When I went mirrorless with the Canon EOS R and then got my second mirrorless camera, the Canon EOS R5, I said that I was going to try to use them without the battery grip to keep the size and weight of my system down. During the pandemic, when I wasn’t shooting so much, and my tours all had to be postponed, I didn’t miss the grip, but when shooting in Namibia this year, I was reminded how much I dislike having to crank my hand around to the shutter button when using the camera in portrait orientation without a battery grip. So, with my Japan winter tours coming up in January and February next year, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and get myself a battery grip for the Canon EOS R5.
The BG-R10 is the grip that fits both the EOS R5 and R6 and has a cradle that holds two batteries, giving double the battery life, but more importantly, and the thing that I’ve been missing, is the ability to flip the camera into the portrait orientation and still have access to all of the shooting controls, as you can see in this photo. The AF-ON button is slightly higher than on the R5 body, so it takes a little bit of getting used to, but all of the buttons from the camera body are replicated on the vertical grip, with the exclusion of the video record button, the light button for the LED display, the Lock button and the Mode button.
Without the LED, there is no use for the Light button, and as I generally will be in landscape orientation when shooting video, I can live without the video button and mode button, too, as my main use for the Mode button is to switch between stills and video. There is a lock switch on the battery grip, but that essentially turns off all buttons on the grip, so it does not replicate the Lock button, so ultimately, that is the only button I miss.
I can reach up with my left hand and press the lock button with my thumb, though, so I can live without the lock button too I guess. Apart from that and the price of the BG-R10 Battery Grip, which is almost 1.5X more than previous grips, I’m very happy with it and pleased that I picked it up. The other related expense, of course, is that the battery grip made it necessary to replace my Really Right Stuff L-Bracket. I really dislike shooting with a camera without the L-Bracket, and I was using the smaller version for the R5 without the battery grip but had to spring for the BGR10-L bracket as well so that I’m covered with my tripod plates in both the landscape and portrait orientations. I also like the extra protection that having the bracket along the side and bottom of the camera provides.
Let’s take a step back, though, and take a look at the BGR10-L bracket itself in this photo. It has that signature Really Right Stuff engineered finish and a wide mouth in the corner to allow the battery cradle to be removed to change batteries without removing the L-Bracket. As you can see, the screw that attaches the bracket to the camera slides along so that you can loosen that screw and slide the bracket away from the camera if you need more access to the cable ports on the camera, although you can access them without sliding the bracket out. I only slide it out when attaching the wire holder for video use.
So that you are never left searching for the hex wrench to loosen that screw, there is a hole in the base of the L-Bracket to slide the wrench into and a magnet to keep it securely stuck to the bracket. It’s nice that this is a full-sized hex key on this bracket, as the sawn-off version that comes with the smaller non-battery grip bracket can be difficult to turn, especially in cold conditions when your hands are naturally cold too.
Here’s another photo to show the battery cradle clearance of the Battery Grip, and you can also see how the side of the bracket provides access to the cable ports.
The gap in the side dovetail plate allows up to 70 degrees of swivel of the articulated screen on the camera, as you can see in the following image. This might look difficult to work with, but in practical use, I’ve never really found it much of a limitation to not be able to rotate the articulated display fully.
The other huge benefit of the L-Bracket is visible in this next image, where I show the R5 mounted on a tripod in landscape and portrait orientations. I haven’t moved the nodal point to the exact center of the tripod quick-release bracket for the shot on the left, but the bracket has these markings if you need to adjust to keep the lens axis in the same location as you switch orientations.
Mounting the camera on the side dovetail plate like this will keep the center of gravity above the tripod, reducing the risk of introducing camera shake. If you flop the camera over to the side, you lose that center of gravity, and the camera is more susceptible to shaking in the wind or even due to the movement of the shutter, although this isn’t such a problem with mirrorless as there are fewer moving parts.
One thing I’ve seen a few reviewers complain about is the fact that the BG-R10 battery grip sticks out about 5mm past the side of the camera, and I did find that a little bit annoying, but as you can see in this photo, the L-Bracket masks that to a degree, so that’s a bonus.
You can also see the Multi-Controller on the back of the grip, which is a very nice addition, enabling us to move the focus point around while shooting in portrait orientation. Also, notice the charge indicators that show the status of charging the batteries in the grip if you plug the camera into a power source. Unfortunately, this will only charge one battery at a time.
