Thursday, December 22, 2016

Peak Design Everyday Sling Review

     A little over a week ago, my Peak Design sling bag arrived in the mail.  After finally giving in and ordering the bag, and also having a chance to look at it in person when one of my friends received theirs, I was super excited to have one of my own.  Unfortunately, it sat there for a few days because I was too busy to use it.  Since then, I've been able to take it on a few outings and can finally offer some thoughts (and suggestions) on it.  Whenever I initially do research on a bag, I'm always interested in what actually fits in it, and whether the type of compartments it offers will work for me.  So if you're thinking of possibly getting the sling, I thought I'd offer you a look into how I packed mine for a portrait shoot. 

     By the way, if you're on the fence about the ash color combo, get it. The leather accents are lovely against the light grey material. 

What's In My Bag (from left to right, top to bottom):

     The sling comes with two of their flexfold dividers.  They were evenly spaced when I first got the bag, but I decided to move the dividers a little to the left to accommodate the size of my lenses, and also to leave more room to the right for my camera body.  When I have the bag carried messenger style in front of me, this is my view of it when it is laying against my body.  This layout is what initially drew me to this bag.  It is so convenient to just unzip the flap and take out whatever I need from that compartment.  

     Here are some of my things inside the zipped compartment on the top flap.  I love how everything can have its own place, and things that I frequently reach for are easily accessible.  The zipper also gives me peace of mind that my stuff won't just fall out.

     The flexfold dividers are amazing.  Unlike my beloved Shootsac, they allow me to safely stack smaller lenses.  On the far left, I have my 50 1.2 at the bottom, and with a simple fold of the divider, I am able to stack the 28mm right on top without the lenses touching. My 24-70 fits snugly right next to it.  To the right is my 5d and my slide strap.  I find it a lot easier to store the strap separately when transporting my gear since the cushioned part of the strap doesn't fold as easily.

     In the expandable zipped compartment of the sling, I put my cardholder, battery back, reusable bag, and mini tripod.  

Here are my thoughts on the sling:

Design (4.5 out of 5 stars):  If you've ever seen the promo videos made by Peak Design for the sling bag, it works pretty much the way they depict it.  I find the organization and storage to be the sling's most appealing attribute.  The accessibility is a big plus for me as I'm kind of a hoarder when it comes to carrying stuff.  Aesthetically, I like the bag, but I do wish the bag would lay more comfortably when carried messenger style.  I know that it wasn't made to be carried that way, but it would be a huge upgrade to somehow alter its design to accommodate messenger-style carry.  Last, but not least, I do wish the bag was about an inch narrower in length.  Some reviews stated that Peak Design made the sling longer so that it could accommodate a 13-inch laptop, but if the goal of the sling is to carry less, why are they even trying to accommodate a laptop?  I would've been happy if it just fit my iPad mini. 

Comfort (4 out of 5 stars):  One of the recurring criticisms that I've read about the sling is the lack of cushion in the shoulder strap.  I tend to agree with this sentiment.  I carried the sling for about 6 hours, and after a few hours, I began to feel the strain on my left shoulder.  Granted, I know this bag is intended for light carry of gear, but I just wanted to report how long I could stand to have the sling on my shoulder before it began to get uncomfortable.  To be fair, I do feel that carrying less gear, or carrying it for a shorter amount of time, would have made it more comfortable.  I also think that had I not needed quick access to my gear, I have the option of using my Everyday Backpack instead (which could easily last 6 hours without getting uncomfortable).

Quality (4.5 out of 5 stars):  Not unlike the 20L Everyday Backpack, I could tell from my initial unboxing that the sling was well-made.  They've managed to somehow make the bag light, but sturdy enough to adequately protect your gear. The custom hardware is top notch, and the Kodra water repellent material really does repel water.  However, I do have to note that the black material they use underneath the cushioned part of the strap feels like it will not stand the test of time.  I know this because the same (or similar) material is used to line the straps of the Everyday Backpack, and I've already noticed some wear and tear on it.  I think it's far too soon for these bags to have wear and tear, and I'm really hoping it doesn't get any worse. 

     Overall, I'm really happy I got the sling.  It'll be a great bag to use for portrait shoots or for when I just want to do a casual photo outing.  I may even venture out and try to use it as a replacement for my Shootsac.  After having had more than my fair share of lens accidents this year, it really couldn't hurt! :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Laguna Beach Photo Walk :: When Life Gives You Rain...

