Monthly Archives: March 2014

Iceland 1 – Day 5 March 19, 2014

After a quick breakfast we check out of our storm shelter and headed out to Hali.  There is so much to see and photograph along the south coast of Iceland that two days do not do it justice. From a photographers point, at a bare minimum you need a week during each season.

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Our four SUV’s and some of the group at Svinafellsjokull

 

Our first major stop was the ice blue ridges of Svinafellsjokull (Pig Glacier) at Skaftafell. This is a beautiful glacier that has claimed a few lives. As you approach the glacier entrance sign shows the names of two who went missing 2007.  The sign was erected by their family and friends. Unfortunately due to ice on the ledges, the path that leads to an elevated vantage point was closed.  Yet there were many suitable spots to photograph from and some of the group trekked to the far edge to capture images of the glacial valley and the mouth of the glacier.

A frontal view of the Svinafellsjokull

A frontal view of the Svinafellsjokull

 

The Blue Ice

The Blue Ice

 

Snow and Ice Patterns on the Frozen Lagoon

Snow and Ice Patterns on the Frozen Lagoon

 

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A closer view of the lagoon

From here we set out to Jokulsarlon.  This is a large glacial lagoon where Vatnajokul, the largest glacier in Europe, calves and sends its magnificent large blue and crystal clear icebergs into the ocean.

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A Lonely Iceberg

A Lonely Iceberg

 

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Ice Close-up

Ice Close-up

 

The Ocean Swirls

The Ocean Swirls

 

A Temporary Rest

A Temporary Rest

With many images under our belt we were anxious to get to the black sand beach which is at the very end of Jokulsarlon.  There the Vatnajokul icebergs get pushed and deposited onto the black sand beach by the mighty waves and tides of the ocean.  The photo opportunities are endless and one has to be careful of the huge rogue waves that come ashore so fast that it is virally impossible to out run them.  I did experience my first soaking this morning.  Knees down I was wet and my boots were full of freezing cold sea water.  I guess I can say it took a dip in the ocean in Iceland in the winter. Fortunately this was soon before we had planned to wind up and head to our hotel to cheek in.  I had to use the reception facilities to get out of my wet clothes and change into a fresh set of dy ones.  I guess I was not the only one in the group who experienced the wrath of the tides in Iceland as many stories of rogue waves were told at lunch. Our plans were being formulated to come back for sunrise the next morning.

We had a great lunch.  Most of us ate the traditional Icelandic soup while others had mushroom soup.  The weather started to turn for the worse so some of the group wanted to just relax while others wanted more ptography despite the weather. We headed out along the coastal route going North East.  En route we photographed some farm houses and a church.  We saw a herd of reindeer or caribou on the right side of the highway so pulled over.  None of us had really long focal-length lenses but it was still fun photographing these creatures.

Reindeer and Caribou look a bit different, but they are the same species Rangifer tarandus.  Reindeer were domesticated in northern Eurasia about 2000 years ago. These animals have unique hairs which trap air providing them with excellent insulation buoyancy.

Reindeer or Carribou

Reindeer or Caribou

 

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A Buck

 

An Old Church in southeast Iceland

An Old Church in southeast Iceland

 

A old home in ruins was a great object of interest.  At this juncture the weather really turned for the worse so we headed back to the hotel.  The winds were gusting and the clud cover was dense.  The likelihood of any night photography or Aurora photography was just about a zero.

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An old abandoned home/farm

We had dinner and retired to the rooms.  Some of us sat around in the kitchen area drinking a few beers and just relaxing.

A Matter of Survival

A Matter of Survival

Posted in Photographs, Photography, Workshops

Iceland 1 – Day 4 March 18, 2014

After a fairly late night with the Aurora displays we checked out of our hotel and started our drive to Hali.  We had great plans to photograph the falls, farms and other interesting vista.  It was raining and snowing as we left Reykjavik and slowly but surely started getting worse as we moved South.

