Monday, November 26, 2007

Holiday Gifts for under 50 bucks

This is THAT time of year. Unlike the stores, I do not get into Christmas mode back in September. In fact, if it were up to me, I'd pass a law that said no x-mas songs, etc. until AFTER Thanksgiving (like it was in my youth). So, in the holiday spirit, I am encouraging you to go forth and spend money that you probably don't have.
You know, I'm as cheap as they come when it comes to buying things. However, there's cheap and there's frugal, so I am more likely to be frugal when possible. I always want to get a good deal AND not go to Wal-Mart, so therefore internet shopping is my mall. Unless you live in a cave somewhere, you also know that most photographic items are expensive -- Especially if they involve anything with a computer chip inside. Well, shoppers, I have put together a motley selection of gifts for the photographer. Not for me, mind you. I already have these things, and I'm trying to be helpful here. They are either Mark-tested or friend-tested, and therefore, not by a shill for some photographic magazine. These gifts are also not something you can buy at your local stores, so I will provide you with the appropriate web links.

First on my list for the good girls and boys is a film-based camera, the Diana +, from the crazy-ass folks at Lomography. I have not personally used this camera, but I have several friends on Flickr that have, and I say that even at $50, this camera could be one of the best things to have become available for toy camera shooters. An improved version of the old plastic Diana, it also has a PINHOLE mode. Wow! See one of Becky Pendel's shots made in that mode. You can buy the camera from The Lomographic Society, but you know, I prefer to shop at a place that isn't so crazy, so you can buy it at B&H Photo for the same price without the crazy navigation.

Second -- You like Nikons? You like T-shirts? Then try this one on, because you can't find another like it except at my Cafe Press store! Less than 12 bucks if you buy the cheapie one, which I find is just fine. There is also a ladies' version.
Classic Nikon F

Third -- A year's subscription to Lenswork magazine. Quite possibly the most interesting photography magazine out there. No equipment reviews or any such thing. Wonderful portfolios by people like you and me. I believe Stieglitz would be a subscriber to this one. You can even buy the entire 56 issues on CD if you are really feeling generous.

Fourth -- The Gorillapod by Joby. This funky bendable tripod can also be used to attach remote flashes to objects, so the small sizes would be perfect for that. Nothing smaller than the largest size for an SLR. For under 50 bucks, this is a great item for any photographer. Works well with the Diana+ above. You can find this item at most online photostores, and maybe your local store, too.

Fifth -- Okay, this one is really a bit over 50 dollars, but if you use a Windows-based OS on your computer, you should buy Paint Shop Prop Photo X2 from Corel. At about $60 for an upgrade, it has features that made me an instant fan, plus they have a promotion that ends up with you getting a $50 VISA gift card if you buy the full box version for $99. I like it so much, I just bought a PC in addition to my Mac so I can use this program for photo editing. I have been using Macs since they came out, so you know if there were a Mac version, I would be oh so happy...

Last -- If you want to make a film-using photographer happy, go thee to the Freestyle site and buy some things! This is my favorite place to go, and believe me, they cater to the photographic community.

Have fun, and remember don't drink and do online shopping.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Living with my Canon A570 IS

If you saw my earlier post about buying a new pocket P&S digicam, you'd know that I have had this camera for about a month and a half now. Any camera of the complexity of today's digicams has many features, and of course, a learning curve, as well as some time to get comfortable with a new toy. Having taken the Canon A570 along on several trips, as well as carrying it daily, I feel that I certainly made the right choice. I still like the optical viewfinder, and the menus are pretty easy to navigate, once accustomed to accessing them frequently to change settings. I have been shooting a fair amount of film lately, and having this camera along as a supplement to using various crappy cameras as well as good 35mm and medium format equipment gives me another creative tool. It also requires little space in my bag or pocket when I'm toting around a bunch of film cameras.

Dam Abstraction

The other half of the equation is the really nice Canon software. It is easy to use, puts new images in folders by date, and allows me to edit and do some simple things with the Canon software, or go into Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 as my editor. By the way, if one program can make me purchase a PC over a Mac, PSP X2 is it. I love its feature set, and it makes a lot of things a one-click option to accomplish... such as putting a border around an image. It's on my Dell Laptop, and I wish there was a Mac version to run on my Mac mini... which I just replaced the hard disk within. That was not as hard as I thought it would be, but I still ended up reinstalling the system and some applications. My old disk was fried, for sure -- but I did have all my apps and files backed up.

puffy cattails

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Flickr Friend Fun Weekend

Torontonians at the tracks
Originally uploaded by mfophotos.

It was quite a while back that I encountered Barb Dingwall (highwaygirl67) on Flickr. Her photos are of course, interesting and sometimes a bit mind-bending, but always done with purpose and I believe with some of that renowned Canadian sense of humor. Last month I mentioned to her on Flickr that she should paw through the camera remainders in my garage if she ever got out of Toronto and came through Ann Arbor. Well, it so turns out that she was ready for a break from Canada, and she and her friend Petra arrived in Ann Arbor Friday evening.

They stayed close-by, and walked over to my house Saturday morning, whereupon I drove us to Ypsilanti for some shooting. I chose Ypsi first, as it's a delightful place to walk around in the Depot Town area, and there are lots of interesting photographic opportunities in a small area.
sunburst chairs
After shooting in Ypsi, we went back into Ann Arbor, and had lunch at Grizzly Peak (Petra's excellent suggestion), and then did some photo-exploring downtown and over the other side of Main St. into the Ashley/Miller area. We dropped in on Ross Orr (voxphoto), and he joined up with us a little later and led us through some interesting parts of Island Park.

Later in the evening, Ross joined us for dinner at my place. I had a devious plan to ply Barb with wine so she would take back a bunch of cameras to Canada, and not realize just how many she was taking! It worked well, as I think I filled a shopping bag for her.

Sunday was time to return to Standard Time, which was good, as I needed that extra hour of sleep. Barb and Petra drove over and we went to Matthaei Botanical Gardens. It was Adrienne's weekend to work, so it was nice to see my wife's handiwork with the beautiful mum display and tell her while she was there how great it is. Afterwards, the three of us headed over for coffee and food at the Moonwink Cafe in Dixboro Rd. right next to the Dixboro School, another fun place to shoot. Then, it was off to Parker Mill, and after that, Dexter, where we visited some of my favorite spots to photograph. Barb and Petra left for Toronto right after we returned to Ann Arbor, and I hope they enjoyed some of the places that we visited. The two of them were great companions and we certainly had some good laughs.
Door 3
What I really enjoyed was meeting the person behind the Flickr avatar, and Barb was every bit as interesting as I thought she would be. She is a thoughtful, funny, and knowledgeable photographer, and I hope to get over to Toronto sometime so she can return the favor of being a guide and shooting buddy.

Nice Nettar User