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South Jersey wedding photographer Jay Cassario blog. Writer for SLR Lounge and Shotkit.com. 

Filtering by Category: equipment

Cecilia Leather Goods | Camera Strap Review

Jay Cassario

cecilia camera strap

Good Camera Straps

There are very few things that I hear photographers bitching about more than camera straps, or their struggle to find a good one. I may or may not have been one of those photographers at one point or another. I've tried a good amount of camera straps over the years and never found one that looked good but was also comfortable to wear. I know, I know, the ones with all the little pockets for memory cards and your license are nice and all, but... yes I'm kidding. But Jay, you wrote a review about how much you love your Moneymakers, what are you talking about? The Moneymaker isn't a camera strap, it's a holster, that can also double as part of my cowboy Halloween costume. 

While finding a good camera strap seems to be a popular topic of conversation on message boards and social media, there's far from a shortage of options out there. There's also plenty of photographers out there that I see sporting those fancy manufacturer straps that actually come with the camera. Besides wanting to show off the camera you're shooting with, there really isn't a worse camera strap you could be using. But, there are also no cheaper options out there, so... I get it. 

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The Cecilia Camera Straps

I can truthfully say that I haven't had a camera strap stay on one of my cameras for more than a couple weeks since I started shooting 6 years ago. I've tried a good amount of them, just could never quite find one that I liked. Even though I don't really have a desire to use one on any of my DSLR's, my wife does. I typically only shoot my DSLR's at weddings, and my Moneymaker is my go-to for shooting those. My Leica gear is where a good strap would come in handy, and I've struggled to find a good one. I shoot with my Leica M a good amount at weddings and just about all of my personal work, so I've had a good number of camera straps come and go. 

Since I had a destination wedding coming up, I was ready to try again. I remembered reading a review on SLR Lounge by my good friends Andy and Amii Kauth, from Sunshine and Reign Photography, about the Cecilia camera straps that they use. So, with a few weeks before my trip, I decided to give them a try. 

[BLOG POST - SOMEWHERE IN MEXICO]

Jay Cassario Leica

After a few weeks of using the Cecilia straps, one for my Leica M10, and another for my wife to use with her 5D MarkIV, I can finally say that I found a camera strap that I like. It not only looks good, but it's also comfortable to wear and durable. It's made of high-quality Argentinean cowhide leather with stitching that can take a beating without having to worry about it coming apart. The thin part of the strap is just the right size so that it doesn't get in my way, with a thicker neck support section that has a small amount of padding to make it comfortable yet not bulky. The opposite side of the leather, on the thicker neck support area also has a good looking wool like texture made from Peruvian alpaca fiber. How do I know all this? I liked the straps so much that I reached out to the owner and had him tell me about the company and how he came up with the design of the straps. Now that I know a little more about the company and know that most of the Cecilia products are handmade... I like them even more. 

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CONCLUSION

The Cecilia Camera straps aren't going to be the most versatile straps on the market, but there are tons of options out there if that is what you're looking for. Black Rapid straps are probably the most popular for those looking for versatility. I personally haven't like those either, but that's just me. The Cecilia strap, however, is an awesome looking and durable leather camera strap that is actually comfortable to wear around your neck. There are many different styles to choose from and different options for different cameras, as you can see from the photos above. After 6 years, this is the longest both my wife and I have had camera straps on our cameras. Not only that, but it's rare that both of us like the same product, so that alone is saying something, ha.

After I fell in love with the their camera straps, I decided to see what else they had to offer. One of the products that the owner had mentioned during our conversation was the full-grain leather laptop skins. I've never put any kind of skin or cover on my Macbook Pro, I've honestly never seen any that I thought really looked all that good. A leather skin? That was more my style. So, I ordered the Montana Cocoa color leather skin and just like the camera straps, that hasn't come off either. It was easy to put on, and just because I was nervous about it coming off, I took it off a few days later. Underneath, there was nothing left behind from the skin, and surprisingly it went right back on with no trouble. 

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One of the toughest products to write a review on is a camera strap, for the same reason that it's difficult to review a camera bag. Personal preference along with style and taste can be a big influence in whether or not the reviewer likes a product. I have always tried my best to review products as honestly as I possibly can, while also being sure to explain the reasons why I like or dislike a product. For me personally, the products that I choose to use also have a lot to do with the people that stand behind and represent them. Not only does the Cecilia company make high-quality products that I personally like, but the company is one that I have a good amount of respect for. A big reason for that is they are focused on the photography community and strive to promote the work of photographers while also building relationships with them. If you are looking for a good camera strap, definitely give the Cecilia straps a look.

