Thursday, May 28, 2020

Cosyspeed CAMSLINGER On The Road

On the move: Black Canyon road running through the Mesa Grande Indian Reservation near San Diego, CA

Ask many adventure motorcyclists and they'll say that one of the top 3 favorite parts of getting out and riding to places unknown is bringing back some awesome photos (if you're wondering, the number one favorite part is probably "not crashing!").

However, motorcycling creates some unique challenges for photographers, as you can see in this video from Simon & Lisa Thomas of 2RidetheWorld — world-renowned adventure motorcycle riders and photographers.

Some challenges are camera-related like dust, bumps/bruises, and power, while others are somewhat a matter of convenience. To the latter point, something I'm always looking for is the ability to quickly stop, grab my Fujifilm X-T2, and shoot, all without having to get off the motorcycle. Finding an elegant solution to this would mean I'll actually take the time to capture more memories on the road, instead of being so inconvenienced I don't bother!

I've tried the camera-in-the-tank-bag trick on many occasions and frankly, it just doesn't work well. First of all, though the camera is pretty compact, it still tends to crowd out space in the tank bag for necessities like maps, snacks, water, glasses, face shield cleaner, etc. Second, despite being right in front of the rider, a tank bag usually has two heavy zippers, which means there are two things you have to fumble with before you even get to your camera.

Fast shooting courtesy of the CAMSLINGER near the old Mesa Grande store, abandoned for years...

Recently I had the opportunity to check out a brand new camera carrying system out of Germany from a company called Cosyspeed. Dubbed the "CAMSLINGER", it's a handsome and quite compact bag which is worn like an old-fashioned gun belt from the Wild West days! It's padded in all the right places and the belt is wide, soft, super-comfortable, and extremely adjustable. Can you say, "no pinching"? It's also fairly lightweight which is important if you're going to wear it all day.

Inside the CAMSLINGER are the usual set of dividers and nice padding, plus a flap that can be zippered shut with grippy zippers in case of super-bad weather. There's easily enough room for my mirrorless camera, a couple of lenses, batteries, and other sundries. The outside of the bag is made of a pretty durable water-resistant fabric that I think will hold up for years of use. Their website refers to it as "Nylon 900D" which of course I had to research: D stands for Denier - it's a unit of measurement used to determine fiber thickness for textiles. Interestingly, I found out that 1 Denier = a single strand of silk thread — pretty cool!

The guys have also designed a cool quick-release latching mechanism that is easy to open and close with one hand. It's ingenious actually: A small plastic post slides into a channel sewn into the body of the bag. Once you slide it all the way to the end, there's a small click to let you know it's magnetically seated properly and the bag is now firmly closed. They worked with a closure specialist named FIDLOCK from Hanover, Germany which is ultra-awesome — I'm a huge fan of collaborations.

"Beauty shot" at the Julian Coffee House in Julian, CA

But wait, there's more, and this is really good for motorcyclists. For an extra measure of safety, there's a stretchy loop that you can pull over the part of the post that extends to the outside of the flap. This two-stage closure might sound cumbersome, but it's neither. Once you get the hang of it, you can quickly flip the loop off the top post and slide the latch open in one deft movement, then reach in and grab your camera. Way faster than the old tank bag method!

Overall, the Camslinger is an impressive addition to my motorcycle photography kit. It comes in Grey, Black, and Olive colors and is pretty affordable at $130. It's well-made and handy as hell. I can stop, shoot, and take off in minutes without ever leaving the bike, which is a challenge I searched a long time to solve. There's so much of the world to see and marvel at when riding, it's gratifying when a tool comes along that makes it easy and convenient to capture it all.

This image made in Skylum's Luminar 4 photo editing software. I corrected wide-angle lens distortion on the Fujifilm RAF (raw) file, then used AI Sky Replacement to add a more interesting sky before converting to black & white.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Skylum LIVE shows

One of the coolest things I get to experience as a member of the Skylum team is the opportunity to chat with a variety of exquisite photographers. Sometimes others are actually on the "chat", but I feel a part of the process It's my distinct pleasure to hang out with them for awhile and, hopefully, form a relationship that evolves into many forms. Such is the case with our Skylum LIVE shows, hosted by A.D. Wheeler who is an exceptional human being. A former rock 'n roller, A.D. took a shine to technology and he's a real pro. When Alex Tsepko, Skylum's CEO, asked us to produce some live shows, we jumped at the chance. Aided by the incomparable Laurie Rubin, we interviewed some of the best and brightest. Here are a few shows that I think you'll enjoy!

Luminar Release Day - Richard Harrington

Skylum LIVE with TWiP's Frederick Van Johnson

Skylum LIVE with Matt Suess

Skylum LIVE with Joseph "PhotoJoseph" Linaschke

Skylum LIVE with the unbelievable (seriously!) Karen Hutton

Here's our very first episode, with Jim Nix who is an amazing photographer out of Austin, TX. There may have been a few bobbles, but the 3 amigos make it work!

