Gadling Gear Review: Booq Python Courier Camera Bag

As digital SLR cameras continue to grow in popularity, new buyers will inevitably be looking to purchase a good travel bag to protect their investment. A high-quality camera bag not only allows them to tote their gear around safely, but also keeps it well organized and close at hand. It doesn’t hurt if that bag provides a healthy dose of versatility and happens to look great too.

The Python courier from Booq certainly meets that description and then some. This sling bag is made of high-quality ballistic nylon that is both water resistant and incredibly durable. In fact, everything about this pack screams quality, including the thick interior padding, rugged buckles and seat-belt style nylon shoulder strap. The result is a camera bag that should securely and comfortably carry all of your camera gear for many years to come.

While the Python’s exterior is certainly impressive, Booq hasn’t skimped in any way on the interior either. The cavernous main pocket has plenty of room for a digital SLR body with an attached lens, as well as up to four more additional lenses. Adjustable padded panels give the pocket a measure of customizability to accommodate a variety of different equipment sizes. A second internal organizational pocket keeps other items, such as spare batteries, memory cards and pens, neatly in place, while a handy clip ensures you won’t misplace your keys while traveling either.

A third pocket on the back of the bag features a water-repellant zipper and is large enough to comfortably carry an iPad, MacBook Air or other tablet or small laptop. Those devices have become indispensable tools for professional photographers and travelers alike and the inclusion of this well-padded, extra pocket is a nice touch on the part of Booq. I found that while testing this pack, having this extra pocket actually made it possible for the Python to serve as my carry-on bag. With plenty of room not only for my camera gear and iPad, but also an iPod, smartphone, earbuds and just about everything else I needed for a trip, I generally didn’t see the need to carry anything else.Booq’s attention to design extends to the look of the Python as well. At first glance you wouldn’t suspect that this is a camera pack at all, as its general outward appearance resembles that of any traditional messenger bag. In fact, the Python can actually become a full-blown courier pack when needed. The inner padding that serves to protect and organize camera bodies and lenses can actually be completely removed to allow other items to be stored inside. That means that this pack can pull double duty, acting as a workbag for day-to-day use and a tough camera bag when on the road.

I found the Python to simply be a joy to use. It is as comfortable and durable as any camera bag I’ve ever put to the test and far more organized than simply throwing your lenses and SLR body into a daypack, which is often my typical modus operandi. Booq has a legendary reputation for creating high-quality products and this bag more than lived up to that reputation. Not only have they created a bag that looks great and provides plenty of versatility, but it is also logically designed for ease of use as well. While I personally prefer a backpack for most of my travels, this is a sling pack that definitely won me over and has me reconsidering my options for future trips.

I’d be remiss in writing this review if I didn’t mention Booq’s Terralinq program. Each of the company’s bags comes with its own unique serial number ID and bar code displayed on a metal label somewhere on the pack. When the bag is registered with Booq, that serial number can be used to connect an owner with his or her gear in the event that it becomes lost or stolen in the future. Of course, we all hope that we never need such service, but it is nice to know it is available just in case.

If there is a knock on any of the products offered by Booq it is likely their price. The Python retails for $179.95, which definitely puts it at the higher end of most camera bags on the market. But much like the various options for buying luggage for your travels, you often get what you pay for. Anyone who has ever purchased cheap luggage knows that it typically doesn’t last long and you end up replacing it sooner rather than later. The same holds true for a bag like this one. The Python is likely to last you a lifetime, while a less expensive bag will show the wear and tear of travel much sooner. Besides, after spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on your camera equipment, don’t you want to protect it with the best bag possible? Yes, the Python by Booq is more expensive than some of its competitors, but it is also worth it in every way.

Gadling gear review: Sun Sniper Pro camera strap

For many of us, travel and photography are a natural combination. After all, it isn’t enough to simply visit a destination, we also want to capture the essence of that place and bring it home to not only share with friend and families, but for own memories as well. The advent of digital photography has made this easier than ever, and as a result, more people than ever now own cameras.

