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GonGear

Welcome to my 10th Annual Gonzo Holiday Gear Guide. I know it’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years. When I wrote the first one, Roosevelt was still President, The Dick Van Dyke Show was a prime-time hit, and the Spice Girls had just released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (please don’t dwell too long on any of that—just let it go). Anyway, that’s not important; what’s important is that there are some really cool, fun, and tasty gear in this year’s guide (including my throwback pick—the Flowbee). It’s almost time to unleash the “gonzoness” of this guide upon you, but first, some housekeeping stuff.

As is my sacred Gonzo tradition for more than a 10th of a century, I’m breaking things into three distinct categories:

  1. Stocking Stuffers: But you can use these as actual holiday gifts if you’re not that crazy about the person.
  1. Great Value Gear: Stuff that’s a really good deal for the money, and even though it’s not a lot of money, they’ll still totally dig it.
  1. Cha-ching! Stuff you buy for the surgeon/Wall Street banker/rap mogul on your Holiday gift list. This is the stuff that makes them burst into spontaneous tears of joy. Well, at least I would.

THE RULES
These are my annually self-imposed guidelines for which products make it into the guide. It’s just two rules actually. First, to be listed here, they have to be products that I use myself, and that I absolutely love, and now can’t live without (well, I could live without them, but I just wouldn’t want to). Second, if a product makes the guide, it has to be one I’d recommend to a close friend without hesitation, especially if my friend was Justin Bieber.

Okay, folks, hang on to any loose body parts; here we go!

 

STOCKING STUFFERS

Yong Nuo Trigger

YONGNUO YN-560TX Wireless Flash Trigger
If the photographer on your gift list has a YONGNUO flash, this is an inexpensive wireless controller that sits on top of their hot-shoe and controls up to six groups of flashes. It’s simple, it’s effective, and it’s cheap at less than $45. If they don’t have a YONGNUO flash, then it becomes a unique tree ornament.

Prices:

YN560 TX (for Canon): $44.95 (link)

YN560 TX (for Nikon): $39.99 (link)


 

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Lastolite Ezybalance 12″ 18% Grey/White Target
If they shoot people…(let me rephrase that). If they take portraits, this is an awesome gift because it helps them get the white balance right on the money. It’s super portable (it collapses like a diffuser or reflector so it’s really small and fits in any camera bag), super lightweight, and pretty cheap.

Price: $32.88


 

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Tether Tools RapidMount SLX Speedlight Holder
Okay, so technically it’s for mounting a flash just about anywhere, but it’s really for mounting just about anything anywhere. So clever, and very affordable.

Price: $24.95


 

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Some Cool Books
If they’ve ever wanted to create really professional-looking headshots, they’ll love Peter Hurley’s The Headshot. It came out this year and it’s already going into its third printing. A huge hit! (Full disclosure: I was the development editor, and despite that—it’s still a good book.)

Every photographer and/or graphic designer/illustrator needs Ed Greenberg and Jack Reznicki’s The Copyright Zone book. It’s full of invaluable information for protecting your work, and lots of great business advice, as well. Good stuff.

Our dear friend Glyn Dewis wrote quite an awesome book this year. It’s called The Photoshop Workbook and it’s packed with great techniques for intermediate users and up.

If you have a few extra bucks to spend, check out Jay Maisel’s It’s Not About the F-Stop and Light, Gesture & Color. Both brilliant books (from us and Peachpit Press).

 


 

 

GREAT VALUE GEAR

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Perfectly Clear Plug-in 2.0
This plug-in is pretty much your “retoucher-in-a-box” type of plug-in (for Lightroom or Photoshop) in that it applies up to 20 automatic image corrections. Yes, there are other plug-ins that do automatic corrections and retouching, but this is probably the best I’ve ever seen. Good stuff.
Price:
Photoshop or Lightroom Plug-In v2: $149
Photoshop and Lightroom Bundle v2: $199


 

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The Everyday Messenger by Trey Ratcliff and Peak Design
This awesome little camera bag/messenger bag was co-designed by travel photographer Trey Ratcliff, and funded through a Kickstarter program that raised more than $500,000 its first day (raising nearly $5 million total), and when I got mine, I saw exactly why. It’s beautifully made, thoughtfully constructed, very clever, holds a little or a lot (and cleverly adjusts for both), and overall it’s just an awesome camera bag that the photographer on your gift list will love you for.

