Great Glass Isn't Just About Lenses

My Experiences w/ the NiSi Filter System

*Disclaimer ;)

Before we get into the heart of this article I need to inform you that I am a NiSi Filters brand ambassador. So the filters and system I am about to discuss are provided to me as part of my ambassadorship with them. This does NOT however mean that I am giving you anything other than my honest opinion and real world experiences with them. My whole career as a photographer is based upon my sincerity and honesty when sharing information with those who follow my work. If I don’t believe in the product, I simply don’t review it. So with that said, let’s have a look at this system!

In the beginning

When I first started shooting something I read in a group on Flickr really stuck with me and has stayed with me all throughout my time as a photographer. That message was something along the lines of, “You can put a crappy lens on a great camera and get crappy photos, and you can put a great lens on a crappy camera and get great photos.” The common denominator there is the lens, in that great glass goes hand in hand with great photos. Now before you get out those pitch forks and start yelling at me about composition, and the art of photography, I agree with you. BUT, when you start talking about things like resolution, image detail, sharpness and even contrast and color detail, ALL those things can be impacted by the quality of glass on the end of your camera. So from early on I made sure that I saved my money and put it into the best lenses I could afford.

Now as I shot more and more like many photographers I learned about the use of filters in photography. I was also learning just how powerful editing software was and I often questioned why something that was developed for use on cameras back in the film days would even be relevant today. I mean, why use a graduated ND filter when I can make a fake one in Lightroom? Or why use a circular polarizer to get blue skies when I can fake it in post? And why put a cheap piece of glass in front of the expensive lenses I worked so hard to aqquire? These were/are all valid questions aren’t they? Sure they are! They are the questions someone who doesn’t have years of experience under their belt would ask. They are also the kinds of questions someone who hasn’t used high quality filters would ask as well.

NiSi Reverse Graduated ND Filter  on the E-M1 MkII and mZuiko 7-14mm PRO lens. 

NiSi Reverse Graduated ND Filter  on the E-M1 MkII and mZuiko 7-14mm PRO lens. 

Learning the Ropes

Moving ahead to about two years ago which would be about my 7th year of photography, I found myself getting curious about what filters could do that software couldn’t. I started to realize that all those people who so early on had been preaching, “get it right in camera” were on to something. While I don’t think “get it right in camera” is exactly what I was after, I DO believe that “get it close in camera” is what I was after.  What the heck does that even mean?! What I mean by “get it close in camera” is that I prefer to get as much of the image right as I can before editing in Lightroom, Photoshop, or any other piece of software. I am rarely one to just give the world an image straight off my camera…It just isn’t how I work.  I started experimenting with cheap off brand filters from Amazon at first. You know the ones, they are resin (not glass), come in a crazy assortment of colors and gradients, and have a flimsy holder to mount them to your lenses. After my first day I realized a couple of things. The first being that filter are incredible! All those years spent thinking that “I can do it in post” were kind of wasted. I also VERY quickly realized when it comes to filters, you get what you pay for….And then some!
These had been my gateway into the world of high quality filters.

Stretching out time w/ the NiSi 10 stop ND filter PLUS a NiSi 6 stop filter!!! 

Stretching out time w/ the NiSi 10 stop ND filter PLUS a NiSi 6 stop filter!!! 

Enter the NiSi Filter System

After this realization that filters could be a big benefit to my photography by getting my image close to what I wanted in camera, and allowing my post processing to be done on a nearly completed image, I KNEW I needed a good set of filters.  
I started looking at round filters from very good companies, and started buying into the B+W filters. I got as far as the 6 stop ND filter and circular polarizer before I decided I couldn't continue down that road. 
One lens....The mZuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO

mZuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO w/ NiSi Reverse Grad ND mounted.

mZuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO w/ NiSi Reverse Grad ND mounted.

The 7-14mm was, or rather, IS my go to landscape lens. But this lens has a protruding front element (like you'd see on a fisheye lens) thanks to its ultra wide field of view. And because of this design it doesn't allow for screw on filters. I knew I needed a square filter system, and one that had an optical quality to match that of my beloved 7-14mm. I researched several brands, but none had an option for attaching to the 7-14....Until a gentleman named Phil Norton designed and MADE and MARKETED an adapter that allowed this "new to me" filter brand, NiSi to be mounted to the lens. So I watched Phil, and his work is ASTOUNDING. And after chatting him up a while I learned that a lot of what he is able to create, is thanks in part to the NiSi filters he was using. They do for him, what I was hoping they could do for me. Get me that much closer to my finished product, in camera.  So after speaking with Phil he sent me one of his holder and a NiSi filter to attach to it...... I WAS HOOKED!!!! My first shot with the camera gave me this photo striaght out of the camera....I knew this was how I would be working from now on.

This shot sealed the deal....It was time to really get working with NiSi.

This shot sealed the deal....It was time to really get working with NiSi.

