A Day Out With Ming Thein X Frankie Falcon Ultimate Photographer’s Daybag

Goodbyehorses.us – Let’s do something different for this blog, instead of just reviewing cameras and lenses, for the first time ever, I am writing about a bag! Not just any bag, but the newly launched Ming Thein X Frankie Falcon Ultimate Photographer’s Daybag!

Ming Thein, a fellow friend and incredible photographer/blogger was super generous to loan me a pre-production unit of his personally designed camera bag which was done in collaboration with a renowned bag manufacturer, Frankie Falcon. When he showed me the bag it was love at the first sight: having just the right size and capacity to fit in cameras and lenses and just about anything you need to be on the move, and it comes in really sexy design and stealthy black finish. It is a camera bag that photographers need, want and more! When he told me I could borrow the bag for personal use, I was thrilled of course!

All photos of me using the MT x FF Bag in action were taken by Robert Sarmiento Evangelista and Van Ambruce Ligutom.

However, do take note that this version of the  MT x FF bag that I am currently using is not the final version which will be produced (in limited quantities). There are minor changes there and here, which I shall not go in detail, but I was assured that this was very close to the final product and fit for my trial run.

Nevertheless, this is not exactly an official bag review, not even sure if I am the right person to review camera bags, and I’ve not done any bag reviews before. I am merely sharing my experience using this bag, the stand-out features that I found useful and convenient for me and other photographers using the bag. I am not going to go through the full specifications of the bag, you can find all information at Ming Thein’s original blog post here. Also, I am a terrible product photographer, and if you want sexy, professional looking product shots of the bags (which actually does proper justice to how beautiful the bag looks), no one can do this better than Ming Thein himself and there are plenty of great shots of the bag on his own blog. What you will find here in this blog entry, are shots of the bag with me, while I was shooting on the streets.

While the camera bag was originally designed to be able to fit TWO full sized medium format cameras with lenses attached, I thought the bag was not large at all in real life. However, fitting in Micro Four Thirds camera and lenses (which I use) would be an overkill, so I was scratching my head figuring out on how to actually use this bag for my weekend shutter therapy. Then I was making street shooting plans with some friends and I thought, hey, why not I bring along some of the new Olympus products (12-100mm F4 IS PRO and 25mm F1.2 PRO) for everyone to try, that would justify the need to fit in more stuff into the awesome Ming Thein’s camera bag!

Robert and Van, both amazing Olympus shooters came to join me for my shutter therapy and I cannot thank them enough for volunteering to shoot me with the MT x FF bag in action. Guys I owe you both a hearty lunch.


First, let’s talk about how much this bag, deceivingly not too large in appearance, actually can fit. There were no zippers in design, no unnecessary pockets or compartments found anywhere. Hence, the minimalist approach of the bag design allowed for much larger storage capacity than an equivalent sized camera bag.

Now, take a look at the following photograph, we have everything I have placed into the bag, taken out and laid out on a table.

