Saturday, November 24, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide for Photographers 2012!

It seems like the holidays are already on us, man where did this year go?  It seems like 2012 just started not all that long ago, and now its screaming to an end, and hopefully, not THE END.  In any case, if you have a photographer in your life that you need to shop for, then check out my gift guide for photographers below.

This list is actually geared a little more towards lighting photographers, but there are other goodies in there for every kind of photographer.  All of the items in this list are either things I have and use, or things I would like to have.  Some of these are less than $20 U.S. but there may be one or two that goes over the $1,000 dollar mark ...only of course for those photographers that have been REALLY good this year. ;)

In no particular order, here we go...

1.  Kelby Training without a doubt, has to be one of the single best resources on the net.  There are articles on there for every single kind of photography imaginable, including editing and lighting.  You can buy a monthly subscription, or pay for a full year in advance, and right now, they are offering a lot of cool deals!

2.  One of my favorite photographers of all time, Joe McNally has a mammoth volume on manipulating the intricacies of light.  If the photographer you're shopping for is a reader, and wants to learn more about lighting, there may be no better source.  Check out his book, Sketching Light:  An Illustrated Tour of the Possibilities of Flash

3.  If your photographer shoots outside, then the Hoodman Loupe will become their favorite tool!

4.  My favorite camera straps of all time are the Black Rapid straps.  They are simply the most comfortable, easy to use straps I have used yet.  Mine is the Black Rapid RS-4 Strap, but there are other styles that may suit your needs better.

5.  The Lumiquest Softbox III (SB III) is my favorite, all-time, small light modifier for speedlights.  It creates much better light than a bare flash, and will fit in to almost any camera bag.

6.  If you're in to shooting boudoir and pinup style photography, then you have to check out the book Shoot Sexy by my friend and fellow photographer Ryan Armbrust.  Ryan's book covers everything about pin-up and boudoir photography, from poses and wardrobe, to lighting and editing.

7.  This next item is slowly becoming my absolute favorite modifier for off camera flash.  Its the Westcott Apollo 43" Orb, which is basically, an octabox style softbox for speed lights.

8.  Another cool necessity for photographers who use flashes off camera is the Frio Cold Shoe.  This is my favorite way to attach flashes to lightstands.  I have one on every stand I use.

9.  My new favorite shoulder camera bag is the Think Tank Retrospective 30.  Its roomy, soft, rugged, has tons of pockets and is pretty inconspicuous for a camera bag, which when in the field, is a good thing!

10.  $$$ ALERT - If the photographer you're shopping for needs some serious portable light, then you can probably do no better than the Elinchrom Ranger Quadra.  A super compact pack-and-head system that cranks out 400 watt seconds of light!  I don't have one of these, but I have frothed at the mouth for one ever since they came out!

11.  Photographers are notoriously eating up AA batteries like M&M's, so ideally, rechargeable batteries are the way to go.  The PowerEx 8 Cell Battery Charger has to be one of the best on the market.  I've had one for a few years now, and I honestly can't figure out how I ever lived without it!

12.  Chances are, if you do have a ton of AA batteries, then you need a good way to manage them too.  My favorite method is to use the PowerPax Battery Caddy.  It just makes my life more simple... and I need all the help I can get!

13.  My favorite, small softbox for speedlights is the Lastolite Ezybox Hot Shoe.  Its a little more pricey than most, but its super easy to use, very well built and collapses down so its easy to carry.

14.  If the photographer in your life likes to read, and wants to master lighting, then check out the book Light, Science and Magic.  Its a little technically oriented, but still easy to follow and probably the single best book out there on understanding the properties of light and how to harness it.

15.  The Westcott 43" Double Fold, Shoot Through Umbrella with black backing is probably one of my most used, and compact speed light modifiers.  Its cheap, effective and easy to use.

16.  Photographers are always looking for good backgrounds.  One of the most versatile I have ever used is the Botero #023 Collapsible Background.  Its a dark mottled gray one side, and a light mottled gray on the other.  Its 5'x7' when open, but collapses down to roughly a three foot diameter.

