Cameron Davidson


A blog by Washington DC photographer Cameron Davidson.

National Geographic - Silicon Valley

Two-day shoot for National Geographic last fall. Adding aerial coverage to Laura Morton’s story on Silicon Valley.

I shot a huge amount of iconic campuses for the story - everything from Google, Facebook, Apple, eBay, NetFlix and of course, Stanford University. In the end, the Apple Headquarters complex told the story.

Many thanks to Photo Editor, Molly Roberts and Director of Photography, Sarah Leen, for the assignment.
Check out the piece:


Cameron Davidson
ThinkTankPhoto Addiction

Way back in 2005, I was invited along with forty-nine other photographer to test and review a new photo backpack from a start-up called ThinkTank Photo. The backpack was the Airport Addicted.

The quality of the bag was many degrees better than other products on the market. Well designed, with tight stitching and the best quality zippers available plus an easy to modify interior.

My assistant at the time loaded up the Addicted backpack with Nikon’s and Hasselblad’s. This bag could handle it. Freddie Reiher (my assistant) said “this thing would be great with wheels on it”.

We used it for a couple of shoots and then sent it back to ThinkTank, with our thoughts and notes on how we thought it could be improved.

It was a great backpack, but it was too easy for us to overload it and hurt ourselves trying to get all of the camera kit into one bag. The Airport Addicted included lockable zippers, space for business cards plus a passport pouch.

As soon as the Airport Security hit the market I ordered one. Then a second one. Over the years I kept adding new ThinkTank products to my kit - including the Urban Disguise, Airport International, Logistics Manager 30, Airport Commuter and the Video Tripod Manager 44.

What keeps me going back to ThinkTank is: I am still using my original ThinkTank Photo Airport Security. It is a beast. It has gone around the world several times and been dragged through marshes, forests, snowy fields and more than its fair share of gravel parking lots.

The Beast - “Airport Security” thirteen years on.

The Beast - “Airport Security” thirteen years on.

I changed out the wheels yesterday. After thirteen years, it was time. ThinkTank offer an upgrade set called “Roller Flair.” $35.00 and they’re available in orange, red, blue or green. Kit includes zipper pulls, a pad for the bag handle and wheels.

Original Wheel at 13 years.

Original Wheel at 13 years.

The orange replacement wheel set “Roller Flair” .

The orange replacement wheel set “Roller Flair” .

The rest of the bag is fine. All the zippers work. I use it for storage mostly and take a smaller kit on location with the Airport International or Airport Commuter as the primary bag. When a shoot calls for everything I own, then we use the International and Security to hold the camera systems

Recently ThinkTank Photo asked me to become an affiliate. I decided I would. I will only endorse a product if I have used it, abused it and believe in it.

I decided to donate all affiliate income to a small charity in Haiti that I have shot for and donated to for years, Goals Beyond the Net. They help children in Jacmel, Haiti with education, soccer teams, free medical and meals. For a little over $800 a year, a child can be fed, educated and enjoy sports through the good folks at Goals Beyond the Net.

If you decided to buy a ThinkTank product, please consider using these affiliate links or place this code: 1874542.705cc into the affiliate box. By doing so, you will receive free shipping plus a goodie of your choice and you’ll know that a small portion of your purchase price will help children in Jacmel, Haiti.

Many thanks to Doug Murdoch of ThinkTank Photo for the invitation to test out their bags way back when. Extra thanks to Brian Erwin for the invite to join the affiliate program.

Part of the Roller Flair “wheel replacement and more” kit.

Part of the Roller Flair “wheel replacement and more” kit.

New zipper pulls.

New zipper pulls.


Cameron Davidson
Mavic 2 Pro - An exceptional drone for pro photographers

I recently sold my Phantom 4 Drone kit and replaced it with a Mavic 2 Pro. My main bird is an Inspire 2 with three lenses and the Mavic is a back-up and also for travel.

Route 15 Crossing the Potomac River. Processed in Capture One 12 with the Southbound Style “Independence.”

