Impressions of the Cotton Carrier Camera Vest (Connor Stefanison)

One of the biggest annoyances I find in photography is dealing with camera straps. If you’ve ever been out shooting with two cameras strapped to your shoulders, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Sports, wedding, and even nature photographers are often in situations where having two ready to go cameras is crucial for shoots where changing lenses can result in missing the perfect shot. When photographing weddings, I have always dreaded having to carry two cameras swaying around, putting strain on my shoulders. When shooting wildlife with long lenses, I often find myself not taking the opportunity to take the wide angle out of my backpack to get some record shots. This is simply because I dislike juggling unsecured cameras around my neck and partly due to laziness.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed advertisements for the Cotton Carrier in various magazines. I always thought that it looked like a good solution to the problems stated above. This past winter, I finally got around to trying out the Cotton Carrier, and fully approved of it on the first day of use. Andy Cotton of North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada invented the Cotton Carrier. For years, Andy had been dealing with the problems of camera straps, and being the entrepreneur type of guy that he is, he decided to create a solution. After around three years of developing the camera vest, the company is now at a point where they’re fully content with the design. Essentially, Andy Cotton has succeeded at making a system that allows photographers to carry 1 or 2 readily available and“locked in”cameras that eliminates neck and shoulder strain by placing weight on the person’s mid section.

 

One nice aspect of Cotton Carriers is that they are 70% North American made! Only sewn products are made offshore. The buckles are Nifco brand and the clips are UTX. Hubs and plates are 60/61 hard anodized aluminum. The Lexan receivers are produced with Lexan brand virgin black Lexan. Using materials like these ensures top quality and security for your cameras.

 

 

 

 

The first thing I did with my cotton carrier was attach my Canon EOS 1D Mark IV and Canon 400mm f/5.6 lens to the vest and I went for a run around my block. I could never have done this comfortably with a normal camera strap. With the additional help of the fastener strap, you can use your camera skiing, mountain biking, or even doing back flips on trampolines. Although this may be unrealistic for the average person, it’s just an example of how secure the product is. The vest comes in green or black, and has a mesh back which is nice for hot days. The vest includes a chest mount and detachable hip mount. The chest mount is ideal for lenses in the 70-200mm to 400mm f/5.6 size. The hip mount is ideal for a wide angle/small lens setup. This is because a hip-mounted longer lens like a 400mm f/5.6 lens will brush against your leg a bit when walking. The hip mount can also be detached and attached to the hip straps of a backpack. Cotton Carrier also just came out with an expandable lens bag that attaches on either hip and allows me to comfortably fit a 400mm f/5.6 and 24-105mm f/4 lens inside. The bag also has two interior and one exterior pocket. Overall, with the camera vest you can fit a camera on your chest, another camera on your hip, and the lens bag on your other hip. Videos of these products can be found at www.cottoncarrier.com.

One concern I had before trying the Cotton Carrier was if I’d have to remove my tripod head plate. I was relieved to discover that Cotton Carrier makes their own tripod head plate that fits the attachment hub. You can even attach their plate to your L-plate, which allows for full use of horizontal and vertical compositions. I recently returned from shooting the Columbia River Gorge and Olympic National Park and used the Cotton Carrier tripod head plate the entire time without issue. The only negative aspect of the camera vest system is that it isn’t very “fancy” looking for photographing formal events. If you’re shooting an event where looks matter, I’d recommend checking out the Carry-Lite system, or just putting the side holster on your belt.

Overall, I’ve been very impressed with the Cotton Carrier camera vest thus far. The vest has allowed me to be more productive and efficient with my photography, and allows for increased maneuverability. If you’re looking for a comfortable and efficient way to carry one or two cameras and some additional gear, I fully recommend checking out the products from Cotton Carrier.

