Packing Solution for Checking Laptop & Cameras on International Flight


Thousands of flights and hundreds of thousands of passengers will be affected daily if the United States extends its so-called laptop ban to all international flights. For now, electronic devices more significant than a cellphone are banned from the cabin on flights bound for the United States from 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa.


Traveling internationally has a prominent “IF” hanging over you when you travel with a laptop and other electronics, as most photographers do.

I needed a bag that, if/when they decide the laptop and cameras must be checked into the cargo hold, the gear is as safe as I can make it. I just bought the new ThinkTank StreetWalker Rolling Backpack v2.0.

STREETWALKER® ROLLING BACKPACK V2.0 on the left and the Airport Security V2 on the right.

While this is smaller than my Airport Security V2 I can put the laptop on the inside of the zipper and lock it with a TSA lock. This will make it a little more secure and protected than with the TakeOff that I also own.

The front flap on the Takeoff is designed for laptop, but not much padding or way to lock it.

My gear inside the StreetWalker Roller

I have been playing with what camera gear I will take with the laptop. I can put my extra batteries and cords in my ThinkTank Urban Approach 15, designed for smaller DSLR or mirrorless cameras.

Now, if I can keep the laptop with me, it will stay in the Urban Approach 15.

If the rules change, I will be prepared on the international flight to hand over my gear, including my laptop. I cannot afford to sit at the gate and discover the rules had just changed that day.

STREETWALKER® ROLLING BACKPACK V2.0 Side pockets look like a great fit for water bottles.

Here is another configuration from the ThinkTank website with Nikon Gear.

Today’s Photos of Memorial Day – Georgia National Cemetery

I saw many who would sit and stay for a while near their loved ones resting place at Georgia National Cemetery in Canton, Georgia. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 250, ƒ/16, 1/100]

Today I went again to the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton, GA. The flags were at all the graves. Family and friends had left flowers for all those who had been buried at the cemetery.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/250

Visiting the Georgia National Cemetery is a time for families to tell the stories of their family and close friends. They gave their lives for our freedoms to their children so that they, too, would understand what Memorial Day is all about.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 140, ƒ/14, 1/100

Many headstones had multiple flower arrangements. This one also had a Challenge Coin. A challenge coin is a small coin or medallion (usually military) bearing an organization’s insignia or emblem and carried by the organization’s members. Traditionally, they are given to prove membership when challenged and to enhance morale. In addition, they are also collected by service members. In practice, unit commanders usually present challenge coins in recognition of a unit member’s exceptional achievement. They are also exchanged in recognition of visits to an organization.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 140, ƒ/13, 1/100

Flowers, coins, military airborne patches, an American flag, and hand-drawn art adorn this grave. This is where you see the service’s impact on the whole community. Comrades leave the patches—coins for those to remember who also served with them. Flowers left by the family or friends and drawings from the children to say how much they miss their soldier.

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 220, ƒ/1.8, 1/8000

Memorial Day was a response to the unprecedented carnage of the Civil War, in which some 620,000 soldiers on both sides died. The loss of life and its effect on communities throughout the country led to spontaneous commemorations of the dead.

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 220, ƒ/1.8, 1/8000

In 1971, the Monday Holiday Law shifted Memorial Day from May 30 to the last Monday of the month.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/250

This is what Memorial Day is all about. Take the time to remember the sacrifices of those who gave their lives in service to our country so that we might enjoy the freedoms of our democracy.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/320

On May 30, 1868, President Ulysses S. Grant presided over the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery—which, until 1864, was Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s plantation.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 100, ƒ/7.1, 1/250

Families from all over the country came to pay respects to their loved ones this Memorial Day at the Georgia National Cemetery.

Memorial Day – A time to pause

This is my Uncle 2nd Lt. James Stanley Leary, Jr., who was killed on Saipan by the Japanese on July 6, 1944. He is the one standing.

Georgia National Cemetery is the second national cemetery in Georgia and the 123rd in the national cemetery system. A private citizen donated the 775-acre site to the National Cemetery Administration in 2001. At maximum capacity, 330 acres of the site will be developed for burials; the remainder of the site is too steep to be used for interments. Historically, the site was used for logging purposes and residents’ hunting grounds.

Today I went to the Georgia National Cemetery located in Canton, GA. Due to the week’s rain, none of the American flags have been put on the gravestones.

This is how the cemetery will look once the flags are put in for the celebration of Memorial Day.

A good explanation of the differences of Veterans Day, Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day just before the Memorial Day holiday weekend (Kevin, PAO)

This is a great weekend to visit our national cemeteries around the country.