Our first stop was Seljalandfoss.  Seljalandsfoss is a very popular tourist attractions and also one of the most photographed in Iceland. These falls are located between Seljalandsmúli and Hamragarðar. When driving on route 1 you need to turn at Seljalandsmúli on a side road.  The falls are about 3/4 of a mile with ample parking.

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Seljalandfoss

The Seljalandsá river drops about 200 feet off the cliff edge forming Seljalandsfoss (foss means waterfall). In addition to Seljalandsfoss, there a few additional streams that drop similar heights to the west of the main falls. A path provides access behind the waterfall that gives photographers and tourists many unique views.

Small breaks in the rain allowed for some brief shooting.

Next stop was Skógarfoss.  This is one of Iceland’s larger waterfalls 70 feet wide and 200 feet high. Skógarfoss is a fall along the river Skógará.
The wind and the way the fall droops there is always high volume of spray. In sunlight, that we unfortunately lacked, the spray results in a a single or double rainbow. According to Icelandic folklore there are treasures and gold buried under the waterfall.

The rain and snow is getting worse and photography is near impossible.  Some of the group would not be denied the opportunity so they braved the elements and got some record shots.

We leave the foss in driving sleet, snow and high winds.  We stop at one more waterfall called Falls at Forsa.

Now the snow is more like a blizzard, visibility is down to a 50 feet or so. We drive using the yellow road markers to guide us. Eventually arrive in the town of Vik.  This is the southern most tip of Iceland.  Lunch and then on to Klaustur where we normally fill up as there are no gas stations in Hali. The conditions are getting worse and the wind is just brutal.  We drive on to the next small town of Skaftafel.  The wind spend signs show 88 MPH steady winds and the gusts are over 100 MPH.  If you are on FaceBook check out a short video of this experience on E.J. Peiker’s timeline.   We drive a few miles and are turned back by the police – the road is impassable.  Fortunately Skftafell has a small hotel and they have 5 rooms available, we are 15 in all so it is hole up time.  We had dinner at this hotel and managed to get some sleep.  Wakeup call was for 5:45 and departure 6:30.

In the most part this day was a wash-out.

Posted in Photography, Workshops Tagged , |

Iceland 1 – Day 3 (March 17, 2014)

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Snæfellsjökull (the snow is only a foreground not a part of the glacier)

It is day 3 of this trip and we head out to the region known as Snæfellsnes Peninsula. This is a rugged region of Icelandic west coast that juts out into the Atlantic between Faxaflói bay and Breiðafjörður. The two coasts north and south separate by a range of mountains that run along the peninsula and culminate ending up at Snæfellsjökull, a large volcano and glacier at the land’s westernmost point.  This is the largest volcano on this peninsula.  This is the mountain that was featured in the Jules Verne book “Journey to the Center of the Earth”

Travel to this region is shortest when you take the 6 kilometer long tunnel that traverses under the ocean. Once through the tunnel, on the way Snæfellsnes to our first stop was the unique single crater volcano named Eldborg (The Fire Castle) is actually it is a caldera rather than a volcanic crater.

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Eldborg

Next, we ant to the town of BÚÐIR. This is a former fishing village in the Búðavík bay. The settlement was abandoned in the early nineteenth century and today has just a hotel and a church. The church is a black church surrounded by a lava field. It has three white-framed windows and was constructed in 1703. The church has a surrounding wall made of lava and topped with turf.

Black Church at Boudir

Black Church at BÚÐIR

 

Some of the group photographing the Black Church

Some of the group photographing the Black Church

Our next location was an costal area Arnastapi at the foot of Stapafell. It is a small fishing village and harbor.  The rocks and cliff sides are rookeries.  This time of year the primary nesting sea birds were Fulmars with a few Kittiwakes.  Arctic terns also nest here and are known to dive-bomb when threatened.

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Fulmar leaving its nest

 

A hose in Arnastapi

A house in Arnastapi

There are lots of photo opportunities in this area and one has to be very careful of massive rogue waves.  The waves are very unpredictable and if you are on a beach or near the ocean you must be extra cautious.

A quick snack and then on to another hunt for the Aurora. There were faint signs while we were driving so we stopped and set up.  This was truly rewarding.

