Alone on the Toronto Islands

With the Toronto Islands officially reopening tomorrow (Monday, July 31), it’s an exciting time for Torontonians who have missed their dose of beautiful views, picnics under the tree, kayaking throughout the islands, and biking around its many paths.

The recent increase in water levels here in Toronto started from a constant rainfall that plummeted the ground with over 50mm in just three days. More rain thereafter over-saturated the grounds and left the city with local flooding in parks and inside people’s homes. More than 40 percent of the Toronto Islands was left under water forcing the city to shut down the island, cancelling two ferry routes and limiting the one operating ferry route to transport only residents and emergency staff.

For those that were fortunate enough to stay dry and carried on with their daily routines, it can be difficult to imagine the damage caused by Mother Nature, while on the other hand, those that were affected know all too well how much work it has been to recover from the flooding.

It’s for this very reason that I wanted to discover and document exactly what had happened on the islands. With a green light from the city, I took to the Toronto Islands on June 3 to document the aftermath. With these photos, I hope I’m able to shed some light as to how much water there was, and to what the city was doing to prevent even more flooding from occurring.


While I only had the chance to cover the eastern portion of the island, these pictures speak for themselves. Later, I was told that the western portion of the island had it even worse. As I made my way through the islands, it was as if I was alone, walking through an abandoned island of some sort. With the exception of the residents that I saw walking throughout, the staff pumping water out and fortifying the shorelines with sand bags, and the countless number of kayakers I encountered, it still left me with an empty feeling inside.

Getting off the ferry at Ward’s Island, I immediately noticed all the palettes on the ground, which helped carry all of the sand bags that lined the shoreline.

Palettes line the grounds on Ward’s Island as large sand bags line the shores.

Walking through the residential area of the island, I encountered many pathways under water. Sand bags lined either sides, which prevented more water from coming in.

Sand bags line both sides of the pathway.

Making my way further west, the flood had left this field completely empty on a day that would normally see many families and children playing on it.

What is normally a busy field is left completely empty.

The water level was so high that it covered a good portion of the bottom of the lifeguard’s chair on Ward’s Island Beach.

The water level by the beach extended far past the lifeguard’s chair, which is normally on the sandy beach.

The water spilled from the marina over the grass to the road, forcing the city to line the edges with sand bags.

More sand bags protecting the road from flooding.

This was the first of many kayakers that I saw that day. It was a beautiful and sunny day, which was perfect for kayaking through the island. I believe there were even kayak and boat tours passing through that day.

Kayaking through the island was quite popular that day.

As I continued my journey to Algonquin Island, there were more generators pumping water out from the pathways back to Lake Ontario. Can you imagine living in front of these generators, having to hear them roaring all day and night?

A generator pumps water from the pathway back to Lake Ontario.

What would normally be a fantastic view of the Toronto skyline, we now see a countless number of sand bags lined along the shores, protecting residents from more water coming in.

Sand bags line the shores of Algonquin Island.

Water flooded from the lake onto the surrounding grass. I was told by a passerby that they saw carp swimming nearby not too long ago, which only means there was even more water than this before.

A grassy patch of land is now flooded with water. With water levels subsiding a little, we now see dead carp laying on the grass.

Walking further west, there was this “Road Closed” sign surrounded by water. The water levels were quite high on the road looking beyond the sign. Fortunately I was wearing rubber boots that went just a few inches short of my knees. Unfortunately with the waves created by me walking and the vehicles passing by, I had to really be careful to prevent water from coming into my boots. I found this out the hard way when a City of Toronto truck drove by me, creating excessive waves that caught me by surprise.

The road was closed for a good reason. The water levels were so high on the road in some areas that my pants above my rubber boots even got wet.

The Toronto Island Disc Golf Course was completely submerged in water. It’s hard to believe all of this water came from the lake which was on the other side of the road.

A playing field is completely submerged in water, making for some very clear reflections.

A look straight down the road reveals that there is absolutely no dry pavement in sight. The lake is to the right of the trees on the right side of the road, and what would normally be a field on the left side of the road is now a pond for ducks to swim through.

With a minimum of 3/4 of a foot of water above the road, you’d be hard pressed to find any dry pavement looking down.

This is a popular spot for photographers as you can see the Toronto skyline and the CN Tower through a break in the island up ahead. The field—or pond—was so deep in some areas that it came pretty close to the top of my boots.

The pond continues as I made my way on the road to this popular viewing spot of the Toronto skyline.

A check of the water level on the road was in order. As you can see, it wasn’t too bad an area where I was standing, but just a few feet away on the field, the water level was easily double this.

The water level on top of the road wasn’t as bad as it was off the road in some areas.

This area offers a great view of the Toronto skyline. However, seeing as the water levels were quite high, I couldn’t go any further than this. The water was just a few centimetres away from the top of my boots at this point, so unfortunately this was the closest I could get from the edge.

A great vantage point of the Toronto skyline is now a great place for reflections.

You may not be able to tell how deep the water level is from the picture above, but if you look at the photo below, you’ll see that the sand bags placed here were no match to the amount of water that came through. It may have been about 3/4 of a foot of water at the sand bags.

These sand bags were not enough to keep all that water away from the road.

As I was taking these photos, a city of Toronto truck came driving past me. It slowed down just a little bit but the waves it produced after passing by were so big that my pants got soaked.

This city of Toronto truck that came by made such a big wave that it caught me by surprise and soaked my pants.

As I continued my journey westward—now with wet pants—it was hard to believe how much of the fields so far into the island were submerged. I wouldn’t be surprised if this part of the island was affected the most in the east end.

The high water level just kept going as I walked further and further west.

Making my way slowly to Centre Island, I saw another open field that would normally be filled with families. Without anybody around, it really did feel as if I had the whole island to myself.

Another field that would normally be filled with families is now completely empty.

The bicycle rental was closed, with no sign of life anywhere during the middle of the day on a weekend.

No lineup at the bicycle rental.

The Beach House was empty with no tables or chairs in sight. The food truck seems like it has been parked there for a while.

Empty tables and no lineups at the Beach House by the entrance to the Centre Island Pier.

Walking on the Centre Island Pier I did see a couple making their way out, but afterwards there wasn’t a single person in sight.

The Centre Island Pier is normally crowded with people walking up and down, but today, I had it all to myself.

Turning around to look down the Avenue of the Island, I was happy to see the lawn still well maintained with flower beds on either side of the pathway. Eventually I did pass by a few workers on golf carts driving around, transporting sand bags from one end of the island to the other. If you look hard enough, you’ll see one of these carts in the photo below. You can’t see them? Look right in the center of the photo!

Looking straight down the Avenue of the Island, there isn’t a single person in sight.

This Maple Leaf cart has seen better days.

This Maple Leaf cart seems like it hasn’t had any sales in a while.

Walking into Centre Island I was greeted by a large group of kayakers. I’m not sure where they came from, but they followed me to my next destination, which was the grandstand and boat drop-off/loading area that you can see in the distance to the right in the photo above.

A group of kayakers making their way through the island.

