How Travel Photography Launched a Camera Bag Company

by Robyn Porteen
( September 17th, 2014 )

How the passion of travel photography turned into a full time business.

Jerusalem Dome of the Rock

It all started with a hired trip to Israel to capture the essence of the country and the old city of Jerusalem. I carried the typical black nylon camera bag that announced the fact that I had a valuable camera on my person. There were some areas of the city and countryside where I felt I should be a little more discreet with my camera gear. So I packed a plain duffle bag with a hotel towel wrapped around my expensive camera and lenses. I was worried about dropping the bag or knocking it up against a wall and damaging my gear, but I would rather have the plain duffle that have a typical looking, labeled camera bag.

Jerusalem Old City

When I returned home from that trip, I turned in my photography and was laid off by the company that I worked for due to bad economic times. With plenty of time on my hands, I decided to create a stylish camera bag for myself that looked more like a purse or everyday bag that a typical woman might carry. I was on unemployment, so I could not afford the beautiful leathers and tapestries that I had imagined in my head. That led me to the thrift store where I knew that I could find leather apparel to cut apart and use for the outside of my envisioned bag. I found a long black leather skirt! I also found a denim dress that was a beautiful olive green and with a trip to the local fabric store to get a zipper, some webbing and foam padding, the total cost of my first bag was around $20.00.

Leather camera bag by Porteen Gear

One of the first camera bags made with a leather skirt from the thrift store.

I had some sewing experience in the past and had a sewing machine that had spent more years in various closets than in use, so I blew the dust off of it and started stitching my project together. When it was done, it looked like a vintage, timeworn bag! Friends were amazed when I said that it was made from thrift store materials. Someone suggested Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade items. I photographed my bag and listed it on Etsy as a “pre-order” so I could make another one if someone was interested. It sold within 2 days. I sold 5 more within a week and started to research materials to make more bags. That was in June 2010, and by the end of December, I had sold over 700 camera bags! I realized the people like personalized bags that showcased their style, so I created the Design Your Own feature enabling a customer to create their own work of art.

Fast track to 2014 and 7600 orders later, Porteen gear has been showcased in Shutterbug Magazine, United Airlines Hemispheres, Professional Photography Magazine, British Vogue and Conde Nast Travellers Magazine. We have sold camera bags to over 60 countries with a wide global presence.

Porteen Gear Handmade Camera Bags

So that one trip with an ugly black bag turned into a full time business and gave me the ability to hire friends that needed a place to work filled with creativity and comradery when times were tough in the US .

I love what I do and love that I can inspire others to just follow your dreams to see where it takes you!

The Porteen Gear bag builder

All photography by Robyn Porteen 


Travel Photography Bucket List – Animals

by Robyn Porteen
( August 24th, 2014 )

Travel Bucket List for Photographers

We probably all have a bucket list somewhere that we want to fill.  There are several places on my personal bucket list, some are close by and some are around the world. I thought I’d share the places on my list that involve animals.

Giraffe Manor in Africa.

Giraffe Manor - Nairobi, Kenya

Giraffes abound on this sanctuary property and join you for breakfast by sticking their heads into open windows in the dining room. Great photo ops are available as the resident giraffes are always around the hotel.

Dining Room at Giraffe Manor


Opened as a hotel in 1983, guests can feed the giraffes from the dining room. Resident giraffes roam the property and are able to stick their heads into the windows and doorways. The Manor has six bedrooms and is a popular place to stay. They have hosted some celebrity guests such as Mick Jagger, Walter Kronkite, Johnny Carson, Ewan McGregor and more. They even have a resident warthog named after Walter Kronkite!

The Giraffe Manor Website


Two Donkeys at The Donkey Sanctuary

The Donkey Sanctuary - Devon, England

Take an adventure trip from London to visit this cool sanctuary near Devon, England. It is about a 4 hour train ride or a 3 hour and 45 minute car ride. Well worth the scenic drive for a unique day trip! Admission is free and donations are accepted.

The Donkey Sanctuary was founded in 1969 by Dr. Elisabeth Svendsen, the Donkey Sanctuary is a British organization devoted to the welfare of donkeys. Plenty of photo ops here in the English countryside! This charity has gained worldwide attention and is one of the largest equine charities in the world!

It is currently home to over 4000 donkeys.

The Donkey Sanctuary WebsiteThe Donkey Sanctuary website

Now all I need are the days off and the itineraries to get to these places!  The Donkey Sanctuary has been on my list for a few years now.

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Gargoyles, Grotesques and Sculptures

by Robyn Porteen
( August 10th, 2014 )

Moss Covered sculpture in Cozumel

Statue in Cozumel

Gargoyles, Grotesques and Sculptures

I have always had a great fascination of carved figures on buildings and in parks around the world. Including them in my city wanderings is usually a plan and I am always anxious to see what creatures I can discover. Gargoyles, grotesques and creature carvings have been around for many centuries and serve many purposes. In architecture, a gargoyle is a carved or formed grotesque with a spout designed to convey water from a roof and away from the side of a building, thereby preventing rainwater from running down masonry walls and eroding the mortar between. A Grotesque is a very ugly or comically distorted figure, creature, or image.


Carved creature on a building in Lansing, Michigan

Archway in Lansing, Michigan

I wonder what kind of wild imaginations were involved with the renderings of them and what their original purpose served. Some of them must be derived from dark, scary dreamscapes!  Here are a few that have crossed my path:

Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota

Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota Florida

Detroit Masonic Temple

Detroit Masonic Temple, Michigan

Fountain in St. Louis

Water Fountain in St. Louis, MO

Grand Rapids, MI

Lion Head in Grand Rapids, MI

Weathered Face on an ancient Irish Church

Ancient Face on an old Irish Church

An alien in Mexico

An ancient Alien in Mexico!

All photography by Robyn Porteen

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