June 10, 2013
Gear Review: LOWEPRO TRANSIT BACKPACK 350 AW

This review was originally posted on the new Henry’s Blog. They’re giving this bag away, so make sure you check it out!

Like many photographers, I own more camera bags than I probably should. I’ve rationalized that it’s actually responsible to have a vast collection of sling bags, backpacks, courier bags, and rolling bags for every occasion and gear combination. There’s no one perfect camera bag, I’ve told myself, so why not have one of everything?

I still have the first “real” camera bag I ever owned, a Lowepro Nova 5 that I found under the christmas tree almost fifteen years ago. It doesn’t see much duty any more, but it still leaves the house from time to time with a Bowens strobe and reflector tucked inside.

Lowepro Transit Backpack 250

Lowepro has a reputation for innovation and durability, using quality materials and incorporating clever features into every one of their products. Their new Transit Backpack 350 AW doesn’t reinvent the camera backpack, but it does build on Lowepro’s heritage nicely. Finished in a stylish and discreet grey with subtle red accents, it definitely looks more at home on city streets than the hiking trail. A tripod can be attached to the side, and with my Manfrotto 7322CY tripod looped in I found that the backpack still felt comfortable and well-balanced. Two sets of zippers invite the user to treat the device as a sling-style bag as well as a backpack; with the pack slung over one shoulder, it can be swung around your torso for quick access to the main compartment via a generous side door. A discreet back compartment offers enough room for a tablet or small laptop, but I couldn’t quite fit my 15” MacBook Pro.

Lowepro Transit backpack 350

Inside, dividers and a single mesh pocket allow you to customize the pack to hold your gear in a number of configurations. I managed to lug a Fuji X-Pro1 and XE-1 with the 55-200/3.5-4.8, 14/2.8 and 35/1.4 with plenty of room for a windbreaker and light lunch. A full frame DSLR user would use up the space more quickly, but not before adding two or three substantial lenses and a flash or two.

Like every other Lowepro bag with the AW designation, the Transit Backpack 350AW boasts an all-weather cover that can wrap all exposed outer sides of the pack with tough water-repellent fabric that I also found useful for keeping sand and grit at bay during a recent trip to the end of Tommy Thompson Park in Toronto.

Lowepro Transit Backpack 350

Lowepro Transit Backpack 350

I typically avoid backpack style bags, because I find it cumbersome and inconvenient to have all my gear behind me when I need it most, and because sometimes the temptation to overstuff the bag is too great. The Transit Backpack 350AW is a sensible size, however, and the “fastpack”-like sling flexibility turns it into something more than just a backpack. Lowepro have crafted yet another capable product that will no doubt be able to serve its owners for years to come.

CLICK HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN THIS BAG!

January 2, 2012
Most Viewed Photos of 2011
1. 25-10-2011 - Subway, Toronto2. 15-12-2011 - 7-11 Delivery, Toronto3. 11-11-2011 - The Red Light, Toronto4. 28-10-2011 - Russell (Connought) TTC Carhouse, Toronto5. 2-11-2011 - Financial District, Toronto6. 29-11-2011 - Dundas Streetcar, Toronto7. Smoke’s Poutinerie, Toronto, 20118. Market Vendor, Thailand, 20119. Camera Collection, Toronto, 201010. 5-11-2011 - Barber Shop, Toronto
According to my analytics, these were my most-viewed images for 2011. This doesn’t count mobile views or views on the Tumblr timeline, this is based on hits on the web browser version of my site. This isn’t really a reflection the most popular photos I posted, because a lot of the images with the most likes and reblogs aren’t represented here. It’s just traffic, and traffic is just traffic. With those caveats, there are still some fun surprises. 
Seven of the top ten - and the entire top six - are images from my relatively recent 300 Project. These posts are getting a lot of attention, it’s really exciting. Thank you.
Nine of the ten most-viewed photos were posted this year; only my camera collection image was from 2010.
Nine of the photos are street images, the lone portrait is of a market vendor in Thailand which snuck in at eighth.
Speaking of Thailand, even though some of my favourite images of the year were from my trip to Asia only the vendor photo cracked the top ten.
I think the financial district photo is the best thing I did all year, so I’m happy to see that it got a lot of attention.
I don’t think I would have posted the streetcar interior photo if I weren’t doing a daily photo project, so I’m surprised to see that it is was sixth most viewed image of the year!
It’s incredibly gratifying and motivating to be able to share my photos with so many talented photographers and encouraging strangers. Thank you for checking in with me over the last year, and I look forward to being able to share more photos with you in 2012. Happy new year everybody.