Thank you!

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The First Narrows Workshop

Jay Cassario

BTS DRONE FOOTAGE

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas...

Unless it happens to be a conversation between three friends late one night in a Vegas hotel room during WPPI. Three friends with a crazy idea that sounded more like a bad joke: An Aussie, a guy from Georgia, and a very handsome looking fella from New Jersey walk into a bar. The Aussie yells out, the three of us should team up for a workshop. The guy from Georgia said that sounds great, where should we do it? The very smart and handsome fella from Jersey responded with, how about Maine? All 3 agreed, shook hands, then changed the subject. None of them thinking it would ever actually happen.

Until it did. 

 (LEFT) James Day (MIDDLE) Bud Johnson (RIGHT) Jay Cassario 

(LEFT) James Day (MIDDLE) Bud Johnson (RIGHT) Jay Cassario 

While it didn't go down quite like that, the Narrows Workshop idea did start late one night during WPPI. Myself, James Day, and Bud Johnson really wanted to team up and host a workshop together. Not only are we close friends from across the globe, we are each very successful in this tough industry. While each of us shoot a little differently, run our businesses a little differently, the heart and soul of our success has been putting our clients first.

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We ultimately wanted to offer a unique experience, in a remote location, that wasn't already very popular and overdone for wedding workshops. So, how did we end up hosting it in Maine? Well, that idea also came about during that same Vegas trip. Actually, the very next morning.

 Photo: Jay Cassario

Photo: Jay Cassario

I had been in Vegas to give a lecture for, on The Art of Wedding Photography during WPPI. Glenn Charles, a talented Leica photographer, had seen the lecture announcement and hopped on my personal site to read more about who I was. By doing a little digging on my site, he saw that I had grown up vacationing in Maine. Glenn just happens to not only live in Maine, but is also the owner of the popular Cohill's Inn. A restaurant/bar and Inn located in Lubec, ME. While sitting in the Vegas airport waiting to board my flight back home to Philly, I received an email from Glenn introducing himself along with an invite to stop in at the Cohill's next time I was in Maine. As I read it, a light bulb went off - we had our location for the workshop! Lubec, Maine it was. 

 Photo: James Day

Photo: James Day

Fast-forward a few months, a ton of work, along with the help of some awesome sponsors, and the three of us found ourselves in Maine. There we were, sitting in the Cohill's Inn, looking out at an epic view of turquoise water, old lobster boats, bald headed eagles, seals, and islands that seemed to float about with the changing of the tide. Having never been to Lubec, which is much farther North than I had ever gone, I was taken back by just how beautiful it was. All of us were. Glenn was kind enough to let us take over the entire Cohill's Inn for three days, including the restaurant area where we held the lecture part of the workshop each day. He also had his crew serve us an awesome lunch and dinner each day while making us feel right at home with his hospitality. 

 Photo: John Kreidler

Photo: John Kreidler

 Photo: Glenn Charles

Photo: Glenn Charles

The workshop was 3 nights, and two full days of awesomeness. The first night started off with an adventurous hike out along the cliffs near the West Quoddy lighthouse, in the pitch black, to do some star photography. It just happened to be one of the nights that was best for seeing the Perseid Meteor Shower which amped up the cool factor while trying not get lost or slip and fall before the workshop even started. 

 Photo: Jay Cassario

Photo: Jay Cassario

 Photo: Jay Cassario

Photo: Jay Cassario

 Photo: Jay Cassario

Photo: Jay Cassario

The next two days were filled with tears, laughter, learning, shooting, and making new friends. It was an awesome few days that far surpassed the expectations we had when first started tossing the idea around that night in Vegas. The three of us lectured each day until around 3pm, then went out to do some shooting. We spent time teaching how we shoot and interact with clients. One of the highlights of the workshop was having the talented Stacy Childers come out to style the shoots we did each day, along with three awesome models that we worked to the bone. A big thank you to Erika Hokkanen, Lindsey Whitacre, and Matt Whitacre!

