The Biggest Space Race Milestones of 2016

From reusable rockets to Martian manifestos to asteroid mining, 2016 was a near like no other in the commercial space race. Here are the highlights.

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BetterBack Therapy Posture Support System

BetterBack Therapy is a portable, beautifully designed product that allows people to sit in great posture throughout the day. The product is adjustable for a custom fit, wrapping around the lower back and looping around the knees, which serves to stabilize the pelvis, the keystone to good posture. It helps heal and alleviate back pain with heat and ice therapy and the back pad is made of soft NASA memory foam. While it’s safe to use all day long, wearing… Continue Reading

This Slide-In Filter Cuts Light Pollution in Canon and Nikon DSLRs

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The Taiwanese company STC Optical has created a slide-in filter for Canon and Nikon full frame DSLRs that can reduce light pollution in astrophotography. It’s called the STC Astro-Multispectra Clip Filter.

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The filter is installed in Canon and Nikon DSLRs by sliding the filter into the mirror box after locking the mirror up in your camera’s settings. After mounting your lens, the filter will sit firmly in place between your sensor and your lens.

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Once installed, the filter helps to reduce the wavelengths associated with artificial city lighting while enhancing the wavelengths found in photos of stars (e.g. Hα, Hβ, OIII and SII).

Since the filter requires the mirror to be locked up, you’ll need to use Live View to frame your shots, as your optical viewfinder will be blacked out.

Here are some example photos taken without (left) and with (right) the STC Astro-Multispectra Clip Filter:

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The STC Astro-Multispectra Clip Filter is available now for Canon and Nikon full frame DSLRs from the Hong Kong store Cyclops Optics for HK$1,620, or about $208.

Last week we featured a similar product called the PureNight filter. Instead of sitting inside the mirror box of a DSLR, however, the PureNight filter is mounted to the front of your lens.

(via Cyclops Optics via Nikon Rumors)

How to Get Better at Photography

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I think you can look around at a lot of the content based around photography on the Internet and extract a theme: people want to be better photographers.

At the lower levels of the hobby that’s fairly easy. There are a lot of concrete skills and tips to pick up and integrate that are available via a variety of mediums. Doing tutorials for processing. Covering some basic design concepts like composition and other visual elements for shooting. Learning about lens optics and exactly what is going on in your camera. There are a lot of easily articulated skills to practice; it can keep you busy for years just consuming the basic instructional content.

But what happens when you bump into The End of the Internet?

Really it’s not that simple I suppose. It’s not a lack of content – because goddamn, there’s an infinite amount – but rather a lack of applicability. Once you reach an endgame state, there are no more tutorials to make you better. There are no easy answers to the question, “How do I get better at photography?” You already understand the thirds rule of composition, and you at least have heard about the golden ratio and other compositional rules. You’ve probably developed an automatic eye to utilize those. But then it becomes a question repetition. Thousands of times, tens of thousands. Enough to wear out a shutter. And that’s soul crushing, because people live through narrative, not repetition. And there’s no good, fulfilling story inside “And then I tried ten thousand slightly different compositions over ten years to fine tune the exact placement of my foreground elements.”

So you need a philosophy. You need a set of rules and a guiding story that can help you down the path of years, instead of down a path of day or weeks. You need to zoom out from your tutorial existence that is one day to the next. You want to be better at taking photos. We all do. And it’s easy to say, intellectually, that it’s just practice, time invested. But it’s hard to live that.

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This is my philosophy, my structure for this art. It is not the be-all-end-all. I don’t think such a thing exists, mind, but I think there are some universal concepts that are useful and I think there’s a good basic way to tie them together. That’s what this is. It’s just a net that maybe you can tote out on your fishing boat and cast into the ocean of the world and maybe, if you’re lucky and skilled and paying attention, catch some stuff reliably. I’m just another person with this net – and I didn’t even weave it all, I found it and just patched some parts up.

First, you need to idealize something. You need a destination. Where do you want your photos to go? Who is better than you? Identify them. Photography is very ego-laden but I guarantee even the best, most self-assured photographers know someone that they at least suspect is better than them. Find as many examples of this as you can. Learn about those people. Especially learn their process, the thoughts they have as they create. Advanced levels of any art become less about the mechanical details of technique and more about the details of what is going on in the creators mind. Learn their mind. But bottom line, know what looks better than what you are doing. Have a target. Study it.

Then, through study, identify what specifically is better. There is something, it’s specific, find it. You may not have the vocabulary to understand it, but you can see it visually. Manipulating concepts is difficult without a solid vocabulary, but it is possible. Work on finding a simple word, even just one. Get started on something. Is your ideal photography clearer? Is it emotional? Is it warm? Is it cold? you can find one word, I guarantee it. Then find two words. Then three. It isn’t easy, nothing valuable is easy. But find words and apply the internet to them, or even just take it to discussion. Generate more vocabulary. Google that vocabulary. Think about what you already know about processing, shooting, seeing – and apply that concept. Apply several concepts! Snowball it, get exponential growth happening.

