Are You an Active Photographer? MindShift Multi-Mount Camera Carrier

The  MindShift Multi-Mount 20  hangs securely and unobtrusively from my riding pack.

The MindShift Multi-Mount 20 hangs securely and unobtrusively from my riding pack.

If you’re an active photographer, traveling via 4 wheels, 4 legs, 2 wheels, or 2 legs, you’re probably in a constant search for the perfect camera carrying system. I’m always trying to find a more convenient way to: A) have quick access to my camera so I’ll use it more often, and B) carry it comfortably and securely so It doesn’t get in the way of my activity or experience. 

I’ve been a long-time fan of the MindShift Gear backpacks, with their Rotation 180 technology. MindShift is a division of ThinkTank, which makes some of the finest camera bags on the planet. I’ve taken my Rotation 180 Pro backpack all around the world with me and wouldn’t use anything else for my extended adventures. Sometimes, however, you need something simpler. Maybe you just need to carry a camera, lens, and some accessories. Maybe you are engaged in a highly physical activity, like motorcycle or water buffalo riding, and need to keep your camera super secure and out of your way–yet with instant easy access. This is especially important during water buffalo mating season. 

The Multi-Mount carrier can work solo or in tandem with your normal backpack. It could also be added to your MindShift Rotation 180 pack for super easy access to even more gear. In fact, this is the setup I’ll be using when I lead our MotoPhotoTour of Italy this fall. When used solo, it can be slung over your shoulder, neck, or as a hip pack. The clever part is that is has multiple connection straps for securing the carrier from swinging around and getting in your way–which can actually be quite dangerous if you are engaged in high-risk activities. 

The full line of Multi-Mount carriers. Cameras not included. Duh.

The full line of Multi-Mount carriers. Cameras not included. Duh.

When attached to your normal backpack, it can be worn in front, threaded on the backpack waist belt; or it can hang from your backpack straps, and is secured with the stabilizer straps. This method keeps the carrier up higher than your waist, which is essential for mobility during riding activities like motorcycling, biking, horseback, or water buffaloing. 

There are so many clever ways to attach and secure the Multi-Mount carrier, that you’d be hard-pressed to find a reason not to bring it with you.

I took my Multi-Mount 20 on an off-road motorcycle ride to see if it really functioned as well as it looked. We rode hard for almost 80 miles through forests, single-track, and fast fire roads. The amazing part is that I never even noticed the bag was there. It rides so securely and out of the way that it never interferes with your activity. Even through (uh-hmm) dismounts and pushing my bike through knee-deep snow patches, it never got in the way. Usually, I didn’t even remember I had it on. It just seems to disappear–at least until a perfect vista appeared and I could simply stop and whip out the camera without even getting off the bike. 

As with all ThinkTank and MindShift products, the quality construction is second-to-none: Beefy, smooth zippers. Thick, rip-proof fabrics. Bomber stitching on all seams. Everything seems to be really well thought out and tested. There are just enough pockets for your accessories and, as with most of their camera bags, MindShift includes a rain cover. 

The Multi-Mount carriers come in a variety of sizes: 10, 20, 30, 50. I chose the 20 size as it carries a smaller DSLR or mirrorless camera with zoom lens attached. This is generally what I want immediate access to while riding or hiking. There is an outside pocket with plenty of room for filters, cards, batteries, wallet, keys, and your water buffalo mating call device. 

Niggles? The connection straps provided to attach to your backpack strap is designed for attaching to vertical accessory straps, although many backpacks (my bike pack included) have horizontal accessory straps. It still works fine, not a big deal, you just have slightly twisted straps that may throw the OCD person in to disarray. Using another swivel clip, like the one used on the other end of the strap, would have been a more universal solution. Granted, the MindShift backpacks have vertical accessory straps, so it works perfect with those. 

On the left is the way the strap attaches to your backpack horizontal accessory strap. I would have preferred a swivel connector like on the right (which is used on the other end of the strap to connect to the carrier).

On the left is the way the strap attaches to your backpack horizontal accessory strap. I would have preferred a swivel connector like on the right (which is used on the other end of the strap to connect to the carrier).

Lastly, I’m not super excited about the single color option: green. It’s a nice color and all, but what if it clashes with my wing suit? Fortunately, I’d happily trade a little fashion for a lot of function.

After riding with my Multi-Mount for a day, I can’t imagine going anywhere without it. I have quick access to a real camera and it doesn’t have to get in the way of my fun…and fun is job #1.

