Vanguard Alta Rise 48 camera backpack

Over my past 15 years as a pro photographer I’ve had innumerable backpacks, bags and carrying accessories for my camera gear. It seemed I was always making some kind of compromise, and I could never find exactly the right bag for my style and needs—until now.

Delivered today was my new Vanguard Alta Rise 48 – and I now have my perfect camera bag.

My move to minimalism

A few years ago, when I decided to switch to Sony mirrorless camera systems, my main objective was cutting down the weight, size and general clumsiness of the kit I’d been lugging around.

(At one point, with my Canon DSLR setup, I had a backpack that weighed over 35 pounds when filled with camera bodies, lenses and accessories! I’d had enough of this.)

So I started looking for a camera system that would give me the image quality (and resolution) that I needed but smaller, lighter … and, in the end, cheaper. Sony met those requirements, and I’ve been an ambassador ever since.

It turned out the harder part was finding the right luggage to haul the new kit around in. I’ve used and endorsed products from ThinkTank, LowePro, Manfrotto, Tamrac and many others. And although the quality of most of the products from these brands is reliably excellent, the design and usability is another matter altogether.

Now it’s personal

One of the most individual decisions we make as photographers is how we carry our gear. Depending on how and where you shoot, and what gear you use, there are seemingly infinite choices and configurations when it comes to bags.

After switching to Sony mirrorless I thought I’d also had enough of backpacks, so I started looking at shoulder bags. I shopped around for months and eventually found the excellent Vanguard Up-Rise II 28. It fit all my camera gear perfectly, was intelligently designed and the build quality superb.

But I found very quickly that a shoulder bag was not right for me. Having the weight on one side of my body, however much lighter it was, turned out to be uncomfortable. So I was back to looking for backpacks.

Seeking camouflage

In the meantime, I became very comfortable just using a ‘regular’ backpack, not designed for cameras. Thieves have a finely tuned radar for photo bags; typical backpacks are certainly stolen as well, but not nearly as attractive to thieves. So for a long time, I really tried to get by without a true camera bag at all. But with a regular backpack, protection for the gear is minimal and the storage spaces aren’t ideal. So I found a regular backpack wasn’t filling the need, either.

Vanguard Alta Rise 48 camera backpackThe current crop

In mid-2017 I started looking for a new camera backpack. As fast and impressively as cameras have been evolving, so have bags.

I’ve loved my Vanguard shoulder bag so from the outset I hoped to find another Vanguard bag. Still, wanting to perform the appropriate due-diligence, I researched all the latest from ThinkTank, LowePro, Manfrotto, Tamrac and others.

At The Photography Show 2018 at the NEC in Birmingham, UK all the bag makers were showing their latest and best products. And I looked at them all.

In the end I chose the Vanguard Alta Rise 48 and I am well chuffed (as we say here in England).

Today the bag arrived, I put in all my gear and tried it on. It’s every bit as good as I thought it was when I saw it at the Photography Show and I’m looking forward to getting out and shooting with it!

If you’re considering buying another bag, of any style, you must see what Vanguard is doing. Their products are incredibly well designed, the build quality is superb and the prices represent very good value.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on camera bags, please leave your comments below.

The Photography Show 2018

Excited for The Photography Show this weekendat NEC Birmingham!

I’m presenting seven sessions over all four days: Lightroom in the Adobe Theatre, Designing a Photograph in the Beginners Masterclass and Graphic Nature on the Great Outdoors Stage.

Hope to see you there!

Get all the details

Introducing the All-New Lightroom CC

Announced 18th October on the Adobe blog and at the MAX conference in Las Vegas: Adobe has made major updates to the Lightroom family of products. These changes are likely to have significant impact on many photographers’ workflows.

Firstly, the desktop application we’ve known as Lightroom up to this point is now called Lightroom Classic CC. Improvements have been made to performance and a few new features have been rolled out, such as Range Mask for local adjustments, but for the most part Classic remains the familiar tool we’ve used and loved all these years. Adobe has promised to continue their commitment to developing and supporting Classic.