     ... you make pictures!  After a photo shoot fail due to rain, I decided to make the most of it and walk around Laguna Beach to kill time avoid traffic.  To my surprise, I quite enjoyed photo walking and randomly taking photos of whatever caught my interest.  Unfortunately, at one point, my feet started hurting (or better known as a shoe choice fail), and it was time to call it a day...and go shopping instead. :) 

*All photos taken with my Mark III and 24-70 2.8 or 50 1.2 lens.

Birds - my worst nightmare.

I really love this one.  It may have to be my new desktop photo. :)  

Oh look, it's my least favorite flower.  

     Hope everyone survived this rainy day in SoCal! :) 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Road Trip :: Guide to the Salton Sea

     This year, I really wanted to avoid the shopping madness that is Black Friday.  After being bombarded by all those REI ads on Facebook to #optoutside, I thought a small road trip would be a great way to get away for the day.  One of my friends even agreed to drive - score!

     If you've never been to the Salton Sea and are thinking about going, I will use this post as a partial guide to the Salton Sea and highlight some key places you don't want to miss!


1)  You know you're getting close to the Salton Sea once you start seeing windmills.  Around this area you'll also find the Cabazon/Desert Hills Outlets, the Cabazon dinosaurs, Joshua Tree, and Palm Springs.  I suppose if you left super early, you could hit up some of these other places, but Salton Sea is deserving of its own full day of shooting. :)

Starbucks (Mecca, CA) - In my numerous other trips out to the Salton Sea, the Starbucks at Mecca is usually where a lot of us would meet up.  This is probably the last you'll see of commercial chains as once you get to the Salton Sea and surrounding areas, it's mostly mom and pop shops.  The am/pm mini mart at this junction even sold Thrifty ice cream! :-O

     Since we would be having a late lunch at the Ski Inn later on in the day, we decided to grab a few snacks for the road.  I grabbed some Muddy Buddies.


2)  On this particular trip, our first stop was Salvation Mountain.  It looked quite faded since the last time I saw it.  Its creator, Leonard Knight, died a few years ago and now the mountain is being maintained by a volunteer group.  Over the years, Salvation Mountain has gained more status as a place to visit out in Imperial County.  There were many tourists there, and that's something I don't recall seeing during my first trip back in 2009.  I felt bad for the guy on duty who repeatedly had to tell people to stay off certain parts of the mountain.  If you're visiting a place, try not to be a douche and follow the rules posted on the signs, people.

     I really wish the sky had more clouds.  I have some photos from 2009 and 2011 that I really love where the sky was absolutely gorgeous.

     You know my Peak Design Everyday Backpack had to come along on this trip.  I keep saying how the bag is a little larger than I'd like it to be, but it does hold everything that I want to bring along with me.

     I definitely noticed some cracking inside the structure of Salvation Mountain.  I quickly took some photos, and went back outside...just in case. :)

     This plaque dedicated to Leonard was something new at the mountain.  I'm really glad they put up something that commemorated all the work he put into this place.  

     One of my friends apparently also ordered the 30L version of the everyday backpack.  We both agreed that Peak Design needs to start selling dividers a la carte so that people could better customize how they want to section out their bags.


3)  Salvation Mountain is technically located in Niland, CA and it is also next to Slab City.  I had never been to slab city before.  On previous trips, I knew we were close to it, but I never really knew how close until now.  It was literally just a few minutes down the road.  

     There were old shoes scattered about the road, sometimes in clusters, and some hanging from a tree.  They were both artsy, and strange to see. 

     One of my misconceptions was that Slab City was a very small community of trailers/campers.  However, we discovered that the trailers are scattered throughout a much larger area.  Once you see this information kiosk, you drive down a little further until you see a sign for other places such as East Jesus and the Slab City Library.

     This man was selling jewelry on the side of the road.  


4)  East Jesus is part of slab city, but I thought I'd highlight it anyway as a place to visit.  It is filled with art made from scraps and junk.  Some of it is really cool, and some were quite strange.  

     Brick Henge

     This is the dog of one of the guys that runs East Jesus.  She was such a cutie. :) 

     Jack is one of the people that runs West Satan.  We didn't venture into this area as we were strapped for time, but I think it was more of the same type of art.

