Gear Review: Branded Flash Drives by USB Memory Direct

I want to write more often about equipment I use and why but there are plenty of reviews on just about anything cameras and lenses that I struggle with offering something different that would have value. Before I write about any product or service though, I want to say that currently I am not sponsored or endorsed by anyone thus having no influence on my reviews.

During February, I spent nearly 100 hours putting together 2 days worth of Keynotes for my Santa Fe Photo Workshops class and 2 other Keynotes for presentations at NANPA (North American Nature Photography Association) and FCCC (Florida Camera Club Council) events in Florida. Of course I always back up my work regularly for piece of mind. Well, I found out recently that getting my own personalized flash drives that I can carry on my keychain were a really great idea and affordable.

I am always looking for new, innovative and practical ways to brand myself without making everything a hard sell. Recently, I have been using flash drives from USB Memory Direct. My “DeYoung Photo Workshops” logo in my favorite shade of blue is very sharply and nicely inscribed to the shaft of the drive.

USB Direct has a very nice selection of drives that you can place your business logo, web site, or any branding message. I have the Clover model with a nice chrome finish, shaped like a key which, coincidentally, fits nicely on a key ring or small caribiner made for keys. The company was easy to work with and had a very fast turnaround time. I really like having a marketing piece that is also very practical and useful.

I’m using my branded drives in two specific and beneficial ways. First, when I give an instructional-based photography workshop, I place PDF versions of my Keynote presentations on these flash drives and pass them out to workshop participants at the completion of the workshop. Speaking of Keynotes, I now back up my presentations on these drives and have one with me at all times as they are so easy to carry on a keychain or lanyard. After spending countless hours preparing a presentation, having a back up that is always with me gives me great peace of mind should disaster strike with my laptop the day I am giving a presentation.

When I have a portfolio review with an art director or an advertising agency, I always have a presentation ready on my laptop. However, I always bring a back up my digital portfolio on a flash drive. Most of the time, a conference room will have a projector and big screen already set up and ready to just pop in my flash drive, making it easier than setting up my laptop. At the end of the review I give them a drive as another leave behind piece and something else to remember me by.

I have not gone through my first 50 yet but that is likely before the year ends and I will be ordering more.

Ski Action Photography With a Fisheye Lens

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Ryan taking some air off HIghline Ridge at Taos Ski Valley. Shot with a Canon 1D Mark IV and Sigma 15mm/f2.8 fisheye at 1/1000 second at f8 at 200 ISO.

Until recently, I’ve never been a big fan of fisheye lenses.  They look cool for an occasional shot where the distortion really adds to the visual interest of the image.  My first test with Sigma’s 15mm f2.8 fisheye for Canon was on a ski shoot at Taos Ski Valley close to home in northern New Mexico. The lens is solidly made and has a nice feel to it.  It is easy to focus and has a decent hyperfocal scale on the focus ring.  I’m not too concerned about its focus speed  because with a super wide lens I use hyperfocal manual focus anyway.  I used this lens on my Canon 1D, Mark IV.  With a 1.3x  sensor the 15mm fisheye became just short of a 20mm on this camera and it didn’t produce the full fisheye distortion.

For ski action work at close range to my subject, I set the focus to a little beyond 4 feet and everything from about 3 feet to infinity is in focus at f8.   This lens produces a beautiful diffraction star when shooting into the sun.  In fact it is better than my Canon EF 20/f2.8.  Shooting at 1/1000 second at f8 produced very sharp and contrasty images.  There is noticeable chromatic aberration but it was easy to correct with a simple checkbox in Lightroom 4.  In most instances, I actually preferred the distortion.  This lens has a profile built in to Lightroom 4 and correcting for distortion is as easy as checking a box.  The 2 images below show the uncorrected image on top and the same image corrected for distortion beneath it. The corrected one chops too much off the corners but it makes the skier look taller and Lauri likes that!

Lauri skiing across a rare flat section at Taos Ski Valley off of Highline Ridge.  Shot with a Sigma 15mm/f2.8 fisheye.   This shot shows some fisheye distortion.  The shot below was corrected for lens distortion in the built in profiles in Lightroom 4.

Lauri skiing across a rare flat section at Taos Ski Valley off of Highline Ridge. Shot with a Sigma 15mm/f2.8 fisheye. This shot shows some fisheye distortion. The shot below was corrected for lens distortion in the built in profiles in Lightroom 4.

Lauri skiing across a rare flat section at Taos Ski Valley off of Highline Ridge.  Shot with a Sigma 15mm/f2.8 fisheye.  Distortion correction was applied in RAW processing in Lightroom 4.

Lauri skiing across a rare flat section at Taos Ski Valley off of Highline Ridge. Shot with a Sigma 15mm/f2.8 fisheye. Distortion correction was applied in RAW processing in Lightroom 4.

 

All in all this is a great lens especially for shooting into the sun with lots of depth of field, contrast and sharpness.  I know fisheyes are popular for landscape photography but I can see using this lens just as much for unique sports action shooting too.  Definitely a worthwhile pro lens.

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Lauri and I riding up chair 2 at Taos Ski Valley with the morning sun cresting the ridge. Shot with Canon 1D Mark IV with Sigma 15mm/f2.8 fisheye.