The grandstand is a great place to sit and watch the dragon boat races in the summer. That bottom level, however, is certainly no place to watch anything now. The water level was so high here I ended up soaking both my feet as the water overflowed into my boots. As I was drying my feet off, a kayaker came through and pulled himself through the bleachers. To the far right of this photo, you can see a number of boats that paddled their way here and took a break by the nearby field.

A kayaker pulls himself through the flooded bleachers.

As I walked further into Centre Island, I came upon the bridge that opens up to Olympic Island. As soon as I walked over it, this is the view I saw. There was water everywhere! Apart from the one person I saw in the distance resting by the picnic tables, the area was empty and the water so still, it offered some spectacular reflections.

This is the first sight I saw as I stepped foot on to Olympic Island.

As I was taking some photos, this cyclist came down the path out of nowhere. I thought to myself how that could have been a more effective way to go through this island!

A cyclist rides by as I was taking photos.

I think one of my favourite photos that I took through this entire trip was of this tree. It stood by its lonesome, but did so very powerfully. With water surrounding it, the tree reflected perfectly below it. It was striking to see and it instantly caught my attention.

I shared this view with a kayaker that I met, but she didn’t seem to be as enthusiastic about it as I was.

Someone else I was talking to said these picnic tables must have been one of the most photographed picnic tables lately as they made for some great photos with the Toronto skyline and its reflection.

There must have been about 2/3 of a foot of water here.

Well, at least this little guy was making good use of the picnic table.

At least someone/something is enjoying the picnic tables.

Olympic Island is typically host to many outdoor concerts and activities, but with so much flooding, it’s hard to imagine anything happening on these grounds this summer.

The picnic tables were flooded with water, much like how most of Olympic Island was.

This was the second dead carp I found that day—this one being devoured by the seagull who made every attempt to keep an eye on me in case I made any sudden movement. He wouldn’t even let his buddy seagull—just to the left of this photo—get anywhere near the carp!

A seagull feasts on a carp on the pathway on Olympic Island.

You can see how much of the main field on Olympic Island is covered in water. And with more rainfall happening every week, it’s hard to believe the water level will go down here anytime soon.

Olympic Island seems to have had it quite bad.

Exiting Olympic Island, I came out to Centreville Theme Park. All the shop windows were boarded up, the walkways empty, and the rides yearning for riders to come and enjoy them. There wasn’t a person in sight.

The rides, which should have been filled with children having fun, were still and the silence deafening without the screaming and laughter.

That is, until I met this fellow, who startled me at first as he started following me around the park. I wondered why he was just roaming around aimlessly on a deserted island. He eventually went back to where he came from, the Far Enough Farm. Over there, I met up with fellow cyclists who were admiring a second peacock.

The beautiful peacock with its iridescent blue plumage came right up to me as I was taking photos of the theme park.

Following the peacock to the farm, I passed by this Duck Pond, which needed a little maintenance, to say the least. The pond was filled with feathers, leaves, and waste, with the smell from the farm not helping the situation either.

The water by the farm was filthy with bird feathers, waste, and grass.

Empty cages and fenced areas were all I saw, with the exception of the peacocks and some of their friends. The rest of the animals from the farm had been transported off the island to be cared for just north of the city for the duration of the season.

Most other animals in the farm were transported off the island.

As I was admiring the peacock from afar, I heard this loud crying noise; this curious duck came walking towards me, probably wondering what I was up to. At the same time not too far away, I heard voices coming from the barn. So in a bid to save myself from this annoyingly crying duck, I made my way to the voices.

The Mighty Duck?

As it turns out, the barn was filled with sheep and rabbits. A staff member was tending to them while explaining to some visitors about the animals. “She won’t acknowledge you because she’s angry right now,” says the worker about one of the rabbits, as we each shifted our attention to the other rabbits that did notice us. The sheep were very friendly, and made for some happy encounters for us at the farm. But at the end of the day, it was these peacocks that surprised us all with their strikingly rich plumage.

This peacock, apparently not afraid of humans, followed me around the farm.

As I was walking back to Centre Island, I came across this sign that read, “Do not walk over bridge.” I looked around but didn’t see any bridges in sight. I did see these railway tracks leading into Duck Pond though, which just goes to show you exactly how much the water level had risen even in this pond.

“Do not walk over bridge.” Bridge? What bridge?

At this point, I had been walking around the eastern portion of the island for about five hours and now had to make my way back to Ward’s Island to catch the return ferry. But before doing so I took a few more photos to illustrate the severity of this flood. These sand bags lined the shores of the beach by the Centre Island Pier, and stretched for as long as my eyes could see. I was told there were more than 40,000 sand bags placed all around and throughout the island so far (back in early June). That number has probably risen by now.

Sand bags lined the beach.

I was able to make my way back to Ward’s Island bypassing all the water-logged roads by walking along the Lakeshore Ave. boardwalk. But seeing sights like those below, just by the ferry dock, it reminds you of how much trouble the Toronto Islands and its residents have gone through and will continue to go through until the water level substantially subsides.

Grassland flooded with water.

With all of the rain we had been getting the last few months, it’s been a continuous struggle with Mother Nature for staff and residents to deal with the excess water.

I hope these photos illustrate the severity of the flooding the Toronto Islands has had over the last few months, and that it is indeed a serious matter. From the last announcement that mayor John Tory made, the city will open part of the island for the month of August, with select areas with higher water levels still closed off until further notice.

Ferry tickets can now be purchased online at so I encourage everyone to go to the island this summer to support the local cafés and establishments, and to remember exactly how fun it is to lose yourself on the island for one glorious afternoon.

Will you be heading to the Toronto Islands this summer? Let me know what you plan on doing in the comments below!

The making of Serenity Sunrise

Reposted over 10 times on Instagram alone, and with more than 25,000 likes combined, this Serenity Sunrise photo is my most reposted image on Instagram. Today, I thought I’d share with you the post-processing that went into making this image. While most of my images will go through a number of processes in Adobe Lightroom and/or Photoshop, you may be disappointed to know that only minor adjustments were made to this photo to make it look the way I posted it on Instagram. This post will describe to you how and why I went through processing this image.

How I Edited Serenity Sunrise

The Origin of the Name Serenity Sunrise

Before I get to the post-processing, let me tell you how the name Serenity Sunrise came about. I’m not really the one to actually name each of my images, so why did I name this Serenity Sunrise? The name actually spawned from a repost and comment made from @Umbra_ltd. They reposted my photo mentioning that the photo was captured in Rose Quartz, one of the Pantone colours of the year. This thought never even occurred to me when I took this, and for someone in the print industry as well, I should have known better!

PANTONE Colours of the Year 2016

PANTONE Colours of the Year 2016

For those who do not know, every year PANTONE chooses what it deems will be the next colour of the year. This colour is thought to trend in different industries like fashion and interior design for the upcoming year. For this year (2016), Pantone chose not one, but two colours of the year: Rose Quartz, and Serenity.

While Rose Quartz is evident at first glance, if you look close enough, you’ll see pockets of Serenity mixed in the shadow areas, particularly within the skyline. This inconspicuous addition of Serenity I thought really enhances the feel of the overall image. So in essence, this photo is a great representation of both PANTONE colours of the year: Rose Quartz and Serenity.