The green color of the Multi-Mount looks awesome in B&W ;-)

The green color of the Multi-Mount looks awesome in B&W ;-)

Even at speed, the carrier didn't budge or get in the way.

Even at speed, the carrier didn't budge or get in the way.

When you're chasing views like this, you might want to bring a camera.

When you're chasing views like this, you might want to bring a camera.

Bring your camera, share the beauty!

Bring your camera, share the beauty!

Yongnuo wireless flash transceivers and some lighting tips

Click the image to see the 360 interactive panorama created by Craig Strong, of the  Lensbaby  fame, at our workshop! Click-n-drag to look around. Right-click and drag to zoom. I used the Lunagrip with a speedlight to illuminate the model in various positions. He shot the image with the  Lensbaby fisheye  and stitched it all together using  PTGUI .

Click the image to see the 360 interactive panorama created by Craig Strong, of the Lensbaby fame, at our workshop! Click-n-drag to look around. Right-click and drag to zoom. I used the Lunagrip with a speedlight to illuminate the model in various positions. He shot the image with the Lensbaby fisheye and stitched it all together using PTGUI.

I’ve been using the Yonguo transceivers for some time with my Nikon cameras and speedlights. I wanted to see if a fairly cheap unit could keep up with the more expensive offerings. As a teacher, I get asked for gear recommendations all the time, and many of my students simply can’t afford top-of-the-line gear, so it helps to have alternatives that leave them some latte money at the end of the month. Cause, you know, stuff like that is really important too. I love my PocketWizard transceivers, and have been a big fan for many years. While they are worth the investment, some just can’t justify the price yet, and the Yongnuo system is the next best thing I’ve tried. It’s even better than sliced bread. 

In my lighting workshops, I recommend a simple, versatile lighting kit that will light up your life with the best of the more expensive alternatives. This kit covers all of the essential lighting styles: Large Window, Medium Diffused, and Crisp & Direct. With these simple tools, we can emulate almost any quality lighting setup you see in professional portraiture. 

The complete kit contents are listed at the end of this article, but the primary tools are a large scrim (like the Scrim Jim from Westcott), the Westcott LunaGrip (that I designed for Westcott), and a RogueGrid. Each of these works beautifully with your speedlight, making portability a huge advantage and saving you money on chiropractor visits. The invisible glue that ties them all together are the wireless transceivers that tell the flash when to fire and at what power level. 

There are myriad brands of wireless transceivers out there. Some are so crazy cheap as to be nearly disposable. Most of the cheap-o units are basic signal senders – no TTL or fancy power adjusting capabilities. The transmitter says “fire” and the receiving unit does – most of the time. They may not even work at your camera’s top sync speed (normally 1/200 or 1/250) but if you keep it under 1/200 and chant the magic words of love and encouragement, they may decide to fire. 

On the other end of the spectrum, there are more expensive units that speak the language of your particular camera and can wirelessly control your flash with full TTL (Through-The-Lens) metering and exposure. You can quickly adjust the power of multiple connected flash units from right under your nose, on the camera, and never have to leave the comfort of your bean bag chair to adjust your flash exposure. 

The Yongnuo system seems to sit nicely in the lower cost spectrum, yet offers the full feature set of more expensive offerings. You can manually pop just about any flash unit, even studio strobes, with the appropriate cable adapter. You can adjust the output of a remote speedlight, either manually or exactly as you would a TTL flash sticking off the top of your camera. You can remotely change the zoom of the speedlight, which is really handy when you use a tool like the LunaGrip and like to change the zoom setting for different lighting effects. And, you can use the High-Speed Sync features of your speedlight seamlessly. There are many other advanced features, but these are the bread-and-butter (ahck! There I go with the bread thing again) features that most photographers use regularly. 

In my recent GROW Photo Workshop, B&H provided extra Yongnuo controller/transceiver systems for my students to use during our lighting exercises. I wanted to see how intuitive to use they were for the photographers who were new to flash systems. I gave them a brief demo and they all seemed very comfortable taking it from there, adjusting away with very little confusion. We connected both Nikon and Canon flash systems at the same time and were able to fire each system individually and simultaneously without any channel cross-talk or misfires. In fact, through our full day of use – from outside in the forest to inside our studio, they fired consistently without any hiccups. In the past, I have had occasional misfires from these (and other more expensive units) when used around heavy concrete or metal structures with other radio interference going on. Changing channels or adjusting your position slightly usually solves the problem. 

