gorillapod

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Well we’ve gotten through another year, the turkeys that made it through the night are all safe once more, and that means it’s time for us to talk about the holidays. Here once again is the Dengrove Studios Holiday Gift Giving Guide for the photo enthusiast in your life. I have some great options for you this year, many of which compliment last years gifts very well. So let’s dive right in to the presents.

Item 1 – Gorillapod Ballhead

Gorillapod Ballhead (photo courtesy of Joby, Inc.)

You know that funny looking tripod that grips onto railings and you see your photographer using everywhere? That’s the Gorillapod, one of the best presents ever, which is why it made our list last year. If your photo enthusiast friends and family members were lucky enough to get one last year, then you know they use it all the time and love it. So, allow me to introduce you to the Gorillapod Ballhead, by Joby.

The Gorillapod Ballhead is an amazing accessory for the Gorillapod. The Gorillapod revolutionized the way we support our cameras, being able to hang them from railings, handles, and even tree branches, but anyone who’s used one has come up against the following problem at least once or twice.

Gorillapod on a Tree Trunk (photo courtesy of Joby, Inc.)

Picture it…you’ve managed to secure your Gorillapod and camera to a tree branch for some great night-time photography shots. There’s only one problem, since the Gorillapod is hanging sideways your camera is set up in a portrait orientation, but fireworks are big wide displays! If only there was a way to secure your Gorillapod on the light post but angle your camera so it’s in a horizontal position.

Enter the Gorillapod Ballhead…ta-da! The Ballhead secures onto most Gorillapod models and allows you to then rotate and angle your camera while it’s sitting a top the Gorillapod. Add a while new dimension to your Gorillapod experience.

Now you can pan, tilt, and angle your camera in virtually any direction all while your camera is securely attached via your Gorillapod. Bring on the fireworks, tree trunks, landscapes, railings, group portraits and benches.

The Gorillapod Ballhead comes in several different sizes to fit virtually any Gorillapod. Get yours at www.joby.com.

Gorillapod with Ballhead (photo courtesy of Joby, Inc.)

Item 2 – Strobist™ Flash Gel Pack

Strobist Flash Gel Pack (photo courtesy of Rosco)

Does your photo enthusiast love using their speedlights? If so, I have a great accessory for them. Nothing adds a new creative dimension to flash lit photography like adding a colored gel. With all the different color options out there, the possibilities are limitless.

But there is a problem…most gels are sized for theater lights, not small speedlight strobes. Standard gel sheets are 20″ x 24″ and cost nearly $10 a piece. That’s way too much waste when you only need a small piece of gel 1.5″ x 3.25″ the size of most speedlights. Enter the Strobist™ Flash Gel Pack.

A strobist is a person who loves using speedlights over large studio strobes to shoot all kinds of photography. Strobists routinely push the limits of what can be accomplished with small portable flash light. There is a even a blog site dedicated to strobists founded by David Hobby. It’s with David, that Rosco, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of theater and film gels combined to create the Strobist™ Flash Gel Pack.

The Strobist™ Flash Gel Pack contains 55 of the best, most commonly used gel colors in a small convenient pack which is only 1.5″ x 3.25″ in size designed just for people who love their speedlights as much as your photo enthusiast does. Plus it’s less than $20! At that price there’s no excuse why a new creative world of flash photography can’t be opened for any strobist in your life.

Get yours at BHPhoto or Adorama.

Item 3 – The pod™

The pod

Sounds like a mid evil torture device, “if you don’t do what I ask, I’ll put you in the pod!” Actually, it is yet another tripod alternative. We all love our Gorillapods, of course, but new on the scene this year is The pod™ and it’s quickly making strong headway in the market for alternative tripods. Look out Gorillapod…there’s a new pod™ in town.

As the name suggests the pod™ is a small beanbag, oval in shape, with a screw which fits right into the tripod mount on the bottom of your camera. It comes in 6 different sizes to accommodate everything from the smallest point and shoot up to large video cameras. Each size is noted by it’s color, yellow, blue, red, green, black and silver although the actual color of all the pods™ is black, the colored portion is on the bottom of the pod™.

Green pod

If you’ve ever tried to support an object on a beanbag before, you quickly realize that not all shapes may be compatible. Especially when it comes to different shaped cameras.

The pod™ people thought of everything. The filling of the pod™ is accessible through a little velcro flap, this allows you to remove stuffing as necessary to mold the pod™ shape right to your camera.

Still not convinced? The price will help with that, the pods™ start at just $9.99 for the smallest(yellow) all the way up to $44.99 for the largest(silver). At that price there’s no reason not to give one a try!