Rather than naming it Rose Quartz Sunrise, I thought the subtle representation of Serenity, and the name, lent itself perfectly for a sunrise photo. Hence the name, Serenity Sunrise. It also just rolls off the tongue smoothly, don’t you think?

The Before and After

If you look at the slider above, you can see the before and after image of Serenity Sunrise.

If you slide the middle slider bar all the way to the right, you’ll be able to see the original unedited image that came out of my camera. If you slide the bar all the way to the left, you can see the After image, after it was post-processed to my liking in Adobe Lightroom. There’s actually very little difference between the two apart from lightening up certain areas of the image.

The actual image I posted on Instagram was a portrait version of this, for which I’ll explain why I did that, a little later.

The Lightroom Basic Panel Adjustment

Lightroom Basic Adjustment Panel

Lightroom Basic Adjustment Panel

This is pretty much all that went into making this image shine. The adjustment that made the largest impact would be the White Balance. This will dictate the overall mood of your image. With a +10 toward Magenta in the hues, and a temperature that ‘s overall pretty cool (towards the blue), you can see how the Rose Quartz and Serenity would play into the image.

An Exposure boost of +0.3 brightens the image overall, which you can tell. The Shadows were also opened up with a +31. But I lowered the Blacks to -43 so as not to make the image too flat. Boosting the Clarity to +43 accentuated the shadow areas more by darkening the shadows and lightening the highlights. Believe it or not, boosting the Vibrance to +25 didn’t do a whole lot in terms of making this image more Rose Quartz. It merely heightened the subtle colour of Serenity within the skyline.

If you look at the Tone Curve, it’s pretty much linear with the exception at the Shadow areas. I lifted the Darks up a bit because I didn’t want the blacks to be truly black. It would have attracted too much attention otherwise.

There you have it!

As Posted on Instagram

The photo cropped to portrait orientation, and uploaded to Instagram.

The photo cropped to portrait orientation, and uploaded to Instagram.

Here’s the actual photo that was posted to Instagram. While the image itself is landscape, I post images to Instagram in portrait orientation because I feel it the image is more impactful. The portrait mode fills the screen more, allowing the photo itself to shine. However, when you post landscape images on Instagram, the width of the image is always shown in full, thereby only taking up a fraction of the screen on your mobile device, allowing for the comments below to overtake the screen. This detracts away from the beauty of the image, and I feel is one of Instagram’s weaker elements.

If you enjoyed this blog post, let me know in the comments below and I will continue on with this series on how I edit my images.


Product Review: Moment Case and Lenses

Moment Lenses and Case Review

Lens additions aren’t new to mobile photography. There’s plenty of choices out there from generic third party lenses to more notable ones like Olloclips. But when I came across Moment’s lenses and case Kickstarter campaign in 2015, I couldn’t help but get behind this piece of glass.

Product Review: Moment Case and LensesMoment first released their lenses in 2014, however, I only came across them from their second Kickstarter campaign, which was a companion case to their lenses. I’m never a fan of buying things that are made specifically for a device, since I’m prone to changing/upgrading my iPhone every year or two. However, I went ahead and ordered the case, along with their wide angle 18mm and telephoto 60mm lenses.

Moment 18mm and 60mm lenses with case.

Moment 18mm and 60mm lenses with case.

I received my case and lenses in December 2015, just in time for the Christmas holidays. Upon opening the packages, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the case and lenses. Let me start with the case, since that’s their latest campaign.

The Moment Case

The moment case comes in a few different colour combinations: black on black, wood on black, and white on black. I chose the latter for my iPhone 6s Plus, and I really like the little bit of white on top, as it adds a little contrast to the rest of the case, which is quite large.

Moment lens attached to case.

Moment lens attached to case.

The case—apart from the white top, which is plastic—has a really nice feel to it: it’s firm yet has a rubbery felt-like feel to it, thanks to the custom TPU material that they use. It provides just the right amount of friction for a secure grip, and as the folks at Moment says, it’s “not so grippy that it gets stuck in your pocket.”

Moment lenses and Moment case.

Moment lenses and Moment case.

The case is tapered, offering a thicker grip, which allows for better handling of your phone in landscape mode. This thicker area is also where the circuit board and battery resides. The battery lights the LED light that shows when there’s a connection with the Moment app, and also sends information to the app when you press the shutter button.

Moment case from bottom of iPhone.

Moment case from bottom of iPhone.

The bottom of the case is open, so you won’t have any problems with inserting anything in the earphone jack or lightning cable port. The added aluminum bar acts as a neck strap hook and is a nice touch as well, although this piece on my case is a little wobbly upon touch.

Why is this case special?

Apart from adding another level of protection for your iPhone, the case acts as an interface to the collection of Moment lenses that they offer. Their proprietary interface is embedded within the case so all you need to do is twist the lens on to the case. The interface is well built and twisting on the lens is a breeze. There’s no click to lock the lens in place like you see on a dSLR, but I feel confident that the lens won’t easily twist off.

More importantly though, the case allows for added functionality when shooting with your iPhone. By adding a shutter button to the case, you’re now able to use that button to hold focus (by half-pressing the button), while we swipe on the screen to fine-tune adjustments like exposure. It took me a bit of time to get the hang of this as I wasn’t used to half-pressing and swiping at the same time. But once you’re used to it, the feature becomes quite handy.

Lens attachment

The case recognizes when you attach a lens to the case. While initially (if I remember correctly) the idea was that it automatically knew which lens was attached. The way it is now, you have to tell the Moment app which lens you have just attached. Moment says this “unlocks advanced software features” specific to each lens. What these features are, I do not know.

Moment camera app screen capture.

Moment camera app screen capture.

Note, if you don’t have the case, Moment sells a stainless steel mounting plate that you can stick to any mobile device, allowing you to use any one of their lenses.

The lens cap and magnet

The two lens caps that came with my combo does a great job in protecting the front element of the lens. It’s not flimsy by any means, and has a protective foam layer on the inside. There’s a small magnet hidden inside the lens cap so it can conveniently attach itself to the Moment Case, which also has a magnet on the top of the grip. It’s their way of making sure that you don’t lose the lens cap when you’re using the lens.

Moment case with cap magnetically attached.

Moment case with cap magnetically attached.

The magnet isn’t super strong though, so just be careful when you’ve got it attached. Your hand will cover the lens cap when holding the phone and if you’re not careful, you can easily knock the lens cap right off the magnetic spot with a quick swipe.

The Lenses

The Moment currently has three lenses in their collection: 18mm, 60mm, and a macro lens.

Moment 60mm and 18mm lenses.

Moment 60mm telephoto and 18mm wide lenses.

My Kickstarter package came with the 18mm and 60mm. Similar to the Moment case, as soon as I handled these lenses, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality. Gone are the days of cheap, plastic lenses with clip-on attachments. These are heavy-duty lenses made with quality glass, multi-element designs, and aerospace-quality stainless steel. When you pick one up, you’ll notice this quality instantly. It’s solidly built, and looks terrific.

Moment lenses in carrying sacs and lens covers.

