It is that time of the year, two weeks until holiday gifts are opened. Each year I give suggestions from inexpensive to expensive on some gift ideas for the photographer on your list. Many of my ideas come from experiences on workshops, seeing what lenses really work and what little gadgets help photographers in the field. So here goes, items to stuff in the stockings to things you might have to dip into savings to purchase.
- Nikon D850. I’m going to start big. If you are a Nikon user, the D850 is the hot ticket item. So hot in fact that stores can’t keep them on the shelves. Nikon is producing them as fast as they can, and photographers are buying them even faster. Why? Because this camera excels on so many levels it may be the only DSLR you need no matter what style of photography you like. To get the specs, go to my earlier blog post on just how amazing this camera is. The D850 was just awarded a perfect 100 score at DxoMark, the first camera to get this score..need I say more.
2. Nikon 200-500mm. While we are on expensive gifts, if you are in the market for a super telephoto, the 200-500mm is your answer. At $1400, this lens isn’t cheap, but this price is an incredible value for this lens. Tack sharp, excellent VR and able to reach out to those distant snow geese at 500mm, this lens is a solid performer. I have used this lens, and see them frequently on workshops…folks love this lens. A lot lighter and cheaper than a 500mm F4, the 200-500mm gives the added advantage of being a zoom. Any downsides? Sure, this lens (and any super zoom telephoto) won’t autofocus as fast as a fixed prime. But this will rarely be an issue in everyday shooting, and shouldn’t keep you from considering this lens if you are looking for long glass.
3. Aurora HDR. I just returned from photographing in Redwoods NP, and had fantastic sunny weather. Sunshine in the redwoods meant shooting a lot of HDR images, and Aurora HDR is what I used to put the frames together. This software has a set of tools that rivals Lightroom, and has many specific options to adjust areas in HDR images. I love the preview thumbnails to see what the effect will look like. But most importantly, the final image is very clean…around $100.
4. Hydro Flask. Everyone longs for that morning cup of coffee during the predawn shoot. But mugs just don’t keep the coffee warm long enough. The Hydro Flask is the answer. Ar around $20, the Hydro Flask Coffee Flask is like a modern thermos. Durable, compact and able to keep liquids hot (or cold) for hours, I fill my hydro flask with coffee at the hotel in the morning and sip hot coffee two hours later in the back of my truck after a dawn shoot. Perfect morning ritual!
5. Mountain Hardware Compressor Pants. Many photographers are headed to cold climates to photograph the aurora borealis or polar bears and needing some really warm pants. The compressor pants will do the trick. I normally start my cold weather shooting in some insulated bibs by Patagonia. But if I am standing around at 10 below, I will want something warmer to put over my bibs. The compressor pants have full length zippers so you can just zip them on over whatever other pants you are wearing. Photographing aurora last winter in the arctic these pants saved the day. Cost around $150.
6. Lowepro Flipside 400. This is my current go-to pack, and LowePro just updated it. Now with a padded interior laptop compartment, this pack works great for trips to Europe as well as hiking in a national park. The pack holds a couple of bodies, lenses and a speedlight, and has a comfortable hip belt and shoulder straps for easy carrying. $150.
7. KelbyOne subscription. At $20 a month, KelbyOne offers hundreds of online classes to its members, discounts on equipment and software, and multiple online magazines….there isn’t a better value for online training with all the perks. You can sign up for one month or a year, you decide. With new tutorials weekly, you can learn volumes at KelbyOne.
8. Really Right Stuff L bracket. Secretly find out what camera your photographer friend is using, and then order a custom L bracket from Really Right Stuff. L brackets allow you to mount your camera horizontally or vertically without having to move your tripod head to the side position. Also, they protect your camera from bangs and drops. You will need an arca-swiss style tripod head to use these brackets, also available at Really Right Stuff. L brackets are around $150.
9. Eneloop rechargeable batteries. I get tired of buying hundreds of AA batteries each year to use on shoots, so instead I use Eneloop rechargeable batteries. Unlike other rechargeable batteries, these ones hold their charge for months. Buy the Eneloop Pro pack and get 8 AA, 2 AAA batteries and charger for $50.
10. 10 stop Mor-Slo Singh-Ray neutral density filter. This filter goes with me on every trip. Imagine wanting to slow down the crashing waves on the ocean. Or create blurry motion people in a busy city in the middle of the day. This filter will accomplish that task. Around $270 depending on size.
Two weeks and counting, time to go out and shop! Happy holidays!