Digital SLR cameras in particular have become incredibly popular. Not only do they give you more control over your images than their point-and-shoot counterparts, but the ability to change lenses as needed gives them a higher level of versatility. They are heavier and bulkier however, and on an active trip, they can be a challenge to lug around all day. The Sun Sniper Pro camera strap can help alleviate those issues, while also providing a higher level of security from theft as well.

The Sun Sniper has a simple, yet ingenious, approach to keeping your camera safe and out of the way when not in use, while also remaining ready for action when you want to capture that perfect shot. The strap incorporates a specially designed connector that actually screws tightly into the tripod socket on your DSLR, immediately making it feel more secure than the strap that comes standard with most cameras. Once locked in place, a special D-ring allows the strap to spin around the fastener, which means the strap stays well out of your way, even when you want to capture actions shots on the go.

The basic design of the strap also helps to cut down on the amount of movement from the camera while it’s slung across your shoulder, helping to reduce fatigue. The benefit of this isn’t always evident at first, but you’ll appreciate it after having a heavy camera on your hip all day, particularly if you’re hiking or climbing over difficult terrain. A built-in shock absorber helps to reduce wear and tear on the body as well, making the whole travel photography experience a better one.
While the Sun Sniper Pro is a more comfortable option for active photographers and travelers, it wasn’t only designed with that in mind. DSLR owners invest a lot of money in their cameras and lenses, which can make them a tempting target for thieves, who will often simply cut the strap with a knife and disappear into a crowd with the goods. Sun Sniper has incorporated a thin, steel cable into the strap however, which makes it incredibly tough to cut through, adding a much appreciated extra level of security. The company is so sure that their straps are secure in fact, that they offer $500 worth of insurance to their customers, covering the loss of camera equipment, should the strap be cut. While that isn’t much money for replacing a good DSLR, it is nice to know that Sun Sniper stands by their products in this manner.

I’m a very active traveler and have often struggled with keeping my camera close at hand while on the go. To make things worse, I usually have a backpack of some kind on as well, which adds another level of challenge to situation. The Sun Sniper Pro helps to alleviate some of those challenges however, thanks in part to the length of its strap, the ability to adjust its fit, and the unique design of its tripod socket fastener. It took a bit of fiddling to get everything just right, but once I had it adjusted to my needs, the Sun Sniper proved to be a far better option than the strap that came with my camera.

If you’re a traveler who doesn’t go anywhere without your camera, you’ll find plenty to like with this product. It is comfortable to wear, keeps your camera close at hand and ready to shoot, while also providing an added sense of security. With an MSRP of $88 the Pro model isn’t for everyone, but for serious photographers, it is well worth the money.

Top ten U.S. spots for photography

As full-time traveling photographers, my husband and I have traveled all over the U.S. in search of the most beautiful cities and sites to photograph. From the vast open desert to towering urban skylines and raging river canyons, we’ve compiled the top 10 best places to visit for photographers. You’ll find a few well-known favorites along with some unique photography hot spots where you’ll find new inspiration. Grab your camera and let’s get clicking!

10. Seattle, WA
From gorgeous harbor views to the dramatic Mount Rainier, Seattle is city with plenty of photographic appeal. Wake up early and head down to Pike Place Market as the vendors stand claim their booths for the day. From photos of vibrant street life to stunning views of the waterway, Pike Place Market is the place to start your photo adventure in Seattle. If you are lucky enough to be in Seattle during the month of June, the Freemont Summer Solstice Parade is a photographer’s dream come true! Watch as thousands of people parade down one of Seattle’s most eclectic streets, leaving little to the imagination with colorful painted bodies and wild parade floats. It’s a blizzard of color and activity not to be missed.

Of course no trip to Seattle is complete without a trip to the Space Needle. We highly recommend shooting this famous structure at night. Behind the Space Needle is a museum designed by Frank Gehry, another beautiful structure to photograph. If you’re into architecture, continue on to Seattle’s Public Library for a few more shots. Walk along the waterfront for more camera opportunities, visit the Sculpture Gardens and if you have time, and be sure to venture out on one of the giant Ferry Boats to enjoy a ride to one of the Port cities, taking in Seattle’s majestic harbor along the way.
9. Outer Banks, NC
Sand dunes and peaceful shores await you on a photographing adventure to North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Travel north past Whale Head Bay and walk along the oceanfront, if you’re lucky, you can photograph wild horses as they run through the sand and splash in the water.

