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Holiday gift guide: Outdoors photographer

Colin
November 20, 2017

It’s an affliction that every photographer suffers from, we love gear. It doesn’t matter if it’s a camera lens or a headlamp, we’re like bees to honey when it comes to gadgets.

For me and a ton of other photographers, it’s not just camera gear we lust after, it’s the other stuff we use out shooting. Whether it be the 20-mile hike to that epic sunset location, or killing time during a long airport layover there is always something that can make you more comfortable. For me, considering most of what I do takes me far from civilization here’s a few things I’d be stoked to unwrap this year.

Cotopaxi Tikal Active Shell

If you spend any amount of time outside, you’re going to get wet it’s just a fact of life and a good rain jacket is essential. Cotopaxi’s Tikal Active Shell is made from fully taped, 2.5-layer water-resistant shell fabric with four-way stretch that will keep the water out.

It’s got a spacious hood and the jacket packs down to just about nothing, and there’s also full YKK Zippers, perforated underarm panels so you won’t overheat that are less bulky than pit zips and it weighs just 283g.

Cotopaxi Tikal Active Shell US$139 / AU$184

Goal Zero Venture 30

With phones, cameras, headlamps and even headphones needing batteries these days having a portable power pack is becoming essential. Goal Zero is arguably the biggest name in this market and the Venture 30 is one of its most popular power banks.

It’s waterproof, has an emergency light and a built-in micro USB cable. There are even little adaptors for camera charges and laptops and it can be charged using the brands Nomad Solar panels or from a power outlet.

Goal Zero Venture 30 US$139.99 / AU$178.98

JBL Flip 4 Bluetooth Speaker

Sometimes a campsite or a day at the beach needs some tunes, and the JBL Flip 4 is a compact reachable Bluetooth speaker. It’s water resistant (IPX7) and sees and features like voice assistant integration so you can use Siri through the speaker. What’s better, it also allows you to connect multiple devices and alternate which device it’s playing from so that everybody can pick a song.

JBL Flip 4 Speaker US$99.99 / AU$128

Garmin Fenix 5

Garmin’s Fenix 3 is the ultimate Ron Swanson approved manly smartwatch. It does everything a watch does, but with built-in GPS, and ABC (alto, barro, compass)  it can record your hike, help you navigate both directionally and topographically and let you know if there’s a storm coming.

The watch is also Bluetooth enabled meaning you can export your activities to Strava wirelessly and download apps from the Connect IQ store, there’s everything from detailed weather forecasts to sunrise and sunset times and it’s got wrist-based heart rate too. It’s like a swiss army knife for your wrist.

Garmin Fenix 5 US$599 / AU$789

Petzl – REACTIK+ 300 Lumens Headlamp

Petzl’s REACTIK headlamp, along with a space blanket and pocket knife are all things that never leave my camera bag.

Being outside you never know when you’re going to get stuck in the dark, and having a decent light source on hand has saved me more than once. This little light packs a 300-lumen punch and can be set to change its brightness based on the ambient light to maximize battery life. You can also connect it to your phone to see remaining battery life and change the light mode in real time.

Petzl’s REACTIK headlamp US$109.95 / AU$200

Smartwool Merino 150 Boxers

Bear with me when I say merino wool undies are one of the greatest things on earth. Not only does the soft material cradle your undercarriage nicely, they don’t chafe or smell. An especially nice feature after three or four days camping or a long haul flight from Dallas to Brisbane. They’re a little pricey but worth every penny!

Smartwool Merino 150 Boxers US$49 / AU$60

SOG Aegis Assisted Folding Knife

 

A high-quality pocket knife is something everyone should have. Once you get an EDC knife, you’ll be amazed how often you actually use it and wonder how you got by without it! You also don’t need to spend a fortune to get a great knife. The Sog Aegis Assisted open folding knife has a 3.5in straight edge blade and sees the brands assisted open technology.

The blade itself is made from high-quality AUS-8 steel and gets a black TiNi finish.

Patagonia Black Hole 60L Duffel Bag

Patagonia’s Black Hole duffels are nearly military grade. Whether it be remiss baggage handlers, or dogs who’re confused what’s a chew toy and what’s a bag, this duffel will keep your belongings safe, dry, and organized. I’ve got one and after a rough life, it still looks brand new!!

Patagonia Black Hole 60L Duffel Bag US$129 / AU$169

AeroPress Coffee Maker

There are few things better in this world than crawling out of a tent and brewing a hot cup’o Joe. The AeroPress system is like a french press but way more portable and makes fantastic coffee in a couple of minutes. What’s better it’s super portable and easy to clean.