Connor Stefanison

www.connorstefanison.com

Yellowstone and Surrounding Area

I recently returned from a trip photographing Yellowstone and the surrounding area. Joining me on this trip were fellow young nature photographers: Timothy Brooks, Kathryn Boyd-Batstone, and Jess Findlay. We stayed in Gardiner Montana and shot the area for a total of 6 days. Unfavourable weather conditions made finding wildlife somewhat tricky to say the least, but we managed to find some good stuff.

The subjects we photographed the most were: Bison, Elk, Antelope, Bighorn Sheep, Coyotes, and believe it or not, Mountain Chickadees. The most memorable moment would have to be when Jess and I went on a hike outside the park and managed to crawl up to a Coyote tearing apart an Elk carcass. Definitely the coolest experience of my life. Unfortunately I was using my new 5D2 for the first time and messed up my settings, leaving me with mostly blurry images. For a full story on the trip, please read Jess’ blog here: http://jessfindlay.wordpress.com/2012/01/05/yellowstone-national-park-and-more/

If I go back in time, I  have to thank Gabby Salazar for this trip! Here is an example how becoming a part of this blog helped me go on this Yellowstone trip. Last year, Gabby was very nice and wrote myself (and Timothy Brooks for that case) a reference letter for the NANPA College Scholarship. I was fortunate enough to get accepted to the program in McAllen, Texas. At the Summit, I made a point to make friends with not only the College Program, but also the HighSchool Program students. I was happy to meet some familiar names such as: Ben Knoot, Johan Dornenball, Alexandra Sandlin, Kari Post, and of course Timothy and Kathryn. Joe Sulik, one of the highschool members, invited  us all to Yellowstone during the summit. This is where the whole trip was sort of planned. Overall, most people could not end up making it out, including Joe, but we still had a very fun trip! So all in all, I have to give thanks to Gabby for sending me to NANPA, which sent me to Yellowstone! This is a great example of how joining this website help with your future photography.

Here is an album of images I took from the trip  http://www.connorstefanison.com/p467080564

Thanks for reading,

Connor Stefanison

http://www.connorstefanison.com/

The Summer of 2011 (Connor Stefanison)

The exciting thing about being young and fairly new to photography, is the amount of new photographic knowledge learnt each year. We go into each  year with a new set of  skills, and in return, I’m sure we all see vast improvements in our images. 

This past spring, I was lucky enough to earn a spot on the NANPA College Scholarship program (thank you Gabby for the nomination letter!). This was an amazing program which allowed me to develop my skills, meet other young nature photographers, and obtain a different mindset about nature photography. I highly suggest applying for either the highschool or college program in 2013. Since I signed up for a summer semester at school, I didn’t think I’d have much time for photography, but this was not to be the case!

During May, June, and July  I took three long-weekend family vacations to various lakes in the interior of British Columbia. The main targets on these trips were Loons, Grebes, and various other birds. On one of the trips, Jess Findlay and myself found a Great-grey Owl nest, which was a fairly rare find, and was one of our most unique photo experiences we’ve had. July was a very poor month for weather in BC, so overall it wasn’t very productive. 

In August, Jess and I went to visit Bertie Gregory on Vancouver Island, where he was a deckhand on a Bear watching boat. The three of us were allowed to take the companies small zodiac boat around the remote coastal passages in search of wildlife. We had an extremely good trip since the tides were low during good light. We photographed species such as, Black Bear, Bald Eagle, Harbour Seal, Great Blue Heron, Black Oystercatcher, Common Murre, River Otter, and best of all, a Coastal Grey Wolf pack! Photographing the wolves was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had, as well as a 5.5 foot encounter with a yearling black bear. I then went back to the Island two weeks later, but didn’t have much luck since the tides were low during bad light.

To finish off the summer, I went on a day hike with some friends in search of Ptarmigan. We didn’t end up finding any, but we took a few landscapes images. We then hiked 1.5 hours down the mountain in the dark and rain!