Even more unfortunate is that you cannot provide just any USB power to charge the batteries in the grip. You have to use the Canon PD-E1 power adapter to charge the batteries. I own a PD-E1 to power my camera when using it as a Webcam and for some microscope imagery work, but I will never take this on the road to enable charging the batteries in the grip. I can’t help thinking that Canon could have designed this to use a wider range of USB power, especially when you consider I have a third-party double battery charger that charges two batteries simultaneously and works with just about any USB power you can throw at it.
Another thing I’d like to cover before we finish is the addition of the QD socket in the bottom of the RRS bracket. I attach a D Loop QD Strap Swivel to the Peak Design camera strap loops, as you can see in this next image. This makes it possible to easily and securely connect a strap to the base plate and remove it quickly by pressing the button at the top of the QD connector.
As I also have a socket in the base of the lens plate on my Canon RF 100-500mm lens, as you see here, I can attach the strap with a QD connector, and I can then sling the camera with the strap over my left shoulder, allowing the camera to hang upside-down on my right, which puts the camera in a perfect position to quickly grab the grip, and swing it up to my eye to start shooting.
So, although I tried to avoid going this route, it’s nice to have this system back in my shooting workflow. I find it much easier to shoot in portrait mode with the vertical grip on the battery grip, and the Really Right Stuff L-Bracket completes the system.
I recently spent four days in Northern Japan, starting with a family event, then a little photography in some of my favorite places to shoot. The day before we left, I took delivery of my new iPhone 14 Pro Max, which I’d ordered as soon as the new iPhone went on sale, and it’s taken until now to arrive. My previous iPhone was four years old at this point, so I was ready for an upgrade, and I am enjoying the slightly larger form factor and I’m enjoying the three cameras, and the Macro mode, which is new to me with this iPhone.
I had heard that the new iPhone had a 48-megapixel camera, and I thought I’d enabled it as I selected to shoot raw images which is required to get the 48-megapixel images, but I didn’t find out until I got home that only the main 1X camera is 48 megapixels, and you have to enable Raw in the settings and hit the Raw button in the camera to shoot raw images. You can change the camera settings so that it remembers to stay in Raw mode, but when shooting raw images, the camera automatically disables the Live Photo setting. I personally enjoy playing with Live Photos more than I value the ability to shoot raw images with the iPhone camera, so I’ll probably not be switching to raw very often. I definitely enjoyed having such a great additional photography tool with me during this trip, and I’ll share a few of my iPhone photos alongside my Canon EOS R5 photos as we work through this travelogue.
Ultimately, when I want to shoot a raw 48-megapixel image with my iPhone, I have the button displayed ready to switch, but despite looking forward to the higher resolution, not being able to get that resolution with pretty much all modes that I use the iPhone camera in is a bit of a downer.
We weren’t sure how much time we’d have left to go out shooting, as the family event and meeting some old friends was the highest priority for this trip, but we managed to get everything we needed to do done in the first two days, so on the third day, we drove around to the Five Color Lakes that I’ve talked about in the past. We got slightly better fall color this year, but still, it was probably around 5 days to a week early so the colors weren’t great.
Thankfully, the natural colors in some of the Five Color Lakes themselves were nice and found themselves in some of my shots, like this one of a patch of the Blue Pond, with a little bit of fall color creeping in on the trees to the right. I placed that grey-colored bare tree along the right side of the frame and was careful to find a nice spot as that green tree on the left faded into the darkness to end the left edge of the frame.
You can see the shooting information by clicking on the images, but the main settings for this were ƒ/16 at ISO 100 for 0.3 seconds. It was overcast when I shot this, but the longer-than-usual exposure helped me to still bring out the beautiful colors, especially the blues in the water, which are caused by minerals.
This next image is the same lake from around 90 degrees to the right of the previous shot and slightly more elevated. This was actually as we came back from our walk along the track through the lakes, but I don’t have anything to share from the other lakes using my Canon EOS R5, so I figured we’d keep these together.
I like this one because of the more pronounced reflections on the trees in the blue water and because we can see some nice detail in the pond bed in the bottom left corner. I hand-held this shot because I had to get down low to shoot through some trees, and my wife was starting to get a little bit impatient as she was ready for lunch, so I didn’t spend the time necessary to lower my tripod legs. I did increase my ISO to 200 though so that I could get a shutter speed of 1/80 of a second, which was going to be better for hand-holding my 105mm focal length.
After lunch, we swung by my favorite waterfall in Japan, which I also visited last October and many times before. In this next image, you see the Tatsusawa Fudodaki. This waterfall is incredibly soothing to visit and photograph, although the fall color managed to elude us again this year. There is a little yellow creeping in, but it’s not quite there.