Travel along Corolla Blvd. to the Currtick Beach Lighthouse for the most beautiful sunset over the still waterways. Photograph pelicans landing on the gazebo and the lighthouse just as the sun drops below the horizon. Travel south and take a ferry to Ocracoke, a quaint town offering a diverse photographing experience and beautiful views of the ocean.

8. Las Vegas, NV and Red Rock Canyon, NV
The lights! The glitz! The shine! From the bizarre to the beautiful, Las Vegas has it all for photo hunters. Schedule a trip to the Neon Graveyard to photograph the old neon signs of Las Vegas. Then head down the strip to the New York, NY hotel, The Venetian, Caesars Palace and Paris for some impressive neon-lit hotel shots. Every night starting at 8:00 pm make your way to the famous Bellagio water fountain show. The lights, the water and the amazing formations will have you clicking a mile-a-minute to keep up with this amazing display.

When the neon of Vegas is too much, head out to Red Rock Canyon Park. The park is about 15 minutes away from the strip, and boasts a 10-mile loop through some of Nevada’s most beautiful landscapes. Be sure to get there for sunset and watch the mountains change colors as the sun goes down. Beautiful rock formations, wildlife and scenic overlooks will delight any shutterbug.

7. Asheville, NC
Asheville, NC offers a wealth of options for camera-toting visitors, from historic sights and natural wonders. Start with a drive on the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway and stop at amazing vista points. Travel the nearby hiking paths to see wildlife, waterfalls, and beautiful pines. Visit Chimney Rock Park and the Carolina Mountain trail for more leisurely hikes and photo experiences. For the more rigorous hikes, try the Dupont State Forrest and an unforgettable photography experience. Of course, no trip to Asheville is complete with out a trip to the Biltmore Estate. The luxurious gardens and historic mansion offer an abundance of great scenes to be snapped.

6. New York, NY

New York City is an urban photographer’s dream come true. From the lights of Broadway to the Bakeries of Little Italy, the “picture perfect” photo opportunities are everywhere. Our favorite spot to shoot in New York City is Central Park. Nestled amongst thousands of skyscrapers, this urban sanctuary offers countless photography opportunities. Head to the Central Park Zoo in the Northern end of the park, or photograph the beautiful lake as boaters enjoy the city skyline. Then move to the famous historic carousel, and hop on! The views are beautiful as you take your camera and steady it on a the ride’s colorful circus animals.

In the winter visit Central Park’s ice skating rink, where hundreds of children stumble on the slippery ice with their parents. Take a stroll in the fall through tree lined paths, and in the spring enjoy the blooming spring flowers. Central Park can be enjoyed during any season, and offers the perfect picture taking experience.

5. San Francisco, CA

For photography lovers, San Francisco is the perfect mix of natural and urban. Start your day below the Golden Gate bridge to capture this amazing structure in the early morning light. Then head for Fisherman’s Wharf for the street life and views of Alcatraz. The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park is another photographic must, with beautiful gardens surrounded by the dramatic city views. End your day by heading across the Golden Gate Bridge for the Marin Headlands. Head to the water surrounded by rocks and grassy hills and if you are lucky enough, see wildlife grazing in open fields.

4. Joshua Tree, CA
This extraordinary National Park in Southern California is one of the most spectacular natural wonders in the United States. Located about an hour East of Palm Springs, Joshua Tree has no shortage of amazing wildlife, scenery and fascinating rock formations to photograph. Of course, the park’s Joshua Trees are the main attraction, their odd silhouettes outlining the skyline at dusk.. Be sure to head to the vista point over the San Andreas Fault to stand this amazing geological oddity. Make sure to stick around for the picture-perfect sunset.

3. San Diego, CA
There is not a bad time of year to photograph sunny San Diego! One of the most beautiful spots in San Diego is Torrey Pines State Park. Dramatic cliffs lead to the spectacular ocean and shore line. Between January and March head to the park’s cliffs, overlooking the ocean. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of the whale migration from Alaska to Baja, Mexico, perfect for some dramatic photos.