17.  Gaffer's Tape simply cannot have enough of this stuff!!!  It's cheap too!

18.  A-Clamps - another cheap, but indispensable tool for photographers of all types!

19.  Another highly effective tool that any photographer can use, is a good reflector!  I use the Westcott 40" 5-in-1 Reflector.  It has gold, silver, and white reflective surfaces, a 1 stop diffusion panel and a black cutter panel.

20.  Another awesome book for photographers is The Passionate Photographer:  Ten Steps Towards Becoming Great.  This is a really great book for learning how to train your eye and how to delve in to documentary style photography from a highly skilled photographer.

So there you have it, 20 gift ideas for that special photographer in your life!  Happy hunting and Happy Holidays!!!!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today in the U.S. is Thanksgiving Day which is a holiday us Americans celebrate to give thanks for all the fortunes in our lives. Some say its about a bunch of uptight pilgrims who share their first celebration dinner with their neighbors, but I'm dubious about that.

For most of us, its a day to share with family and friends, eating tons of turkey, taking long naps and watching football. Folks travel all over the country to be with their loved ones and to share memories of good times.

There are so many things in this world to be thankful for, that they are just to numerous to list. That being said, I can honestly say I've been quite fortunate in my years to have a blessing of family, friends and a roof over my head to keep me safe. I truly am thankful for all these gifts and also that I've managed to keep my finger on a shutter button over the years, documenting some of these blessings.

I'd like to say thanks to the few folks that find the time out of their days to take a peak at this blog (however inconsistent it may be) and for all the people that have taken the time to share bits and pieces of their lives with me, including those I've had the good opportunity to photograph, and those that have decided to stick with me through the long haul.

I have always been a family oriented guy in some way or another so I thought I'd share a few pics of how my family has grown over the years. I'm thankful for the family I've had to share this holiday with, including those that have passed, and those that continue to grow my family... its a motley crew to be sure!

(I'm not even in this one yet!)

 (for any of those who might be disgruntled about how they look in this photo, this is a friendly reminder to think about that the next time you see me with a camera in hand ;)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Off Camera Flash Photography Workshop!

Want to learn how to juggle those off camera flashes?  

Confused about what modifiers to use to make your small flashes look better?

Are you intimidated by using your flash off camera?

If so, you will definitely want to attend my first, small group, off camera flash photography workshop---just in time for the holidays!!

One of the things I've seemed to learn over the years, is that I tend to learn new materials when I'm in a smaller group of students (perhaps because I have such a limited attention span) and I think most others do as well.  So I'm going to start periodically offering small group, off camera flash photography workshops for those interested in a more one-on-one type approach.

By working in small groups, its much easier to field specific questions and problems and its easier to take in all of the information presented to you, without having to wade through a mountain of questions by a multitude of eager minded folks.

Some of the things that will be covered in this class include...

- Determining the direction, quality and color of light
- When and how to use various modifiers to shape and control the light
- Using multiple flashes
- Balancing ambient and flash
- Subject driven lighting
- High speed flash sync
- Creative lighting

While these will be the major topics of each class, by having a limited number of participants, we will be able to cater each class to the needs and desires of the group, which basically means more specialized instruction for each attendee.

So if juggling your flashes has you stumped, then this may be the solution for you!

In order to give everyone more bang for their buck, this first class will be limited to 5 participants only.  This will be a 4 hour class packed full of as much off camera flash technique as you can take and will be held in my home studio in Crestwood, Kentucky (just a short drive from anywhere in the Louisville, Ky. area) on Saturday, Nov. 17th from 1pm to 5pm EST.

Cost for this class will only be $129 for a full 4 hours!  Click the "buy now" button below to reserve your spot for a fun-filled class packed to the gills with off camera flash goodness!  After signing up, shoot me an email at john(at) to let us know you're in, to get directions to the studio, and also if you have any questions!

Hope to see you there!