The Think Tank Retrospective 50 Shoulder Bag – Official-ish Review

Here she is, in all her glory.

So here goes. I’ve had this bag for a little over six months now and have had some fun adventures with it and I’ll do my best to make sure I cover the basics of my experience with the bag.


First off, this bag is a lot larger than I had imagined in my mind. I mean, to be honest, the images don’t make it look much bigger than a typical messenger bag and that is just… Just… A shame. This thing is adequately sized for lots of fun stuff.

The bag itself appears to be made of some heavy duty canvas material that feels very sturdy to the touch. Sturdy enough to prop you up through a wicked divorce in the darkest of hours? Maybe not that robust, but it does feel satisfying to run your fingers over the flap knowing it probably (key word, probably) won’t try and take half your stuff when she bails the house with no warning whatsoever and totally embarrasses you in a board meeting with a little knocky-knock of the Sheriff’s office serving you papers. But, hey, there’s a bright side, right? Why not.

The inside is quite spacious when it’s fully unfurled. How big you ask? The paperwork that comes with the material is less of a guide than it is a fantasia of all your wildest dreams and imagination combined! No seriously, the guide says it fits a 15″ laptop? Bull crap, check dis’ out y0!

That’s right. A full sized, man laptop. This ain’t no wussy 15″ laptop, we are talking packing full heat in all the right places! This is a 17″ HP laptop that fits into the main compartment of the bag. WHAT WHAT you say? Yea, snuggle up to that idea and marinate in it. Sure, it’s not the ‘designated’ spot for the laptop, but who the hell are you? The baggage police? Step off son!

What’s that? No room for anything else? I beg to differ.

Clothes and a laptop. Boom.

With a little creative Feng Shui-ing, you too can be as awesome as this. Did I mention that buried in that cave of pure figurative awesome is a D3 with a 24-70 welded on the end? Boom baby, Boom.

Side tracking a bit, the strap is quite beefy and I like it. It feels tough. So tough in fact that I did a Petey-Pablo style “helicopter” motion over my head to make sure it stayed together. I’m pretty sure the TSA loved my rendition and took it as a compliment because I got a lot of special attention after that. This thing is a lot more likely not to crack some unwitting dude in the dome because you have a ton of extra dohickeys hanging off the side. Ask me how I know. That was a long, awkward and strange plane ride. Just sayin’.

The inside is what you’d typically find in a bag, compartments, zippers, booby-traps, divorce papers, etc..etc.. Enough stuff to put things and stuff into. What you need me to spell it out for you? You put-cher chit in it!

Stuff and things of places

To be fair this bag does give a lot of extra room for lots of things. I was able to cram a ton of crap into this thing before it damn near toppled over.

Stuff and things!

So, here we see the Retrospective 50 bag filled to the brim. We stuffed it with 2 Nikon D3′s, a 24-70 2.8 lens, a 70-200VR, 14-24 2.8, 105 Macro, 3 – SB900′s, memory cards, wires, shammy clothes, maps to houses of people who might need a good TP’ing, if you catch my drift.

The only downside of filling it this full was that even though I could fit my 15″ laptop in there, it kept tipping over on its side. Fully loaded, this thing is a beast and remember that strap I mentioned? I gave it a serious workout this day.

On the job

So, I gave this bag it’s first real workout about 36 minutes after it arrived in my grubby little dirty carney-like hands. I suppose rubbing my hands all over the canvas didn’t make me look any less creepy than I already did, so I gave her the business.

Fits nicely into a vintage car. You should get one to accessorize!

So, there it is. I answered the most sought out question; Does it fit into a the trunk of a highly modified 1968 Camaro with a 6-speed tranny and enough torque to rotate the earth off its axis? Yes. Yes it does.

But slightly less important, does it work on the job? Does your father smell of Elderberries?

You want proof? Fine. Take it. Take all the proof you want. Take, take, take!!

On the job training

There. Happy now? It gives me the ability to take everything I had to cram into a Pelican case into a smaller and more cloth-like security blanket.

