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gear review: F-Stop Gear’s Kenti bag

me sporting the Kenti at the City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia

 

Disclaimer: I am not a huge fan of backpacks — camera bags or otherwise. However, I fully recognize their practicality and comfort over shoulder bags, so when I recently had the opportunity to take F-Stop Gear’s Kenti bag on a 2-week trip involving urban, architecture and landscape photography, I jumped at the chance to use it extensively in the field. I had taken it for a spin a few times over the last couple of months, both around town and in Gatineau park, but nothing tests bags, footwear, relationships, etc. like travel ;)

[sidenote: I'm not trying to be a tease by withholding Morocco pics, but I've only *just* got back and haven't even started to go through them. Besides, the first and last images are from the trip... just not taken by me!]

Before we get into the review proper, full disclosure: while the hubs is sponsored by F-Stop, I personally am not affiliated with the company and I was not asked to write this review. All opinions are my own.

At 25L, the Kenti is F-Stop’s smallest pack in the Mountain Series. Unlike other bags in the line, it has two side-accessed compartments instead of back access and does not utilize the Internal Camera Unit (ICU) system. I’m not going to write down all the specs - you can check them out here - but suffice it to say that the bag has many of the awesome features and great design that one has come to expect from F-Stop Gear.

images courtesy of F-Stop Gear. The Kenti comes in black, mist grey and foliage green.

 

Obviously this review is heavily coloured by how *I* shoot on a day to day basis. I rarely just transport my gear somewhere, set up and photograph. I like to take impromptu shots along the way and, as such, being able to access my gear fast and easily is very important to me. I also get cranky if I’m hauling around a too-heavy bag which in turn affects my quality of shooting (yeah, I’m a wimp), so comfort is a huge factor.

What I liked

  • The Kenti is extremely comfortable to wear all day. The proportions are great for smaller frames as well as taller peeps - I’m 5’4″ and it sits well on me.
  • The pack is light (1.5 kg)  and not at all bulky, yet well-padded enough for peace of mind.
  • Moreover, it does not scream “I’m a camera bag!”, which makes it a great fit for urban environment and travel.
  • The side access means you don’t have to fully take off the pack to get to your gear, making the process faster, cleaner and safer.
  • The Kenti holds a fair amount for its size. On the trip I carried my (non-pro-sized) D90 with up to 4 lenses of varying size, as well as a film camera.
  • The pack comes with lots of interior dividers that are all removable, allowing for customization within.
  • The jersey laminate back-panel eliminates the sweaty-back-syndrome that so many packs induce.
  • The front flap has a dozen little pockets for memory cards, spare batteries, chapstick (what?), camera remote,  etc. and what’s best is that they don’t. fall. out.
  • the roll-top is super handy and allows for adjustable volume. I like to use it for stowing away a jacket, snack or any extra gear  I might need.
  • A small-to-medium-sized tripod can be attached to the side of bag using the compression straps. According to the website, a larger tripod can be attached using F-Stop’s optional gatekeeper system.

what I liked not-so-much

  • When carrying a tripod on the side, it makes the side compartment not so easy to get out gear.
  • The Kenti has an internal laptop sleeve that fits up to a 13″ laptop, but it is kind of hard to access, especially if you have gear in the bag (which, duh) or are using the roll top compartment to stow stuff.
  • The zippers can be hard to find. This minor quibble is probably unique to the black pack, as they tend to get lost amongst all the buckles.
  • While you can get a pro body with lens into the side compartment  (I tried with a D700 + 70-200 f/2.8)  it is definitely a snug fit. For someone who is constantly taking their camera in and out of their bag, this could be irksome.

Conclusion

Like all F-Stop gear bags, the Kenti is as much a hiking pack as it is a camera bag, meaning that it is meant to be worn for extended periods of time and is durable enough to stand up to the worst elements. As the smallest bag in the line, it is not intended for jobs requiring tons of equipment, but is great for a hike or travelling with a limited kit.

Despite my bias against backpacks, the Kenti won me over. In short, it is a fantastic bag: good-looking, sturdy, practical, versatile. Even packed to the gills, I had no trouble carrying the Kenti around all day. Much attention has been paid to the ergonomics as well as the size and location of all the pockets and compartments, and the proof is in the pudding - I love using it.

I would recommend the Kenti to any photographer looking for a smaller backpack rugged enough for any outdoor activity yet sleek enough for city use.

the Kenti gets around! shootin' sunrise in the dunes at Merzouga.

 

 

 

 

 

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postcard from Morocco

so, the Morocco photo-tour officially ended on Friday and I think I can safely speak for all of us when I say it was a blast!