Price: $249.95


 

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Platypod Pro Deluxe Kit
This is a very slick, small, lightweight camera support that you use in place of a tripod (you just put a ballhead on this incredibly sturdy plate and you’re good to go). Its small size lets you use it in places where tripods aren’t allowed, which is a big thing. I love it for doing interior photography with a wide-angle lens down low, or travel photography for getting a really low perspective in a cathedral or palace, but I’m also using it for remote cameras at sporting events. It also has a very well thought-out carrying case.

Price: $49.95


 

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CamRanger: Wireless Camera Control & Tethering
This is one of the most useful, smart, and just brilliantly designed things to come along for photographers in a while. It lets you wirelessly control your Canon or Nikon camera for everything from tethering (with touch focus) to time-lapse photography, to making movies, and more with your iPhone or iPad, Android-based mobile device, and even your Mac or Windows desktop computer, and the level of control you get is pretty astonishing. You can view images, save images (RAW and JPEG), adjust the controls all wirelessly, change metering modes, do bracketing—it’s just sick! It’s won about every industry award you can win and its fan base of evangelists around the world grows larger every day.

Price: $299.99


 

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Tether Table Aero System
This is a shelf that attaches to a tripod to hold your laptop for tethered shooting, which by itself is incredibly convenient for shooting in-studio or on location, but the optional accessories they make for it are awesome, including a little under-mounted holder for external hard drives, to a secondary holder for your iPad, to a pullout drink holder that I personally just love. It’s totally worth it.

Price: Starting at $175.95


 

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Westcott Apollo 50″ Mega JS Softbox for Hot-shoe Flash
It’s a big, beautiful, super portable, lightweight softbox that’s a miracle for the money. Perfect for lighting portraits, full-length shots, or even group shots, all with just a single flash. It collapses like an umbrella but forms into a big ol’ 50×50″ softbox, and at $169.90 you can’t beat it.

Price: $169.90


 

DxO ONE iPhone APri

DxO ONE
If you have an iPhoneographer on your Holiday list, this gift will blow them away. It’s a pro-quality 20-megapixel camera lens and sensor that attaches to your iPhone via a lightning connector, and the results are pretty stunning. With its f/1.8 aperture, now you can take shots with those soft out-of-focus backgrounds right from your iPhone, but it integrates directly into your iPhone so you can still do all the iPhone stuff to the images it captures. The images are sharper, clearer, better in low light than your iPhone, and well, it’s basically a whole new experience in quality and size.

Price: $599


 

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Vello Shutterboss Version II Timer Remote Switch
This is so inexpensive that it probably should go under “Stocking Stuffers,” but it doesn’t look cheap, so I’m sticking it here. This accessory does double-duty—it acts as a cable release for your camera, but then it also does time-lapse photography (well, that’s actually its main act). It’s pretty well made (mine has lasted for years now), and it’s only $49.95 at B&H.

Price: $49.95


 

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Use MPIX to Print, Mount, Frame, and Deliver One of Your Own Images
This is a really personal gift—giving one of your images, framed, to someone else. The impact this will make is pretty incredible. Expect them to follow you around like a puppy for the rest of the year for giving them something only you could do. You upload your image to MPIX.com; pick your mounting, framing, etc.; and they’ll ship it directly to the person on your gift list. Don’t go chinchy on the size—get a 16×20″ or larger (figure around $100 with mounting, framing, printing, and delivery or more if you choose a larger size).

Price: Depends on size, mounting, and framing you choose


 

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The B&H Photo Gift Card
Not exactly sure what to get them? Get them this! That way they can get whatever they want (within the limit of how much you put on the card, of course) from the greatest photo store on earth. You can order gift cards directly from the B&H site. They’ll send a card and a catalog so it looks pretty substantial.

Price: That’s up to you


 

CA-CHING!

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A Fisheye Lens
I’m just saying a fisheye, because you have to pick one that fits the camera make and style (crop sensor or full frame) that the photographer on your Holiday gift list uses, but whichever brand you wind up getting, they’ll super-dig this special-effect lens.

I use the Canon EF 8–15mm f/4L Fisheye USM zoom (for full-frame cameras), and it’s awesome! ($1,249).

For crop-sensor bodies, a lot of folks like the Sigma 15mm f/2.8 EX DG Diagonal Fisheye (around $600).