If you do find yourself in an radio signal black hole, and can’t seem to get your triggers to fire consistently, try switching to simple manual trigger mode. Using the remote power adjustment and TTL features requires a more complex and delicate radio signal – subject to disturbance more than straight-up manual triggers. 

The Yongnuo system that I recommend consists of 2 different units. The YN622N-TX (YN622C-TX for Canon) is the Transmitter Controller unit. This goes on the camera and is the mastermind behind your flash system. You have an LCD screen that allows you to control everything you need on your far-away speedlight – provided the flash is connected to one of the YN-622N II (YN-622C II for Canon) transceivers. Technically, you can use 2 of the YN622N II units – one on camera, one on flash, since they are TRANSceivers, not just REceivers. However, it is much harder to adjust the settings of your remote flash this way. Use the YN622N-TX controller on camera and life will be good. 

The nikon starter kit 2-pack consists of the on-camera controller and a transceiver for the flash. Click to view it on B&H.

The nikon starter kit 2-pack consists of the on-camera controller and a transceiver for the flash. Click to view it on B&H.

With a controller on camera, you can connect numerous speedlights to 622N II transceivers and adjust them all independently. The system has 7 channels with 3 groups per channel to minimize interference with other photographers on the same system. So, you can independently control 3 flash units at once. You can actually put more than 3 flashes on receivers and set them to the same group, but they will receive identical adjustments, e.g. if you adjust group B to 1/2 power, all the flashes on group B go to 1/2 power. If you want to connect more than 3 flashes, and adjust the power of each uniquely, then put your main and secondary lights on group A and B, for unique control. Then connect all the other flashes to group C with basic triggering and manual power adjustment can be done at the flash unit.

You can even use a PC cable Y-splitter and connect two speedlights to one transceiver – albeit with manual triggering only. If you happen to have a non-Nikon/Canon camera, you can still use the triggers in basic trigger mode (no TTL or remote power adjusting your flash) if your camera uses a standard hot shoe connection. In this case, only the center contact is used for basic “fire” signals.

Downsides? Well, other than rare interference misfires, which, to be fair, are the bane of ALL wireless radio systems, the only real downside is the broken English instruction manual. It was obviously translated by a non-native English speaker. The translation is not horrible, and you get the general idea most of the time, but some of the more powerful and complex features are harder to figure out without clear instruction. Fortunately, the basic usage is, well, pretty basic, and you will be up and running in no time. 

To get started, you’d want a YN622-TX (either Canon or Nikon specific) for your camera, and a YN622 II transceiver (Nikon or Canon specific) for each remote flash you want to independently control. 

B&H has a Nikon starter pack, with (1) YN622N-TX and (1) YN622N for $77.99. You can also get a 2-pack of additional transceivers for about $77.

For Canon, get the controller solo for $42.90 and a 2-pack of transceivers for $77.99. Don’t ask why they don’t have the same kits across the board.  

The yongnuo transceiver holds a BOLT flash unit on the  Westcott Lunagrip  flash diffuser. 

The yongnuo transceiver holds a BOLT flash unit on the Westcott Lunagrip flash diffuser. 

For most of my lighting techniques, in studio or on location, I use my Westcott LunaGrip. This is a product I designed and patented. It grew from 20+ years as a wedding photographer. It creates amazing light, similar to a 40" softbox, but is light, compact, and much more versatile and affordable. The included bracket adjusts for most speedlight and receiver combos.

If you are looking to save some additional dough (ugh, more bread analogies!), consider the Bolt speedlight from B&H. It is a full-featured, TTL and wireless compatible flash unit with specific models for Canon or Nikon. This light is not quite as stout, or feature rich as the comparable models from the camera manufacturer, but they work perfectly. They are great if you just need the essential features and prefer to divert a bunch of, uh, green, to more important things – like yard gnomes. 

So, here’s the bottom line. I love my high end gear and you generally get what you pay for. For someone starting out, however, it is more important to have something now, rather than wait for the best gear possible. You can always upgrade when you get more monetary appreciation for your talents. 

I've used the Yongnuo transceivers for over a year now and have been pleasantly surprised at their breadth of functionality and reliability. Couple that with an unbeatable price and you have an amazing value.

For the following images, I used my LunaGrip with a Nikon speedlight triggered with the Yongnuo system. 