Trey Ratcliff is an especially gifted photographer and one that I'd say is a close friend. After all, Skylum created our HDR software with his help! Here is our Skylum LIVE interview with Trey.

Romeo Durscher is a true hero in my eyes. As the director of public safety education, Romeo travels to the far ends of the earth to promote drone technology as a force for emergency assistance and more. If you're not inspired by this guy, you should check whether you have a pulse! Listen to this inspiring discussion.

Let's talk with family and children photographer (and news broadcaster!) Mia McCormick here on Skylum LIVE!

DJI Drone Pilot and evangelist Randy Jay Braun joins us on Skylum LIVE to talk about his incredible work and all things DJI. Enjoy!

Be sure to follow or be on the lookout for ANY of these amazing photographers - you won't regret it!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Plumbing the Salton Sea

MotoTog © Laurie Rubin

Recently my good friends and pro photographers Laurie Rubin and Peter Tellone came up with the awesome idea to visit the Salton Sea, about 2 hours east of San Diego. I thought, "what a great way to kick off the new year!" I was IN mostly because I knew the Salton Sea is a mysterious and trés cool place to visit, and partly because one of my resolutions for 2015 is to renew my photography hobby with vigor. To add some MOJO to the trip, I committed to riding my motorcycle out for the day... it had been awhile since the F800GS had been on a long haul and this was perfect. ;-)

I left Buckwheat Manor around 6:30am on a Saturday morning for a 9am rendezvous with Peter and Laurie. I'd chosen moderate layering to protect against a cold I just "knew" was going to diminish the closer I got to the desert. The problem of course were the freakin' mountains between me and sea level on the other side! Wheeling through familiar stomping grounds in Ramona and Santa Ysabel it was getting downright cold, but when the mercury hit 31 degrees motoring by Lake Henshaw and through Ranchita the bones were ice. I pressed on regardless and snapped into *high alert* heading down Montezuma Grade into Borrego Springs.

Side note: Montezuma Grade is one of the most epic roads in SoCal for your favorite motorcyclist. My skills can't possibly do justice to the serpentine curves which seem to sliver endlessly 'til the desert floor. But I try. ;-) 

My sights were set on breakfast in Borrego Springs and Carmelita's didn't disappoint. Had I not been on the bike, a Bloody Mary would have been in order, but I settled for some excellent Machaca and a place to warm my bones. Looping around Christmas Circle, I knew I had some 30 miles of straight run to the AM/PM meet-up point. Soldiering on, I was excited to see so many desert rats out there camping and cavorting with their toys: Jeeps, Razors, quads, dirt bikes, buggies, baja bugs and a myriad of other post-apocalyptic vehicles stretched to every horizon. God I love America!

The ride out was uneventful, with some nice straights where I stretched the bike's legs to an easy 110mph, tucked in behind a short fairing. Passing the Font's Point turn-off, the slot canyons and radio towers, our friendly Salton Sea shone in the distance, then grew ever closer.

The mini-market was busy. I pulled in around 9am, just about 15 minutes ahead of the crew. Talked to a few dirt bikers and slammed a Red Bull, then Laurie and Peter pulled up - great to see them!

Airy Seat (Macphun Intensify Pro)

Pet Graves & Trailer (Macphun Intensify Pro)
Peter has been to the area well over 20 times over the years and we just placed our agenda for the day in his hands. Man, no disappointments there! Our first stop was a former marina on the North end. Only about 8-9 miles up the road, we were there in no time, getting a sense for the pace of the day by taking in delicious RuralEx scenes of weird old dilapidation.

Double T Vision (Macphun Intensify Pro & Nik Analog Effects 2)
Crunching on glass, marveling at the hopelessness of the graffiti (mostly hopeless w/ few exceptions), ever curious we explored several of the decaying and burnt buildings under Peter's watchful guidance.

FishBird! (Macphun Tonality Pro)
Moving onward towards the shoreline, we took in the barnacles and dead fish and weird water chairs, fingers on the shutter, capturing scenes on our sensors and in gray matter that will haunt for some time. The pace was perfect, Peter allowing us to plumb the depths of each scene, wringing the most out of the time spent.

Lake Throne (Macphun Tonality Pro)
Being the novice, I felt a little sheepish about asking him for advice and how he was composing scenes, but figured it was OK. This is how I learn. After each location, we discussed the next couple of moves to make sure the day was well planned for maximum opportunity.

Dance Party (Macphun Tonality Pro) 
Head West 3 Sisters! (Macphun Tonality Pro)
Next, Peter suggested moving on to the 3 Sisters and the Mud Pots. It turned out to be a long-ish ride down to the Southern end of the Sea, but not too bad. After a brief stop for lunch at the bird sanctuary named after singer Sonny Bono (whom I think was also a State Rep out of Palm Springs), we moved on to an amazing spectacle: The 3 Sisters. So named for 3 dead trees standing starkly on a dry, white lakebed, the Sisters didn't disappoint today.

