Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all the photographers out there and thank you for the continued support.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all the photographers out there and thank you for the continued support.

It is the time of the year when we start to see all kinds of photography related gift lists, either for you to purchase or if you are lucky enough, have someone purchase for you. And I do love these lists, except that in most cases you would need to take out a small loan just to purchase a few of the items.

With that in mind, every photography or photography related item on my list this year is under 12 dollars and over the next 12 days, I'll add one item each day*. Think of it as the 12 days of Christmas, only without any partridges or pear trees, which even though they might be the cheapest item on that list, would certainly be more than 12 dollars. 

Day Twelve

Ok, technically this is more $12, but since it is under $10 per month, I'm going to make it the final item on my list of 12 gifts. When Adobe switched to the Creative Cloud they took a lot of heat from a community used to making one-time software purchases. And at the start pricing, and a lot of misunderstanding was an issue. That all changed when the photographer's plan was introduced and now I recommend this all the time, even to those who consider photography a hobby. If you are still using an old version of Photoshop or Lightroom, please consider upgrading. You will not regret it. Besides, if it doesn't work out, cancel and go back to using whatever the last version of Photoshop you own. Let's just hope it is newer than version 3.0.

Day Eleven of Twelve

I still can't believe this item is under $12. I was looking to purchase a second tripod plate prior to a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains and came across this L-bracket and couldn't believe it, especially given that I have previously looked at camera specific L-brackets, but couldn't justify spending between $150 and $200. Let's just say I was skeptical. I may go into more detail about this item in a future blog post, but for now, I can say this product is well-made and works perfectly fine with both my DSLR and Fuji x100s. Don't hesitate on this!

Day Ten of Twelve

This is another one of those items you will never think about until you need it. In fact, you will probably get tired of seeing it in your bag and be tempted to leave it behind. Don't. My suggestion is to find that little-used pocket in your backpack or camera bag and just stick one there for a rainy day. Sorry for that, but not sorry for recommending it. You won't regret it.

Day Nine of Twelve

There are all kinds of carabiners on the market and many are under $12, although not all of them have the screwgate feature which adds an extra level of security when closed. You may be wondering how this item relates to photography, even though you have to admit it is just plain cool. This is another piece of equipment that I alway have with me and use it all the time to secure my backpack or gear to a fixed object, whether flying, on a boat or in an open vehicle. I can't imagine watching as my camera bag goes in one direction while I'm traveling in the other. Additionally, when it is attached to a backpack, you can run your camera strap through it and not worry about the camera slipping off your shoulder. 

Day Eight of Twelve

Now is the time to think about how you are going to organize all the items on this list, whether it is cables, batteries, cleaning cloths or the Lens Pen. There are of course more expensive storage bags and then again you could just put everything sandwich bags, but for under $12 these are a great solution. Bonus tip. Since they are assorted colors, use them for rechargeable battery management, charged and ready in the yellow bag and used in the red. Of course it is still a good idea to always have sandwich bags on hand, but that's another blog post.


Day Seven of Twelve

Like many of the items on this list so far, you can never go wrong with giving a photographer a microfiber cloth. I know your strategy is to pick these up at trade shows and I don't fault ou for that, but under $12, what do you have top lose by actually purchasing them. Besides, they don't last forever, so that microfiber cloth you picked up from the Nikon booth at PhotoPlus in 2013, is probably ready to be replaced.


Day Six of Twelve

This is the original Joby GorillaPod and for under $12, you just can't go wrong. Admit it, from the beginning you thought this looked silly and was one of those gadgets you carried around and never used, until one day you just stopped carrying it altogether. Give it another try, it takes up almost no room, is light and granted, this version will not support your DSLR, but what about a strobe or a GoPro or... You get the point. 


