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Lightweight, Convenient and Protective

At this year’s Wedding and Portrait Photography International expo, I spent several hours talking to vendors of cameras, equipment, accessories and services. The people at the Think Tank booth, gifted me a small accessory for everyday use.

This accessory goes by an unorthodox name: My 2nd Brain 11. I suppose the name suggests that all of your necessities can be easily kept in this single case.

The “11” refers to the size of a tablet or notebook that it can hold, in this instance an 11″ model of either.

Load up the case with what you need, throw it over your shoulder and you’re ready to attack the world.

The inner pocket is well padded and provides protection for my iPad. The outer pocket is perfect for holding my cell phone. A non-zippered pocket on the reverse side conveniently holds standard letter-size papers.

The case opens wide and has several elastic-mesh pockets for securely holding pens, business cards, notepads, more. The padded shoulder strap is fully adjustable.

My 2nd Brain 11 comes in black and green. The suggested price of My 2nd Brain 11 is $85.

Think Tank also has larger My 2nd Brain cases for 13″ and 15″ tablets or notebooks.

For more information, please visit Think Tank.


Written by: Arnie Lee





Keeps your camera close at hand

At this year’s Wedding and Portrait Photography International expo, I spent a considerable amount of time talking to many of the 200+ vendors of cameras, equipment, accessories and services. Spider Holster was one of these vendors that caught my attention.

The Spider Holster set of accessories provides a way to carry one or more cameras conveniently at your waist. The system uses a pin (ball-joint) mounted on a plate that attaches to your camera body. The ball-joint pin securely slides into a slot on a waist-mounted holster. The camera literally “hangs” at your waist leaving your hands free until you are ready to shoot again.

The camera hangs at the shooter’s waist with the lens facing backwards. If the shooter kneels, the lens will remain facing backwards and out of the way.

The pin bracket screws into the camera’s tripod socket. Notice that there are two positions to mount the pin. One position is for a left-hand holster and the other position for a right-hand holster.

The holster attaches to a waist belt. The ball-joint slides into to holster and has a safety latch to prevent the camera from inadvertently detaching.

Representative Ashley Cavanaugh is sporting a single holster. You can also attach a second holster to the waist belt enabling you to swap between two cameras.

To the right is a variety of brackets and plates. One of the plates lets you mount the camera directly on tripods that require an Arca-Swiss mount..

The SpiderPro single camera system includes the holster, the camera plate, the pin and single cam belt. The suggested price of the single camera system is $135.

The dual camera system includes two holsters, plates and pins and a dual cam belt. The suggested price of the dual camera system is $235.

For more information, please visit Spider Holster.


Written by: Arnie Lee





Wrapping Up the Event


The cold and snowy winter days in Michigan have me longing for a warmer respite. So the call of the exciting Wedding and Portrait Photography International Conference and Expo is excuse enough for me to hop on a plane to visit the warm climes of Las Vegas.

The goal of the conference portion of WPPI is to hone the skills of professionals who specialize in weddings, portraits, video, school and sporting photography. Classes, seminars and photo walks are led by noted pros and educators who share their techniques with attendees to help grow their business.

The expo portion of WPPI takes place in a huge hall where manufacturers of photo equipment, accessories, materials, and services can present their products to attendees.

The venue for WPPI was the huge Las Vegas Convention Center. Event organizers told me that the show outgrew the space at MGM Center. The LVCC was easily able to accommodate the 13,000 attendees and 230 exhibitors.

Convention goers are attracted to WPPI by the many well-know photographers and instructors that conduct more than 200 different classes. You may recognize some of their names and work: Joe McNally, Sue Bryce, Joe Switzer, Lindsay Adler, Tamara Lackey, Me Ra Koh, Bambi Cantrell, Katrin Eismann, Bob Davis, Jerry Ghionis, Roberto Valenzuela and Julianne Kost to name a few.

At the expo, I made my way through the exhibit hall and stopped often to listen to many of the seminars and demonstrations sponsored by the major equipment manufacturers. Here’s a quick look at a wide variety of topics presented to attendees.