Looping a Live Photo
Here is a video that I shared of a live photo, which I set to loop here on the website, so it looks like the water is continuously rippling. Note that to make this work you have to use the code that you’ll find when selecting the Embed option on Vimeo rather than just pasting a link to the video into WordPress. Also, to force the video to autoplay and loop include the options “autoplay=1&loop=1&background=0&autopause=0” in the embed code.
The first loop is very subtle and probably hard to miss, but here is a second live photo of the Kegon Falls from the following day, also shot with my iPhone 14 Pro Max, and shared to Vimeo, then set to loop. With more obvious movement, this looks much more effective as a loop.
For many years now, I’ve been a huge fan of what I call Moving Stills, which are scenes that I would generally shoot as a still photograph, but since we got video in our cameras, I started to switch to video and record 15 to 30 seconds of video so that the slight changes in the scene are recorded. Creating a loop with the Live Photo options is a great way to do this with the iPhone, which is generally a more casual way to shoot. I’ll be exploring this more as I get into my Japan winter tours which will be going ahead in January and February next year. Due to a little churn in the booking situation, we currently have one open space on all three tours next winter, so check out the tours page if that may interest you. I’ve also published the 2024 dates if you are planning a little further out.
Long Exposures from Live Photos
Another thing that I found recently, as I played with the iPhone 14 Live Photos, is that you can also select the Long Exposure option in addition to Loop and Live Photo, and this takes the information you have in your image and creates a long exposure, as you can see here, from the same image that I shared as a loop above.
For comparison, here is a similar long exposure shot with a 3-stop neutral density filter using my Canon EOS R5 camera. With almost four times the resolution, the EOS R5 image definitely provides more freedom to print large etc., but the quality of the image for everyday use and sharing with friends is really not a lot better than the iPhone image. Of course, I’m not saying that I can now do away with my Canon gear. There is still so much that I cannot do, but this really comes down to resolution, longer focal lengths, and faster frame rates at this point. With the computational photography that the iPhone uses, we can even get a nice shallow depth of field in Portrait mode, and the Macro capabilities of the iPhone are now incredible too.
Although not in Macro mode, here is a video that I shot of a frog sitting near to a mountain stream during my visit to the Five Color Lakes. This is a 20-second or so Slow Motion video, so the water is very nice in this, but also you can see that the frog was captured very well too, at probably around 15 to 20 centimeters.
OK, so back to the second photography day from my recent trip, as I wanted to share one last photo before we finish. I’ve been doing this for many years too, but one of the things that I love to do with long-drop waterfalls, is to pan vertically with a longish exposure, to capture the movement of the water as it tumbles through the air. Here is my favorite photograph of the Kegon Falls in Okunikko shot using this technique.
The shutter speed for this image was 1/10 of a second, and as with any panning technique, it’s a little hit-and-miss. You might get some shots that you don’t pan perfectly vertically with, and it takes a bit of practice before you can pan with the water. Luckily, the way the Canon EOS R5 electronic viewfinder works gives a stroboscopic view of the scene you are shooting as you release the shutter in a burst, so you can see that you are staying with the water when you get it right.
I also converted this to black and white and increased the contrast using a Luma Curve in Capture One Pro to remove the distracting brown rock from the sides of the image. I’ve often thought of creating a Japanese-style scroll or Kakejiku of this kind of photo, but the kits available to make them are a bit cheesy, so I’ve never put this plan into action, although I think they would look good in that format.
Anyway, we’ll start to wrap it up there for this week. I had a lot of fun, both just getting out into the mountains with my wife and with my new iPhone 14 Pro Max. I’ve used the iPhone camera for video and slow motion, as well as for Timelapse photography over the years, but now having the three cameras following my upgrade, I am enjoying the additional creative options for still photography, as well as playing with the various Live Photo options, as I’ve shared today. I doubt very much that these will be the last iPhone photos that you see from my travels, and I hope that you find what I do interesting.
Six years ago, I posted a review of my second Tenba Messenger Camera Bag, and I had around five and a half years of use out of the bag. It would have gone longer, but during our Namibia tour this year, our driver passed me the bag via the shoulder strap and told me that the handle had broken. I knew that this would have been caused by the excessive pulling on the handle that he had to do to get it in and out of a tiny space on top of our luggage and that it could have been avoided with better handling, but I think the world of our guides in Namibia, so I said nothing more than something like, “No worries, it was old anyway.”
I haven’t needed to replace the bag since I returned to Japan in June, but I have a short trip coming up, so I had a look around for something new. As I liked my first two Tenba Messenger bags, and after realizing that the smaller bag I bought to fit my Rollie film gear was also a Tenba, I somewhat unsurprisingly settled on getting my fourth Tenba bag.
