With the Holidays right around the corner, and if you have a photographer in your family, getting the right gift can seem like a daunting task. I’ve listed a number of cool things on many a photographer’s wish lists, from affordable and practical to dreaming large presents. Behold, the 2013 Photographer’s Holiday Wish List:
DJI Phantom 2 Vision
If there’s one thing I love to do, it’s shooting from a helicopter with the doors off. You really get a feel of the terrain, and you see all the waterfalls that contribute to the falls you see by the road of hike to. The only thing I don’t like is the massive price tag attached to chartering a bird – about a grand for an hour of flight time. Now, for about the price of one flight, you can have a four-rotor drone with a 14MP gimbal mounted camera and basically get the type of shots over and over again. The Vision comes complete and ready to fly. Pair your iPhone to its Wi-Fi, and you see and shoot through the lens, so you know the shots you’re getting. You can learn all about the Phantom 2 Vision at http://www.dji.com/product/phantom-2-vision/.
I’ll be the first to admit it: I’m getting to be an old fart. Blow out a couple discs in the back, screw up a knee and the ol’ body just grumbles when you’re trying to get those super-low macro shots, or trying to contort yourself hanging out of a tree to get the right image. I found this fantastic device that plugs into your Nikon or Canon camera, and allows you full control, remotely. The Cam Ranger essentially creates a Wi-Fi network that allows you to wirelessly control your camera from an Apple, Android or Windows device, with full Live View. It also makes creating HDRs and tile lapses a cinch, plus it also does automatic focus stacking. At its $299 street price, it’s a bargain. Grab one at your local camera store or buy direct at http://camranger.com
Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S
One of the most popular telephoto lenses is the venerable 70-200mm f/2.8. They’re magnificent pieces of glass, but most photographers will tell you that 200mm just doesn’t give enough reach when it comes to capturing sports. Sigma’s ears must have been perked, as they’ve delivered the just right 150-300mm f/2.8. This is the first glass in the new “Sports” category of lenses, and comes with optical stabilization and Hyper Sonic Motors for quick focusing. The best part is that you can customize parameters of the lens, like AF speed, focus limiter and OS function through the optional USB Dock. Expect to pay around $3,500. Check it out at http://www.sigmaphoto.com/product/120-300mm-f28-dg-os-hsm-s.
Adobe Creative Cloud Membership
Okay. Everyone using Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom or any other Adobe product, raise your hand! Whoa. That’s a lot of ya! For the ultimate gift a photographer, consider a membership to Adobe’s Creative Cloud. The company is getting away from “boxed software,” opting for selling its products via subscription. While some will miss having a physical disc their favorite software, one of the cool things about cloud-based software is that you receive the latest updates as soon as they’re available – essentially you’re always running the latest and greatest version, and never have to upgrade again. Single application memberships start at $19.99 (or $9.99 if upgrading from Photoshop CS3 or later) and run up to $74.99 monthly for every app Adobe makes. Visit http://www.adobe.com/products/creativecloud.html
Canon EF 200-400mm F/4L IS USM Telephoto Zoom with Extender 1.4x
This is the lens sports, large game and big wave shooters have been dreaming of, as it solves an age old problem: Missing a once in a lifetime shot, because you had to put on/take off a 1.4X (or 2.0X) teleconverter. The lens already has amazing glass and a fast fixed f/4 aperture for the full range, and it’s no problem if your subject goes outside the 400mm range. Just flip the 1.4X extender switch, and you’ve got a full 280mm – 560mm to play with, and you only give up one stop for that luxury. The lens is in no way a light weight (Canon says it weighs eight pounds, but it feels lighter than that), so you’ll definitely want it mounted on a monopod. All that glass and its convenience comes at a hefty sum: $11,799 street price (A couple hundred more, and you can get a new Nissan Versa Sedan). Visit http://usa.canon.com/cusa/professional/products/lenses/ef_lens_lineup/lens_supertele_pro/ef_200_400mm_f_4l_is_usm_extender_1_4x, to drool uncontrollably.
Singh-Ray Mor-Slo 10-Stop ND Filter
Have you ever been on vacation, and come across an incredible waterfall, but been unable to get a long exposure because it’s a blue sky day and is just happens to be noon? That’s not a problem if you’ve got one of Singh-Ray’s Mor-Slo ND filters. Available in 5, 10, and 15-stop variants, the filter doesn’t induce funky color casts, it just slows things down. How much? Well, if you’re shooting an ocean scene at f/22, and the shutter is at 1/13-sec, you can expect your shutter speed to grow to about 90-seonds with a 10-stop Mor-Slow filter attached. This type of black glass doesn’t come cheap: The 77mm filter is $350 and an 82mm is $390, but when you come across that once in a lifetime waterfall shot, you’ll be able to bag it! You can get the Mor-Slo filters directly from the company at www.singh-ray.com, and don’t forget to also check out their line of split ND and variable ND filters as well.
Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT
Oh how I wish this flash existed 10-years ago. Whenever I wanted to trigger a flash remotely, I either had to rely on line of sight infrared sensors, or rent a set of Pocket Wizard radio transmitters. Canon’s latest Speedlite has wireless radio communication built in, which covers up to five groups of flashes and has amazing dust and water sealing. The zoom flash head covers a 20-200mm range and includes a filter holder to hold colored gels. Expect to pay around $500 street price. Get the skinny at http://usa.canon.com/cusa/professional/products/professional_cameras/speedlite_flash_lineup/speedlite_600ex_rt#Features.