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Posted in Photography, Workshops Tagged , , |

Iceland 1 – Day 2 (March 16, 2014)

Iceland continues to be cloudy, stormy and very windy. We planned of doing the Golden Circle route despite adverse weather conditions. On the way to Þingvellir we stopped at Mosfellsheiði (Mosfellsheidi in English).

Mos

Mosfellsheiði

Þingvellir (Thingvellir in English) which is the is the National Park where the Althing, open-air parliament that represented all of Iceland, was convened in 930 and continued remained active until 1798. It became a national park in 1928 and has a special tectonic and volcanic environment as a rift valley. It is in this area that you can see the continental drift between the North American and Eurasian Plates particularly in the faults which traverse park. The largest of the fault cracks is the Almannagjá.

 

View from the overlook

View from the overlook

Þingvellir is on the northern shore of Þingvallavatn, that is the largest natural lake in Iceland.

Faults and Fissures

Faults and Fissures

As we walked along the fault cracks we noticed bus loads of tourists arriving so decided we would go ahead to the largest waterfall Gullfoss and beat the crowds that were bound to visit the famous Gyser before going to Gullfoss.

For a change Gullfoss was not as windy so the group was able to get some excellent images from the various vantage points.

Gullfoss

Gullfoss

Next stop was for lunch at the Geyser. Here again the crowds were impossible – it was school vacation week in England and hence the crowds.

After lunch we headed out to photograph the Geyser. A few quick eruptions and then we are in the middle of one of the fastest developing snowstorms. No one outside was spared. A few (sensible) members of the group decided to stay back in the restaurant – smart move. By the time one could walk from the gyser to the concession store photographers, cameras and tripods all became one big white snow covered mass.

Heading back around the Golden Circle we stopped and photographed a small church in Faxi called Haukadals Kirkja (Kirkja means Church – interesting that the Hindi word for church is Girja and sounds similar to Kirkja).

Kirkja

Haukadals Kirkja

Next stop was a coral of Icelandic horses on Route 35 before heading to another waterfall.

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This is Faxafoss which is not very high but has some lovely form.

Faxafoss

Faxafoss

With the weather continuing to be problematic we heads towards a potential Aurora location. As the sun was going down we stopped overlooking a valley with a lovely little church. This is the church at Lake Ulfljotsvatn that is south of the Thingvellir national part called Ulfljotsvatn Kirkja.  The original church or churches were was established 1200.  The current church was built in 1914 and will be 100 years old this year. The lake is frozen but it is deceptive.  It is believed that centuries ago the priest and people traveling to attend mass drowned on their way trying to cross the lake as a shortcut to church.

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The church at Lake Ulfljotsvatn

The Aurora is always a waiting game so we waited and waited. All there was to photograph was the full moon.

One can only have so much patience and with no signs of the skies clearing we returned to the hotel.

 

Posted in Photography, Workshops Tagged , , |

Iceland 1 – Day 1 (March 15, 2014)

We arrived about 1/2 hour early and the luggage was already on the carrousel when we go to baggage claim.  It was raining, torrential at times when we got the the car rental building, all very smooth and efficient. Getting the rentals was another story – it took over an hour to get the 4 suv’s despite pre booking and payment.   The 7 of us finally get to the hotel where we have been moved because the hotel we originally were booked in was overbooked.  In one way tho seas great because this is a very luxurious 4 star hotel.  We checked in and went down to have an excellent buffet breakfast.  We met up with the rest of the group who had come in a day earlier.

Though it was still raining we headed out to the Reykjanes Peninsula. The word Reykjanes means Smoky Point in Icelandic. We traveled paper and semi paved roads through lava fields to Grænavatn a green tinted lake that was created within a volcanic crater.  The wind was constant and blowing furiously 50 MPH or more.  It was virtually impossible to hold a camera still.  The next stop was Seltún a geothermal field with mud cauldrons, hot pools and steam vents.