I needed the bag to fit my 14 Inch MacBook Pro, so I had to carefully read the internal sizes, which were wrong on Amazon.co.jp, but I’m happy to report that my MacBook Pro fits snuggly into the 13 Inch laptop compartment of the Tenba Skyline 13 Messenger. I also confirmed that the MacBook Pro still fits with the plastic cover that I use when traveling fitted.
Note that the link that I have included to the Tenba Messenger on Amazon are affiliate links, so you help keep the MBP Wheels on the wagon by buying with these links if you like what I share today and you are in the market for a bag like this.
Anyway, I shot a few photos to show you how I’m going to be using this bag, and here is the first one, with it housing my 14 Inch MacBook Pro in the laptop compartment and my Canon EOS R5 with the RF 24-105mm ƒ/4 lens fitted in the center compartment. If you have a small enough lens in the right compartment as I did, you can rotate the camera around and have the camera grip keep that flap closed. The lens I have in the right compartment is the RF 15 – 35mm ƒ/2.8 lens, which is a good-sized lens, and it fits nice and snuggly down there.
In the left pocket, as we look at this, I have the Canon RF 100-500mm lens, which is about the biggest lens you’ll fit into this bag vertically, and it’s a tight fit, but it works. In the front pocket, I placed my charging adapter and cables for the MacBook Pro and a couple of SSD drives, as well as cables and a MagSafe rechargeable battery, to charge my Apple devices. I forgot to include my card reader and battery charger for my camera, but they fit into that front compartment as well, although it does start to get a little snug.
With all this inside, the front flap doesn’t close incredibly gracefully, and the bag starts to look a little plump, as you can see in this next image. Depending on the use, I may not always travel with this much gear inside, but it’s nice to know that it will fit in case this is required of me at any time. I like the styling of the bag. It comes in several colors but I like the almost black denim feel of the black model that I chose.
It’s possible to get at your gear by opening the zip that runs along the top of the bag, enabling the user to remove the camera or lenses without opening the front flap. Unlike my earlier Tenba bag, this bag does not have any plastic buckles to secure that front flap, but I’m not going to worry about that. I’m sure it will be fine.
There was a tag attached to the bag that shows that you can also pull the front flap downwards if you want to reduce the tearing sound from the magic tape as you open the bag. I’ve only succeeded in making it almost silent once, but it is a nice touch, being able to get the bag open without making a huge ripping sound when necessary.
Unlike my earlier Tenba bags, I am very happy that this new Skyline Messenger has elasticated mesh pockets on either side so that I can put things like my flask in, as you can see in this image.
Finally, here is a photo of the bag looking slightly less plump, along with all the gear that I had stored inside the bag. For a 13-inch laptop and camera bag, I’m impressed with how much I can fit into the new Messenger when necessary.
The bag is fitted with YKK zippers which feel smooth and haven’t yet snagged at all. It’s made of water-repellent fabric and has reinforced stitching. As I mentioned, the handle on my previous bag came away, but it was the fabric holding the firm padding inside the top handle that gave, not the stitching. If the fabric that this new messenger is made with is a little stronger, I will probably not have that problem on a future tour.
Apart from a few trips that I have planned soon, this bag will be on my upcoming Japan winter tours with me and generally sees a bit of moisture while in Hokkaido, the northern-most island of Japan, and boy am I looking forward to getting back up there for the first time in three years.
After buying my Canon EOS R5 I received several email from people asking if my battery life was shorter than expected. Because I had not been able to run my tours during which I shoot from dawn to dusk most days, I had no real baseline from which to answer with confidence that I saw no problems, but as I used my R5 more, I did start to notice that the batteries seemed to run down pretty quickly.
Initially, I put it down to the fact that a lot of the work I was doing was microphotography, during which I was running my R5 tethered to my computer, and I figured that was eating up the battery. I also thought that it might be down to the fact that I have not been using my cameras with a battery grip, and one single battery seems to run down faster than half of the shooting time we seem to get when there are two batteries in the grip feeding the camera.
Then I went to Namibia this summer and got my first chance to work with the EOS R5 in my usual way, out in nature, shooting as I always have, and it soon became very clear that my batteries were running down at least twice as quickly as they have always done. Much more quickly than my first Canon mirrorless camera, the EOS R. I started to think that maybe there was a problem with the camera’s design, as the batteries were running down too quickly for practical use.
I tried to monitor how I was using the camera over the first few days but couldn’t think of any reason the batteries were running down quickly from my usage. Then I noticed that the battery level indicators seemed to stay full until shortly before they completely ran down. They looked full one minute, then the next minute, they were flashing red in the electronic viewfinder, telling me I need to change the battery, and that indicates a problem other than the camera using more power than I’m used to.