Nikon makes an AF Fisheye-NIKKOR 16mm f/2.8 for full-frame cameras that’s right around $1,000.

Their AF DX Fisheye-NIKKOR 10.5mm f/2.8 for cropped sensor DX bodies is around $771.

Price: Starting around $600 and on up.


 

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Elinchrom ELB 400 Battery Pack
If you want the photographer on your list to fall in love with you with a burning passion that knows no bounds, get them this awesome little battery pack that can use two small lightweight (but very powerful) flash heads. This is what I use when I want studio-quality light on location, and this latest version is better than ever. It has its own built-in (better) version of high-speed sync for freezing motion and strobe special effects that’s just awesome. Very lightweight battery back, well designed, and incredible for the money.
Price: $1,019 (without optional Lithium-ion battery or strobes)


 

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Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Ultra-Wide-Angle Zoom Lens
This is the greatest super-wide-angle lens I’ve ever used, and I believe it’s the widest wide-angle lens ever made without becoming a fisheye lens. It’s sharp as a tack, it’s a rectilinear lens so it minimizes distortion, and the images you’re able to capture with it are just stunning. It’s just so darn wide! I love it! Of course, this much love doesn’t come in a cheap package. It’s around $3,000 but for the greatest wide-angle ever made, it’s worth it.

Price: $2,999


 

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DJI Phantom 3 Standard Flying Camera
Everybody wants a drone copter for taking aerial shots these days. Everybody! It’s “a thing.” I know I included a copter in my list last year, but however popular they were last year, it’s pretty much quadrupled for this year, so I had to include one. It’s a really fun thing, and the DJI Standard is, well, it’s the standard! (Note: If you give this to someone, prepare to receive the same reaction a dog gives his owner when he returns home: They’ll jump up on you and lick your face. Just sayin’.)

Price: $699


 

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Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 Professional Inkjet Printer
We have one of these in our offices, and it’s among the best printers Canon’s ever made. It’s a 17″ wide-format pro-quality printer with all new guts (print head, new inks, new technology, new special magic, etc.) to make prints that are just unbelievable in quality, sharpness, and vibrance. They’ll not even believe you bought them a printer. It will totally freak them out (in a good way).

Price: $1,299


 

COOL STUFF FROM US

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A One-Year KelbyOne Online Training Membership
How awesome would this be? (Mighty awesome!) They’ll think of you for a full year as they’re learning cool new stuff. From lighting to landscapes, weddings to travel photography, portraits to pet photography, there are more than 500 in-depth online training classes here (including lots of classes from me). They’ll love you (I’ll love you). It’s only $199 for a full year of unlimited access. Feel the love.

Price: $199/year 


 

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Get Them a Ticket to My Live Full-Day Seminar
I’d love to see the awesome photographer on your gift list in person at my live full-day photography (and Lightroom and Photoshop) seminar. I’m heading all over here in the U.S., and I even pop over to Canada and the U.K. You can see a list of cities over at www.kelbyone.com/live. They’ll super-dig it, and you’ll be a hero.

Price: $99


 

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Treat Them to Photoshop World Las Vegas
It’s a three-day photography, Photoshop, Adobe CC, video, and Lightroom lovefest coming this summer (July 19–21, 2016), and you can send your loved one (or hope-to-be-loved-back one) for an experience they’ll never forget. They’ll learn more in three days than they have in three years, and they’ll have you to thank. Plus, if you buy their full conference pass now, you’ll save a bundle.


 

Well, there ya have it folks. Remember, it’s not how many gifts you get. It’s about how many gifts you get me! ;-)

Hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving Week!

-Scott

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Last night, as I was sitting on the couch watching an inspiring Thursday night NFL game between the Jaguars and Titans, I was somehow moved to create another entry in my on-going series of “De-Motivational” Posters, so I created the one you see here above.

In the spirit of demotivationalalcsioucness , I thought today that I would share not only my latest poster entry, but a few of my favorites from earlier in the series (below), to help get your weekend off to a lackluster start.

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Well my friends, there you have it. It’s a masterful combination of bad timing and poor focusing skills that have come together to create football magic that I’m decidedly ambivalent about sharing here with you today.

Here’s wishing you an in-focus, unobstructed, sharp-as-a-tack weekend! :)

Best,

-Scott

1_KayleeGreer
Photo by Jen Coffin

You know those ’Top 5 Tips to be a Successful Photographer’ type of articles that you see come through your newsfeed and you cringe and say ‘Oh man!…not again!!’?