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We spent a short while photographing the lighthouses of Reykjness.  One is a yellow/orange lighthouse named Hopnes after the lava spit of the same name._S5A2466-Edit-Edit

After a lunch at a local village N1 we drove to another Geothermal Area Gunnuhver where once again the wind intense.  The smell of sulfur is everywhere and the vapors here are dense.  Beautiful mineral tones adorn this field.  The geothermal is is named Gunna a legendary woman who was accused of murder and thrown into the boiling hot spring._S5A2478_79_80_81_82-Edit

The final stop of the day was the ocean area called Valahnúkur.  This is a beautiful coastline with high jagged cliffs all formed by volcanic eruptions and lava.  As it was the whole day, here too we were greeted with high winds and major ocean spray making photography a challenge._S5A2538_39_40_41_42-Edit-2-Edit

On our way back to the hotel we drove by the tallest lighthouse in the region built on Bæjarfell hill. With the forecast and dense clouds we decided not to venture out for Aurora activity this evening.

Posted in Photography

So what’s in the bag for my Iceland workshop

I had indicated that once I had figured out what to take and how to configure and pack my thinkTANK Airporter International V2 I would share the details with you.

So here is what it looks like all packed and ready to roll.

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Then I had to unpack everything to show you what I had packed.  Good exercise, as one can pack a lot but repacking the same amount never seems to work. Fortunately it all repacked just fine.  Because of its construction, the bag is heavy when empty but that does not bother me.  The contents are secure and the wheels are very smooth.  One of the features I really like is the extra handle on the bottom of the bag between the wheels to facilitate loading the bag in overhead bins when traveling by air.

A tighter view of the main compartment:

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So here is what is in the kit.IMG_0802-Edit

Bodies:

  • Canon 5D Mk III
  • Canon 7D
  • Panasonic GH3
  • GoPro Hero 3 Black

Lenses:

  • Canon 70 – 200 f/2.8 IS
  • Canon 24 – 70 f/2.8
  • Canon 16 – 35 f/2.8 II
  • Canon 40mm f/2.8
  • Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Nikon mount with a Canon adapter
  • Panasonic 12 – 35 f/2.8
  • Panasonic 7 – 14 f/4

I typically carry all the lens hoods and the BosStraps separately in my suitcase.

Intervalometers and Motion Control:

  • ASTRO intervalometer and motion control device
  • Promote Control for HDR, Timelapse and other remote functions
  • Hahnel Giga T Pro

Filters:

  • Lee Big Stopper 10 Stop Filter
  • HighTech 8 stop ND Filter
  • HighTech 100mm filter holder

Accessories:

  • 2 Panasonic batteries and 7 Canon batteries
  • Canon and Panasonic Battery Chargers
  • 2 GuraGear Memory card carriers with CF and SD Cards
  • 1 Hyperspace Disc drive and downloader adapter
  • Kirk Panorama nodal slide rail
  • Spare Lens caps
  • A large Cleaning Cloth in pouch
  • Lens Pen
  • Dust blower
  • Delkin USB UDMA  Card reader and cable
  • Various cables and connectors for the intervalometers
  • Set of Allen Wrenches
  • Roll of Gaffers tape

GPS:

  • Canon GPS Receiver GP-E2
  • Garmin eTrex GPS device

Flash Lights:

  • Surefire Head Lamp
  • Sure Fire 900 lumen flashlight
  • Maglite (2 AA halogen bulb)

International GSM Compatible Blackberry Phone.

Not Shown in the image is a 15in MacBook Pro in the outer sleeve of the bag.

That is a lot of equipment and there is still room in the various sleeves and pouches that I have left empty.

Check out this previous blog post for some new products and a link to purchase.

 

 

Posted in Photography

Issues with downloading my book – RESOLVED

There was a problem with Payloadz and PayPal that was giving various “merchant” errors.  This has been resolved and the PDF version of my book can be downloaded without this aggravation.  My apologies.

http://store.payloadz.com/details/1996482-ebooks-other-time-lapse-imagery.html

Posted in Photography

Introducing Astro – a single axis motion control device

_S5A0193-EditThe Astro is a fairly simple and compact intervalometer and single axis motion control device for time-lapse and panorama photography.

