Holiday Gift Guide 2016 – Part 5 : The Light Modifiers

It’s a constant search for the Holy grail of the best light modifier. We’ll just talk about the speedlight range here.

Since not a whole lot new has come on the market since last year, that should adjust your thinking. I’m sure you’ll want to try at least one of these units, and perhaps add them to your wish list.

Except this cool tool, from Lastolite – The EzyBounce.
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What’s cool about this is the size and ease of use. It’s a 6 panel white reflector, with hinges at each of the panels, that are stiff enough at those points to stay where you configure it. My hope is that it stays as stiff as it is now, after continual use.
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Connecting to your speed light by a heavy duty rubber strap, with holes and pegs to keep it tight on the light.

And when you are done, it folds flat, and easy to stash.

For only $30, you really need this in your bag.

Next up is a new addition to the bag for the last year, MagMods MagSphere.

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It does get you into a system of magnets, set in silicone, holding modifiers, and does a great job of it. The light is soft and beautiful, and they have come up with a whole line-up of tools, to expand your creativity.

Simple, and it pops on your speedlight for an overall soft spread of light. I will admit that sometimes picking it out of my bag, some other metal things want to come with it, due to the magnets, can’t avoid that.

About $50

Next up is one of my all time favorite mods to give me that Ring Light look. The RoundFlash . This thing packs small, pops open easy, is lightweight, and most importantly, does the job. Pop it open, put your speedlight into the hot shoe, poke the speedlight head thought the top port on the back of the unit and you are good to go.

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Only $113. Yes, there are imitations, like a lot of stuff, but get the original, you’ll be happy you did.

here is a sample shot from Comic-Con 2016, using the RoundFlash, and a Nikon D810, 24-70 2.8 lens

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More gift ideas to come……

Real World Review : i1 Filmmaker Kit – Get Your Color Right!

Oh, sure, you can buy the right cameras, lenses, microphones, grippage, etc., for your video productions
Then you get into post.
Make sure that the video files you are ingesting have been treated to the standards of the industry, from the time you start shooting, to your editing workflow.
You know what they say: GIGO (garbage in, garbage out). How do you make sure that your imaging files are looking right from the beginning?
Pretty simple, actually
The folks at X-Rite ,familiar to you all as making a great color portable color chart for your stills, have come out with a great kit for your video needs, the i1 Filmmaker Kit. With a video color chart and a monitor calibration tool, this needs to be part of your workflow.
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First of all you should get in the habit of shooting a color chart at the start of all of your shoots.
This Color Checker Passport Video tool, is a portable, easy to pack chart.
Just take a shot of it, with the main lighting of your scene, and you will be able to start from a right place when you begin to edit.
Having a standard to start from, makes your creative choices true choices, and not fixes.

Then you get into the monitors you’ll be working with. As a point of fact, even with high-end monitors, they shift in color.
To say nothing of the light in the room you are working in. Yep, changing ambient light will affect how you are seeing the video.

What you should do first, and on an ongoing basis, is correct your monitors.
X-Rite has made tools, and software that make it super easy.
The i1 Display Pro is a calibration device that easily hangs over your monitor, and when you start the software, it will lead you by the hand in making sure your monitors are showing a true color.
Here is a great overview on why you should calibrate:

So, here’s all you do to calibrate your monitor
install the software
Plug in the USB Display Pro
Adjust the counterweight so the device hangs over the monitor flat, and start the software. It will cycle through all of the colors and tones, and calibrating them to a standard you can choose.
It will then show you a before and after, so it’ll be clear what has been adjusted.
Plus it will schedule your next calibration. Just a good thing to make part of your workflow.

And that’s it.
Simple, right?

I know it’s not the sexy new lens, or trick new bag, or perfect mounting gear.
It may seem like putting a new roof of your house: you need it, but you only see it when you go outside.
Here, you’ll see it inside and when you get your video workflow on point.

I’ve used this type of product for my stills that matter, for years, and this is the perfect tool for the worker.

I have to tell you that I just replaced my monitors. After 8 years of hard work, they died within a week of each other. The biggest color revelation for me was when the new monitor  was placed next to the old. Holy moly, what an extreme difference! This just illustrated to me how much we (I) don’t realize when our monitors are out of whack.

Cost is about $300, but the amount of time your will save in your workflow is well worth it.

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Holiday Gift Guide Part 4: Black Friday Best Deals

There may be supposed “doorbusters” on Black Friday & Cyber Monday, with special pricing, but on high ticket items it’s usually last years model.
What you should look for are deals on Media Cards, software, and batteries. I always stock up on that day.
Of course, the majors photo dealers will all have some kind of deal, like BH, Hunts, Adorama, Samys, and Midwest Photo. I’ll add the links as soon as I get them on Friday to help you shop fast. If there are new deals , I’ll add them here as well, or simply post to twitter.com, and FB.
The folks at Resource gathered up some links for your BF pleasure here.
Of course, it could be a good time for your year end purchases.