Moment lenses in carrying sacs and lens covers.

18mm wide

As a landscape photographer, I immediately drew my attention to the 18mm wide angle lens. I love the added focal length this gives me. The large landscape coverage gives me that same feeling as when I shoot with my 14mm on my Nikon D800. You can see how much more coverage the lens gives you, below. The iPhone camera without any attachment has a focal length of approx. 29/30mm (35mm equivalent). The 18mm is much wider as you can see.

Moment 18mm lens attached to Moment case.

Moment 18mm lens attached to Moment case.

I’ve noticed a slight vignetting with this lens (see sample photos below). It’s nothing I can’t live with though. On the Moment lens website though, it says “clear edge to edge.” From my test samples below, I’m not so sure I can agree with this. If you look at the sample photos, you’ll see the corners and edges are a little blurry, which is a shame. I could live with the vignetting, but I would have loved to have edge to edge sharpness, as mentioned on their site.

60mm telephoto

The telephoto lens does a terrific job at getting you that much closer to the subject. Forget the digital zooms on your iPhone as that just yields in poor quality images as a product of digital extrapolation. Having an optical telephoto lens means you’ll come out with top quality images that you’ll be surprised came out of a mobile device.

Moment 60mm lens attached to Moment case.

Moment 60mm lens attached to Moment case.

Looking at the images below, you’ll notice how much closer the subject is (two times closer). Of course, a steady hand will always help more with any telephoto lens, so be sure to hold it steady, or use a tripod like I always do.

Do I Really Need These?

If you love taking photos with your iPhone or mobile device, the Moment case and lenses won’t disappoint. Apart from the slight vignetting and distortion that I saw with my 18mm lens, I have to say it’s the best lens addition to my iPhone that I’ve ever seen thus far.

These are by no means a necessity for any iPhone user, but more so an added benefit to being able to take extra wide and telephoto photos. The interaction with their app adds a nice touch and really enhances the picture-taking experience on a mobile device, which ultimately has given me even more of an excuse to go out and start shooting again.

Moment 18mm attached to Moment iPhone 6/6s Plus case.

Moment 18mm attached to Moment iPhone 6/6s Plus case.

Sample Photos

To better compare the results, here are a couple sample landscapes that I took with each of the lenses, along with the shot taken with the regular iPhone 6s Plus camera for comparison. These images have been resized and saved for web; apart from that, no editing has been done.

Regular iPhone 6s Plus shot.

Regular iPhone 6s Plus shot.

Taken with the Moment 18mm lens.

Taken with the Moment 18mm lens.

If you look at the top left corner, you’ll notice that the finer tree branches are not as clear as the rest of the branches surrounding them. And if you compare these branches to those in the iPhone 6s Plus photo, you can really see that the quality has dropped a little with the lens.

Taken with the Moment 60mm lens.

Taken with the Moment 60mm lens.

Now, look at the top left corner of this photo. It’s slightly blurred along with the rest of that left side. In fact, all corners are slightly blurry if you look closely.

Test Photo 2

Regular iPhone 6s Plus Landscape.

Regular iPhone 6s Plus Landscape.

Taken with the Moment 18mm lens.

Taken with the Moment 18mm lens.

Looking at the top corners (left and right), you’ll see there is slight vignetting. It’s harder to see on the bottom corners, but it’s there as well.

Taken with the Moment 60mm lens.

Taken with the Moment 60mm lens.

The top right corner is slightly darker here as well. And again, you can notice that the entire left side of the photo is slightly blurred.


And if you’re curious, here are a couple photos I took with my Nikon D800, where I changed the focal length until I matched the composition that I took with the Moment 18mm and 60mm lenses. The first photo turned out to be 19mm, which is pretty close. The second photo turned out to be 58mm, which is also pretty close. This test doesn’t really do much except tell me that I did a pretty good job matching the composition between the two cameras.

Nikon D800 at 19mm.

Nikon D800 at 19mm.

Nikon D800 at 58mm.

Nikon D800 at 58mm.

If you’ve taken great photos with Moment lenses, feel free to comment below and let me know!

For more information on the Moment case and lenses, head over to their website at

2015 Year in Review – iPhone Photography

While it was difficult to pick my 2015 Year in Review for my Nikon photos, believe it or not it’s even more difficult to do the same for my iPhone Photography.

2015 Year in Review: iPhone Photography

My iPhone is always with me and that’s one reason why it’s easier to take priceless moments when they arise. Furthermore, there’s really no setting up when it comes to taking pictures with your iPhone: as soon as I open the camera app, I’m ready to take a photo. That being said, there’s a certain amount of foresight involved with iPhone Photography as well.

My favourite iPhone photography for 2015 are below, and indicates a wide variety of photo genre and editing styles, as experimentation is always in order when it comes to iPhone photo taking and editing.

Fiery sunrise over Lake Ontario.

Fiery sunrise over Lake Ontario.

This photo is similar to the one I took with my Nikon, but the editing was a little different, producing another moody photo to one of the most vibrant sunrises I’ve ever seen in Toronto.

Long exposure sunrise using Slow Shutter Cam app.

Long exposure sunrise using Slow Shutter Cam app.

I’ve always been a fan of long exposure photography, and doing these on an iPhone is super-easy with the Slow Shutter Cam app. I always make it a point to carry my mini-tripod with me so that I can produce long-exposures in moments where I least expect to. This one was taken during the sunrise hours where the reflection of the light on the serene lake made the moment extra special.

Beached in Hamilton

Beached in Hamilton

This photo above was taken on the shorelines of Hamilton where I decided to come on a whim. With the cold temps, strong wind, and open area, I hoped to capture the essence of the moment. The purple colour was added from a filter, but represented the subtle colours that were present in the early evening hours.

Ice climbing in Hamilton.

Ice climbing in Hamilton.

Here’s a moment where I lucked out by coming to the waterfalls when a group of ice climbers were having their weekend lesson. I wasn’t the only photographer there, so I managed to get some tips from a veteran ice climb photographer. The race to the top yielded in this perfectly timed shot where the climbers themselves formed a mountain!

Swirling Jet Skiers at Scarborough Bluffs

Swirling Jet Skiers at Scarborough Bluffs

Here’s where I was fortunate enough to be at the Scarborough Bluffs, where a group of jet-skiers came zooming into the scene as they held a meetup on the beach. I captured them having fun in the water as they twirled around as if they knew I was taking their photos.

Quintessentially Rocky Mountains.

Quintessentially Rocky Mountains.

My trip to Alberta also produced some of my favourite images from my iPhone. This one, just off the Bow Valley Highway to me, seems like the perfect Rocky Mountain scene, which had some great wispy clouds to add even more interest to the landscape. The railroad cutting through the trees is a great guide to lead the eyes from one side of the image to the other.

On the lookout at Mt. Norquay.

On the lookout at Mt. Norquay.

I normally don’t have people in my landscapes, but this moment was too good to pass up. As my wife stood there admiring the view from the Mt. Norquay lookout, I stepped back and quickly took this with my iPhone as I loved her stance, her hat, and the background. It just all fit perfectly.

Winter shoreline in black and white.

