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Okay, so shopping on Orchard Road in Singapore had to be one of my favourite activities in Sinapore ūüėĬ† I come from Perth “city” where the shopping experiences are okay, full of franchises, and very repetitive – you will generally see the same stores all throughout the metro area. Orchard Road in Singapore was full of variety, and the malls were big, dry,¬†and airconditioned. Now I can manage the heat in Singapore (I experience much hotter in summer in Perth), but I cannot cope with the humidity – dizziness and headaches even while gulping down water. Thank goodness for the aircon. The shops also kept us dry from all the torrential thunderstorms that happened almost every day of our stay (I enjoy thunderstorms so that was quite fun!).

Books, clothes, accessories, fun stuff, computer and console games (kept the partner happy ;))…Ahhh it was great fun ūüėÄ

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~~Emily Dickinson

Some inspiration and positive thoughts for you today ūüôā Think about what makes you smile and what makes you feel loved… feel those positive feelings, let them build up inside you… now go let them loose in the world!

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle,
and the life of a candle will not be shortened.
Happiness never decreases by being shared.

~Buddha~

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I can now tick item #1 off my wishlist: I have a new camera bag! Hooray! As a woman, of course I am very excited about¬†getting another bag¬†ūüôā The bag I chose in the end was the Tamrac Express 7.

My Tamrac Express 7: Front on

My Tamrac Express 7. My Canon 1000D and other camera gear are all in here for the photos, so all pictures in this post were taken with my old Canon Ixus 40. Note the minimalist brand logo on the front (the only indication of the brand, aside from a tiny hidden "Tamrac" embroidered on one side).

You can see from my photos that it is a slim-profile khaki-coloured shoulder bag with a suede desert-coloured feature panel on the flap. It sits well on my shoulder, is padded on the inside and sturdy (but still light), and not too bulky. The shoulder strap is padded and curved so it is comfy on my shoulder, and the strap can be made long enough to sling the bag across my body.

One side of the Tamrac with the shoulder strap draped across. You can see that the shoulder piece is curved and padded, and the black stuff gives the strap extra grip on your shoulder. The strap links to the bag with plastic attachments.

One side of the Tamrac with the shoulder strap draped across. You can see that the shoulder piece is curved and padded, and the black stuff gives the strap extra grip on your shoulder. The strap links to the bag with plastic attachments.

What I love most (and why I chose this bag), is that I can walk around with it on my shoulder and it doesn’t advertise that it is a camera bag. In fact the only noticeable brand advertising is the stitched logo on the front of the bag (and the tamrac logo is a subtle design). The design and colours of it just make it seem like any old shoulder bag, and the added bonus is that the neutral¬†natural colours also match well with my everyday¬†clothes ;). The black version would of course “match” with more clothes, but I just thought the black looked a bit too blah and like a camera bag to me.

Front speedflap pocket open. Good for holding some flat papers or lens cap. You wouldnt want anything big in this pocket or it will look too bulky.

Front "speedflap" pocket open. Good for holding some flat papers or lens cap. You wouldn't want anything big in this pocket or it will look too bulky.

The design of the bag is basically just a flap (the “speed-flap”) that covers the main compartment and front zippered pocket and seals in front with velcro and¬†buckle. The advantage of not having a zippered main compartment is that when it is over your shoulder you can just quickly unclip, flip up the flap, and easily grab your camera out. The disadvantage is that I suppose thieves could easily get in too – but if a thief is going to nick your stuff while you are carrying it an extra zipper won’t stop them getting in or grabbing it off you!

The unusual buckle design on the front of the Tamrac.

The unusual buckle design on the front of the Tamrac. The photo is showing it unbuckled and in the exact position you need it to be in to clip it shut.

The velcro is really good, so you don’t have to clip the buckle back in if you are going in and out of your bag a lot. The buckle is an unusual design and you have to make sure it is lined up well for it to click in, so it can be a bit of a pain to clip back up if you are in a hurry.¬†I have seen someone else add an extra square of velcro either side of the main one for added strength (so they don’t have to use the clip when going in and out of their bag) which I think that is a great idea so I am going to do the same.

The front of the Tamrac with the flap open. You can see the square velcro and the front zippered compartment.

The front of the Tamrac with the flap open. You can see the square velcro and the front zippered compartment.

The interior of the main body of the bag is foam padded and separated into 3 compartments with vertical padded dividers that can be adjusted using the velcro (this can be fiddly Рthe velcro sticks well!). Three additional horizontal dividers can be placed within these compartments to allow for a total of six separate compartments within the bag.