I don’t own one yet, but I can’t wait to get one, so if you’re looking for a last minute gift for me…give the folks at The pod Industries a call. The pod™ can be purchased at www.thepod.ca/store.

 Item 4 – Adobe Photoshop Elements

For the first time in our holiday gift guide we have a piece of software. There are thousands of products out there to help the photo enthusiast in your life take better photos, but what happens after they take all those photos?

Photoshop Elements

Sometimes we want to make the exposure lighter, or remove red-eye from your 3 year old cousin, or perhaps the photo needs to be a little sharper. The king of all photo editing software is of course Photoshop, but with advanced editing features and a price tag of over $500 it’s really overkill for most people who aren’t doing professional photo work.

For those others out there who don’t fit the “Photoshop bill” there’s another Photoshop out there just for you, Photoshop Elements. Think of Photoshop Elements as Photoshop’s little brother. With Photoshop Elements you can add all those finishing touches to your photos without the hefty price tag and advanced user interface.

With Photoshop Elements, you can change the exposure, contrast, fix red-eye, even apply artistic filters. Now all of those photos an be picture perfect. Plus at only $99 it’s an affordable gift for any photo enthusiast. Photoshop Elements works on both PCs and Macs plus you can even download a free trial before you buy it, just to make sure it has all the features you’re looking for. Get yours at www.adobe.com.

Item 5 – Lens Mugs

Canon Lens Mug

Canon Lens Mug (photo courtesy of Canon Mugs)

Yes, this one is a repeat from last year…but it is still so cool! Plus nobody has gotten one for me yet, so I figured I’d put them on the list again.

Lens Mugs are travel thermoses in the shape of a Zoom Lens. They come in both Canon and Nikon versions depending on which side of the debate you’re on and the detail in them is simply amazing! So much so that they actually have a big disclaimer posted on their website that says “This is a lens mug, not an actual lens. Don’t pour coffee into your real lens!”

Nikon Lens Mug

Nikon Lens Mug (photo courtesy of Canon Mugs)

Starting at about $45 there are many different sizes and options to choose from and each one is simply incredible. They even offer 10-packs so you can get one for every photographer on your holiday list. Get yours right here at www.canonmugs.com. Yeah I know, it seems to make them a bit Canon bias but they have really cool Nikon stuff too, I promise, go look.

Thus concludes another Holiday Gift Giving Guide. With all of these great products, you’re bound to find something that the photo enthusiast on your list will love. All of these items are readily available and you’ll have no problem getting them in time for the holidays. You may even be able to get some Black Friday or Cyber Monday Deals on them, so keep an eye out.

As always if you have any questions about any of the products mentioned or own any of the products discussed please feel free to leave comments, reviews, and endorsements. I wish you all the best and a great Holiday Season to you and yours.

Scott Dengrove is a professional photographer from the NYC area. Scott’s work has been featured in many national photography competitions and published in several nationally circulated magazines and publications. In addition, his work can currently be seen in 2 exhibits at Cosi® restaurants in New York and Connecticut and a traveling exhibit entitled “America: Coast to Coast”. For more information, and to see more of Scott’s work visit his website at www.dengrovestudios.com and connect with him on his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/dengrovestudios

Most people have heard that taking photos in mid-day sun is generally considered a bad idea. The high angle of the sun causes very harsh shadows on your subjects, and their faces often end up a squinty, scragly mess due to the very bright light. That’s why photographers do most of their people shooting in the 2 hours or so just before sunset or what is known as “The Golden Hour”.

Golden Hour Portrait Nikon D300 16mm 1/320s f/13

Photographers love “The Golden Hour” because the setting sun produces a beautiful, soft, flattering light with a nice warm glow that makes everyone look their best. Just take notice sometime of how many wedding photographers schedule formal shoots during “The Golden Hour”, it’s not by accident.

Although shooting during “The Golden Hour” is likely to produce some beautiful photos for you, there is a problem. The light doesn’t last very long, and photographers have to work quickly in order to get all their shots done in time before they lose the light to the setting sun. It always amazes me how many people pack up their cameras and go home once the sun has set. Yes, it’s true, your people shots are probably over once the sun sets, but with the warm summer weather you can shoot some amazing landscapes just after sunset during what we call “The Blue Hour”.

“The Blue Hour” is that magic time when the sun has set just below the horizon but there is still some light in the sky. It extends right up until the last bit of light has drained from the sky. If you’ve ever stopped to look up at this time you’ll notice that if the sky is clear it takes on this amazing deep blue color. This is also the time that street lights, architectural lights, and signs start to come on which makes for some beautiful summer scenes for you to photograph.