 Photo: Jay Cassario

Photo: Jay Cassario

We got to explore the coast of Maine, the most eastern point of the United States, as well as shoot at the top of the West Quoddy Lighthouse. We worked our butt's off and all left with the feeling that we had just been part of something special. Our original idea was to provide a unique experience, and we couldn't be happier with the one that was had. While there were many factors that helped create that experience, it simply wouldn't have been possible without the help of our sponsors. Each played a vital role in making this idea of ours reality, and we can't thank them enough. 

 Photo: Kate Kernutt

Photo: Kate Kernutt

 Photo: Austin Wheeler

Photo: Austin Wheeler

Our biggest shout out goes to Vision Art, the album company that both myself and James Day use for our albums. Not only did they help make it possible for James to fly out to Maine all the way from Australia but also provided a nice discount for everyone to use on their next album order. We had a nice collection of our sample albums on display for everyone to see in person.

 Vision Art Albums

Vision Art Albums

Leica had a rep, John Kreidler, come out and join us for the entire workshop with a nice selection of gear for all of the attendees to try out and shoot. Tim Hussey, the owner of Pixifi, attended the entire workshop and provided a discount along with brief overview of the software. ONA Bags provided one of their awesome Prince Street leather bags as a giveaway. The one of kind print lab, Atkins Photo Lab, provided discount cards for everyone. Magmod provided a Wedding Starter kit as a giveaway. The album design software company Fundy also provided a nice discount to all those in attendance. 

[CLICK HERE TO SEE A GALLERY OF PHOTOS TAKEN BY THE ATTENDEES]

 Leica gear on hand 

Leica gear on hand 

 John Kreidler (Leica) and Tim Hussey (Pixifi)

John Kreidler (Leica) and Tim Hussey (Pixifi)

 Jean Bremner - Winner of the ONA bag

Jean Bremner - Winner of the ONA bag

Thanks to everyone who had a hand in making The Narrows Workshop such a success, especially Glenn and the Cohill's Inn. It simply wouldn't have been the same had we stayed anywhere else. Lubec is a unique and beautiful little town, especially for photographers or anyone looking to hit a place that isn't over-run with tourists. We will definitely be back, so now it's time to start thinking about how to make the next one even better!

[CLICK HERE TO SEE FILM SCANS]

ONA + Saltfish Surf Co. Collection

Jay Cassario

Last week I drove up to New York and had lunch with my good friends at ONA bags. I usually try to catch up with them every couple months, and we needed to talk about the upcoming Narrows Workshop that they are sponsoring. I've built a really solid relationship with ONA over the past few years and I have a great deal of respect for them as a company. Not only because of the awesome people running the show over there but because they are an industry leading bag company that continues to expand on the artistry of their product line. They are very much involved in the photographer community, getting out and really taking the time to know their clients. Whether it's through hosting or joining in on photo-walks, photographer collaborations, or sponsoring workshops, it's nice to see them making it a priority to get involved. It's companies like ONA that inspire me as not only an entrepreneur but also as a creative. 

While I was there, they introduced me to their newest limited edition collaboration, as well as a few other new products coming down the line soon. Their newest collection is one that I absolutely loved. They took their most popular bag, the Bowery, and merged it with the trademark style of Saltfish Surf Co's surfboard totes. The bags feature textiles designed and woven by a family-owned mill in Oaxaca, Mexico for this project, and they feel exactly like the woven blankets that I have bought every time I've been down to Mexico myself. Having them tell me about their trip down to Mexico to work with Saltfish on these bags, it only made me want one for my myself. Trust me, I don't need another camera bag. If you could only see the collection I have now, I really need to put them all together and take a photo to show them off. I always see other photographers talk about their camera bag collections and it makes me smile and think... you should see what I have stocked away. 

Well, being that there are only 100 of these bags, and I love the ONA Bowery line, I made sure that I went home with one that day. I mean, come on, it's just an early Father's Day gift. So, what am I using it for? Take a look... fits like a glove :)

Newly Designed - Holdfast Money Maker

Jay Cassario

 Photo by: Tim Hussey

Photo by: Tim Hussey

I've never been a fan of just shooting with one camera body and having to switch lenses. I don't really care how fast you can swap lenses, it still takes more time than simply lowering one arm and raising the other. That's also one of the reasons I've never been able to shoot with a flagship body like the Nikon D5. I can pretty much shoot with two prime lenses for most of the wedding day, while carrying a small bag with 2 more lenses to rotate in and out if needed. With that being said, I need a good setup for carrying and shooting dual bodies on a long wedding day.

About 2 years ago, both Sandi and I switched over to shooting the Holdfast Money Maker from the dual Spyder holster. We were both tired of having to walk sideways through tight spaces, as wearing the belt made you about 10-12" wider with a camera on each hip. It's a nice system, but there were a few things we didn't love about them. So, onto the Money Maker.

 Photo by: Sandi Cassario

Photo by: Sandi Cassario

At first, we loved our Money Makers. Not only were they much better looking than the Spyder system but we preferred the mobility of them as well. We quickly learned though, that the sexy look of the Money Maker had a problem. A very painful problem. Due to the design of the slider, it would pinch the shit out of the skin on our arms as they moved up and down if you were wearing a short-sleeved shirt. It was at this same time that I started to learn a little more about the Holdfast company and the man behind the scenes, Matt Swaggart. A photographer himself, a Leica photographer actually, happened to already be in the process of designing a new slider to help prevent the pinching. I was happy to see that although the product seemed to be kicking ass in the wedding photography circle, he had heard about the pinching and was already hard at work designing possible resolutions. A few weeks later, he sent me out a couple replacement sliders to try and BAM! (In my best Emeril Lagasse voice), no more pinching.

 Photo by: Tim Hussey

Photo by: Tim Hussey

I'm a huge advocate of working with companies that not only create and offer awesome products, but are also run by great people who continue to work hard at improving on them. Holdfast is one of those companies. Matt is always creating new products and working hard to improve on the already successul ones, such as the Money Maker. A few weeks ago, he reached out to me and said he had made two impressive upgrades to the Money Maker that he wanted me to try, the first being new buckle design. A new buckle design? I didn't think there was anything wrong with the current one. Well, that's what makes a great company. Matt had made a pretty impressive upgrade to the buckle system, not because of a problem, but simply because he noticed something that could be improved on. The new buckle completely hides all the excess, which you can see the difference between the two in the photos at the bottom of this article. Well done Matt, well done. 

 Photo by: Tim Hussey

Photo by: Tim Hussey

The 2nd upgrade is the one that I'm really impressed with, and that's the new leather Matt is using with the Chestnut and Tan Money Makers. Again, there really wasn't an issue with the leather that was being used, but Matt spent over a year working on finding something better. I could immediately tell when I opened the package that the leather was a new, it's thicker and the texture looks slightly different. It's a softer leather which makes it more comfortable to wear and it doesn't have as much memory after wearing it for a full wedding day. If you sweat a lot on a hot day like myself, you know how much the original leather absorbs sweat like a sponge. When it dries, the leather would lose its original shape. This new leather doesn't absorb sweat as easily, and after wearing it for 3 long hot weddings it has kept its original form and looks brand new. 

If you already own and love your Money Maker, I would consider an upgrade to the new leather. If you tried one in the past and didn't like it, I recommend giving Holdfast another chance. If you ordered a Chestnut or Tan leather Money Maker in the past 5-6 weeks, you more than likely received one of the new ones. I will be purchasing a new one for Sandi since hers is almost 2 years old now and I know she will find the new leather much more comfortable. The newly designed Money Maker is pretty impressive upgrade to an already popular product that I have no doubt will make photogs love wearing it even more now. 

Below: The new design next to the original

  LEFT:  Original Design |  RIGHT:  New Design

LEFT: Original Design | RIGHT: New Design

 New design in the middle

New design in the middle

 New design on the left

New design on the left

 New design on the left

New design on the left

Leica M10 + Noctilux Wedding Photos

Jay Cassario

A couple weeks ago, Leica sent me out their 50mm Noctilux f/0.95 to shoot on the M10. I brought it along to a big farm wedding out in Pennsylvania where I shot over 2000 images with it throughout the day. All shot wide open, the way this lens was designed to be shot. I’ve shot the Noctilux a few times now over the past couple years, but this was the first time on the M10. While I do love shooting it, and while it did create some of my favorite photos that I took at the wedding, I still prefer my 50mm Summilux ASPH. The Summilux is smaller, lighter, and have always preferred the way that it handles the harsh sunlight for the way that I shoot. 

All of these images were shot with the M10 and Noctilux combo. I've also added the link to this in my M10 review. If interested, you can see the full blog post from this wedding HERE.

Any questions, please leave them in the comments, thanks!