The main compartment inside the Tamrac. I have pulled out one of the horizontal dividers so you can see what they look like. The velcro on the divders sticks to the velcro you can see on the vertical dividers (which can also be repositioned).

The main compartment inside the Tamrac. I have pulled out one of the horizontal dividers so you can see what they look like. The velcro on the horizontal dividers sticks to the velcro you can see on the vertical dividers (which can also be repositioned).

There is plenty of room in this bag to fit my Canon 1000D with the 18-55mm lens attached and my 55-250mm lens. My camera is stored lens-side down in the centre partition of the bag (which I widened to allow the body to sit deeper), and the other lens is stored in another partition to the side. The third partition is empty so far РI need to buy more gear to fill it up!

What is currently in my Tamrac: my Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS lens and my Canon 1000D (Canon Rebel XS or Canon Kiss F) with 18-55mm lens. You can see I have a whole section spare!

What is currently in my Tamrac: my Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS lens and my Canon 1000D (Canon Rebel XS or Canon Kiss F) with 18-55mm lens. You can see I have a whole section spare!

There is plenty of room to add new gear in this bag. My camera can be raised back up and a divider made below it for a small lens (like a nifty fifty). A¬† narrow lens can be placed in each¬†partition either side of the main camera, or a lens and a speedlite flash. If the lenses aren’t long, you could fit two on one side and separate the levels with padded dividers. My camera body is not very big, but if your camera does have a larger body you might only manage with just a small flash – camera body with attached lens – narrow lens arrangement, or camera body with attached lens – lens arrangement.

How my camera and spare lens fit into the bag. You can see I have plenty of room for extra items, and how there is room to raise up my camera so there is a compartment underneath (I also have the spare horizontal dividers under it boosting it up more).

How my camera and spare lens fit into the bag. You can see I have plenty of room for extra items, and how there is room to raise up my camera so there is a compartment underneath (I also have the spare horizontal dividers under it boosting it up more).

There is also a roomy zippered pocket on the front of the bag which will hold most of your “bitsy” photography gear. Inside¬†are two pouches, a zippered pocket, two pen holders, and the the main pocket itself. It’s quite roomy – you can really shove a fair bit of stuff in here and still buckle up your bag!

Inside the front zippered pocket: there are two open compartments which will fit cleaning gear, filters, etc, another zippered pocket to store other bits, and then the main compartment itself which can store whatever else you need!

Inside the front zippered pocket: there are two open compartments which will fit cleaning gear, filters, etc, another zippered pocket to store other bits, and then the main compartment itself which can store whatever else you need!

Another nifty feature is¬†the “piggy-back” airline pocket on the back that allows you to slip your bag over the handles of those wheeled carryon bags (demonstrated in the photo with my clipboard!). There is also another zippered pocket on the back, but again I would just put thin items in there to stop it looking bulky.

The back zippered pocket, which would be handy for storing thin papers (so you dont bulk it out), and the airline piggy-back pocket which can slip over your wheeled carry-on luggage.

The back zippered pocket, which would be handy for storing thin papers (so you don't bulk it out), and the airline "piggy-back pocket" which can slip over your wheeled carry-on luggage.

Finally, there is¬†a cellphone pocket on one side which my Blackberry Bold actually fits into really well. My phone is just snug enough so it doesn’t feel like it will fall out, but not so snug it is a drama to get it in and out.

The side mobile phone/ mp3 player pocket. My Blackberry Bold fits in here really well, as does my iPod Classic (an iPhone would fit well too).

The side mobile phone/ mp3 player pocket. My Blackberry Bold fits in here really well, as does my iPod Classic (an iPhone would fit well too).

Overall I am very pleased with this bag! I purchased it online without ever looking at it in person, and had to rely on the very few reviews I could find. I am very relieved that it is just right for me! It is perfect for someone who doesn’t have a lot of photography gear (like me) and/or doesn’t want to carry around a bunch of gear when out and about with their camera.¬†As the strap attachments and buckle are plastic, you wouldn’t want to test them by loading up this bag with a pile of heavy gear – but then that would defeat the purpose of having a slim-profile walk-around bag! The bag would stand up to some light spotty rain, but it is not waterproof so don’t go out in a heavy downpour (I am¬†not going to go out in weather that would damage my camera when¬†taking photos, so no problems for me there). This is a fantastic bag, but if you don’t quite like the exterior¬†design, check out the Tamrac Adventure Messenger 4 which seems to have a similar build but different colours. The bag feels strong, well made, and nicely padded, and is an ease to carry around.