What we have here:
3 Olympus Camera bodies
Olympus PEN-F body – Robert requested to try the PEN-F for street shooting
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II body – my own camera which was my primary camera for the day
Olympus PEN E-P5 – my secondary/back-up camera. Always carry a spare!
5 M.Zuiko Lenses
12-100mm F4 IS PRO
25mm F1.2 PRO x 2 units, one used by me at full time of course
75mm F1.8 (with a lens pouch)
17mm F2.8 pancake lens (fitted on E-P5, and inside a leather-like case)
3 spare batteries for my E-M10 Mark II
Think Tank Pocket Rocket (SD Card storage bag)
Lens cleaning cloth, micro fibre
Fiio M3 Music Player
Beyerdynamics DTX350M Headphones with carrying pouch
Saharil Hasrin Sanin’s two awesome books, “Tentang & Kentang”
Georgette Tan’s “Abnormalities & Other Poems” booklet
Olympus notepad & a pen (an actual pen, not a camera)
Lego figures, which I usually have with me everywhere I go to:
Green Arrow 
The Flash
Here is a video, kindly taken by Robert, showing me fitting everything into the bag. The video was a spontaneous one, it was not originally thought out. When I was about to fit the items into the bag, we thought, hey a short video would be a nice idea! Hence there were mistakes there and here (the fan causing audio disruptions, the framing of me moving randomly and unpredictably). I never looked good on camera, and I did not know exactly what to say. The video took longer than expected!
The video above was taken by Robert. Van has an alternative video of the same footage, shot from a different angle, minus the annoying wind sound captured on Robert’s footage. You can see the video here. 
And finally, here it is, all tucked nicely into the bag, yet I had quick access to the camera that I will be using to shoot on the street! How cool is that?
I was genuinely impressed by how much I can throw into the MT x FF camera bag and still have a functional, quick to release for camera access bag! I personally do prefer shoulder sling bags over backpacks, due to several reasons: more natural positioning at the side of waist to quickly grab out or store lenses, easier for lens changing and also switching of multiple cameras. 
Generally, while the bag was loaded with more items than what I usually carry, thus the heavier weight than normal, I did not feel any strain on my back or shoulder at all, probably due to the thick shoulder strap that came with the bag. That is a very, very important point to consider when choosing a bag, as the bag is being loaded to the maximum and weighing more, it should not cause discomfort for the photographer, especially many of us that need to walk around quite a bit. Just like camera handling and ergonomics being important for long hours use, walking around with a truly comfortable camera bag on your shoulder does make a huge difference. 
The MT x FF bag is generally made of very light, water-resistant, interestingly flexible and rather thick material (not sure what it is). The material is robust enough that there was no need of additional padding, and there was not an instance i felt the gear stored inside the bag was not secured enough. The build quality is of top notch, not a surprising fact considering each bag was hand-crafted and only made to order! Since the bag is going to be available for a limited run, tight quality control is not going to be an issue.
Knowing that the MT x FF bag is stripped down to basics, taking out almost anything that are usually in a camera bag, I did have my initial concerns about a few things. Will there be room for batteries? Where am I going to place my SD Card storage bag (Think Tank Pocket Rocket) for quick retrieval when needed? Since there was no zip at all, how will the cameras and lenses be properly secured and not fall out? What if I want to bring more stuff, how can I fit more items in with so little configurations or dividers! 
Strangely, for every single question, or issue that I came up with, or thought I would encounter, the bag just magically works! The SD Card storage bag has its own space (see the video showing that here) and there were side pockets, cleverly built internally capable of storing a large amount of items (batteries, and even full-size headphones, collapsible of course). When I was walking around on the street shooting for a couple of hours, never had I once felt the bag was not secured, or anything is being out of balance. I tell you, it is difficult to find things to complain about this bag. Perhaps, Ming Thein has been right all along. Being minimalist in camera design, taking out all the unnecessary features of a camera bag (which we thought we needed but honestly…. this has been proven otherwise) just takes the functionality of the bag into an entirely different level!
If you know me from this blog, you will know that I will not just bring this camera bag out, show it off and not do anything with it after that. I went on to have my much needed shutter therapy with my friends, Robert and Van at Petaling Street earlier today. I was shooting with my OM-D E-M10 Mark II with the 25mm F1.2 PRO lens, and I am showing even more samples of images taken with that awesome lens!
All images below were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II and M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 PRO
Shout out to Van Ambruce Ligutom and Robert Sarmiento Evangelista for the great help today!
I knew both Van and Robert from Olympus events, they are our regulars. For some unexplained reasons, both of them have never appeared in the same event together before. When Van came for a Bird Park Outing, Robert did not show up. When Robert participated in the Street Shooting Outing, Van was not around. This has been going on for perhaps, 1-2 years, and they just never met each other somehow! I have come to acknowledge that both of them are talented Olympus shooters and have deep passion in photography, I thought why not I just match-make them and make this happen!
Do check out their blogs, they have showcased some amazing Olympus photography there!

