BL Blog

Posts by: Sohail

Cool Stuff, Feb 13 – Feb 21, 2012

Cool Stuff

Welcome to Cool Stuff, a weekly feature where we post our favorite links from the past week, including our favorite articles and how-tos, videos, images and more.

That’s it for this week’s Cool Stuff. If you have something you think should be included, let us know! Email us at [email protected] is going to WPPI!

BL News
Come see us at WPPI!

Come see us at WPPI!

We’ve packed up a big lens (or two) and a bunch of other gear and are headed to the WPPI Expo in Las Vegas. The full conference is happening now, and the trade show is from Feb 20-22.

Come find us on the show floor! We’re in booth #1143 and we’ve got a special WPPI deal going. To get it, you have to stop by and say hello, since the deal is for folks attending the WPPI expo only.

If you’re in the area and aren’t attending the full conference, you can still come in for the trade show for free. Click here to register for a FREE Expo Pass.

We hope to see you there!

The BigmOS: A Review Of Sigma’s Stabilized 50-500mm Lens

Gear Talk

We take the Sigma 50–500mm f/4.5–6.3 APO DG OS HSM (there’s a mouthful for you) our for a spin to put it through a few paces. Read this review to find out how it did – and why I would rent this lens again.

Pros You Should Know: Juan Pons

Wildlife and Nature Photographer Juan Pons

Wildlife and Nature Photographer Juan Pons

“Pros you should know” is an ongoing Q&A series with photographers that the folks here at admire and follow.

Juan Pons has been a photographer for more than 20 years. Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Juan is a fantastic nature and wildlife photographer and educator. An avid conservationist, Juan’s passion for the environment is evident through his images, many of which he donates to non-profit organizations focused on nature conservation. He leads workshops in Yellowstone, Bosque Del Apache, and many other locations around the world, and is co-host of the Digital Photo Experience podcast, which is definitely worth a listen for photo enthusiasts.

We asked Juan to take a bit of time from his busy schedule and answer a few questions for us, and he was kind enough to acquiesce, and to provide us with some of his amazing photography (more of which can be found on his blog) for this piece.

1. How did you get started in photography?

I was very fortunate that the high school I attended had an excellent photography teacher and program. Ms. Solorow was incredibly inspirational and taught us not just the basics and mechanics of photography, but that we should always be experimenting and stepping out of our comfort zones photographically.

Bohemian Waxwings in Yellowstone

Bohemian Waxwings in Yellowstone

2. How has photography changed the way you see the world around you?

The primary reason I decided to concentrate on wildlife and nature photography is because it allows me to slow down and examine wildlife and nature much more intimately than I would have otherwise. I am a firm believer that you must know your subject well in order to capture their essence photographically and since i have always been very drawn to wildlife and nature, photography gave me the perfect opportunity to explore those subjects much more carefully.

3. What is your favorite subject, and why?

It’s probably obvious by now but my favorite subject is wildlife, and although I do have my favorite species I like photographing anything that moves, from large mammals like Bison in Yellowstone National Park to insects in a local park or botanical garden. As to why, I would have to say that I never cease to be amazed by natures handiwork, wether its the beauty of a delicate flower, or the cunning of a red fox.

4. Is there a market that you want to break into or simply just try?

Coyote near Gardiner, MT

Coyote near Gardiner, MT

I have been very deliberate in what I like to do with my photography so I feel like I am doing what I like to do best. However I have been wanting to try outdoor action sports photography. My problem right now is finding the time.

5. What client/project are you most looking forward to shooting next year?

I have recently moved to Maine, and although I am very familiar with Acadia National Park and the island it’s located in, there are incredible wildlife opportunities in the interior of the state. So I am very much looking forward to exploring and getting to know some of these areas with the goal of putting in place a number of wildlife photography workshops closer to home.