I worked with the filter for about 4 months before reaching out to them to inquire about some sort of a working relationship. When I find a product I LOVE...The first thing I want to do is establish a relationship with them. As luck would have it they enjoyed my work and that I share with everyone what gear I am using and that I love to teach at workshops and conferences so they offered me an ambassadorship with them. This meant that I was able to use all the filters so I could share the experience with you. 

How It Changed My Photography

Since I have started using the NiSi System (I use the V5 Kit here) I have realized my photography, and how I approach it has changed. To begin with, my initial thought that "getting it close in camera" would benefit me was true. When you get the image close in camera (for those of us who like to play in post) it offers a LOT of leeway in your post processing in that you haven't already "muddied the waters" as it were by doing what the filters can do for you. So for example, when I put on the Reverse Graduated ND filter for a sunset shot I get a well exposed horizon, tapering off to a well exposed sky, and a foreground untouched by the filter.  If I "tried" to simulate this in post, I would be dragging the highlights slider all the way down, applying a "graduated filter", and maybe raising shadow exposure. Those three things alone will be pushing your file to a state where you may run out of wiggle room. Now if you use the aforementioned Reverse Grad ND filter, all those "effects" are done IN CAMERA...Which means you now have ALL THAT LEEWAY to push your image even further than you could have otherwise! This opens up the door for all kinds of processing magic!

When you take a beautiful sunrise to the next level.

When you take a beautiful sunrise to the next level.

The reason filters matter to me now.

The reason filters matter to me now.

And not ALL of my photos are run through a post processing regimen....Some of them, thanks to the NiSi filters, are just great right off the camera for my style.

The scene................

The scene................

And the end result.............

You don't ALWAYS need to edit...When it is good it's good!

You don't ALWAYS need to edit...When it is good it's good!

I won't go on and on any more about how great they are as I think you probably know I am a HUGE fan of my NiSi filters. But what I WILL do is extend the offer to anyone who wants to come check them out here in Michigan to get ahold of me. I will be glad to arrange some hands on time for you to try them!!!

What the scene looked like...............

What the scene looked like...............

What it looked like through my NiSi filters!!!

What it looked like through my NiSi filters!!!

And with that, I say good day to you all, and feel free to comment below!!

There Once Was Many...Now There is ONE.......My Drobo 5D Review

Before we get too deep into this let me put a little disclaimer up here.....The Drobo 5D I am reviewing was provided to me by Drobo at no cost to myself other than the time it takes to mention them as a show sponsor for Mirrorless Minutes, and to write this post. 

Want to save 10% off a Drobo of your own? Use promo code "Mirror10" at checkout ;)

This is my safety net......What is yours?

This is my safety net......What is yours?

How I used to back up

If you are reading this there is a good chance you are a photographer like me, and as a photographer there are few things more important to you than keeping your images safe. The typical way this is done is by the use of an external hard drive, if you are a little more serious about keeping those images safe you might even add a second external hard drive, and then employ some sort of software to backup one hard drive to the other. Redundancy! Or....If you are like me, or rather, like I WAS, then you's have MANY hard drives and a ridiculous backup regimen which make multiple backups, on a set schedule, and some of those schedules were offset so no matter what there was always a "most recent" version on one of the drive. Did you follow that? I know, I even had a hard time keeping track of what was going on! The image below shows my "office" in a rather cluttered state of affairs (this was after returning from a trip out of town and me unloading everything into the room) and I swear!! My wife would kill me for leaving it like this ;)

4 external drives at my desk, w/ an 8TB MyCloud in my bedroom.....Way too many devices...Way too difficult to manage!

4 external drives at my desk, w/ an 8TB MyCloud in my bedroom.....Way too many devices...Way too difficult to manage!

So what you see above is an 2 4TB WD hard drives, one for Images, the other for all other media. An 8TB WD hard drive which backs up the two 4TB drives nightly (incremental looking for changes to the drives), and a 3TB seagate which backs up ONLY my processed image folder from the 8TB drive. Not shown is the 8TB WD MyCloud drive next to my bed downstairs. This is a backup of the 8TB shown. This also backs up nightly. In the event of a fire, I would rip that one off the nightstand and take it with me. Also not shown is the fact that I use Google Drive, and  Amazon Prime's image storage services for more redundancy of my processed images...WHOA! Still following me? I tried to explain this all to a few people, and explain how to set up the software, and how to make sure it was all working properly and they just decided it was way too much to handle.  


What To Tell Everyone Else?

Now for those who know me you understand that I get emails everyday from people asking all sorts of questions about photography. I answer questions about camera settings, image composition, image editing etc... And I LOVE to answer those questions! It is one of the best parts of being in the Olympus Visionary Program! It is why I do workshops and photography conferences. But in addition to those fun emails I also get the heartbreaking emails from people asking how to recover their images after a hard drive fails. And 99% of the time I tell them they have two options. One is to send it in and have it forensically retrieved, which can costs into the THOUSANDS of dollars to have done, or the other is to have a funeral for the passing of their images. It is a harsh reality to lose your images. And I dread those emails.

