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Fireworks & Super Moon

Yesterday was the annual Lionville Community day, which ended with a great set of Fireworks!!

Hope you enjoy!

On a technical side, this was my first real chance to use my new Canon T5i (700D), and for some reason, it takes SO LONG to cycle between pictures, even with a fast memory card!

I’m going to do some more testing, but my much older Canon XTi seems to be a much better camera for Fireworks.

- Andrew
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Blogging Camera Equipment Hardware Long Exposure Milestones Personal Photo Journal Photography Reviews Tech Talk Thoughts

Got my new tripod!

Manfrotto Midi Ball Head #498
Manfrotto Midi Ball Head #498

Yeah! – My new Manfrotto tripod and Midi-Ball Head just came in!

Well, actually on March 15th, but those are just some minor little details…

This is the Prize, I won last month, in the Landscape Photography and Manfrotto contest.

With that being said, I thought I would write about my first tripod upgrade in over 30 years.

I do have a Slik 450G for emergency/travel and a Bogen mono-pod, but they mostly sit around these days.

My First Tripod

I had bought my Bogen (#3020), when I was about 18 years old, while working as a Freelance Photography Assistant/Apprentice in the Philadelphia area.

At the time, I got to work with many different setups, and knew what I wanted, but just could not justify the costs. I did know, that what every tripod I bought, I wanted it to last.

And my Bogen has lasted.

So far, the ONLY thing that has broken on it, is the stitching on one of the loops for the carrying strap!

It “broke” on me while out on a nature walk, and I just took the remaining strap, and tied a half-hitch back on the D-ring, and have been using it ever since, well over a year ago.

Easily, my Bogen is one of the best purchases in my life!

My Bogen was also there when I took the winning photograph.

After a few coordinating emails between, Manfrotto and I, the box arrived late last Friday afternoon.

I was very surprised to have it arrive so quickly, and very eager to see what 30 years tripods was like!

Raising the Legs

At first, I was concerned because there was only one box.

I was expecting two, tripod and head, but was pleased to find the head included in the main box.

Silly me.

When I removed the tripod from the box, it did “feel” lighter then my Bogen, but the head was still not on.

The next thing I did, was to extend the legs, and as I did, they seemed smoother and quieter then my Bogen, but this could that be due to age, or is it, aluminium vs. carbon fiber?

Time will tell.

Opening the small box with the ball-head, was very exciting for me, because I always wanted one, and now I had one!

There had been numerous times, over the years, where the three twisting arms of my Bogen head, made it much more difficult to setup for a shot, whereas a ball head was going to be a joy!

Or so I thought…

In the Studio

When I first heard that I had won, I looked into accessories for the Manfrotto, namely a carrying strap, and for the first time, a quick release system – another little item that I always wanted…

Finding, Ordering and Receiving these two items took considerably much longer then expected, and is still needing to be resolved, as I ponder the subject for a new post.

While waiting for the tripod accessories, I decided to try the tripod in my little studio doing some shots that I had been contemplating for some time now.

In setting up given shots, it was funny to note my ingrained movements towards the knobs of my old tripod as I made final adjustments.

For all intensive purposes, I went from three knobs, down to one.

It just felt weird!

During the course of the day, I managed to set up and photograph, several scenes with the new ball head, and finally into Lightroom for basic review.

It was in Lightroom, where I began to notice subtle shifts in my bracketed exposure sequences due to movement between exposures.

When taking an exposure, I normally use the cameras onboard interface, to change the settings, then use my remote trigger for the actual exposure.

This is of importance to me, since I do a lot of HDR work, and it is critical for the various exposures to be aligned.

With my Bogen, these physical exposure adjustments on the camera, were not nearly as bad as what I was witnessing with the new Manfrotto.

At the moment, I’m just going to make myself mentally aware of being more careful when making the adjustments, or rely on AEB more often.

Going for my first walk

Finally, I got the tripod strap and quick release systems!

I was rather impressed when I first opened up the tripod strap. There is a rather large padded sleeve that fits over the actual strap, and I could easily see where this might be very comfortable after a long day of carrying the tripod. I also like the idea of having a quick release on the strap where one would connect it to the three legs.

I also installed the quick release system on the tripod and camera, and smacked my head on why I had not bought one of these before, but at the same time, knowing that I just had had movement issues in the studio, I also now had to consider this.

Be that as it may, I went off for a walk to test my new toys in the field!