6. What do you derive inspiration from?

This one is easy, most of my inspiration come from nature itself, however I very much enjoy looking at other photographer’s work, certainly the work of other professional photographers, but I specially enjoy seeing the work of amateur photographers. The reason is that amateurs work is almost completely driven by their passion and oftentimes you can see this in their work. In addition, the work of amateur photographers can sometimes be equated to seeing thru a child’s eye, meaning that they will have a different and new perspective than those of us with more experience and I find that very refreshing.

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

7. Where do you go for inspiration when you reach a creative plateau?

Outdoors, I do not necessarily have to visit a National Park like Acadia, although that is nice, but sometimes inspiration can be gleaned from some of the simplest scenes and subjects. I find that trying to capture a different perspective on ordinary and everyday subjects can get my juices flowing.

8. What’s your favorite piece of gear? Why?

It would definitely have to be my tripod. I often say that I feel naked when I go out shooting without a good tripod. I find that the tripod slows me down and makes me more deliberate in my photography.

9. Where do you see the future of photography technology taking us? How will the next generation take photos?

The sky is truly the limit, I believe we are living in the golden age of photography. At no other time have we enjoyed the choices we have in photography, and not just in terms of gear, but also in terms on how we share our work with the world.

10. What do you do when you’re not shooting?

Most people think that being a professional photographer means you are out shooting all the time, and while that may be true for some, for most of us photography is a business and as with any business there is a lot of other work you need to do to be successful. Things like logistics, accounting, marketing, interfacing with clients, selling, etc.

However beside my photography business I very much enjoy Kayaking, Downhill skiing, biking, hiking and camping. But most of all I enjoy spending time with my 7 year old son.

11. What is the biggest challenge you face currently in your photography that you are trying to overcome, and what are you doing to overcome it?

For me it’s always marketing and selling of myself. This is my least favorite part of my photography business, but without it I know I would not have a photography business so I do it. Eventually I will want to hire someone to help tackle my marketing much more effectively.

Bass Harbor Lighthouse, Acadia National Park

Bass Harbor Lighthouse, Acadia National Park

12. What’s the best piece of advice you can give someone just entering the photography business?

I get this question all the time, and the best thing I can tell someone wanting to get into this business is to think long and hard about what photography means to them. Most amateur photographers do it for the passion, the release that photography gives them as well as a way to relax and put aside, at least for some time, the stresses of their regular life and daytime job. There is a real danger of taking something that you do to feel better and relax and make it your primary source of income and apply to it all the stresses of having to make a living at it. As I said above, being a professional photographer does not mean you are taking pictures all day every day, the vast majority of the time will be spent taking care of the business side of photography.

If after reflecting on this you determine that you still want to be become a professional, then go for it! Work hard at it, be tenacious, be determined to succeed. I believe that there is still a lot of opportunities out there, you just have to be creative and resourceful and most important remember that this is a very rapidly changing field, so you need to be flexible and always be learning. Best of luck!


You can learn more about Juan at his website, at The Digital Photo Experience podcast that Juan co-hosts can be found at


All images Courtesy and Copyright © Juan Pons.

Tip of the Week – Our favorite lighting videos

Tips & Tricks

Every week, we post a photography-related tip on our blog. These tips are typically inspired by questions we get from our customers. Sometimes we might feature a technique tip, and sometimes a gear recommendation. If there’s something specific you’d like to see in this section, let us know. Email us at [email protected]

This week, we bring out our favorite lighting videos. Whether it’s about small flashes or studio strobes, lighting is something we get an awful lot of questions about. So, we decided to put together a short list of our favorite lighting-related video tutorials to help you get going. These are paid videos, but are worth every penny, since the instructors are some of the best in the business.