So What Do I Do now?

So what does my desk look like now? I can tell you it looks a lot less busy with USB cables, power cords, and external hard drives. So what does my backup solution look like now? I can tell you it has a lot less complexity and nowhere near the amount of hand on setup and maintenance! You read (and can see) what my old hard drive situation was like. There were so many drives spinning that my wife said it, "sounds like you are running a machine shop up there." in reference to my little office. It was pretty bad!  But now? I have a QUIET office, I have ONE power cord, and ONE Thunderbolt cable. I have ONE device on my desk, and I have a LOT of piece of mind. 

The answer to your backup dreams! The DROBO 5D!!

The answer to your backup dreams! The DROBO 5D!!

So what exactly is a Drobo 5D? And how is it different from any other external hard drive? Glad you asked! For starters a Drobo 5D (or any of the different models for that matter) is not just an external hard drive. It is a RAID Array. Now without getting all overly technical, a RAID Array is a series of hard drives that work together to store data in a few different ways. One of which is that a single drive, is an exact duplicate of another drive in the array. Or, if there are multiple drives, they are made to appear as one larger drive, with a second grouping of that array dedicated to being a copy of that first grouping. There are other configurations but you sort of get it right? Now a Drobo does just this, BUT....It does it BETTER! How? Glad you asked ;)

Beyond RAID

I briefly explained RAID above, and now I get to tell you how Drobo does RAID. Most RAID arrays require you to make sure that ALL the hard drives in the array are of the same size, so maybe they are all 3TB each. Then, they require you to make sure they are all THE SAME KIND! Ugh!! Imagine having to buy 3,4, or 5 hard drives all the same size, all the same MAKE AND MODEL! What happens if that model becomes discontinued and you need to replace one of those drive? No Bueno!!  
Queue up the magic of Drobo and their patented Beyond Raid™ technology! With their Beyond Raid™ technology you can mix and match hard drives in the Drobo! That is just ONE part of the magic. Another part is that the way they spread your data across all the drives in the unit, if any one of those drives fails all you need to do is replace it with ANY hard drive of equal or larger capacity and it will repopulate that drive with the data that was lost when the original failed! How crazy is that?!?!? In a standard RAID array if one drive fails you need to replace it with an exact duplicate. What happens when your Drobo outgrows its storage capacity? Simple!! Pop in another LARGER drive and the Drobo will move the data onto it that was on the old drive you replaced, then allocate the remaining data (save for some space for redundancy) to your overall capacity! Remember that a standard RAID array wouldn't be able to do that. 

Is It Hard To Set Up?

I could just say, "NO" and leave it at that...It really is THAT SIMPLE to set up. But I won't because I love to talk (seriously, ask my wife and kids) and I think you might want to hear how MY setup went. 

When I opened the box and place my Drobo on my computer desk I realized that I hadn't even stopped to order hard drives! And then almost immediatley I thought,"why should I?" I had a desk covered in external drives, so why not salvage the drives from some of those and fill the Drobo up?! So that is EXACTLY what I did! I first went and downloaded the latest version of the Drobo Dashboard from their website, installed it, and followed the setup instructions. Once that was done I cracked open the 8TB WD external drive under my desk (remember I have an 8TB backup in my bedroom that I verified was current with my data!) and pulled out the two 4TB WD Green hard drives the 3TB Seagate drive, and a 2TB and 1TB bare drive I had on the shelf. Quite a mish mash of drives!! I then proceeded to slip them all into the Drobo which is literally foolproof to do. Within seconds the Dashboard notified me of the new drives and told me it would need to format them for use. I obliged and let it format the drives. Once formatted the Drobo was ready to use! It is THAT EASY! Once it was ready I simply moved the data from my bedroom backup over to the Drobo. 

WHat my initial set up looked like. 

WHat my initial set up looked like. 

Now That It Is Set Up..What is Has Changed?

Since moving to the Drobo my workflow has improved. Improved? How? For starters the fact that I now have what appears to be ONE BIG DRIVE instead of looking through a series of drives to find things has sped up my work quite a bit. No more making sure that processed images go here, bulk transfers go there, audio and video files go over there, etc...It is all in one place. Feeding data from the Drobo via Thunderbolt vs. a whole slew of USB 3 drives is also a treat! I am editing 1080p video straight from the drive. Noise...NOISE!?! YES! There is none!! Haha! My wife even commented on how peaceful my office is without all the "running jet engines" when the drives spin up! Upgrading to more capacity is a BREEZE! I have sitting here a 6TB hard drive ready to drop into the Drobo right before I leave to go camping this weekend. And the biggest change of all? PEACE OF MIND! No more "hoping" that my data back plan is actually working. I just let the Beyond Raid™ technology take all the hassle out of backing up. 