Generally, when I start one of my walks, I have not attached the camera to the tripod yet, and swing both of them over my left shoulder, and start on, allowing me to freehold the camera if I see something of interest.

As I walked, the first thing that I noticed, was how completely different this tripod felt on my shoulder.

Gone was the feeling of the knob arms hitting you like blunted porcupine quills as you walked and moved through the woods, but at the same time, I still need to figure out the best way to attach the strap and cushioned padding.

It feels weird, but once again, time will tell.


Once again, I want to thank both and Manfrotto for this opportunity, and I look forward to years of great use!

That being said, it is far too early to make a definitive conclusion about the two tripods.

Manfrotto does feel lighter in weight, but I have NOT actually done a side-by-side, and the carrying strap needs some fine tuning in the field.

I am looking forward to using the ball-head more, and I should be able to adapt to the minor adjustments issues, by tightening the one knob more. (I do have a zoom lens that I worried about…)

Right now I’m still in the honeymoon stage with my Manfrotto, and with any good marriage it takes time… 30+ years is hard to break.

But some questions linger… Am I cheating on my Bogen?

Will Bogen get relegated to the studio, while Manfrotto journeys forth?

Stay tuned for details!

More to come!

- Andrew
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Tech Talk

Prize Equipment Details

  • Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod-Q90-3 Section (#055CXPRO3)
  • Manfrotto Midi Ball Head (#498)

Accessories Details

  • Manfrotto Tripod Should Strap (#MB MSTRAP-1)
  • Manfrotto Compact QR Adapter (#MA323)
  • Manfrotto Accessory Plate (#200PL-14)


2013 March 15 – Original Post

Camera Hardware Personal Photo Journal Photography Projects Reviews

The cameras in my life…

It is another rainy day here in Chester County, so I decided to catch-up on an old mental project – Start to photograph my photography collect (cameras, trays, etc.).

Why not, I have been working on getting the studio back in order, so…

as you can see, I have used a few different ones over the years!

Now all I have to do, is add some story text to each camera…

- Andrew
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Camera Cleaning Equipment Gadgets Hardware Milestones Photography Reviews Tech Talk Utilities

Cleaning My Sensor

Clean Me Please!
Clean Me Please!

I have had my Canon XTi since 2007, and all during this time, I have used numerous tools to dust out the sensor chamber, including my old spray paint brush and compressor.

But lately, the dust monsters have really taken a toil on my productivity, only increasing my touch-up skills, and it was during my processing of some foggy morning pictures, that I knew, something had to be done.

Turning to my online connections on Facebook and Google+, I asked the question if anyone had done their own sensor cleaning, and if they had any tips, suggestions.

While waiting for responses, I started my own research, with a reference page, as well as reading various reviews on Amazon, Adorama and B&H Photo.

A great place to start, is, which has a lot of comprehensive information on various tools and techniques.

After reading various pages, I knew that I needed 1) a very careful “Dry” cleaning; and if that did not work, 2) a “Wet” cleaning with swabs, and the two main vendors to look at were VisibleDust and Photographic Solutions.

What am I looking for?

I searched the internet for what it would cost me to get my camera Professionally cleaned, and although prices varied, be prepared to spend $60+ per cleaning, and being without your camera for a period of time, and in some cases, not as clean as you hoped (or paid for).

So, I am looking for a “Beginner” kit that can offer me both a Dry and Wet sensor cleaning option that does not cost a great deal.

As my daughter says, I’m cheap…

I like to think frugal…


The VisibleDust systems are very cool looking and many different options to suit your needs, and I almost purchased their Christmas Special, but after reading some of the reviews on Amazon, I became very hesitant.

Photographic Solutions

According to Photographic Solutions, they actually worked with NASA to develop the BrushOff system, and is endorsed by most of the major camera manufacturers.

They offer two different “Digital Survival Kits“: Basic and Professional.

The Basic offers the same basics as the VisibleDust Christmas Special, but one still needed a brush, and with that additional cost, the price for the two systems is about equal.

The Professional version offers a Brush, Magnifying Glass and Air Blower, all in a nice nylon pouch for around $125.00 USD.


I recently upgrade my Adorama account to a VIP status (what ever that means), and was eager to see if this might affect my order in any way.

On Wednesday, December 26th, I placed my order for the “Photographic Solutions Pro Digital Survival Eclipse Kit #2” and opted for the 3-5 Business Day shipping for an added  $3.95, and figured I would see my package early next week, just in time for the new year!