The unit is powered by 2 AA batteries. The unit can be positioned in one of two orientations, horizontal for rotational panning and vertical for tilt panning. Rotation can be in clockwise and counterclockwise directions. It is rated to support unto 22 pounds of camera gear when properly mounted and balanced on the central pivot point in the horizontal pan mode and 6.5 pounds in tilt mode. It has a maximum speed of 6° per second in panorama mode or 360° in 55 seconds. It is rated for operating temperatures of 32° to 104° F or 0° to 40° C

The device can be ordered with cables specific to the camera you use. A 2.5mm jack connects the Astro cable to you camera.  A cable with 2.5 mm jacks on either end is provided to connect your iPhone or Android phone for additional functionality.  The IOS and Android applications are under development and not available as of the writing of this book.

Astro

Programming the astro is very easy.  The unit has three rings stacked one above the other and a status LED that also serves as a marker.

  • The uppermost ring controls the “Duration” where you set the total duration of the time-lapse from 15 min to 12 hrs.
  • The middle ring controls the “Rotation” that is the total rotational angle from the start of the sequence to the end.
  • The lowest ring sets the triggering “Interval” in seconds.

You mount a plate that matches your

tripod head to the bottom of the Astro. Mount a ball-head on the top or mount your camera directly to the to 1/4 20mm screw. Connect the cable to the Astro and your camera. Program the Astro in three steps and press one of the directional start buttons.  The unit will turn on, follow a move, settle shoot cycles to the end of the sequence.

Depressing either of the two start buttons during a sequence will terminate the sequence.

The Status LED provides the following information:

Single Green: Indicates each movement.
Rapid Orange: Smartphone Mode. The unit is waiting for a smartphone program transfer.
Rapid Red: Indicates an error in starting the program.
Continuous Red: Indicated a canceled program.
Rapid Red: Indicates a low battery.

Two Astro units can be coupled using “L Brackets” to achieve 2 axis motion, panning and simultaneous tilting.

_S5A0201-EditFor testing  2 Eneloop Rechargeable AA batteries were used. The Astro was fitted with a 1/4 20 to 3/8 adapter and a Feisol CB-50DC bullhead on top.  A Really Right Stuff plate was attached to the base.  This combination was mounted on top of a Gitzo tripod and the Really Right Stuff BH55 bullhead.  I first tested the Astro with a Canon 7D and a 16 – 35 mm f/2.8 L series II lens in pan mode and the the unit’s performance was effortless  and accurate through the duration of the time-lapse sequences.  To take it up a notch, the Astro was mounted with the 7D and a 70 – 200 f/2.8 L series lens.  The  lens foot plate was used to balance the camera lens combination on the Astro.  This is about as heavy as you would use to do a time-lapse sequence.  Once again the performance was very good.  I did notice a slight backlash in the last frame.  This is easily solved by eliminating the frame before assembling the final sequence.

Since the L brackets are not yet available the Astro was mounted in a vertical orientation by dropping the Tripod’s ball head 90 degrees. For this test the camera body was a Canon 5D MkIII and a the 16 – 35 mm f/2.8 L series II lens.

You can get the Astro now by clicking on the button below. The pre order price is $249 and the retail price will be $280.

BuyNow

 

Posted in Photography

thinkTANK – announces two new products

Think Tank just announced the release of new products aimed at enhancing your workflow and increased mobility.

Also look out for my update on the thinkTank Airport International V 2.0 and a new post on the Retrospective Shoulder Bag.

 

Modular Pixel Pocket Rocket lowres

Think Tank Photo’s new Modular Pixel Pocket Rocket (PPR) is belt-mountable, which enables you to easily whip out CF and SD cards and to keep them securely and conveniently at hand when shooting. The Modular PPR is easily secured by a sturdy hook-and-loop panel to any Think Tank Photo modular belt or to any belt.  It holds six CF cards and three SD cards, as well as other small accessories, such as a smart phone or lens cloth.

