Category Archives: Camera Gear

Want to Digitize your Old 35mm Slides or Negatives? Here’s a great Solution!

I have THOUSANDS of old Kodachrome 64 and Ektachrome slides and other negatives that I haven’t been able to look at for years. The dilemma of how to digitize them has always been what prevented me from taking on this daunting task. I have tried scanners built for this purpose, but unless you purchase a really high quality one (aka expensive), you won’t get great results. Plus the process is agonizingly slow and impractical if you have over 10,000 images to be scanned (my situation). And any services that do the scanning for you can be really expensive if you are digitizing this many images, plus you have to ship the images to them, and there is always the risk that a shipment could be lost or damaged, and you could lose photographs that may be priceless to you.

I finally found a solution that is incredibly good! It’s a slide and film digitizer that attaches to the front of your lens where you can attach filters. The JJC Photo Slide and Film Digitizer Converter comes with a wide variety of adapters, all included in the box. Even though it says it is for “Select Canon Nikon Sony Macro Lenses”, I found it works FINE with my Tamron 90mm Macro Lens attached to my Canon R5. I wasn’t sure if it would work, based on the product description, but upon purchasing it and trying it on my macro lens and camera, I found it worked perfectly!

What a fantastic solution it is! It comes with the white light source behind the slide/negative, and all you have to do is slip in the slide/negative, make sure it is focused and exposure is set properly, and press the shutter button! Then on to the next image. This is MUCH faster than using a dedicated scanner.

I can’t begin to say how thrilled I am to have found this great product. I am finally scanning my old images. In some cases, I am seeing images that I literally have not even seen in over 40 years! It’s like opening a time capsule into the past.

SO, if you have this similar problem of needing a way to scan your old slides/negatives, you might want to check it out! Of course, it will depend on whether you have a macro lens, and what camera you’re using, but it’s definitely worth a try since this solution is under $100, and they offer free returns so you can try it for yourself.

Here’s the product on Amazon: JJC Photo Slide and Film Digitizer Converter 

Here’s the setup attached to my Tamron 90mm Macro Lens attached to my Canon R5:

Here’s an example image, scanned from a Kodachrome 64 slide, from 1979:


Keeping your lens clean

This one small tip has big consequences! Keep the front of your lens clean (or if you have a filter on the front, keep THAT clean)! This is especially important when you point your camera toward the sun, as this can cause distracting flare and highlights or dark fuzzy spots.

I use a lens pen to keep the front of my lens clean. There are different varieties of these on the market, but they all work basically the same way. They are very effective and safe to use on all lenses, plus they are compact and portable. I always have one in my camera bag!


Go Long! (Telephoto that is)

Depending on the type of photography you are doing, you may find your camera’s best friend is a long focal length (telephoto) lens! Especially for nature, wildlife, birds, and even landscapes, having a really good telephoto lens in your arsenal of camera gear can be so valuable.

What do I typically carry in my camera gear when I am doing nature photography? I have a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM

This lens has served me well on my various adventures in wildlife and nature photography in the Colorado Rockies.

The Image Stabilization in this lens is excellent, which is great for those moments where I am shooting hand-held in lower-light early morning scenarios or on overcast days.

Also, its ability to focus as close as 3.2 feet is exceptionally useful for wildflowers and butterflies, etc.

I also sometimes use a Canon EF 2.0X III Telephoto Extender for those shots where I need the added boost in focal length.

For example this shot below was with my Canon 100-400 with the 2X extender, boosting my effective focal length to 800mm. I really don’t use the extender all that often, I find it useful when I need the added focal length.

But What About You?

If you photograph wildlife, birds, wildflowers, butterflies, a long telephoto lens might be perfect for you! Especially getting up into the range of 400mm, 500mm, 600mm is quite useful. (Remember if you have a non-full-frame sensor, take into account the crop factor. Ex: A 200mm lens on a camera with a 1.5 crop factor is effectively a 300mm lens.)

Image sharpness and good stabilization is critical. Lenses vary in their degree of sharpness, distortion, vignetting, minimum focusing distance, focusing speed, etc. so shop carefully. There are many review sites out there to help you analyze and compare.

Image stabilization, just to be clear, is the technology built into the lens and/or camera body to minimize the impact of hand vibration/movement when shooting hand-held. It goes by many names, Image Stabilization (Canon), Vibration Reduction (Nikon), Optical Steady Shot (Sony), and many more. Depending on the lens/camera, this feature will allow you to shoot at slower shutter speeds than would otherwise be feasible, which also means you won’t have to resort to really high ISO values to get fast shutter speeds (which is the only other way to minimize hand motion blur). Consider this a must-have feature!

Beyond features, you also have to take into account your budget. Decide what features are worth paying for and which aren’t. Also weight is an important consideration. A lens could be outstanding but if you plan on carrying it on a 10 mile hike, you might not like it as much.

Depending on the make and model of your camera, here are some lenses you might want to check out. (Make sure the lens is compatible with your camera body!)

Do you have a favorite telephoto lens that is not on this list? Let me know, and I’ll add it. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all lenses that are on the market. These are just some of the better ones available today! Of course, I haven’t used all of those lenses personally, so check reviews and weigh tradeoffs.

Happy Telephoto Picture Taking My Friends!

Kevin Gourley

P.S. I have a variety of great online interactive photography classes starting soon! Check them out!


Test Drive the New Sony a7R III

I recently had a chance to take the Sony a7R III mirrorless full-frame 42.4 megapixel camera on a “test drive.”  This exceptional camera produces great images.  In studio, I normally shoot with DSLRs but one thing I noticed in a test shoot with my model, Amanda, is that the focusing felt ever so slightly sluggish at times while I was shooting in the mode where the camera detects and focuses on eyes (Eye AF mode), BUT the results were impressive.  It consistently produced sharper images and did a great job keeping eyes in focus. That, combined with the 42.4 megapixel sensor resulted in extra sharp images with fine resolution.

This camera has a fast Hybrid AF with 399-point focal-plane phase-detection AF and 425-point contrast-detection AF.   The 5-axis image stabilization with 5.5-stop exposure advantage also promises to deliver consistently sharp images.   The viewfinder is an approximately 3.69-million-dot Quad-VGA OLED display, making it easy to view, which I really appreciate since I am more accustomed to shooting with a DSLR.

There are so many other fantastic features in this camera that I did not really have time to run through their paces, but I can say with certainty this is a very serious contender for being one of the best cameras on the market today.

Here are several shots from my session with Amanda, using the Sony a7R III.

P.S.  Would you like to join me in doing a photo shoot with Amanda in my studio?  Check out this upcoming workshop.  CLICK HERE


Radio Trigger Your Older AND Newer Canon Flashes, and More

Hi photographers!

I just heard about these, so I thought I’d pass this info on to you.  Disclaimer: I haven’t personally used these, but they are interesting enough I felt I should tell you about them!

These are pretty cool!  The Phottix Laso TTL Flash Trigger Receivers and Transmitters open up new possibilities for your flash photography.

Here’s how Phottix describes these:

“The Phottix Laso Flash Trigger System allows users to control and trigger Canon radio-enabled flashes, as well as control and trigger Canon’s non-radio flashes mounted on Laso Receivers. Using Phottix Laso Receivers, photographers can control and trigger older Canon flashes without built-in radio functions. Studio lights can also be triggered by the Laso Receiver, adding a new layer of creativity.”

So, if you happen to own some older Canon flashes like 580EX’s, this would allow you to control them via Canon radio triggering with their newer line of flashes without having to resort to the much less desirable optical triggering.  Or if you have a Canon flash with radio triggering, you can use this to trigger studio monolights, etc.  Lots of possibilities.  Or if you want to use the transmitter to control off-camera radio triggered Canon flashes such as the 600 EX RT, this will do the trick without having to buy the much more expensive Canon ST-E3-RT controller!

Since I haven’t personally used them myself yet, all I can say is that this really appears to be an interesting and quite useful product worth checking out! Make sure you read all the specs before purchasing, of course.


Test Drive the New Sony a7R III

I am giving the new Sony a7RIII a test drive for the next couple of weeks.  This is one serious full-frame 42.4 megapixel mirrorless camera.

You can read the full specs on this amazing camera on the Sony website. It is hard to even summarize some of the biggest highlights because there are so many, and frankly what will matter most to you will depend on the type of photography you are doing. It has features that will serve any photographer.

I have used DSLR’s for years. One thing’s for sure, it would be a mistake to overlook some of the new mirrorless cameras coming on the market and the Sony a7RIII is particularly noteworthy as a top contender for the serious hobbyist or pro photographer.

Anyway, on my first day with this amazing camera, I was in my studio shooting some sample images for my Water Droplet Photography Workshop.

