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 >

Special Offer for Private Instruction

4-for-3-iconThis Christmas season I’m again offering my popular 4-for-3 Special on private instruction!

For any advance purchase of a block of three hours, you will receive one hour FREE.

During these personalised, one-on-one sessions we can work on exactly what you want –– any aspect of your photography, digital imaging, printing, color management etc. It’s up to you!

The offer applies to in-person training (in the UK only) as well as remote instruction using screen sharing.

Remote instruction has been very successful with my students all over the world. Wherever you are, if you have an internet connection and a phone we can conduct training sessions together.

I’m looking forward to being your photography mentor in 2016!

Get in touch with me directly for pricing and scheduling options.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Important website updates

Over the past few months I’ve separated my fine art, travel photography and training for photographers into three different web sites. These changes are designed to make it easier for you to find exactly the information, services and products that interest you.
Nat Coalson LogoThis is my Signature web site, where you can see my abstract fine art and learn about creative services for interior design. The artworks, and the web site content, are created for interior designers and private art collectors.

Portfolios showcase my abstract photography; case studies and examples explain my creative services. Find out about the many options for getting your own custom fine art, primarily designed for contemporary homes and hospitality properties.
Pictorial Journeys LogoIf you love travel, nature and landscape photography this is the place for you. The new web site and blog features my extensive archives of images and stories made during my travels around the world.

You can also purchase fine art prints online, choosing from a wide range of sizes and materials. (you are here!)
Photography Essentials LogoFolks interested in learning about photography and digital imaging will find a smorgasbord of free articles, tips and tutorials on the most important aspects of fine image making. From camera reviews to how-to instructions on Photoshop and Lightroom and free photography critiques, there’s something for everyone serious about making their best photographs. You can also find out about my workshops, classes, tours and other photography events.

Each web site also has its own email newsletter.

With your free subscriptions you’ll receive messages featuring content relevant to each site:

  • from you’ll get fine art and interior design news,
  • Pictorial Journeys will send you exotic travel imagery and inspiring stories of life on the road, and
  • Photography Essentials is all about learning photography and imaging.

If you’re interested in the other sites sign up there, too—you won’t be subscribed automatically. As always, you can completely manage your profile settings and unsubscribe (or re-subscribe) at any time.

Beginning Spring 2015, look for more specialized news coming from each of the sites.

I hope you’ll enjoy these exciting changes and look forward to our continuing relationship.

Please feel free to get in touch any time with questions, comments or suggestions.

Talk to you soon!

PS – if you haven’t already, please take a moment to check that is in your address book. Thanks!

The Artist’s Life: Fear v. Confidence

This is the first in a new series of articles I’m writing about The Artist’s Life. On this blog, I want to share more personal insights into what I do, and how and why I do it, in the hope that my work as an artist will make more meaningful connections with all kinds of people. Most importantly, I’ve learned that as a working artist I’m not the only person having these thoughts and feelings. Through the Artist’s Life series I want to reach out to other creative people to reassure, inspire and spark discussion, with the ultimate goal of fostering happier and more productive lives for all people who are driven to create.

Living in fear

I’m often stricken with fear. The sensation of impending doom leads to feelings of panic. I literally feel as if the world—at least my world—is coming to an end.

Is this at all rational?

My fear revolves around a range of topics and situations. Sometimes my fear is triggered by something that’s just happened (or might be about to happen). Just as often, my fear comes in the middle of the night, when I wake up afraid of something that on later examination makes no sense whatsoever but still seems rooted in reality.

Most often, my anxiety is based on a fear of failure. People won’t like my work, I’ll blow a big opportunity, I’ve done everything wrong. I hate some of the artworks I create; do they indicate I have no real talent? Sometimes my fears are about money or, more specifically, the fear of not having enough of it. Have I chosen the wrong career? Frequently my feelings of dread come from looming deadlines that seem impossible to meet. The worst fear is not living up to my own expectations—and the expectations of myself that I imagine others have of me. My list of fears goes on and on.

Living with confidence

Many people have heard the saying “fake it till you make it”. Although I think this a trite cliché and grossly oversimplifies the challenges of modern life, I do believe in the basic principle. Sometimes, when I’m feeling anxious, all I have to do to alleviate the dreadful feeling is to recognize that my fear is irrational and remind myself that everything will be OK. (More often than not, I have to tell this to myself multiple times, but eventually—and usually, very quickly—it works.)

Practicing the belief that “all will be OK” as a way of finding happiness is an ancient tactic. Greek, Roman, Chinese and especially eastern religions all relate examples of the belief in the power of conviction. I think this is what is meant by the cliché: if you don’t feel confident, successful and at peace, just pretend you are, at least for now. With time, we see that our fears usually do not come to pass. And on the rare occasion that our worst fears do come true, we similarly discover they weren’t as bad as we expected or we’re able to handle the situation better than we thought we could. We might call this sense of confidence “faith”.

Some conclusions

I believe that finding happiness, and the end of all fear, comes down to being in control of our own internal thought processes. Our minds are a combination of emotion and logic, and most fear is definitely not logical!