GeoCruise Ship (Macphun Tonality Pro)
With a geothermal plant off to the South, we were delighted to see 5 iron cubes near the trees provided a wicked cool contrast to the otherwise minimalist scene. Our best guess was that it was someone's "art installation" but no matter. It was otherworldly, which in my book is about the pinnacle of the hop. It was at this locale that Peter suggested Laurie put her quadcopter up in the air. There was nobody around and a fantastic aerial video opportunity lay before us.

Copter Worship © Peter Tellone
Soon, "Bessie" was launched and Laurie was in Quadcopter Heaven! Zipping around the artifacts, all of us were electrically charged with the images that were surely coming out of this session. I probably took it too far by doing "snow angels" in the salty dust while Bessie hovered overhead, but hey... what can I say?

Snow Angel © Laurie Rubin (Macphun Tonality Pro)
Silent Iron Boxes (Macphun Intensify Pro)
Peter's normal sure-footedness left him momentarily as we searched for our next destination, the geothermal mud pots. Fortunately, it resulted in 10-12 miles of high speed dirt road riding for me, awash in dust from his Toyota truck. Yippee! When we finally arrived, I was amazed to see actual mud bubbling and spitting from the ground. Wowsa... Love Mother Gaia! I might have also mumbled something about needing gas for the bike...

Upchuck (Macphun Intensify Pro)
Since we were close, a quick visit to hippie/God-fearing mecca "Salvation City" was in order. It's a weird spot on the planet where over the years a deeply religious man named Leonard Knight painted and shaped the desert into a massive shrine to our Lord in Heaven. Pretty moving, colorful and labrynthine, and one helluva scene of devotion; especially from the youth shooting a music video under the massive "God is Love" mountain. Sheesh...

God's Truck (Macphun Intensify Pro)
Next stop was a place that Peter called Alien Ranch, dubbed as such due to the "rocket" that was somewhat unceremoniously perched on top of an old windmill on a ranch. While it used to have an amazing reflective Alien figure that was stolen long ago, the Ranch still proved decently photogenic. And, another place for Laurie to fly her camera machine contraption. ;-)

Launch Ready (Macphun Intensify Pro)
Our final photo destination for the day was arguably the most beautiful - maybe because it was another water destination but for sure because of a vibrant sunset and a plethora of migratory birds! Bombay Bay is one of many dying water-side "resorts" that just exists, but the people are mellow and seemingly happy. Any place as desolate as Bombay that has an American Legion chapter is cool by me. So... the structures in the water, the reflections, the incredible sunset, the birds and the cliffside populace hanging out just made this a sweet spot to end our photo expedition. We were there well past dark.

Reflective Angel (Macphun Intensify Pro) 
Serene Twins (Macphun Intensify Pro)
In the back of my mind as the sun went down, of course I was thinking about getting some gas for the BMW and the long cold ride home. Nothing I could do though - I was way far out, but balanced by the awesome day we all had. The town of Mecca was only 29 miles away and my gas range indicator read 31 miles left on the tank - no worries. And famous last words! Despite tucking behind the faring, going slower, drafting where I could, for the FIRST TIME in my life I ran out of gas. Hey, the range indicator said I still had 4 miles on the tank!

When that engine quits on a lonely, dark two-lane highway miles from nowhere, it's eerily silent. I pushed the bike off the road and dialed up Laurie on the mobile phone to explain the situation. The stars squeezed in while semi's roared by and a freight train rumbled by, 30 yards away. My bike was silent. I ate a PB&J sandwich to pass the time. Fortunately, town was just 4-5 miles ahead; Laurie and Peter motored back w/ some gas to get me revving again in short order. Wahoo!

A quick gas-up and dinner at Del Taco, left me looking at a 7:40pm departure time and facing a cold daunting ride homeward through the mountains. Obviously up for the challenge (what else?!) but still had to be looked at as something to simply "rise up and get through." Montezuma Grade, upward in the dark and chilly, was a terrific challenge - anticipating the arc of the road and modulating throttle accordingly was great practice. I'll confess, I hit some decreasing radius corners a little hot, but the bike is sheer magic and saved my butt a couple of times.

Rolling in at 9:45pm — fully 15 hours after leaving my house in the morning — I was proud of the 2:05 run home, while respectful and taking a moment to size up the high-speeds needed to make that happen. Why didn't I just chill on the homeward leg, take it super-easy? Errrr... not my nature. Someone "upstairs" was definitely looking out for me today! ;-)

Super Happy: Me & the Nun (Macphun Intensify Pro)
After parking the bike, my family welcomed me home and proffered up "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes." An apt ending to a Salton Sea day, methinks...