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!

Awesome $100 savings on Sony mirrorless right now!

A few days ago I shared some travel tips & gear reviews, including my favorite little travel camera, the Sony NEX-6, recently updated to the a6000. It just went on sale at B&H for $100 off! Check out all the deals here. This is a great backup camera or when you really want to travel light. Here's a sample image from a recent trip to Machu Picchu, taken with the 50mm f1.8 lens. I made a big print for the wall at my office and the detail and image quality is amazing.

Click the image to view larger and see the detail. Note that this image has been downsized for the web. I used the in-camera HDR tool and hand-held the camera. 

Travel photography gear and gadgets

We are getting excited about an upcoming photography workshop Safari in South Africa this March (We just had one cancellation so there is a spot opened up if you are interested!). This is our second trip with our guide, Kevin Dooley, and his team there and we just had such a great time the first round that we had to do it again! I wanted to share some photo gear and travel tips with you, based on our previous experience and my overall experience traveling abroad with my camera. Oh yah, and some images too.

There must have been something REALLY interesting on the left side!

There must have been something REALLY interesting on the left side!

The biggest question, of course, is usually "What lenses do I bring!?". Kevin Dooley is a manly man and likes his giant 600mm lenses. I can't argue with some of the amazing close-up photos he gets while sitting safely within our Landcruiser. I don't own one of those behemoths, and I opt to rent a 200-400mm f4 lens. I found that to be nearly a perfect focal length for most of the distances we work at there. You will also find that you'll need something shorter as well, since we often see animals right up next to our vehicle, or elephants a few yards away! 

Between my trusty 70-200mm f2.8 and the 200-400mm f4 and an 18-200 zoom for backup, I have it all pretty much covered. I also like to bring a nice wide, like the 14-24mm for some of the amazing panoramic landscape images. If you can manage two cameras, one with your long zoom, and one with the wide, you'll be ready for anything at a moments notice.

You may even want to use a smaller mirrorless camera for the closer images since it's less obtrusive to keep around your neck at all times. I bring my Sony NEX-6 with a small variety of lenses as my second camera and it is easy to have with me at all times. In fact, on a recent trip to Machu Picchu all I carried with me was my Sony NEX-6 camera system for the light weight and I was literally stunned by the image quality when using good lenses on it! I have a wall-sized print at my office made from the Sony 50mm f1.8 lens, which is absolutely gorgeous and finely detailed. 

The newer version of my Sony NEX-6 is the Alpha 6000 and it's amazing for stills and video

The newer version of my Sony NEX-6 is the Alpha 6000 and it's amazing for stills and video

One of my favorite lenses for the Sony camera is this 50mm f1.8. It's incredibly sharp!

One of my favorite lenses for the Sony camera is this 50mm f1.8. It's incredibly sharp!

As Clare mentioned in a previous email, we all get a 10% discount at LensProToGo.com when you use coupon: LPKKAT

Some people consider using a 1.4X or 2X teleconverter with their 70-200mm, effectively making it like a 300mm or even 400mm. While this will work in a pinch, it is not the sharpest solution. If you can afford to rent a longer lens, go for it. If not, the teleconverter will still work OK and is better than not having the longer lens at all. I bring my 1.4X converter as a backup or occasionally pop it on the rented 200-400mm when I really need super tele.

The next question is tripod, monopod, or bean bags. A tripod will almost never be useful in the vehicle unless you collapse the legs together like a monopod, so why not just bring a monopod. There isn't enough space in the vehicle to setup a tripod, but a monopod is perfect. We travel in open air Landcruisers with no window ledges to speak of, so the bean bags don't really work as well as they would in a windowed vehicle. With a monopod you can easy swing your camera left or right, wherever the action happens to be. I found this great, lightweight monopod that is designed for rifles or cameras. It adjusts quickly with a squeeze of the handle and is very light and compact. The "V" shaped holder on the top can be used to just rest your lens in or you can unscrew it and use the 1/4"-20 thread to attach a small ball head with quick release. Make sure you have some sort of ball head or swivel as attaching the camera directly to the stick doesn't give you much rotational movement. There are also heavier dutier photo monopods, if you prefer something sturdier, but I like the ease and quickness of which this one adjusts up and down and it's super light weight for travel.