Saturday (30th), the snow is still falling, and my son and I, are finally finishing the plowing of the driveway by hand, and in checking the mailbox, I was very pleased to see a package from Adorama!

I know what I get to play with tonight!


Finally, around 11PM Saturday night, the house is quiet, and I am able to unpack and examine my new toys.

Knowing that I wanted to start with a dry cleaning, I once again reviewed the BrushOff video provided on the Photographic Solutions website.

Note 01 – In the video, the instructor mentions an ECLIPSE packet that comes with each brush. This is NOT true for this Kit. Instead you have to create your own using a “PEC*PAD with ECLIPSE Optic Cleaner” –

“Be sure your fingers do not touch any of the PAD that will come in contact with the unique and patented fiber materials. If the brush should become contaminated, simple saturate a PEC*PAD with ECLIPSE Optic Cleaner and gently wipe the bristles. Air dry for a few seconds and replace protective cap being sure cap itself has not become contaminated. To further protect the BRUSHOFF fibers, they are fully retractable into the handle when not in use and a protective cap is also supplied.” – BRUSHOFF Information

Note 02 – The video suggests placing a PEC*PAD on clean area, so I placed mine on top of the Sensor Swab box, and then added a couple of drops of ECLIPSE Optic Cleaner.

Almost immediately, the ink from the box began to leach through the pad.

I should have known better.

I ended up using folded over white paper, and will seek a better setup.

Into the Chamber

I used the included magnifying glass to first look at what I was getting into.

I was pleasantly surprised to see, that it included a working LED light, and a magnification that was useful!

Using the magnifying glass, I could easily see some dust, and first used the included small Giotto Rocket Blower, and checked again.

I could still see some dust, so I decided to take the more dramatic measure of using the BrushOff.

I very carefully whipped the sensor a couple of times, blew with the Rocket, and then checked with the magnifying glass again, again.

The dust appeared to be moving, but not off the sensor.

Attaching the provided grounding wire, I ‘charged’ the brush, while tapping it firmly, and returned to cleaning the sensor.

This time, there did seem to be a difference.

Preliminary Testing

After the sensor cleaning, I took a couple of test shoots in my office, but the lighting at midnight is not really a good test.

What I could see, gave me encouragement.

I really need to get out, shoot some landscapes at f22, and then see the results.

Updates to follow…


It is still to early to make a definitive conclusion, but I have learned, it is not as hard as one might think, as long as you are very careful.

I also learned several new ways to clean my camera’s sensors, which should also carry forward into future cameras. There alone saving on time and money associated with Professional cleanings, and my costs moving forward should be relatively low since I now have some base equipment, which should last for years.

- Andrew
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Camera HDR Long Exposure Photography Reviews Software Tips

Triggertrap Mobile – Review


For several years now, I have been doing more and more photography work in High Dynamic Range (HDR), and I have been trying to find a way to make the required bracketing easier and more efficient.

The Canon XTi does allow for auto bracketing, but only over three exposures.

120912 Marsh Creek Spillway hdr 12
120912 Marsh Creek Spillway hdr 12

I have been able to figure out ways to make it easier to get nine stops, but after that, it is not as automatic.

Back in 2010, when I was doing my covered bridges, it was not uncommon for me to do exposure bracket of 13 to 15 stops, and I would do this by manually making the three clicks, per stop, on the camera dial, and then trigger the exposure with my Canon Remote Switch RS60 E3.

The biggest problem I ran into when doing this method, was the potential for both camera shake on the tripod or misalignment due to movement on the tripod head and the only real way to find out if this has occurred, is when you are back at the office, while evaluating the images on a big screen.

I have also detected blurred images due to the mirror in the camera going up and down during exposure. As far as I know,  there is no way to lock the mirror “up” on the XTi.

Then in early August, while reading my Google+ page, I noticed one of my contacts had just received their “Trigger Happy Remote” and was excited to use it. I continued to read the comments, and someone also mentioned TriggerTrap.

In doing further investigation, I ended up writing the blog entry, “Searching for the Remote” in which I compare several different remote triggering devices.

After a couples of days, I was contacted by Haje Jan Kamps at, and was asked if I would be interested in doing a product review in exchange for a free set up.

I was all too happy to say Yes!

