Thursday, July 16, 2015

Incase Reform Action Camera Backpack Review for Travel Photography, Surf Photography, and Conferences, too!


Whether traveling by plane, taking a road trip, or simply heading to the beach to shoot the morning surf session, it’s important to be able to pack and transport my camera and tech gear efficiently and comfortably. Incase offers a variety of solutions.

It’s not that I don’t own any camera bags and backpacks already. I do, but now I use them to store my gear more than to travel with it.

My camera bags have issues.
  • One (backpack) looks dated and old, because it is. Film pouches, anyone?
  • One (shoulder strap bag) screams “expensive brand cameras inside!”
  • One (sling style) is designed for righties. I'm a lefty.
  • None of them accommodate laptops, or even ipads.
Admittedly, I have a few issues, too.
  • I like trekking, but I’m not a Sherpa. I also like luxury hotels…and porters.
  • I’m not a budget backpacker, I'm a sophisticated traveler. I want to look it, especially when standing by for an upgrade, or arriving onsite for a shoot.
  • When traveling, I prefer to be subtle about the fact that I am carrying a camera at all.
  • COMFORT
Above all else, the most important factor in my wearing a backpack is comfort. Each bag I have owned has never quite rested right on my body frame, so I don’t last long in the field (or airport terminals) before my neck, back and shoulders begin to ache. I’m a petite female travel photographer, in a world where most camera backpacks are designed for the not-so-petite male landscape photographer.

The Incase Reform Action Camera Backpack is a refreshing new option for today's travel and action photographer.

First Impressions: Design and Wearability

Since I’m a visual, and I like aesthetics, let’s just state the obvious – it’s a fine looking backpack, blending style and simplicity. It’s contemporary, yet timeless. It doesn’t tell the world what I’m carrying inside. It’s equally great for a day at the beach, or an adventure abroad. And it's classy enough for Business Class travel.

Field Test: Comic Con


Turns out the Incase Reform Action Backpack is perfectly suited for 4 days at a conference. Comic Con proved to be an excellent arena to test it out. I could run from panel to panel taking pictures without dropping everything. Okay, so when I say "run," I mean "stand in line and camp out." Whatever! I did so with ease. Nobody around could tell that I was carrying an SLR, a video camera, my laptop, phone, cords/chargers, change of clothes, glasses, and lots of snacks. The pack, and my back, survived beautifully. And even though it wasn't in costume, my backpack received compliments from both techies and trekkies alike.

Why it worked


  • The padded laptop sleeve was key. I didn't look, or feel, like I was toting a laptop.
  • The ventilated padding against my back never got too hot.
  • The adjustable padded straps didn't dig in to my shoulders.
  • I could keep my cameras separate from my food items.




Field Test: Beach Surf Shoot
A photo posted by Kymri (@kymri) on

Next, I headed out on an "action" shoot with a surf photographer friend. The setting: high tide at Windansea Beach, where the waves curl and break on the shore, crash against the rocks, and I know I'm going to get wet. We gathered our GoPro goodies, and I also brought my Panasonic A500 and Watershot housing for my iphone. At the last minute, my friend texted me "bring your SLR too, just in case." So thanks to my Incase Reform Action Backpack, I could carry it all, and keep my SLR separate from my action water cameras.

Why it works




  • The collapsible top storage for a DSLR camera keeps it separately accessible.
  • The 300D Ecoya eco-dyed poly fabric exterior is rugged and water-resistant.
  • Surprisingly, the exterior repels sand as readily as it does water.




The Incase Reform Action Camera backpack is a great size, not too big to fit under the seat, but just big enough to pack anything you'd need inflight. Here's a look at everything "action camera tech" I managed to pack into the 18.25" x 10.75" x 6.25" backpack:



That's a 13" Macbook Air, by the way. Without the monopod, everything was zipped up tight and out of sight, and I was good to go. I especially appreciate the separate pocket designed to hold cords and chargers so they don't get lost in the main compartment.