ON THE BEACH: On June 15, 1944, during the Pacific Campaign of World War II (1939-45), U.S. Marines stormed the beaches of the strategically significant Japanese island of Saipan, to gain a crucial air base from which the U.S. could launch its new long-range B-29 bombers directly at Japan’s home islands. The first wave of Marines takes cover behind the dunes on Saipan beach during the World War II invasion of the Marianas Islands. The soldier kneeling in the sand at the far right is Carl Matthews of Texas; second from right is Wendal Nightingale of Skowhegan, Maine; standing is Lt. James Stanley Leary of North Carolina. Neither Nightingale nor Leary made it home from Saipan; both are still listed as missing in action. [Time Life photo by U.S. Marine Sgt. James Burns]

Our family cannot go to the cemetery and find my Uncle James Stanley Leary’s grave. While we know he was killed in Saipan; the fighting was so fierce that two other marines died trying to rescue his body. His body was never recovered.

Here is a guide to the emblems you will see on the headstones in the national cemeteries.

The headstone with flowers has the Star of David which is the emblem for Jews. The Cross is for Christians.

I suggest paying attention to all the different faiths that have sacrificed for our freedom.

What I found interesting is that we had Muslims who served in WWII as Frankie Leroy Freeman.

There are even a variety of Christian markers.

Milton Robert Singer’s marker is for Community of Christ.
Peter E. Arnold is Presbyterian USA
A coin left on a headstone let’s the deceased soldier’s family know that somebody stopped by to pay their respect. Leaving a penny means you visited.

A nickel means you and the deceased soldier trained together at boot camp. If you served with the soldier, you leave a dime. A quarter is significant because it means you were there when that soldier was killed.

So what happens to the coins after Memorial Day? It is collected, and the money is used for cemetery maintenance, the cost of burial for soldiers, or the care for needy soldiers.

Supposedly the tradition became popular here in the United States during the Vietnam war. It is believed it was a way to show respect without getting into an uncomfortable political discussion about a very controversial war.

In general, however, this tradition can be traced as far back as the Roman Empire. It was a way to give a buddy some money for the hereafter.

It may surprise the casual visitor at Arlington National Cemetery to see a rubber duck on a headstone or an old football helmet lying in the manicured grass of a fallen soldier’s grave.

But this new generation of warriors is frequently remembered with mementos like beer cans, teddy bears, and even tiny bottles of hot sauce. The message in the souvenirs is unknown but likely very personal.

I saw service members remembering their friends. This marine left this for his friend.

I waited until he paid his respects to get the close-up of the Symbol of the Corps. The Eagle, Globe, and Anchor emblem has been part of the uniform since 1868 and became the official emblem of the Marine Corps in 1955.

The eagle with spread wings represents our proud nation. The globe points to a worldwide presence. The anchor stands for naval tradition. Together, they represent a dedication to service in the air, on land, and at sea.

Here is a suggestion for you. Please take a photo and post it to social media with your reasons that this moved you to pause and share.

Honor those who sacrificed for our freedom through a photo and a short caption.

Georgia’s 6th congressional district special election, 2017

Jon Ossoff and his fiance, Alisha Kramer, campaigned during the event held at Hugo’s Oyster Bar in Roswell, GA, on May 23, 2017. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 1600, ƒ/5.6, 1/100]

Covering a political campaign

If you are going to take pictures and use them to help inform people about politics, then you need to know what is going on in politics. I am biased about politics when I am posting on my blog. So this is more editorial view than journalistic. Last night I met Jon Ossoff in person, and this is just me sharing my photos. However, how I approached the shoot was influenced a lot by my views.

I live in Georgia’s 6th congressional district, where the biggest race occurs. Most multiple meaning the most money ever spent on a congressional seat in the history of the United States.

The total cost of the race now exceeds $30 million, quickly making it the most expensive U.S. House contest on record. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the previous record was a 2012 Florida contest that cost nearly $29.6 million.

A special election will be held on June 20, 2017, to determine the United States House of Representatives member for Georgia’s 6th congressional district. Republican Incumbent Tom Price resigned from the seat following his appointment and confirmation as the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Trump Administration. A primary election occurred on April 18, 2017.

Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel are running for office.

The Atlanta Journal and Constitution just reported:

More than 5,500 voters have been added to the rolls in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District after a federal judge ordered local counties to reopen registration this past Sunday.

The total includes two types of voters: the newly registered plus so-called “transfer” applications — already registered Georgia voters who initially moved into the district after March 20, when the registration period closed.

Jon Ossoff campaigned during the event held at Hugo’s Oyster Bar in Roswell, GA, on May 23, 2017. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 28800, ƒ/4, 1/100]

A new poll shows Democrat Jon Ossoff with a 7-point lead against Republican Karen Handel ahead of the runoff election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.