If there is anything else you want to know about this bag, feel free to ask questions in the comments below.

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Now that I have this beautiful new camera, I need some nice photography gear to go along with it! I thought about what types of photography interest me the most (based on what I have photographed in the past and what I am most drawn to), and then read blogs and reviews about the most useful equipment to help me do that. The list of 11 things I have come up with is a mix of basic functional items most photography kits need and items I feel would be most useful to me. This wishlist for photographic equipment is also influenced by my small budget and the fact that I am still new to DSLR photography and have no intention of becoming a professional photographer (so pros and people with money would have a very different list!).

Hopefully you will find this list helpful too. Here is my current equipment wishlist, in no particular order:

  

1. Camera Bag

My camera is currently housed in my old padded camera bag that I got from kmart in my late teens. It does the job, but it doesn’t hold anything other than the camera with a lens attached. Plus, it looks pretty daggy. I want something that won’t look too much like a camera bag, will hold my camera plus a spare lens or two and other accessories, and is easy to carry and access. I have been considering the Tamrac Express 7 or the Tamrac Adventure Messenger 4, but I think the Express range looks a bit fancier for a girl ūüėȬ†

Tamrac Express 7 (left) and Tamrac Adventure Messenger 4 (right)

Tamrac Express 7 (left) and Tamrac Adventure Messenger 4 (right)

2. New Camera Strap

I want one that:
i) Is comfortable on my neck with better connected loops. The one that came with my camera scratches and digs into my neck and the loops that connect it to the camera are very awkward and often poke in front of the viewfinder.
ii) DOESN’T advertise the fact that I have a Canon DSLR. I don’t want my strap screaming out¬†to everyone BEHIND me that I have a Canon DSLR!

3. A Spare Battery and/or Battery Grip

My camera takes the LP-E5 battery pack. I am also thinking the Battery Grip could also be very helpful for the portrait shots and extra battery power, but that is extra money so I will wait awhile for that. My camera requires the BG-E5 battery grip, which holds two battery packs (you can use it with just one though) or 6 AA batteries. 

Canon BG-E5 Battery Grip

Canon BG-E5 Battery Grip

4. Lens Hood/s

Shame on you Canon for not supplying them with your kit lens! I am not sure how often I would actually use them, but if I can find some third party ones for cheap I can experiment. The lens hood for both my Canon 18-55mm and 55-250mm lens is the EW-60C – which is pretty puny. Some reviews¬†have said that the recommended hood is only useful at the wide angle end of my 18-55mm lens, so I’ll have to find¬†a more useful hood for each.

5. Tripod

I love the Gorillapod I have for my little digital point and shoot, so I was thinking of getting another that is the right size for my DSLR. It would be handy to travel with and utilise in different places, and not too expensive. I also want another good tripod, but will need the moola for a nice quality one so it will have to wait (last thing I want is a cheap flimsy tripod falling over with a small gust of wind!).

6. Shutter Release Cable with Timer

A remote one would be nice, but alas no infrared receiver in my camera for the remote (unless I want a bulky attachment chucked on the hot shoe!). For my camera I need to get a third party brand to get the timer functions, but that makes it cheaper anyway. 

Third-party timer remote shutter release cables

Third-party timer remote shutter release cables

7. Good Camera Cleaning Kit

Not to clean the inside obviously (me try to clean the sensor? Ohh that would be a bad idea!), but just to clean the outside body and lenses. Nice cleaning cloth, brush, air blower, and possibly some gentle lens cleaner fluid.

 

Okay so those were the camera essentials for the general wellbeing of my camera. Now for the fun items!

8. A Nifty-Fifty: Canon 50mm Prime Lens

Ooh I hear so many good things about nifty-fifty lenses! The photos are always so gorgeous: beautiful quality and the great wide aperture for shallow depth of field creativity. Ideally I want the Canon 50mm f1.4 USM, but that is pricey (for me at this time of my life) considering¬†all the other stuff I want too. So I might have to settle for the Canon 50mm f1.8 II – still great image quality apparently, although bokeh not quite as snazzy¬†and it doesn’t have the fancy USM for focusing, but it will be fine for my amateur needs. One final bonus: it promotes exercise hahah. Need to zoom? Use your legs!¬†

Canon 50mm f1.8 lens

Canon 50mm f1.8 lens

9. A Super-Wide Angle Lens

Ideally the Canon 10-22mm f3.5-4.5 lens, but oh dear the money! I was considering the Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 but I am not sure about the limited range, and the price is still very close to the canon. I am thinking that the cheaper Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6 lens will do the job just fine. I love the creativity of the super wide shots, and already find myself wishing my lens went a bit wider.