Lighting Techniques

A Nikon Demo

Self-Portraiture & Posing

presented by Brooke Shaden

Posing the Family

presented by Michele Celentano

Nikon Ambassador

Dixie Dixon

with an attentive audience

Photojournalist Joe Bussink

Talking Mirrorless Cameras at Fuji

My stay in Las Vegas was short but I did talk to dozens of equipment and accessory suppliers during my visit to WPPI. As soon as I get my act together, I’ll review some of items that caught my attention.


Written by: Arnie Lee



WPPI 2017

20th January 2017

Wedding & Portrait Photography International

Conference and Expo




In just a few days, the WPPI Convention will be underway. I’ll be heading out to the (hopefully) warm climes of Las Vegas to attend this annual gathering that takes places from Feb 5th through Feb 9th.

The WPPI is for photography professionals who are looking to enhance their various skills – posing, lighting, printing, marketing and sales. More than 200 classes are taught by expert photographers and speakers. In addition to the core wedding and portrait photography classes, a new Professional School & Sports Photography (PSPI) program has been developed to capture this growing segment.

To accommodate an expected 12,000 attendees, the WPPI has moved to the spacious Las Vegas Convention Center. These classes are led by 175 instructors including notables such as Katrin Eismann, Julianne Kost, Lindsay Adler, Joe McNally, Jerry Ghionis, Roberto Valenzuela, Bambi Cantrell and Bob Davis to name a few. Click here to see the wide variety of classes and instructors.

The expo portion of the convention has some 250 exhibitors in the hall showing the newest cameras, lenses, equipment, lighting, accessories, supplies, marketing material and services. All of the major camera manufacturers have booths where they demonstrate their latest wares.

For more information on this year’s convention, please visit the WPPI Conference & Expo website.

I hope to see you there.

Written by: Arnie Lee


Missing in Action

07th October 2016

PhotoPlus Expo 2016

The PhotoExpo Conference and Expo is scheduled for October 19-22.

It’s a great way for anyone wanting to advance his/her photography skills – lighting, posing, business, etc – or wanting to get hands-on look at the newest equipment and technology. PhotoExpo 2016 takes place at the Javits Convention Center in the New York City.



Due to some personal issues, I am unable to attend this year’s PhotoExpo in New York City. Why not you take advantage of the show?


Written by: Arnie Lee



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PhotoPlus Expo 2016

28th September 2016

Like A Kid in A Toy Store

As a long time follower of all thing photographic, I’m attracted to places where I can see, touch and fawn over new and innovative photographic equipment, accessories and services.

The upcoming PhotoPlus Expo 2016 Conference and Exposition is magnetically drawing me to New York City where more than 250 exhibitors will gather to show off their latest products and services. It’s the largest photography and imaging show in North America and has the distinction of more than 30 years of continuous operation.

Additionally, dozens of noted professionals and instructors will conduct 100+ of in depth seminars and classes demonstrating posing, lighting, wedding, portrait, marketing and photofinishing techniques.

Over the many years that I’ve been attending PhotoPlus seminars and demos I come away a little smarter as a photographer. Unfortunately (for my wallet), I also leave itching for new camera equipment and accessories.

The conference includes daily photo walks where attendees will explore the sites and streets of New York City accompanied by well-known professionals.

One standout is the Drone+ Seminar led by photographer George Steinmetz as he shows his aerial films. Also joining him are representatives form the FAA that will explain regulations concerning commercial drone photography.

PhotoPlus takes place October 19-22 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. With the completion of the #7 subway last year, getting to Javits is an easy ride from other areas of the city.

If you share my enthusiasm for photography, visit PhotoPlus Expo 2016 for more details. Maybe I’ll see you there.


Written by: Arnie Lee



Drive By Cross Country

22nd August 2016

From the Midwest to the West at 75 mph

It’s a long way from Grand Rapids, Michigan to the western USA and when you’re driving there’s an awful lot of space between here and there. For those of us who enjoy traveling, there are many familiar sites along the amazing interstate highway system that connects the great expanses of our country.