So, that night, I figured I’d try connecting my camera to a USB cable and charging my batteries in the camera. I dislike doing this with a passion, as it takes a very long time to charge the batteries, and you can only charge one battery at a time. This is also the reason I dislike the standard Canon battery charger than comes with the EOS R5 and similar cameras that use the LP-E6NH battery because it only charges one battery at a time.
Then that same thought process led me to what I would find to be the cause of my poor battery life. Because I don’t like to charge just one battery at a time, I have for many years used a third-party battery charger and have otherwise been very happy with the two I’ve owned, but it turns out that my latest charger was not successfully charging the LP-E6NH. It was working fine with the LP-E6N that the 5Ds R uses, but the latest battery with the H appended to the end of their name was not fully charging, despite the battery charger showing that they were fully charged and the camera also reporting that they were fully charged when I initially put the battery in.
For the following two weeks, I put up with charging my batteries in the camera, and believe me, I was happy that I had this option, as I did not bring the standard Canon charger. When I got home, I sourced a new double charger that supported the new LP-E6NH battery, and once again, I have something that properly charges my batteries, runs on USB power, and takes two batteries at once.
Being a bit of a geek, I like the digital readout and the information this charger provides as it charges my batteries. It is also less than half the size of my previous charger, which was small. That is a very welcome change as we fight to get out gear onto airplanes with ever-increasing luggage restrictions.
The other thing I wanted to stress was the importance of troubleshooting technical issues. I am probably a little more optimistic than some about trusting that Canon wouldn’t make a camera that runs batteries down as fast as I saw. It was not a usable camera when the batteries ran out as quickly as they did. I also know, though, that some people love to find problems with gear and find some kind of twisted enjoyment in being in a position to complain about their gear.
I did find another problem with the R5 as I traveled, as Canon added a button to the LED screen that puts the focus point back to the center when you moved it away from the center. For some reason, though, they placed that new button over the histogram, as you can see in this photo as I started shooting in the Quiver Tree Forest on our first shooting day in Namibia.
I called Canon Support about this after getting back to Japan, and they kindly told me a setting that would work around this issue, but I didn’t want to use my camera in the state they recommended, and they did agree that it was probably an oversight that the icon was displayed over the histogram. I requested that they register it as something to try to fix in a future firmware update, but I have confirmed that it was not fixed in firmware version 1.6 released after I reported the issue. I mention this because I wanted to make the point that I don’t think Canon is perfect, but I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt until I have proof that they’ve made a bad design decision.
So, to finish, I want to leave you with some takeaways. Firstly, if you are having issues with short battery life and if you are using a third-party battery charger, please take a moment to check that the charger supports your batteries, especially if you’ve upgraded your camera since buying the charger.
Secondly, if you do notice something wrong with your gear, try to exhaust all of the possibilities before jumping to the conclusion that the manufacturer of your gear has messed up. As photographers, one of our strongest skills needs to be problem-solving. This goes for almost everything we do. In the studio, for example, when the light doesn’t look quite right, we must identify what is wrong and how to fix it. Everything we do involves cause and effect-related decisions, and that goes for problems such as the battery issue we discussed today as well.
Also, note that I will not provide a link for the actual charger I bought, as the same charger on Amazon.com does not mention support for the LP-E6NH battery. You’ll need to find something in your market if you are seeing a similar problem to that which I’ve described today.
Before we finish, I would also like to mention that we are currently locking in on the participant numbers for our 2023 Namibia tours, and we now have one space left on both the April and May tours, so if you would like to join us, check out our tours page and see if there are still spaces available. If the page says, they are available, proceed to the tour page and pay your deposit to secure your place. If you need more than one place, let me know and I’ll try to figure something out.
I can’t recall ever dedicating a post to looking after our gear, and I was reminded of this task a number of times recently, both after my return from Namibia and as I spoke with a member of the archery club that I’ve joined, when they noticed me wiping my gear down as I packed it into my back at the end of our practice session. They thought I was being very conscientious as I wiped the various parts of my recurve bow while dismantling it, and I replied that I always do this with my tools. I know that many photographers do this, but figured it was worth talking about a couple of points, so here we go.
I should say that one of the main reasons I am currently wiping down my archery gear is because I’m practicing in temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius or 86 degrees Fahrenheit, so I’m pretty much constantly perspiring, and I don’t want to leave the salt on my bow. When I first got my bow, I didn’t take a cloth, and the result was that I had to get it all back out again when I got home to wipe it down, so I started to take a cloth, and now I’m killing two birds with one stone by doing this as I pack the gear away.
