A weight off the shoulders

At weddings I used to shoot with a full frame camera and strobe hanging from each shoulder. When using one of them, I’d always hunch the shoulder that was holding the other one to stop it slipping down. Worse still, when using neither, I’d do the same with both shoulders. This was such a subconscious thing that I barely even knew I was doing it. Years went by and I coped with a little pain here and there but never addressed the problem.

That was, until one day, after a particularly busy wedding photography season. I was staying away from home on a futon for just one night, and I awoke to severe pain in my left shoulder.

By midday after a few hours of agony I resolved to book my first ever private medical treatment (the NHS had done me well until that point, but this was pretty urgent).

I’m sure, dear reader, you must think I’m silly. How obvious the cause!

In my defence, and fellow wedding photographers will totally understand this, one’s mind during a shoot – not to mention the night before in preparation – is applied in its entirety to the job at hand. During the day one can easily forget to eat, drink water, and one certainly isn’t thinking about how one holds one’s camera. No wonder you need a full day to recover after a 16 hour day!

Long story short, I needed a way to get the weight off my shoulders and down to the hips. The legs still ache after a long shoot, but legs tend to deal with weight better than the delicate muscles in the shoulder cuff.

So the product I fell immediately in love with was the Think Tank Pro Speed Belt v2.0.

Pro-Speed-Belt-V20-ML-4

Image published with kind permission from Think Tank

Let me tell you about it.

Think Tank is the name of the company that make it. This US company has a fabulous range of wearables and luggage for cameras, each item designed to perfection by people who understand the challenges photographers face (unlike some other very well-known camera luggage brands whose products are mediocre in comparison).

The Pro Speed Belt v2.0 is one of three belts they make. It’s essentially the mid-weight one with padded edges and buckle stops. There’s a “skinny”, which is definitely not enough to hold 2 full frame cameras plus lenses and a third lens, and a “steroid” which is enough to carry quite a bit more.

Think Tank also sell a wonderful range of things you can put on this belt, called their modular component system (see the range here). They twist and rotate, you can get different types and sizes of lens pouch, covered adjustable size holsters for camera plus lens (the “digital holster“) – these also have a load of little pockets for mobile phone, tiny pad, rain covers, etc., and full-on camera bags that can be carried on the waist. Brilliant!

Problem is they don’t do a gun-holster style attachment, like the Spider Camera Holster (a different manufacturer). The latter is a great product, which includes the belt, but I’m addicted to my Pro Speed Belt. and they also do an adapter version for the Think Tank Pro Speed Belt, problem is in the UK at least it costs £140, essentially for a piece of metal that securely clips on to your belt.

Enter the Eggsnow. This little puppy costs £23 on Amazon. It comes with its own belt, but with some careful modification I discovered today it can be used with the Think Tank. Hurrah!

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Here’s how I did it.

What you’ll need:

Firstly I removed the retaining screws and plastic washers on the Eggsnow. The screws are not “structural”, they don’t take the weight, they just prevent the holster from sliding upwards. The plastic washers are next to useless, but you can replace them if you like. I didn’t bother as my solution below didn’t require it.

When you remove the screws, slide the holster away from the Eggsnow belt. Measure the screw locations carefully, I used a Vernier gauge and made the screws 25mm apart and 36mm down from the top edge of the belt.

Now use a bradawl or something very sharp to mark holes in the Think Tank belt in the right place. I’m right-handed, so I marked it at 90 degrees to the right of the belt clips which I keep at the front. A bradawl won’t make it through the Pro Speed Belt – it’s very tough! So I used a 3mm drill to get all the way through. I used a proper drill press because I have one, but careful use of a hand-drill would work. It does of course break the webbing, but not catastrophically so.

mat-smith-photography-speed-belt-think-tank-eggsnow-drill

I needed to replace the screws provided with the Eggsnow, as they aren’t long enough to go all the way through the Pro Speed Belt. Luckily I had some M3 machine screws (3mm diameter). 22mm long worked for me. I bought mine on ebay, a couple of quid for 50.

mat-smith-photography-speed-belt-think-tank-eggsnow-screws

If you were to push the screws the Speed Belt and attach them to the holster, the heads would get lost in the rubbery insides of the Speed Belt. So I cut out a section of the Eggsnow (yes, it’s good for nothing now!) as follows:

mat-smith-photography-speed-belt-think-tank-eggsnow-cutout

Actually I didn’t need this shape, I just needed the rectangle around the screws. You’ll see what I mean below.