My journeys are accompanied by a camera or two. These cameras usually stay packed until we reach our final destination. However, I have a nice little point-and-shoot which sits on the dashboard – waiting for me to grab it to capture “stuff” as we pass by at highway speeds. Below is an abbreviated scrapbook that shows you some of that stuff that we saw along the highway as we made our way from Michigan to California. Excuse me if some of the photos are 75mph blurry.


the rolling farmlands of Illinois

the paths between rows in Iowa are irrigation ditches

colorful clouds as the day nears sunset

huge irrigators watering corn

rolls of hay in Nebraska fields

gigantic stockyard in Ogalalla, Nebraska

Lincoln statue near Laramie, Wyoming

oil refinery in Sinclair, Wyoming

solitary monuments near Green River, Wyoming

steep upgrade ahead in western Wyoming

skyline of downtown Salt Lake City

salt processing factory near Grant, Utah

Tree of Utah sculpture

production company filming at Bonneville Salt Flats

mountains leaving western Utah

mighty diesels pulling freight at Battle Mountain, Nevada

hillside letter at Carlin, Nevada

work train near Lovelock, Nevada

weather approaching Reno at sunset

Lake Tenaya in Yosemite Nat’l Park – driving much slower!



the compact Canon SX710

it’s small but capable of recording excellent images



I hope you enjoyed our most recent cross-country adventure in these few photographs courtesy of my handy Canon SX710 camera.

Written by: Arnie Lee



“Wet” shots

25th July 2016

A “must-have” for the pool owner

For nearly thirty years my wife has been after me to build a swimming pool in our yard. Finally, I sort of succumbed to her pressure two years ago. But instead of building one, we found another home that already had a built-in pool.

I have to admit that the swimming pool has been a great addition for the family, especially for the grandkids who drop in regularly to cool off. This being our second summer as pool owners, we’ve hosted many ad hoc combination swim/BBQ dinners. This in turn has given me lots of opportunities to photograph the kids in action.

Late in 2013 I added a neat camera to my growing collection of equipment. The Nikon 1 AW1 had just been introduced as the first rugged mirrorless, interchangeable lens camera. The feature that won me over was the AW1’s underwater capability. Without having to use a bulky and expensive housing this compact unit is usable down to 49 feet. Additionally, it is shockproof from falls up to 6 feet and can operate in temperatures as low as 15 degrees F. Along with the camera, I opted for two lenses: a zoom 11-27.5mm (30-74mm equivalent) and a fixed 10mm (27mm equivalent).

For extra protection, I ordered two accessories: the orange silicone protective jacket and the convenient hand strap.


Here’s a sampling of how I use the AW1:


teaching one of the young ones to swim

a very cold and wet whitewater trip


underwater action

a pair of grandkids


lounging on top

half submerged, half above water



As an old school shooter, I’m both comfortable and used to messing around with the camera settings. However with the AW1, I’ve come to use it almost as a point-and-shoot camera. Of course the overwhelming number of images that I’ve shot have been in and around the pool, usually with lots of sun. Although I’ve haven’t changed the ISO, white balance, aperture nor shutter speed on the AW1, the photos have turned out well.

For those occasions when the natural light is low, pop up the built-in flash which works underwater too. Press the red-dotted button and you’re shooting movies – either above water or below water. And of course I can change lenses from the zoom to the fixed wide-angle.


All in all, I have found the AW1 great not only in and around the water, but it performs well on dry land too.


Written by: Arnie Lee



Summer Faces

31st May 2016



Just Faces

Here’s a small album of pictures that show you that Summer is here.





















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Earth Day 2016

22nd April 2016

Earth Day 2016

…the health of our planet has taken the back seat for a long while


April 22, 2016 – “The 46th anniversary of Earth Day.

This article has become an annual ritual to recount my thoughts since this movement was in its infancy.”

Earth Day

Happy Earth Day. The late Senator Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day way back in 1970. Yet for many mostly political reasons, Earth Day has remained a low profile movement that recognizes and encourages thoughtful consideration to our planet’s limited resources.

I’m not a tree hugger. I’m a concerned citizen who cares how our life habits affect the environment. But frankly, I’m amazed by those who refuse to accept our collective culpability and lax management of earth’s natural resources.