But does it work? Yes. For the love of god! Yes! It’s just a receptacle for your crap! And it does that quite well. Get off my back.


The Retrospective 50 Shoulder Bag from Think Tank is quite nice. It’s very well built from top to bottom and I will easily get rid of my backpack style carrying case after using this thing.

It even comes with ‘silent’ operation in the form of non-velcro-ie type flaps that can be turned on and off at whim. Silent enough to sneak up behind someone to serve the living daylights out of them and make them show up to court at a given day and time. How’s that for impressive?! Booyah!

Better yet, you can use the velcro straps to make a dramatic point during your arguments in said court case by ripping them open in that sort of “AH-HA! Foiled again by legal briefs and justice sucker!” moment. The bailiff seemed quite taken by me.

So, is this a good bag? Yes. It serves it’s purpose quite well for me. I used it as a semi-professional bag for my camera crap and sometimes as a travel bag for small trips that just needed clothes and a laptop/camera. It did it’s job in court too mind you, SUCKAA!! *RIIIPPPPPP*

Will this replace my giant pelican case? In some cases it certainly does. In other cases it might now depending on the situation. That said, it does replace a number of my parcel carrying accoutrements, legal brief case, luggage, therapist… etc.


- Sturdy construction on all levels. Sturdy enough to carry the burden of the emotional baggage of a looming divorce.

- Silent/Non-Silent activation.

- Not crazy bulky or unwieldy in the face of fellow travelers.


- Tips over when fully laden. European laden. Not African.

This bag can be found at Adorama, B&H photo and there is one at my house.

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That’s my boy!!

Yet again, we’ve come across the ever present, “photoshopping a photo isn’t PURE photography! WAAAHHH!!” debate.

Frankly, the entire argument is getting a bit stale. The best and still most useful argument against the naysayers is to immediately point out that the folks who don’t use photoshop and cry foul when others do, is to say, “I find that those who say photoshop is cheating don’t know how to use it.”

Usually gets them every time.

Now, let’s be fair. Are there times where people take the PP (post processing) thing a bit too far? Of course. Also, are there instances where people take the lazy way out and just “fix it in post”? Naturally. Also, isn’t it easier to get it right the first time and do as little PPing as possible? That is the best scenario in all cases honestly.

So in that vain, here’s a photoshopped before and after of my son, Max Q.

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “GOOD GOD! WHAT DID YOU DO TO THAT BOY’S FACE?!” Good question. I refuse to answer; it’s my sons’ face and I’ll do with it what I see fit, you see? Capiche? Neener, neener.

I took a cue from a very well known fashion photographer friend of mine ( and went a tad over board with the photo. Yep, fully admitting that it’s even a bit much for me.

But here’s his point, “It’s not that my client(s) really want me to go over board like this for them, in fact most of them don’t, but I need to prove to them that I can if they want me to.

So, in that vanity, this is… yes… over the top… too much for me. But, it’s not so much over board that it becomes disgusting.

There you go. I never said I’d create anything memorable nor did I say I’d make a good case for photoshopping over doing nothing. I will say though, that if you are truly pig headed about using any photo manipulation, you really are only hurting yourself.

It’s like trying to throw hot rocks at your enemies, you are the only one that gets burned.

I’m rooting for you.


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So a wagon and an import walk into a bar….

… kinda sounds like the start of a pretty good car joke, eh? Bah, who am I kidding, I was never one for awesome killer funny jokes. I’ll leave that to the serious ballers like Milton Berle.

Anywhoozle, I have to appreciate a good happenstance. This shot here was recently in Super Street Magazine It just so happened that another photog clued me into this location and I had a car to use it in.

The sun was going down and the moon was going up and long ago someone left with the cup; according to Cake, my favorite band. This is almost the exact same thing and thought it turned out fairly well, one shot… no layers or crazy photoshop trickery, just me, the owner and a grip full of speed lights!

