Category Archive: Site News

Moving from Nikon to Sony: One Year Later

Posted by on March 6, 2017

The Decision

Early in 2016, I made the decision to switch from Nikon, which I had been shooting with for 9 years, to Sony.

It wasn’t an easy decision. When you buy into a camera system it isn’t just a matter of getting all your lenses and gear to be compatible. You become accustomed to where all the knobs, dials, switches and buttons are. It is similar to playing an instrument and then being asked to play something else, even if that something else is similar, like moving from playing the clarinet to a saxophone.

My new camera: the Sony A7rii

I had originally purchased a Nikon D200 back in 2007, which was their top of the line crop sensor camera. In 2011 I upgraded to the D300s, which was the successor to the D200, and which originally came out in 2009.

Since 2011 I had been waiting for the successor to the D300s to come out…..and nothing ever happened. I would occasionally read the Nikon rumor sites and a few times every year there would be rumors about how the D400 would be released at the next big photo/technology event.

…and nothing happened.

I then started thinking about just getting a full frame Nikon camera like the D810, which I almost did. Moving to a full-frame camera would have been close to switching to a brand new system because I would have to have purchased new lenses along with the new body. If I was going to do that, then I figured I should just consider changing everything.

I ended up just doing nothing for a very long time, using my D300s even as it literally started to fall apart (and I’m quite serious when I say it was falling apart. Most of the rubber surfaces on the body are now falling off.)

As I waited, and as Nikon kept not releasing the D400, I began hearing more rumors that they were simply abandoning the professional crop-sensor market. They weren’t releasing anything or saying anything, so it seemed a reasonable proposition which matched the facts.

My backup camera body: the Sony a6000


In 2015 the Sony a7rii came out and I started reading all of the reviews. Almost all of the reviews were gushing in its praise, and a several went on to say it was the best camera in the world currently in production. Several photographer friends of mine also switched to Sony and they were very pleased with the switch.

In early 2016 I made the decision that I was going to get a Sony a7rii and lenses which would replicate the current set of lenses I was using.

About one week after I set my mind to moving to Sony, Nikon finally released a successor to the D300s….the D500. However, by this time it was too little too late. Nikon’s seven-year wait was way too long, whereas Sony had been releasing a steady stream of new products, showing more innovation than Nikon or Canon.

So in one fell swoop, I not only changed manufacturers, but I moved from crop sensor to full frame, and from SLR to mirrorless.


Adjusting To A New System

Moving to a new camera system is a subtle thing. I think most photographers could pick up a camera they have never used before and quickly figure out how to adjust their aperture and ISO settings.

Really becoming comfortable with a camera, however, requires a lot of practice. It is knowing where the knobs and dials are so you can make setting changes without looking. It is having an intuitive feel for what you can get away with in terms of ISO. It is knowing where everything you need is located in the menu.

For example, I learned that I really didn’t want to go above ISO 800 on my D200, or above 1600 on my D300s. I could go a bit higher if I really had to, and maybe do some noise reduction in Lightroom, but that was pretty much my limit.

It took me a while to figure out what that level was on my a7rii. In Ethiopia, I took some photos inside of a cave which were absolutely unusable because I didn’t have the correct ISO settings. 9 months later I was again inside a cave in Great Basin National Park and I was able to take some pretty nice handheld shots because I had a much better feel for the camera and what it could do. I prefer to use tripod in caves for obvious reasons, but I was unable to get a permit in time from the park service.

This photo was taken at ISO 25,600. It is a hand held photo taken inside of a Lehman Cave in Great Basin National Park, Nevada.

Next time I change cameras or a camera system, I think I’m going to spend several days a home just working on learning the settings of the camera. I didn’t spend enough time learning with this switch.

I also purchased a second body to have in my bag. I purchased a Sony a6000 prior to my trip to Ethiopia. Honestly, I really just purchased it as a spare body in case something happened to my a7rii, but I found myself using it as my primary body when I was off shooting polar bears in Manitoba.


Benefits of Moving to Sony

Overall I’m pleased with my move to Sony.

