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The Lowepro Passport Sling II has been my daily companion for the last two weeks in Germany. Each day, before I leave the hotel, I pack it with selected camera gear, personal items, and even a light jacket. By the time evening arrives, my back and shoulders still feel as fresh as they did when I left.

Passport Sling Working out of the Passport Sling at Herzlich, Germany.

The key to success is not to carry everything I own all of the time. I use a Digital Video Fastpack 250 AW as my "A to B" bag. It contains a 15" MBP Retina Display, an iPad, my camera gear for the trip, and extra hard drives. It fits under the seat of the plane, so I never have to worry about checking it. The Fastpack is an excellent bag for getting me where I need to go.

The Passport Sling goes in my suitcase. Because it has a removable camera box, it's easy to collapse and stow. Once I get to my destination, I fill it with the contents I need for the day. The extra gear stays locked up in my room.

Flattened Passport Sling I can flatten the bag so it takes up very little depth in my suitcase.

I can configure the Passport Sling to hold a medium sized DSLR or my Compact System Camera kit. For this trip, I was shooting primarily with the Olympus OM-D and the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 zoom. I often carried a second lens and flash, plus polarizer and a Joby GorillaPod.

There were times, however, when I needed its help for more mundane tasks. For those trips, I would empty the Sling and hike to the store. Because of its large capacity, I could fit quite a few groceries inside.

Shopping with the Passport Sling It holds a lot of groceries too...

What really impressed me over the two weeks was how comfortable the bag is to wear. If I'm on a crowed train, climbing into a taxi, or walking for hours, the Passport Sling feels great and hugs my body. And if I need more space, I can unzip the expansion compartment that gives me about 30% more room.

When shooting, I leave the top zipper open so I can quickly get to my camera. I rarely missed a shot using this approach, and I was able to keep my camera out of sight during my adventures.

For urban travelers of any distance, this is a bag to consider. I know it has made my recent tour more enjoyable. The Lowepro Passport Sling II will be available for $65.

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My Podcasting Rig While in Germany

If you listened to my post-Oktoberfest morning podcast from the Leonardo Hotel in Munich, you know that I was sipping coffee and relaying events from the night before.

I thought you might get a kick out of seeing the set-up I've been using to record during these last two weeks.

Podcast Recording Munich Germany

I mount a Rode VideoMic Pro on a Joby GorillaPod and plug it in to my MacBook Pro Retina Display laptop via a Plantronics USB interface. The audio is captured by Audio Hijack Pro and edited (sometimes) in Fission, both by Rogue Amoeba.

I usually set up my Lowepro Fastpack to serve as a sound cushion. It's a simple rig, but it is very portable, and it has enabled me to keep posting to iTunes, even while on the road.

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I had a surprising number of conversations last week that were focused on my micro four thirds system. At the Photokina show, people wanted to know if my gear was serious enough for assignment work, and is this something they should be interested in. I realized that the general photography population in Europe and USA still hasn't fully grasped the value of CSC. I then spend some time talking about Photokina itself and a few of the things that caught my eye. And then I wrap up the show with my night at Oktoberfest in Munich - all of this recorded in Germany.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (32 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Bokeh is the Sept. 2012 Photo Assignment. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is Sept. 30, 2012.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

Podcast Sponsors

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Need a New Photo Bag? Check out the Lowepro Specialty Store on The Digital Story and use discount code LP20 to saven 20% at check out.

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A Night Inside Oktoberfest Munich

I spent Monday night inside the Hofbrau tent at Oktoberfest in Munich. The capacity of this facility is over 3,000 people. During the 16 days of the festival, they will serve more than 500,000 1-liter beers... just in that tent.

Oktoberfest Crowd The scene from the balcony in the Hofbrau tent. Photos by Derrick Story.

Speaking of beer, It's amazing how much more you can drink there. It's stronger, specially brewed for Oktoberfest. But it's also fresh because it's not transported. Hofbrau makes it there, and there it is consumed.

More Beer Please
"More Beer Please!" The women who bring the beer are absolutely amazing.

The festival itself is huge. There are a total of 34 beer tents, 9 of which are very large. It takes 4 months to build the Oktoberfest village and 2 months to take it down. This happens every year.

In this shot that I took from the air, you can see how the festival dominates the Munich landscape.

Oktoberfest from the Air Oktoberfest from the air.

Inside the tents, music fills the air from live bands. Thousands of chickens and giant pretzels are served to help soak up the beer. And people truly have a good time. Yes, it's noisy, and there's lots of bumping. It's a beer drinking festival. And it's a blast.

I talk more about my Oktoberfest experience in this week's TDS Podcast.

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Across Germany, One Instagram at a Time

For me, Instagram is the ultimate travel log. You can capture images with your smart phone, apply effects, write captions, and share with others -- all in real time over a cellular network. During my visit to Germany, I've used Instagram to augment my Photokina reporting for Lowepro and to document my own observations. This is the first time I've tried this (in fact I've only been using Instagram for a few weeks), and I'm having a blast.

instagrams.jpg Recent Instagrams from my travels.