So, what to add to your wish list, and maybe share with someone who may be gifting you?
Maybe you have a high frame rate camera, but if you don’t have fast card, it won’t matter. Read/Write speed on a camera is only as good as the media card you put in.
In other words, when get that burst off of that incredible soccer play, you may have to wait for the camera to write the info to the card, and you may miss the next great play.
The super fast cards from Lexar are the way to go.
Incredibly reliable, the 2000x speed on these SD cards (Max. Read Speed: 300 MB/s Max. Write Speed: 260 MB/s) is the way to go.Comes with a special high speed reader, and of course it’s backwards compatible.
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And now it seems that the CFast format (Max. Read Speed: 525 MB/s Max. Write Speeds: 445 MB/s) is catching on in the video world. 4K takes a speedy card, so check out the Lexar 64GB Professional 3500x CFast 2.0

While you are at it, pick up the Lexar Hub System with all the modules you’ll need to read all of your media cards, AND back it all up at the same time. Brilliant! (here is a review)

Have you been aching to do some timelapse? Syrp gear has sweet cyber weekend deals. Used these on a few commercials, and it was perfect.

Want to improve your workflow? Get some real tools for the pro, by X-Rite. I always have the color chart with me. Especially for video.
And after having 2x 8 year old monitors die within a week of each other, when I replaced one, i saw how discolored the other was. Calibrate your monitors!

Speaking of monitors, Dell has some great deals today
Is analog you deal?
Lomography has their own Black Friday sale!

On the software front:
Adobe Cloud CC for Lightroom and Photoshop Get this for $10 a month.
And you can get the entire Creative Cloud for $40 a month, including all of your video needs.20 + deskyop and mobile apps, plus a portfolio website, and 20GB of cloud storage. Black Friday is 20% off and available now!
PhotoMechanic for asset editing

There are a few more sweet programs, but honestly, I can’t recco till I’ve spent some time with them. Above software is tried and true.

On the battery front, what you want to look for are not just camera batteries, but the batteries for your phone and tablet on the go.
With the intensive amount of mobile apps, wi-fi controlling and transfer of your cameras imagines, you will run down the device battery in no-time. I think every camera company has an app, and i may have 20 photo-editing apps on my phone.
All well and good, but just power drains.
The recco is for a 10,000mAh minimum with a 2.4 and 1. volt, like this: PNY AD10400 10400mAh 1A/2.4A PowerPack-Portable Rechargeable Battery Charger
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There will be lots of deals on this kind of battery, just make sure it’s a reputable brand.

One other item I usually stock up on is storage. Could be a good time to back up all of your materials. An extra copy of all offsite is a good way to go. So RAID drives, NAS, and just hard drives to back it up, before you run the risk of losing it.
Plus you can find great deals on flash drives, which are great to make a pocketable back-up of your projects, as you work.

More to come!

Holiday Gift Guide Part 3: The Video Gear

Is your video game up to snuff?
Whether it’s 4K, or just HD, there are so many ways to go, and tools to use.
Here is a short list of some things that you may want to find under the tree.

If you are going the DSLR or Mirrorless route, I have one word for you: Atomos!
All of things you wish your camera had: larger screen, touch screen, scopes, Zebra focus, long record times, extended battery life, and more, are all available on the full range of Atomos products.
As you take the primary HDMI feed out of your cameras sensor, these monitor/recorders are a must have.
In a couple of sizes, and capabilities, you can add 4K recording to your camera with ease.
Starting with a Ninja Blade for about $500, you can go up to about $2000, for a 7″, 4K monitor recorder

These are units you may want to add to any camera you may have. I use em with a Nikon D810, Fuji X-T@, BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera, and will be adding to my camcorders, when needed.

Lets talk viewfinders. When you are not using a monitor, you really need to see the screen up close. Like any other video camera. Here are 2 great choices.
I think the main ones that may be on your shopping list are the Hoodman $200.
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and the Zacuto Z-Finder Pro 3.0x $300.
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Are you using the ultra compact, high quality, BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera? This rig from RedRock Micro,The RetroFlex, is the way to go.
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A bit Retro in the design, but incredibly well built. The Viewfinder is magnetic and snaps beautifully into place on the solid cage.
Check into the full range of RedRock Micro products for all of your camera rigs.

On lighting you have a myriad of choices.
Litepanel is the standard. The costs have dropped in recent years, and these are a great choice.. Even if you just get a mini for an On-Board light, these are the lights you want. Stick with the pros and you’ll have good quality builds and color temps that will be consistent and make your post workflow easier.

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Tired of building your rig whenever you get to a gig or, move around within a venue?
ThinkTank photo has a new line of video bags which allow you to keep your rig fully built, or primarily built, and safe in transport.
This one, Video Workhorse 21, is the right size for me, but measure out your gear for the right size and style for you.