But the really big news is about the all-new digital photography platform now called Adobe Lightroom CC (for Creative Cloud). Lightroom CC is a new set of apps that run on desktop and mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. (CC is now totally separate from Classic, but the two can communicate.)

Register for my next Lightroom CC workshop

At the core of Lightroom CC is cloud storage. Your photos are uploaded (and backed up automatically) using Adobe’s servers.

The apps run locally on your devices but there’s also a web interface that you can access via a browser.

Because your photos are all stored in the Creative Cloud, you can access and edit them across a range of devices using consistent tools within the Lightroom CC family of apps.

For the most part, reviewing and editing your photos is the same whether you’re using a desktop computer, tablet or smartphone, with a few notable exceptions (which are expected to improve over time).

Most importantly, Adobe has committed to providing consistency between the tools available in all versions of Lightroom CC running on all platforms.

What this all means is that it is now possible to securely store your photos in one location, access them from anywhere on many devices, and edit and share those photos—all using a consistent suite of software.

Register for my next Lightroom CC workshop

Photography WorkTour: Northern Italy

October 2018

Join me for a very special workshop with a small, private group exploring and photographing my favourite places in Italy. From the vineyards of Barolo and the Langhe to the sparkling Ligurian Sea and quaint villages of the Cinque Terre, this adventure offers something for everyone—both photographers and non-photographers alike.

Space is extremely limited and sells out fast. Register before 1 December, 2017 for a 10& discount!

Get all the details and book online here

Learn Lightroom at The Photography Show

I am teaching Lightroom at the Adobe Theatre all four days of The Photography Show, 18–21 March, NEC Birmingham.

These sessions are free with your conference registration but will be ticketed. Tickets are free and may be collected in advance each day. Some tickets may still be available at the time of the session(s) but it’s best to get tickets ahead of time to ensure entry to a particular session. Note that these tickets for the Adobe Theatre are not the same as the ‘show tickets’ for the main conference. Tickets to the Adobe Theatre are only available at the stand, on the day.

The complete Adobe Theatre schedule is at

The Photography Show is the UK’s biggest and best event for all things photo related.

Digital Photography Essentials at Phoenix Cinema

Nat Coalson Presents Digital Photography

On the evening of Thursday January 19, 2017, I presented a seminar in the screening room at the Phoenix Cinema in Leicester. I was thrilled to meet and speak with folks in the packed house, comprised of Phoenix Members and Friends.

We covered many of the most important topics related to developing a successful photography practice, both for hobbyists and professionals alike. Some of the key points of the talk included

  • Learning to see
  • Subject matter
  • Light
  • Designing a photograph
  • Using the equipment
  • Processing and output
  • Practice and training
  • Personal projects and bodies of work

The feedback has been very supportive, with some of the comments including

“Thank you very much for organising the workshop with Nat Coalson. I found his presentation rich and stimulating and he talked with great clarity. I have a longstanding interest in photography and, having just finished a major project, have the time to develop my interest. The timing of Nat’s workshop was perfect for me.”

“Thank you very much for arranging a very enjoyable members event this evening. Nat’s passion for photography was inspirational and the time flew by. There was so much useful information that I will certainly be contacting him for a copy of his presentation.”

“Just a note to say thank you for the event yesterday evening, my wife Ruth and I enjoyed it very much. Whilst I am a keen photographer, I am always learning and taking inspiration from the work of others and there was much to take on board last night.”

My sincere gratitude to Sarah Vallance and the Phoenix Board of Directors for inviting me to present at this fantastic venue. The facilities and support are excellent and I’ll certainly be doing more photography classes, lectures and presentations at the Phoenix!

Next Lightroom Workshop

My next class is 27th January at the National Space Centre in Leicester.

I’ll be teaching essential skills for enhancing photos with Lightroom.

Learn the most important adjustments in the Basic panel, dodging and burning with local adjustment brushes and gradients, retouching using the Spot Removal tool, and much much more!

Get all the details here >

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