Of the 700 voters interviewed in the SurveyUSA poll conducted for Atlanta TV station WXIA, Ossoff leads with 51 percent compared to Handel’s 44 percent. Six percent of respondents were undecided, and the margin of error was 4.3 percent.

Newt Gingrich was the turning point for this seat from Democrat to Republican back in 1978. He held that seat until 1998. Johnny Isakson and then Tom Price followed him.

Jon Ossoff and his finance, Alisha Kramer, campaigned during the event held at Hugo’s Oyster Bar in Roswell, GA, on May 23, 2017. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 2500, ƒ/5.6, 1/100]

The election to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price could be Democrats’ best opportunity until the 2018 elections to demonstrate that their base’s anti-Trump movement can be weaponized to kick Republicans out of office — maybe even to take back the House of Representatives for the first time since 2010.

The election’s frontrunner, Democrat Jon Ossoff, has capitalized on the anti-Trump sentiment. “Donald Trump is an embarrassment and a threat to prosperity and health, justice, and security in the Sixth District,” Ossoff has said. “I’m running to stop him and to fight for our community in Congress.”

Jon Ossoff is swarmed by his fans while campaigning during the event held at Hugo’s Oyster Bar in Roswell, GA, on May 23, 2017. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 4500, ƒ/8, 1/100]

I believe the key to understanding why political unknown Jon Ossoff has risen to the top is the problems with Republicans. The race has exposed stark divides between the Republicans over health care, tax overhauls, and foreign policy.

I believe the influence of fundamentalist Christians in the Republican party hurt the party. In response, some Christians started to oppose their views.

The Chicago Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern began with a confession that evangelicals had failed to defend the rights of the poor and oppressed and had been complicit in racism. It attacked the unjust distribution of the nation’s wealth, the “pathology of war and violence,” sexism, and the “the temptation to make the nation and its institution’s objects of near-religious loyalty.”

FitzGerald, Frances (2017-04-04). The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America (Kindle Locations 4432-4435). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Jon Ossoff is swarmed by his fans while campaigning during the event held at Hugo’s Oyster Bar in Roswell, GA, on May 23, 2017. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 2200, ƒ/4, 1/100]

I am seeing the most significant growth in America as what is called “Nones.” Here from Wikipedia:

Americans without a religious affiliation represent about 20% or more of the population, and since the early 1990s, independent polls have shown their rapid growth. They include agnostics, atheists, deists,[e] secular humanists, and general secularists.

Unaffiliated Americans are sometimes referred to as “Nones.” Though having no religion and not seeking faith, they have diverse views: 68% believe in God, 12% are atheists, and 17% are agnostics; in terms of self-identification of religiosity, 18% consider themselves religious, 37% consider themselves as spiritual but not religious, and 42% considers themselves as neither spiritual nor religious; and 21% pray every day and 20% pray once a month. According to the 2008 ARIS, the Nones have diverse beliefs: 7% were atheists, 35% were agnostics, 24% were deists, and 27% were theists.

Jon Ossoff is swarmed by his fans while campaigning during the event held at Hugo’s Oyster Bar in Roswell, GA, on May 23, 2017. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 1400, ƒ/4, 1/100]

This shift and the Republican Party that catered so much to the “Moral Majority” has found their base has left them.

Top voting issues in 2016 election

I believe the shift isn’t away from the faith but a shift to what I think Jesus taught his disciples.

John 13:34-35

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

I believe that the Christian right has been wrong for a long time. They are condemning people as the Pharisees did in the time of Jesus.

Mark 2:14-16

14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

People today are concerned about how to live within the community. They need jobs and the burdens of medical care and taxes controlled. They are worried about not being persecuted. They want leaders who will help level the playing field so that we are all treated equally in the eyes of the law.

Chelle Leary, Jon Ossoff, his fiance, Alisha Kramer, and Wendy Hoback campaigned during the Hugo’s Oyster Bar in Roswell, GA, on May 23, 2017. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 2200, ƒ/8, 1/100]

Robin Rayne Nelson a Storyteller Chasing Rainbows

Robin Rayne-Nelson was the guest speaker at the Cherokee Camera Club in Canton, GA. Robin shared his passion for special needs and the LGBT community. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/25]

Robin Rayne-Nelson asked the members of the Cherokee Camera Club, “What’s your passion?”

The “Deer in Headlights” syndrome is how so many responses to this question. There are many ways we are asked this question in our lives.

  1. “If you had unlimited money, what would you do?”
  2. “If I had unlimited time and resources, what would I choose to do?”
  3. “If you had unlimited resources, what problem would you solve?”

Finding your passion is finding your purpose in life. You can’t think your way into finding your life purpose; you have to do your way into it. The experience is the reward; clarity comes through the process of exploring. Action is where you get results.

