On the road to adventure with SIGMA lenses! By Liam Doran

Road trip to Spring! By Liam Doran – SIGMA Ambassador 

For many of us living in the mountains or northern latitudes, it’s been a long, cold, white winter. And while often times this can mean fun on the slopes skiing with friends or adventures on snow machines, it also means shovelling roofs and short bleak days. But spring is upon us and it’s time to crack out of winters embrace and trade snow boots for flip flops and shovels for cameras. It’s time for a road trip to find warm weather and springs brave colours!

Its no accident that I live in a geographic location that lets me escape winter in a half days drive or less. West of me is the high desert and all its offerings of camping and biking in a beautiful landscape of red rock towers and pinyon pines that just begs to point your lens at.

While the majority of my photography is assigned by magazines, outdoor brands and tourism boards, this adventure had a simpler directive. Fun. I’d hit the road chasing friends and family and dogs around campsites and trails. Of course, when I’m in such a beautiful place it’s hard not to break away for a few mornings and evenings of landscape and wildlife photography.

More often than not you’ll find me out shooting with professional grade Art and Sport series lenses. But with an emphasis on fun, I decide to lighten up my pack with some key lens choices. SIGMA’S Contemporary lens lineup has some excellent choices that combine optical excellence with lightness and packability. Here’s my kit and why I chose each lens.

The winery next door.
SIGMA 18-50 DC DN.
1/400 sec. f/7.1
ISO 250

Enjoying wine with friends.
SIGMA 18-50 DC DN.
1/250 sec. f/7.1
ISO 250.

Spring on display in the
SIGMA 28-70 DG DN.
1/640 sec. f/5.6
ISO 200.

My primary lens for landscape will be the SIGMA 28-70 DG DN C. This zoom range is critical for the landscape shooter, and it is much lighter the Art lens I usually bring with me. It has a constant f/2.8 aperture, internal zoom and feels great in the hand.

Camping on the river.
SIGMA 28-70 DG DN.
13sec. f/8
ISO 1000.

For hiking and biking I opt for the SIGMA 18-50 DC DN C. This lens is so small and light its almost, dare I say it, cute! Again it features a constant f/2.8 aperture and impressive autofocus speed and accuracy even with fast moving subjects. This is a crop sensor lens but when I mount it to my Sony a9II body the camera automatically goes into crop mode. A very cool, and handy, feature indeed.

Bighorn Ewe in morning light.
SIGMA 100-400 DG DN. 1/250 sec. f/7.1
ISO 1000

Finally, for my wildlife lens I bring the venerable SIGMA 100-400 DG DN C lens. This is one of my favorite lenses in the SIGMA lineup and I have used it extensively. In fact I had it with me on a recent assignment to Norway where it proved its value once again. This lens is light in the pack, fast to focus and features pro level image quality. I have had numerous photos published with this lens and will certainly have more in the future.

This will be my lens trifecta on the road. One important attribute I’d like to point out is versatility. While I state that each lens has a particular subject to shoot, in reality any of these lenses can shoot travel, landscape, wildlife and action sports.

My time on the road chasing spring is simply fabulous. At our first campsite there is a vineyard right next door. And yes, they have a tasting room. We ramble over and sample vineyard right next door. And yes, they have a tasting room. We ramble over and sample some amazing Cabs, Malbecs, and a Chardonnay. Afterwards we settle into camp right on some amazing Cabs, Malbecs, and a Chardonnay. Afterwards we settle into camp right on the banks of the river. The sounds of soft water and crackling fire fill our ears and soothe our the banks of the river. The sounds of soft water and crackling fire fill our ears and soothe our souls as winters grip relaxes and we sigh deep sighs of contentment. souls as winters grip relaxes and we sigh deep sighs of contentment.

Bighorn Ram on his morning run.
SIGMA 100-400 DG DN. 1/500 sec. f/7.1
ISO 1250

Spring lambs playing on the steep slopes.
SIGMA 100-400 DG DN. 1/400 sec. f/7.1

Young ram chasing ewe on dusty slopes.
SIGMA 100-400 DG DN. 1/500 sec. f/7.1
ISO 1250.