The next time I feel panic or insecurity, I will remind myself to come back to the present moment and gently tell myself that everything will be alright. If I feel a lack of confidence related to my work as an artist, I will examine the reasons for the anxiety and make a plan to alleviate it. If I’m creating a new work of art, it’s OK if I scrap it and start another! Whatever the situation, I will not remain mired in fear and insecurity. I will get on with the next creative thing I choose to do, in this life that I am so grateful for!

Thanks for visiting and reading my blog. I always welcome your comments, thoughts, feedback and suggestions.

(If you’re a troll or spammer, go elsewhere. I moderate all comments myself and only those with real, productive contributions to the discussion will be considered!)

Life Through the Lens

The folks at have released the results of a series of interviews and surveys they conducted with over 20 leading photographers.

One interesting example: of the photographers interviewed, Lightroom is by far the most-used software, with over 90% of the respondent’s processing being done within Lightroom.

An infographic is available here and the full interviews are here


Video: promoting yourself as a photographer

This video from Photoshelter is centered around online portfolios, but there’s a ton of other useful business info for professional and aspiring professional photographers… might just be the most productive hour you can spend (for free!) in getting straightforward, practical advice from a true industry professional.

An enchanted drive

Driving home this afternoon I had the great pleasure to witness some of the most amazing light I’ve ever seen. Though I kicked myself several times for not having my camera with me, this regret was quickly replaced with a feeling of gratitude, and awe. Around every corner, the combination of light and shadow, cool and warm hues, soft, fuzzy areas against extreme detail was nothing less than enchanting. Hillsides covered with rippled, undulating snow blazed both orange in the sunlight and shocking blue in the shade of the open sky. Fingerling icicles, hanging from every pine bough, were backlit by the huge orb of the setting sun. The meandering curve of the road intertwined with snowy tracks made by people, machines and animals alike. And though I took no photographs, this experience reminded me why I practice photography: it’s not an art or a science, a career or a hobby — photography is a way of life, a way of seeing, and a way of being in this world. I’m very thankful for the experience.

Grand Tetons Photo Workshop

Moulton Barn, Mormon Row, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

(C) Nat Coalson

Bret Edge and I are leading another workshop together, this one in Wyoming June 10-13, 2010. Grand Tetons and Yellowstone in the springtime… oh my!

We’ll shoot at all the iconic spots around Jackson Hole, including the Snake River Overlook made famous by Ansel Adams, plus some very out of the way, special places known only to a few. Bret and I have photographed around Jackson Hole on many occasions and can guide you to the best locations.

And you’ll learn all the best workflows for processing your photos in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop!

Thursday June 10 – our group will meet in the early afternoon in Jackson. After a brief introduction we’ll spend the rest of the afternoon shooting around Jackson Hole.

Friday June 11 – after a sunrise shoot at Schwabacher Landing, we’ll have a short break for personal time. Then we’ll spend a few hours working on processing in Lightroom and Photoshop. Following this, we’ll venture out to shoot all afternoon and through sunset.

Saturday June 12 – essentially the same schedule as Friday, at all kinds of different locations…. Oxbow Bend, Antelope Flats, Mormon Row (pictured), etc.

Sunday June 13 – sunrise shoot; workshop concludes.

We’ll have three sunrise shoots, three sunset shoots and plenty of shooting during each day. We will have the chance to revisit some locations more than once.

We will  have around 8 hours classroom time. It’s also possible that we’ll have a printer on-site for participants to make prints, though this is still TBD.

Private and group critiques will be done throughout the workshop to help you develop your work significantly over the weekend.

We’ll also make sure to have some occasional free time throughout the workshop, for participants to take a break and do their own thing.

(And yes, during the weekend there will be time to visit Yellowstone.)

Bret is handling registration… his web page for our workshop is HERE

I look forward to seeing you there!

Call For Entries: Lone Tree Photography Show

The City of Lone Tree, Colorado is holding its 8th annual photography show and sale. Deadline for entry is coming up fast so get your submsissions in soon! All the details are at the City of Lone Tree web site.

One Photographer’s Keys to Happiness

During the past year I’ve undertaken a number of large-scale projects related to my photography and teaching. Much of the work is new to me; I’m on unfamiliar ground a lot of the time and have often struggled with the various processes involved.

As a result, I’ve intermittently been feeling overwhelmed, stressed-out, anxious… whatever label you give it, feeling like this sucks. I sometimes wonder if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, and begin to doubt my ability to succeed in reaching my goals.

Fortunately, thanks to my very strong support system of friends and family (and some great books), I’ve been able to repeatedly bring myself back down to earth and into a calmer state of mind, which in turn allows me to refocus, get back on track and keep working effectively on my projects.

Sometimes, when I can’t sleep at night, I find my mind running endlessly over my to-do lists – which seem to be ever-growing! When this happens, one of the new habits I’ve developed to counter it is to let my mind work over the following list I created to ease my anxiety. I figure if I’m going to obsess on something, it should be more like zen meditation, and I’ve found this has a very calming effect. In fact, sometimes it’s helped me get a good night’s sleep when nothing else worked! (more…)

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