It’s Never Too Early to Start Christmas Shopping for the Photographers on Your List. Gifts Actually Under $50

By Mark

You may have noticed that photography gear tends to be expensive.  Almost all of us have G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and so our loved ones often weep in despair trying to find something affordable for the upcoming holidays.  Well here are ten actually useful products that are in the “reasonable” price range.

1.   If you like landscape photography, getting the horizon straight is of paramount importance.  Here is great tool which fits into your standard flash mount—a spirit level. $9.99

2. There doesn’t seem to be the one perfect camera bag for every instance.  They also cost waaaaay more than our self-imposed limit.  Not to worry as there actually are really useful accessories to help contain the small items which need to be moved back and forth between those other big bags.    “Think Tank” has earned a reputation as a maker of great quality bags.  (I confess, I have three)  They have expanded their line up and one of my favorite new small bags is their portable and protective memory card holders.  

a.    $16.75

3.   Small accessory bags are also great for keeping track of the many small components. I have one bag for all my “Pocket Wizard” gear and another for things such as the charger and the various cords.   As a side note, they also have introduced little miniature bungee cords, called “red whips” which are just fantastic for keeping cords in check.  You will use them for everything.   $22.75

4. For stocking stuffers you can get protective covers for the camera and for your photographer as well.   The “camera condoms” come in 2 packs and can be stuffed into the camera bag.  $6.95


5.   Since Photographers love to be out in the early morning darkness and late into the night and obviously don’t care about looking cool there is another tremendously useful device you can get.  Find one of those bicycling or hiking headlamps.  When you are rummaging through the bottom of your camera bag, or trying to change the settings on your camera, they will come and thank you.  $17.99


6. When I am out shooting in daylight hours, the most common question I am asked when people see me using my “Hoodman Loupe” is “ooh, where can I get one of those.  It is one of those things that you wish you had been smart enough to think of.  It is a magnifying loupe which fits up against your camera’s LCD screen blocking out the sun and actually allowing you to see your photos.  Simple and very effective(Note, these used to be under $50, but they have crept up to$80.00)  Still worth it

7.   If you happen to actually like some of the pictures your SO takes, consider getting them printed on “Moo Cards”.

8.   If you don’t like the photos they take, then you might consider buying them some books on how take better pictures.  We think that the Scott Kelby books are very helpful.  They walk you step by step in an easy to digest conversational style.  $14.27

9.   You can consider getting them 3 months’ worth of subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud plan for Photographers.  At $9.99 a month, they will have to, and will want to take over the cost for the rest of the year.

10.   Finally, there are lots of great books by amazing photographers who can inspire and show how great photographs can capture more than just an instant in time.  They can grasp mood, emotion, passion, beauty and the full breadth of the world outside our lenses.   A few recommendations:

a.   Light, Gesture, Color—Jay Maisel

b.   From Oz to Kansas—Vincent Versace

c.    The Moment it Clicks—Joe McNally

d.   –Steve McCurry

Unfortunately, for my wonderful family, I already own everything on this list.  Maybe just a little outside the $50 limit, how about pre-ordering the rumored new Nikon D5?

Have Yourself a Slow and Macro Little Christmas

Merry Christmas to one and all.  The bright lights of the tree look so inviting, but are often difficult to photograph.  Flash makes the tree look washed out and hides the colors of the lights.  Hand holding your camera makes all the colors blur together.  So what is the secret to capturing good tree photos?  As with so much in photography, the answer is a good tripod, slow shutter speeds and a remote trigger.  Even with the very nice low light capabilities of the D800 and the 50mm 1.8 lens, putting the camera onto a stable platform makes all the difference.   From the LR histogram you can see that I pushed the ISO all the way up to 640, and it still took a 4.0 sec exposure.  By using a remote cable trigger, it removes the shaking caused by my ham-handed fingers, pressing the buttons. The other way to catch the warmth and depth of colors from the tree is to go in close.  A good macro lens can get more detail and usually needs less light.  We have quite a few lighted ornaments which offer their own set of challenges.  The bright inside lights can blow out the rest of the image, leaving the background too dark.  With a macro, you can be very precise in selecting your focal point.  I used the darkness of the tower clock, and then applied the LR development brush to reduce the exposure and highlights of the lights. 

Our house also maintains a fair and balanced approach between the forces of good and others for the holidays.    Well, we didn’t have much of a white Christmas; and that is ok with me.  I hope you got whatever you were wishing for.  The joy of spending time with friends and family is what makes this season special.  We hope that all our readers enjoy the holidays. 

Tally Ho Ho Ho

One of the great things about living in the middle of Virginia Horse country is the annual spectacle of the Middleburg Hunt Christmas parade.  I didn’t get to go last year because of schedule challenges, but this year the photo club trekked up the road.  When we departed Warrenton, it was clear and sunny and we joked about how un-December like that was.  We should have not taunted the weather gods.  When we arrived in Middleburg it was cold, gray, foggy, and cold. Luckily we arrived early so we could stand out on the street in front of the sadly closed liquor store and wait.  The parade goes by pretty quickly; it has no floats or clowns, but instead shows off the heritage and the colorful riding attire of the local fox hunters, their gorgeous horses and the full pack of foxhounds. 

You get to see the riders in their “pinks”, the formal bowlers, ladies riding sidesaddle and youngsters trotting along on their ponies. 

Photographically, it was challenging to get the entire horse and rider well framed as the rode down the street.  The police had to clear the photographers out of the way a couple of times.  The black of the outfits can be captured even with the really gray skies acting as a giant fill light by adjusting the shadow slider in Lightroom. 

Lots of dogs attended the parade as if to see their cousins on parade.  

I hope everyone has got their photographic wish lists into Santa early this year.