Here's the unit I'm using, with a link to it on Amazon: 

Primos Gen 2 Tall Monopod Trigger Stick, 33-65-Inch

Choose a small ball head with a quick release for your camera and your all set. Here's a nice sized and affordable option that includes an Arca Swiss style mounting plate, although I don't have this same model. If you have Arca Swiss sized plates for your other camera or lenses, great, if not you may consider getting an extra plate or two as well:

Smith Victor Ball head with quick release plate

Other photo accessories. If you have filters, like a polarizer, you may find good times to use that too. Have a way to download your images nightly for backup and plan to bring enough cards to cover your entire trip so you don't have to clear them if possible. That affords you an extra backup until you get home. If you must clear cards, then duplicate your main backup to another portable HD and double-check before clearing the cards. A flash unit is not really necessary on the game drives as we won't be out past dark. They do come in handy for portraits or other indoor scenes, so if you feel compelled to bring one, go for it. 

I also use a photo backpack to carry my gear. While you won't necessarily have to lug your gear around much once we get there, traveling in general with a heavy camera shoulder bag is pure hellish pain. I've owned and used several brands of camera backpacks, but my favorite camera backpack by far is this Rotation 180 Pro from MindShift Gear. They also have several versions to pick from:

MindSHIFT Gear has a deal going now if you follow this click through you get a free gift with any purchase over $50!

MindSHIFT Gear has a deal going now if you follow this click through you get a free gift with any purchase over $50!

The MindShift Gear Rotation 180 Pro

Your "tents" will have power outlets, so you can charge your devices nightly. I'd suggest bringing your own multi-plug adapter if you have many gadgets to plug in. Make sure to get one of the few that is rated for up to 220V so you can use it anywhere in the world. MOST of the cheap ones are not and I found out the hard way that they blow up if used for 220V. South Africa is 220V and the plug looks like this: 

OREI 2 in 1 USA to South Africa Adapter

If you get that adapter for the US plug to SA plug, then you can plug your power strip in to the wall with it and you don't need adapters for all your other plugs since they go in to the US plug strip. Most electronics are rated for up to 220V so you don't really need a transformer, except for hair dryers or your microwave. Just check your labels first.

Here's a power strip that handles 220V and also includes USB ports to charge your phone stuff.

Universal Power Tower 4 Outlets + 8 USB

Keep in mind that when we are out on safari drives, we cannot get out of the vehicles to photograph. Period. The only time we get out is for our designated breaks in safe areas. So keep in mind that all shooting will be done from seated in the topless Landcruisers. Every seat is a great seat so don't worry about being near "the window". Do plan to be compact and maneuverable from your seat though. If you bring a huge pack full of gear, you may have a hard time actually accessing it. There is some storage under your seat, or under your feet, or on your lap, but that's it. There aren't big trunks for extra gear so if you can't fit it under your seat or feet, don't bring it on the vehicle. You can however, bring whatever gear you want and keep extras in your room. Each day you can decide what gear you want to bring on the drive and you may try different setups on different days.

Bring a flashlight! A small, reliable light is always a great idea to have on you. When you walk to and from the main lodge from your tent each morning or evening, it may be dark and there have been "critters" known to slither across the foot path. I highly suggest keeping a small light in your pocket at all times. This is one of my personal favorites because it also doubles as a phone battery charger:

RAVPower 3rd Gen Mini 3200mAh Portable Charger & Flashlight

If you just want a serious heavy duty mini flashlight, I also have and like this one: 

Fenix E12 CREE XP-E2 130 Lumen LED flashlight

No self-respecting pseudo or bonafide MacGyverist would be caught dead without a sampling of duct tape somewhere on their person. I like to add some zip ties and plastic zip-lock bags too. The ties can also be used as makeshift hand-cuffs in case you participate in a citizens arrest somewhere. The plastic bags can protect lenses and other valuables inside a pack when it really rains hard. I've had one come in handy as a barf bag too for my son on one particularly bumpy bus ride.

Remember, when you are traveling and away from amenities, even the smallest break or mishap can ruin your day. Be prepared. It's a great idea to carry a small multi-tool as well.

Leather Style PS Multi-tool

This little tool, from Leatherman, is airline TSA compliant – so it "shouldn't" get confiscated, HOWEVER, mine did get confiscated in African airline security. They don't always play by our rules. Keep it in your checked bags and you'll be fine.

Don't forget your hat and sunscreen!