AeroPress Coffee Maker US$29 / AU$49

MSR Pocket Rocket 2


When climbing out of said tent and brewing that cup’o Joe, you’re going to need to heat up some water. MSR’s Pocket Rocket is pretty much the smallest lightest stove you can buy and is claimed to boil a liter of water in 3.5min.

MSR Pocket Rocket 2 US$44 / AU$107.95

Yeti Rambler Lowball

Now you’ve got your coffee brewed and the scenery is sorted you’re going to need a receptacle to drink from. Yeti is known for making hard-wearing functional gear and the Rambler is no exception. It’s vacuum sealed and will keep your coffee warm (or another beverage cold) for hours, and of course, because it’s not made of plastic there’s no risk of BPA or other nasties.

Yeti Rambler Lowball US$19.99 / 24.94

Don’t forget to check out my 12 Gift ideas for photographers

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blog post

13 Gift Ideas for Photographers

Colin
November 13, 2017

Photographers are a hard bunch to buy for because we lust after gear that costs thousands of dollars. What’s worse is there’s so much photography speak involving dynamic range, bokeh, F-stops, chromatic aberration, and it all sounds like gibberish to the uninitiated.

To help you cut through all the BS I’ve put together a short guide of gift ideas for photographers that are sure to make the shooter in your life smile (hint, hint, nudge nudge).

Mindshift Backlight

 

Mindshifts Backlight is the perfect pack for the adventure photographer. The back panel access pack comes in 26L and 36L sizes and has plenty for Pro size DSLR bodies and lenses as well as room for extra layers, snacks, and even dedicated compartments to carry a 15in laptop and full-size tablet.

Mindshift Backlight 26L US$249 / AU$362

Mindshift Backlight 36L US$289 / AU$379

DJI Mavic Pro

Drones are all the rage at the moment and they allow for some truly unique imagery. The Mavic Pro is pretty much the end all be all with a three-axis gimbal stabilized 12mp / 4k camera, follow me modes, collision avoidance and so much more a whirlybird from DJI will put a smile on any giftee’s face.

DJI Mavic ProUS $999 / AU$1,599

Fstoppers Flash Disc (FS FlashDisc) Portable Speedlight Softbox

 

fstoppers-flash-disc

Portable light modifiers that don’t suck are few and far between. Because of their size quite often modifiers that will fit in your backpack just are not big enough to defuse the light from a flash very well, but an exception to that rule are the FStoppers Flash Discs. I have two which never leave my bag because they’re lightweight, pack down to just about nothing and work surprisingly well. They have their limitations but can be put onto any Speedlight and are extremely portable.

Fstoppers Flash Disc US$50 / AU$66

Vortex Media Pro Storm Jacket Rain Cover

Vortex-Media-Pro-Storm-Jacket-Rain-Cover

Like with flash modifiers, rain covers for cameras are extremely bulky. You could argue they should always be with you, but sometimes there just is not enough room in your bag for something that packs down to nearly the size of a telephoto lens. The solution is the Vortex Media Pro Storm Jacket Rain Covers!

Made from rip-stop nylon it’s essentially a tube your camera and lens goes inside that you cinch down on either side. Weighing all of 70g, they come in a variety of sizes and colors, I have two a medium and XL and that covers all of my lenses – I’ve even used them to cover off camera lights too. They’re not the ideal solution when it’s raining cats and dogs, but for inclement weather, you’ll be glad you have them

Vortex Media Pro Storm Jacket Rain Cover starting at US$50 / AU$65

Think Tank Pixel Pocket Rocket

Think-Tank-Pixel-Pocket-Rocket

Keeping memory cards organized is a royal pain in the ass, and they have the uncanny ability to find every hard to reach nook and cranny inside your bag.

The Think Thank Pixel Pocket Rocket is a small card wallet designed to stip cards from disappearing into the deep dark depths of your bag. It can hold up to 10 cards (SD and CF) and the outside is made with DWR treated ripstop nylon, so even if you get caught in a rainstorm your media stands a chance of staying dry. What’s better is it comes in bright color combos that you can easily spot in even the messiest camera bag. There’s also a strap which can be clipped to your belt or the inside of your camera bag for a bit of added peace of mind.