Route 15 Crossing the Potomac River. Processed in Capture One 12 with the Southbound Style “Independence.”

I’ve shot three tests with it so far and overall I am very pleased with the drone and especially the lens.

Route 15 crossing the Potomac River. Processed in C1 with the Southbound Ankor Watt style.

Route 15 crossing the Potomac River. Processed in C1 with the Southbound Ankor Watt style.

I use Capture One from Phase One as my RAW converter. Version 12 of C1. Phase has not created a profile for the Mavic, so I use Generic and it works fine. There is a bit of distortion with the new drone, especially noticeable when including a horizon in the frame. I correct for the distortion with the C1 distortion control set to 90%. It does a good job, although you do loose a bit of the frame.

Eastern Shore of Maryland. Distortion correction plus Southbound preset “Moab”

Eastern Shore of Maryland. Distortion correction plus Southbound preset “Moab”

The DNG files are pretty sharp and C1 seems to be a good match for them. I often use custom and purchased styles with files in order to emulate certain film stocks or looks. From Phase One I use their Latitude and Southbound presets and from 1Styles.Pro I use their portrait and film emulation styles.

Flooded road on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Processed in Capture One 12 with the “Southbound” style set.

Flooded road on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Processed in Capture One 12 with the “Southbound” style set.

So far, it has been a dependable little bird. I shot a small part of an assignment last week with it. Shot ninety per-cent of the shoot with the Inspire 2 and 24m lens. One shot required was in a tight roadway with a lot of equipment and people. I chose the Mavic 2 Pro for this shot because I needed to be quiet and not draw attention to the drone. The extra angle of view helped a great deal.

Overall, I am very pleased with this piece of my aerial kit. The Inspire 2 won’t replace the Hughes 500D as my choice of aerial platforms and the Mavic will not push the Inspire 2 into retirement. However, it is so small and lightweight. It is perfect for travel and just keeping in your vehicle in case you need to get an elevated view.

It will fit in just about any camera bag. I favor ThinkTank Bags (I was an original tester for their first Airport Security bag) and think the Retrospective or Signature Bags are perfect for Mavic drones. You can get free shipping and a goodie from ThinkTank by using this link: Think Tank

I just started using affiliate links. I won’t link to a company or product unless I use the gear and believe in the company. I do with ThinkTank. Excellent people that know and understand the rigors of professional photography. Any income earned from affiliate links helps fund the charity Goals Beyond the Net.

Image Alchemist - First in a series

The Image Alchemist is, in his own words, Paul Steunebrink and his alter ego, The site is all about Capture One and how to get the most out of it. Paul offers program training, free and paid presets for use with the program, reviews and a guide to get the most out of the free 30 day trial period - especially for users moving over from Lightroom or Aperture.

I have used a few of his Capture One contrast presets for the past few years and I mentioned his site on the blog page I created for our local APA chapter Capture One training sessions. ( Check out that page for a curated list of C1 resources.

This page and a previous version consistently ranks as the most visited page on my web site. (That is kind of depressing in a way)

Mr. Steunebrink wrote me a few months ago to thank me for including his presets on the list. He mentioned that a lot of people had visited his site from the link on the page and purchased his presets. He offered me the full set as a Thank you. It was not necessary or even needed.

I decided to accept the full-set and see if I could incorporate them into my workflow. So, this blog entry is the first in a series of on the Image Alchemist presets. Not in-depth but a rough overview with examples.

I will use one-image for each blog post so you can see the difference each preset makes.

Shot in July of this year for an Inc. Magazine story on All Point Broadband. Drone aerial at sunrise near Waterford, Virginia. Straight out of C1 with no adjustments.

Shot in July of this year for an Inc. Magazine story on All Point Broadband. Drone aerial at sunrise near Waterford, Virginia. Straight out of C1 with no adjustments.

Series of Black and White conversions using the Image Alchemist B&W presets.