  1. Joe McNally’s “Language of Light”: Joe is easily one of the best lighting instructors in the world, and his “Language of Light” DVD set is pure genius. Whether it’s shooting a family portrait, or hanging off the back of a truck to capture speeding downhill skaters, Joe does it all and does it incredibly well. He’s funny, engaging and eloquent, and while he doesn’t make it look easy, he does help you understand his methods and techniques, letting you learn a lot in the process.
  2. David Hobby’s “Lighting in Layers”: David Hobby became famous for starting what is now considered to be the bible of small flash photography websites. has become the go-to site for folks looking to learn about lighting with small flash, and to his credit, David pretty-much gives away a ton of information for free there. His “Lighting in Layers” DVD, however, ratchets things up to a whole new level. Six full shoots span nine hours of video, replete with lighting diagrams, commentary and on-the-job demos. For lighting enthusiasts and aficionados, this is definitely worth checking out.
  3. Scott Kelby’s “Light it, Shoot it, Retouch it!”: This one requires a subscription to, but is totally worth it. Scott takes you through a complete shoot, from lighting setup, to shooting, to the retouching process. Throughout the entire tutorial – which is actually broken into three parts – he describes all the gear, software and techniques he uses in great detail, leaving few, if any, questions in the minds of the audience. Scott’s class got so popular, it spawned a book and a nationwide teaching tour of the same name.  If you don’t have a subscription to KelbyTraining, they do have a free trial so you can check out the class during that. Get the subscription, however, because it also gets you access to another video on this list.
  4. Zack Arias teaching studio lighting at

    Zack Arias teaching studio lighting at

    Zack Arias’ “Studio Lighting.”: This is easily THE go-to course if you’re just starting out and want an immersive, extensive course. Shot over three days, this workshop form creativeLIVE is absolutely stunning in the amount of instruction it provides. From learning how to setup a shoot to why you start with, say, a soft box to what that does versus an umbrella or a beauty dish, to measuring exposure, this workshop has it all.

    Zack is a fantastic instructor; he’s humble, self-deprecating and brutally honest. This is a guy who’s not afraid to let his mistakes be a teaching tool, and you’ll see that in this video workshop. Moreover, he doesn’t assume you know something about lighting already, so he explains things very thoroughly. Even experienced folks will get something out of this workshop, so don’t pass it up.

  5. Syl Arena’s “Working with Speedlites”: This two-part course, also available from (the same place you can find Scott Kelby’s class, mentioned above) is a nod to the Canonistas out there. Since David Hobby and Joe McNally are Nikon users, their classes invariably involve heavy use of Nikon cameras and flashes. Syl’s class, on the other hand, is all about Canon flash photography.What’s really cool about this class is that it does what your Canon flash’s manual should have done, but didn’t. Syl breaks down Speedlites and explains everything in detail – but he doesn’t stop there. There’s plenty of technical information to give you lots of “Aha!” moments, but then he shows you just how to use those flashes in actual shooting situations. The class is broken into two parts, one for working with single Speedlites, and the other for working with multiple Speedlites. If you’re a Canon shooter and want to get into the world of small flash photography, this is your go-to class.

So that’s the list of our favorite lighting videos. Got a recommendation of your own? Leave us a comment, and let us know!

Should carry medium-format photo gear for rent?

BL News
Should we carry medium-format gear like this Phase One?

Should we carry medium-format gear like this Phase One?

We get asked about medium-format photo gear like Phase and Hasselblad quite often from some of our pro customers. Since the market for this kind of gear has been pretty small and specialized in the past, we haven’t given it much thought, but there appears to be a new surge of interest in MF (medium-format) gear from some semi-pro and even amateur photographers. So, we thought we’d put the question to you.

We’ve created a petition of sorts for you folks to sign. If you want us to carry medium-format gear, please take a moment to sign it. Your email addresses will not be sold to a third-party for any purpose and we will not spam you.

We look forward to hearing from our customers!
[emailpetition id="1"]

Cool Stuff, Week of Jan 30 – Feb 6, 2012

Cool Stuff
Fuji X-Pro1

Fuji X-Pro1

Welcome to Cool Stuff, a weekly feature where we post our favorite links from the past week, including our favorite articles and how-tos, videos, images and more.

That’s it for this week’s Cool Stuff. If you have something you think should be included, let us know! Email us at [email protected]