Well, this is one of those lists. :P

I know, I know. you’ve read this article like a thousand times before.. right?! Well, guess what’s cooler about this particular article? This one’s got SIX tips. :P But seriously, if you stick with me through this stuff, I can promise you that it’s not going to be one of those blog posts that tell you in order to be a successful photographer you need to carry your business cards at all times, market like there’s no tomorrow, and learn your camera settings (all really good tips, to be fair). However, we are going to go on a much bigger adventure than that. :)

So here’s the deal! I’m going to pepper this stuff with cute puppy photos throughout because even if it’s not directly related to cute puppies – an adorable canine here and there can never, ever hurt. right? And I’m not above cute puppy bribery, right? (right!) And for those of you who just want to scroll through the pictures, you can walk away assuming that this post was about how to take an expert look at cute puppy photos and I’d be totally okay with that.

Let me just take a very quick moment to share with you exactly why I’m feeling inspired to share these following 6 tips. I just recently spent one of the most incredible weeks of my life down in Tampa, Florida. Alongside some of the most amazing, inspiring, and impossibly talented people that I have ever had the privilege to join creative forces with, I filmed my class on dog photography for KelbyOne. (you guys!!! I am so excited for you to see it! GAHH!) Being in the presence of other like- minded artists all on their very own amazing, creative journeys reminded me of how grateful I am to be on this particular adventure of mine. I want to share with you a little bit about my journey, and let you in on the 6 tips that I would give that might just be integral to becoming a successful photographer.

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As for me, I’ve always been a bit of a dreamer. I’ve always lived just a little bit on the edge of society – thinking up fairytales and big adventures and ignoring the status quo. I like to sleep late and I hate to plan. I like to watch the way the world unfolds around me when I just let go. I’ve always figured that life is for living, right? We’re given these beautiful, bright red beating hearts and these vessels of bone and flesh, and it’s all like one big, gorgeous poem. Everything works together, ticking in perfect synchronization to keep us alive — to keep our synapses firing and our eyes wide open. I think it’s unbelievable. And I’ve always thought – I might as well go discover the world while I still have these two feet underneath my body that are capable of carrying me across any kind of terrain, right?

This was the kind of outlandish thinking that brought me to where I am today. I am humbled and wildly grateful to say that I live my dream through a camera lens each and every day. Of all the things in this world that one could possibly be, I am a professional dog photographer. But it wasn’t just a simple, seamless jump that got me here. Oh no, it’s been a very, very big adventure. I’ve had to carve my own way. Because, while I didn’t know much when I first started, the one thing I did know was that nobody was going to get out of their warm bed and carve it for me.

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If you’re reading this blog, it’s highly likely that you are a photographer or are interested in delving into photography. That means you are an artist. You have the heart and mind of an artist. And that is a rare blessing – a gift – that you’ve been given. You see the world in a different way from the masses. And if you use that gift – if you apply that special sight that you’ve been blessed with – in the all the right ways , you have the potential to go on a journey that takes you to places you never even thought possible. This I promise you, take it from me.

Just 5 years ago I was a terribly lost soul – I had graduated college with honors and big, big aspirations. I applied to a gazillion (<— technical number) different companies on a gazillion different kinds of resume paper. When most of those avenues fizzled out, I found myself working a ‘make-ends-meet’ type of job that squashed every fiber of creativity and soul that I had. Leaving my workplace in tears started to become commonplace, and I fell into a state of near depression knowing full well that I was wasting valuable time while not using my gifts to their full potential.

One afternoon, I was driving home from that particular job – tires splashing across wet pavement beneath me – and I made a decision. I was going to take the next step towards finding my purpose. At the time, I had absolutely no idea how much that decision would change my life.

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Since that moment 5 years ago, I have photographed thousands of dog photo sessions, traveled the world teaching photography workshops, worked on life changing international animal rescue missions, shot national commercial ad campaigns for some of the biggest names in the pet industry, have seen my work on greeting cards and in calendars and am now impossibly grateful to be standing alongside some of my biggest idols and inspirations as an instructor for KelbyOne.