This second one that just came out in Car Craft, is another example of what to do with little or no friggin’ space. When you have the guy who’s hired you clambering over himself to get me to stop the driver and have him pull over for an impromptu shoot, you have to be quick. The space was tight and getting the dreamy long shots with the backgrounds all moistenedly smooth wasn’t going to happen. “When in doubt, play with angles”, that’s what me grandpappy used to say to me with a Marlboro dangling delicately from a crack in the side of his mouth, most often during his late night twinky, 7&7′s  and ‘clothing optional’ Twister nights for us “youngin’s”. So, sure why not. Have at it!

I’m rooting for you,


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I learned something new…

…. Product Photography is a tough gig.

I had originally gotten into photography to channel some pent up rage and ice cream benders into something much more creative and less destructive than a bucket of Chunky Monkey.

So, when a friend/neighbor/web designer asked me to do some shots for him and a site he was working on, I thought, “Sure, why the hell not, could be fun”. Fun hanging out with him, yes… Photowise, not so much. I was told in advance that we’d be working with a graphic designer, so that leads me down a different path than if we had no designer. I wasn’t given much direction up until about 20 minutes before the shoot began, so most of this was on the fly.

My thought process is, when working with an editor or web designer or graphics person is to imagine what they want from my work. Is the style I’m going to produce going to work for them? What kind of medium is it? Web, posters, magazines, books, post cards…etc….etc…? That helps me determine what it is I need to do.

For this one, my direction was, “product, web and designer”… Got it. Shoot wide enough for the graphics guy to have room to play, shoot with a blank white or black background so they have more latitude with the photos and get enough “odd” ball shots on top of the standard shots so that they can play with the photos to make banners and what not. I have the luxury of shooting wider than normal because this will be web based… I.E. Small photos. I can shrink down the stuff I take to make good stuff for web based material.

So, shoot wide, bland background and get the entire product in the shot. Not much ‘smoke and mirrors’ type trickery here. Here’s a sample of what we came up with for this particular companies products. They make scratch-off cards for some well known companies, you might have heard of Steve Madden.

Scratch off sample for product photo.

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Solid food

We'll call this the "before" image.

So, what happens when you have a screaming kid and it’s time for their first taste of solid foods? Sure, you tell your husband to set up his camera gear and get really nice photos…. Did we mention that it was pitch black out and we only have “mood lighting” in the house? How the hell am I going to get this right with such horrid light conditions? AMIRITE!?

Thankfully, I had a grip full of AA batteries charged and enough SB900′s to light the dark side of the moon. Took me about 3-4 minutes to set up a 3 light configuration. 2 bare SB900′s left and right to Max, controlled via Nikon’s CLS with a hot shoe’d diffused SB900 for fill and set to master.

Took a few test shots to come up with a decently stylized version of what you see here, minimal photoshopping done here. Bump in contrast and sharpening is about it.


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2011: I’m going in!

The gear needed for 2011

Some of you (who the hell am I kidding, no one reads this!) who remember my photo about starting up again in 2010 that pictured a D3, a PS3 controller and a host of Molson Ice. Well, the time has come for another year of… err… things. Yes, things and stuff!

This year is no different, however things in my life have become increasingly chaotic. We bought a new house, birthed a new baby (well, I didn’t, my wife did, but I was there just as sober as I could muster after a half dozen long islands), I started a new job, working like a dog and writing a book all the process. On top of that, in my free time I’ve decided to teach myself Japanese and learn to make sushi.

Sushi basics

A good friend of mine taught me the basics of making sushi. He’s the proud host of this site, check him out when you get a chance (

New Years Resolutions are for chumps if you ask me. Why the hell do you need a new year to start something awesome?! Just BE awesome! You don’t need some jackwagon like Carson Daily to tell you that it’s time to start a new part of your life. Just do. Ignore the other idiots and do what you want. If you want to have a baby, have one. We did and we love him! If you want to learn to hulla-hoop for 10 minutes, practice now! Why wait? Do you need permission to be awesome? Hell no! But, if that’s what you need here. Fine.