Great weather, great company, good times! Lots of laughs, lots of delicious food (so glad I got married before this trip or I might not have fitted into my dress!) and, of course, lots and lots of shooting.

As I’m currently honeymooning in Spain, I won’t get a chance to really go through my images properly until I get home next week. To be completely frank, I think I need that distance from them; the memory of the shots I could have taken is still very fresh - I need some space before I can fully appreciate the ones I actually *did* take. More on that at a later date, perhaps.

But in the meantime, here’s a snap taken in the Erg Chebbi dunes near Merzouga, which are just unbelievable. We had just arrived by cam…sorry! dromedary and I was deciding where to set up when I noticed Younes, our guide and Michelle standing on a ridge, taking it all in, silhouetted by the sunrise. I just had to capture it handheld before they moved. Not my best shot of the trip, by a long shot (long shot… haha!), but for me it captures the sense of awe and excitement that the dunes command. Can’t wait to share more with all y’all.

wish you were here,

a

 

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out of office auto-reply

For the next two Tuesdays  I will be out of the country, assisting Younes Bounhar on his ‘Land of Contrasts’ Morocco photo-tour, followed by some down time in Spain. If you’re seeing this post, it’s because I haven’t had a chance to write an update whilst on the road, but rest assured there will be many, many photos upon my return ;)

 

 

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country roads, take me home

Last week’s post feels like it was a month away, wow. It feels like a lot has happened since then - I wonder why ;)

Anyhow, this is part deux of the early foggy morning expedition, in which our intrepid photographers schlep their gear back to the car after conquering the bridge, and notice that the light is making the adjacent farmland look amazing.

I <3 the tractor silhouette in the background

I’m leaving for the Morocco photo adventure on Friday! Hopefully I will get a chance to process and post some pics by next Tuesday (more a question of computer/internet access than time). If not, you will get some sort of filler post… which will it be? only time will tell

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the bridge on the river fog

First, in case you missed it last week, I am having an little print sale till the 24th. Many of my images are available in various sizes at any time (just message me) but I am offering these ones for a special price as I already have the prints. Check it out

The following images constitute part one of a series I took on an early morning drive north into Quebec. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I hate shooting sunrise, but… it is a struggle for me to leave the house so early. I never regret going out, even when I don’t take anything of note, but I must say it is satisfying to come home with some images I like!

This bridge is located near Farrellton, QC. It is a beautiful area, the only drawback being that there are very few places to park, and those few are even harder to find in the dark. I know I just posted some foggy morning pics a couple of weeks ago but a. I love fog! b. these have a briiiidge! and c. tough noogies (that’s the technical term).





Stay tuned for part II next week, with 100% less bridge!

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“behind the scenes at the museum”

Okay, so by ‘behind the scenes’, I mean a totally public corridor ;)

Y. and I were downtown on Sunday morning to take some product shots of a new urban-ish backpack, which I am loving despite my general anti-backpack-ness when it comes to camera bags. I fully intend to review it after the Morocco trip, which is fast-approaching. eeeeee!

ANYHOW. We noticed that there was some amazing shadow play going on in the Colonnade of the National Gallery of Canada, and popped in to take some shots. Word to the wise: photography for personal use is allowed in the museum, but only in the public, non-gallery spaces, and handheld only.

I was particularly taken with the light and shadows in the concourse leading to the cafeteria and contemporary galleries, and was intentionally going for stark, almost abstract shots.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!

 

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details, details

Just a quick post this week, as I have been out of town for a few days sans my computer, files, lightroom, etc.

I just wanted to share a couple of images from this Saturday, when my fiancé’s and my families met for the first time to celebrate the engagement. We both wore traditional Moroccan garb and shared milk and dates, a ceremony symbolizing happiness and prosperity.

Of course, I was duly mocked for taking pictures - all par for the course!

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a foggy fall morning

I love fall, I really do. The colours are beautiful, the weather perfect and the clothes awesome. I am so lucky to live in a place that has such spectacular autumns (I count myself less fortunate in wi… the season that shall not be named )

The best colours are yet to come, fall-wise, but below are a few pics from this Sunday morning when Younes and I dragged our sleepy selves out to Shirley’s Bay to shoot sunrise, which turned out to be fog-rise. We stuck around to wait for the extra-amazing light that comes when the mist starts to clear, but it kind of fizzled. C’est la vie de phodo (also, we were chilled and starving)

It’s crazy how many of the trees by the river have already turned!

standing on the rock made it easier to focus this selfie. I thought the sweater was overkill, but I was freezing!