Day Five of Twelve

This "doohickey" is another item on the list (and won't be the last) that at first may not seem like a photo gift, but how many times have you gone to fasten a tripod plate to your camera and realized that you don't even have loose change in your pocket. And thanks to the terrorists, you may not even have a multi-tool with you, especially if you had to fly somewhere. Well, this item is perfect to keep clipped to your backpack, camera bag or use it as a keychain. You'll forget it's there until you need it and for the price, you could order three and still be under $12.


Day four of Twelve

In a recent post, I wrote about peace of mind while on a photo shoot or traveling with your gear. These small locks are perfect for securing everything from zippers on your backpack to securing gear to a fixed point in your trunk. These won't stop a determined thief, but if these little lock allows me to enjoy a bite to eat, or concentrate more on my shooting when seperated from my gear, it's worth it for under $12.


Day Three of Twelve

This item will make any photographer on your gift list smile. And even if they already own one, having another won't make them sad. Plus, it does an outstanding job of removing dust and smudges from your lenses and filters. If you've had one of these in you camera bag for years, remember there is a limit to its effectiveness, so now may be the right time to order it again at under $12.


Day Two of Twelve

Gaffers tape is something you only think about when you don't have it. It's bulky, heavy and takes up space in a camera bag, which is why I'm suggesting this smaller 30-yard roll that just happens to be priced slashed and available now for under $12.


Day One of Twelve

You may not have known what they were called, but I'm sure you have seen them around, organizing cables big and small. Cable management is one key to good packing and also maintaining sanity while on a photo shoot. I guarantee a pack of ten will not be enough.

*I own and have used every item that appears in this post.



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!


Even when viewing the results on the back of the camera I knew that the Fuji X100S was capturing the landscape as I was seeing it. 1/1000 @ f8, ISO 400.

Even when viewing the results on the back of the camera I knew that the Fuji X100S was capturing the landscape as I was seeing it. 1/1000 @ f8, ISO 400.

Much has been written about the Fuji X100S and its capabilities as a street camera and the look and feel of this camera certainly can evoke thoughts of roaming the streets in search of light and subjects. And I've previously written on this blog  about getting back into street photography and how I too thought this was the perfect camera.

What is overlooked though is that the quality of the images produced by this camera make it ideal for just about any type of photography, and that includes landscapes as I recently found out after spending a week hiking in the high peaks region of the Adirondacks.

This camera excels in black and white mode. I have added a custom setting for black and white so that I can quickly transition when the mood strikes me. 1/550 @ f8, ISO 400.

This camera excels in black and white mode. I have added a custom setting for black and white so that I can quickly transition when the mood strikes me. 1/550 @ f8, ISO 400.

For this trip, I was prepared to take my DSLR, assorted lenses and tripod. But the more I thought about that, it became clear that this trip was more about getting away and while I enjoy taking photos outside of work, I didn't want to put the pressure on myself that sometimes comes when I bring all my gear. And after all, one of the reasons I decided to purchase the X100S after reviewing it for ten days was because the quality rivaled my DSLRs.

Rocky Falls is a two-mile hike from the Adirondack Loj. Hand holding the X100S was easy even with a slow shutter speed in order to add motion to the waterfalls. 1/25 @ f16, ISO 200.

Rocky Falls is a two-mile hike from the Adirondack Loj. Hand holding the X100S was easy even with a slow shutter speed in order to add motion to the waterfalls. 1/25 @ f16, ISO 200.

Because of the size and weight, I was able to carry this camera over my shoulder while hiking and by running the camera strap through a carabiner attached to my backpack harness, I did not have to worry about the camera hitting the ground if it happened to slip off. Another reason it stayed on my shoulder is that I replaced the manufacturers strap with a double-sided non-slip strap from Think Tank Photo.

Panoramic view of Heron Marsh located at the Paul Smith's College Visitor Interpretive Center. I'm sure this would be spectacular with early morning or late afternoon light, but the X100S did just fine at noon. 1/850 @ f8, ISO 400.

Panoramic view of Heron Marsh located at the Paul Smith's College Visitor Interpretive Center. I'm sure this would be spectacular with early morning or late afternoon light, but the X100S did just fine at noon. 1/850 @ f8, ISO 400.