As I noted above, in addition to switching manufacturers I also moved from a crop sensor camera to a full frame, an SLR to a mirrorless camera, as well as to a camera with a much higher resolution. Many people will point out that I could have gotten similar benefits of just moving to a Nikon D5 or a similar body, and they would be correct. Just keep in mind that many of my observations might not just attributable just to moving to Sony.

Low Light Capabilities

I have to start with this because it was the primary reason I moved to Sony and to the a7rii in particular. The low light capabilities are amazing. I felt shackled with my older, crop sensor body when it came to low light photos. There were many photos I wasn’t able to capture simply because of the poor low light performance of my D300s. As a travel photographer, this is probably the most important attribute for any camera body because I am often in places like churches or temples which have little light and a flash is not an option.

There were several photos I’ve taken over the last year which simply would have been impossible with my old gear. This photo of an Ethiopian priest was taken at ISO 12,800, several stops above what I could have done before.

Taken at ISO 12,800, this photo wouldn’t have been possible with my previous gear.

From the reviews I’ve read, The a7rii is about one full stop better than the top end Canon and Nikon bodies right now. That is debatable I know, but I’m very happy with where I’m at for low light performance right now.

Size and Weight

It is true that, in general, mirrorless cameras are smaller and lighter than SLR. My current kit does take up less space in my bag than my previous gear. However, the difference isn’t as great as some people think. Much of the weight is just squeezed into a smaller package. It is lighter, but not so much that I think it would be worth making a change on this basis alone. Nonetheless, it is a nice side benefit when you have to carry your gear around all day long.

The size difference is enough that when I put my current gear in my camera bag, which is pretty analogous with what I before in terms of lenses, there is definitely more space. This makes it much easier to carry a second body, which brings me to…

Smaller Crop Sensor Cameras

The Sony a6XXX line of cameras is very affordable and come in a small package. They basically look like point and shoot cameras, except they can use the same e-mount lenses that you can use on other Sony mirrorless cameras. Whereas the size and weight benefits to the a7rii over an SLR are marginal, the benefits to the a6000, a6300, and a6500 are substantial.

It is very nice to be able to carry a backup body with me which is so light, small, and cheap. They also perform quite well. I used my tiny a6000 with a huge Sigma 150-600mm lens while in Manitoba and was able to take respectable photos with it.

Taken with my Sony a6000. ISO 600 / f6.3 / 1/2000 sec

Taken with my Sony a6000. ISO 600 / f6.3 / 1/2000 sec

Higher Resolution

I went from a 12.3-megapixel camera in the D300s to a 42-megapixel camera in the a7rii. That is an enormous jump in resolution….and file size (see below).

Because most of what I do is displayed online, I really don’t need 42-megapixels, but having the extra resolution is handy for a host of things.

The higher resolution gives me more options when it comes to cropping is post processing, as well as the freedom to do other things with my images down the road if I so wish.


Downside of Moving to Sony

While I’m overall satisfied with Sony, everything isn’t perfect. Here are some of the downsides to the system.

Battery Life

I usually could go several days or longer on one battery in my SLR’s. Now, I have change batteries at least once a day and quite often I go through multiple batteries a day. I pretty much have to recharge my batteries every evening or I risk being without power the next day. Several times I’ve forgotten to charge the night before and I got by on the skin of my teeth the next day.

The battery drain primarily comes from the fact that because there is no mirror, at least one LCD is usually running whenever the camera is on, even if it is the tiny one in the eyepiece.

I’m sure there will be improvements to battery life in future models, but I don’t think that mirrorless cameras will ever be as good as SLR’s in this department.

Write Speeds

The size of RAW files in the D300s are approximately 15mb each. The Sony a7rii produces RAW files which are about 80mb. That is a substantial difference is size.

It takes an abnormally long time to write the images to the memory card. The decision to use such a slow bus, and to not use the Sony proprietary XQD format memory cards, is one of the most baffling things about the a7rii.

I’m often waiting for the camera to finish writing to the card and there were a few times when I’ve missed a shot because of the buffering.

Thankfully, the rumors are that the next Sony flagship camera will solve this problem with a vengeance, allowing continuous RAW shooting. That means you will be able to hold the shutter down and it will shoot and save continuously until the battery is dead. That’s impressive.