Winter shoreline in black and white.

While I normally edit in colour, on occasion when I see the opportunity to make a great monochromatic image, I go for it. This image was just the case where the long exposure of the lake played well with the ice- and snow-covered shoreline. This shot would have been difficult on a dSLR if I didn’t have a ND filter.

The sun rising above Lake Ontario.

The sun rising above Lake Ontario.

This may be one of my favourite iPhone sunrise photos as the colours were just so brilliant. The fog hovering over Lake Ontario makes this extra moody and I’m glad my iPhone was able to capture this mood so well.

As you can see, there’s a variety of shots from my iPhone, and that’s to be expected. It’s a great camera to have in your pocket. I hope you enjoyed this round-up of some of my favourite iPhone photographs of 2015. I don’t know what 2016 will bring me, but I do know that with my newly acquired 18mm wide angle and 60mm telephoto lens from Moment, I will be sure to have even more fun the next time I go out.

Don’t worry, a review of these Moment lenses will come soon!

2015 Year in Review – Nikon Photography

As 2015 has come to a close, I’m left with the impression that it’s gone by way too quickly. I’ve no doubt taken a lot of photos this past year, with some new favourites created along the way. And, as part of my Toronto Sunrise Series, this past year more than ever I took it upon myself to create even more sunrise photos than in 2014. I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos I’ve posted here on my blog and on my various social media feeds. In this post, I’ll recap some of my favourite photos that I’ve taken in 2015, sunrise or otherwise.

2015 Year in Review: Nikon Photography

Swan spanning its wings during sunrise.

Swan spanning its wings during sunrise.

This swan lake photo was very popular amongst my social media feed, and it earned a lot of reposts throughout various Instagram hubs. At the time I took the photo, I really didn’t think it would be so popular. I remember, however, how I was happy to have caught this moment as it had been one of the items I had on my list of things to capture. Being conscious of keeping the CN Tower in the background, I followed this swan with my 70-200mm lens as it moved along the lake. When the swan decided to spread its wings, I was ready for the shot, keeping it in focus with the CN Tower placed just off to its side.

Peyto Lake Sunset

Peyto Lake Sunset

In 2015, I was fortunate enough to travel to the Canadian Rockies, where I was in awe of Mother Nature and her beauty. Yearning to capture a priceless moment, I was out every sunrise and sunset, even if I had no idea where to go. While most of my sunrise and sunset shoots were clouded over, I still captured what I hope represented the priceless moment in front of me with this one, taken in Peyto Lake.

90-second exposure sunrise with the Lee Big Stopper

90-second exposure sunrise with the Lee Big Stopper

In the latter half of the year—or more precisely, in December—I bought myself the Big Stopper, 10-stop ND filter from Lee Filters. I managed to do a couple test runs with the filter, producing this shot that I thought captured the moment well with the clouds.

Toronto skyline from the Thompson Hotel rooftop lounge.

Toronto skyline from the Thompson Hotel rooftop lounge.

While I may be more partial to landscape photography, I did manage to grab a few pictures of the city that I really liked as well. This one comes from the rooftop of the Thompson Hotel in Toronto, where they hosted an Instagram meetup in the early fall. The sunset brought out some great texture in the clouds, bringing an even more dynamic scene to this already great vantage point.

Nikon D800, 1/6 sec., f/13, ISO100, 70mm

The most striking sunrise shoot of 2015.

This sunrise moment may have been the most striking sunrise shoots I’ve been on in 2015. The moment passed by so quickly that I didn’t have time to even think it would be anything special. I just knew that the combination of low-lying clouds and the colours really made this a stand-out sunrise for me. And by the looks of things, my social media feed definitely agreed with me as well.

Violent sunrise from one of the windiest mornings of 2015.

Violent sunrise from one of the windiest mornings of 2015.

What was one of the windiest sunrises of 2015 yielded some of the best photographs as well. It was a cold October morning with the winds whipping around violently across Lake Ontario. Initially I wasn’t too careful by the shorelines and got my equipment and self wet from the splashes from the rocks. It was that violent. So standing further away from the shoreline, using my 70-200mm, I caught this moment, with some of the most colourful skies in the background.

Bow Lake Sunrise

Bow Lake Sunrise

Bow Lake was a surprise to me as I wasn’t expecting much from it. But even though it was overcast during the sunrise hours, the calm lake and mountains made for a striking image that can’t be forgotten. This bridge acted as a great lead-in for the eye and in turn produced one of my favourite images from my trip to Alberta.

Lake Louise boathouse in the calm, early morning hours.

Lake Louise boathouse in the calm, early morning hours.

This picture of the Lake Louise boathouse turned out much better than I had expected. Wanting to get a unique vantage point from this often-photographed icon of Lake Louise, I opted for a long exposure during the sunrise hours that I was there. Normally seen against the backdrop of the Canadian Rockies, I also opted to crop this image right at the tree line to minimize any distractions. This put all the focus on to the boathouse, yielding in a photo that I absolutely love.

There are many more photos that I took in 2015 that I loved, but I can only choose a handful for this summary. I hope you like these as much as I do, and that you have enjoyed seeing them on my social media feeds. Truth be told, some of these may be new to you as I may not have even posted them online until this post!

Any one of these photos would look great in print, don’t you think? Stay tuned, as that’s my next project for 2016. Let me know in the comments below if you’d be interested in a print of one of my photography.

Coming up in my next post is my 2015 year in review for iPhone photography!

10 Landscape Instagram Accounts That Inspire Me

Have you ever seen these x Instagram followers you need to follow now blog posts? They’re littered all over the Internet so they’re not too hard to find. These lists are great for finding new talent and especially for finding inspiration. While I’ve come across a number of these, I realized that I’ve never actually shared my share of inspiration on my blog. So on this blog post, I thought I’d give some input on which accounts inspire me the most, and which ones I think should deserve a follow.

10 Landscape Instagram Accounts That Inspire Me

Since I’m very partial to landscape and nature photographers, this first list that I’ll be doing will concentrate on this particular genre. Not to worry though, I will come up with a list for other categories in the near future.

10 Landscape Photographers on Instagram That Inspire Me

These accounts on Instagram do a great job of inspiring me to get out and seek adventure. The first list includes accounts that may not be as well known, but still do a great job in making me wish I had built a career out of landscape photography. The second list consists of those that are well known around the social media networks as professional photographers. Here’s my list in no particular order.

Chloe Hibbert: @Clo.Photo

At a relatively young age, it’s great to see people exploring their own backyard. It’s no wonder why Chloe, who lives in Alberta, has a passion for exploring her surroundings. Check her stream for endless adventures in the Canadian Rockies.



Shane Black @shanemichaelblack

If Shane’s photos don’t entice you, perhaps his time-lapsing videos will. They’ll take your breath away as you scroll and look through each and every one of these videos, wishing you were there with him.

Shane Michael Black


Renee Hahnel @reneehahnel and Matthew Hahnel @matthewhahnel

Here’s a duo from Colorado that likes to hike together and take each other’s photographs in places you wish you could be in right now.





Jovey @vytravels

A Bay-area account that is filled with exploring its surroundings in some of the most beautiful ways.