LifeProof frē Waterproof Cases
A few months ago, I was on Molokai’s Western Shore shooting some incredible aqua surf. A rogue wave came in and swept up the beach and soaked me to the bone. With my camera on a tripod, I was able to lift it above my head, keeping it dry (well, except for a light splash) and safe. The same couldn’t be said about my mobile phone, which made some strange buzzing noises before finally frying itself in the brine. One thing I did learn from the experience: Mobile device insurance doesn’t include water damage, even if you just dropped it in a puddle. That’s why I find Lifeproof’s line of waterproof cases a must have for any outdoor photographer. We’re always out in the dirt, dust and moisture – all things that mobile devices don’t like. I’m partial to the frē model, which completely encases the iPhone, giving it a complete water and dust proof cocoon, yet keeping it fully functional. You can get them for about 60 bucks at http://www.lifeproof.com
B&H Photo gift card
Don’t know what to get the photographer in your life for the holidays? No worries. Just get them a gift certificate from their favorite camera store, or if you don’t know where they go, there’s always one of the largest everything photographic outlet, B&H Photo. The gift cards are available in denominations from $25 up to $1,000, the never expire, and can be used in their mammoth New York store or online. http://www.bhphotovideo.com/find/giftCard.jsp
One of the great things about photography is that when you’re out shooting, you’re always learning. There are a bazillion ways to experiment with your camera and lenses, techniques to try, and our discipline is always evolving. One of the ways to learn about photography, without all the trial and error, is to take a photography workshop. Many workshops are run in groups, usually 12-15 people plus the instructor, and can be a day to a week or more in length. You get to meet other people who share your passion, see some amazing things, and come home with great shots. I prefer one-on-one workshops, and here’s why: With groups, the instructor is working with a group, so there’s a 12:1 or more ratio, teacher to student, there’s a wide range of skill and experience levels, most everyone has a different camera, and everyone is looking for different takeaways. With 1:1 workshops, the instructor easily finds your level of experience and skill behind the lens, and tailors the experience so you’re not only expanding your horizons, but you learn the tools and techniques you want to learn. Coming to Hawaii? I can help take your imagery to the next level. Just visit my Site at https://scottmeadphotography.com/workshops/ to learn more or book a session.
Dye-Infused Aluminum Print
If there’s one thing that drives nature photographers crazy, is that we find these awesome scenic, and it’s tough to make the print look like what we experienced. Why you ask? Because we see everything in three dimensions, and the camera compresses the scene down to two dimensions. But with a dye-infused aluminum, the reflected light tricks our minds back to seeing the image in three dimensions – the more light on the piece, the more dimensional it looks. And, because the image has literally been infused into the substrate, it’s waterproof, and is cleaned with ordinary window cleaner. While there are a lot of labs doing the aluminum prints, we like to use one the process’ originators: Magnachrome in Concord California. You can easily order your images on aluminum from 4X6 up to 48X72 on their Web Site, and prices start at just $9.00. Just point your browser to www.magnachrome.com.
Canon Lens Mugs
Is your 70-200mm f/2.8 dish washer safe? Probably not, but these mugs that look like Canon L Series lenses sure are! Freak out your camera friends sipping out of a stainless-steel lined 24-105mm or 70-200 look-alike lens, replete with movable focus switch gear. And yes, they come with a lens cap cover. The 24-105 will run you $24.00; while the larger 70-200 will only set you back $30.00. Nikon lens mugs are also available. Get them both at photojojo.com
USB Film Roll
This has to be one of the coolest things: a 35mm film cartridge recycled into a 4GB, USB thumb drive. As the canisters come directly from a labs that were just going to throw them away, you don’t know what canister you’ll end up with: Fuji Velvia, Tri-X, or the elusive Kodachrome? Each “roll” is a mere $20. Available through photojojo.com
The Photographer’s Ephemeris and the Photographer’s Transit Apps
Remember when you had to scout locations the day before, and find the right scene with the right light? Now, you can get to the location just before Golden Hour and have a darn good idea where the light will fall, and your field of view with different lenses if you’re using The Photographer’s Ephemeris and its sister app, The Photographer’s Transit. Tap on the Transit app and plan out your camera, lens and shooting location using the field of view visualization, and it’s fully customizable, so you can create every lens in your bag. To see where the sun or moon will rise or set in relationship to your sight lines, just access the Ephemeris app. Both are $8.99 at the Apple App store. If you’re using it on a desktop or laptop, it’s free! Get it at http://photoephemeris.com/
Google NIK Collection
Wouldn’t it be great if all the corrections you usually make were condensed into an easy to use Photoshop Plugin? And it’s be awesome if it also did a lot more, like easy black and white conversion, simple image sharpening and noise reduction or making your images look like you shot it in Kodachrome 64. You can get it all (and a lot more) in Google’s Nik Collection. It’s an extremely powerful collection of tools to get the best out of your images, and it’s a bargain at $149.00. You can get it at http://www.google.com/nikcollection.