Most Viewed Photos of 2011

1. 25-10-2011 - Subway, Toronto
2. 15-12-2011 - 7-11 Delivery, Toronto
3. 11-11-2011 - The Red Light, Toronto
4. 28-10-2011 - Russell (Connought) TTC Carhouse, Toronto
5. 2-11-2011 - Financial District, Toronto
6. 29-11-2011 - Dundas Streetcar, Toronto
7. Smoke’s Poutinerie, Toronto, 2011
8. Market Vendor, Thailand, 2011
9. Camera Collection, Toronto, 2010
10. 5-11-2011 - Barber Shop, Toronto

According to my analytics, these were my most-viewed images for 2011. This doesn’t count mobile views or views on the Tumblr timeline, this is based on hits on the web browser version of my site. This isn’t really a reflection the most popular photos I posted, because a lot of the images with the most likes and reblogs aren’t represented here. It’s just traffic, and traffic is just traffic. With those caveats, there are still some fun surprises. 

Seven of the top ten - and the entire top six - are images from my relatively recent 300 Project. These posts are getting a lot of attention, it’s really exciting. Thank you.

Nine of the ten most-viewed photos were posted this year; only my camera collection image was from 2010.

Nine of the photos are street images, the lone portrait is of a market vendor in Thailand which snuck in at eighth.

Speaking of Thailand, even though some of my favourite images of the year were from my trip to Asia only the vendor photo cracked the top ten.

I think the financial district photo is the best thing I did all year, so I’m happy to see that it got a lot of attention.

I don’t think I would have posted the streetcar interior photo if I weren’t doing a daily photo project, so I’m surprised to see that it is was sixth most viewed image of the year!

It’s incredibly gratifying and motivating to be able to share my photos with so many talented photographers and encouraging strangers. Thank you for checking in with me over the last year, and I look forward to being able to share more photos with you in 2012. Happy new year everybody.

December 5, 2011

Anonymous said: I'm a big fan of your stuff, there's just so many photos! What are your top 10 favorite? (of yours, of course!)

That’s a tough question to answer! I’d probably give you ten different responses if you asked me ten different times, but I’m flattered enough by the question that I’ll give it my best shot. Here, in no particular order, are ten of my photos that I especially like for some reason.

#31: 2-11-2011 - Financial District, Toronto: I think this might be the only real keeper from the "300 Project" I’ve been working on. I like this photo more than almost anything I’ve taken. I’ve been fixated on symmetry and geometry lately, but photo also has some human interest - something I leave out of my photos too often - and it hints at a story already in progress. I love Edward Hopper’s paintings of 20th century American city scenes glimpsed through big glass windows, and I’m especially happy that a few people have pointed out that this photo shares a bit in common with his paintings.

Market Vendor, Thailand, 2011: I’ve never been a portrait photographer, but during a recent trip to Asia I made a real effort to take photos of people. I met this guy at a market north of Bangkok and he cheerfully posed long enough for me to capture two photos. I missed the focus on the first but nailed it on this one. I love the lucky juxtaposition of his red striped shirt against the blue striped canvas behind him, but his tattoo peeking out of the collar is what sells it. When I look at this photo I feel proud of the shot, but also a bit sheepish for being afraid of taking posed portraits of strangers for so long.

São Paulo Skyline, Brasil, 2009: This one is pretty straightforward: rows of skyscrapers receding into the hazy atmosphere of a hot Brazilian day. I love it because reminds me of how I felt when standing in the middle of that sprawling South American city, but it also reminds me of the anxious moments that came later that day. I changed lenses to get that shot, and in just the few seconds my camera’s guts were exposed to the city’s air I ended up with hundreds of sticky dust spots on my sensor. With my cleaning tools left at home (I won’t make that mistake twice) and none of the local camera stores able to help me, I cleaned the sensor myself with a microfibre cloth wrapped around a chopstick, soaked in pure grain alcohol. It worked.