If you  to buy the Think Tank Pixel Pocket Rocket, and you spend $50 or more you’ll receive free shipping and a free gift courtesy of Think Tank

If you click through to Think Tank with as THIS LINK, you’ll get to choose a free gift at checkout when you spend more than $50

Think Tank Pixel Pocket Rocket US$19.95 / AU$21

Giottos AA1903 Rocket Air Blaster Large

Nothing can ruin an awesome shot faster than a dirty lens, and camera lenses seem to be a magnet for dust and dirt.

The best way to get rid of these pesky particles is to blow them away with a sharp blast of air, and the best tool for the job is the Giottos AA1900 Rocket Air Blaster. There are plenty of these handheld air puffers available, but what sets the Rocket Blaster apart is the one-way valve which prevents it from inhaling dust and puffing it back onto your gear.

Giottos AA1903 Rocket Air Blaster Large US$12 / AU$20

LensCoat Lens Cover for Canon 100-400 IS II (Real Tree Max4)

LensCoat-Canon-100-400-IS-II

If you know me, you know I love camo. I can’t explain it (maybe it’s because I’m a little bit red neck), but I just do. So Lens Coat’s neoprene lens covers were a no-brainer for my telephoto lenses. Not only does it look cool, it provides a bit of added protection for your $2000+ lens. The neoprene covers offer a bit of impact protection and also insulate the lens from extreme temps and a bit of moisture and dust.

They come in a variety of colors other than camo, and just about every lens on the market. Even more, if they don’t make a cover for your lens, they’ll make you a custom cover!

Pricing varies depending on lens and color

 Data Color Spyder5Pro

 

If you’re printing photos, having a color calibrated screen is extremely important otherwise it’s a shot in the dark as to what your photos will actually look like.

The Spyder5Pro is a relatively inexpensive way to make sure the colors on your computer screen are true. I use the exact device,  and it’s as simple as having it from your screen pressing play and following a few prompts.

Data Color Spyder5Pro US$189 / AU$220

Lexar Professional USB 3.0 Dual-Slot Reader

Lexar-Professional-USB-3.0-Dual-Slot-Reader

Some card readers make you want to bang your head on our desk. They usually have 70 different ports for cards that haven’t been used in 20 years but won’t transfer more 20 photos from an SD card without dropping out and the pins and contacts will fail after only a few uses.

Lexar’s Pro USB reader is an inexpensive and extremely reliable alternative to these fury inducing units. It has a slot for a CF and SD card, utilizes and fast USB 3.0 connection, and its pop-up design keeps dust out of the slots (my favourite part).

Lexar Professional USB 3.0 Dual-Slot Reader US$45 / AU$59

 Bose Quiet Comfort 35 Noise cancelling headphones

I think everyone should have a good set of headphones. Between travelling and working and sometimes you need to be able to drown everything else out and focus.

I myself have a set of these noise cancelling headphones and they are the first thing I stuff into my camera bag when I’m headed to the airport. They are super comfy and I’ve worn them the entirety of international long-haul flights and long days at the computer working to a deadline.

 Bose Quiet Comfort 35 Noise cancelling headphones US$349 / AU$499

Phottix Odin II TTL Flash Trigger

Camera Hacks: Phottix Odin Wireless Shutter Release

The Phottix Odin II triggers are my radio triggers of choice. The reason being, they just work! I’ve never had any issues with misfires, they’re easy to use and offer advanced features like high-speed sync and rear curtain sync. They are also backwards compatable and will work with the older Odin triggers.

Phottix Odin TTL Flash Trigger for Canon US$210 / AU$365

Sigma 35mm F1.4 ART DG HSM Lens for Canon

Sigma-35mm-F1.4 ART

Lenses are super expensive, and for the most part, you get what you pay for. However, Sigma’s 35mm F1.4 ART has proved to be a workhorse lens, and at half the price of the Canon version, it demonstrates a fantastic performance to price ratio.

It’s sharp, fast focusing and does a pretty good bokeh and has accompanied me to everything from the Tour Down Under to the One Hit Wonder Big Air.

Check out my first impressions of the Sigma 35mm F1.4 ART

Sigma 35mm F1.4 ART DG HSM Lens US$899 / AU$942

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital SLR Camera Body

Canon-EOS-5D-Mark-IV

On the extravagant side of the spectrum is the Canon 5d Mark IVCanon’s 5D series of cameras are workhorses for photographers the world over, and the Mark IV is the latest edition the range. Taking 30-megapixel images and a burst rate of 7fps is ideal for landscape and action photographers alike. It’s also got built-in Wifi, a touch screen, dual pixel focusing and majorly improved dynamic range.

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital SLR Camera Body US$3,599 / AU$4,788

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