Digital Tools of the Trade
I've been updating the current listing of my gear I'm traveling with and using for Bantayan Island content creation, photography, luggage & cases etc. and I've recently updated the gear listing as well as added some new product photography of what I've been using and why I use it, as many travelers around the world are now carrying laptops, cameras and such on vacation - and I've been getting emails from some travelers asking what I personally recommend that also travels well, so in that respect I enjoy talking about my personal brand loyalties & experiences.
Equipment I'm currently using and Traveling with: 2010-2012
* WACOM Intuos4 pen tablet: I use & highly recommend the Intuos4 medium pen tablet (WACOM upgraded me from the intuos3 4x6 in 2009) and find it absolutely essential for image editing (making/drawing complex delicate selections with a mouse are nearly impossible in PhotoShop) since the pen & tablet replicate a perfectly natural pen-on-paper feel, Once you try WACOM you'll never go back to a regular mouse or trackpad - I love this tablet so much that I use it exclusively with my notebook, even for 'regular' computing outside of PhotoShop, so I no longer use a mouse for anything, although I can if I choose to!
Dedicated Mouse Users: if you'd like to stay in your 'mouse comfort zone', WACOM makes it easy, as the intuos tablets do ship with the WACOM mouse (cordless, batteryless) that works directly on the tablet surface.
A Very Special 'Thank You' to Frances Wright, Kelly Ann and Staff at WACOM Technology Corp. USA for supplying the Intuos4 pen tablet to me in November 2009.
Olympus E-3 & E-1 Digital SLR Cameras
I've been shooting Olympus digital cameras since 1999 (Oly D340-R in 1999, 3000Zoom in 2001, E10 SLR in 2003) and the E1 is my 4th. Olympus digital camera and is a fantastic travel camera, especially considering the heat, humidity & dusty conditions in Philippines, due to its tank-like build quality in its magnesium alloy body , weather sealing on the body, switches & lens, its processing & shooting speed, and of course quality of the JPEG files, straight from the camera. (it's also very easy to use - very quick for street shooting)
With the E-1, I shoot SHQ JPEG at a very low 1.2 compression which is very close to lossless and its 5MP CCD gives me an aprox. 3.4MB file size (I don't currently shoot RAW) and it produces beautiful files that do not require a ton of post-processing in Photoshop.
The E1 is absolutely a top quality pro camera, and especially well-suited for harsh environments with wonderful ergonomics and feel, and I'd feel lost without it.
Purchased new in 2004, my E1 still looks & performs well at 8 years old...Thank You Olympus.
UPDATE NOV.2009: Olympus Factory Service in New York has performed a full service on the E1 camera, returning it to as-new shooting condition (replaced the shutter, main circuit board, focusing screen, rubber armor grips, card contacts and camera firmware)
UPDATE March 2010: Now shooting the Olympus E3 DSLR full time (the E1 is now a backup &/or 2nd. shooting camera) paired with the Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm f4 lens, and the Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm telephoto zoom, 2 of THE BEST digital lenses in existance.
The Perks: using the E3 means more detail at 10MP & cleaner files; less noise at higher iso and the same weather sealed (nearly bulletproof) magnesium alloy build quality as the E1; 5 frames per second sequential shooting speed & faster image processing, a huge bright 100% FOV viewfinder, plus the in-body IS sensor shift image stabilization absolutely ROCKS; works like a charm with all the Olympus Zuiko Digital lenses.
Shooting in harsh temperatures in a tropical beach environment: In my personal experience, this is where the E-3 absolutely shines with its overbuilt weather sealing and reliability, as the humid & dusty environment here wrecks and corrodes all sorts of electronic gear with extreme predjudice; very few things operate safely here in the long run.
Temperatures on the beach here can easily reach 90-100F degrees+ in the scorching sun, and the high humidity only adds to the extreme heat index, which can easily make it feel like 120F degrees, and I have never had my cameras fail; a testament to the rugged Olympus quality.
Note: The E-3 has now been replaced in late 2010 with the 12MP. E-5 DSLR which I very much wanted the chance to shoot with, but after many attempts I was not able to secure a review or loaner body from either Olympus Asia or USA as they do not seem to have an official presence in Philippines.
SanDisk EXTREME Compact Flash Media:
SanDisk EXTREME 8GB (for the E3) and EXTREME III 4GB (for the E1) Compact Flash Media: Perfect reliability, especially in the 95/100F+ degree heat of Philippines I've never had a CF card failure with any of my SanDisk media, even on extended outdoor beach photo shoots, where the internal temperatures of the (black) cameras might be higher than the outside air temperature at times, so thank you to SanDisk.
The EXTREME 60MB/s CF cards are 400X read/write speed, and are UDMA enabled for the fastest data capture, as well as being rated to be used in operating temperatures ranging from 25°C to 85°C (-13°F to 185°F)
Lenovo ideaPad Y410 14" widescreen notebook
Intel Core 2Duo CPU, T5800 @ 2GHz, 3GB RAM, WIN Vista 32bit OS) for daily work & editing; backups to the two WD 320GB Passport drives & DVD-R disks.
The ideaPad series notebooks are fast and have a beautiful 1280x800 resolution screen and support the Gateway 24" monitor's native 1920x1200 screen resolution on the HDMI out digital connection for my dual monitor setup - The smaller & lighter 14" ideaPad has been a very strong performing notebook for me when traveling.
Gateway 24" LCD monitor
The FPD2485W is an S-PVA professional panel perfect for image editing & graphic work; it does not change the horizontal or vertical contrast of images when viewed from different angles like the lower quality TN panels on the market, and the colors are gorgeous - bright & fresh.
...at 18lbs. with its stand attached (14lbs. for just the panel alone) it is clearly not intended for 'traveling', but my tools are my tools, and for 2007/2008/2009 I hand-carried the panel through the airport and onboard the aircraft in a large tote (well padded and with a sturdy fiber board cut to fit over the screen) using it both in Manila & Cebu City before getting it semi-permanently set up on Bantayan Island, and again - I've never had issues with my monitor in the Philippines Tropical environment; it performs beautifully.
My only mistake was not being able to buy 2 of these monitors, for a tripple screen monitor setup in my Mobile Office.
Custom wallpaper (shot in Santa Fe, Bantayan Island) for the 24" at 1920x1200 resolution AND 1280x800 on the 14" notebook screen (1 sunset image sized in 2 different resolutions, showing on 2 monitor screens) using DisplayFusion.
Here's the Updated 2010-2012 Listing of all the gear that I currently travel with.
* Olympus E-3 & E-1 digital SLRs two of the best built and performing travel cameras made, period...they both produce beautiful files and truly seem almost bulletproof.
* Olympus Digital Zuiko 14-54mm f2.8-3.5 lens (weather sealed, excellent glass; a perfect travel lens at a 35mm equiv 28-108mm focal length)
* Olympus SHLD-2 battery grip set (makes vertical shooting very easy and houses a powerfull 7.2V, 3400mAh Li-ion battery)
* Olympus FL20 flash (28mm. equiv. wide angle coverage, very small & compact)
The SanDisk Cruzer 16GB Titanium USB Flash Drive reads and writes at 15MB/9MB per second; and the Titanium case construction makes it incredibly durable for travel; I absolutely rely on SanDisk flash media.
* SanDisk Extreme Hi-Speed CF Reader: absolutely essential for the hi-speed Extreme & Ultra cards - I just aquired this in 2008 and it's truly lightning-fast, unlike other plain USB 2.0 "hi speed" readers that always seemed to choke on real hi-speed Professional Media cards; the speed of this reader will blow you away and save you a ton of time while post-processing.
* Western Digital Passport External Hard Drives: portable external hard drives (one 1TB, 750GB & one 320GB) small USB powered 5,400 RPM drives I very much rely on: very well built, reliable, quiet and very small - absolutely essential for content creation while traveling, as they don't require an external power supply and they've always performed well in my Tropical environment.
Western Digital's website
* LowePro TLZ-2 top opening holster bag seems custom fit for the E3/E1, attached grip AND 14-54 lens - LowePro makes the best & toughest soft-side bags, period. (I use a Black Diamond Carabiner to attach this bag to the front crashbar or rear luggage rack on the motorcycle) This bag is now 8 years old and is still protecting my gear.
* LowePro CompuDayPack Backpack: I Aquired this in Nov. 2007 right before my Philippines trip, and it's the best backpack for the Lenovo 14" ideaPad + E3 SLR and lens with room for more gear - again, LowePro comes up with a perfectly functional combination pack for photographers that performs flawlessly and just seems to laugh at the elements - very well made with very tough outer nylon skin & closed cell padding; my E3 fits into the bottom area with the battery grip AND 14-54mm lens both attached.
Pelican 1510 Case (airline carry-on) The BEST Insurance for my gear, period: if you travel w/a 15" or smaller laptop &/or cameras etc. that absolutely can not get damaged, wet or dusty, you need this case - it's tough as nails with a proprietary polymer shell, GoreTex membrane pressure valve, o-ring sealed and originally built strictly for cameras & lenses, the closed cell padding can be easily reconfigured to the gear I need. (it even floats in salt water with a full pack of 30lbs.)
My Pelican 1510 case has been personally Typhoon-Tested in 2006 when I needed a local and very experienced Fisherman to fetch me in Hagnaya with my case on his 17' open outrigger boat, in 8ft. high seas after I got stuck in Hagnaya on Cebu's mainland during a storm and needed to get back to Bantayan via the Tanon Straight (all the Ferries had been cancelled) - even though my 1510 case was banged around during the 90 minute ride & completely soaked in salt water; my camera & notebook were never disturbed and stayed perfectly dry. (this is a true story, but I do not recommend anyone attempt this, as many people over the years have drowned in small boats that were out in storms on these waters, so I won't be doing that again anytime soon)
* Pelican waterproof micro cases (models 1010, 1020, 1030 & 1040) tough, small o-ring sealed cases for the Passport Hard Drives, phones & such - I strongly recommend these hard cases for travelers, as they're the best insurance for small items you can't afford to get wet or damaged.
* Black Diamond Carabiners (Rocklock Locking & Oval Carabiners) for securely attaching various items including my E1 to my luggage, backpacks & motorcycle. Black Diamond Brand makes very strong genuine hard use, load bearing mountain climbing gear.
* Nokia 6822 & E61i GSM tri-band cellphones on the SMART Network: perfect for texting in Philippines with a split QWERTY keypad. Nokia makes very reliable, well built cellphones, and everyone in Philippines seems to want a Nokia; I'd certainly be lost without my Nokias and their QWERTY keyboards for very fast texting.
* SUREFIRE hi-power LED flashlights: SureFire inovates & builds the highest quality, weather proof tough & brightest illumination tools on the Planet, and their flashlights are used by many Federal Law Enforcement & Police Depts., as well as Elite Military & Special Forces Units worldwide - I've personally owned 5 of them (currently using 2 and keeping 1 as back-up) and they've never let me down; they've always worked flawlessly in emergencies and on the Bantayan Island back roads, and they absolutely THRIVE in harsh environments.
I use my SureFire lights daily and they've helped me get through a few Typhoons which passed through Luzon and we felt them on Bantayan Island in Cebu Philippines in 2006/2007/2008, and they were the ONLY source of light available in my location during those power outages unless you had a generator, and their long run-time LED lights have also gotten me down from Jungle Mountains in Cebu after dark, as well as helping friends locate me at night when I've had flat tires with my motorcycle on the Island, and the one time I ever ran out of fuel on the highway after dark.
In 2010 I'm using the G2 LED & the dual output E1L Outdoorsman LED and I have my Late Father's E1e as a backup (the 9P & E2D were stolen in 2007 & so I've taken to carrying & using the smaller LED lights with very long run times)
Nokia Phone Cam image
My current favorite Surefire tool is the small E1L at 45 lumens on HI for 8hrs/3 lumens on LOW for 48hrs (YES, light for 2 DAYS in a row) and I'm constantly amazed at how much light the E1L pumps out at length, in the many areas of Bantayan Island that are underlit or not lit at all; I use my overbuilt-like-a-tank E1L every single day here for insurance at night & during storms/power brownouts and it's never ever failed me.
If SureFire's the brand of choice for the world's elite Military Units in the most God Forsaken places & climates where equipment failure is not an option - then it's also worth the extra money for your own personal safety.
I don't travel without SureFire lights and I absolutely recommend them to everyone, especially travelers.
* BOSE Companion 2 Series II powered speakers (no sub, just 2 desktop wedges) They're the best sounding (non-sub) powered speakers I've found for their size, and very durable for traveling...I love the way these sound and they are constantly on while I'm at the 'mobile office' as well as sounding sweet for nightly DVD movies after a full day of shooting & editing on Bantayan Island.
Thank You to my Sponsors:
Nancy at Tristan's Beach Resort in Santa Fe
Denis & Family at CouCou Bar & Restaurant in Santa Fe
Andy at Blue Ice Bar & Restaurant in Santa Fe
Joan at Beach Placid in Santa Fe
Dirk at Bantayan Cottages, Santa Fe
Hanul Sarang Flight Travel Arrangement Services: Mactan Island, Cebu Philippines
Gerry at White Beach Bungalows, Santa Fe
Thank You to my Family:
My Father Harold (Sept.1924 - Dec.2007) My Sister Karen & my nephews Justin, Alec & Evan
Thank You to all my friends on pBase.com, dPreview.com, and Trek Earth/TrekLens.com
Special Thanks to:
Cathay Pacific @ JFK Airport New York for Superior Customer Service
Frances Wright at WACOM USA
Elizabeth Francia, Chief of Staff - Office of the Governor, Cebu
Association of Hotels/Resorts, Bars & Restaurants: Bantayan Island, Santa Fe
My Good Friend & Photographer Kevin Weir: Afghanistan & South Korea
Thank You to my friends on Bantayan Island:
Eumel Lopez @ Kermit's Restaurant in Bantayan Town
Henrik Karlsson at the Floating Bar
Juan & Bernie at Yooneek Resort in Santa Fe
Michael & Family at Marlin's Beach Resort in Santa Fe
Jupiter Batayola, MD. in Bantayan Town
Ghie & Family
Rosalinda/LittleFish, Kuya David, Mama Helen & Family
Shane & Grace Preston
Patricia Hudson, John Hudson & Family
Leif & Family
Alan & Leah
Roan & Family
Les in Australia
Robert at White Sands
Riza & Lindo Gigante
Mr. Saturn at GraphicStar in SM Mall Cebu (business cards)
Ronan Lim at Robbie Stickers in SM Mall Cebu (wowBantayan.com stickers)
Jeff Trimble & Crew, and Steven Clarke (USA airport transfers & good vibes)
*and to all the local people of Santa Fe, Bantayan Town, Madridejos & the small Barangays around the Island
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