I Love Blue Skies

Bright Pink

Portrait of a Stranger
100% crop from the previous image. Shot wide open at F1.2
Some behind the scenes shots! 

Portrait of a Stranger 2

Portrait of a Stranger 3
Check out the BOKEH!!!!
Food preparations
Chewing Fingers
Robert in action
Van testing out the new Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 PRO lens
Coming Out Into The Sun
She Sees You
Blue Suits
Char Siew Pau (dim sum dish)
If you have not read about this Ming Thein X Frankie Falcon Ultimate Photographer’s Camera DayBag, please do visit the official product blog entry by Ming Thein here. The bag is now available for pre-order, and the deadline is on 30 October 2016. 
And if you do decide to Pre-Order the bag, and you actually found out about the bag here, please do fill “RW” into the comment field when buying, so Ming Thein will know that the referral comes from me! 

I do not think there is any other bag like this one. 
The design is unique and beautiful at the same time, the bag can fit an awful lot of things, and it is a camera bag that just works. I could not recommend a better camera bag for anyone!

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Whooping Crane Festival 2016


It was a pleasure to be a speaker and trip leader at the Whooping Crane Festival in Port Aransas, Texas, over the weekend.  I met lots of nice people, saw some great birds, and ate wonderful seafood.  This was a well-organized festival filled with activities for photographers, birders, and nature lovers.  
Mark your calendar for the 2017 event.  I’ll be there!  Port Aransas Whooping Crane Festival
Blue-gray gnatcatcher in an oak tree at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center.  

Doggie exchanging kisses for a treat at Woody’s.

Panoramic of the Aransas Lighthouse and Red Dragon pirate ship.

Silhouette of a photographer photographing the sunset during our boat ride through the channel.

Another shot of the setting sun from the channel between Port Aransas and Aransas Pass.

Love the wake.
Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center is a great place to see ducks, like this green-winged teal, and water birds.
There’s a boardwalk that allows access to a shallow marsh.
Photography heaven!
Pied-billed grebe at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center.  

Japanese restaurant Himitsu coming to Crane & Turtle/Cappy’s Crabs space on Upshur


Whoa, big news! The space formerly occupied by Crane and Turtle and Cappy’s Crabs will be replaced by Himitsu, a “New Japanese” concept from Kevin Tien, who previously held pop-ups called Poke Pop, a Hawaiian poke bowl concept — cubed raw fish with other fixings. Tien also formerly was a chef at Momofuku and Oyamel, so that’s a really good sign.

Himitsu is more of a fusion restaurant with Japanese hot dishes with other touches — Latin American, Southeast Asian, Korean and more — things like Katsu pork belly, fried marinated chicken, and more. They’ll also have cocktails and drinks from Carlie Steiner, who also run Stir DC, a mixology businesses. They’ll have Japanese whiskey and sake as well. Sounds interesting.

Did you join us for Poke Pop earlier this year? Did you love it? The chef and brains behind Poke Pop, Kevin Tien, is opening a “New Japanese” restaurant in Petworth in the next few weeks called Himitsu! 

Himitsu will take sushi and traditional Japanese hot dishes and turn them on their heads – adding Latin, Southeast Asian and Korean flare. It’s the familiar, unfamiliarized. In addition to an a la carte menu, you will be able to order an omakase-style experience in which Chef Kevin and his awesome business partner and Beverage Manager, Carlie Steiner, will concoct a multi-course meal tailored to your food and drink preferences, a truly unique and memorable experience (sneak peek at a sample menu below).

They’re also looking for investors through a site called EquityEats — kind of a Kickstarter for restaurants, but you own part of the restaurant. If you invest various amounts of money you get an ownership stake as well as other benefits.

The opening date is not clear but they’re aiming at sometime this month according to the City Paper.
Here’s the sample menu:

A Photo Contest Is Not JUST a Photo Contest

Goodbyehorses.us – I often joke that I don’t win photo contests.  I enter my photos in contests occasionally but consider it more a donation to the organization.  There’s no hope of really winning.  My images tell stories when combined together.  My images are not “one shot wonders” so often don’t stand a major chance of winning in a contest.