You can set up the application to share your posts on other social networks too. So I'm able to keep my Twitter and Facebook friends up to date, even if they don't follow me on Instagram.

Power Lines - Setting Sun "Power Lines, Setting Sun" captured through a train window while traveling from Cologne to Munich.

What's even more interesting to me, is that I'm using an iPhone 3GS for this reporting, not my iPhone 4S. As you may recall from a podcast earlier this month, I had AT&T unlock my iPhone 3GS, then I bought a SIM card in Germany for 25 Euros with 750 MBs of data plus plenty of talk time. This allows me to post lots of content regardless of my location.

Tonight, we head to Oktoberfest. I will certainly be reporting from there. If you use Instagram, you might want to follow me at derrickstory. Otherwise, I'll be sure to post on Twitter and on TheDigitalStory on Facebook. Prost!

Good Night Photokina

By now you've probably read plenty about the announcements and discoveries at Photokina in Cologne, Germany. So, for just 90 seconds, I want to take you inside the halls and share with you what I've been experiencing over the last week.

Thanks to the entire Lowepro team for your support and outstanding effort. It's a pleasure to work with you.

Now... I board an ICE and head to Munich. Next report and podcast will be from the land of Oktoberfest.

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Spinner 360 Puts Twist on 35mm Film

Do you have a few rolls of 35mm film in the freezer that you'd love to do something fun with? Take a look at the Spinner 360 degrees by the creative folks at Lomography.

Spinner 360

All you do is load up the camera with film, find an interesting subject, pull the cord, and the camera spins, filming as it moves. It records everything around you.

Specs include: 25mm fixed focus lens, two aperture settings (f/8, f/16), 3 exposure settings (1/125 - 1/250, manual slow), and a battery-free, rubber band drive. You can get your hands on one for less than $100.

Then all you have to do is develop the film, have it scanned, and share with friends. You might want to take a look at the sample galleries to get those creative juices flowing.

Live Photokina Coverage

I'm on the floor at Photokina, in Cologne, Germany. You can follow via Twitter and Instagram. Wrap-ups will be published here on The Digital Story.

I was wandering around the lighting hall today at Photokina and noticed a lot of people positioned around a very large stage. Everything was branded Hensel Performing Light, a very big name in the lighting game. But it didn't stop there. Backstage was Manfred Baumann, a widely known celebrity and fine art photographer.

Hensel Stage - Photokina This was no standard booth talk. Hensel had an all star photographer waiting in the wings.

So I decided to hang around with a few hundred of my closest friends. On stage was a model who was being tended to by a stylist. Both had their backs to us, in part, I'm guessing, to add a bit of drama to the scene.

Then at 3pm, Manfred Baumann made his grand entrance and shared some opening remarks in German. The stage was cleared and the model shoot began.

Hensel Model Shoot The model shoot begins...

I think this was the part where everyone else knew a lot more about what was going to happen than me. The model was quite sexy, and all around me shutters were firing off as she moved from one pose to the next. Manfred was using some big time Hensel lights as he captured her in his lens. No wonder there was a crowd: sexy woman, famous photographer, and lots of gear.

Moral of the story. If there are a lot of people gathered around an empty stage at a photo trade show, there's probably a good reason why.

Live Photokina Coverage

I'm on the floor at Photokina, in Cologne, Germany. You can follow via Twitter and Instagram. Wrap-ups will be published here on The Digital Story.

The Clever Olympus 15mm Body Cap Lens

If you like pancake lenses, you're going to love this. The just-announced Olympus BCL-15mm f8.0 Body Cap Lens is literally the size of a body cap, yet transforms to become a fixed focus snapshot lens that's a blast to shoot with. The lens is just 9mm thick, and when the cover is in place (to protect the glass), it looks like a body cap for your micro four thirds camera.

In the Olympus booth, they were calling it "the cookie."

Olympus 15mm Body Cap Lens

The 15mm will be perfect those who have a back-up body. In my case, I pack the PEN mini as a second camera. With the body cap lens, the PEN will occupy even less space in my camera bag.

It's fixed-focus. So you just shoot. Don't worry about the AF locking in on the correct element in the composition. I think this will be very appealing to street shooters.

In my informal tests on the OM-D in the Olympus booth, the 15mm rendered quite nicely. If has 3 glass elements and a fixed aperture of f/8.

olympus_booth_.jpg 15mm on OM-D, ISO 1600, f/8, existing light

We can expect to see this holiday stocking stuffer around mid-November. It should retail for approximately $50 US.

Live Photokina Coverage

I'm on the floor at Photokina, in Cologne, Germany. You can follow via Twitter and Instagram. Wrap-ups will be published here on The Digital Story.

Photokina Time Lapse

The most recognized icon at Photokina is the Photo Globe. It attracts curious visitors to look at the thousands of images there, and to take pictures themselves. Here's a short time lapse movie captured with an iPhone 4S that shows this activity.

Live Photokina Coverage

I'll be on the floor at Photokina, in Cologne, Germany starting on Tuesday, Sept. 18. You can follow via Twitter and Instagram. Wrap-ups will be published here on The Digital Story.