Click here for the Modular Pixel Pocket Rocket (PPR)

 

App House 10 lowres

The App House 8 and the App House 10 are two hybrid bags for quick access to a small or standard-size Apple tablets and can be used either as shoulder bags or mounted on belts. Streamlined and secure, their small size, removable shoulder strap, and double-lock belt-mount make it practically effortless for you to carry and access your tablet and stay connected around town or when traveling.  Key features include: Dedicated pockets for carrying a smart phone, device accessories, plus other small items; a dedicated, easily accessible smart phone pocket with soft liner; and an internal organizer with elastic and zippered pockets for connection cables, card readers, power cables, portable charger, pens, or other personal items.

Click here for the App House 8

Click here for the App House 10 

For all other thinkTANK products CLICK HERE

All orders over $50 entitle you to a free gift.  In case you are wondering what your choices are see the screenshot below:

Free Gift

 

Posted in Photography

Elinchrome D-LiTE-RX4 – Review

S5A9669-Edit.jpgElinchrom’s new D-Lite-RX 2/4 200/400 ws strobes are excellent low sync speed semi portable studio worthy strobes.  The ”it” designation is for Intelligent Triggering.

Each strobe head is made from a rugged impact resistant plastic that has a rubberized top handle with a holder for a spare fuse.with many new exciting  features. The kit contains two strobes, power cables, two Portalite square soft boxes, with bayonet mounts.  Included is one reflector.

Each head has a built-in Skyport” receiver and a four channel Skyport transmitter is included with the kit.The transmitter is an optional item for single units.  All heads are fan cooled when needed. The kit includes a pair of Manfrotto light stands and all carrying cases.

 

The heads are available in 200 and 400 Watt versions. My units are 400 Watts. The control panel is well configured as shown in the image below.

Elincrome

Control Panel – Image courtesy of Elinchrome

Specifications:

RX4 Spec

Technical Specifications – as provided by Elinchrome

The power switch is illuminated when the head is powered on.  A two position LED indicates the power setting, with two buttons to increase or decrease the power in 1/10 increments. Another button allows you to set the modeling light at full power, minimum power, proportional power or off. There is a strobe trigger button called the Eye-Cell and is programmable for Auto, Manual or Pre-Flash modes.  This is very useful when using a hot-shoe flash to trigger the D-Lites. Finally there is a button to turn on or off the audible beep.  The units have a decent recycling rate recharging in .35 to 1.6 seconds based on the power output setting.  A great feature is “Auto Dumping”. When you lower the power output the nut will automatically dump the excess charge and indicates it is ready with a beep.

Set-up

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Assembling the Portalite soft boxes takes up most of the time. There is one addition I would like, a secondary diffusion panel inside the Portalite Softbox. The rest is easy.  The units come preconfigured to work with the Skyport set on the Frequency Channel 1 and Group 1.  Changing channels and groups is easy and accomplished pressing the power up and down buttons together, then toggling the function using the modeling lamp mode button and using the individual power up or down buttons to

select the following:

  • Groups 1 through 4
  • Channels 1 through 8

At any time you can do a Master Reset to factory defaults switching off the unit, holding the power up and down buttons and switching on the unit again.

S5A9674-Edit.jpgThe unit has two umbrella mounts. one is a centered tube that will accept 7mm diameter umbrella shafts that are on the Elinchrome EL umbrellas. If you do not have EL umbrellas you can mount an off centered umbrella in the secondary mount near the tilt handle.

For most of the work I do in studio I find these to be an excellent choice.  The units work flawlessly. I have two sets in my studio and for the past 8 months these have never missed a beat. The power output and color temperature are consistent and the supplied cases are ideal for transportation to allocation shoots.

I highly recommend these units to anyone looking for an excellent high quality starter system.  My preference is for the 400W units.

These can be purchased for $949 for the 400WS heads and $849 for the 200WS heads.  Individual heads are also available but the best price breaks are when you purchase a kit.

Posted in Accessories, High Key, Lighting, Photography, Portraits, Product Reviews Tagged |