Yet, other things happen.  Below is an image that I entered in the National Wildlife Magazine photo contest a couple of years ago.  I uploaded the image, paid my fee, and then went on with my business.

Someone from the magazine called in early 2016.  They wanted to use one of the photos I entered in the contest in an upcoming article.  Regular magazine payment rates would apply.  Awesome!!

Editors from the magazine liked the photo and had kept it in a pending file.  So a photo contest is not always JUST a photo contest.

Flying bat in Arizona feeding on nectar and pollen at an agave bloom.

Exposure Challenge — Bright Background or Bright Subject

Goodbyehorses.us – My photo tour group had an opportunity to photograph a resplendent quetzal last March in Costa Rica.  The magnificent bird perched in the shadows against a bright background.  The bird was dark and the background was super bright.

We couldn’t use a flash so the exposure had be made in the camera.  I had several options to make the shot work but here were two options I chose to use.

 Option 1 — Use the evaluative light meter so the camera would read the light in the entire scene.  My Canon 1D Mark IV reads 63 different zones with the evaluative light meter so I got a pretty good exposure but the bird was dark.  (Evaluative light meter is similar to Matrix in Nikon cameras.)

My shutter speed is about 1/800 sec with an f/stop of 7.1, if you’re curious.

The histogram on the back of camera showed that I’d captured data all across the graph.  There wasn’t a spike up the right side of the histogram so I knew that I hadn’t blown the highlights.

I decided I was okay with the situation and I’d deal with the negatives later in post-processing.  My concern would be noise in the dark areas after processing.

Option 2 — Use the partial light meter so the camera would only read the light on the bird’s back.  The Canon 1D Mark IV reads 13.5% of the frame in the partial meter setting.  (That’s spot meter for Nikon users.)

The bird is perched in the shadows so it’s a bit dark when properly exposed.

The histogram on the back of the camera showed that I’d captured data all across the graph.  There was a spike up the right side of the histogram meaning that I’d blown some light areas in the background.

I decided I could live with this shot and I’d overcome the negatives later in post-processing.

Option 1  in post-processing with Photoshop’s Adobe Camera Raw or ACR.

Notice that in the original photo the bird is dark.  I knew that I could pull the detail out of the bird using the Shadow slider in ACR.  The Shadow slider works the same in Lightroom so the same technique applies to Lightroom.

We now see the bird and the background detail is still good.  The background is close to the original image and not too bright.  There’s good detail on the bird.

Option 2 in post-processing with Photoshop’s Adobe Camera Raw or ACR.

The original photo has a somewhat dark bird against a very light background.  I pulled the detail out of the bird with the Shadow slider as above.  Then I toned the background down by moving the Highlight slider to the left.

A few areas in the background lost all data.  These areas show values of 250 to 255 in the Red, Green, and Blue channels.  (In ACR, run your cursor over the photo and watch the RGB numbers move up and down up near the histogram.  Same in Lightroom, by the way.)

A downside to pulling information out of the shadows — or opening the shadows as we say in photography —  is noise in the shadows.

I was shooting at ISO 1600 so I used Noise Reduction Luminance at about 50 to reduce the noise.  This slider is also in ACR and Lightroom.  Hats off to the Canon 1D Mark IV for handling noise really well.


Photography is all about knowing your options.  There are lots of different ways to accomplish the same end photograph.  The key is knowing your options and putting them into practice when the situation arises.  Some of the options are selected at the time the photo is taken.  Other options come later in post-processing.  All the options are part of our photography toolkit.

Trying to Find the Subject

Goodbyehorses.us – Sometimes we find a subject but the overall composition is not immediately evident.  I did that with the chunk of ice you see below.  I liked the blue ice sitting on the black sand.  How to make it into a photo?