What more could I want?

The drawback of discovering a fabulous backpack is that it just leaves me wanting more. When I find a great brand, I stick with it. The DSLR Camera Organizer is the obvious next must-have.

And finally, since this is my birthday month, I made a birthday wish list....just Incase.


Disclosure: Incase provided me with the Reform Action Camera Backpack for review purposes. I think it is pretty awesome, and if I thought otherwise, I'd tell you so, too. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Roadtrip for Cameras - Wales: Cardiff, Castles & Coastlines

Fog rolls in with the tide at Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire, Wales

From Cardiff, California, to Cardiff, Wales, I set off with my family recently to explore the land of my ethnic heritage. Despite several generations in America, I am undoubtedly of Welsh descent. To begin with, my father gave me a first name about as Welsh as they come, Kymri. Though no more common a name in Wales than here in the US, it is a derivation of CYMRU - which is the Welsh word for Wales itself.

"Cymri" is a word used to designate the Welsh people, culture, and spirit, and their passion for journeying. My parents traded the C for a K, and I cannot imagine having any other name, it is exactly right for me. Add to that my fair skin, ruddy nose and cheeks, and an appreciation for fine whiskey and cheeses, and I'll be the first to tell you that Welsh blood runs deep....as does Welsh pride.

So imagine my pride as I introduced my daughter to her maternal ethnic homeland...awakening that Welshness that runs through her blood. It really helped that she and her father are big Dr. Who fans, so that was the obvious starting point for us in Cardiff - a visit to the Dr. Who Experience in Cardiff, Wales.

CARDIFF

The Millenium Centre, Cardiff, Wales.





Dr. Who is a time traveler, and we traveled through time on our roadtrip to the Middle Ages. Wales is home to over 400 castles, with more castles per square mile than any other country. To help us plan our itinerary of conquering historic castles, we got a membership to CADW, the organization that manages over 100 castles and historic sites in Wales.

CASTLES

Some of the castles we visited were well-known:

Caerphilly Castle, the largest castle in Europe

Caerphilly Castle, Wales - the largest castle in Europe.

Caernarfon Castle, where Queen Elizabeth II formally crowned Charles, Prince of Wales



Conwy Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with well-preserved town walls

Conwy Castle view from the town walls, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Wales.

While some were less visited, but no less impressive:

Kidwelly Castle (my personal favorite)

Kidwelly Castle

Harlech Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the best Welsh tea cakes on offer anywhere



Denbigh Castle, impressive location and exciting wind factor on the day we visited

Ruins of Denbigh Castle, Wales

To balance out my family's fascination with exploring historic old castles, we spent a good amount of time on the coast, thus breaking up the heavy doses of history with relaxing doses of being here and now in the present.

COASTLINES

Surfers at Freshwater West Beach, Pembrokeshire, Wales.

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Trail covers 186 miles of diverse and breathtaking scenery along the west coast of Wales, with long sandy beaches, serene tidal estuaries, and rugged rocky cliffs. I simply can't rave about this part of Britain enough, and I truly wonder how the Welsh manage to keep quietly humble about it - perhaps that's the secret to conserving it.

Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire National Coast, Wales.

Freshwater West Beach is recognizable to any Harry Potter fan - this is where Shell Cottage stood, and where Dobby the house elf was laid to rest in the nearby dunes.

Dunes at Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire National Coast, Wales.

In addition to being a film location for "Robin Hood", Freshwater West also happens to be have decent surf, and is host to the Welsh National Surfing Championships. It wasn't exactly going off when we were there, but there was effort on the part of local surfers.

Surfers at Freshwater West Beach, Pembrokeshire, Wales.


Surfer catches wave at Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire, Wales.




Further north along the coast, just south of St. Davids, is another favorite surf beach for the Welsh, Newgale Sands. While it was tempting to hit up the local surf rental shop, it was low tide, and I found the sky more remarkable than the waves.