Equipment Used

  • Canon XTi (circa 2007)
  • iPod Touch / iOS 5.1.1
  • Bogen Model #3020 tripod
  • RAP-B-121-UN7U Cell Phone Clamp


When one does go to the website to purchase the dongle and cable, they will find a wizard that will walk them through the choice of a cable for their particular camera. In my case, a CL-E3 for the Canon XTi and iPod Touch.

While waiting for the cables to be delivered, you can download either the free or paid version of the software directly to your device, and begin to explore the application, and possibilities.

The website also offers several tutorial videos to help explain the various settings and modes available within the application. Some of the App screens may look a little different, and that is many due to the tutorials being done on an earlier version, but the concepts are the same.

Once you have the cables, you connect the dongle directly to your camera, and then the additional cabling directly into the iDevice/Android, and your ready to start!

Features & Testing

Needless to say, there are a lot of things that one can do with this system, and it is only really up to the imagination of the photographer, what they can do with it.

Here is a list of the Modes that are currently available, and I do plan to at least test all of them at some point, but there are definitely some that I do not see myself using.

Trigger Modes

Cable Release Mode (Free)

Works without issue, just make sure you are in Bulb mode

The cable release mode is by far the easiest mode to work with right out-of-the-box, and works just as you would expect it to.

Your iDevice  can be used as a simple remote trigger, two different types of bulb triggers and program mode.

Long Exposure HDR Mode (Paid)

Abandoned Paper Mill hdr 05
Abandoned Paper Mill hdr 05

This was the Mode that I really wanted to Test the most.

All you really need to do is to find your middle exposure, enter “it” into the App, select the number of Stops, and the EV value between the frames, and push the button, and sit back and relax.

There is no need to make the mental calculations or be present during the triggering operation!

Not having to stand at the tripod, allowed me to walk away, and scout for the next shoot!


When I first started to test this Mode in my office, I found that I was not getting the correct number of exposures within my requested bracket.

Doing some reading within the Triggertrap website, the issue seems to be related to the minimal exposure length supported on your camera in the Bulb setting.

Once I was in a situation where my minimal exposure length was greater than 1 second, I did not run into the issue again.

I do need to figure out a shooting workflow to get around this, and once I have, I’ll post it.

Motion Mode (Paid)

  • Tested
  • Undetermined at this time

When I first read about the various Modes available, this was another that piqued my interest.

The basic concept is that you register a base image into the iDevice, and if anything changes, trigger the camera.

Well, this did not work for me.

I could not get a preview, so I was unable to use this mode.

I did visit the support section of TriggerTrap, and really did not find anything that described my issue, and plan to post a question when I try again.

I do wonder, again, if it is the age of my equipment, so I am not writing off the whole mode. Maybe because the XTi does not support “Live View” could be the issue?

Time-lapse Mode (Free)

  • Have Not Tested
  • Long Term testing

I have ideas, but I’m not sure about letting my camera and equipment stay setup for that long.

Seismic Mode (Free)

  • Have Not Tested

Distance Lapse Mode (Paid)

  • Have Not Tested
  • Not likely to use

Eased Time-lapse Mode (Paid)

  • Have Not Tested
  • Long Term testing

LE HDR Time-lapse Mode (Paid)

  • Have Not Tested
  • Long Term testing

Tesla (magnetic sensor) Mode (Paid)

  • Have Not Tested
  • Long Term testing

Star Trail Mode (Paid)

  • Have Not Tested
  • Long Term testing

Peek-a-boo Mode (Paid)

  • Have Not Tested
  • Long Term testing

Bang (Sound Sensor) Mode (Paid)

  • Works

I have not really tested this Application to its fullest extent, but from my basic setting up the controls, I was able to trigger the camera when I snapped my figures or clapped my hands.


If you are doing HDR or Long Exposure photography, this iOS software application is well worth the look at, and it’s flexibility both in terms of Cameras and Modes makes it all the more interesting!

In terms of my favorite mode so far, the “Long Exposure HDR” Mode”, which to a HDR photographer, is almost as easy as ‘point-n-click’!

Tips and Tricks

If you really would like to make your life easier when working with iDevice and Tripod, I would strongly suggest that you take a look at the offerings.

In my case, I purchased a RAP-B-121-UN7U The RAM Universal X-Grip Cell Phone Holder, which at first I thought it was a little expensive, but after using the clamp with a TriggerTrap for a while, I found it well worth the worth the financial investment.

– Andrew
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