Frank Petronio photographer

Winter Range

Once the leaves fell and we could see through the trees, I saw my airgun range and bike trail looked a little shabby to passersby. So I cleaned up my junk and hid the obnoxious target stands, covered the exposed concrete blocks on my bike jumps with mulch, painted my backstop to blend into the surroundings. I switched to inexpensive Crosman swinging targets, which at 2” diameter are challenging with my springer and still too easy with my PCP (but I try to hit 100%). It’s more subtle and feels good to me, while not costing very much to do. Pretty happy with it as it is and think I should fight the urge to “improve” it further. 


The snow is just right for biking with my mid-fat mountain bike although once the tires load up I do some slipping. I could deflate the tires more, or switch to better snow tires, or get a true fat bike for Winter but I think not. This is fun but I can also simply walk the trail instead. 


Another mediocre shot, all these out of focus stalks sticking up in weird places screwing up the bokeh. Contrast and color of sky is weird too, probably should go back on a calm morning and try again. November weather is pretty marginal though, it’s just nasty out. 

Favorite Landscape

Finally made a landscape photo I like. It was windy but shooting with a higher end DSLR allowed me to shoot at a faster shutter speed and hold detail in the moving leaves ~ something I probably couldn’t accomplish with a larger film or digital camera. 

Current Gear

Here’s my F-Stop Lotus load sans tripod, hiking poles, water bottles. I probably forgot something. 

F-Stop Lotus Backpack with large ICU insert.

Stroppa Straps on all my cameras. Recommended!

Obviously I wouldn’t carry all three camera bodies on a longer hike but for general shooting it’s luxurious to simply pull the any body out of the pack ready to go. Not only is this faster but psychologically I’m more apt to shoot more knowing I won’t have to pause and swap lenses. Of course it’s silly to miss a good shot over something so trivial but yet I often did so this prevents that from happening. (Lens are Nikon 28/1.4e; 105/1.4e; and 300/4PFe. I think these are the best lenses Nikon has ever made, I even sold my superb Zeiss glass after using them.)(I used to always use a 35-50mm for my walk-around normal lens but I am starting to learn how to make the 28mm work for me. It’s good to force a small challenge upon yourself.)  

Serrated knife used to trim brush, I do this more than one would expect.

Batteries, Nikon SB700 flash, LED panel on stand mount

Junk Drawer

Deciding to stick with Nikon D810 bodies made sense for me as I didn’t see how the newer D850 would help me significantly yet they would require a $12k investment to upgrade (You can buy a clean low-milage D810 body for $1400 or less).  Having three bodies made my notion to keep my three primary lenses semi-permanently mounted possible. I have a dozen batteries and several chargers, also redundant memory cards. Had I gone over to a new camera, like the D850, I would have spent over $1000 on new memory cards alone. 

Tips: change the camera’s file naming to identify each body, keep cards exclusive to the same body and always reformat them from the body, never use the trash function unless it’s an emergency. I use different color and style straps for each body and the one with the heaviest lens gets the thicker strap.   

Reversing the waist belt eases swinging the 26# pack around.

The most important feature I want in a pack is rear panel opening so can set it down in the muck while keeping my back and gear clean. This is an absolute priority but few manufacturers have gotten these kinds of designs right. And while they are still not perfect, F-Stop products have proven to be overall superior to my previous Think Tank, Mindshift, LowePro packs (I’m still fond of my Think Tank Airport Ultralite but their newer designs are downgrades). I’m also a fan of Kenesis Photo Gear, although they never made the pack I wanted. But nobody else does either, it’s just that F-Stop comes the closest off the shelf. I looked into making a custom pack, also adapting climbing packs (the Patagonia Craigsmith comes close) but decided it’s not worth it. 

What I do not like about the Lotus is the side pockets because I’d prefer to carry a conventional water bottle. The Lotus side pockets lie flat under compression straps and a Velcro’d pleat, they are nice for tripod legs or hiking poles. I suppose F-Stop wants us to use hydration bladders but I find them a pain for a short hike, I have to rearrange my stuff to clean and dry them between use (We have 3 hanging in garage, covered in years of dust). Otherwise there isn’t much to complain about that isn’t obvious, it’s heavy and a bit overbuilt, the straps and belt are large, all these things are trade-offs of positives and negatives. If the pack is a bit heavier but lasts longer and provides more protection then it isn’t a negative at all. 

The other thing I didn’t like was the company, F-Stop, which had horrible business practices like charging your card for a back-ordered pack that might take a year to be realized. However they made positive changes and seem to be shipshape, and their designs are arguably superior to the rest of the marketplace so I took another chance on them. After I ordered the Lotus I discovered a new pack company called Atlas Packs that has potential, although I’ve never seen one and they are also steeply priced like F-Stop. Their smaller pack seems orientated towards toylike mirrorless cameras though they promise a redesign more suited to DSLRs so I’ll be watching. 

If I were able to have my design manufactured it’d have a detachable waist belt for ease of use as airline carry-on. I’d make use of stretchy, elastic side pockets. I wouldn’t even have a back pocket (or laptop pocket), nothing to add any additional thickness (I never carry a laptop). The backside that lies in the mud would use a heavier rubberized fabric like those Patagonia waterproof packs. I’d also use waterproof material to isolate the water bladder pocket from the rest of the pack (deathly afraid of leaking onto electronics). All the zippers would be flapped and orientated away from water flows. I’d simply do one large top lid and introduce the notion of dividing your gear using Ziplocks rather than sewn structure. Perhaps one flat pocket for papers and cell phone. The camera compartment should be slightly deeper so you can easily store bodies as I do because it protects their prisms and the lens mount best (also allows access to cards for downloading afterwards). The F-Stop ICU concept is a nice idea but I’d build the pack to fit my personal gear without any options that add additional weight. And I’d try for square corners and an overall thin boxy rectangular shape (least sexy but most efficient) with an overall L-W-H under 36” to be safe from airline carry-on scrutiny (10 x 7 x 19). 

If you’re a fellow camera nerd then you’ll appreciate the list of cameras I’ve owned: The Cameraholic

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