Newgale Beach, Pembrokeshire, Wales.


Newgale Beach, Pembrokeshire, Wales.


Between long stretches of sandy beach, the Pembrokeshire Coast continued to entertain us with dramatic scenery. After all, this is where the sport of "coasteering" took hold (pun intended), with good reason. Near the small town of Abereiddy sits the Blue Lagoon, where another adventurous sport, cliff diving, took flight (pun intended, again).

The coastline near Abereiddy, Wales, popular for coasteering.


The Blue Lagoon near Abereiddy, on the Pembrokeshire Coast, Wales.


We based ourselves in what is probably the heart of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park itself, in the town of Newport. Each day we set out on a nature walk along the Newport Estuary, which never ceased to awe.

Sun setting at Newport Sands Beach, Pembrokeshire, Wales.



Sun setting as fishermen return, Newport Sands Beach, Pembrokeshire, Wales.

As I review my photos and notes of this incredible roadtrip journey, it occurs to me that there is simply too much to share in one post. So I'm saving the second half for a second part, which I'll publish next week. Check back for more from Wales, featuring Snowdonia and the northern coast, plus cromlechs and crosses!

See the full gallery of Wales images here:




Follow more of my Roadtrips for Cameras series here:

Arizona's National Parks
California's Central Coast
Nova Scotia's Eastern Shore
Guysborough Galleries

Monday, May 04, 2015

Ricardo of Beverly Hills: My New Favorite Rolling Carry-On



Move over Tumi, I have a new favorite rolling carry-on bag, the Elite Roxbury 2.0 21-inch Expandable Spinner Wheelaboard from Ricardo of Beverly Hills. Everything about it just works. Perfectly.



PACKING

Packing is super easy with two compartments, one of which zips up entirely, so you can keep your clothes separate from your shoes. The zippers don't get stuck, the mini-pouches and straps all make sense, and every bit of interior space is usable. Speaking of zippers, it's expandable, and still remains airline carry-on compliant.

ROLLING

Honestly, I have never breezed through an airport so gracefully. This lightweight bag has four gliding wheels and a sturdy, telescoping handle. The dual spinner wheel system allows for 360° mobility, so walking with it feels more like holding hands with a bag that truly loves you... rather than lugging a bag that doesn't love you back.

TOTING

With a built in TSA compliant combination lock, and a retractable Add-a-Bag strap, security is a breeze, especially if you've made use of the included one-quart zip bag for the 3-ounce liquids.

WHAT ELSE?

So, I confess this is NOT my first love affair with a rolling carry-on from Ricardo of Beverly Hills. A few years ago, I found myself transiting terminals with a sore back and shoulders from the backpack I was wearing for my camera gear and laptop.  I headed to the nearest shop in the terminal and found a perfectly suited RBH 17 inch rolling case, that I could easily fit my cameras, lenses, and entire padded backpack in! Add to that room for plugs, batteries, chargers, and both an interior and exterior padded sleeve for laptops and/or tablets, and my traveling office/darkroom was born.



With all my heavier gear transferred now to a rolling case, I no longer had to take up an extra seat in the lounge with my camera pack, and my posture returned to a healthier balance.  Plus, I can discreetly roll around my camera gear without advertising to the world what's in my bag. Oops, I guess I just did.

SO YOU WANT ONE TOO?

Good news! Head over to Ricardo of Beverly Hills online store to claim your deal, a whopping 65% off your order, PLUS FREE SHIPPING! When you check out, enter the code: TMOM65OFF to redeem. But hurry, sale ends May 31, 2015! You're welcome.

 


Disclosure: Ricardo of Beverly Hills provided me with the Roxbury 2.0 Elite Spinner WheelAboard for review purposes. I absolutely love it, and that's why I'm happy to share my opinion with you. If I didn't love it, you'd know that, too.