Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New Camera Bag from Lowepro: Fastpack 350

Looks like Lowepro has come out with a new backpack style carrying case for digital photographers. It is available in red, black and blue, and is a comfortable pack made to carry a digital SLR camera, lenses, flash, accessories and a laptop computer with a screen up to 17".

It is made from a tough water-resistant 420 denier nylon outer fabric that protects your equipment from moisture and abrasion. There are side-entry compartments that provide fast access to your equipment. You can customize the easy-to-access main compartment with adjustable dividers. There is an ergonomic backpack harness and a carry strap on the top, which enables you to use it however you want.
PhotoReview Magazine has a brief right up about the Fastpack Backpacks here. I've read that you can access your equipment while wearing the Fastpack. I've got two other Lowepro bags that I've been very happy with: the Toploader Zoom 2 for my Nikon D70 with the kit 18-70mm lens, and the Toploader Zoom AW that I use when I've got my 80-200mm lens attached. They make an excellent product. This Fastpack 350 looks like it would work great if you need to bring your laptop along on the trip and don't want to carry multiple bags. If someone has this bag, post a comment! I would love to hear how it works. I may have to put it on my gift list! :-)
B&H Photo and Video has it available here. I've purchased cameras and accessories from them, and have always been happy with both the price, and the service.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Berwyn, IL - The Spindle by Dustin Shuler

If you are into unique public artwork, and are in the Chicagoland area, take a trip to Berwyn, Illinois. But make it soon! Dustin Shuler's Spindle is a fun piece of work set in the middle of the Cermak Plaza Shopping Center parking lot (Cermak Road and Harlem Ave in Berwyn). However, there are plans to remove this odd piece of work to make way for a Walgreen's drug store. Of course, there is also a grass roots movement to try to prevent this: Save The Spindle.
The sculpture has been known by other nicknames: Car Kebob, Eight Car Pileup, etc. It was created in 1989 for then shopping center owner David Bermant, who's BMW was donated for the sake of art and ended up second from the top (see wikipedia). It was featured in the film Wayne's World, and of course has ended up on postcards and brochures and maps, showing the uniqueness of this Chicago suburb. I designed a postcard available here if you want to have your own piece of Americana to keep or to send!
Me and my six year old daughter went one night for fun to photograph the 'cars on a stick.' She seemed to enjoy it, and I thought if it is going to be torn down, I had better get her there before it's gone! If you're hungry afterwards, we found a great pizza place on yelp called Salerno's (3250 Grove Ave). Then again, if you can't find good pizza in Chicagoland, you are not looking too hard! Salerno's is a casual, kid friendly restaurant, with excellent double-dough pizza (not quite deep dish, but certainly not thin crust!). It was a nice night, so the two of us sat outside and enjoyed our pizza (and took most of it home for leftovers, it was so much).

Update: May 12, 2010
Paging through the Chicago Tribune today, I was saddened to come across Dustin Shuler's obituary. He died May 4 at his home in Inglewood, California of pancreatic cancer. I talked to him a few times regarding the Spindle. From what I could tell in talking with him, he wasn't too impressed with the various groups trying to save his sculpture in the Cermak Plaza Shopping Center parking lot. Turns out they weren't very successful; the sculpture came down May 2, 2008. It was placed on eBay, but the auction was unsuccessful. The few times I talked to him, he impressed me as a wonderful man, passionate about his sculptures. He sounded like the stereotypical starving artist! He said if it weren't for his wife supporting him, he'd be living on the street. He told me that at one time, Pizza Hut offered him money to use his Spindle in their ads. Even though it was a substantial amount, he refused. He told me "there's better pizza in Chicago than Pizza Hut!" He was truly all about the art. Maureen O'Donnell had an obituary in the Sun Times here.

Dusty, you and your art will be missed!

Friday, November 16, 2007


The family took a cruise to Alaska on Norwegian Cruise Lines that provided tons of photographic opportunities. The ship started in Seattle, cruised up to Glacier Bay, and slowly made its way down the coast to end in Victoria, BC before returning to Seattle. I would highly recommend it! It was something else to see the glaciers coming down the mountain and 'calving' into the sea.

Don't make the mistake I made: I left my 80-200mm f2.8 lens at home, thinking it was too much to bring. I would have gotten much sharper pictures of the eagles with this longer, faster lens. Even my wife couldn't believe I left it at home! Oh well, live and learn. How was I to know that the tour guide on a side excursion would take us out on a boat, stop at the bottom of some pine trees, and drop fish in the water so we could take pictures of eagles coming in for a snack? The photo below was taken with the Nikon 18-70mm f3.5-4.5 kit lens that came with the D70 camera.