This past December 195 countries through the United Nations, unanimously ratified an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – an acknowledgement of the seriousness of climate change. So we are finally inching our way towards a gentler and kinder treatment of Mother Earth.

Let me digress for a short while as my mind becomes unstuck in time.

As a young adult I was attracted to Kurt Vonnegut‘s black humor. He died in April 2007 just prior to the original version of this article. News about his life and death took me back to the late 60’s when I was a student at the University of Michigan (U of M) in Ann Arbor. Vonnegut was invited to be “writer in residence” and as one of the most widely read authors of the day, he was sure to have a large, welcoming audience at U of M.

He often took breakfast at “The Brown Jug”, where he’d have coffee and smoke lots of cigarettes. Vonnegut claimed that smoking was the slowest form of suicide. My wife Kris, also a student, waitressed at here and on occasion would wait on him. Owing to a hearing difficulty she admitted that she wasn’t a very good waitress and frustrated Vonnegut with her (lack of) service. More to the point, his stay on campus as writer in residence ended prematurely when he left suddenly saying something like: “I’m leaving Ann Arbor since I have nothing more to teach you about writing.” So it goes.

The late 60’s was a very vibrant and exciting, yet conflicted era. From my high school yearbook a Charles Dickens quote describes the period: “it was the best of times and it was the worst of times….we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way”. This was the period of Viet Nam and Kent State, living off the earth and making peace, hippies and long hair. We were contemporaries of heavy metal, Motown, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, James Taylor and Woodstock music. With this as a backdrop, we happen upon the Earth Day 1970 teach-in at the U of M.

After Vonnegut’s departure, the folk song artist Gordon Lightfoot visited Ann Arbor. Gord had been drawing large audiences around the US, Canada and Europe. Here he performed his Canadian Railroad Trilogy (click for lyrics) for more than 12,000 screaming students. It is a poetic ballad describing the building of the railroads across Canada and the difficult tradeoffs between developing the economy and keeping the land pristine for the future – an apt way to point to the environmental conflict in musical terms.

Lightfoot’s concert was part of the first Earth Day teach-in, a gathering of some 50,000 in Ann Arbor to discuss, educate and find solutions to environmental problems created by the earth’s inhabitants. From all of the excitement and the energy which went into the production of the first Earth Day teach-ins, many of us believed that we were on the verge of saving the environment.

I was planning a career to revolve around conservation, ecology and recycling. I studied writings from the likes of educators and humanists Kenneth Boulding, Buckminster Fuller and E.F. Schumacher and took courses such as forestry, resource management and cost-benefit analysis.

My great enthusiasm for all things environmental waned not long after graduating with a degree in Natural Resource Economics. It was fully a year later that I was still trying to find a job in this nascent field. Instead, I ended up in the computer and publishing business. So it goes.

I tend to shy about from talking politics so I won’t comment on how well or how poorly us earthlings have done to improve the environment over the past 46 years. However, like others, I’ve seen a very large and urgent movement in recent years to resurrect many of the same or similar ideas from these earlier decades that call for a change in our lifestyles.

Of course there have been numerous events that have flashed attention on Earth Day. How about a song with a conservation theme: Conviction of the Heart (click for lyrics) was performed by writer/singer Kenny Loggins at Earth Day 1995 in Washington, DC.

A few years back we took two of our young grandkids to see The Lorax, a movie based on a Dr Seuss’ book. It describes a place where the trees have been clear cut so there are no trees left. Everyone depends on manufactured air to provide oxygen for their survival. Through battle with “industry”, the hero finally succeeds in planting a single tree. This act restarts the path to regenerating oxygen naturally. While the story is a little far fetched, it presents the oxygen depletion issue to a young generation.

Later, we took them to see another movie – The Croods which depicts the struggle of a family of cave people to survive in a deteriorating world. They survive through human ingenuity with inventions such as fire, shoes and wheels. I hope this isn’t the only lesson for our next generation – that technology alone is going to save our environment. Yes, we are quite ingenious. But a lot of us have reservations that technology by itself will solve our planet’s woes.