Masa Onikata @moonlit_japan

If you ever wanted to see Japanese landscapes like you’ve never seen before, this Japanese photographer’s stream is a goldmine. Forgetting the all-too-common Tokyo cityscapes or photos from the streets of Osaka, this stream full of beautiful Japanese landscapes is unique, fresh, and certainly a little moody.



Argen Elezi @argenel

He lives in the same city as I do, but we both take very different looking pictures. His style is unique and dreamy, and makes you wish you were right there with him when he took the shot.



Scott Rankin @othellonine

Scott gives a different feel to Vancouver, Canada. The muted tones coming from his account provides a soothing collection of Canada’s beautiful west coast.



Karan B. @sendingstache

If Karan’s eye for great composition doesn’t draw you in, his snarky caption he provides for each of his photos will no doubt do the trick.



Jordan Herschel @jordanherschel

Jordon is a Taho-based travel photographer with beautiful landscapes with subtle colour added throughout his stream.



Katie Goldie @goldiehawn_

Katie’s outdoor adventures will sure whet your appetite for more mountain adventures. As her profile says, she “climbs mountains and stuff.”

Goldie Hawn


Sam Ciurdar @samciurdar and Amanda Ciurdar @amandaseeyoudarrr

Both Sam and Amanda’s take on their travel photography brings in some more muted tones, but mix in some portraits of one another and you’ll love the refreshing feed filled with happiness.



Amanda Ciurdar


Additional Accounts for Inspiration

Here’s a list with some more well-known photographers that offer endless adventures and wanderlust on their Instagram feed. I’ve separated them from the list above because these people are likely to already appear on other must follow lists.

Here’s my list of well-known photographers that inspire me, in no particular order.

  1. Colby Brown: @colbybrownphotography
  2. Chris Burkard: @chrisburkard
  3. Paul Zizka: @paulzizkaphoto
  4. Elia Locardi: @elialocardi
  5. Dave Brosha: @davebrosha

Hopefully these accounts will be of some inspiration to you all, and they motivate you to get out and seek the outdoor adventures that your heart yearns for. I know there are a lot more that inspire me, but I have left this initial list at 10 to prevent it from getting too long. If you have suggestions for other landscape accounts on Instagram, feel free to let me know in the comments below.

Being on Instagram’s Suggested Users List…Twice

Before I delve into the details, let me clarify by writing that this post isn’t about promoting my Instagram account, nor about boasting about what happened to my account. I’m writing this post to be an informative one for those wondering what exactly happens when a user gets on Instagram’s Suggested Users list. The Suggested Users list is a list of users on Instagram that are recommended to be followed, and is presented to every new account upon creation. For those of you who are wondering how one gets on the Suggested Users list on Instagram, don’t hold your breath—nobody really knows how one gets on the Suggested Users list, so I will merely give my thoughts below, on how this can be done. Now, let’s get to the details.

Thoughts on being on Instagram's Suggested Users list.

Thoughts on being on Instagram’s Suggested Users list.

Being on Instagram’s Suggested Users List the First Time

This section will explain what happened to my account when I was put on Instagram’s Suggested Users list the first time. I don’t have any screen captures of this event, so this will be a recollection of what I remember. On May 29, 2014, at 12:29pm, I received a Direct Mail from Instagram congratulating me for being put on their Suggested Users List. That DM looks a little like this:

Direct Message from Instagram

Direct Message from Instagram

To see if they actually respond to their DMs, I decided to write back to them and thank them for putting me on. This dialog went a little like this:

Response from Instagram.

Response from Instagram.

With two emojis, this conversation ended before it actually began.

My Instagram account at this time was strictly photos taken with my iPhone, or my iPhoneography. Before being put on the list, my follower count was approximately 1100. I didn’t know what would happen so I decided to just enjoy the ride to see where this took me. Within minutes I started getting followers. My activity list was just a list of messages stating xxx started following you. At one point, I was receiving more than 1000 new followers per 12 hours. This barrage of new followers continued steadily for the next 14 days.

By the end of the 14 days on the Suggested Users list, my total followers count was somewhere in the upper 20,000s. What’s one to do with all these followers? Not to worry because as weeks went by that number started to diminish little by little. There’s a number of reasons why you may start to lose followers:

  1. People who initially followed you no longer had an interest in your account.
  2. Spam accounts who automatically follow people on the Suggested Users list may unfollow you just as quickly.

In fact, I remember even months after being put on the Suggested Users list, I was still losing a small number of followers. It wasn’t until months down the road where my total followers finally settled down to the low 20,000. Fast forward a few months later when Instagram decided to purge inactive accounts or those that they found to be spam, and I found myself with even fewer followers afterwards. My total follower count after this purge settled to be around 18,600. From then on, my follower count fluctuated somewhat but was always around the 18,500-18,600 mark.

Here’s a summary of the roller coaster ride my follower count went through the first time on Instagram’s Suggested Users list on May 29, 2014.

Number of followers while being on Instagram's Suggested Users list.

Number of followers while being on Instagram’s Suggested Users list.

Who Are These Followers?

Now that’s a good question. The Suggested Users list is shown to all new users who create an account for the first time. You can also get to the list through your settings pages. And more recently, when you follow an account, a list of three other similar accounts will be suggested for you at that time as well. Whether the people on this list come from the Suggested Users list though, I do not know for certain.

I would gather that many of these followers are people who created an account out of interest and curiosity. These people may not necessarily continue to use the app and therefore will likely never engage with you on your account. So although you may have a large number of followers, those who actually engage with you may only be a fraction of those followers.

Instagram Followers

Instagram Followers

It’s important to note that just because they don’t engage with you, it doesn’t mean that they don’t see your photos. I’ll talk a little more on this below.

So How Did You Get Put On The Suggested Users List?

There are a number of sites out there that will tell you how to get on the Suggested Users list. While these techniques may be valid, there really is nothing proving that they work. The first time I was put on though, I was consciously following those very tips:

  1. Post regularly good quality photos.
  2. Engage with your followers by replying back to their comments on your photos.
  3. Visit your followers stream and engage with them on their photos.
  4. Visit other non-follower’s photos and like and comment on them.

So, is that what I should be doing with my account?

The whole point of social media platforms is to connect with other like-minded individuals. If your goal is to meet new people and connect with them, then yes, doing the above will likely get you further than if you were to simply ignore those steps. Don’t forget, joining contests and doing collaborations will also get you noticed by other members, increasing your chances of gaining new loyal followers.

Being On The Suggested Users List The Second Time

The second time I was put on Instagram’s Suggested Users list, it happened a little differently so this intrigued me quite a bit. On October 19, 2015 at 2:31pm, this time I received an email from Instagram congratulating me for being on the Suggested Users list. That email looked a little like this:

Mail from Instagram.

Mail from Instagram.

This took me by surprise though, since this came at a time where I was only sporadically posting at best. There were times where I wasn’t even posting, commenting, or liking, for five- or six-day stretches. I was certainly not following any of the four points mentioned above. My followers count was roughly 18,500 on that day. And this time, Instagram put me on their Suggested Users List for three weeks.

