New York’s Latest Celebrity… and With No Attitude!

Central Park on a perfect fall weekend is always crowded, but a rare event has recently brought thousands of additional visitors, most of them with cameras.

The object of their attention (and affection) is a Mandarin duck, not seen in these parts of the world and, by our best understandings of migration, not supposed to be here. This guy’s appearance is straight out of Disney (or an artist with unlimited imagination). Can you spot him?

crowd of photographers in Central Park observing a Mandarin duck

He’s been hanging out in one corner of the park, along with all the other duck varieties, and eager to oblige anyone with optics ranging from an iPhone to a DSLR mounting a 600mm f/4 (and everything in between). My wife and I are bird lovers, so we made the pilgrimage to see for ourselves, and we were not disappointed.

a photographer with a telephoto lens making images of the Central Park Mandarin duck

close up on a camera back displaying the Central Park Mandarin duck
There was a bit of a panic earlier this week when he seemed to have disappeared, but he was spotted again yesterday. Don’t miss out – make a plan to see him this weekend! Who knows – you may find yourself drawn to the timeless hobby known as birding.

A Retrospective on Camera Bags (With a Twist)

Over the past 50 years, I’ve traveled with and depended on a variety of bags, starting in the late ’60s with a fishing tackle bag from Abercrombie & Fitch. Then I discovered the series of beautiful canvas and leather Brady Bags, made by hand in England since the late 1800s. While Brady now makes dedicated camera bags, my career favorites were the Ariel Trout and Gelderburn models, designed for fishermen and still in production. Artisanally made and now quite expensive, I don’t think they’re what I’d carry around the world today.

From there, it was on to the first version of the Domke Bag, designed by Jim Domke, a photojournalist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He based his design on (no surprise) a fishing bag that he had been using. He wrote about its development a few years ago, and mentions several names you’ll surely recognize, including our old friends Marty Forscher and David Burnett. The Domke brand has grown (now owned by Tiffen), but new players have entered the market, and to my mind and experience the bags from Think Tank are game changers in many ways. Their latest is a line of camera bags called Retrospective v2.0 (there’s the twist I mentioned), and here’s why I’m such a satisfied customer:

Think Tank Retrospective bag, in profile First of all, they don’t call attention to themselves. As I wrote some time ago, you never want your bags and straps to shout “steal me”. If they do, make it a priority to replace the offending parts… or cover them with several patches of gaff tape so they look worn-out.

Secondly, these bags make the best use of Velcro and useful compartments I’ve ever seen. The available sizes are each designed to accommodate and protect a different configuration of gear, including tablets and laptops, which they make very clear on their website. I find that the Retrospective 5, the smallest in the line, is perfect for carrying my Fuji X-E2, two lenses, an iPad, and various chargers and accessories. My Nikon D800 would be equally well-served by the Retrospective 7.

Think Tank Retrospective bag, open with Fuji camera

Other thoughtful touches abound: Every bag comes with a rain cover even though there is real moisture resistance in the bags’ fabric itself; the shoulder strap is incredibly comfortable; there are zippered pockets where you need them; Velcro-secured flaps can be disengaged where you need to keep as quiet as possible; and the bags really conform to your body while carried over the shoulder.

I suppose I should apologize for carrying on, but I find these Think Tank bags to be nothing short of brilliant!

Think Tank Retrospective bag, as camera support

Henry Wessel Passes Away at 76

A lengthy and well-illustrated obituary appeared in the New York Times a couple of days ago for Henry Wessel, who died at 76 in California. Photo District News has also posted its own obit. I’ll leave it to you to read about Wessel and his essential role in what has come to be known as the “New Topographics” movement in photography. There are plenty of links on line, in case his name and work are unfamiliar. The Pace/MacGill Gallery is a good starting point, as well as this Artsy gallery (which contains links to other examples of the style Wessel helped create).

But, what caught my eye in the NYT article, and what I didn’t know before, is that he was a firm believer in the ‘one camera/one lens’ approach to photography and that, in his case, it was a Leica (rangefinder, of course) fitted with a 28mm optic. And that’s precisely what I was writing about in my recent post, which featured the Leica Q camera with its 28mm Summilux lens.