You may need to explore those things and places in your life that have brought you the most joy. This is where your heart was moved.

[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/25]

Robin gave us a clue as he shared that his passion was getting choked up, and the tears began to flow when he told you some of the back stories on the piece he shared about special needs.

“I am sorry I am getting so emotional …” said Robin. I was thrilled that a camera club saw Robin’s heart and how this motivated him to make stories about special needs.

If something moves your heart to tears or great laughter, that is a good indicator of your passion.

One major stumbling block for many of us is thinking that we need ONE passion. Most of us wear multiple hats during the day; we are a spouse, a father, a co-worker, a friend, a photographer, and so on. You can have many passions that you pursue.

One of the keys to understanding my passion for me was to realize that people moved my heart. My wife moves my heart more than anyone. He cares so much for people and surprises them that he inspires me to be more intentional with others.

One thing that gets in the way for me regularly is overthinking it. I want to have everything thought out so that things will go well when I do act. I wouldn’t say I like being embarrassed.

Robin and I share a passion for telling people’s stories. What was interesting to hear from the questions people were asking Robin is that many of them also want to tell stories.

The problem is their fear of rejection from people. “How do you get people to let you take their photo?” was a question asked by many Robin.

Robin said, “Before showing the rainbow, you must go through the storm.” Robin reminded them that there is always some conflict in storytelling, and covering such a conflict means we as storytellers must become vulnerable. We must be transparent with the subjects if we expect them to be okay with us.

Robin told everyone that he leaves his camera in the car and often spends time talking and getting to know the subject first. Then he asks if it is OK to share their story and take some pictures/videos.

Robin asked another rhetorical question, “Whose responsibility is it for the special needs people?”

Robin has a special needs son, and only recently, after some 33 years of taking care of Chris, has his son moved out with the help of some community resources to an apartment. What motivated Robin to advocate for Chris realized his son would outlive him.

Not everyone with a special needs child can take care of them. They don’t have the resources and often lack the skills experts can give their children.

If you are around Robin for a very long, you will hear him say their story needs to be told, and I have to describe it. The words were never spoken, but always there are, “If not me, then who will tell the story?”

You may already know your passion. I have the privilege to work with Chick-fil-A as one of my clients. This past Friday, they rolled out their redefined core values.

– Here to Serve
– Better together
– Purpose Driven
– Pursue What’s Next

I have been thinking about what I would write as my core values. Maybe it is just articulating that I am passionate about helping people and organizations tell their stories more effectively than they can alone. Also, to narrow down from everyone to where my gifts are, I have a genuine concern for working with those whose work is focused on compassion.

Take a moment not to think about your passion, but think of something to put on your calendar that is an action item today that makes your heart happy.

Here are some story packages that Robin Rayne-Nelson has produced.

Marking Milestones

Chelle’s graduation from Roswell High School

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

Deuteronomy 31:8

Sometimes when driving on roads, the scenery doesn’t change all that much however you do have those mile markers letting you know how far you have come and how far you have to go.

High school graduation is one of those milestone markers in our lives that we stop and celebrate.

This past Friday, my daughter graduated from high school. While our daughter Chelle did all the heavy work for all those school years, we, as her parents, were her cheerleaders.

Dorie and Chelle on her graduation night.

My daughter and another student were chosen to give a welcome at the graduation. Here is that presentation:

With each hug and congratulations came the question of what is next for you.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11

I have been thinking about my grade as a parent. How well did I do in helping my daughter prepare for this day?

We are very proud of all her accomplishments and realize how much better prepared she is than my wife and I was at her age. We felt like we did a good job getting her to this point.

I feel like there are a few things I wanted to be sure to give to my daughter. One of those is my faith. This is something that she will have to make her own and not that of mine or her mother. It will be something personal with God.

Chelle’s english teacher Samira Bregeth

We also know we didn’t do this alone. Teachers played a massive role as her classmates as well.

We invited our friends and family to celebrate Chelle’s high school graduation at our home for a party.

Chelle enjoyed having her friends from all parts of her life to a party at our house.

We invited our friends and family to celebrate Chelle’s graduation from High School.

Over 100 people stopped by to congratulate Chelle.

While high school graduations are one of the significant milestones in our life, sometimes we need to be reminded that each day and sometimes just making from moment to moment can be a milestone for us.

29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:29-31

While graduations and weddings are about the graduate and the couple, they remind everyone of their graduation and marriage. Some may not have had them, and others will recall their own. This is a time to set that pause button on our lives and reflect. To reflect on all the obstacles, we have overcome and celebrate those victories.

My daughter exceeded any expectations that I had for her. She made her mother and me proud of all she has accomplished and the young woman she has become.