Straight B&W Conversion without any adjustments.

Straight B&W Conversion without any adjustments.

B&W Conversion with adding 100% of yellow.

B&W Conversion with adding 100% of yellow.

B&W Conversion with minus 100% of the blues. Notice how the trees, valley and shadows are darker.

B&W Conversion with minus 100% of the blues. Notice how the trees, valley and shadows are darker.

BW Conversion with plus 100% blue. See the difference in the shadow areas.

BW Conversion with plus 100% blue. See the difference in the shadow areas.

These are subtle changes and variable by image. What I like about these presets is how you can make a consistent change and then add to them by changing the RGB or Luma curve, adding structure or clarity or even toning an image just in the highlights or shadows.

I have found that I prefer to use B&W film presets for B&W conversions. However, this is a wonderful approach for slightly modifying an image to B&W using the Capture One tools.

BW Conversion apllying saturation to the highlights.

BW Conversion apllying saturation to the highlights.

Next blog post I’ll explore color and how to control/create new looks.

This is an unpaid review of Image Alchemist pre-sets. Take a look at the site and download a few freebies to try out on your images.

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Cameron Davidson
New Capture One Presets and Film Styles | October 2018

UPDATE: October 4th, 2018

Capture One Styles from Phase One on their website. These are quite good and different than the and presets.

I removed a couple of older links to presets/styles that felt dated. They are supplemented by newer presets that have a fresher and more “modern” approach or color palette.

Cameron Davidson
Nat Geo shoot in the American West

Nice and short all aerial shoot in the American West last week. Shot aerials on a very interesting place on the West Coast. Primary photographer for the story shot on the ground and I filled with images from above.


Found the pilot I wanted to work with via calls to other aerial photographer colleagues. Spend a few hours researching this person after our initial phone call. I felt comfortable flying wth them after a bit of “background” checking.


There were two flights for this assignment - O’Dark early in the morning and O’Dark later in the evening. One of the joys of the new Nikons’ is their extreme low-light capability. I feel quite comfortable shooting from the air well after dusk. Throw in super fast Nikon and or Zeiss lenses and it is a winning combo when stabilized with the Kenyon 4x4 gyroscope.


This was a quick turn-around assignment. Fly to the American West last Thursday. Pre-flight meeting with pilot. Fly two flights on Friday. Return home on Saturday that ran into Sunday due to numerous flight delays due to thunderstorms in Texas.

West Virginia Photographer Kristian Thacker

Number one in a series of brief and occasional looks at former photographic assistants who have made the jump into shooting full-time.

First up is Kristian Thacker.

I first started working with Kristian about eight or nine years ago. What impressed me initially about Kristian was his work ethic. He researched the photographers he wanted to work with and fortunately for me, I was one of them. Kristian knew he wanted to shoot on location. He researched photographers who shot in a style that he felt he could contribute to and also learn from. My initial impression was positive from the get-go, plus it helped that he had worked at an aerial mapping service. So, I knew he wasn’t afraid of heights or flying.

The very first assignment we worked on was for a utility company annual report and it was in early January. The shoot was in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, before sunrise and brutally cold. Kristian was prepared with proper clothing and boots - no whining about how frigid the temps were - just lets gets the job done right attitude. It was smooth sailing from the first day.

Kristian is from West Virginia, as is my family. Both of my parents have deep roots in WV and that connection to WV was a positive shared family and cultural background.

We ended up working together for about five years. Solid person, great personality, strong work ethic and a unique eye.

Kristian lives in north-central West Virginia and, is, in my opinion, a real asset for editors and corporations who need a West Virginia Photographer with deep talent and a reliable, easy going professional demeanor.

Check out his website at:

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Cameron Davidson
Creative Consultants for Photographers

Brief overview of working with three stellar creative consultants plus two additional names of people that friends have worked with in the past year.