This was also the first opportunity I had to really use the panoramic settings on the camera and was impressed with the results. The features are not much different than other cameras, but the setting is easy to get to quickly and understand. You decide camera orientation and direction of the pan, along with how many degrees you want to cover. Once set, you pick the starting point, press the shutter and the camera provides visual cues needed to maintain the correct speed as you complete the pan.

The early evening light highlights swimmers at the public beach on Lake Mirror located in Lake Placid, N.Y. 1/300 @ f8, ISO 200.

The early evening light highlights swimmers at the public beach on Lake Mirror located in Lake Placid, N.Y. 1/300 @ f8, ISO 200.

Something else that really impressed me was that almost all of these photographs were made between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., normally not the best time to photograph landscapes. So what did I do to make up for the lack of golden hour light? Well not much, but nature did help by providing cool crisp air, nice big clouds and plus I underexposed most shots by a third to one full stop. This helped deepen the colors, eliminate bright spots and add some contrast.

Lake Placid, N.Y.  1/1100 @ f8, ISO 200.

Lake Placid, N.Y.  1/1100 @ f8, ISO 200.

All of these photos did pass through Adobe Lightroom 4, however only minimum corrections were applied. The results straight out of this camera are so close to perfect, post production is a breeze.

So while I don't think the Fuji X100S will replace my DSLR camera for all my landscape photography, it was an attractive alternative knowing I had miles to hike and was looking to shed some pounds. I think the results speak for themselves.

Previous Fuji X series cameras posts:





I've just finished packing for the Arizona trip and wanted to share what gear I'm taking along and some of my thoughts behind it. I'll break this down into three sections, camera, computer, and accessory.


Nikon D3S, Nikon D700, Fuji X10, 10.5mm, 14-24mm, 24-70mm, 80-200mm, 2x teleconverter, GoPro, SB900, SU800. 

Nikon D3S with a Zacuto Z-1 Pro on a Gitzo Serires 00 carbon tripod

I'm taking three cameras, the Nikon D3s and D700, and my new Fuji X10. I thought about not taking the D700 as a second body on this trip since I will primarily be shooting landscapes and didn't think I would need a second body affixed with another lens for quick reaction. In the end however, I thought if something happened to the D3s, the only backup would be the X10 and while I'm learning to really like that camera, it just does not compare to a full frame DSLR in quality.

I'm also bringing an Nikon SB900 in case I need fill flash especially if I'm shooting during the middle of the day.


Apple 15" Powerbook, iPad, LaCie Rugged Mini 1TB hard drive, SanDisk Firewire 800 card reader, Photo Mechanic, Adobe Lightroom 4.0, Photoshop CS4, Verizon MiFi.

Apple 15" powerbook with LaCie Rugged 1TB drive and SanDisk FW 800 CF card reader.

The plan of course is to process images during the trip, as well as continue to update this blog, so I'm bringing my 15" Powerbook. Simple work flow will be to offload camera cards each day, copying contents to desktop then backing up to a portable hard drive. I will use Photo Mechanic to rename and caption images, then import into LightRoom 4.0, and finish off in Photoshop CS4.

Other than the laptop, I am also bringing my iPad, along with a camera connection kit, on this trip. And it is not just for entertainment, but for practical purposes. Other than the photo apps that may see some use, I rely on the Sun Seeker app which provides you with sunrise and sunset times, shows a map view of sun direction for each daylight hour and 3D views of the solar path. In fact I've already studied the direction of light during the time and day when I will be in certain locations. Two other non-photo apps I will use on this trip are The Weather Channel app and SkySafari 3.