Restaurant lights during “The Blue Hour” Nikon D300 1/30s f/2.8

Shooting during the “The Blue Hour” is a whole different ball game than shooting during “The Golden Hour”. This is because during “The Golden Hour” you have beautiful sunlight to light up your scene, but during “The Blue Hour” the sun has set and you’re basically shooting at night time. This requires some form of stabilization for your camera, because in order to shoot during “The Blue Hour” you need to use a slow shutter speed in order to be able to capture your scene with the reduced light levels.

Take this photo I shot recently at Disneyland during “The Blue Hour”. I happened to shoot it with a very fast lens, which means it has a very large Aperture. As such, I was able to shoot this photo at a shutter speed of 1/30s and still hand-hold the camera. However, if you didn’t have a particularly fast lens that cost almost $1000 like I do, you’d be using a standard lens with the values below. For more information about Aperture and Shutter Speed, see some of our previous blog posts.

Most standard lenses have a maximum aperture size of f/4. This is one-stop larger than the f/2.8 lens that I was using. Using reciprocity (again see some of our previous blog articles for more info) if I was to shoot this same photo with a lens using an Aperture value of f/4 then I would have to use a shutter speed of 1/15s. This would be too slow to hand-hold to shoot a photo with acceptable sharpness, so I’d have to introduce some form of stabilization for the camera in order to get a good resulting photograph.

There are many options that you can use to stabilize your camera for night time photography. The most common method is to mount your camera on a tripod. However, there are other options as well, you could also use a monopod, a gorillapod, or even just a trash-can or other stabile object to place your camera on.

There are tons of different kinds of tripods available. Some of the many options available are the material the tripod is made out of, aluminum, carbon fiber, or even plastic, how large the tripod extends 2 segments or 3 segments, and even whether the legs fold completely flat or inverted for easy travel. Naturally this means the prices on tripods can vary wildly depending on the options you decide to take, anywhere from an inexpensive $15 tripod you can find in Walmart or Target to large professional travel models costing in excess of $1200.

Velbon DF-60 Tripod (Photo courtesy of Velbon) http://www.velbon.biz/product/cx-df/df.html

I could do an entire article alone on the many different options for tripods, but here are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing one. If you’re going to be traveling a lot with it and weight is a factor, go for a carbon-fiber tripod. Although more expensive you can’t beat the sturdiness, rigidity, and light weight. For flexibility when composing your shots make sure it has at least a pan-head, and for the ultimate in exploiting all camera positions go with a ball-head instead. Plus one of the most important things to look for is to make sure that the first section of leg extensions gets the tripod up to or almost up to your regular height. The first leg sections are the most sturdy so you want to make sure the tripod will be at a comfortable height while getting the most stability out of it.

If the idea of lugging around a full tripod, especially to a theme park, makes you cringe, you’re not alone. It can be very tedious to carry around one of these with you for a full day, plus a lot of places don’t allow them, and when using them at venues that do you need to take extra care that nobody is going to trip over or hurt themselves because of your tripod. So as a great alternative I would suggest a monopod.

Velbon Monopod E64 (photo courtesy of Velbon) http://www.velbon.biz/product/monopod/monopod-geo.html

A monopod is just as the name suggests, it’s basically a single retractable stick that you mount your camera on top of. It gives you extra stability for using lower shutter speeds, but not the full support that you would receive from a tripod. The advantages are they are much smaller to use and carry around, they take up very little space in front of you even when extended and in use, plus they can be used in a lot of places that tripods cannot. If you look up to policies of most places they clearly state “No tripod use allowed”, but they never say anything about a monopod. Sure it’s a play on semantics depending on how you look at it, but it is a valid argument to make if questioned while using one.

Monopods are also usually cheaper than tripods and do not require pan or ball-heads as since it is a single stick you can basically tilt it in any direction that you need to. In addition they are much more compact to simply fold up and stick in a bag than a tripod is. Plus as an added bonus they actually can help you carry a very heavy camera rig as you are now supporting it with your hands on a stick rather than hanging it around your neck. Basically the options on monopods are more limited than tripods, simply a choice of what materials it’s made out of and/or how high it extends.

Still think a monopod is too large to carry around? Don’t want to be accused of carrying a cane? No problem, I have one more stabilization alternative for you, and it’s one that I highly recommend and use myself. Why not choose a gorillapod?