Scavengers, Turkey, 2005:  My feelings about this photo have waxed and waned since I took it. I grew up with stacks of old National Geographics in the house, and my photography habit probably has a lot to do with that. For a long time my goal was to recreate the trademark style of 1960s-80s National G photographers who framed other cultures as exotic “others”. I took this photo will traveling solo in Turkey, the farthest from home I had ever been by that age, and I was intoxicated by the otherworldliness of the country and this community of scavengers I had found near a shipwrecked oil tanker. I shot this from the hip and congratulated myself for doing those old photographers justice. Now when I look at it I feel a bit less proud, but I can’t quite put my finger on what I should have done differently.

Honest Ed’s, Toronto, 2008:  Digital sensors have become so good lately that you can shoot street photos at night no differently than how you shoot them during the day. What once would have needed a tripod and a static subject can now be done off the hip with reasonably safe shutter speeds. Around the time that I took this photo I began to experiment with “wrong” white balance settings under artificial light, and while I may not have nailed the technique with this shot it was the start of an idea that’s since tinted a lot of my work. Plus it’s kind of fun to cast Honest Ed’s as a sinister backdrop when it’s usually featured in photos for its blinking carnival of lightbulbs.

Riot Police, Toronto, 2010: The G20 riots were a big deal in Toronto, even though they were wimpy compared to what’s happened recently in the rest of the world - or even Vancouver. I didn’t set out to take photos that day but I ended up caught behind police lines for part of the afternoon. I shot this with a medium format film camera, and I like the textures and charged imagery. Had I known what was about to happen to so many accredited photographers, though, I probably would have been a lot more careful.

Shaw Street, Toronto, 2010:  Another night-time street shot with a slightly “off” colour balance treatment. I like this because I had set out to capture the tone of some of Gregory Crewdson’s meticulously-lit photographs and I think I got pretty close. It’s a slight photo but I like the stillness and unease of it.

Trafalgar Square, London, 2002:  I took this during my first big trip away from home when I was still a teenager. I spent almost as much developing my slides as I did flying to Europe and back, and while a lot of the photos were just mileage markers on the way to becoming a better photographer I still love this shot from London. It isn’t breaking any new ground in the field of travel photography, but the late afternoon light flooding the square was there and gone within ten seconds and I was pretty happy that I had finally been able to read the sky well enough to be prepared before it happened. That’s the first time I can remember being proven right by a hunch like that.

Rotterdam, 2005:  I went back to Europe on an exchange during my 3rd year of university and while I was there I became fascinated by these old Citroëns. I began to collect photos of them wherever I found them, letting their parking spots force my framing. This was just one of at least fifty nearly identical shots I took that spring, but for some reason I love it the most. The futuristic slope of that radical design set against the rational simplicity of the modern Dutch row houses behind it just sits well with me.

Brussels 2005:  I took this photo around the same time as the one above. I began collecting photos of commuters framed through train and tram windows that same spring. This guy is my favourite from the collection, gloomily gazing out at a Belgian train yard long after rush hour had wound down. My photographic winning streak started at the end of that trip, and when I look through my archives I can almost see a dividing line in my style before and after those months. I settled into a style a little more comfortably, and I stopped pointing my lens at the picturesque. After those months I didn’t take too many more photos of sunsets or autumn leaves. No more close-ups of gourds. I think I discovered that I preferred to take photos of almost-ananymous city streets more than the familiar landmarks a few neighbourhoods over. I started to seek out scenes that were a little more worn, wearing a bit more of an industrial patina. For whatever reason that’s always felt more true to my instincts than the sorts of things that would probably sell more often.
This photo has a lot of the elements that have kept coming up again and again since, but it was one of the first that put it all together. 

November 29, 2011

Anonymous said: Do you ever use film cameras? If so, do you know how to set up a double exposure?

Yup, I use a handful of film cameras fairly regularly. I still use the second-hand Canon AE-1 and A-1 I picked up as a teenager about fifteen years ago. I have a pair of Mamiya 645 Pro TLs  that get a regular workout and a couple dozen cheap collectable cameras. 

About a year ago I posted a picture of many of my film cameras and it’s one of the most popular things I’ve ever pit up here.

As far as multiple exposures go, there are basically two ways to do it. Some cameras have a double-exposure lever or button allowing you to shoot over the same frame of film as many times as you’d like. If your camera doesn’t have that feature you can usually fake it by depressing the little rewind release button on the bottom plate as you crank to the next frame. The other way to do it is to shoot an entire roll of film, being careful to leave the leader hanging out a few centimetres after you crank it back in to the canister. Then you just load it back in to the same or a different camera and snap away. 