Next head to Balboa Park for beautiful photography opportunities of gorgeous buildings, and complex landscapes. Then make your way North to La Jolla to check out seal beach, where hundreds of seals bask in the sunny shores. And of course no photography trip to San Diego is complete without going to Mission Beach. Walk the two mile boardwalk for spectacular views and a gorgeous sunset, and of course Belmont Amusement park, at the end of the boardwalk.

2. Grand Canyon, AZ
The Grand Canyon, one of the natural wonders of the world, lives up to its reputation in every way. There’s no shortage of photographic experiences in the Grand Canyon either. A photo-taker could spend days in one single spot and never get the same image twice. Wake up early to see the brilliant sunrises or stay late for sunset and watch as the mountains change colors. Stop at all the scenic overlooks as you drive from one end of the park to the other. Be sure to find a hike that is comfortable for you to really get into the depths of the canyon.

1. Jerome, AZ

A hidden gem located between Sedona and Cottonwood, Jerome, Arizona is a town of 500 people embedded into the surrounding mountains. Situated on the beautiful switchbacks, Jerome offers photographers an amazing view of the valley and mountains below.

Once a fading mining town, Jerome has been revived in recent years by a growing community of artists. Every thing about Jerome is an artistic photograph waiting to happen, from the old doors to quirky light fixtures. The beauty of Jerome can be seen any time of day, but sunset is an experience you won’t soon forget. Jerome might be small, but its beauty is big, making it our favorite spot to take our cameras.

From coast to coast, America is packed with great photos waiting to happen. So, head out with your camera, find a new place, and be sure to snap a few shots along the way!

* 10 great cities (around the world) for photography
* 24 greatest cities in the world for drinking beer
* 15 more great cities for drinking beer
* The 25 greatest cities in the world for drinking wine
* The 20 greatest cities in the world for foodies

Before you go, be sure to check out Travel Talk, in which the guys visit a highly photogenic spot: the top of Manhattan.

Daily deal – Nikon D40 Digital SLR camera + 18-55mm lens + 4GB memory card for $392

My daily deal for today is a great way to get one step closer to professional style photography.

This Nikon D40 Digital SLR camera is one of the cheapest dSLR kits on the market at the moment, and at $392 for the camera, basic lens and a free 4GB memory card, it is a true steal. It is on sale at Abe’s of Maine, one of the most reliable online camera vendors in the country.

Sure, the camera is “only” 6.1 megapixels, and the lens will be in need of an upgrade once you get a hang of being a pro, but it will certainly produce better results than most point and click cameras.

As with most SLR’s, the camera will usually end up being the cheapest part of your investment. Once you start dropping money on extra batteries, a bag, more lenses and a ton of memory cards you’ll be feeling like a (poor) pro before you know it!

I’ll also admit that I suck at making photos. As a geek, I purchased a dSLR quite early on, and the lack of an “idiot button” forced me back to my trusty point and shoot camera after just a few days. Thankfully our own Karen Walrond has posted a nice collection of educational articles and some handy tips on how to make great photos.

The Nikon D40 kit comes with the camera itself, a basic 18-55mm lens, a battery with charger and video/USB cables. The deal includes a free 4GB memory card. To get the price down to $392, you’ll need to add a couple of promotional codes; when you start the checkout process make sure to add “NKDS50” and “LOYALTY10”, and you’ll magically see the price go down to $391.95. Shipping is free, and sales tax is only collected in NJ.

Talking travel with Shutterfly’s resident photographer

Dane Howard is the photography portal Shutterfly‘s resident photographer and author of The Future of Memories, a book about sharing photos in the digital age. He’s here today to talk about some secrets of the trade–and to give us the scoop on today’s launch of Shutterfly’s new travel site.

What photography equipment do you take on your travels?

When I have a targeted 2-hour segment of shooting, I like to walk with my digital SLR, the Nikon D40x. I’m like a soldier for visuals. I’ve outfitted my Nikon with a hand-strap, allowing me to freely walk with my finger on the shutter button at all times. If I’m planning on taking large area photos with a single shot, I’ll bring along my Nikkor 18-55mm wide angle lenses, a lens hood to reduce flare and increase contrast.

A small, lightweight tripod is really useful when it comes to time-lapse or night shots. The Joby Gorillapod is awesome because it works on uneven surfaces and can even be wrapped around rails and branches.