Now The Bad Part.........

There is always some bad to go with the good right? The worst part about this whole thing? Well, the TWO worst things? 

#1 It makes me want to keep buying bigger and bigger hard drives to put in it! Hahaha!! I am serious! It is so easy to expand storage that I have this urge to "go bigger"....Sadly my wallet can't support that! 
#2 I wish I had done this sooner so I could have recommended this product to my readers,listeners etc, sooner. I might not have as many sad emails about data loss to read if I'd been able to review it sooner. 

Let's Wrap It Up

So in closing I will reiterate that this unit was given to me to review, but I stand 100% behind it as a product that ANYONE can benefit from so long as you have data you don't want to lose. And I also want to mention in here that if you want a chance to WIN A DROBO 5D FOLLOW THIS LINK to the Mirrorless Minutes Facebook Page and read the pinned post about how to win.   Now this contest isn't going to last forever so hurry over there and read up!

Thank you for stopping by to read this, and a HUGE thank you to Drobo for setting me up with a unit to review, and also for allowing me to GIVE ONE AWAY!!!

Stay tuned to my site because in 6 months I will be back with a follow up to let you know how the Drobo is working out for me!!



*UPDATE!!!!! 7/9/17

So one thing I forgot to mention in the original post is that I am STILL using an 8TB Western Digital MyCloud NAS device on the night stand next to my bed. This is NOT because I don't trust the Drobo, but is because the Drobo is located on the 2nd floor of my home. In the event of a fire or something, I can snag the MyCloud off the nightstand and get it outside to safety. The MyCloud is doing a daily backup of what is on the Drobo at this time. I am looking into adding a Drobo 5N2 to replace the Mycloud as soon as possible. And then that is what I would take out the door with me. So sorry for not making that part clear, and thank you to the people who asked if had a backup of the Drobo ;) Now you all know!

The One Perfect Bag Is A Lie............

Disclosure........I am a Vanguard Pro which means they sponsor me....But it DOESN'T mean what I write below isn't my honest feelings......Read on my friend!
I am also a member of the Olympus Visionary Program, but again, I love my gear and speak from the heart.

 Are you in search of "the one perfect camera bag"?  If so, I hate to break it to you but.....There is no such thing. No really, there isn't. I've spent the last 8 years being very involved with a few different bag manufacturers, and now, even sponsored by one, and can STILL say...There's no such thing as the perfect bag. This isn't Lord of the Rings folks, no "one bag to rule them all" here.

So now that I've gotten that through to you ( I mean, you believe me right?) and you have decided that the unicorn of the bag world isn't real, we can now get to the meat of this post. So what am I here to write about? I am here to tell you that there IS such a thing as "the perfect bag for specific situations". I hope this helps make things a little easier after dashing the unicorn dreams. I want to spend the rest of this post talking about a couple of bags that for me, have become the perfect bags for specific conditions/settings.


Vanguard Endeavor 900

The Vanguard Endeavor 900 is listed on the Vanguard website as a bag designed specifically for birders thanks to the way the bag is laid out. My time with it has made me realize it is perfect for my trips out into the field where I don't require a backpack. So from hiking wooded trails near my home, or venturing out onto frozen piers in west Michigan in the winter months, the Endeavor has become my perfect get out into the field bag. 

Vanguard Endeavor 900 holding the Vanguard VEO 265CB Tripod

Vanguard Endeavor 900 holding the Vanguard VEO 265CB Tripod

The Endeavor, although not a "big" bag, is perfect for those who shoot with a mirrorless camera like the ones I use from Olympus. In my bag, right now, I am carrying an OM-D E-M1 MkII, an mZuiko 7-14mm f/2.8, mZuiko 12-100mm f/4, mZuiko 300mm f/4 (with MC-14 1.4x teleconverter) and a 30mm f/3.5 macro, and 8mm f/1.8 Fisheye!. Oh..And how could I forget I also have in this bag a NiSi filter system, and assorted notepads,batteries, lens clothes etc... :) Don't believe me?
Check it for yourself!!


STUFFED...But not over stuffed :)

STUFFED...But not over stuffed :)

Vanguard has definitely made this a bag for an afternoon outing of shooting. So much so that they were thoughtful enough to make one of the saide pouches insulated...Why?

Did you think I was lying? This isn't a fairy tale folks...We have SAMMICH STORAGE!!!

Did you think I was lying? This isn't a fairy tale folks...We have SAMMICH STORAGE!!!