Gorillapod (Photo courtesy of Joby) www.joby.com

A gorillapod is in essence a mini tripod with segmented and articulated joints covered in rubber, this makes the legs flexible and actually allows you to wrap them right around any railing, tree or other oddly shaped stable object, to give your camera a rock-solid platform to shoot from.

They make several different models depending on which camera you are going to use with it, including ones for the smallest point-and-shoots all the way up to large professional video cameras. For the ultimate flexibility in mounting your camera, don’t forget to add the ball-head made specifically for your gorillapod. This allows you to pan and tilt your camera on top of your gorillapod for an infinite number of mounting combinations.

I use my gorillapod all the time, it’s so convenient to throw in a bag and then poof have a mini tripod that you can mount almost anywhere at a moments notice.

Now that the weather is warm and the light is perfect, get out there and start taking some “Blue Hour” photos! You’ll be amazed at some of the results, as long as you have some sort of stabilization for your camera. With the plethora of choices out there you shouldn’t have too difficult of a time finding the right solution that will be convenient and user-friendly for you.

Paradise Pier at Blue Hour Nikon D300 16mm 1/4s f/11

Scott Dengrove is a professional photographer from the NYC area. Scott’s work has been featured in many national photography competitions and published in several nationally circulated magazines and publications. In addition, his work can currently be seen in 2 exhibits at Cosi® restaurants in New York and Connecticut and a traveling exhibit entitled “America: Coast to Coast”. For more information, and to see more of Scott’s work visit his website at www.dengrovestudios.com and connect with him on his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/dengrovestudios

The Holidays are fast approaching, which means you probably have a list of loved ones, or not so loved ones who you need to buy gifts for. If any of those people on your  list have an interest in photography, whether it’s a hobby or a profession than this guide is for you. Even if you are the photographer yourself, reading this, I’m sure you’ll find something on this list that you’ll want to add to your arsenal. I’m going to walk you through 5 must-have gadgets for every photographer, and the good news for you is none of these items will break the bank!

Item 1 – The Gorillapod

Gorillapod Family

Gorillapod Family (photo courtesy of Joby, Inc)

Sounds and looks like something out of a science fiction film, but the original Gorillapod has become so popular that it has spawned a whole Gorilla family of devices. So  what  the heck is a Gorillapod? Made by Joby, Inc. the Gorillapod is the ultimate mini-tripod. With it’s flexible legs and great accessories there’s no other tripod in the world like it.

Say you want to take a night time photo of  a city skyline from the top of a tall building, such as the Empire State Building or Willis Tower. You look around, but find no place to rest your camera to steady it. Enter the Gorillapod, with it’s flexible legs you can secure your camera right to the railing on the side of the building, making your camera rock-steady to take the shot. You can’t do that with a traditional tripod.

The Gorillapod comes in several different sizes to accommodate all cameras from compact point and shoots, to the largest DSLR’s. They even make one for video cameras. With prices ranging from just $19.95 for the original, the Gorillapod makes the perfect present for any photographer. Get it here at www.joby.com. I use mine ALL THE TIME!

Gorillapod on Rail

Gorillapod on Rail (photo courtesy of Joby, Inc.)

Gorillapod on Tree (photo courtesy of Joby, Inc.)

Item 2 – A Digital Calibration Target

Digital Calibration Target

Digital Calibration Target (photo courtesy of Photovision)

When digital cameras came along we all had to learn about a new setting that traditional film cameras didn’t have, white balance. White balance tells the sensor of your digital camera what color the light is in your scene. For example, when shooting indoors the light tends to be more orange. While shooting outside on an overcast day the light will tend to take on a blueish color. Setting your white balance properly allows your camera to get the colors in your image correct no matter what color the light is.

To nail perfect color every time I use and recommend a Digital Calibration Target from Photovision. The Digital Calibration Target acts like a neutral gray card allowing your camera to measure the color of the light in your scene. This allows your camera to set proper white balance. This function alone would be worth it, but Photovision’s Digital Calibration Targets do so much more! They also allow you to check proper exposure.

Exposure Histogram

Exposure Histogram (photo courtesy of Photovision)

Since each one is colored with a black, gray, and white stripe, you can use your camera’s histogram to make sure that your exposure is perfect every time. Not only that, they come in several different sizes depending on your application, and fold down to 1/2 their size. If that wasn’t enough in a pinch you can flip your Digital Calibration Target over and use it as a reflector. With several different sizes, prices, and even money saving packages you’re bound to find a Digital Calibration Target that’s right for the photographer on your gift list. Get yours here at www.photovision.com. I use the 14″ size and keep it in my camera bag all the time.

