using the shift function one can raise or lower the lens to capture the subject without keystoning (building appears to be falling backwards!)
  5. Due to the mechanical structure, these lenses are manual focus and will require you to slow down, compose, and capture the image as intended. No million images to go through in Lightroom or other software!

Of course there are some disadvantages to using these lenses, but they are of no concern provided you use the lens often and get tons of practice. Standing 6’ tall, I usually do not need to tilt my lens more than 0.50° to get my foreground (near the tripod’s leg) and the background completely sharp.

This is one lens, however, where I would highly recommend you rent the lens before you decide to buy.

Shifting the lens in the various directions a 24mm lens appears more like a 10mm lens – but there will always be more detail in the photo.

Here are a few links to some very useful information on the use of Perspective Control lenses:

Darwin Wiggett’s e-book on Tilt-Shift Lenses

Ken Rockwell on Why Tilt and Shift

Peter Hill on Tilt & Shift Photography

Go out and shoot. Get ready for some of our fabulous tours at Magnum Excursions.

A Showman’s final resting place.

I decided to take a leisurely drive into Hugo this morning to visit the only (as far as I know!) cemetery dedicated to circus folk.
I understand that Hugo was a huge wintering spot for 20+ circuses. Some of the perfomrers stay behind and find their permanent peace here.

Photos taken with the Nikon D4 and the 24-70 f/2.8 lens are here:
Showmen’s Rest.

As the sun was already ablaze, I will have to come back one day to shoot some of the other headstones in the cemetery.

Another section of the Mt. Olivet Cemetery is called “babyland”. I am not sure if other cemeteries place all babies in one section, but it was the first time I saw that.

Here is the LINK to the cemetery on Google Maps.