I’ve worked with quite a few consultants throughout my career. Often times, I felt that the advice I was given, was prepackaged and their advice regarding promotion, testing and career avenues were often the same advice suggested to other photographers. (photographers do compare notes and experiences with each other about equipment, consultants, helicopter pilots, assistants, you name it.)

With that in mind, here are three consultants that I have worked with, who I feel are honorable, trustworthy people, who absolutely have your best interests at heart.

For fine art consulting, there is only one name - Swanee. Mary Virginia Swanson is the absolute best person in this business to help guide you into the fine art world.

I first worked with Swanee in 2013. I attended her one-week fine art photo workshop in Tucson, Arizona. (Her home base)

Since then, she has consulted with me with a couple of one-on-one sessions.

Check out her bio here. Just a few tidbits: Executive Director for one-year of Look3 in Charlottesville, SwanStock a fine art stock agency that merged with ImageBank (which was absorbed into Getty) plus the best book on the business of publishing a photo book.

From her bio page: “Ms. Swanson is the author of The Business of Photography: Principles and Practices, and coauthored with Darius Himes Publish Your Photography Book (Princeton Architectural Press, 2011, updated and revised 2014).”

Swanee is the real deal. Take her class, buy the book, schedule some time with her. It is worth every penny.

Next up is an incredible Creative Director and Editorial Designer - Heidi Volpe.

Heidi was suggested to me by my friend Jeffrey Salter, a very fine editorial and portrait photographer out of Miami.

Heidi did a logo redesign for me plus my current set of promo pieces. She has a world of editorial experience. Currently she is the Creative Director of Vogue India and she is a total bicycle riding crazy. Her bike goes with her everywhere. Super talented, easy going and most important - a really nice person.

Take a look at the piece she did for Jeff Salter: Landscapes + Portraits

Heidi often writes for A Photo Editor.

Stephanie Menuez is a former NYC rep who now lives in Vermont and knows everybody.

I was given the gift of a significant amount of consulting time with Stephanie and it proved to be a wonderful intro to a highly energetic person who truly understands the business of commercial photography.

Her advice was spot on: the portfolios that she created have led to significant new work from new clients.

She and her husband also have an art consulting directory, that I purchased, and am starting to use to promote my fine art images. She knows her stuff. Check out the Art Advisors Directory and Menuez Creative Consulting.

Jeff Zaruba is a photographer I’ve known since I was a photo assistant. Besides being a world-class location shooter, he is one of the nicest people I know. His black and white work is stunning. Back when I was assisting, I used to marvel at how he could get could such incredible tones out of a 35mm Plus-X negative.

Jeff works with Bobbi Wendt and speaks highly of her. She is well known in the industry and if you take a look at Jeff’s web site portfolios, her eye for pairing images and pacing is pretty incredible.

Contact her via: 650.594.2857 or

Matthew Rakola is Washington DC based photographer who is the former Chair for APADC. Matt is a location shooter who speaks highly of Stacy Swiderski in Philadelphia. Check out Matt’s new site - Stacy put it together. It looks great.

Stacy has an excellent reputation with photographers and I like her approach to portfolios, flow and to business.

Cameron Davidson
Virginia Coast Reserve

Personal project using drones to photograph several uninhabited coastal islands along Virginia's Eastern Shore. Islands are part of the Virginia Coast Reserve owned by the Nature Conservancy.

The aerials were shot off of boats, in the early morning and before the spring bird migration.

Almost lost one drone due to loss of signal. That was an interesting experience and I learned how to recover a lost drone be using the camera and moving map. The wind grabbed it and it flew almost two miles on its own, before I was able to gain control of it.


You can see more of this project in my projects section.


Cameron Davidson
Inspire 2 upgrade

I have upgraded my Inspire 2 drone to the new X7 camera system (24 megapixel - Super 35 format) which includes 16, 24 and 50mm lenses.

Also updated the monitors to Crystal Sky for the Inspire 2 and Phantom P4 Pro.

Plus I added the Cendence controller with patch antenna to the Inspire 2 system.