Come on folks, doesn't anyone have some photos from home or vacation they want to share? Tell us where you took them, what equipment you used, technique, etc.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Tell me about your favorite place to take pictures!

Ok, I had this idea after reading about Sasha Cagen's To-Do List blog. She asked people to send her their lists, and she couldn't believe the amount of mail that came in. Well, that gave me a similar idea: ask people for their favorite places to photograph around the world, and examples of photos if you have them. For example, my photo at the top of the skyline of Chicago is easy: find a parking spot along Solidarity Drive just west of the Adler Planetarium!

So, tell me about the secret (or not so secret) places you would recommend for taking photos during your travels.

(Also, does anyone know how to allow comments to show in the blog? I mean have the text show on the page, not a link to the comments like mine has. I've seen it on other blogs, but not sure how to do it!)

Friday, November 9, 2007

Ron Gordon's Photography

I first stumbled across Ron Gordon's photography at the Printer's Row Book fair not long ago. He has taken some photographs of downtown Chicago back when Printer's Row was more of a skid row than the trendy neighborhood it is now. One of his books, Selected Photographs, has scenes of buildings now long gone. Some are time series shots, showing the buildings on the block being torn down, one at a time. If you are into photography and the history of Chicago, his work will be very interesting to you. I see that there is a limited supply of this book that can be obtained directly from the artist: Selected Photographs

He has two other books that are available in bookstores in Chicago, Forgotten Chicago and Printers Row Chicago. I've got links to them at if you are looking for them. Great history and photography! If you're going to be in Chicago, however, I can't think of a better place to find these books than Sandmeyer's Books. They are located in the Rowe Building, one of the historic landmark Printer's Row buildings. Afterwords, have a pint across the street at Kasey's Tavern, or walk around the corner and grab breakfast or a burger at Blackie's. Kasey's has been around for over 100 years. "Be nice or be gone" is their motto. Blackie's started in 1939, and has been in the same family for four generations.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Lincoln Park Zoo

The Lincoln Park Zoo is another great place to take the family. It's one of the nation's oldest zoos. And it's free! I took this photo of a squirrel with a Canon G3 camera. This sort of camera is nice because you can adjust the screen many different ways so that you're not laying on the ground trying to peer through the viewfinder. It also helped that this little fellow must have become quite used to having humans around.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Navy Pier

Navy Pier is a great place to bring the family. There are restaurants, some fancy, some casual (McDonald's). There are all sorts of little shops for you to check out. One of the hidden treasures is the Smith Museum of Stained Glass. You have to walk quite a way to find it, but it's worth the trip!

If you bring your camera up for a ride on the Ferris Wheel, you can get some interesting photos of the city. You can also find some great views from the ground!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Nikon D300 - I want one!

Anyone else out there lusting after the upcoming Nikon D300? I'm saving my pennies! (I also put a Donate button on the site if you're feeling generous!) :-) Right now I have the Nikon D70, which does a great job for digital photography. But have you seen how big the screen is on the D300? Compared to my D70, my screen looks like a postage stamp!

The scary thing with digital cameras (and computers, for that matter) is that you feel like they are obsolete months after you buy them. They aren't really obsolete, they just aren't as advanced as the new model that has come out two weeks after you finally saved up enough pennies to buy the 'almost newest' model. If you look at Phil Askey's review of the D300, I noticed something unique to digital cameras: the new models are coming out faster and faster! I guess it's something similar to Moore's law.

  • D100 - announced Feb 2002
  • D200 - announced Nov 2005
  • D300 - announced Aug 2007
I think back to when I bought the Nikon F3 camera in 1986. It seems like that camera was state of the art from it's introduction in 1980 until the F4 came along in 1988. I loved that camera... tough as nails! The difference now with digital cameras is that the technology advances in the camera, unlike with film cameras, where the film got better with time.

Well, the camera is supposed to be out this month, so hopefully we start to see some hands on reviews for it soon! Bob Atkins has a nice preview of the camera on I also see that PopPhoto has a 'Buying Guide' synopsis of the D300. And here is the Nikon USA link: Nikon D300. Has anyone pre-ordered?

Where to buy a Nikon D300:

Friday, November 2, 2007

Or this site (Millennium Park), where you can catch a reflection of the city in Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate. Many have nicknamed this sculpture The Bean. Be careful, though; some folks with tripods have been asked not to photograph the sculpture.

Chicago has many great places to take pictures. For the skyline, an easy location is near the Adler Planetarium. That's where I took the photo at the top and the one on the left. Watch for current events when buildings downtown will spell out words at night using lights in the windows, like when the White Sox won the World Series in 2005! Can't wait till we see the guys on the South Side do that again!