4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— 6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Corinthians 1:4-9
Chelle is having fun at her graduation.

With all the friends, family, teachers, and coworkers that all came to celebrate with Chelle and our family, there was one moment this weekend where I felt the proudest. It wasn’t her speech, but on the way to pick up the official diploma in the gym, she stopped and talked to a few janitors. She told them to thank her for all their hard work, for helping her to have a clean school, and for revealing to them that she would miss them.

Some friends of mine have put rocks on a table in their foyer where they have written down some milestones in their life. They did this to remember what obstacles that have been conquered to remind them of how God helped them through those times so that they would have the strength to endure the following challenges. It is based on 1 Samuel 7:12

12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.”

1 Samuel 7:12

Take a moment today and hit the pause button. What can you celebrate?

The photography digital learning curve is now a plateau

Georgia’s #5 Terry Godwin Wide Reciever is tackled by North Carolina’s #90 Naxair Jones defensive tackle after a reception during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff at The Georgia Dome on September 3, 2016. [Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 40000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

The photography digital learning curve has flattened out these past couple of years.

In 1993 we were shooting the film in those days, and now we are all digital. While PhotoShop was created in 1990, it wasn’t until 1993, when I left Texas with my master’s in communication to go to Georgia Tech, that I started to use it. It was only a few years before we were shooting the film and processing it to be scanned and not make prints. We would shut down our darkroom and outsource the processing of the film.

The digital learning curve we all jumped on involved going to workshops and conferences to learn how to scan and use PhotoShop, and by 2002, I leaped digital capture with the Nikon D100. By 2008 most of us have mastered most of the industry’s technologies. TTL flash, High-Speed Sync, Soundslides, and even video were understood, and most of us were only behind in mastering the storytelling as a one-person band.

Georgia Bulldog’s #2 Defensive Back Maurice Smith breaks up the pass to North Carolina Tarheel’s #3 Ryan Switzer in their win over UNC 33 to 24 during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game at the Georgia Dome on September 3, 2016. [Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 36000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

Me, I was pretty comfortable with all the technology by 2005. The advances for me were more like when Kodak or Fuji introduced a new film stock. It gave us new capabilities, but there wasn’t much of a learning curve, just the ability to capture even more.

Buying new gear today is reversing that learning curve. The cameras do so much more than those early models and are more straightforward.

If you have questions about a setting for a specific situation, you can Google that question and find the locations or even a video on how to set the camera.

The downside to the learning curve leveling off is workshops and seminars are shrinking. The reason this is sad is not so much about the learning curve but the fellowship and time to get to know others in the field.

We no longer get together with the closure of so many camera stores and labs. There is not the ROI that there was before for getting together except for the emotional bonding.

I am working on a meeting for FOCUS to happen this summer in Atlanta to give us the opportunity for some inspiration from a few photographers and, most importantly, a chance to meet others in the industry, so stay tuned.

Take a moment today and call a photographer friend and catch up. If you live in the same town, get together for coffee or lunch. I promise you will be glad you did. It will help you and the other photographer.

Volunteer Mission Trip or NGO Trip: Camera Tips and Story Tips

[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm. ISO 2000, ƒ/11, 1/500]

In summer, many will take some of their vacation time and travel to volunteer with their church mission trip or donate their time to NGOs.

Why take a camera when I have my phone?

Most smartphones have cameras that have fixed lenses. All smartphones fall into the wide-angle lens bracket, typically around 24-30mm [35mm equivalent]; the larger the number, the less wide the lens angle.

Due to the lens limit, most people crop up to take closer photos.

Most smartphones’ light sensitivity tops out around ISO 800; however, some go to ISO 3200, but as that ISO creeps up, the noise and quality of those photos diminish quickly.

Three Camera Recommendations

First is the compact camera with a good zoom range. Here are four to consider for your next trip.

The second category is the bridge camera. Bridge cameras are a versatile and affordable alternative to DSLRs, offering the same kind of manual controls and a huge zoom lens that covers everything from wide-angle to super-telephoto photography.

Here are four that will work great for anything you want to photograph.

The next category is mirrorless cameras. The mirror mechanism of a DSLR is complex and noisy and adds to the camera’s weight, and that’s where the mirrorless camera or compact system camera comes in. They keep DSLR cameras’ big sensors and interchangeable lenses but ditch the mirror to produce a smaller, lighter, and simpler camera.

Here are five I recommend to take a closer look at as an option for you.

I have left the DSLR off the list because I am finding more and more people are enjoying the mirrorless for travel over the DSLR.

When traveling for a client, I shoot with my Nikon D5 because it will work better in any situation than any other camera I could find on the market.