When it comes to everyday shots, I’ll need something pocket size. I use my Panasonic Lumix LX2 or my Canon G9. These are my ‘everywhere’ cameras, which means I take them ‘everywhere.’ They allow me to shoot great photos and video. They are small enough to just slip into my pocket.

Extra memory cards are definitely a necessity because you don’t want to be caught in a situation where you have to delete pictures just to take more. And of course a battery charger–do not forget that! If I’m traveling to a foreign country I also make sure to bring a power adapter. I use the Belkin Universal AC Travel Adapter. I never shoot with the flash, so this extends my battery life while travelling.

How would you make the best of shots from a point-and-click? Any tips?

  • Find Visual ‘Book-ends’: Think about the visual elements that establish a new scene. These can be either a sign or entry into the successive shots. By establishing a shot that gives context, you help build a stronger narrative.
  • Panoramic POV: Photos are magnificent because they can really get the span of a beautiful view. One of my favorite techniques for the photo books that I make on Shutterfly is to create panoramic layouts by facing two “full bleed” pages.
  • Take your time. Take a moment to observe your environment and take shots from different angles to make sure you get the best lighting, background, and character of your environment.
  • Close-ups: You’ll never forget to take the wide panoramic, but you’ll want to remember the details. Don’t forget to capture the Macro shots of an important detail, like a table setting, glass or ornate door or structure. Focus on textures, like ripples on a lake and various materials on city buildings. You’ll want the juxtaposition later.
  • Use people or objects: Put them in the foreground/background to help convey the scale of your subject matter and to make the picture more visually interesting
What advice would you give to travelers who want to move away from the cheesy “me-standing-in-front-of-the-Eiffel-tower” shots?

I would definitely suggest trying different perspectives than the predictable shots. Not only is it more fun for you, but it makes it more interesting to those you share your photos with. For example, if you are taking a picture of a monument or sign, stand below and look up at it versus the usual front and center point of view. Or another unique approach is to take a picture of the monument/sign reflected in another object.

How do you land those “slice-of-life” shots of locals?

I stay put. Usually when you travel you’re always on the go. I often observe and set a camera on a key ledge or table where I know the locals will pass by. If you are on the move, so is your camera. I like to show ‘local fare’ by shooting two shots of a local passing through their space. This gets to the essence of local movement, thus local behavior. If I have time, I’ll switch over to movie mode and capture an audio track along with the video. I may use this later when I share the memory.

It’s always good to venture away from the tourist shopping areas to check out the local market where residents buy their groceries. Check out local hangouts and neighborhoods away from downtown.

What are some tips to telling a narrative through photography?

Context, context, context. Choose and drive the context of the story you want to tell through your pictures. If you know what context you want your narrative to be told in, it makes it much easier to stay focused. This helps in the process of actually taking pictures while out and about as well as when you have to choose the best pictures that you want to include in your story and how to do it in a cohesive sequence.

No matter what you choose your narrative direction to be, enjoy the process of gathering a body of work aligned with something that gives you the freedom and creativity to author something you will enjoy for years to come.

What are your favorite digital solutions for preserving and displaying vacation photos?

I really love online sites like Shutterfly for photo books. Vacation photos can be shared individually or by album. You can also create a photo book with captions and share the beautiful finished product with friends and family.

I also use VUVOX, which enables me to quickly showcase and share my photos in rich presentation styles. I use this on all the time.

Top 3 photography travel blogs?

  • Europe: I love his emphasis on Europe through the Back Door. I find helpful hints, stories and insight by his site and the community that follows it.
  • Daily Practices: I must practice what I preach, and when I re-read my own material and from contributors of my own book, I am reminded why I am so passionate about the future of memories and sharing this information. These convictions help push me to make my photos and my work better, wherever I go.
  • Shutterfly Gallery: Shutterfly Gallery is a community that provides readers with inspiration for storytelling, tips, and encourages them to be active in the community by contributing their own photo books. You can learn a lot here. They’ve also introduced “Hit the Road with Shutterfly,” a new destination for travelers to find inspiration on where to go this summer and how best to record and tell tell the story of their summer journeys through photos.