When cutting the Eggsnow belt, you’ll see there are 4 layers. I discarded all but the toughest layer and put that layer around the back of the Pro Speed Belt like so:

mat-smith-photography-speed-belt-think-tank-eggsnow-rear

Getting the screws through the belt took a bit of work. The material inside the Think Tank Pro Speed Belt v2.0 is rubbery and the holes drilled seem to close up, so I used some needle-nosed tweezers to open the holes up a few seconds before getting the screws in. I shoved the tweezers in so far that the handle of the tweezers opened the hole up.

After a little shoving, we have a very secure holster attached permanently to the Think Tank Pro Speed Belt v2.0:

mat-smith-photography-speed-belt-think-tank-eggsnow-front

Right – add to this the digital holster and a lens drop, and we have ourselves a mean camera carrying machine! The holster makes for super-fast shooting, that extra 2 seconds it saves compared with pulling a camera out of the belt case makes all the difference!

mat-smith-photography-speed-belt-think-tank-eggsnow-kaboodle

One step closer to Digital Image Darkroom Utopia!

My re-touch studio is, as of today, one step closer to the ultimate Digital Imaging Darkroom. Hurrah!

So far this means:

  • Full window blackout, of course
  • Full digital control of ambient light levels in the studio. (I can control exact dimmer settings for uplight and downlight – either independently or in tandem – from both the iPhone and the command line. How cool is that?)
  • Light bulbs with 6500k colour temperature and pure white walls
  • Brand spanking new IPS display, custom calibrated to my chosen ambient light level and temperature in the room (re-calibrated every 5 minutes, not that it needs it)
  • Wacom Intuos, of course
  • Little fake electric candles for ambiance (calibrated into the ambient light reading as well!)
  • Dedicated remote controls for light and music database, speakers mounted nicely for desk position

It’s like looking at my photos with new eyes!

 

Carly and Nick at Notley Tythe Barn, Long Crendon

In the heart of Buckinghamshire lies a tiny little village called Long Crendon. Nestled in the rolling hills is the picturesque Notley Tythe Barn, my wedding photography destination for Carly and Nick’s wedding. Having grown-up in Bucks you’d think I would have had an inkling as to where on earth this village was, alas it is such a hidden gem that I did resort to TomTom to direct me through the winding lanes of deepest rural England to photograph their Buckinghamshire wedding.

To set the scene: an ecstatic Carly who woke up to the sound of dad starting the rustic engine of Carly’s wedding surprise – her wedding carriage – a resplendent baby-blue VW Camper Van. A seriously talented mum who made not one but three impressive wedding cakes.

Baby Blue Wedding Camper Van - Mat Smith Photography

 

I’m such a sucker for the sunset portrait, I cannot resist…

Classic Autumn Sunset Wedding Portrait - Nick and Carly - Notley Tythe Barn Long Crendon - Mat Smith Photography

Mat Smith Photography - Country Lane Wedding Portrait - Nick and Carly - Notley Tythe Barn Long Crendon  Exchanging Of Vows at Notley Tythe Barn Buckinghamshire Wedding Photography - Mat Smith Photography

Within the Sound of the Bow Bells

The wedding of Kathryn and Phil last week was truly within the sound of the Bow Bells. In fact it was deafening, and most certainly a challenge for a photographer trying to gather everyone for the all-important confetti shot outside the church. I’ve never heard bells like them!

Hydrangea Flower Bouquets for Bridesmaids - A City of London Wedding

Ushers at St Mary Le Bow - Mat Smith Photography

I was apparently born within the sound of the Bow Bells which technically makes me cockney. I’ve done my best to lose the accent… #homecountiesupbringing

Mat Smith Photography - Bow Churchyard - Wedding

A Wedding in St Mary Le Bow, London - Bride and Groom - Mat Smith