Beyond the camera

Buy extra batteries and memory cards for your trip. Always have one spare battery and a different memory card with you. If your camera takes two cards, you should be acceptable depending on the size capacity. You will be fine today with 32 GB and 64 GB cards. Buy the most significant capacity cards and have one or two extra, depending on how much you like to shoot.

Tips for what to shoot

One of the best things you can have in mind when you are shooting is how you plan to use the photos later. There are generally two things I like to always think of as my end product.

Slide Show

First is a slide show that will be projected or online as a video. A slide show is pretty typical for a church mission trip. A good rule of thumb for a 2 – 3 minute slide show is about 40 – 60 photos.

These talks usually happen in two ways: project a photo and manually advance the images as you talk. The second is just the same show, but it is self-running. You record your voice with your computer or phone and then put your images with that soundtrack. Here is a simple way to do it on a Mac:

Here is how you do it on a PC using Windows Live Movie Maker


Second, I like to create a coffee table book from my trips. Again, the number of photos is also about 40 – 60 to have something substantial. I recommend using to make the book. If you use Lightroom’s latest version, the book tab uses a blurb as the printer.

Here is the Lightroom way of actually creating the book.

What to shoot?

I suggest shooting to a storyline. Come up with a working storyline before you go, and then shoot to the storyline as you travel.

Your storyline will likely change once you get there and start experiencing everything. That is OK. It is normal. Just adjust and continue to shoot.

[Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 640, ƒ/6.3, 1/100]

Now, if you are going with your church on a mission trip, you may have an objective to communicate the problem that your team solved. For example, you may go on a building trip where you finish a project. While that is what you did, don’t tell that story. Instead, tell the story of why they needed the building. Show where they were meeting for services, and then maybe show the group meeting in the new facility when it is done.

[Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 11400, ƒ/6.3, 1/250]

Sometimes, your objective is to have a call to action. For example, maybe you went and helped build a school, but you want the audience to help support a child to go to that school. Tell the story of the child’s life if they don’t get to go to school, and then tell the difference the school will make in their lives.

I use Chris Vogler’s storyline as a template and keep it in mind as I shoot.

Francesca in the Community Garden for Honduras Outreach [Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 450, ƒ/14, 1/250 – SB-900 off camera triggered with pocketwizards]

While thinking about what and why I am telling a story, I also create an essential shot list to help tell the story.

  • Opener: Sets the scene for the story
  • Decisive moment: The one moment that can by itself tell the story
  • Details: Besides being like visual candy to the report, help often with transitions–especially in multimedia packages
  • Sequences: give a little variety to a situation
  • High overall shot: Gives a good perspective on how the elements all fit together.
  • Closer: Other visual ways, besides the classic shot of the cowboy riding off into the sunset, help close the story.
  • Portraits: These photos are great for introducing the characters of the story

If you go with a team, try to get everyone to work together. This way, you can pool all the photos together and have everyone contribute quotes from the people you helped.

Each night you are on your trip, take a few minutes at dinner to review what you have seen that day and whether someone took photos of it. Then, look at the pictures and be sure you have good images to use.

Make a list of things you missed that day to get the next day, and then those things you think you are missing that haven’t happened yet.

If you take a few minutes each night and journal your day on who you met, where you went, and what you learned, you will have a great story worth sharing.


Record some of the people you meet using audio or video. The point is to have in their voice quotes that you can drop into your slide show or later in your book.

Don’t try to tell us all you did and saw on your trip. Instead, stay focused on the “WHY?”. You may have a lot about what you did and how you did it, but that isn’t what hooks the audience. Keep your audience on the edge of their seats with the why of the stories.

Monday Devotion for Photographers: Purpose Driven by God

Proverbs 3:5-6

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

One of the most passionate people in the bible was Saul. You may know him by his Roman name of Paul, which he used more after the encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road.

He was one of the most learned men in the New Testament. He had command of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. His purpose was to pursue truth, and before the Damascus Road, he saw the fact as it was taught to him and interpreted the scripture.

I believe many Christians would find themselves similar to Saul. They have been brought up in the church and studied the scripture. They listen to their Sunday School Teachers and Preachers and seek to serve God as they have been told and their view of the scripture.

Maybe we are like Saul and are fearful of no one except God. I wonder if God had been trying to get Saul’s attention before the Damascus Road experience. The thing I notice in the story of his conversion, which you can find in Acts 9:1-19, was Saul’s response to the voice of God, “Who are you, Lord?”

All this time of service, Saul’s to God, and he didn’t know God.

Saul, blinded by the light, would spend three days not eating or drinking but just in his thoughts.

Are you like Saul?

Have you been reading your scriptures and listening to the Sunday School Teachers and Preachers? Maybe you, too, are persecuting the Lord.