All these images were photographed at the Vatnajokull Glacier, Jokulsarlon, on the southern coast of Iceland.  Lovely chunks of blue ice break off the glacier, wash out to sea, and then get tossed back to shore by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. The chunks of ice are huge in winter but get smaller during the summer.

This is my final shot.  My camera is on a tripod.  I’m low to the ground at the risk of getting wet in the turbulent surf.
I set my camera to f/22 which gave me a shutter speed slow enough to blur the water.
See the images below to see my starting point.  

This is my first photograph of the chunk of ice.  Notice how it’s a very different shot from the photograph above.
I’m not down as low so the angle is not as interesting.
The small black rock in the bottom left has not become a compositional element.
The waves are defined so they are pulling the eye away from the ice.
This is my second photograph of the chunk of ice.  My shot is coming together.
The angle of view is just a bit lower so the ice is more noticeable against the waves.
The small black rock in the bottom left has a bit more light on it so it’s more defined.
The waves aren’t quite right so now it’s time to shoot image after image to get the waves just right.  

HDR Becomes a Highly Valuable Tool

Goodbyehorses.us – HDR, or high-dynamic range photography, often gets a bad rap.  People complain that it’s too garish, unworldly, super saturated, or just plain ugly.

Yes, that can be true but HDR photos can also look real and true-to-life.  The eye sees 22 “stops” of light and the camera records only 7 “stops” of light.  HDR allows the camera to see the full tonal range that we see with our eyes.  This is a valuable tool to have in our photography tool kit.

Here are some recent examples where I chose to shoot an HDR image.

This is the Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice.  It’s a used book store where books are put to use.
Here a staircase made of books allows customers to get a view of the canal behind the wall.
This crazy scene cried out “HDR’ to me.  I applied a bit of grunge to accentuate the craziness of the scene.

Here’s an interior of the same book store.  There were shadows and bright lights all over the place.
HDR allowed me to capture the light in all the dark areas as well and tone down the bright lights.
Take a look at the images below.  One is a RAW photo processed with Adobe Camera Raw.  (That’s the same processor that’s found in Adobe Lightroom.)  Then you’ll see the same scene processed as an HDR photo.  For the HDR images, I shot seven exposures and then blended them in Nik HDR Efex.  
Becker Winery in Stonewall, Texas.
Straight RAW image processed.

Becker Winery in Stonewall, Texas.  
Seven exposures blended as an HDR in Nik.

New Braunfels, Texas, as a RAW image.

New Braunfels, Texas, as an HDR image.

Pioneer Town in Wimberely, Texas, in a processed RAW image.
I pulled all the detail I could out of the shadows with the Shadow slider.

Pioneer Town in Wimberely, Texas, as an HDR image.
Notice the red wall on the right.  You can’t see that wall in the RAW image above.

Pioneer Town in Wimberley, Texas.  There’s a 7-foot tall jackalope in the museum.
This is a processed RAW image.

Pioneer Town in Wimberley, Texas.  There’s a 7-foot tall jackalope in the museum.
This is a HDR image.  
Pioneer Town in Wimberley, Texas.  I was there during the middle of the day on a bright day.The sun was intense and the shadows were harsh.
This is a processed RAW image with the Shadow slider moved all the way to the right,

Pioneer Town in Wimberley, Texas.
Same harsh light as above.
I took seven shots and processed the image in Nik HDR Efex.

 We can’t always be in a location with perfect light for photography.  It’s just not possible.  HDR allows us to capture the scene under intense lighting.  HDR allows us to capture the scene and then manipulate the image.  How far we go with that manipulation is up to us as a creative photographer.

Falling in Love with High ISO

Goodbyehorses.us – My Canon 5D Mark III is my favorite city camera.  It’s light, loaded with features, and rugged.  It also have amazing high ISO capabilities.