I decided to do things a little differently with my account this time. For the longest time I prided myself in uploading only my iPhone photos on my Instagram account. This time, however, I decided to now include my Nikon photos to my account. The difference in quality is still very much noticeable and so I decided to up my account to the next level along with my follower count.

So how was I put on the Suggested Users list the second time?

If you look at the email above, they gave you a link to click to suggest other users. If someone else was put on the Suggested Users list and got this same email, perhaps they remembered my account and decided to suggest me at that point, regardless of how often I was posting, commenting, or liking.

This would show that Instagram does listen to what other users are saying by taking their suggestions. It’s just a wonder why I was never presented with this option the first time around.

So what does this mean?

This means, you’re still better off cultivating a loyal base of followers by connecting with them through comments and likes. The more top-of-mind you are to other people, the more you’ll likely be suggested by another user to be on the Suggested Users list.

Here’s a graph of my follower’s numbers from the time I was put on, on October 19, 2015, to the time I was put off the list, exactly three weeks later.

Number of followers while being on Instagram's Suggested Users list.

Number of followers while being on Instagram’s Suggested Users list.

The increase in followers this time was incredible. At one point I was getting almost 700 new followers an hour. November 6 had an increase of about 7,000 new followers over the course of only 12 hours as well. I really don’t know where all these people are coming from!

At the end of being on the Suggested Users List, my follower count was roughly 153,600, an increase of 830 percent!

Engagements, Follower Count, and Likes Oh My!

With such an increase in number of followers, you hope you will get an increase in engagement as well. My likes and comments have increased a lot, but my posting dSLR photos have definitely made a difference in this as well. My engagement and like levels may not have increased by the same amount as my follower count had, but I have noticed more interaction from my users.

Seconds after posting a photo.

Seconds after posting a photo.

You can see here that seconds after I posted a photo to my account, people will immediately start to like it.

Seconds after posting a photo.

Seconds after posting a photo.

While being on Instagram’s Suggested Users List, I would still be getting followers while people would be liking my photo that I just uploaded seconds ago. Notice how there aren’t any comments though? Liking only requires a double-tap while commenting requires more effort and time.

With a large amount of followers, how come engagement isn’t as high?

There could be a number of reasons for this. I mentioned above that many of these followers may be new to Instagram and therefore may not use the app on a regular basis. These people may not engage with you as much as someone who loves photography and goes on the app several times a day. I believe this reason alone yields in an imbalance between follower count and engagement.

What about impressions?

Impressions are a metric for marketers to measure the success of a social media post. For example, YouTube views can be equivalent to its impression figure. The number of open e-blasts may also be used as an impression.

Instagram can be a little different though since you never really know who may or may not have seen your image. For example, if your follower count is 100,000, then your potential impressions may be 100,000 as well—although this is likely never the case. People who don’t necessarily like or comment on your photos may still see your photo, which will count as an impression because down the road, those people may still very well remember your photo.

The takeaway to this is your photos may still get a large impression because of your follower count, but your engagement may not be as large because of their decision to not like and/or comment on your photo.

Does Any Of This Matter?

This is a question you’ll have to ask yourself. To some people, these are just silly numbers. To others, they mean more potential for partnerships and collaborations with brands. Whether this matters, depends on what you want out of your Instagram account. I welcome new experiences and opportunities so I’ll see where this takes me—if anywhere. If I continue to post high quality photos and be inviting to my followers, I hope to cultivate a loyal following where people will want to come back to my stream for more of my photos.

Personally I am very thankful for being on Instagram’s Suggested Users list twice, as I enjoy engaging with new people around the world. If I am able to show my photography to more people, I will be more motivated to continue and learn the craft to better myself as a photographer, all the while making friendships around the world.

Have you been put on Instagram’s Suggested Users list? Do you even care about any of this? Let me know in the comments below as I would love to hear what you think about all of this.

Product Review: Camsafe Z25 Backpack by Pacsafe

Every so often I come across a photography related product that really intrigues me. This was exactly the case when I came across a line of photography bags from Pacsafe, a manufacturer by two Australians who were looking for a solution to travelling around the globe while keeping their belongings safe.

Product Review: Camsafe Z25 by Pacsafe

Product Review: Camsafe Z25 by Pacsafe

This particular bag, the Camsafe Z25, is an iF Design Award 2015 winner, and packs in a lot of safety measures in a compact form for maximum peace-of-mind. This review is based on the Charcoal Camsafe Z25 that was kindly provided to me for the purpose of this review. But don’t let that fool you—I’ve been using this for the past few months now to really get a feel for its advantages and disadvantages so that I can get you all the details for this post. The bag does have some scuff marks and dirt stains, but that’s all from my outings, and isn’t part of the bag itself!

First Impressions of the Camsafe Z25 by Pacsafe

When I first got the bag, I was surprised at how compact it was. I wasn’t expecting a bag so small to be able to carry all of gear that it said it was able to carry: dSLR with attached lens, 3 additional lenses, and a laptop, amongst other accessories!

Camsafe Z25 backpack by Pacsafe

Camsafe Z25 by Pacsafe

However, once I put in the gear that I normally take for my shoots, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it fit in snugly, with some room to spare in other compartments. The bag itself is lightweight at just 1.7kg, is made of rugged 600D Poly canvas on the outside making it feel tough, Ripstop Nylon and Polyester Fleece on the inside for great protection of your gear.

The Z25 with Nikon D800, trio of lenses, and accessories.

The Z25 with Nikon D800, trio of lenses, and accessories.

You can see from above that I have the following in there: 14-24 f/2.8, 24-70 f/2.8, and 70-200 f/2.8, along with my D800, seat-belt strap, accessories, and even an older model 15″ Macbook Pro (not shown)!

The Bag

The bag itself has several compartments and pockets to help you organize all of your smaller accessories. The cover of the main compartment  has a large zippered storage area on the inside, a smaller meshed compartment for your memory cards, and a large pocket on the outside that also houses an RFIDsafe pocket that prevents scanners from retrieving sensitive data on your credit cards, e-passports, and other RFID enabled cards.

RFID safe pocket for added peace-of-mind.

RFID safe pocket for added peace-of-mind.

The top compartment opens up to reveal even more storage space for your gear, in addition to it being the access point for your laptop compartment.

Top compartment reveals the non-removable laptop sleeve.

Top compartment reveals the non-removable laptop sleeve.

On the side of the bag is an expandable fly-away pocket that is stretchable to hold water bottles and other deep items.

Expandable pocket on the side, with adjustable straps for tripod.

Expandable pocket on the side, with adjustable straps for tripod.

The main compartment opens on the side allowing for quick access to your dSLR as well. There are two clips that you can use to prevent the zipper from opening up any further than the side opening—although more often than not, these clips got in the way from me being able to open the main compartment with ease. Because of the curvature of the zippers of this main compartment, I find it sometimes difficult to fully open with one hand, like I am so used to doing with my ThinkTank bag. It’s a minor setback, but I sometimes struggle with opening and closing the bag and wish I had the ease of use of my ThinkTank in this case.

Side opening for quick access to gear.

Side opening for quick access to gear.