Priests in many churches will burn incense before the reading of the Gospels.

The smoke symbolizes the prayers of the faithful drifting up to heaven: the Psalmist prays, “Let my prayer come like incense before you; the lifting up of my hands, like the evening sacrifice” (Psalm 141).

This key element seemed to be missing from Saul’s life before the Damascus Road. He was lacking the direction of God. Saul had read the scriptures and interpreted them without God.

All this happened to Saul to regain his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

The Archbishop of Atlanta, His Excellency The Most Reverend Wilton Daniel Gregory, S.L.D., presides over the Eucharist during The Mass of Canonical Installation of His Excellency The Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory, S.L.D. at the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

The key to the change in Saul’s life was his purpose was to be aligned with God’s purpose rather than his alone.

Are you busy today doing “Good,” or are you seeking God to know his will for you?

Nikon D5 ISO 64000 bails me out with a Rodeo

Cowgirl ropes calf the Celebrate Freedom Rodeo at Wills Park in Alpharetta, GA. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 Sport, ISO 64000, ƒ/2.8, 1/3200]

Any camera manufacturer has never sponsored me. Most of what I have gotten from them were gifts they give at trade shows. So, all my comments are just how I feel about my gear. However, I do want to disclose that for the equipment links, while you pay the same price, I get a small percentage of that sale.

I went to the Rodeo just a few miles from my house. The Rodeo started at 8:00 p.m. under a covered arena. By the time the cowgirls were roping calves, it was a little after 9:00 p.m. and after sunset.

The few sodium lights there were just not all that bright. Not for sports.

Cowboys competing in the team roping during the Celebrate Freedom Rodeo at Wills Park in Alpharetta, GA. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 Sport, ISO 64000, ƒ/2.8, 1/3200]

My go-to settings for sports on my Nikon D5 are:

– Auto ISO with high set to 64000
– Shutter speed 1/4000
– Aperture wide open

The camera peaked out and dropped the shutter speed right away to 1/3200.

Cowgirls compete in barrel racing during the Celebrate Freedom Rodeo at Wills Park in Alpharetta, GA. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 Sport, ISO 64000, ƒ/2.8, 1/2500]

Soon, I was shooting at 1/2500, with ISO 64000. I noticed many people there with their cameras early on, but as the night progressed, I think most of those cameras couldn’t get anything in the low light, but my Nikon D5 was delivering.

Cowgirls compete in barrel racing during the Celebrate Freedom Rodeo at Wills Park in Alpharetta, GA. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 Sport, ISO 64000, ƒ/2.8, 1/2500]

Now, you can see how the color differs from the two frames of cowgirls going around the same barrel. This is due to the Sodium Vapor lights that are cycling. Depending on when you catch them, the color will shift. Often, there is a streak through the image of a color shift and a slight exposure difference.

A cowboy competes in the Bull Riding event during the Celebrate Freedom Rodeo at Wills Park in Alpharetta, GA. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 Sport + 1.4X, ISO 64000, ƒ/4, 1/800]

I didn’t get Rodeoe rodeo early enough to pick a prime location to shoot from. I finally managed to get a spot on the very top of the stands, but they were a little ways away when the bull riders came on. I put the 1.4X converter on and lost another stop of light. I was now shooting with an aperture of ƒ/4 instead of ƒ/2.8 without the converter. Also, that part of the event was when all the light was gone from outside the arena, and I dropped my shutter speed to 1/800.

A cowboy competes in the Bull Riding event during the Celebrate Freedom Rodeo at Wills Park in Alpharetta, GA. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 Sport + 1.4X, ISO 64000, ƒ/4, 1/800]

I continued to get asked if the Nikon D5 was worth the purchase. This is an excellent example of photos I would not have gotten with my Nikon D4.

The photos from the darkest part of the event, bull riding, look better than my ISO 800 images from just a couple of years ago with my Nikon D2Xs.

The color, to me, is better than Kodachrome could have delivered.

This is the gear that I used to cover the Rodeo.

Little Cowboy enjoys the Celebrate Freedom Rodeo at Wills Park in Alpharetta, GA. [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 640, ƒ/1.8, 1/160]

Now, for this last shot I took when I first arrived at the Rodeo of the Little Cowboy, I used my Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4. I love the image so much that I just had to share it with you, even though ISO 640 was used for this photo.

Here is a link to purchase this lens.

Good Work Habits Lead to More Work

Instilling Good Habits

There are two good reasons why it’s essential to instill the habit of making the bed every morning. First, it does feel good to know we’ve made our bed for the day. While it’s a small task to consider, it makes much difference in getting things done. Considering it’s the first thing that should be done in the morning, it can give a good sense of accomplishment. That’s the same feeling I want my kids to experience. If they experience it at a very young age, they can develop the habit of getting things done.