During a recent photo tour to Italy I pushed my limits on high ISO.  I only used a tripod at night and opted to use high ISO during the day.  The 5D Mark III did not disappoint.
The ceiling of the Spanish Chapel at Santa Maria Novella in Florence is a masterpiece.
I use ISO 1600 to get a 1/20 sec shutter speed.
I held the camera steady and was able to capture the
magnificent colors. 
At the Santa Maria Novella parfumerie I used ISO 2000 to capture these cologne
bottles with a 1/100 sec shutter speed and f/4
I used ISO 1000 to capture the nave of Santa Maria Novella.
I might have been reluctant to freely use such high ISO speeds a mere 5 years ago.  New cameras, like the Canon 5D Mark III, and software, like Photoshop 2015, have combined to give us great results.  

On Facebook, My Sabbatical, and the Presidential Campaign


As I anticipate being off of social media during the final stages of the presidential campaign, as a way to resist distractions during my academic sabbatical, I am reminded of Andy Crouch’s recent comment on Twitter, that there are three things that require embodied presence, rather than media/telecom/virtual reality, to do well:

1. Trust
2. Creativity
3. Conflict

I say, yes, yes and yes to each of these from first-hand experience that has, at times, included an utter failure of my part to honor that fact.

I am also reminded of a few other things.

1. Facebook isn’t real life, it’s edited life, and it should always be treated accordingly, even if it’s tempting to think that other folks live ridiculously interesting or enviously awesome lives.

2. The majority of my friends on Facebook are, strictly speaking, acquaintances, as my German colleagues might remind me, even if Facebook collapses any meaningful difference between the two and implicitly encourages acquaintances and strangers, on certain days, to speak to each other in ways that only a true friend could dare to do and survive to the other side of “hard” words, lovingly given.

3. Drive-by “shooting” of articles or polemical broadsides at one another IN ALL CAPS is rarely an effective way to change minds, let alone hearts, but it’ll happen anyway the entire month of November and it will involve plenty of immediate rather than pre-meditated commentary, because, quite frankly, we’ll all be desperate for empathetic care in the middle of what will feel like The Thirty Years War all over again.

4. Emoji emotions lack the nuance of non-verbal communication that can only be rightly experienced in person, however tempting it will be to attack all those “evil” people voting for the wrong candidate with angry and weeping emoji’s on November 9, 2016. I will have to content myself with emoji stickers that I can plaster on my t-shirt, as I walk down the aisle of my HEB grocery store in search of heaps of Cookies ‘n Cream ice cream.

5. I rarely pray as often as I worry about things in our country, but I fantasize that Mark Zuckerberg will one day institute a one-hour moratorium on all Facebook activity, right around noonday. He’ll do so in order to make time for quiet contemplation, a shared moment with a friend in person, and an invitation to pray about the crazy, broken parts of our world as a way, in part, to decrease both the stress levels that provokes diseases in the physical body and the psychic toxicity that so easily leads usually reasonable human beings, including myself, to turn into werewolves and cuckoo heads.

6. It goes without saying that I am grateful for many of the goods that Facebook provides us–the Memes (the Star Wars and Hogwarts-related, especially), the Maps (“Texas is as big as France and London combined!”), the family pics, the wiki-fication of swappable knowledge, the Wowzer feats of athleticism and artistry and human kindness–but I am equally nervous about the world that it so easily lures us to inhabit, which may have nothing to do whatsoever with the flesh-and-blood neighbors whom I may find less than conveniently engaged than my virtual neighbors.

7. In the end, I am convinced that the Benedictine monks have it right: ora et labora. Pray and work. Both are needed. And I’m sorely in need of getting my prayer life in better shape, which hopefully will happen during my sabbatical. But work, too, is needed, and my sincere prayer is that God will bless your work, whatever it may be, with the grace of Jesus and the power of the Spirit, in whom the peace of God is made tangible.

I also pray that for me and for Phaedra and for Blythe and for whatever child God has for us to adopt, God-willing in the near future.

Lastly, I’m grateful for the voices of sanity in a sometimes insane world (insane outside my head and sometimes inside my head), for people who remind me that humility, however unwelcome it may be on particular days, does in fact lead to the life that is truly life.

Here endeth the peroration.