The compartment itself is fully customizable with the velcro paddings that you can rearrange to your liking.

The back of the bag is made of quilted fabric that is completely flat. While it is very comfortable to wear even on long treks, I find a little bit of air circulation would help alleviate the heat on very hot days on the job.

Pacsafe has also added two handles for this bag, one on its side, and one on the top. You may think this is excessive but there have been a number of times when I have appreciated the fact that you can easily just grab the bag and go. It’s a nice added touch in my opinion.

They have also added adjustable straps to help carry a tripod on the side of the bag. But if you are carrying something in the side pocket, this will no doubt get in the way of the tripod, making you choose between the two.

Having taking this bag out in a rainstorm, I can attest to the fact that it did a good job repelling water and keeping my gear inside dry, although with an even heavier downpour, I can see the bag itself may get soaked through eventually.

The Security

Perhaps the most unique thing about this bag would be the added security features it has added to fully protect travellers from pick pockets, thieves, and other troublemakers that you may run across on your trip. These added security features are well thought out and give you that peace of mind that your belongings are protected from people trying to open your bag while you wear it on your back.

The bag itself is made with their eXomesh Slashguard, which prevents thieves from easily slashing through common areas of a bag (front, bottom, side).

The Straps

The strap may look normal from the outside, but it’s what’s inside that really makes a difference: stainless steel wires integrated within the strap to prevent people from easily cutting through it. Despite the wires being inside, the straps are very flexible, soft, and comfortable throughout.

Should straps are secured with stainless steel embedded within.

Shoulder straps are secured with stainless steel wires embedded within.

One of the straps adds another level of security by allowing you to unhook it from the bag so you can wrap it around a solid object and hook it back to your bag.

Strap unhooks enabling you to wrap it around a solid object.

Strap unhooks enabling you to wrap it around a solid object.

The Zippers

Zippers can be an easy target for thieves so I really do like what Pacsafe was trying to do here with their zippers. The back pocket is protected as the zipper puller loops into a concealed clip that hides neatly within a tab. This makes it really hard for anybody to even try and open that pocket.

Zipper hooks into a loop, and hides within a tab.

Zipper hooks into a loop, and hides within a tab.

The top and main compartments are protected by an extra measure that is unique to Pacsafe as well. The two zipper pullers interlock with each other allowing you to loop them into what is called a Roobar, which locks with a twist. Add a padlock to this Roobar for maximum protection of your gear, preventing anyone from opening these two compartments.

The Roobar acts as an added security to prevent theft.

The Roobar acts as an added security to prevent theft.

The uniqueness of these zippers can be its main advantage, but also one of its main disadvantages. Since these zippers are proprietary, if they were to break at one point, you will be left with no choice but to go back to the manufacturer and hope that they can fix this. Each of their bags come with a 5 year warranty which is great, but after the 5 years, what will happen? I wondered about this because at times I felt the zippers may be its weakest link. With its thin loops at its end, and its intricate designs that allow for interconnectivity, there may be a chance for it to break off out of sheer use, which happened with one of my older bags from Crumpler.

Another point to note about the zippers is the fact that they are not flat. This may not seem like a big deal, but the triangular shape of these zippers actually made it slightly difficult for me at times to grab and zip on the go. There were times when I had a hard time grabbing the zippers and zipping up the compartment with ease.

Camsafe Z25 in the Field

I’m including some photos of the Pacsafe Camsafe Z25 bag out in the field, while I was in the Canadian Rocky Mountains in Alberta. I found it to be a very good companion to my gear, although the canvas material did get scuffed up with dirt and mud, fairly easily.

The Pacsafe bag in use in the mountains.

The Pacsafe bag in use in the mountains.

You can see the size of the Pacsafe Camsafe Z25 in comparison to my full-sized Gitzo Explorer tripod.

Size of bag in comparison to my tripod

Size of bag in comparison to my tripod

The bag sits comfortably on your shoulders despite all the heavy gear inside of it.

Bag hangs comfortably on one strap!

Bag hangs comfortably on one strap!

When I’m shooting on the go, I sometime hang the backpack on one shoulder like in the photo above. The compact size of the bag makes this feel comfortable. With the main compartment half open, I easily have access to my gear in this position as well. Just don’t forget to close the compartment once you flip the bag back on to your shoulders!

Final Thoughts

The bag did a good job keeping my gear dry in rain, although the canvas material did get wet in some areas, which took some time to fully dry up. The bag did not come with a rain cover like some others do, but this is not a make-or-break deal in my opinion—more of a wish-list item. Overall though, I have to say there are many great features of this bag that I like. The compact footprint is a big plus for me, as it still allows for lots of storage. The security features are a great peace-of-mind when travelling as well. The laptop compartment is neatly hidden in the top compartment, although at times I wished I could easily access my laptop with one quick unzip. While the zipper design may be my one concern with this bag, I wouldn’t let this be your deciding factor.

This Camsafe Z25 by Pacsafe is a refreshing bag from all the ones I’ve used in the past, and one that I could recommend to those who worry about protecting their gear while travelling. This is the first Pacsafe bag that I’ve had my hands on, but now that I’ve seen this one, I’m more curious to see what other goodies they have in their lineup. Be sure to include a Pacsafe bag in your lineup if you’re looking to buy a new camera backpack.

You can find more details on Pacsafe on their website:

Scaling back for more growth

Nikon D800, 1/320 sec., f/9.0, ISO 100, 60mm

Nikon D800, 1/320 sec., f/9.0, ISO 100, 60mm

This year I took it upon myself to regain some spark on my blog by posting something new every single day. I have been doing so since January 1, 2015, and I have had great feedback throughout the first six months, increasing my readership. Increasing my blog audience is important for me as I love the interaction I get from people reading my posts. The past few months were filled with varying posts including new reviews I’ve done for Social Print Studio’s photobook, my Think Tank Streetwalker HardDrive camera bag, details on how to take sunrise and sunset photos, and even starting a new series on how I edit my iPhone photographs, in addition to some posts on the new Periscope app.

My recent posts have largely become more photography-oriented, with daily photos of trips that I have taken in the past, and more recently. However, with these daily posts, it’s becoming more and more time-consuming to be able to write something of value to my readers. I worry that a simple photo post is no longer enough to keep my readers from coming back to my blog on a daily basis. Originally I made it a point to at least write in my posts, why I took the photo, or what I liked about the photo, in hopes of enriching my audience’s experience on this blog so that they can take something away from each of my posts.

The Next Step

Now that half the year has gone by, I am ready to start something else, which is to further add value to each of my posts by posting more in-depth articles on my photos or experiences. These posts will aim to be a little more detailed than my usual daily photo posts, so that people can learn a little more about my thoughts and ideas as a photographer and designer. I’ll aim to do these posts at least once a week, with the remainder of the week being filled with more photos from my archive or recent travels. I’ll also be taking a little break from posting photos on weekends so that I can concentrate more on writing these in-depth posts.

I always welcome any feedback on my blog so feel free to comment below, or reach out to me on any of my social media feeds, linked on the right side of my blog. As always, thanks so much for joining me on my blog, and I look forward to an even better six months ahead.