Overall, the summer of 2011 was my favorite summer for photography yet. I can only hope that the summer of 2012 will be half as good!

thanks for reading,
Connor Stefanison

http://www.connorstefanison.com/

May Long Weekend (Connor Stefanison)

Just got back from a trip to the interior of British Columbia to do some fly fishing and photography. Going to a new lake, I was skeptical on the bird situation, but It ended up being very good. Once we arrived at our friend’s cabin, I immediately noticed a red-necked grebe nest, tons of waterfowl, beavers, muskrats, raptors, and songbirds. It’s a good thing the photography was good because the fishing was terrible.

One of my goals for the trip was to get water level images of Common Loons, as I have not really seen any before. At this time of year, the loons are pairing up, so using calls worked well. I’d find a pair of loons by shore, dock my boat, and play a loon call a few times. The Loons would approach me to see what was going on, which made for some cool shots. I was careful to only play the call a few times, this way the loons wouldn’t get habituated to it and waste energy responding. 

Another highlight of the trip was a Red-necked Grebe nest on our friends property. In the four days I was there, the grebes had layed their first egg and pretty much built the whole nest. Overall, it was an excellent early season trip. I”ll be doing more lake trips for loons and what not this coming June with Jess Findlay, which I’ll keep you posted on.

Recent shot (connor stefanison)


Having just started school again, I’ve been pretty busy. I figure I’ll just do a quick post about a recent shot I took, which I really like. This is a Long-Billed Dowitcher, which I took at Burnaby Lake. Burnaby Lake is very close by, so it makes for a very easy place to go to for some decent shots. For this shot I used hip waiters and a frying pan tripod (panpod), to achieve the low angle.  I also used mountain biking arm pads to save my arms from being chewed up by gravel. Overall, if you haven’t tried shooting at eye level for shorebirds shorebirds, I would highly recommend trying it. A low angle can give a more intimate look and a nice looking background to an image.

On a final note: I just got my Canon 1D Mark3 camera back from being repaired at Canon. IT TOOK FOUR MONTHS!

Manning Park Weekend Trip (Connor Stefanison)

This past Saturday and Sunday morning, my dad, Jess Findlay, and myself went to Manning Provincial Park for a quick camping trip. Manning Park is located 2 hours east of Vancouver BC, Canada, in the Cascade Mountains. Manning is a very good spot that’s close to the city to produce some nice images.

On Saturday my dad went on a 44 kilometer hike, while Jess and I took the truck out in search of wildlife. The majority of our time was spent on Mt.Blackwell, which provides very good opportunities for Pika, Marmots, Yellow-Pine Chipmunks, Columbian + Cascade Ground Squirrel, Sooty + Ruffed Grouse, Mule Deer, and Snowshoe Hares. After taking some morning scenics, we went down the mountain and saw a big 4×4 Mule Deer (picture below). I took out my camera with my 70-200mm on and clicked the shutter. OOOPS, it was on self timer. I took a second shot, OOOPS, I was on F16 (slow shutter), then I took a few more before it wandered off. I was wondering why my shutter speeds were so low, I forgot I was on 100 ISO. I got two decently sharp shots. So a good tip to remember is to change your setting back to wildlife settings after you take scenics.

During mid day light, we went down to Lightning Lakes and watched runners come in from a 100 mile/27 hour trail race. Honestly, they

didn’t even look tired. We also tried Bird Jam for the first time and it worked with Hermit Thrush.

That evening, we stayed at the Pika rocks for a while and ended up having one eat some grass in the wildflowers. The sun was half behind a mountain, causing very slow shutter speeds. It was very challenging since I was handheld with a 500mm F/4, at around 1/125 sec.

On Sunday morning, as we were driving up the mountain, we quickly spotted a female Lynx with a kitten on a cliff. We hiked up, and Jess was able to get a few shots of the adult running away. Last year we got some shots of two large 4×4 Mule Deer Bucks

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Upcoming Photo Contest (Connor Stefanison)

Canadian Geographic’s 2010 Wildlife Photography Of The Year Contest has been open for some time now, but it ends on August 30th. So for all those Canadians reading, this is definitely something to look into.

Peep this link for more info:

http://photoclub.canadiangeographic.ca/cg/Contests/wpy/default.aspx

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