I recalled when I was shooting in Antarctica and often came back to the ship with sea spray on my gear, and that can be corrosive, so no matter how tired I was, I would take all of my gear out of my camera bag, lay it out on the top bunk of my bed, and wet, then rang out a cloth leaving it just damp, and wiped my cameras and lenses down. If I’d used my tripod, or it had also taken some spray, I’d fully extend all the legs, wipe that down too, then leave it to dry before putting the legs away again. Of course, how I did this depended on how rough the sea was. In a storm, I’d just wipe things, then wipe them again with a dry cloth and put them straight back into the bag to avoid them from falling off the bed when the ship rocks. The important thing to note is the necessity to get the salt water off the gear quickly. Using a damp cloth doesn’t hurt the equipment and dries almost instantly.
In addition to salt water, dust is another thing that can gradually damage our gear, so generally, when shooting in places like Namibia, where there is a lot of dust and sand if it’s been a windy day, or I know I’ve gotten a bit of dust on my gear, I do the same thing at the end of the day, using a damp cloth to wipe everything down. Another thing that I wanted to talk about in relation to traveling to dusty countries though, is the necessity to one last clean when you get home.
Most of the time in sandy or dusty countries, you’ll find yourself with a little sand in your bag. This may blow in when you open the bag, or fall off of your gear when you put it into the bag. Because of this, after I get home I take a little time to wipe the bag itself down with a damp cloth, and then I use a vacuum cleaner to clean the inside of the bag. I also at this point give all of my gear one last wipe with a damp cloth before giving it a few moment to dry and then put it into my humidity controlled cabinets, which is where I store all of my gear while not using it.
With sand, I also find that it can get stuck to the rubber weather seal on the mount of my lenses, so I use the damp cloth and run it around the inside and outside of the seal, as you can see in this photo from when I was cleaning my gear after returning from Namibia this year. You can also see a few grains of sand around the inside of the lens and on the back element. To remove them I hold the lens up with the bottom facing down and use an air blower to dislodge the sand. With the lens facing downwards, the sand generally falls away leaving the lens clean.
The same goes for cleaning the sensor of the camera. First, I hold the camera up with the sensor facing down, and blow the inside of the sensor chamber, to dislodge anything on or around the shutter, then I turn on Manual Sensor Cleaning in the menu, which opens the shutter exposing the sensor, which I also give a good blow while holding the camera with the sensor facing downwards.
I used to use a rubber plunger to remove stubborn dust until the heat got to the rubber one year, and I tried to remove some dust before a trip only to find that the rubber had perished, and I left a chunk of it sticking to my sensor. I was able to find a store in town that would clean it off safely, but it was a scare, so I threw the plunger out and never bought a replacement.
I have actually found though that pretty much from around that time, and especially with the Canon mirrorless cameras, I am getting very little stubborn dust on my sensors now. If I notice a bit of dust in a photo, generally just a blow with my blower is enough to dislodge it. I haven’t had my sensor cleaned professionally now for a number of years. I generally replace the camera every three or four years and have not had a sensor cleaned for that entire time for the last few cameras. With the mirrorless cameras I put this down to the option in my cameras to close the shutter when the lens is taken off the camera.
As I mentioned earlier, I do keep my gear in humidity-controlled cabinets, and that is very important if you live in a place with a lot of humidity. Tokyo is very humid during the summer, and I found myself with mold forming on my gear when I first moved here, so I have used humidity-controlled cabinets for many years now. I mentioned this in detail and covered what I use in Episode 744 of this podcast, so check that out if you are interested.
So far, I’ve talked about what I do after a shoot or trip, but I wanted to also add a few paragraphs about how I shoot. With me being so careful about cleaning my gear, you might think that I am really protective of my gear in the field too, and to a degree, you’d be right, but I am not overly protective. My tools are to be used, be it my cameras and lenses, or my new recurve bow for archery. The most important thing while working with these tools is to get the job done, making great photos in the case of photography. If this means I have to get a bit of dust or moisture on my gear, that is what will happen. If you are not using a weatherproofed camera and lenses, you do have to be careful to not allow them to get too wet or dusty, but in general, I find that in light rain or dusty conditions, draping a cloth over the camera, then periodically wiping off any water, is enough to keep it from getting inside the camera. With dust, I prefer to blow it off with an air blower while outside, then wipe it down later when I finish the shoot.