     Everyone we encountered in Slab City was quite friendly.  This is the complete opposite of what I thought it was going to be like.  Before we left, Jack even handed us his "card", and mentioned he had a reality TV show he publishes to Vimeo. 


5)   We headed back in the opposite direction to find the Slab City Library.  It was quite an interesting place to see and photograph.  The signs said it is a 24 hour library.  I can only imagine what it's like to visit this library at 3 am.  

I really wonder how this place fares when it is raining.  Hopefully they have lots and lots of tarp!  

     For a place that's out in the middle of nowhere, they really have a wide range of books!  They even had them in specific genres.

     This sweet thing is one of the cutest residents of Slab City. :)  Did I mention this library has a bar?!

     I found their extensive collection of National Geographic magazines pretty amazing.  They dated back all the way to the late 60s and early 70s and were in great condition considering their age!

     The original Google.


6)  You won't see it pictured here, but one of the places you can check out at the Red Hill Marina is the 3 sisters.  They are 3 trees that are out in the middle of what once was covered in water.  Now it's just a salt bed.

Here is an old photo from January 2011.

     I saw a photo from 500 Pixels that I really wanted to capture.  At first, when we saw these small pier-like structures, we thought this was it.  When I compared it to the image I saw, I knew this was not the correct location.  

     A quick U-turn and a few more feet down the road was this.  Unfortunately, the "pier" that was used in the photo was only accessible if you were willing to be knee-deep in water, and that was something I was not willing to do.  I settled for one of the closer piers, and even then it was quite sketchy walking on those boards. 


7)  After Red Hill Marina, we headed back towards Bombay Beach to have lunch at the Ski Inn.  I've always wanted to go inside this place.  From the outside, it definitely looks like a place you should NOT go inside, but once inside, you'll find that it's just your typical dive bar.  I read somewhere that one of the Food Network chefs had visited the Ski Inn.  I'm not sure if that accounts for its rise in popularity (and it's 4 star Yelp review!) but they had a steady flow of customers during the time we were there.

     The food is nothing fancy and just your basic American bar/comfort food.

     There were dollar bills (and other currencies) taped all over the walls and even the ceiling.

     If you are looking for fancy dining, you may not find it around the Salton Sea area.  The food was okay at the Ski Inn, and I recommend checking it off your list if you're making the trek out this way.  Another pace to eat is a place called Bobby D's.  It's closer to Salvation Mountain in Niland, and they have pizzas, burgers, and the like. 


8)  Next stop - Bombay Beach.  This is always our last stop, because we tend to want to shoot a nice sunset here.  There wasn't really a cloud in the sky, so I knew this sunset would be no match for the ones we've seen in years past.  Once we got out of the car and were hit by the pungent stench in the air, I knew we were at Bombay Beach.  One of the first things that you'll notice if you've been out to Salton Sea before, is the noticeably lower water line.  

Here is what it looks like now.

And here is the exact same location back in May 2009.

     Yep, there really is a drought in California. 

     We used to photograph these stumps that were in the water, and now they are all exposed and you can literally walk right up next to them.

Here is a photo of the water and the same stumps from 2009.

      I'm pretty sure this couch was put here by people looking to dump it, or use it for a photo shoot. 

     There used to be all these cool decaying structures around Bombay Beach, but a lot of them were torn down and removed.  This boat must've also been placed here, because I'd never seen it before.  


9)  After the sunset, we made a run for the International Banana Museum.  It was one of the things I saw in my research for this road trip.  They charge $1 "admission" if you want to take photos inside.  We were mainly there to get some desert to cap off our trip.  The banana milkshake is what they're known for, but I can vouch for their sundaes as well. :)

     The "museum" is literally one room with a bar area to the left once you enter.  Scattered all around area banana after banana after banana.  If it has a banana on it, looks like a banana, or remotely resembles a banana, this place has it. 

      Don't forget to sign their guestbook! :)

     I would definitely give them a 10 for presentation! 

     Aside from the stops I listed here, there are many other things to check out at the Salton Sea.  We didn't even make it around the whole sea or stop at the recreation center which is fairly new.  Driving around the whole sea is something I'd definitely be interested in doing one day!  Do you have some favorite stops that I didn't mention here?  I'd love to hear what they are! :)