I could go over all the specs with you if you wanted. You know, things like; Water repellent and durable fabric
• Ergonomically shaped and well-padded strap
• Sturdy double sided, well balanced carrying handle
• Attachment for spotting scope/tripod/monopod/any other gear
• XXL silicone zipper pullers
• Modular dividers and dedicated pockets for ultimate set-up freedom
• Water tight pocket to keep essential personal effects secure, clean and dry
• Heat insulated pocket specially to keep snacks fresh and tasty
• Large divider horizontally locks into place to create working platform for sketching, taking notes, checking a guide, etc.
• Water resistant, easy to clean, anti-scratch and durable material on the bottom and anti-shock elevation feet
• Total coverage rain cover
But that isn't my style (instead I stole the specs of the Vanguard site), I'd much prefer to leave you with this parting thought, and parting action shot of the bag. 

If you are looking for a camera bag that is as equally at home in a birding blind with your spotting scope and camera gear, as it is slogging through snow on a frozen pier, or down a muddy woodland trail (don't forget the sammich!) then you should consider the Endeavor. Rugged build, outdoorsman/woman designed, and capable of hauling a lot of gear easily....This is now my "go to" bag when I jump in my car to shoot.




Now above I mentioned that for most of my short "into the woods" trips the Endeavor is perfect right? But what about those trips that are maybe not so short, or that require getting off the beaten path and doing some "real hiking"? For those situations you need more than a standard shoulder bag. Shoulder bags just don't stay put when you are climbing over fallen trees, or when traversing the face of a steep hillside. And let's be honest, for walk that could be several miles, they just aren't comfortable enough. That is where a good backpack comes into play. 

Say hello to the ALTA SKY 49.

The Alta Sky 49......Made for going the distance.

The Alta Sky 49......Made for going the distance.

As with any of the bags from Vanguard the Alta Sky line of bags are designed to work. Period. The materials are very durable and tightly woven to prevent snags and tears, they include rain covers(you can see above the rain cover tag noting the cover in a hidden compartment), and have strap, and padding designs made to make wearing these packs for long distances, and comfortable experience.  The Alta Sky packs look good too! Now, this isn't some "hipster at the coffee shop" looking bag, because, well, those dudes don't do what us dedicated photographers do, and that is actually hike miles into the woods and countryside to take photos.

Sorry guys...No lattes where I shoot.

MIles to go.....And not a worry in the world. Yes, I use my VEO 265CB as a walking stick....Don't you? If you look closely at my side, you can see the waist belt. This makes the bag even more secure and comfortable when wearing it off trail.

MIles to go.....And not a worry in the world. Yes, I use my VEO 265CB as a walking stick....Don't you?
If you look closely at my side, you can see the waist belt. This makes the bag even more secure and comfortable when wearing it off trail.

Yeah so you are probably thinking, "sure it's comfortable, but can it hold much gear?" Well...Yes...Yes it can!

What did I carry to the beach in my Alta Sky?  An Olympus OM-D E-M1 MkII (w/ battery grip), Olympus OM-D E-M1 MkI (IR converted) , Olympus 300mm f/4 (w/ 1.4x teleconverter attached), Olympus 12-100mm f/4, Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8, Olympus 8mm fisheye, Olympus 30mm f/3.5 Macro...And filters, lens clothes, batteries...And some other stuff.....WOW! A LOT of gear!

What did I carry to the beach in my Alta Sky? 
An Olympus OM-D E-M1 MkII (w/ battery grip), Olympus OM-D E-M1 MkI (IR converted) , Olympus 300mm f/4 (w/ 1.4x teleconverter attached), Olympus 12-100mm f/4, Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8, Olympus 8mm fisheye, Olympus 30mm f/3.5 Macro...And filters, lens clothes, batteries...And some other stuff.....WOW! A LOT of gear!

What's that weird section on the back?

That little pouch on the back? Oh it has a couple of uses!

That little pouch on the back? Oh it has a couple of uses!

If you are the observant type you may have noticed that triangular "flap" on the back and wondered what on earth is that? Well my friends, I just happen to have the answer to that ;)
That "flap" has a few roles to play. First is that it is like a pouch for stowing all the looted Incan treasure you find while hiking to Machu Pichu with this backpack on, second, it can hold your tripod securely(there are straps behind the flap;), and third, it will hold your drone!!! Don't have a drone? Well get this pack and then you will be 100% justified in buying a drone right?

So there you go, two bag options for two different types of photo excursions. And no matter what type of photography you do, a good bag will make the journey to your location easier and more comfortable. And in the end, that will help you to make a better photo.

Thanks for reading, now get out there and make some photos!

After a long trek through the woods I got to end my day with a Lake Michigan sunset and no back pain :)

After a long trek through the woods I got to end my day with a Lake Michigan sunset and no back pain :)

The Lensbaby Trio28 Review

OK so let's get this disclaimer thing out of the way.  For the record, Lensbaby was kind enough to send me this Trio28 to review. They are cool like that. And that concludes our disclaimer! Now let's get to the REAL reason you are here!


The Lensbaby Trio28

The Lensbaby Trio28 mounted to the Olympus PEN-F. A BEAUTIFUL combination!

So what exactly is the Lensbaby Trio28? 