Also, don’t be fooled by the overzealous marketing blurb of camera manufacturers. Canon, for example, will say things like a new camera has “improved weather sealing,” which is entirely misleading. In the Canon range, only their 1 series bodies have ever been completely weather sealed, and only when using weather-sealed L lenses. Cameras like the 5D or the R5 etc. have limited weather sealing, which is what helps to keep them from breaking with the slightest bit of moisture, but they are not fully weather sealed, so cannot be used in pouring rain without taking any measures to keep them dry. The 1 series bodies can be used in the pouring rain because they are made to withstand that kind of use.
To prove my point about the none-weather sealed Canon cameras, I used my 5D Mark III in Iceland during a rainstorm, and sure enough, after an hour or two of getting drenched, it died, and I had to switch to my EOS-1DX that you can see in this photo. I did not protect the 1DX from the rain for the remaining few hours of the shoot, and it didn’t bat an eyelid. Not the most intelligent way to make a point, I know, but I had to prove to my partner over there that the 5D was not weather sealed, so I let the inevitable happen. Besides, three days later, after keeping it wrapped in dry towels, the 5D did come back to life and was fine for a few more years of use.
Another thing I wanted to mention is changing lenses in wet or dusty locations. Again, my priority is getting the shot with the right lens. When I can use two cameras, I try to guess what lenses I’ll need and put the two most likely candidates on the cameras. If I do have to change lenses though, and I can’t get into a sheltered location to do so, I will generally turn my back to the offending element, and change lenses anyway. I try to be quick, but don’t rush to the point that I might fumble with the lenses. I always check my images in the evening while traveling, and if I notice any dust on my sensor, I will try to blow it off with an air blower that evening.
We can’t really finish without talking a little about dealing with condensation. Although people often recommend putting your gear into plastic bags and sealing then when going from cold to warm environments, I personally just ensure that I put my camera and lenses back into my camera bag, and zip it up, before going in from the cold. This is generally enough, even when going in from -28° Celsius or 2° Fahrenheit.
Note too that it’s not enough to simply check that condensation is not forming on the outside of your gear. The worst problem I’ve had with condensation was when I accidentally left my bag open with cold gear inside and condensation formed on the inside of one of my lenses. I also had a problem with the EOS R with condensation forming inside the viewfinder, making it almost impossible to use the camera. I haven’t shot with the EOS R5 in really cold conditions yet, due to the pandemic, but I’m hoping it handles the cold and moisture better than the EOS R did.
Anyway, the moral of this entire story is to use your gear practically in the field, taking care when possible, but with the priority on getting great images, then give your gear the love required to keep it purring along when you are finished. You should be rewarded with less maintenance fees, and if you sell your gear in part exchange for new gear, you may find that you’ll get a little more for your gear too.
I’m currently coming to the end of my preparation to travel to Namibia for my first visit in three years and my first tour & workshop in two and a half years. I’m excited and am currently hoping that we can all get to Namibia and kick off the tour without issues. As I prepared, I realized that I was probably doing a few things through experience that might help others, so I will share my thoughts in this post and podcast.
One of the first things that I wanted to relay is based on the fact that I had a small hole form in the screen of my old 13-Inch MacBook Pro towards the end of a Namibia tour a few years ago, which I put down to probably a grain of sand that found it’s way onto a key and was then pressed against the built-in display for a while, maybe during transit by car, as we moved between locations. An easy thing to happen, and I ended up getting the screen replaced a few years later as part of a routine repair with Apple, but the hole annoyed me for a few years, so I’d prefer not to get another.
Protective Film for Display
To hopefully help avoid this sort of thing happening, despite me not liking to use a protective film on my displays, I bit the bullet and bought a good quality protective film and applied it to my new 14-inch MacBook Pro screen. It was made of relatively thick and strong plastic so it was easy to apply, and although I did get a few pieces of dust between the film and screen, I was able to peel off the film, remove the dust, and reapply it without messing anything up. Pushing the few air bubbles that formed to the edge of the film removed them, leaving me with a well-protected screen that I can hardly tell has a film applied at all. If anything, it’s just a little bit shinier than the original screen, but otherwise, I’m very happy with it. If it doesn’t work, and I end up with a damaged screen again, I’ll let you know, but I’m pretty confident that it will just save me from any further problems with the screen.
MacBook Pro Case
The other thing I always do when I travel is put a protective case on my computer. This is also from experience. During a voyage to Antarctica in 2011, I gouged a nasty trough into the outside of my first MacBook Pro, which was an old 17″ model, and it annoyed me so much that I ended up switching it out before the four years that I usually like to keep a laptop for. Since then, I have always used a protective case. I usually only need to buy one case, and it lasts me for the lifetime of the computer.