Gitzo Series 00 Carbon tripod, Zacuto Z-Finder Pro, PocketWizard Plus, Blackrapid camera strap, battery chargers, mouse, Belkin surge protector,  Lexar professional 600x 32GB card, Lexar professional 400x 16GB card (2), SanDisk Extreme 16GB, SanDisk Extreme 2GB,  Tenba sandbag

So far it's been pretty straight forward, but the details are in the accessories. I have two tripods, a Bogen Model #3033 that I've owned since 1986. It is a sturdy, dependable tripod, however it is very heavy and not very compact. The other is a Gitzo Series 00 Carbon 6X with a Arca-Swiss Monoball Z1 ballhead. This is a great tripod for travel and backpacking because it is so light, but my concern is that it may be too lightweight, especially for star photography, so I'm bringing a sandbag to help steady along with hanging my backpack should help.

In order to assist with focus at night and to make sure everything is sharp during the day, I'm bringing a Zacuto Z-Finder Pro 2.5x eyepiece which should give some piece of mind as I shoot. For triggering the camera, I'm going to use a PocketWizard Plus. Perhaps a bit of overkill, but without a cable release, this is the next best thing.

The Kelty Redwing backpack with Think Tank change up bag and various Think Tank pouches to keep gear protected during travel.

To transport most of the gear, I'm using a Kelty Redwing backpack. Not a photo backpack you say? That's right. I was at REI and looking at backpacks when the Kelty caught my attention. Plenty of room, good support and the right size to also be used on a two to three backpacking trip. As I've mentioned previously, I use Think Tank test drive bags (now called Lens Changers) and pouches to protect my cameras and lens in the bag. The main compartment has a place to hold my laptop and the front portion has room for my iPad, pens, notebook, phone, etc. This pack also has side pouches to stow additional items plus they have a pass through that will allow me to carry a tripod. The final bag will be a Think Tank Change Up Belt Pack. I've mentioned this bag before in my GOING LIGHT(er) post.

I'll carry on most of the camera gear in the Kelty and the Change Up. Things like chargers, cables and of course clothing will all go in my checked bag.


Think Tank roller with pouches for use once on location.
Photography is a pain – pain in the shoulder and back that is. When I started in this profession I carried my gear in an over-the-shoulder Domke bag. And at the time I also carried all the gear I owned to every job. So it was simple, when I obtained more gear, I purchased a larger bag, the Domke Little Bit Bigger Bag to be specific.

So in my case, like many photographers, all the years of carrying gear over my right shoulder has led to shoulder pain. Nothing severe, just enough to be noticeable. So over time I've come up with a few techniques and tips to avoid this pain and hopefully if you're just starting out, allow you to avoid it in the future.

And it all starts by getting that gear off of your shoulder. Below I offer five tips.

1. Use a roller bag like the Think Tank Airport series or roller case such as the Pelican Case to get your gear to and from the assignment. It allows you carry maximum gear without putting any strain on your body.

2. Tip one gets the gear to the location, but then what? I'm a fan of the Think Tank Modular system which allows you to then use accessory packs to carry and organize your gear once there. You can load up that large roller bag or Pelican Case, then easily customize later. The belt and pouch system distributes the weight evenly on your hips and if you add a harness, you won't even notice that you are carrying camera equipment.

3. Change your traditional camera straps to something like the BlackRapid line of products. These across the chest camera slings do not put as much pressure on a given shoulder. Plus they have the added benefit of not allowing the camera to slip off your shoulder. Once you get use to it you almost forget about the camera hanging at your side.

4. Match gear to the assignment given. In previous blog posts I've talked about traveling light, with minimum gear. It is a hard habit to break and you will spend lots of time second guessing yourself, but if you really take a look at what gets used and what never leaves your pack, you can start to hone your packing.

5. I suppose I would be remiss if I didn't mention diet and exercise to strengthen your shoulder or back. We all know what is right, but let's face it, even if I was practicing good healthy practices 30 years ago, I'm pretty sure I'd still have some of the same issues as I close in on 50. Just be practical and remember that the body does start to wear out, so why speed the process by lugging too much when you're young.

So slow down, pack right, really think through what gear you bring and be sure to take care of your body. And get out there and shoot.