In this image, I under-exposed my ambient light by 1 f-stop to keep the mood dramatic and so that the existing light would actually form the fill light on my subject. Because I wanted the light source closer to my subject than the composition would allow, I used 2 shots. The first was captured with the light source in the scene, where it needed to be, and the second was with the light source removed. I then used a simple layering technique in Photoshop to paint away the light modifier.

i used My 2-shot disappearing light trick to combine 2 images: one with the light source where it needed to be and another with a clean background. The Lunagrip provided the soft, beautiful light.

i used My 2-shot disappearing light trick to combine 2 images: one with the light source where it needed to be and another with a clean background. The Lunagrip provided the soft, beautiful light.

I used an ND Filter to reduce my shutter speed to 1/250 so I could get maximum output from my flash that was diffused through the lunagrip.

I used an ND Filter to reduce my shutter speed to 1/250 so I could get maximum output from my flash that was diffused through the lunagrip.

My Essentials Lighting Kit:

Click on the image to see a page with links to  ALL  the products

Click on the image to see a page with links to ALL the products

 

 

Thinktank bag review and deals

Just got and love my new ThinkTank Urban Disguise 60 Classic bag. I took this with me to WPPI last week and it is the perfect size for a camera, few lenses, couple flash units, flash triggers, doodads, and a laptop and iPad. When I got there, I took the laptop and iPad out and used the laptop pocket to stuff my collapsible 42" Westcott diffuser and my new LunaGrip kit. It's a perfect fit and it's pretty cool that I can carry everything I need to light up just about anyone, anywhere, in one small-ish shoulder bag.

My LunaGrip and pop-up diffuser fit neatly in the laptop compartment, keeping access to the camera stuff clear.

My LunaGrip and pop-up diffuser fit neatly in the laptop compartment, keeping access to the camera stuff clear.

ThinkTank bags in general are known for (and I can attest) incomparable quality construction. Everything detail is well thought out and functional. They are also discreet, without screaming, "I'm a camera bag, grab me and run!" Although for the photographer, they are certainly perfect for grab and run image capture. This particular bag seems to suit all my needs perfectly as I sometimes bring a laptop, but when I don't the dedicated pocket perfectly carries my pop-up 5-in-1 disc. In addition to the main center pocket for camera gear, there is also another expanding pocket under the front flap. This can be used for extra gear the size of flash units or smaller lenses and accessories. 

The padded interior pocket is configurable, so that you could carry a 70-200mm zoom mounted and ready to go, in addition to a couple other lenses and flash units. This bag is perfect on its own for photographers who like to travel light, but has the option to stuff more gear in it when necessary or you need an extra workout. When paired with a rolling bag, like the one on special below, you have an ideal combo for weddings and events. You can stash your backup gear and less used items in the roller, but keep your essentials on your shoulder for quick access. I used to carry one of those big boxy old-fashioned shoulder bags around at weddings but found that it was ornery for navigating crystal topped tables at the reception. A slimmer profile bag like this makes much more sense. 

I have to say, looks matter. Call me vain, but I like bags, and shoes. I won't carry a bag that looks stupid or wreaks of crappy construction. I like this bag because it is clean, yet thoughtfully designed and oozes with quality. It is like the subtle elegance of an Audi vs. the ostentatious screaming of a Ferrari. 

If you are interested in a ThinkTank bag, they have offered a special to my readers. With any purchase over $50 they'll throw in free shipping and free accessories! Just visit with this link. They also have a limited time promotion going on rollers, if you want to put together the perfect event bag combo. See below.

This bag carries all the gear I need to quickly access, plus room for a bit more if i get really ambitious or eat my wheaties that day.

This bag carries all the gear I need to quickly access, plus room for a bit more if i get really ambitious or eat my wheaties that day.

The laptop pocket on the back side also doubles as my pocket for my 42" 5-in-1 pop-up disc and  LunaGrip  disc holder. All my lighting gear in one bag!

The laptop pocket on the back side also doubles as my pocket for my 42" 5-in-1 pop-up disc and LunaGrip disc holder. All my lighting gear in one bag!

FREE 15” LAPTOP CASE WITH PURCHASE OF THINK TANK ROLLER

Our friends at Think Tank Photo have announced a special offer that runs through March 31, 2015.  Purchase any new rolling camera bag directly from Think Tank Photo, mail in the rebate form downloadable from their website, and they will send you a 15" laptop case for free!  Think Tank’s rolling camera bags are renowned for being designed for airline travel, enhanced security and durability, while being backed by the best customer service in the industry.  Another deal for my readers, in addition to receiving the free laptop, when you check out of their shopping cart you will be asked what other Think Tank item you would like to receive for free with your order.