Then plateau. Because that’s what happens. You will plateau, every time you identify a concept that can improve your photography. You will apply it until you get sick of it, master it, and then plateau. And that’s when you start the process over. Yeah, you’re better now. Maybe you’re much better. Hey, maybe you’re really f**king gifted and there’s hardly anyone whose work you cannot break down into simple concepts in your own mind in moments. But I bet there’s at least one that isn’t so easily broken down. I bet there’s someone that’s a little better than you, a little more aware of the medium.

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And start the process over. This is what getting better is like for anything. Embrace the larger timescale and just find enjoyment in the individual steps of the process. Watch fads come and go. Watch new technologies come and go–sometimes, and stick around other times. If they stick around, integrate their lessons. Now the game is structure – what is your structure? What lets you stay with this medium after the novelty of shooting vanilla images wears off? Because it will, trust me. You will shoot and forget so many images that you will learn that some are just worth experiencing and not recording. But once you have that realization, what then?

Structure. The project. You can have a one night stand with photography really easy, but this is how you marry it. Stories are the true nature of photography. Human beings see the world through story – period. This isn’t just photography, this is the human condition. If photography is the art of seeing, then the nature of photography is the stories that we see. So what story would you tell? A day in the life? The struggle of the working man? The horror of war? In every single worthy thing there is a story to tell. Sh*t, tell the story of the small. Tell the story of insects. It doesn’t matter, it all has a story. Take this idealization of technique and the graphic image and apply it to anything you feel strongly about. I guarantee these things – your love of the image and your desire to tell a story – will carry you forward the 10, 30, 50 years it takes to master photography. With these loops of idealizing your style and identifying the stories you care about, you will be a master… if you can stick with it for as long as it takes. However long.

Maybe it will be longer than you are alive. But if you transcend the process, someone will find you later. That is art. You are here now, and maybe no one will see you. But that is something a true artist will mostly ignore – because you’re too goddamn busy working.

Also, for perspective, I’d like to share a photo I took and processed something like 12 or 13 years ago that I was able to dig up on the Internet. We all start somewhere.

A cringeworthy photo from my past.
A cringeworthy photo from my past.

About the author: Patrick Beggan is an award-winning portraiture, event, and landscape photographer based out of Bellingham, Washington. You can find his work on his website, or by following him on Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, and 500px. This article was also published here.

Comfy Pad Lapdesk by iSkelter

padded lapdeskMake the whole world your office with the Comfy Pad Lapdesk by iSkelter. Made for laptops up to 15 inches, this lap desk is fully functioning to keep your workspace at the perfect angle. On the bottom of the Comfy Pad Lapdesk is built-in padding that is made with genuine, hand-stitched leather for added luxury. The ultra smooth premium light bamboo surface keeps the fans of your laptop open while the weight of your device (and the heat) are evenly… Continue Reading

Syrp’s New ‘Super Dark’ Variable ND Filter Blocks 5 – 10 Stops of Light

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Gear company Syrp is best known for their timelapse motion controllers-like the Genie and Slingshot-but the company’s latest release won’t move your camera. In fact, we suggest you keep your camera very still when using it.

The newest product from Syrp is the Super Dark Variable ND Filter, which offers an impressive 5 to 10 stops of light reduction without suffering from some of the common issues Variable NDs are known for. You can get a feel for this filter and what it can do in the video below:

The Syrp Super Dark is made from high quality Japanese glass with a HD coating, and promises top-notch quality for landscapers who want to capture long exposures even in bright sunlight. To give you an idea of the potential, at its 10-stop upper limit it turns 1/250th of a second into 4 full seconds of exposure.

Beyond the stopping power, the Super Dark’s most stand out feature is the hard stops at both ends of the filter’s range. Whether you’re shooting at 5 or 10 stops, the filter won’t let you turn past that to limit the “X-Pattern” effect this can cause.

The Syrp team wanted to show photographers that this filter is the real deal, so they sent a team to Iceland for 9 non-stop days of dramatic landscape photography with the new Super Dark. Here are a few of the images they came back with:

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The filter, which is already available for pre-order, comes in 67mm and 82mm sizes, each with two step up rings included just in case you need to attach it to a smaller lens. The 67mm version costs $170, the 82mm version costs $210, and both are scheduled to ship December 15th.

To learn more about these filters or get your order in, head over to the Syrp website by clicking here.


Image credits: All photos provided by Syrp and used with permission.

CABARO Automatic and Quartz Watches

minimalist watchWhen it comes to timepieces, your expectations should be nothing short of perfection and the CABARO Automatic and Quartz Watches. Timelessly designed with exceptional attention to detail, this collection will enhance any style. Both the Automatic and the Quartz versions feature a stunning natural leather strap and your choice of a black, white, or midnight blue dial. You also have your choice of a stainless steel silver or 18k rose gold plated case. The Automatic is just 10.5mm thick and… Continue Reading