“I hereby grant thee the power of awesomeness, that was once passed down to me from King Awesome and crowned me Captain Awesome of the Awesome-o ship of the “Killer Times Ahead” boat. It is now bestowed upon thee for times of sweetness and high-fives. Nay, not your head not be noogied and low may your brow never be furrowed in fits of anger. For this the righteous time of wicked fun and self awesometude. Go forth good sirs of Awesomeville, spread the word that you need not wait for the morrow to begin the awesome-explotations that await you! Go! GO I SAY! Awesome times will be had without you!”

This is my awesome Lobster Roll Sushi and Sake my mother-in-law traded me for sushi. It seriously is the best and smoothest stuff I’ve ever tasted.



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Welcome to 2010

I finally got my first camera phone about a year ago, yep, that’s right … 2009.

How sad is that? Here I am so far behind the times that I was still using my Nextel i530 for a phone. Lame.

It’s days like this that really make me happy I upgraded and joined the rest of the world.

This is a photo of my new son, Max who is 3 months old entertaining a local LEO. I had visited the LEO as a business meeting and couldn’t bear the thought of leaving him at the babysitters for all of an hour just so I could meet with this law officer. So, “what the hell”, I brought him with and it was the best decision I could have made. The officer was so happy to have him and held him throughout our entire meeting.

So far, this ranks as one of my best photos to date. Yep, it’s out of focus slightly, the resolution is poor and it was made with a $50 G1 cell phone.

And I couldn’t be happier.

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Gotta hand it to Nikon

On location the other day I was in need of some serious amounts of light.

It was a dark and dank old brewery that has been shut down since the mid 90′s. The owner and care taker were nice enough to let use the space and have the roam of the place. Well, on this particular shoot, I really wanted to get some under car lighting to create some separation from the cement under the car.

Here’s the final image using 2 – AB800′s camera right and left and a SB600 behind the white Camaro aimed at the camera.

Well, after getting the shot I asked the owners to move the cars and I went back to my usual routine of setting up the next shot. The owner of the white car walks over to me holding the left over bits of my SB600. Sure enough, we had forgotten to pick it up before he moved his car and he ran it over.

Yep, that’s right… a 3,700lbs car ran over my SB-600.

Here’s the proof.

Honestly, I wasn’t that upset. These things are cheap for what they do and I have spares in my Pelican case, so it wasn’t all that bad in retrospect. I threw the beat up speed light in my bag and went on about the shoot. Not until I got home did I try to give it a once over and play with it.

And low and behold did it work! Still powers up, flashes and pops just like it did before. The CLS system still works, albeit it’s not as pretty as it once was.

I gotta give it to Nikon for building a micro-flash that can withstand a car running it over!


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Suggestions for shooting car shows. Part: Deux

How to take good photos at a car show

Disclaimer: These are merely suggestions. Take them for what they are worth to you, one thing will not always work in every situation, it’s up to you to figure out what and when. I’m not responsible if you muck it up.

Car show season is upon us and I know a lot of new comers are really going to want to mingle amongst the gear heads and slap a few backs while stroking your handle bar mustache. Here are a few things I’ve learned from 15 years of car show experience and working as a freelance automotive photographer and writer.

“All of your photos will suck — or at least %99 will”

Let me first preface this by saying; Car shows are HARD to get quality photos from. Pure and simple, just plain HARD. Here’s a good example of why I say that.

Look at all the JUNK that’s in the way and none of it looks good in your photos. Some dude picking his nose or worse, his belly button, is not a way to enhance your photos nor does it compliment the car.

Just remember, %99.999999 of your photos will suck for this very reason. Shadows, reflections and baby strollers will hamper your desire for a clean shot.

Leave the wide angle at home

Rarely does a wide angle lens work.

Most people will tell you, “you want to get the entire car in therefore, bring the wide angle”.

Just no. No, no, no, no aaaaannnd NO. Not only do you get the entire car in the shot, but you get the car, some dude scratching his pants and everything within a 50ft radius that will destroy your photo.

Here’s a good example.

I only kept that photo because I felt it was mildly amusing to see some old codger pointing to the owner of the Spyker.

Leave the wide angle at home and remember this tip someone wise once told me: “Never show the entire subject”

Instead, my suggestion is to bring a long lens (at least a 70-200 or greater) and a LONG macro and that’s it.