Body Sealing

Even if I never change lenses or open the battery door, the sensor on the a7rii gets really dirty. Whereas I didn’t flinch in taking my SLR out in a light rain, I wouldn’t think of doing that with my Sony cameras.

Because there is no mirror to protect the sensor, they need to do a much better job of sealing the camera to keep dust out.


Conclusion

Despite its flaws, I’m overall pleased with the images I’m getting from my a7rii and my a6000. I don’t forsee myself changing systems for quite a while.

Sony has been innovating at a much faster pace than Nikon or Canon, releasing new cameras and features every year. Moving to Sony wasn’t just a play to take better photos today (which it did) but also a bet on the future.

Year End Reminder – Renew Your Travel Insurance

Posted by on December 31, 2016

This is a reminder that if you are even a semi-frequent traveler, be it for business or leisure, you should considering getting an annual travel insurance policy. The start of the new year is a great time to do it.

Relatively speaking, travel insurance is cheap. Even a top-tier annual policy will run you a bit over $1 per day. The great thing about getting an annual policy (which is what I do) is that you don’t have to worry about insurance on a per trip basis, and you save money over getting a different short term policy every time you travel.

Travel insurance covers many basic and extreme things which travelers may encounter. This includes:

  • Canceled flights
  • Delayed flights
  • Lost luggage
  • Emergency medical coverage
  • Medical evacuation

If you even make one of those claims in a given year, it can cover the cost of the insurance, especially for major medical emergencies.

I get my annual policy through Allianz, who has offices in over 30 countries around the world to provide assistance to travelers (disclosure: I have a business relationship with them).

Take care of your insurance this week and be covered for all of 2017!


Disclaimer: I work as an ambassador for Allianz Global Assistance (AGA Service Company) and receive financial compensation.

We Have A Winner of the $400 GoBag From Allianz!

Posted by on December 6, 2016

The good folks at Allianz Global Assistance have just been selected as the supplier of travel insurance on Priceline.com and the Priceline Partner Network. Allianz products are available to consumers booking flights, hotels and rental cars on all these platforms.

To celebrate we ran a contest giving away a bag full of amazing travel gear valued at $400. The bag includes:

  • GoPro Hero Session w/SD card ($200 value)
  • Camleback Unbottle ($50 value)
  • iLive Wireless Earbud Headphones ($60 value)
  • Smart Travel First Aid Kit ($50 value)
  • Allianz Portable B200 Power Pack ($20 value)
  • Allianz Passport Holder with RFID protection ($20 value)

The winner of the GoBag is Lili Armstrong, who would love to take the gear on a trip to Jordan.

Congrats!


Disclaimer: I work as an ambassador for Allianz Global Assistance (AGA Service Company) and receive financial compensation.

48 Hours Left To Win A GoBag Filled With $400 Worth Of Travel Gear from Allianz Global Assistance!

Posted by on November 28, 2016

There are 48 hours left to win a GoBag Filled With $400 Worth Of Travel Gear from Allianz Global Assistance. Here is what the bag includes:

  • GoPro Hero Session w/SD card ($200 value)
  • Camleback Unbottle ($50 value)
  • ilive Wireless Earbud Headphones ($60 value)
  • Smart Travel First Aid Kit ($50 value)
  • Allianz Portable B200 Power Pack ($20 value)
  • Allianz Passport Holder with RFID protection ($20 value)

To have a chance to win, just leave a comment on the original post telling me where you would like to travel with this GoBag filled with gear and what you would do with it (comments have been closed on this post).

Only residents of the United States are eligible to win.


Disclaimer: I work as an ambassador for Allianz Global Assistance (AGA Service Company) and receive financial compensation.

Win A GoBag Filled With $400 Worth Of Travel Gear from Allianz Global Assistance!

Posted by on November 9, 2016

The good folks at Allianz Global Assistance have just been selected as the supplier of travel insurance on Priceline.com and the Priceline Partner Network. Allianz products are available to consumers booking flights, hotels and rental cars on all these platforms.