I love the spider web here, which I did not notice while shooting /blonde

this reminds me of a japanese woodcut. well, a little

just because the colours are pretty, doesn't mean it has to be in colour, right?

experimenting with the flatness…

… and depth

fog means neat backgrounds. and, fall means dorky hats galore! yay

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s*, our anonymous narrator muses that “Aprils have never meant much to me, autumns seem that season of beginning, spring” and that’s exactly how I feel. It is an especially fitting quote this year, as I will be starting a new chapter in my life this October

 

* ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s” the book, which I prefer to the film. I love me some Audrey Hepburn, but the movie is too sweet - there is no Hollywood ending in the novel. I used to re-read it once a year, I may revive that ritual in 2011
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the Inspired Eye 3 - a review

For me, reading the latest Craft & Vision e-book: The Inspired Eye III - Notes on Creativity for Photographers by David duChemin was the literary equivalent of much-needed kick in the pants from someone who cares, you know?

This is not an instruction nor a how-to manual — there is nary a technical term or jargon-y sentence to be found — nor are the concepts found within universe-shatteringly revelational, but David offers some concrete and insightful advice on jump-starting your imagination, honing your creative process and battling your photo demons. It was exactly what I needed to read right here, right now.

You see, lately I have been in a rut when it comes to image-making. It’s ironic; I’m technically far more proficient than I was even a year ago (which some might say is not much, but I digress), I have ideas coming out the wazoo (some of them are even decent!) and, most importantly? I have time to execute said ideas. Yet, though I still take pictures fairly often, I’m rarely making images. I had so much fun with photography before I cared whether I was doing it “right”, or whether it would be well-received; now I’m so paralyzed by self-doubt and the fear of not being good enough that I barely even know where to start. In the Inspired Eye III, David addresses these issues with aplomb.

[A side note, to perhaps be explored at a later date, I find it so refreshing to hear an established, talented photographer mention the existence of these demons. I feel, especially in this age of personal branding and endless self-promotion, that it's almost taboo to even hint that you might be anything less than 100% confident in every single thing you do. I get that working photographers want their clients to have faith in their skills, but when did vulnerability become such a four-letter word? I digress again.]

The e-book is loosely divided into nine sections covering topics from imagination, inspiration and process, to the value of hard work, momentum and risk-taking. The ‘chapters” flow together organically and the layout, as with all Craft & Vision e-publications, is delightful. David’s writing style is relaxed and informal, like you’re sitting chatting with him over a coffee. Or perhaps a margarita

Who should read the Inspired Eye III? Intermediate photographers who are ready to move beyond just-technically-decent images will probably benefit the most from this e-book, but the information within is of value to shooters of all levels, IMHO. It’s never too early to think about your vision and you’re never too experienced to redefine or switch up your process; no-one is immune to photographic dry spells and creative ruts.

You, my lovely readers, can get your very own PDF version of The Inspired Eye III here for only $4 with the coupon code EYETHREE4. Click here to view more details

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if you go down to the woods today…

I am in love with this location - I think it has so much potential. I’m dreaming up a dark-but-quirky series with this forest as a back-drop and Younes and I will shoot it together. We think it could lead to some fun shoots and hopefully some neat images There’s quite a bit more work to do before putting the plan in motion (the list of props to find is… bizarre to say the least), but stay tuned over the next few months.

The other week we spent a fun hour or so just goofing around in the woods, getting a feel for the place. Younes took some shots of me that will probably never see the light of day and I wanted to create a very symmetrical, wide angle, (hopefully) cinematic image. Here’s how I went about it.

First we set up a speedlight with a Lastolite 24″ EzyBox box, on generous loan from a certain Justin Van Leeuwen.

having a cute and knowledgeable assistant is key

I wanted to introduce some movement to the shot, but it was too dark to have a fast enough shutter speed to freeze action so I quickly abandoned the idea. In retrospect, I kind of like the motion blur in some of the shots, but at the time it didn’t seem worth pursuing.

dooooooork!

We also set up another speedlight at camera left, but I didn’t like those shots as much, so will not be showing any finished products with this set-up.

SOOC

Here is the final image I chose to work with, as it came out of the camera.

ISO 640, 16mm, f/5.6, 1/4 sec. I have no idea what the speedlight info is

I could have cropped out the light, but I wanted to keep the w-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-descreen feel, so I engaged in some PhotoShop trickery with layer masks. I won’t go into details, but feel free to ask if you have questions

It looks like there’s a lot going on up in that there layer box but, other than removing the softbox and stand digitally, the adjustments I made to the image were very minor. The lighting was really key here. Here’s the final image.

I can’t wait to get back there and shoot again

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