The Lensbaby Trio28 is a single lens unit, with a rotating turret that houses three separate optical designs. These three designs are actually three of Lensbaby's popular standalone optics, the Sweet, the Velvet, and the newer Twist optic. As we go further into this review I'll discuss what differentiates each optic from one another, although I think you may get a good idea of what they do based upon their names ;)

Something else to bring up early in this review is what this unit is not. This unit is not here to compete with those razor sharp, multi thousand dollar lenses everyone seems to rave about. I'm not saying you can't get a decently sharp image from this lens, but I AM saying that this lens goes beyond worrying about satisfying the sharpness craving pixel peepers of the interwebs. The Trio28 was (like all the other Lensbaby optics) designed for creativity. Because let's face it, if you aren't a photojournalist, then you are here to create. Some of us chase the creativity side more than others, and for those who love the ART of photography, this lens is for you.

With that said, let's look at each of the three optics to see what they can do for your creativity. 

The Sweet Optic

The Sweet optic derives its name from the fact that is has a "sweet spot" in the center of your frame when shooting with it. Remember I said you CAN get sharp results with this lens, and in the case of using the Sweet optic, it will be dead center in your frame. To use the Sweet optic you simply grab the front of the lens where you see the three lenses, and rotate it until the word "SWEET" are facing up. Actually, that is how you access all of the optics. 
Once you have the Sweet optic in place simply compose your image, and if you want the subject sharp, center them and shoot.  
The photo below was shot with the Sweet optic.

Note the center of the image as being very sharp, while the edges soften up nicely!

Note the center of the image as being very sharp, while the edges soften up nicely!

As you can see above, the image certainly keeps a sharp center while giving the photographer a nice soft edge all the way around the frame. This offers some very fun creative concepts to be made.  

The Velvet Optic

The Velvet optic, again accessible by simply rotating the lens element turret on the front of the Trio, offers a very unique look. I guess it would be the exact opposite of the "razor sharp" lenses everyone seems to want today. If you have the confidence to just let go of what you think makes a great photo, and embrace the artist inside you, then the Velvet optic can make magic. The only way I can describe what it does is that it makes your scene...Dreamy. It creates a scene with a smooth, silky(velvety?) feel that makes you feel like you are looking at the pages of a fairytale. 

I loved shooting with the Velvet in B&W to create scenes like this that evoke a dreamy feel.

I loved shooting with the Velvet in B&W to create scenes like this that evoke a dreamy feel.

The Velvet optic I think lent itself very well to images processed either in camera (like with the Olympus ART Filters) or in post using B&W or very contrasty color techniques. I also feel like the Velvet optic creates this sense of movement that is slight, but perceptible enough to be used in your compositions.  Looking at the image above there is this sense of "movement towards the door" that this optic creates. I love what this lens can make!

The Twist Optic

Let's do the Twist!!!  No really, let's set the Trio28 to the Twist optic setting and see what we can create!! 
The Twist optic is designed to give the outer edges of your image a slight "twist" in their rendering. I know you've probably heard of the Petzval lens, that crazy big brass lens with a 100yr old design. Well this is a modern twist on that....I guess pun intended. 

Now on the micro 4/3 cameras this twist is less pronounced than it appears to be on larger sensor cameras. Specifically the full frame cameras. But that is not something I would consider a negative, not by any stretch. My rationale for that is because while this Twist is crazy cool...It can get a little overwhelming when there is too much of it. You know, "too much of a good thing". But on micro 4/3 there is enough twist to give you a very distinct and creative look, without inducing motion sickness ;)

The Twist optic with in camera processing using the new Olympus OM-D E-M1 MkII

The Twist optic with in camera processing using the new Olympus OM-D E-M1 MkII

If you look for the individual areas of twist it will be hard to pick out, but if you just observe the image in its entirety you will detect the subtle twist embedded within. This optic will definitely vary in its effect from one scene to the next. So it needs to be played with often :)

Same Scene, Three Optics

It does little good to show three different scenes using the three different optics, when each is so unique. So below you will find the same scene, rendered using all three optics. Here you see a HUGE difference from one to the next in regards to bokeh,clarity,and edge softness/sharpness. 



The Sweet optic straight out of camera w/ the Olympus PEN-F
Note the sharpest portion of the image is on the rear window near the left edge. That was my focal point.


Note the Velvet has little to no "sharpness" but offers one of the wildest bokeh I have ever seen!! Again...A dreamlike qaulity to this optic!


And finally the Twist optic. The Twist offers the largest "sharp area" of all the optics, and leaves the creative feel to the periphery. Here you can detect the slight "twist" to the Christmas lights in the background. 

I will end this blog post with a few more images I've made with this lens, and by telling you that I think EVERYONE needs a FUN lens like this in their quiver. We all too often get wrapped up in how "optically perfect" a lens "should be" and overlook the fun and creativity a lens like this can offer.  I started exploring this creative side a few years ago by purchasing vintage lenses and adapting them to my Olympus cameras. At some point I ended up with a Lensbaby Composer Pro and that really opened my eyes to what is possible with optics.