Cleanliness is the second reason why it’s essential to instill the habit of making the bed in the morning. The bedroom looks a lot cleaner. It boils down to the responsibility of taking care of yourself.

Pam Goldsmith, a world-renowned violist who has played in movies like Avatar to Michael Jackson’s Thriller Album, teaches Chelle in her home studio space. [Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 2000, ƒ/9, 1/60]

Work Habits

Be sure you are neat, tidy, and clean where you work. Make sure your desk or workstation is neat, clean, and pleasant. Clear perishable rubbish immediately and wash your mug at the end of the workday. The same attitude applies to the general office area and restrooms — use them considerately for others to enjoy.

Employees wait to be told what to do—entrepreneurs think strategically about what needs to be done and then do it. Employees do their job well—entrepreneurs are committed to the team doing healthily—so they mentor other employees, pitch in when needed, and go that extra mile if it means the work is going to be done better.

This little shepherd boy is part of the Fulani tribe known for being herders and working in Soubakamedougou, Burkina Faso village. The Marlboro company gives hats to the young cowboys to promote their product in Burkina Faso. [Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-125mm, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/90]

Work for yourself

Successful freelancers/entrepreneurs are those who are not just making their beds and leaving things neat and tidy for others, but they have personal projects every day. I call these passion projects.

A passion project is something you work on (often outside of your chosen career path) that gives you satisfaction and happiness and puts you in a flow state. It’s what you do to escape it all. It’s your contribution to the world.

Be sure that you Focus on Results, Not Just Activities. It isn’t about the to-dos you’ve knocked off your list—it is about the quantitative results of your work.

For me going and helping missionaries and NGOs around the world is my passion. I help them tell their stories better than they can alone. I come alongside people and capture their passion projects.

My focus on these projects isn’t about traveling and meeting people in different places. My passion is helping someone talk about their love for a people group and business in the world that they want to help improve.

When I am done, I want to hear that because of my work by capturing photos, videos, and audio of their work, their supporters are giving more, and their number is increasing. Sometimes I hear my work helped local indigenous people understand their job and are better connected locally.

Passion Project – My Blog

One of my passion projects is this blog, which grew out of my other passion for teaching.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 20000, ƒ/8, 1/100

I realized that many I was teaching were not taking good notes, and my goal was for them to succeed. I started by posting some of my teaching assignments with examples in blogs.

Know How to Pitch Ideas (the Right Way)

Once you have been doing things for yourself and see how this has improved your life, it is much easier to pitch an idea to someone else. However, if you lack good work habits for yourself, what do you have to offer to someone else?

Smart people are full of ideas—but brilliant people also can sell those ideas to everyone else, sharing not only why the picture is a great one but how it will impact the team and business.

Don’t worry about perfection. Put your energy into taking action. It would help if you failed now and then. It is essential to try new things, be willing to learn and grow, and constantly strive to get to the next level, even if you make a mistake or two.

Successful people know exactly what they need to get their work done—and they’re not afraid to make it happen.

Questions for thought

  • Did you make your bed today?
  • Do you have an ongoing personal project?
  • Do you have something on your calendar to do for your project?
  • When was your last failure, and what did you learn from it?
  • When was your last pitch to someone for an idea?
  • What is your next idea pitch?

Dress for Success

Nikon D750, 28-300mm, ISO 2200, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

My good friend Robin Nelson and I enjoy catching up over coffee, and our latest conversation was about how surprised we are about how photographers dress on jobs.

Now above is my good friend James Dockery getting a video in a church in Romania. Dressing in dark colors like James is doing here is typical for photographers to blend in at events.

Nikon D750, 28-300mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/125

The photographers wore dress shirts and dark outfits at my friend’s wedding.

Now I would recommend that photographers avoid jeans at formal events like weddings. Dark dress pants should be something you have in your wardrobe for formal occasions.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 2200, ƒ/5, 1/100

Atlanta Business Chronicle Byron Small wore a suit when setting up an interview with The President of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/5.6, 1/30

The President’s photographer is also in a suit while covering his visit to Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta.

However, these are the photographers at the top of their field. Robin Nelson and I noticed that many who struggle for jobs are often the worst-dressed photographers.

I made a few black dress shirts with my logo to wear to formal events and then had some casual shirts with my logo for other events.

I think you need to dress as close to the people you are covering at an event as you can. I even own a Tuxedo and wear this for black tie events.

My favorite shoes, which are also crucial for comfort, are the Clarks Wavekorey Free shoe.

My recommendation is to be successful; you need to look the part. So start by dressing for success.