What defines the car you are trying to shoot?

Since we can’t use our wide angle lens, what do we have left? Details.

My friends and I have this game where were show each other a picture of a VERY small part of a car and we all have to guess what make and model the car it is. It’s a challenging game because some of my friends are sadistic, twisted fools who will show you an arm rest and that’s it. Bastards!

Cars are not about technical data or a technically perfect photo. They are about passion and emotional connection. Cars are an extension of who we are as people and they say a lot about who we are. So, when you look at a car, what defines the car? What calls out and says, “love me, drive me”.

Use the details of the car to your advantage. Here’s a photo of a 1952 Jaguar XK120. The signature piece of the car is the 5 humps in the front. The fenders, the head lights and the hood culminate to make a beautiful profile.

You don’t NEED to see the whole car to know what it is. You don’t NEED to know what kind of car this is to see the lovely lady lumps. (Which is the title of the photo, Lovely Lady Lumps).

Lovely Lady Lumps

Lovely Lady Lumps

Want to make money by selling it to the owner?

Sad and honest truth. You won’t. Sorry. Look around you at the next car show, how many people have fancy cameras? How many times you think that owner has been approached by a schmoe like you?

Forget it, unless you have something NO ONE else in the entire world can get, I’d leave this idea at home. People will not pay you for a photo shoot of their car, car people are cheap. I should know, I am one.

Just go for fun and to look at the pretty machines.

Details, Details, Details.

I can’t emphasize this point enough. Car people spend a lot of time polishing their machines and making sure each detail is spot on. The reason why is that every time a car owner looks at his/her car, they see something that just isn’t quite right, so they are constantly improving and upgrading their cars and they want people to notice!

If you look hard enough you will see what I mean when you look at a car. Look at wheels, brakes, exhaust, interior…etc… it’s there.

Jag Shifter

Jag Shifter

If you touch my car….

…I will make your life a living hell.

Do NOT under any circumstances touch another mans car. We’ve already established that car people are attached to their cars in a deep emotional way and that their cars are an extension of who they are a person. So, whatever you do to the car, you do to them.

Ask permission, easy as that. You want a closer look or want to see something inside the car? Ask.

Car guys love to talk about their cars. They are like their children and that’s almost as important as their cars!

Showing a little bit of interest in a guys car will go a long way and they will be more than happy to open a door, hood or tell you what makes their car special above the rest.

Car shows aren’t about cars.

They aren’t. They are about the people. The cars are vehicles to posterity, progeny and nostalgia. When you are out there shooting people’s cars always remember that. Your photo must represent what the car stands for as well as the passion that goes into the machine.

Good luck and expect part trois soon!


Posted in Photo Techniques, Writings | 1 Comment

I think I missed my calling…

…. To be Canadian.

_EMM0790Let me explain.

I’m originally from Missouri, the southern part actually… OK, fine… the Ozarks. Not exactly winter wonderland nor is it that quaintly type of Southern charm either, it’s a bit more hickish as the IHOP is the most popular “health food” restaurant in town. Through some series of some unfortunate and some fortunate events, I ended up in Minnesota. Over the years I’ve learned the finer things in life are often the most basic. Here’s a short list of simple things that make my situation.

  1. Hockey
  2. Flannel
  3. Curling
  4. Beards (I grew one last year, simple amazing!)
  5. Calling the random guy a ‘hoser’
  6. Chopping wood
  7. Coffee
  8. Saying the word, “eh” and using it as an inquisitive ending to a sentence or just an indication that I’m done with my ‘out-loud’ thinking process.
  9. A good snow whilst sweating
  10. Maple Syrup
  11. French swear words
  12. Fireside naps

See what I mean? All things I’ve done in the past 24 hours!

I’m not sure if the Canuckistans will have me as I’m kinda loud, somewhat obnoxious and never miss an opportunity to skip a day of applying deodorant. But, if they are willing to allow a slightly offensive transplant, I’ll be happy to proudly wave the giant red maple leaf!

I’m rooting for you!


Posted in Epiphanies, Random Musings | 1 Comment