So again, I encourage you to step outside your comfort zone, and get in touch with your creative side. 

Shot using the Sweet optic on the OM-D E-M1 MkII and in camera processing.

Shot with the Twist optic using the Olympus PEN-F and in camera B&W

Velvet optic on the Olympus PEN-F

The Mirrorless Photographer's Gift Guide 2016

2016 is the best year yet for Mirrorless Photographers.

What a year!! 2016 was the year of the mirrorless camera revolution! We saw huge growth in the market as more and more people realized they don't need a big clunky dSLR to get great images. And as these people (maybe YOU are one of them?) have made their move into a smaller, often times more technologically advanced system, the need for new gear has arisen. And this list will help you either find them a great gift for this holiday season, or maybe it will help YOU get yourself something much deserved.  
I am making this list in order of expense. I will start off affordable (I don't have a huge trust fund so affordable to me is in the under $50 category) and work my way up to luxury items that may run over a couple thousand dollars. No matter what, everyone can find something on this list that will make a great gift. 

One thing before we get going.....I am using all Amazon links because I can make a few bucks of the sale of things when you shop from my links. It doesn't cost you a single penny more, but it helps me pay the bills if you can dig it. So big thanks for shopping through Amazon!!

So what do you say? Let's get to shopping!!

Keep It Steady...Affordably.

I love this product and own and use it myself regularly. It is the Manfrotto Pixi Mini Tripod. 
Now this is NOT a substitute for a regular full sized tripod, but it IS a very capable, ULTRA portable tripod that can easily be taken with you anywhere you go. And the cost? Try $25 on Amazon. 
Buy it here:

I can hold up any mirrorless camera!

I can hold up any mirrorless camera!

Welcome to Filters 101...On the Cheap.

Now this one may be a bit controversial...But hear me out first. 
There is no substitute for using filters on your camera. Especially ND(neutral density) filters. And with that said, there is no substitute for GOOD ND filters. But...What if you are curious as to whether you would use a set of ND filters? Or what if you have never used ND filters, and might only need them for a few shots and won't need them again? Or what if (this is MY case) you just don't have a ton of money to spend on ND filters? Well, what you do is get an affordable set like these from Neewer. I know...NEEWER? Who are they? They are a company that makes a LOT of affordable photo gear that is actually pretty darn good for the money! Whole these may not be made of glass, they are made of acrylic which has a GREATER level of clarity than any glass does...Don't believe me? Google it ;) 
So how mush is the wonder set of ND(standard AND graduated) filters going to cost you?
How about $20? No reason not to order one today now is there?
Buy it here:

Time To Clean House! Well..Maybe Clean Camera :)

If you play, you are going to have to pay at some point. And if you play outdoors (you better play outdoors!) then your camera will DEFINITELY need to be cleaned...And that is why I am seriously suggesting you invest in some sort of cleaning kit for your gear. This one has EVERYTHING you need to clean your camera inside and out...And all for under $20!! Can't go wrong there now can you? Oh..And I know this is for an APS-C camera, but you can trim the swabs to size ;) That'll save you some money.
Buy it here:

Put a Lid On It!!....Or Cap It...Or...Well, you get it!

You know what I lose? Lens caps...That's what I lose. I don't how, I don't know where...I just know I lose the darn things! But I have a secret....You can get them DIRT CHEAP on Amazon!!
How cheap is DIRT CHEAP?!? Well...Actually cheaper than a bag of dirt to be honest. 
Less than $10 for a pack of three...Just pick the size you need..Or buy two or three sizes and STILL be under that $25 price point!
Buy them here:

Shine A Little Light...Err.....REFLECT A Little Light!! 

Great..You are a natural light kind of photographer....So what if the light is on the wrong side of your subject? Or..What if that natural light is making a nasty Phantom of the Opera looking shadow on your model? Well what you do is use a reflector to bounce some light onto your model to fill in those shadows!! And you can do it for under $20! You can also use this to diffuse light by removing the reflective cover! That's why they call this a 5 in 1 reflector ;)
Buy it here:

Time to step up the Money Game...Gifts in the $50-200 price range.

Mirrorless Cameras are Small...So Why Buy a BIG BAG!?!?

This is MY PERFECT small bag for everyday use. Say hello to the Think TANK Photo Urban Approach 10. I LOVE Think TANK bags. How much do I love them? I have 8 of them so uh..Yeah..It could be called love. :) This bag though has now become my EDC(Every Day carry) bag that houses the Olympus PEN-F and a wide assortment of lenses and spare batteries...Oh..And my iPad. :) How much is this little gem? $135...And worth more than that in my opinion!
Buy it here: 

If James Bond Were A Photographer..He'd Be Using This.