Photography and the Environment

So what does all of this rambling have to do photography? Well, to continue in the same vein, I thought it might be interesting to look at photography then and now to compare their individual environmental impacts.

At first, I thought this was going to be a “no brainer” – that digital photography yields huge environmental savings compared to conventional photography. But as I began to dig deeper, I see that there are two sides to this argument.

Conventional Photography

Having worked in several commercial photo labs long before the advent of digital, I’m familiar with the processes that are used in conventional (film-based) photography.

Most conventional cameras use a cartridge or canister filled with film for 12, 20 or 36 exposures. Each “roll” of film is individually packaged for sale in hundreds of thousands of retail locations. Besides the resources needed to manufacture the film, a considerable amount more are used to market and distribute the products.

Film derives its light sensitivity from a chemical mixture of silver halide that’s coated onto its surface. After being exposed to light by the camera, the film is first “developed” – the silver halide image is converted into a metallic silver and then “fixed” – the unused silver halide is dissolved. This makes the negative image permanent. Color film requires additional chemicals to form the dyes used to reproduce the various colors. And still other chemicals are used to enhance the drying of the photographic materials. In addition to these chemicals, a large amount of water is used to rinse and clean the chemicals from the surface of the film.

Conventional photographic prints are processed similarly using a silver halide sensitive paper and chemicals to develop and fix and wash the positive images. Most commercial photo labs make prints from each exposure on a roll of film.

The environmental impact of conventional photography is significant. A large amount materials is consumed to make film and photographic paper. A large amount of nasty and toxic chemicals are used to process both the film and prints. And an awfully large amount of fresh water is used in the process as well.

Digital Photography

At first glance, the coming of age of digital photography appears to have a beneficial impact on the environmental.

With digital, no longer is there a need for roll after roll of film. Instead a single chip (SD-card or CF-card) can capture hundreds, maybe thousands of images.

Now, these digital images no longer require chemical development. Rather, the images are immediately available to review while still in the camera. For permanence, the images can be copied to your computer hard drive for safekeeping, further enhancement and presentation.

Unlike conventional processing where each exposure is mindlessly printed by the photo lab, you can be more selective. Instead you can choose to print only the best of the best images. And it’s your choice to print them using a conventional photo process at your favorite photo lab or print them at home on your color ink-jet printer.

Regardless of which camera you’ve purchased, digital photography seems like a winner from an environmental standpoint.

The Rest of the Story

As with many things in life, digital photography has a few “gotcha’s” that cloud its environmental friendly moniker.

The upside is that digital provides big savings in resources by eliminating film, packaging, paper and chemical processing. However, digital shifts the resource burden to the manufacturing and maintaining of the personal computer. Yes, there are some who make do without a personal computer. These picturetakers bring their digital film to a photo lab to make their selected prints. But most picturetakers collect, organize, retouch, process and present their photographs using a personal computer.

While it’s dated, a United Nation report tells us that “the average 24 kg desktop computer with monitor requires at least 10 times its weight in fossil fuels and chemicals to manufacture, much more materials intensive than an automobile or refrigerator, which only require 1-2 times their weight in fossil fuels. Researchers found that manufacturing one desktop computer and 17-inch CRT monitor uses at least 240 kg of fossil fuels, 22 kg of chemicals and 1,500 kg of water – a total of 1.8 tonnes of materials.”

Of course a personal computer is used for other tasks as well, so it’s not fair to put the full blame for digital photography’s negative impact on the environment.

And to power all of these cameras, computers and accessories the need for electricity either from the wall outlet or batteries is climbing. Does this contribute to our CO2 footprint?

Not surprisingly, manufacturers are working feverishly to add new and amazing whiz-bang features to their cameras. But now instead of buying a conventional camera every ten years or so, the buying cycle for digital cameras is a lot more frequent. Read: more resources consumed.

Wrapping it Up

We can credit the overwhelming adoption of digital cameras for saving the environment from millions of rolls of film and the required chemicals to develop the the film and prints. In addition to the great quality of digital technology, we benefit from a huge reduction of harmful photographic chemicals.