Photo by Kristian Thacker while on location in West Virginia last week.

Cameron Davidson
Graphis Photo Annual 2018

Pleased to see that the two images I entered into the Graphis Photo Annual were awarded a Gold and Silver..


Many people help you on an assignment, nothing is done in a vacuum.  Many thanks to Sarah Leen, Director of Photography for National Geographic for the assignment. Sadie Quarrier of NatGeo suggested me for the shoot. (Sadie and I had worked together on Smithsonian stories) and to ace photo editor Kurt Mutchler for direction and help with this shoot.  There was a fair amount of pre-planning, getting me to Florida before the Hurricane struck and working with a group of helo pilots at HMC Helicopter at Tamiami airport.


Funny, I just posted a picture of Wilson Bridge and then this one from last fall won a Gold in Graphis.  I am enjoying shooting infrastructure from the ground as much as I shoot it from the air.

This was a personal shot, testing out a news lens combo on the Nikon D850.

Capture One lens diffraction test

Testing my Nikon 45mm Perspective control lens with the new Nikon D850 bodies.  Testing out lens diffraction correction in Capture One 11.  Basically, if you shoot at a small aperture (here at f/13) - you will start to lose sharpness.  Capture One has several tools to help you "recapture" sharpness loss from diffraction.  Testing this on the D850 Nikon, a 46 megapixel monster  - the perfect combo.  I've tested the new Nikon 19mm perspective-control lens and it is stellar.  The Nikon 45 and 85mm PC lenses are an older design. 

I am looking for the sweet spot from each lens.  Shooting a lot more infrastructure projects these days and the PC lenses are the perfect tool to use for this type of "architectural" photography.

I often use Wilson Bridge in Alexandria as my lens test subject.

Helicopters, Helicopters and more helicopters

I have shot aerials for most of my career.  Starting off in the early eighties, I shot aerials from a Piper Cub for a National Geographic story, quickly switched over to helicopters and now shoot a mix of drone and helo shoots.

Helicopter list (so far) of all the ships I have flown in for aerial photography. (29 and counting)

  • AStar B350 (Ethiopia, NYC)

  • AStar B350 FX (British Columbia, Alberta)

  • AStar Twin-Star (Squirrel) (NYC, London, New Zealand)

  • Eurocopter 120 (Denmark)

  • Bell 47 (Florida, Delaware, Texas)

  • Bell Jet Ranger (USA, UK, Canada, Jamaica)

  • Bell Long Ranger (USA, Canada, UK)

  • UH-1 Iroquois (Huey) (Missouri Flood - US Army Guard)

  • Bell 47 with Soloy Turbine conversion (Florida)

  • Bell 407 (New York City, New Jersey)

  • Boeing CH-47 Chinook (Washington DC-Maryland - US Army)

  • Boeing Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight (Florida - Hurricane Andrew - US Navy)

  • Airbus MH-65 Dolphin (Missouri - Mississippi River Flood - US Coast Guard)

  • Bolkow BK-105 (Gulf of Mexico)

  • Mil Mi-8 (Wrangel Island - Russian Arctic)

  • Fairchild Hiller FH-1100 (Alabama)

  • Enstrom F-28 (Tennessee, Virginia, Texas)

  • Enstrom 280 (Tennessee, Arkansas)

  • Enstrom 480 (Chicago)

  • MD 500 C (Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Chicago, NYC)

  • MD 500 D (California)

  • MH-6 Little Bird (Chicago, Missouri)

  • Robinson R-22 (East Coast USA - no longer use for aerials)

  • R-44 (USA, Canada, UK)

  • R-66 (Virginia, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, California)

  • Rotorway Exec 90 (Arkansas - home-built helo - never again)

  • Schweitzer 300/269 (Idaho, Virginia, New Jersey, New York City)

  • Sikorsky S-76 (Gulf of Mexico)

  • UH-60 Blackhawk (Virginia)

Schweitzer 300/Hughes 269

Schweitzer 300/Hughes 269

Drones flown/owned so far:

Inspire 2 with five lenses

Inspire 1 with four lenses (sold)

Phantom P4 Pro

Phantom P3 Pro (sold)

Phantom P2 with GoPro Hero 3 (sold)

Phantom P1 with GoPro Hero 1 (Crashed in Virginia - resting in the branches of a national forest)

3DR Solo (Sold)

Around the world - A growing list of countries where I have shot over the years

Ethiopia -  Departures Magazine

Brazil - Corbis

Japan - Getty Images

Venezuela - Standard Drilling

Panama - Forbes Magazine

Mynmar (Burma) - Smithsonian Magazine

Denmark - Corbis

France - USAirways

Scotland - American Airlines, personal projects

Ireland - American Airlines

Jamaica - personal project

Puerto Rico - Preservation Magazine

Hong Kong - Paul Hastings

China - ChinaNet

Russia - Islands Magazine

New Zealand - HJ Heinz

Greenland - personal project

England - American Airlines, HJ Heinz, KHA, Hollinger International, Corbis

Iceland - Personal project

Haiti - CCH, Goals Beyond The Net

Cambodia - Personal Project

Dominican Republic - National Geographic

Spain - USAirways

Thailand - Personal Project

Canada - Rocky Mountaineer, KHA, Hollinger International, Esso, American airlines

Israel - Hollinger International

India - HJ Heinz

Mexico - Kimberly-Clark

Indonesia - Personal Project

Honduras - American Airlines

Archive Posts on Instagram

I've been exploring mixing up the Instagram feed with new and archive material.  This morning I dug through my libraries and came up with an image from one of my favorite aerial shoots, Christo's - The Gates in Central Park.  Shot from a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter and using a hand-made lens for Hewson Group, a NYC design firm that was a long-time client. Jane Hewson, the founder, is one of my favorite designers/clients/people and she recently moved away from NYC and is semi-retired.  We did three-flights that day.  Early morning, mid-day and a sunset/dusk flight. Since it was winter, my favorite images are from mid-day, the light is bright, clean and casting long shadows.  The hand-made lens was inspired by photographer Mark Tucker's explorations with loupes as camera lenses.  (This was before Lens Babies and tilted tilt/shift lenses were commonly used for commercial shoots) 

Of course, I shot with traditional lenses for my client.  They ended up using a combination of both as large display prints for a law firm office that overlooked Central Park.

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Capture One 11 Workshop for APA DC

Workshop was in two-parts.  First part, on January 20th was hosted at Renee Comet's studio and taught by the good folks at Capture Integration.

The second half was taught by Carlton Wolfe and myself at Hoist Studio on January 27th.

Below is a list of Capture One resources that you may find useful.

Capture One Resources:

Capture Integration: (training and workshop support)

CAPTURE ONE YouTube Channel:



Phase One Professor Tips:

ALEX on YouTube Channel:

Alex on RAW Film styles: (These are excellent!) 

(Alex came out with his film styles several years ago, he updates them often and is brilliant about explaining how Capture One works. Alex gave me a set of the new styles that I have purchased in the past. I often use his Portra set)

Image Alchemist:

Excellent source of information about C1 with a large collection of presets, collections and styles available.

A previous blog post on C1 presets:




The Kodachrome Colorists

There are four photographers, who, in my early days, greatly influenced me.  All shot Kodachrome and exploited/explored the limits of the film with primary colors.

They were: Ernst Haas, Jay Maisel, Eric Meola and the great Pete Turner.

Pete Tuner passed away on September 18th, at home in Long Island, New York.

Pete's "Road Song" photograph has stuck with me for years. If I recall the story properly, he was flying into a large midwestern city and saw this fence from the airplane.  He found the fence and made this photograph.

His photographs influenced generations of photographers including Eric Meola (his former assistant), Arthur Meyerson and Gregory Heisler.

Interesting podcast/interview with Pete.

The PDN article about his passing is here: