Think Tank Photo Bags (after the honeymoon)

Photographers have a hard time moving from equipment that they know, even bags for carrying photographic equipment can be a very hard decision unless you have the time to invest in getting a couple trying them out and then sending them back, or a nice big photo retailer that allows you to try out a wide selection in the store before you buy. I don’t really have either of those options as I wanted the bags that arrived to be the bags that I kept so ensued literally months of research to ensure that I came home with the bags that I needed/wanted to use going forward.

The bag being replaced was a Lowpro Toploader 75 bag which had served me for many years actually, until the zipper broke and it became nearly impossible to get the camera out quickly and stowed quickly often leaving the top flap open with the camera exposed for all to see. I’d buy from them again but wanted to try something new that left me in charge of my equipment in a different way also keeping my gear safe.

The biggest requirement that I had was one determined by my health, I needed a camera storage system that left the camera weight not on my shoulders. I have been suffering for years now from pain associated with how I hold my shoulders while at work and on the side lines of sporting events and while photographing weddings. A person’s shoulders should be allowed to relax, even while photographing events and I believe that I have now achieved that.

Thinktank photo bags has allowed me to design a photo bag storage system that brings with me the essential pieces of gear that I feel I need while keeping it protected and it’s weight not resting on my shoulders. I ended up purchasing Modular Set Component System which really is nearly everything that you could ever need or want so far as bags and holsters for your camera gear. After a couple of weddings and other events I can say that each portion of the set has it’s uses, I have used each portion for different purposes at different events. Don’t forget to get a belt to put the Modular Set Component System on, I purchased the Pro Speed Belt which I believe is why I continue to like the system so much, very comfortable. Originally I thought that I would really only want one setup and configuration and that hasn’t remained true.

Also wanting a bag to carry my camera when I’m not on the job I purchased Digital Holster 30 v 2.0 I don’t know what is version 2.0 about the bag but I can say that I have barely used it since getting the belt pack as well. The digital holster has it’s place in the camera bag arsenal but has some downfalls that I would also like to discuss. For one there simply isn’t enough space in this one bag for the standard objects that I would want to carry. It would take an additional item strapped onto the bag to make it functional. While traveling I like to keep with me one camera and one lens, this isn’t a problem in the Digital Holster. The things that I can’t keep with me in the digital holster include: filters, extra media, extra batteries are almost completely out of the question.

All in all I believe that the bags have been a wonderful change of pace from the bag what was being replaced but it hasn’t worked out exactly how I had planned it, there are many bag manufacturers out there and though many of them could have done the job but Think Tank was my choice and will remain with me for quite some time.

Finding the right WISP

WISP (Wireless Internet Service Provider)

Living in the country side and being a digital photographer don’t always go together, though the country side can offer needed space and quiet but also offers some unique challenges, until you have lived in the countryside you may not fully understand. Since moving to the countryside (outside Reedley, Kingsburg, Dinuba and Visalia) just over 2 years ago, I have been in search of good internet. Having been spoiled by the break-neck speeds of the internet offered in major metropolitan area’s I knew that dial-up internet wouldn’t be a suitable option for gaming and general website updates/hosting so I immediately set out to find the best and most reliable internet service available to my area. The house that we live in was built to be far outside of the city limit and¬† services and as such DSL or Cable internet just simply were not available as options so I immediately started looking at bridging technologies and WISP services available to the area.

In the world of WISP networks it comes down to one simple thing, “Location, Location, Location” if the tower isn’t in the correct location for the house location you can almost forget receiving internet access, or internet access with any quality to speak of. One of the largest challenges that I have had to face was the large wall of trees slowly growing my way from my neighbors property slowly cutting off the angles that I can use to get to ISP’s. Be sure that you have whichever WISP you initially choose come out and do a sight survey or ask where the towers are located and do some research on your own to ensure that you will be able to get access. Certainly call them and talk about your needs and any concerns that you may have.

The following WISP networks were tried for my needs here in California’s Central Valley and here are my results:

1. Odyssey Network

Good Local Service (Cheep)

Odyssey networks is a still growing network with service to many different areas in and around the Dinuba/Reedley area, their install is nice and cheap their monthly costs are kept nice and low an additional bonus is that the support personnel are local. If you have an issue there is a good chance that you will have someone out nearly the same day to look at your connection and the issues that you may be having. Give them a call and ask that they come out and do a site survey, if you are able to hit one of their towers they may very well be a great option for you.

Overall Rating: Good
Technology: 2.4 GHz for connection
Pros: Local Network Tech/Service, Lots of local towers allowing the connection to be re-pointed
Cons: Wasn’t a tower that I could hit consistently due to my neighbors trees.
Would I go back/Recommend to a friend: Certainly

2. Integrity Network

Good Service (Expensive)

With Integrity Networks I was offered 768 KB transfers for just under $150 the added costs were to cover the fact that I was getting a guaranteed rate of 768KB and speedy service when issues were found. Though the speed was nice and the latency was in fact low enough for gaming, in the end though I realized that I wasn’t doing anything that needed a guaranteed rate nor the super low ping, as I am not an avid gamer.

Overall Service: Good
Technology: 2.4 GHz for residential connections, Microwave for Business Connection
Pros: Speedy Service, Low ping rate (good for gaming)
Cons: Price per month is high for people like myself getting business level services as a residence, monthly debit from credit card or equivalent without an emailed receipt for service.
Would I go back/Recommend to a friend: Yes, if I needed a guaranteed rate of 768 or higher with good turn around on service.

3. UnWired Broadband

Amazingly Great Service  for an Amazingly Great Price

Though I have just signed up with UnWired Broadband and they have had some rough patches due to a recent thunderstorm that knocked out their main tower I can already tell that their service is just right for me. UnWired’s amazing customer service puts them heads and shoulders above any one in the area in my opinion, they communicate any issue as quickly as they have a status almost to the point that I don’t have to wonder what’s going on at all. Their assistance on the phone is wonderful, tech support leaves nothing lacking and their basic service guaranteeing 256 KB upload with bursts to 768 often leaves me at 768 (I have never seen it lower in fact) which is the same as my previous provider at a cost just over 1/3 of my previous internet provider.

Overall Rating: Great
Technology: Microwave for even their most basic residential service
Pros: Great customer service, Emailed receipts for debit of Credit Card, Great level of communication
Cons: 1-2 Year contract, Expensive installation fee (this is to cover equipment and warranty of that equipment)
Would I go back/Recommend to a friend: Certainly, I don’t think that I will ever leave, but if I were to need to certainly I would go back.

If you would like to correspond concerning the level of service on each of these services please feel free to leave me a comment and I will be happy to respond.

Would I go back/Recommend to a friend:

The Dai Bai Dang Experience

Dai Bai Dang has some of the best tasting Chinese food that I have tasted in quite some time. The taste far beyond the bland tastes that many are used to at places such as Pickup Stix’s or other fast food style Chinese restaurants. The tastes of the entre’s rival the tastes of small family owned Chinese restaurants while giving the feel of a large chain, offering a large dining area with semi private booths for those looking for a good place to take a date.

While the food is amazing, Dai Bai Dang has some work to do concerning the level of service offered to their patrons and staff control. Extra waiters and waitresses need to be kept in an area not viewable to the patrons so that their horse play isn’t viewable to the staff attempting to provide excellent service to their customers and the customers themselves. It was quickly apparent who the hard working waiters and waitresses were, they were busy attending to their tables, time and time again assuring that there was nothing more that was needed.

My wife and I entered the restaurant happy to try something different in our diet after a long afternoon shopping in the Fresno River Park Area. We wanted to find some place new that we could recommend to others looking for a quiet place to have a date. We were promptly and cheerfully seated without a wait at all, once seated however we were made to wait what was almost an uncomfortable amount of time for our waiter to come and simply ask us what we would like to drink, while other waiters and waitresses bustled on about their business of helping their patrons.

Dai Bai Dang’s Orange Chicken is some of the best that we have ever had, save my favorite restaurant Thai Derm in the Glendora, California area serving Thai Orange Chicken.

The service however was less than stellar, with extra waiters and waitresses “hanging out” in view of the patrons it was apparent that the restaurant was overstaffed in hopes of a rush later in the evening. The extra staff was allowed to horse play within view of the patrons while they waited for additional customers, while those that had tables worked hard to attend their service.

When my wife’s cup of water arrived, we always have water, it had a wrapper from a straw in the glass with the water which the waiter didn’t exactly notice until the cup was put down on the table for her to drink from. After replacement of the glass of water by the waiter, at that time taking our order, we didn’t see the waiter again until it was time to leave the check for the dinner at which time we weren’t asked if there was anything more that we wanted, desert or anything else on the menu that could be categorized as an after dinner treat. The waiter missed a great opportunity to up-sale the service being offered at the restaurant and left a sour taste in my mouth for eating at Dai Bai Dang again.