I was using this camera with the Sony 24-105 f/4 OSS lens for this project.  It was particularly useful for my water droplet photography since is offers a minimum focusing distance of only 14.9″!

This Sony a7RIII did an excellent job with this test project.  I used a couple of off-camera flashes using Sony’s Radio Control Wireless Commander and two  Wireless Receivers to capture water droplets.

Here are the results! Stay tuned for other results from my “test drive” of the Sony a7RIII.


Happy Picture Taking!

P.S. Don’t forget to get a copy of my new book on Amazon!


Sony’s All-new a7R III 42.4MP Camera

Sony just announced their all-new a7R III 42.4MP Full Frame Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera!

Over the past several years, Sony has been pushing their way into the photography world with some excellent camera products that are proving to be serious competition to Canon and Nikon.

This new a7R III is quite a camera.  It won’t be released until November 20th but it is available for pre-order now.

Some key features:

  • 42.4 Megapixel full-frame sensor
  • ISO Range 100 to 32,000 (expandable to 102,400)
  • 14 bit RAW format with  a wide 15 stop dynamic range
  • PixelShift multi-shooting mode to create super-sharp images
  • Fast Hybrid Autofocus System with 399 point phase detection AF and 425 point contrast detection AF
  • Up to 2X faster AF response, and 2X improved AF tracking
  • Eye AF for precise focusing/tracking of eyes
  • 10 fps high speed continuous shooting in absolute silence
  • Shoot up to 76 images in continuous burst mode
  • 5.5 stop image stabilization (wow) with their 5-axis system
  • 4K video
  • 3.69 million dot quad-VGA OLED viewfinder
  • Dual media slots
  • HLG Hybrid Log-Gamma for instant HDR workflow

To sum it up, at least based on these specs, this is one heck of a serious camera.

It’s available for pre-order through Amazon.

Oh, and by the way, remember my new book is also available on Amazon!  It’s getting 5 star ***** reviews from readers.



I Love My LensPen Lens Cleaner

This nifty device, called a “LensPen” is a wonderful device for keeping your lens clean! I always have one in my camera bag.

One end has a retractable brush and the other end is a felt tip with a protective cap. It has a special cleaning compound that does an excellent job of cleaning the front of your lens. Keeping your lens clean is important, especially when you shoot toward the sun. Dust, dirt, and smudges really can harm the quality of your photographs.


Pixelstick Fun!

PixelstickI hosted a class the other night demonstrating the use of a PixelStick!

This is a nifty device that is used in light painting. The stick is a little over 6 feet long and has a strip of 200 LEDs that are controlled by a microprocessor that can generate over 16 million different colors at each location.

It can display all sorts of cool patterns and effects, plus you can also load images on an SD card (in Windows BMP format, 200 pixels in height) and the stick can “paint” the image as the user sweeps the Pixelstick across the air.

Here are some examples shot outside our studio at night.  All of these images were totally created in-camera (no Photoshop involved).  The possibilities are endless!

No, the fence is not on fire. The Pixelstick can “paint” artificial flames!  So very cool

Want to know more about the Pixelstick? Check out their website:

Happy Picture Taking!

Kevin Gourley


Use a Speedlite and a Softbox for your Outdoor Portraits!

A lot of people ask me what type of lighting I use for shooting portraits outside. I often use a couple of Canon Speedlites 600EX RT.  Other brands like the Phottix (for Nikon or Canon) work well also.

For my off-camera speedlite, I have the light angled at about 45 degrees to the side and raised up a bit, and it is mounted on a softbox.

I use an Impact 24×24″ Softbox, but you could use any brand really, and get nice results.

Of course there are a lot more details I could cover, but I wanted to keep this simple in this article.

Every camera works differently in how it interacts with a flash/speedlite, and there are all sorts of considerations regarding shutter speed, high speed sync, front vs rear curtain sync, mixing ambient light etc.

Using TTL (known as iTTL or ETTL etc. depending on the brand) is the easiest way to operate your flash.  One helpful trick is to underexpose the ambient (existing) light by about 1 f/stop.

If none of this makes sense to you, I offer Light & Photography Workshops intermittently throughout the year.    Plus, when I have enough people interested, I am happy to add a ‘Learn by DoingWorkshop on this topic any time!  Just go to this web page and fill out the form if you are interested (look for the bright green box on that page).

For this article, I just wanted you to know what type of gear I typically use for my outdoor shots, since lots of people have been asking.

Happy Picture Taking!

Kevin Gourley