The next day I take a scenic drive and find myself above beautiful red rock canyons. In the early morning canyon wrens sing their way through the cliffs and bighorn sheep gather after a night sleeping in the rocks. The light is warm and soft as the wind has stirred sand and dust high into the atmosphere taking the edge off the usually hard light found here.

Red rock glowing in the morning light.
SIGMA 28-70 DG DN.
1/10 sec. f/14
ISO 100.
Polarizing filter.

Soft warm light in the high desert.
SIGMA 28-70 DG DN. 1/160 sec. f/7.1
ISO 200.

Peaceful moments in red rock country.
SIGMA 28-70 DG DN. 1/250 sec. f/8
ISO 200.

Our second camp has us right on some premium mountain biking trails that are great for kids just learning to ride and adults with years of experience. It also is a great place for action sports photography as the trails are readily accessible for evening and morning mountain bike shoots.

Sweet singletrack fun. SIGMA 18-50 DG DN.
1/1000 sec. f/6.3
ISO 640.

A wide view of the action. SIGMA 18-50 DG DN.
1/800 sec. f/4
ISO 1250.

After a few days shooting on the road I’m dusty and dirty and ready to head home. Shooting with Contemporary lenses has been incredibly fun and productive. I really enjoy shooting out of a super light pack, especially while riding my bike. If you are heading out for a spring or summer adventure and are looking to reduce the weight and bulk of your kit, I would highly recommend all of the lenses I shot on this road trip. Have fun, be safe and see you out there!

Sunset light on the trail. SIGMA 18-50 DG DN.
1/1000 sec. f/5
ISO 2000.

Last light on the ridge. SIGMA 18-50 DG DN.
1/1000 sec. f/5
ISO 2000.

All photos on Sony a9II camera. Copyright Liam Doran – SIGMA Ambassador

10 Reasons to Bring a Rugged Portable Drive

With travel restrictions slowly easing in select areas around the world, many of us are all the more excited to get out and explore the world again. Whether it be in your own backyard, a long road trip, or an extended getaway across the ocean, our appetite to see the unknown is only rivalled by our eagerness to share our experiences with everyone else. And with mobile phone cameras becoming all the more advanced, and digital SLRs and mirrorless cameras becoming all the more accessible it’s no surprise that we are capturing and sharing our moments faster than ever.

But picture this: you’re on day three of a week-long once-in-a-lifetime vacation when you realize you’ve just about filled your memory card on your camera. What do you do? Situations like this are all too common, which is why an external rugged portable drive can help relieve this stress-point. Here’s 10 reasons why you should consider a rugged portable drive on your next holiday.

  1. Larger storage capacity. Memory cards can be limited in their capacity. With 32gb or 64gb being common capacities, portable drives can come in much larger capacities—10x these amounts or sometimes even more! 1TB (1000gb) portable drives can safely store all the photos and videos you take on your next holiday…and more than likely the one after that one too.
  2. SSDs: Solid State Drives (SSDs) contain no moving parts inside the hard drive. This means more stability and reliability when it’s bouncing around in your backpack on your next hiking adventures or rolling around in your suitcase in your next city exploration.
  3. Rugged: With extra padding all around to safeguard the physical drive from accidental hits or falls, you’ll be confident in its ability to withstand any bumps on the road you may encounter.
  4. Water-resistant: How many cameras and memory cards can say they can be splashed with water and still work properly? Rugged portable drives are water-resistant so you can rest easy knowing you can take your portable drive on a portaging trip and it will keep your memories safe from rain, splashes or even spills on the hard drive.
  5. Speed: Rugged portable drives are more than likely much faster to work with than the memory card in your camera. Transferring photos and videos will be a breeze when you take advantage of USB-C or Thunderbolt connections that are readily available on the latest rugged portable drives. While typical SD cards can transfer at rates of about 100mb/s, SSD speeds can be much greater at up to 2800mb/s.
  6. Connectivity: Speaking of file transferring, rugged portable drives will be compatible with multiple types of ports, giving you the peace of mind that you can use these drives on Windows and Mac computers without connectivity issues.
  7. Mobile connectivity: Very few—if any—memory card will connect directly to your mobile device. Some rugged portable drive models will allow you to connect your iPhone or Android device directly to the hard drive. With the use of an app, you can transfer all your mobile device photos and videos onto the rugged portable drive freeing up space on your mobile phone. You can organize and review your photos directly off of the rugged portable drive creating an efficient workflow, giving you more time to enjoy your vacation.
  8. Backups: You can never have too many back ups of your files. Transferring files from your memory card to the rugged portable drive allows you to free up your memory card for more images and videos. If something happens to your camera or memory card, you can breath easy knowing that your memories up to that point are safely stored in a location separate from your camera.
  9. Use without a computer. Memory cards typically require you to connect directly to your computer to transfer files. This requires you to bring your laptop wherever you go. For cases where you don’t want to lug around a heavy laptop during your adventures, a rugged portable drive that can connect to your memory card reader is your go-to solution in this case. Accepting multiple port types, and even containing an internal SD card reader, the rugged portable drive lets you copy your photos and videos from your memory card directly to the drive, without the use of a computer. Now that’s convenience!
  10. Peace of mind. You spend hundreds—maybe thousands—of dollars on your holiday adventure so why risk keeping your precious moments on just one small memory card that can get corrupted by a number of reasons. Use a rugged portable drive to keep your sanity and your photos in a safe place. You’ll be reassured that when you return home your files will all be readily accessible on your hard drive, ready to be worked on whenever you need to. There’s no putting a price on peace of mind now is there?