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For your audio monitoring, the best bet out there (other than your earbuds because they are in you pocket!) and surprisingly one of the most affordable, is the Sony MDRV6 Studio Monitor Headphones. Under $100, they are flat, and perfect fro monitoring your recordings. And by flat, it means they add no highs or lows to your monitoring sound, so you get a true sound.
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Of course you all know that off-camera audio is the way to go.
I’d recco a shotgun and a lav mic, but it is a subjective call. I still use an older A-T shotgun, and a Tr-50 lav., plus a Sennheiser radio system for the wireless mic.
Your mileage may vary.

One item I think should be in every videographers toolkit is the Manfrotto MVM500A Fluid Aluminum Video Monopod with 500 Series Head. Seriously, it is a tool you will use more than you think. Documentary, street, nature, this monopod with a fluid head AND fluid support legs will smooth out your shots,and packs right. Only about $270
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I will just say one thing about drones. A great hobby, but be judicious in the use of the footage in your videos. A right tool for a right job. On the new category of portables, DJI Mavic Pro just beat out the GoPro, and Go Pro is now stopping delivery to fix some issues.
Here is some hot of the presses video with the Mavic from Vince Laforet:

Be aware and do your research. We all have at least one GoPro in the kit, but they missed the mark on their first foray into drones.

I think this is just part one of the video gift guide, as we will be adding software and other workflow tools coming up.
and will share those shortly.

Holiday Gift Guide Part 2 : So Many Bags…

Camera bags are pretty personal, so you may want to pick one for a wish list.
However, here are some good choices to look at.

My top pick across the entire line is ThinkTankPhoto. Designed by working pros, this brand has everything you need, and built to last.
From the Airport International, to the Street Walker, City Walker, and the new line of video bags, any product you get here, will be top-notch and just work.
Airport International
I could stop, but I won’t.

There are some new contenders that are crushing it in certain areas.
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The Peak Design Sling, is a perfect choice for a walk around street photographer, and the price is real right. Reviewed here.

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Tenba makes a messenger bag, with a design that makes it a daily worker not only for cameras, but a full working bag your daily job use.

If a hard case is your need, because of checking bags, or needing a stool, there are some new options.
One, is the classic Pelican case is now available in a 40% lighter version, Pelican Air.Buy it with the TrekPak system. Don’t think you would be disappointed.
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Put my hands on it, and it’s true. Hoisting it full of gear into an overhead will def cause less grunts from the weight.
What I’m most interested in seeing is a collaboration between SKB and ThinkTank Photo:
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Combine a hard case, fitted with quality camera backpack, and you can fly with confidence, and when you get to your hotel, take out the backpack built out with your gear, and you’re ready to roll.

Like so much gear, you use the right bag for the right job. Any of the bags on this list will be a welcome addition to any photographers shooting life.

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Upcoming Events

  • CES
  • Jan. 5th-8th, 2017
  • LVCC, Las Vegas,Nevada
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  • Feb. 5th-9th, 2017
  • Las Vegas Convention Center

Is there an event we should know about?
Let us know on twitter.

Current Exhibitions

  • Met Breuer
  • Diane Arbus-In The Beginning
  • July 12th – November 27th, 2016
  • 945 Madison Avenue
  • New York, NY 10021
  • Phone: 212.731.1675
  • Whitney Museum
  • HUMAN INTEREST:
    PORTRAITS FROM THE WHITNEY’S COLLECTION
  • APR 27, 2016–FEB 12, 2017
  • 99 Gansevoort Street
  • New York, NY 10014
  • Tel: 212.570.3600
  • Getty Center
  • Richard Learoyd: In the Studio
  • August 30 – November 27, 2016
  • 1200 Getty Center Drive
  • Los Angeles, CA. 90049
  • Tel: 310-440-7300
  • Museum of Modern Art
  • Nan Goldin
  • May 26 – Feb 12, 2017
  • 11 West 53 Street
  • New York,NY 10001
  • Tel:212-708-9400
  • Yossi Milo Gallery
  • Matthew Brandt-River and Sky
  • November 3–January 21, 2017
  • 245 Tenth Avenue
  • New York,NY 10001
  • Tel: 212-414-0370
  • Howard Greenberg Gallery
  • EDWARD BURTYNSKY: ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS (1981 – 2012) AND SALT PANS (2016)
  • NOVEMBER 4 – DECEMBER 31, 2016
  • 41 East 57th Street, Suite 1406
  • New York,NY 10022
  • Tel: 212-334-0100
  • Peter Fetterman Gallery
  • UNSEEN: Silhouettes and Shadows
  • December 10, 2016 – February 25, 2017
  • 2525 Michigan Avenue Gallery A1
  • Santa Monica, CA
  • 90404
  • Phone: 310.453.6463

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