Item 3 – Eye-Fi Wireless Memory Card

Eye-Fi wireless memory card

Eye-Fi wireless memory card (photo courtesy of Eye-Fi, Inc.)

When you’re done shooting photos with your digital camera for the day, there’s always an annoying chore that follows. You have to hook up your camera or memory card to a computer and copy all those images. Wouldn’t it be great if your photos could magically get sent to your computer as you were shooting them?

Why limit yourself to a computer, with the Eye-Fi wireless memory card from Eye-Fi, Inc. now you can transmit your photos directly from your camera to your computer, laptop, iPod, iPad, Facebook, Flickr, and tons of other places right as you snap the photo! The Eye-Fi wireless memory card replaces your cameras regular SD card. It will both store your photos and transmit them in real-time as long as you have a Wi-Fi connection.

There are several models to choose from which perform everything from transmitting your photos, to geo-tagging them, to creating their own ad-hoc wireless network for transmitting to your computer. But, what if you have a DSLR that only takes Compact Flash cards?

You may still be in luck, although Eye-Fi does not officially support it, many people have had great success using their Eye-Fi wireless memory card in their DSLR’s with an SD-Compact Flash adapter.

The best news is all of this functionality starts at just $49.99. The Eye-Fi makes a perfect gift for anyone who uses a digital camera, amateurs and professionals alike. Get yours here at www.eyefi.com.

How Eye-Fi Works

How Eye-Fi Works (photo courtesy of Eye-Fi, Inc.)

Item 4 – Tri-Grip Reflector

Tri-grip Reflector

Tri-grip Reflector (photo courtesy of Lasolite, Ltd.)

It’s been said time and time again that the best way to photograph portraits is using diffuse natural light, such as in the shade of a tree. The problem when dealing with nature is the sun and your natural light don’t always appear where you need it to. This is where a reflector comes in handy. Reflectors can be used to bounce the light right onto your subject where you need it. They usually come in many sizes and also with several different covers depending on what type of light you are reflecting.

So how is the Tri-Grip Reflector from Lasolite Ltd. different? It’s unique triangular shape allows you to hold and position it with only one hand. This is a huge help as normal round reflectors usually require a dedicated assistant or a bulky light-stand with an extension arm to hold them up and keep them properly aimed. With the Tri-Grip Reflector you can now hold your camera in one hand and your reflector in the other to take the perfect portrait wherever you are.

Shoot the photo and hold the reflector

Shoot the photo and hold the reflector (photo courtesy of Lasolite, Ltd.)

Selling for around $65 with a plethora of add on accessories including different reflective surfaces and a full money-saving kit, the Lasolite Tri-Grip Reflector is the perfect gift for a photographer that shoots in natural light with minimal assistance. You can get more information about the Tri-Grip Reflector including where to purchase it at www.lasolite.com.

Item 5 – Lens Mugs

Canon Lens Mug

Canon Lens Mug (photo courtesy of Canon Mugs)

Alright, so this is not a product that you use while shooting photos but I think it is the most awesome one on the list and something that any photography enthusiast would love. Lens Mugs are travel thermoses in the shape of a Zoom Lens. They come in both Canon and Nikon versions depending on which side of the debate you’re on and the detail in them is simply amazing! So much so that they actually have a big disclaimer posted on their website that says “This is a lens mug, not an actual lens. Don’t pour coffee into your real lens!”

Nikon Lens Mug

Nikon Lens Mug (photo courtesy of Canon Mugs)

Starting at about $45 there are many different sizes and options to choose from and each one is simply incredible. They even offer 10-packs so you can get one for every photographer on your holiday list. Get yours right here at www.canonmugs.com. Yeah I know, it seems to make them a bit Canon bias but they have really cool Nikon stuff too, I promise, go look.

Thus concludes our Holiday Gift Giving Guide. With all of these great products, you’re bound to find something that the photo enthusiast on your list will love. Heck, I wrote the list and there are at least 2 products on here that I want to run out and buy right away. Of course there are plenty of great products out there that we didn’t get to cover in this article, perhaps they’ll show up in next years’ Gift Giving Guide.

As always if you have any questions about any of the products mentioned or own any of the products discussed please feel free to leave comments, reviews, and endorsements. I wish you all the best and a great Holiday Season to you and yours.

Scott Dengrove is a professional photographer from the NYC area. Scott’s work has been featured in many national photography competitions and published in several nationally circulated magazines and publications. In addition, his work can currently be seen in 3 exhibits at Cosi® restaurants in New York and Connecticut. For more information, and to see more of Scott’s work visit his website at www.dengrovestudios.com and connect with him on his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/dengrovestudios