A Freelancer’s Best Friend

As a freelance photographer, I can often find myself in any number of situations where I don’t want to solely rely on my one memory card in my camera. Having a small rugged portable hard drive to back up the files on my memory card gives me the added peace of mind knowing that I have a backup available at the tip of my fingers.

Having a rugged portable drive also lets me be more care-free with where I put this hard drive. The added bumper gives me the allowance of putting the hard drive wherever I have space in my pack. Whether that’s loose in my backpack or tucked away in a pocket inside the bag, it can handle any bumps or bruises it may get along my journey. It’s even safe from accidental drops of up to 4ft. Now that’s reassurance!

So many times I didn’t want to carry my laptop during my trip because it packs on a few extra pounds. But with the rugged portable drive that allows for direct connection, I can leave my laptop at home and connect my memory card reader directly to the rugged portable drive to transfer files off my memory card. If I connect my iPhone to the rugged portable drive I can see my images, organize and review them right on the spot so when it’s time to edit them on my computer, I have all the ones I need to edit already marked and ready to go.


More recently than ever I’ve been experimenting with video footages wherever I go. Video will however take up so much more space than a photo will, which means you will need a large capacity hard drive to accommodate all of your video needs. Furthermore, a hard drive that’s capable of handling fast read and write rates are required if you want to work on 4k slow motion or 8k video files. These rugged portable drives come packed with the latest technologies letting me edit videos directly off the hard drives which is super convenient.

Tips for Vacation Photos

On your next vacation, try incorporating these tips to create even more memorable photos you’ll be proud to share with your family and friends.

  1. Golden hour photography. To get the best light of the day, try photographing landscapes during the hours surrounding sunrise and sunset. These are the moments when the light is soft and warm, bringing in a welcoming feeling to your images. And with the right conditions, you might just get one spectacular showing from Mother Nature.
  2. Incorporate a landmark. When photographing landscapes or even portraits during your vacation, be sure to include a landmark of some kind to indicate where you are. This will give the viewers an idea of where you were standing when you took the photo. If there’s no landmark, find out what makes the place unique to that location. Then, incorporate that unique element in the photo to create a more memorable image.
  3. Rule of Thirds. The easiest thing to do is to centre the subject in your frame…but that’s just boring. The Rule of Thirds dictates that if you divide your viewfinder with two vertical lines and two horizontal lines, making a grid of nine rectangles, you place the subject anywhere along those lines or where the lines intersect with each other. This makes for a much more dynamic image creating more interest by offsetting your subject.
  4. Cherish the moment. Arguably the most important thing to do on your vacation is to enjoy the moment with your own eyes. Photos will allow you to relive the moment after the fact, but there’s no replacement for experiencing the moment for the very first time with your own senses. What you saw, smelled, felt, and heard at that very moment is what will allow you to capture the moment in its most authentic way, letting you come home with perfect pictures you’ll be proud to show off to your family and friends.