10. Fun filters

I have UV filters on my lens for protection, but I want to play around with both a¬†polarising filter and a neutral density filter (not both at the same time obviously) I think they will be lots of fun especially when doing photography along the coast. My current lenses rotate when focusing, so adjusting the polarising¬†filter¬†to the correct angle for each shot will be…interesting. But I would love to see the improved effect of a polarising filter on the sky and ocean in photos. And I want to play around with the cool water movement shots along the coast, and apparently a neutral density filter will help stop the overexposure of long shutter times¬†during the day.

11. External Flash

I have not really used my flash at all just yet, but I know there will be plenty of times in future when I will use it Рand will benefit from the improved quality of an external flash. I am thinking the Speedlite 430 EX II would be just the thing for me Рmore features than the 270EX but not too expensive. If I do get it and choose to upgrade to the 580 EX II sometime further into the future, the 430 can act as a slave to the 580 master. 

Canon Speedlite Flash 430EX II

Canon Speedlite Flash 430EX II

  

 

Finally: Wishlist item #12 РLots of money to afford all of this equipment!

Do you have any suggestions or recommendations for my gear list? Feel free to pop them in the comments below!

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What is a fantastic new hobby for a full-time university student to take up when she has 1) just quit her PhD (and therefore quit her scholarship), and 2) her only job is occasional research assistant work? How about the nice expensive hobby of DSLR photography?!

Well that is exactly what I have done. The desire to learn how to do photography properly (and not just with my old Canon  Ixus 40) and the travelling I will be doing once my masters is complete has led me to take the plunge and spend a grand on a DSLR camera. Eeek! Luckily for me, I received a nice payment for a journal article I helped write for my professor just when I was debating whether I could afford to get a DSLR.

My DSLR Camera

Now I would like to introduce you to my  new camera, a Canon EOS 1000D  Рalso known in other countries as the Canon Rebel XS or the Canon Kiss F.

My new camera! The unfortunate thing about taking photos of your new camera is that you have to use your old one to do it :P (in my case it is my 4+ year old Canon Ixus 40)

My new camera! The unfortunate thing about taking photos of your new camera is that you have to use your old one to do it ūüėõ (in my case it is my 4+ year old Canon Ixus 40)

The Canon 1000D is a 10.1 megapixel camera that came out mid 2008. As an entry-level DSLR, it is one of the cheapest out there but it gives me the option of upgrading to quality canon lenses. Reading the reviews led me to focus my search down to either a Canon or Nikon camera. I don’t have a particular allegiance to either, but I chose the Canon¬†over a Nikon because: a) the quality is comparable between the two, and b) the Canon camera body and future lenses purchases are cheaper than comparable Nikon ones.¬†

Side view of my Canon 1000D

Side view of my Canon 1000D

Ohhh I love this camera! It is nice and light and curves just right in my girl-hands. At first I thought the plastic body of the camera was getting scratched by my nails when I was holding the camera – but it turns out my nails were just getting filed down by the camera surface, which is still nice and smooth.

Because I came from using a Canon digital, I found this camera very easy to pick up and use straight away. All the buttons are in reach of my right thumb and index finger when shooting, and the “menu” and “display” buttons (which aren’t used very often) can be easily reached with my left thumb.¬†

Back view of my Canon 1000D with shooting settings display. If you head over to my Flickr site you can find out what each button is.

Back view of my Canon 1000D with shooting settings display. If you head over to my Flickr site you can find out what each button is.

For those new to digital SLR photography, you will easily be able to pick this up and use intuitively. However, I do recommend working your way through the camera manual while playing with the camera. The manual is very easy to read and you will learn a lot of important functions – even if you aren’t ready to advance beyond the auto settings on the camera.¬†

My Lenses

I got my camera with the two kit lenses: the Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS, and the Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS. The Image Stabiliser kit lenses apparently have better image quality than the ordinary II kit lenses, plus they have the image stabiliser function. Both Canon and Nikon DSLRs have image stabiliser technology in some of their lenses, rather than in their camera bodies (unlike other camera brands). These lenses will give me a nice range to learn photography techniques and understand what future lens purchases will suit my style of photography best.  

Top down view of my Canon 1000D

Top down view of my Canon 1000D

If you want to find out more about my camera and lenses I would recommend reading some of the very thorough reviews online by professional photographers. I don’t have the photography experience to offer more detailed comments about specs than what I have.

 

More amateur photography adventures to come in future posts!

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