Every year new gadgets come out in the world of photography, and often they are just revamped versions of something already out there. But sometimes a company comes at the industry with something completely new,...And that is EXACTLY what the Peak Design Capture Pro is.  This crazy cool clip system is designed to hold your camera on your bag's shoulder strap, or on your belt, or maybe someplace I haven't thought of yet. It's so cool I am sharing not only a photo...But a video of it too. I LOOOOOVE my Capture Clips...Yes...Plural...Love it so much I bought it a buddy. :)  Cost? $60
Buy it here:

You Need A Cloud..Your OWN Cloud..Like THIS Cloud!

Know what sucks? When your hard drive dies and you lose thousands of images. Know what else sucks? When you realize that for the cost of a few months worth of venti lattes you could have prevented that disaster. Know what DOESN'T Suck? This external hard drive that you can access from anywhere you have internet access. You can even access it from your phone or tablet. I was recently in New York and decided to not only download a few images from mine (OF COURSE I own this drive..two actually ;) but to UPLOAD a few images while in the streets of Chinatown just to see how practical it was. How practical was it? Enough that I am telling you that I did it and it worked PERFECTLY! How much is this piece of mind we call a cloud drive? Try $160 for 4TB..That's FOUR TERABYTES! So that is around 400,000 20 megapixel photos!! WHAT!?!? 
Buy it here:

Time To Charge Those Batteries..Like a Boss!

Are you still charging your batteries like the Amish? Ok...So maybe you aren't THAT far removed from technology, but if you are still charging batteries one at a time and not sure how full they are then you have some catching up to do! Introducing the Hahnel ProCube charger. This charger will not only charge TWO batteries at once, it will also do it FASTER and...Tell you how full they are!! Never wonder how close to being done they are. Never wonder if a battery needs charging. Never charge the old way again! Cost for this bronze beauty? $75
Buy it here:

I Hit The Lottery (or I just know how to manage my money better than you) Gifts! $250-$Lots

Edit on the go with a Microsoft Surface Pro! I am 100% a Mac guy...But I will tell you what. The iPad and iPad Pro are NOT full blown computers, but this Surface Pro IS! It will run all the Adobe Creative Cloud apps...Lightroom? Photoshop? Illustrator? Yup, Yup, Yup! And it also acts like a graphics tablet when you use the awesome Surface Pen...Oh and unlike the new Macbook Pro..This thing still has the SD card slot :)  Price? $1100
Buy it here:

 I Told You I Am A Mac Person...See?

I can't imagine editing at home on anything other than an iMac. I won't drone on and on about how great it is...Just trust me...THIS IS THE COMPUTER YOU WANT!!! Seriously...A 27" 5k display, super stunning form factor...And an operating system that is made to run smooth and efficiently...Wait...I am starting to drone on aren't I?  Cost? $2400
Buy it here:

The BEST Camera Out There In My Opinion....PERIOD!

Did you seriously think I wasn't going to suggest the new Olympus OM-D E-M1 MarkII? This camera is so loaded with features I swear I can't even begin to name them all. But I WILL say that one of the newest features, Pro Capture, will absolutely change the way you shoot ANY kind of action photos. Imagine that when you pressed the shutter button the camera not only took that photo, but it also took 14 images PRIOR to that one! So now you have that moment you were trying to capture, and if you just missed it? No worry! you have FOURTEEN other images to select from!! No more missing that perfect moment!! Cost? $2000
Buy it here:

You Bought The Best Camera..Now You Need Some Lenses!! Yes..Plural ;)

So what I am going to do here is share a link to ALL the Olympus PRO lenses. There are many of them. ALL are weather sealed, ALL are made for PRO level work, ALL are a PERFECT match for that new OM-D above. There is definitely a lens to fit whatever you shooting needs may be. And if you aren't sure which one you need? EMAIL ME! I will help guide you on your purchase journey! Cost? It varies....Sorry.
Buy them here: 
8mm f/1.8 Fisheye :
7-14mm f/2.8: 
12-40mm f/2.8 : 
25mm f/1.8 :
40-150mm f/2.8 :
300mm f/4 :

And Saving The BEST For Last!!!
And This Is Not What You Were Expecting

You can't get this one at Amazon....And The price is all over the map...But I think if you can do this then do it...Spend some money on TRAVEL!!! Seriously! Why buy a gift that might not last more than a few months or a year? Why buy a "thing" when you can buy a LIFE MEMORY? Go somewhere and pay for something you will never forget. It will be the best money you have ever spent.  Or buy a learning experience...OR...Best yet...Buy a spot on a workshop in a place you've never been!! Maybe even look at one of the workshops I do with Mike Boening!!
Check out Mirrorless Adventures Workshops Here: Mirrorless Adventures!

I just want to thank you for checking out this little gift guide, and for sharing it with your photographer friends and family. Take care and happy shooting!!!