(It’s actually really hard for me to say those things above. And I’ve rewritten and deleted that paragraph above about 12 times because I feel like such an egotistical megajerk touting these achievements. But, ultimately, I think it’s important to say, ‘Hey, this is my true story.’ I’m living proof that with the right amount of passion, heart and hard work – these are the kinds of things that can happen. If I – just one red headed girl who started with nothing but a camera and a dream – can pull this off, then you can too.)

So, all of that being said, I want to share these following 6 tips. To me, these are the 6 things that have had the impossible ability to change my career, and ultimately, my life. I hope that sharing this wisdom might bring some magic to your journey as well.
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Every year the Walk Leader competition is one of the hardest to judge because there are so many great entries from talented leaders all over the world. We’re still having one winner (of course), but we’re expanding our finalists from three to ten this year, each of whom will receive a Speed Freak Belt Pack, from Think Tank Photo in addition to their 1-Year KelbyOne Membership.

I present our 10 Walk Leader Competition finalists (in no particular order):

Colin

Leader / Photographer: Colin Spencer
Photo Walk:
 Javea, Comunidad, Valenciana Spain Old Town

Michol

Leader / Photographer: Michol Sanchez
Photo Walk:
Pasil, Cebu City, Philippines

Jodi

Leader / Photographer: Jodi Jahling
Photo Walk:
 Greeley, Colorado, USA

erax

Leader / Photographer: Michael Goh
Photo Walk:
 Pinnacles Western Australia

Balsar

Leader / Photographer: Clint Balsar
Photo Walk:
 Davenport, Iowa

Phil

Leader / Photographer: Phil Austin
Photo Walk:
 Rockhampton, QLD Australia

Mo

Leader / Photographer: Mohammed Safar
Photo Walk:
 Tripoli, Libya

Jeremy

Leader / Photographer: Jeremy Sandel
Photo Walk:
 Baliuag, Philippines

Lindie

Leader / Photographer: Lindie Allen
Photo Walk: Ermelo, GE Netherlands

Claire

Leader / Photographer: Claire Binder
Photo Walk: Geneva, Switzerland 

 

AND NOW…FOR THE 2015 LEADER COMPETITION WINNER!
When the images are this good, any one of these above easily could have been chosen as the winning image, but I could only pick one, and I think it’s an awesome image, so please join in congratulating our 2015 Walk Leader Competition Winner:

Clee

Leader / Photographer: Clee Villasor
Photo Walk: Dumaguete, Central Visayas, Philippines Public Market

Comment: What really captured me about this image was the reflected light on his face; the colors on the wall behind him, and the subtlety of the light in general. Such a great mood to this shot — really intriguing and a perfectly composed image. Really nice work all the way around. 

Clee will receive a Canon PIXMA PRO-1 Printer, a Photo Retrospective 50 Camera Shoulder Bag, from Think Tank Photo in addition to a 1-Year KelbyOne Membership for winning this year’s Leader Competition.

Congratulations to all the Photo Walk Leaders Competition finalists and our winner!

All my best,

-Scott

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Astro James Lugo, from the Cebu City, Central Visayas- Philippines Photo Walk, who actually received the most votes for his image (above).

We had incorrectly identified the “People’s Choice Award Winner” yesterday as an image from a London, UK walk, and the error was totally 100% ours (just one of the many missteps we’ve had this year – more on all that soon), and of course, we feel terrible for both parties: Nicolas who took a great image and was announced as the winner, and Astro who was the actual winner this year, so we’re going to present prizes to both photographers (instead of just one), but the official People’s Choice Award for 2015 is Astro’s image seen above.

As you might imagine, we’re terribly upset about how this all played out, and my humble apologies to Astro James Lugo Lugo for the mix-up on our part, and to Nicolas as well. At the same time I want to offer my hearty congratulations to Astro for his wonderful capture — one that was chosen 2015 People’s Choice Award by photo walkers around the world. Well done, Sir.

All my best,

-Scott

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…Nicolas, from the London, United Kingdom (outside Natwest bank) Photo Walk, who received the most votes for his image (above) titled “London is watching you.”

My congratulations to Nicolas for capturing such an intriguing image, and also a big thanks to everybody who participated in the official “People’s Choice” voting this year. :-)

Lot of great images again this year, and we still have the Leader’s competition coming. :)

Hope you all have a great weekend (I’m shooting the Bucs/Cowboys game on Sunday, and then I’m off to Philadelphia for my seminar there on Monday. Hope I’ll meet you there!).

Best,

-Scott

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