Fireworks in Montreal, Canada, just before Christmas.
Montreal, Canada, December 22, 2013.
A few low-cost stocking stuffers just in time for Christmas. And I mean just in time.

If there is a photographer on your gift list or maybe you just feel like treating yourself, then I offer a few suggestions below. Most of these items are under $50.00 and even if you or the lucky person you are buying them for already owns a few of them, adding another will not be seen as a mistake. Like all my other gear recommendations on this blog, I own and use all these items.
Frio universal locking cold shoes

Having a few $13.99 Frio universal locking cold shoes around will allow you to couple your strobes to light stands. Forget one of these and you better have some $16.99 gaffers tape handy.

Manfrotto swivel lite-tite umbrella adaptor

Attaching your strobes to a light stand is one thing, but without a $34.19 Manfrotto swivel lite-tite umbrella adapter you won't be able to aim them correctly. And this also allows you to use an umbrella. Again without this you'll be back to using gaffers tape.

Think Tank double-sided non-slip camera strap

There are all kinds of camera straps out there from something you picked up while on vacation to Disney World, to some fancy overpriced leather model. For me personally, when it comes to a camera strap I prefer something simple like a $26.95 Think Tank double-sided non-slip strap.
Two versions of the clamps are shown, with and without the flash shoe.
I've talked about the $61.18 Manfrotto spring clamp with flash shoe, better known as the Justin Clamp,before. When you need to position a second strobe and a light stand is just not going to work, this clamp will get you out of a jam all day long.

Lastolite mini trigrip

I own quite a few reflectors and am well aware that a cheap piece of foam core will do the trick, but if you are a one-person operation, the $49.88 Lastolite 18-Inch mini TriGrip  allows you to easily position the reflector with one hand while holding a camera with the other. Also, if you happen to have an assistant, they will easily be able to hold this in one hand while positioning a strobe they are holding in the other hand behind it giving you some very nice diffused light.
Think Tank cable management 10 bag.

In my opinion you can't have enough bags and while backpacks and other camera bags are quite expensive, satisfy your need to get more organized with something like a $17.75 Think Tank cable management 10 clear plastic pouch. I use this pouch to hold the charger, cables and spare cards for my Fuji X100S. Maybe getting better organized is on your New Years resolution short list?

Think Tank red whips

And finally, if you think the above items are too expensive, you can't go wrong with a pack of ten Think Tank red whips at $7.99. You will be the envy of all the other photographers with tangled cables.

If you've read this far then I thank you for indulging me while I recommend some products via the Amazon associate program. I don't write this blog for profit, but the few dollars I mange to earn a month does provide me some satisfaction.

Street scene in Montreal Canada.
You don't want to be out in this weather shopping, do you?
I hope you all had a great year in photography and I wish you the best in the New Year.

Thank you again for visiting in 2013 and remember to get out there and shoot!


A lens keeper is the perfect accessory for the Fujifilm X10

As photographers, we like to say it is all about the photograph and the art of making those photographs. And it is, but I also believe there is a little something in all of us, both professional and amateur, that likes new gear, gadgets, and software. We read blogs about it, discuss it over drinks or on assignment, and sometimes even long after it.

Well if you don't have thousands of dollars in your pocket, let me offer you three ways to satisfying the desire for some new gear without having to explain anything to your accountant, spouse, employer.

When was the last time you saw a lens keeper. Many of you probably don't even know what one looks like, and in fact, most professional photographers, and for that matter, most amateurs, wouldn't be caught dead using one. It is one of those accessories right up there with the Mickey Mouse camera strap that cause photographers to chuckle behind a colleague's back. However, when I purchased my Fujifilm X10, I found that I was always taking the lens cap off, putting it in my pocket, taking a photo, then digging in my pocket in order to replace the cap.

That's when I remembered this long ago forgotten gadget. And lo and behold it is still being sold. I picked mine up at Walmart for under $5.00 and it is the greatest thing. While it may not be practical for the lens cap on the 70-200mm, it is perfect for a compact camera.

A UV or skylight filter can protect you expensive lens.
I recently broke this 77mm filter yet the 24-70mm lens remained undamaged.
You can add filters to the front of your lens for all sorts of reasons, special effects, color tint, close-ups, neutral density or polarizing, but with the exception of a neutral density filter, I haven't added one of these filter since I started shooting digital in 1999.

I do, however, without exception, use a skylight, ultraviolet or clear glass filter to protect the front lens element from nicks and scratches. There has been a handful of occasions where I've smashed or broken one of these filters and yet there was no damage to the lens. This includes dropping a lens on concrete pavement. A good 77mm clear NC glass filter will run you about $89.00. Of course, you can find cheaper filters, but remember that the lens you are attaching them to probably cost around 20 times the cost of that filter. I do sometimes remove the filter when in the studio or some other safe environment. Think of this as really cheap insurance.

Manfrotto 175F1 Spring grip clamp with attached flash shoe.
Manfrotto 175F1 spring grip clamp with attached flash shoe.  AKA, the Justin Clamp.
I shoot a fair amount of environmental portraits as part of my job and most of the time I get about five minutes to visit an office, figure out a good angle, get the shot and get out. Even though five minutes is not much time, I still like to use at least two off-camera strobes, perhaps even adding a gel to one of them, combined with ambient light to get the best natural portrait possible.

Plus, with such a short window of opportunity, I don't want to mess with light stands, umbrellas, reflectors or even a softbox. In these situations, I almost always turn to the Justin Clamp from Manfrotto.  This simple accessory will quickly become one of the most useful accessories in your portrait kit.

With one strobe attached to the flash shoe of the clamp, you can clip this to just about anything, from a door frame to a flat screen TV, and if there are removable ceiling tiles, it can be attached to the grid. And even if you don't use the clamp as intended, it acts as a very stable base so you to set the flash on a desk or atop a file cabinet. I then hand hold the second flash, trigger both with an SU 800 attached to the camera and am in and out in no time.

Now put away the credit card and treat yourself to a nice dinner with all the money you just saved.

Better yet, get out and make good pictures.