Unfortunately, from an environmental standpoint, digital photography is a mixed bag when considering the pervasive number of new cameras and extensive use of the personal computer.

In his novel Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut might comment on this no-win situation with the phrase so it goes.

A while back, I wrote another article that might be of interest if you’re following the status of our environment.

After all of these years as an avid photographer I’m still a proponent of carefully using our precious natural resources. Aside from photographing family, my favorite pastime is nature and landscape photography. To see some of the ways that I commune with nature, please click here.

To the best of my ability I continue to practice “leave no trace photography” – disturb neither our wildlife nor its surroundings. Photography, whether conventional or digital, is a gift that lets me enjoy the wonders of our amazing world visually. I think many others agree.

Happy Earth Day!




More Information
Here’s a few articles that touch on the conventional vs digital photography debate.

For those of you who are interested in the movement, here is a link to one of the main Earth Day sites.

History of Earth Day


Written by Arnie Lee, former flower child and founder of Stay Focused.

Please leave your comments below or address your thoughts about this article, to Arnie via email






Canadian Railroad Trilogy

By Gordon Lightfoot

There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run

When the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun

Long before the white man and long before the wheel

When the green dark forest was too silent to be real

But time has no beginnings and history has no bounds

As to this verdant country they came from all around

They sailed upon her waterways and they walked the forests tall

And they built the mines the mills and the factories for the good of us all

And when the young man’s fancy was turning to the spring

The railroad men grew restless for to hear the hammers ring

Their minds were overflowing with the visions of their day

And many a fortune lost and won and many a debt to pay

For they looked in the future and what did they see

They saw an iron road running from sea to the sea

Bringing the goods to a young growing land

All up through the seaports and into their hands

Look away said they across this mighty land

From the eastern shore to the western strand

Bring in the workers and bring up the rails

We gotta lay down the tracks and tear up the trails

Open your heart let the life blood flow

Gotta get on our way cause were moving too slow

Bring in the workers and bring up the rails

We’re gonna lay down the tracks and tear up the trails

Open your heart let the life blood flow

Gotta get on our way cause were moving too slow

Get on our way cause were moving too slow

Behind the blue Rockies the sun is declining

The stars, they come stealing at the close of the day

Across the wide prairie our loved ones lie sleeping

Beyond the dark oceans in a place far away

We are the navvies who work upon the railway

Swinging our hammers in the bright blazing sun

Living on stew and drinking bad whiskey

Bending our old backs til the long days are done

We are the navvies who work upon the railway

Swinging our hammers in the bright blazing sun

Laying down track and building the bridges

Bending our old backs til the railroad is done

So over the mountains and over the plains

Into the muskeg and into the rain

Up the St. Lawrence all the way to Gaspe

Swinging our hammers and drawing our pay

Driving them in and tying them down

Away to the bunkhouse and into the town

A dollar a day and a place for my head

A drink to the living and a toast to the dead

Oh the song of the future has been sung

All the battles have been won

Oer the mountain tops we stand

All the world at our command

We have opened up the soil

With our teardrops and our toil

For there was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run

When the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun

Long before the white man and long before the wheel

When the green dark forest was too silent to be real

When the green dark forest was too silent to be real

And many are the dead men too silent to be real



Conviction Of The Heart

By Kenny Loggins

Where are the dreams that we once had?

This is the time to bring them back.

What were the promises caught on the tips of our tongues?

Do we forget or forgive?

There’s a whole other life waiting to live when

One day we’re brave enough

To talk with Conviction of the Heart.

And down your streets I’ve walked alone,

As if my feet were not my own

Such is the path I chose, doors I have opened and closed

I’m tired of living this life,

Fooling myself, believing we’re right

I’ve never given love

With any Conviction of the Heart

One with the earth, with the sky

One with everything in life

I believe we’ll survive

If we only try

How long must we all wait to change

This world bound in chains that we live in

To know what it is to forgive

And be forgiven?

Too many years of taking now.

Isn’t it time to stop somehow?

Air that’s too angry to breathe, water our children can’t drink

You’ve heard it hundreds of times

You say you’re aware, believe and you care,

But do you care enough

To talk with Conviction of the Heart?

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