This time I decided to coat my new MacBook Pro with something a little fancier by having the cover printed with one of my Namibia photos, as you can see in this photo. I got mine from a company here in Japan called Yotsuba-Insatsu, and I can highly recommend them if you live in Japan. Otherwise, it will probably be more cost-effective to look for a company that prints these cases in your own country.
The next thing I bought in preparation for this and future trips was a set of four Apple AirTags. This was not based on my own experience but rather that of a client who was recently traveling in South America when they came across a car with a flat tire, but it turned out to be a scam. The people with the supposed flat tire robbed them and took their camera bags, but luckily they had AirTags in the bags and were able to get the bags back and bring the hoodlums that robbed them to justice. When I heard this story the first thing I did was order a pack of four AirTags.
I opted to have my AirTags engraved so that I could tell them apart, and didn’t realize that this would cause them to be shipped from Shanghai, so they were caught up in the Shanghai lock-down for exactly a month, but they did arrive a few weeks ago, in time for my trip, so I’ll be placing one of these in each of my bags and my large duffle bag, which I use instead of a suitcase for Africa trips because they are easier to stow in the limited storage space of our converted Land Cruiser.
The AirTags are very easy to set up. When you pull out the plastic tab allowing the button battery inside of them to make contact and power up the AirTag, you automatically see a few setup screens on your iPhone and can then track the items on a Map using the Find My Device app. You also get an alert if you leave your AirTags behind, which will be useful should that happen without me realizing it.
Other incidental items I’ll be packing include a rechargeable LED lantern, as we occasionally find ourselves with power outages, and I figured that dropping a lantern on our dining table would be nicer than pointing my flashlight up at the ceiling, as I’ve done in the past. It’s a slightly bulky item, but it’s pretty light, so it won’t be much of a burden, even if we don’t need it. It doubles as a regular flash-light, and there is a built-in alert light that flashes rapidly or in an SOS pattern should you find yourself in trouble, in the dark, in the middle of Africa… Hopefully, the lions and hyaena know the code too.
There are, of course, lots of other things to take along, such as mosquito spray for my skin and my clothes, and sunscreen etc. but these are par for the course, so I’m not going to list everything up. I did want to share a quick what’s in the bag photo before we finish though, as I am really happy with the downsizing that Canon has enabled me to do over the last three years or so, as I’ve transitioned to mirrorless.
What’s in the Bag?
As you can see, I am no longer putting the battery grip on my cameras. I do miss them sometimes, especially for wildlife work, where I sometimes find myself holding the camera in portrait orientation with my finger on the shutter button, waiting for an opportunity. Otherwise, though, I’m enjoying the lighter and smaller format and the overall reduced bag weight. Here are two photos, one showing the main gear I’m taking, and a second showing it inside my MindShift bag from ThinkTank. As I’ve used this bag over the years I’ve found that getting at my gear can be a little awkward, but it’s a good size for this trip, so I’m going with this again, at least for this year.
As it may not be obvious, from left to right in the bag photo, we are looking at the Canon EOS R on my RF 100-500mm lens, and I have the tripod ring turned to face the bottom of the bag to support the lens if the bag should get jolted. Next to that, you see the RF 24-105mm lens, and the 50mm f/1.2 lens is deeper in that section with the lenses kept from banging together with a protective separator. Next, we see the Canon EOS R5 fitted to the RF 15-35 mm lens. This is an f/2.8 aperture lens, so will be great for astrophotography, as well as the houses at Kolmanskop, the old diamond mine ghost town that we visit near the beginning of the tour. In the top section, which is the far right of the bag in this photo, you can see a Patagonia pouch into which I’ve placed my two Extenders and my set of extension tubes, which I take along in place of a macro lens, should I need to get any close-up photography.
Along the back edge of the bag, you can see my 14-inch MacBook Pro, which will be in its case for the trip, but just dropped in as it is for this photo. I take a second bag for my computer with all of the cables etc. but that goes into my large duffle bag for the journey, and I put the laptop into that for the duration of the tour. More and more airlines seem to want you to board with just one carry-on, which is now possible with the downsizing I’ve done. Of course, there are a lot of other small items like memory cards, hard disks, camera straps, ND filters, and my tripod, but for now, I’ve just included my main camera gear.
We’ll leave it at that for this episode. I’m flying out tomorrow, all being well, and I have unfortunately not had time to pre-record any episodes to release while I’m away, so unless I get some downtime to record a few messages as I travel, I’ll be back with several rapid release updates about the trip in the last week of June. See you on the flip side!