November 19, 2011

Anonymous said: Hi Ren,Great pictures... What camera do you use for most of these? I'm thinking of buying a 5D MKii or the new Fuji x100? I like the compact size of the x100 but love the high ISO of the 5D. Would you go with the more expensive 5D or do you think the x100 is a good overall camera? I want to take basic street photography and some shots of bands I go and see... Thanks, Paul

Hi Paul,

I’ve been using my Fuji X100 for the majority of my pictures lately, but I also have the original 5D. The X100 is a great second camera and perfect for carrying around everywhere, but even after two firmware upgrades it’s still awfully quirky and a bit sluggish. If you’re only going to buy and use one camera, the X100 isn’t it.

The 5D mk II is old, and the technology inside of it - specifically the autofocus system - is even older. There’s a new model on the horizon, so I would wait a bit if I were in your shoes.

I love cameras and I’m fascinated by gear, but in all honestly it doesn’t really matter what you use. Some of the most enduring photos have been taken with very modest equipment. Lenses do matter, sure, but almost every decent camera today can do an awful lot.

I’m a big fan of the micro four thirds system, so take a close look at the Olympus E-P3 or the new Panasonic GX1. Both are great little street cameras, and there are dozens of great lens options for that system. You’ll be getting the small size of the X100 along with the relative speed and versatility of a DSLR, though their sensors can’t quite match the low light performance of a full frame CMOS.

October 3, 2011
300 Project

Today I’m starting a project that should get my photographic butt in gear. I’ve posted more than 400 images to this blog since starting it last year, but many of those were images that I’ve been sitting on for years. For the next 300 days I’m going to shoot and share a photo a day - I might not get everything posted the same day I capture it, but I’ll try my best.

Why not go for a whole year and make it a 365? I have my own reasons for keeping it to 300 but I have always liked round numbers so I’ll leave it at that.

I’m going to try to make the work more personal and I’m going to try to push myself to attempt things I haven’t done before. You probably don’t need to see more of my photos of diners and subway stops.

I’ll continue to post photos from my archives and stuff that doesn’t belong to this project, but I’ll do my best to separate things into a coherent whole.

As always, thank you for all the kindness, attention and feedback you’ve given me over the last 18 months. That fact that so many of you continue to visit my page and spend even a moment with my photos is more fulfilling than I could ever adequately convey. I hope you enjoy what I’ll be sharing.

April 30, 2011
renbostelaar.tumblr.com is changing

I started posting photos to this Tumblr almost exactly a year ago. It began as an outlet for a project I was chipping away at, a way to get some milage out of the tens of thousands of slides, negatives and digital files I had accumulated since 1997. I’ve spent the last year revisiting and reorganizing those images and you’ve seen one of those photos every day since then.

I set myself a goal of posting one image a day for a year. I didn’t really think about what would happen after that - I had no idea that I’d stumble on a great community of photographers and artists, and I had no expectations of developing a such a sizeable list of followers. You guys are really amazing, thank you for all the thoughtful attention you’ve given me  over the last year.

I’m not going anywhere, but things are going to change a bit. I feel like the well has really started to run dry, and I don’t think I’ll be able to keep up my one-photo-a-day frequency. I still have entire binders worth of negatives and old hard drives full of photos that need to be catalogued, but I know that I’ve already sifted through the good stuff several times over. I’m going to go for quality instead of quantity.

Over the next week I’m going to give you guys some updates on cool things happening, including a trip I’m taking to South-East Asia in a few weeks and a pair of seminars on “Creative Urban Photography” I’ll be delivering at the Toronto Photographic, Video & Digital Imaging Show.

I wish I could personally thank each and every person who has spent any time over the last year looking at these photos. The attention is incredibly flattering and I never could have imagined that such a wonderful audience would one day see these images back when I was capturing them. Thank you.