To celebrate they are giving away a bag full of amazing travel gear valued at $400. The bag includes:

  • GoPro Hero Session w/SD card ($200 value)
  • Camleback Unbottle ($50 value)
  • iLive Wireless Earbud Headphones ($60 value)
  • Smart Travel First Aid Kit ($50 value)
  • Allianz Portable B200 Power Pack ($20 value)
  • Allianz Passport Holder with RFID protection ($20 value)

To win, just leave a comment on this post telling me where you would like to travel with this GoBag filled with gear and what you would do with it. I will randomly select one winner on November 29.

Only residents of the United States are eligible to win.


Disclaimer: I work as an ambassador for Allianz Global Assistance (AGA Service Company) and receive financial compensation.

Win A Travel Scholarship From Allianz Insurance

Posted by on October 15, 2016

“ScholarTrips,” an Allianz Global Assistance USA scholarship program designed to support international study and volunteer programs, has launched its 2016 video and essay contest. Believing that study abroad programs are critical to a student’s development and help promote the benefits of travel, Allianz Global Assistance hopes that the ScholarTrips program will promote meaningful global exchanges.

Since 2004, Allianz Global Assistance has awarded more than $100,000 in travel scholarships to students who demonstrate a desire to learn or help others through travel. The goal of this year’s contest is to provide students over the age of 14 with a platform to showcase their creativity while answering the question, “What inspires you to travel abroad?” Students entering the contest will be eligible to win one of six $2,500 scholarships and one of thirty $50 Amazon Gift Cards*.

This year, Allianz Global Assistance has provided travel agents with tools to promote the contest with local media and on their social media platforms. Travel agents can use the tools provided on the ScholarTrips’s “Promote the Contest” page to connect with customers and potential customers who may be interested in entering the contest. These can be found at scholartrips.org/promote.

“We believe that some of the best educational opportunities happen outside of the classroom, such as in international exchange programs that promote travel, cultural understanding and personal growth. ScholarTrips can help students enrich their lives through these experiences and make travel dreams a reality,” said Joe Mason, Chief Marketing Officer of Allianz Global Assistance USA.

The ScholarTrips Contest will run October 10 th through November 10 th . The top 30 entries will be featured on the ScholarTrips website and six winners will be selected from those finalists. Full details can be found at scholartrips.org.


Disclaimer: I work as an ambassador for Allianz Global Assistance (AGA Service Company) and receive financial compensation.

Announcing A New Project: National Park Service 413!

Posted by on August 25, 2016

One of the 413 sites in the US National Park System

Today is the 100th anniversary the National Park Service in the United States.

As many of you might know I’m in the middle of a project to photograph all 59 national parks in the United States. I’m about 75% through with the project and I should be able to finish it sometime in 2017. (I’m also attempting to visit all the national parks in Canada, which is a whole other thing…)

Today I am announcing a new project, to go above and beyond just visiting America’s 59 national parks.

While the national parks are usually considered the highlights of the national park service, the system is much larger than just the 59 places with a “national park” designation. There are national monuments, memorials, battlefields, seashores, lakeshores, preserves, trails, and historic sites.

With the recent addition of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine, there are now 413 sites in the United States National Park System.

….and I’m going to visit and photograph all 413 of them!

This isn’t anything new for me. I have been visiting National Park Service sites as far back as the late 90’s when I had to travel for work. I’d bring my National Park Passport with me and visit sites all over the US. Based on my most recent count, which was a while ago, I’ve been to over 150 sites already.

Here are the constraints I’m putting on myself for the purpose of the project. They are similar to what I’ve done for my national parks and UNESCO World Heritage Site projects:

  1. Any sites I visited before 2007, will be revisited. This is actually a rather hefty number as over 100 of the NPS sites I’ve been to were before I started traveling full time. Thankfully, many of them are in a dense area around Washington DC and New York City.
  2. I will take at least one representative photo at each site. Some sites, like the Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial, are really small. Some, like on the Mall in Washington DC, are just statues. Nonetheless, I should be able to get at least one decent photo from each place I visit.
  3. Each visit is to be a meaningful visit. This is very vague I realize. My intent is that the goal isn’t just to take a photo or get a passport stamp. I’ll try to have an experience like what a normal visitor might have, which includes going to the visitor center (if there is one), watching a film, talking to a ranger, and exploring the site. The sites are all very different from each other, so what might constitute a meaningful visit in Northern Alaska will be very different for an urban park in Washington DC.
  4. I will walk at least one mile out and back on each national trail. I am aware that this is only a tiny fraction of the size of most trails, but I’m not trying to hike every inch of every trail in the US. That would be over a year of walking. For most trails, I’m assuming I park my car at a trailhead, walk out for at least a mile, and then walk back.
  5. I will not be collecting passport stamps. I always forget to bring my passport. I’ve purchased 3 of them over the years because I visit a place when I didn’t have my passport. I’m just going to forego it entirely and just focus on visiting and taking photos.

This is a big undertaking and it will take me years to complete. That being said, I’m well on my way there already. Even with the rules I’ve placed upon myself, I’ll probably be well over 100 by the time I visit my 59th national park next year.

Much of this will consist of doing regional road trips throughout the US: fly into a city, rent a car, and drive to the NPS sites in a region. I’m sure there will be a few big road trips as well. Unlike full blown national parks, it is entirely possible to visit multiple sites in a single day as many of them are quite small and close together (again, New York and Washington DC).

I’m revisiting sites I visited in the past simply because of photography. I didn’t have a camera back then and I’d like to be able to share the images of all the places on the website.

I will not be the first person to accomplish this. According to the National Park Travelers Club, there have been 43 people who have visited all 413 National Park Service sites. Fewer than the number of people who have visited every country on Earth. I’m quite sure that by the end of the project several more people will have completed it, and the number of sites will probably be more than 413. (I remember it being in the 390’s back when I started visiting them in the 90’s)

I’ll try to announce trips on social media before I embark on them, so I can do meet-ups in the various cities across the US that I’ll be visiting. For some of the more urban sites, I’ll also be arranging small group trips as well.

Announcing my new EBOOK and Online Course: Living the Location Dependent Lifestyle through Active Income.

Posted by on April 1, 2016

Are you longing to break free from the road? Sick and tired of waking up and not knowing what city you are in? Are you constantly wondering where you money is going to be coming from?

If this describes you, then you are probably a candidate for living a location dependent lifestyle.

Location dependence has been the world’s #1 lifestyle since the rise of agriculture over 6,000 years ago. Since then over 10,000,000,000 people have embraced the location dependence movement and have lead a location dependent life.

The benefits of location dependence are many, which is why so many people have embraced it. They include:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Housing
  • Leisure Time
  • Personal Space
  • Many others!

However, there is so much more!

I’ve created a unique system of active income generation for those who live a location dependent live. I call it a Juxtaposed Offline Business, or JOB.

Through my JOB technique, you can you be earning positive cash flow every other week through active income.

How can you earn active income? The possibilities are endless. Some potential JOB’s include:

  • Farmer
  • Teacher
  • Doctor
  • Astronaut
  • Barrista
  • Trash Collector
  • Mechanic
  • Clergy

Most of these JOB’s require little or no start-up capital and require nothing but time and effort!

You can learn the techniques via my new ebook and online course which are available exclusively here on my website for the low price of $777.77 (because I read something once that people tend to buy more when they see the number 7).

CLICK NOW TO BUY!!

Winners of the Allianz New York Times Travel Show Experience

Posted by on January 21, 2016

I got back from New York where I attended the 2016 New York Times Travel Show with Allianz Travel Insurance. As you may have seen earlier, the folks at Allianz held a contest where 3 lucky people were able to attend the show as well as experience a weekend in New York. The winners were: Blake Mandelberg, Lori Rogers, and Cat Crews.

Allianz contest winners

I also had the opportunity to meet with my friends Johnny Jet and Lee Abbamonte who were speaking at the show:

The New York Times travel show is one of the biggest events of the year. This year one of the highlights for me was attending a dinner with the team from Allianz and the contest winners at the Mastro’s Steakhouse in Midtown, one of the best steakhouses I’ve ever been to.

I had a great time at the show as always and I can’t wait to return to New York next year!


Disclaimer: I work as an ambassador for Allianz Global Assistance (AGA Service Company) and receive financial compensation.