February 17, 2011
3000 Followers! Thank you!
Well, here we are. I was really happy and surprised to hit 1000, and even more excited to reach 2000 not too long after that. Earlier today that list grew to 3000 and once again I am humbled and proud to have earned such a loyal and inspiring crowd of followers since joining Tumblr in May. I have to thank Nick Gerber for his recent post listing some of his favourite Tumblrs that generously included a link to me along with some incredibly talented artists. Thanks, Nick!
I set a goal of posting one image a day for a whole year, which means I’ll need to come up with another 75 or so photos before this project is done. I’m not sure what this Tumblr will become once day 365 rolls past, but just knowing that there is a critical and appreciative audience out there looking at my work has inspired me to focus more on becoming a better photographer than at any time since getting that little Fuji almost fifteen years ago.
Thank you, all of you, for dropping by and sticking around. 

3000 Followers! Thank you!

Well, here we are. I was really happy and surprised to hit 1000, and even more excited to reach 2000 not too long after that. Earlier today that list grew to 3000 and once again I am humbled and proud to have earned such a loyal and inspiring crowd of followers since joining Tumblr in May. I have to thank Nick Gerber for his recent post listing some of his favourite Tumblrs that generously included a link to me along with some incredibly talented artists. Thanks, Nick!

I set a goal of posting one image a day for a whole year, which means I’ll need to come up with another 75 or so photos before this project is done. I’m not sure what this Tumblr will become once day 365 rolls past, but just knowing that there is a critical and appreciative audience out there looking at my work has inspired me to focus more on becoming a better photographer than at any time since getting that little Fuji almost fifteen years ago.

Thank you, all of you, for dropping by and sticking around. 

January 12, 2011

cole-turner said: I really enjoyed your response to the question regarding your five favorite living photographers - it's always interesting to see how other artists can influence someones work.

Without the limitation of those with a heartbeat, who you say are your favorite photographers?

Hi Cole,

I love your work; I’ve always had a thing for a certain type of symmetry and architectural bluntness in street photography. You’ve got a very confident style, I’ve looked forward to your new posts since starting to follow you.

You’ve asked a great question, and I have to start by name dropping some giants of French street photography: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau and Eugène Atget. They may have worked in the same city during the same handful of decades, but I like each for different reasons. Cartier-Bresson had an unwavering eye for fine-art balance and drama, Doisneau traded in sentimental populism, and Atget’s Paris was an empty city with just a bit of grime under its starched collar. I really hope that my own photos have just the faintest tints of their masterful styles, but that’s a pretty brave aspiration for any photographer to have.

I discovered Harry Callahan a bit later. I’m not sure what I would have made of his uncomfortably still pictures of cities and their inhabitants if I had seen them before absorbing that French stuff first. We’re so used to seeing places like New York and Chicago depicted as kinetic tangles of brick and steel in 20th century photography, but so much of Callahan’s work freezes that energy in rigid pose that could make a constructivist happy.

John Paskievich is criminally unknown, he should rank as one of Canada’s greats alongside the very worthy Yousuf Karsh (and his very overrated brother Malak Karsh). Paskievich has a body of work that documents Winnipeg’s shabby and scrappy North End neighbourhood. His compelling collection of affectionate candids capture a community at its most quirky and proud, rather than dwelling on the crime and decay that’s characterized it in this country’s mind’s eye for generations.

John Gutmann’s formal depression-era scenes of billboards and chrome appeal to me, especially as a counterpoint to the FSA images we normally associate with the era.

Most recently I’ve clued in to the story of Vivian Maier and her “discovered” trove of street photos. As the story goes, a Chicago historian acquired a quantity of her negatives at an auction in 2007 and her profile has been rising steadily, especially after her death in 2009. While the ingredients of the story (lost-and-found masterpieces, years of destitution, posthumous vindication) would normally overshadow the actual images, the fact is that her pictures are every bit as good as they need to be to justify the mythology. There are tinges of Arbus and Stieglitz in her portraits and street scenes, and she probably should be slotted alongside the bigger names of our craft.

Thank you again for asking the question, and thank you to everybody who cares enough to read what I have to say as well as look at what I’ve photographed over the last fifteen years or so. If you’re interested, my response to the question that inspired this one can be found here.

3:53pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/ZqrjJy2X_rek
  
Filed under: Writing 
January 11, 2011

I added a Recommend Me link to my header in case you’d like to. I make sure to recommend another Tumblr blog every week; this time my click goes to Small Camera Journal, a celebration of shooting with whatever you have on you, be it a camera phone, a compact or something with interchangeable lenses. I encourage you to check it out.

10:34am  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/ZqrjJy2WscBD
  
Filed under: recommend tumblr Writing 
Liked posts on Tumblr: More liked posts »