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"Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph." – Matt Hardy

  

"I think a photography class should be a requirement in all educational programs because it makes you see the world rather than just look at it."  -  Author Unknown

 

"A man’s heart away from nature becomes hard; lack of respect for growing, living things soon leads to a lack of respect for humans too."  – Luther Standing Bear

 

"Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow."Imogen Cunningham

 

"Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter."  - Ansel Adams

 

"When you follow your bliss….doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors; and where there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else."  - Joseph Campbell

 

"You can outdistance that which is running after you, but not what is running inside you." – Rwandan Proverb

 

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

"Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."  -  Pablo Picasso

 

"We have been taught to believe that negative equals realistic and positive equals unrealistic."  -  Susan Jeffers

 

"Always leave enough time in your life to do something that makes you happy, satisfied, even joyous.  That has more of an effect on economic well-being than any other single factor."  -  Paul Hawken

 

"Satisfaction of one's curiosity is one of the greatest sources of happiness in life."  -  Linus Pauling

Tuesday
Nov142017

2017 Holiday Buying Guide

The Holidays are just around the corner and so is decision-time for what to buy that photographer in your life.  Here at Natural Connections Photo Workshops, we get a lot of questions and requests for information on items to purchase for that special photographer.  Given our retail sales and teaching backgrounds, our suggestions are based on personal knowledge of and use of these products.  We only suggest products we know are quality products. 

Below are suggestions for cameras, tripods, tripod accessories, general camera accessories, camera bags, camera straps and lens filters.  We personally choose which products we suggest and have not been approached by any of these companies to do so.  Our only benefit is if you decide to follow the links we provide in order to purchase the item(s).

Please NOTE: All items list regular pricing beside them....there may be special deals for the Holidays.  So follow the links to find out!

 

Cameras – First of all, on expensive camera gear, let us CAUTION you to purchase from a reputable PHYSICAL dealer or directly from the manufacturer themselves.  There are only a handful of truly reputable ONLINE dealers.  We’ve seen the nightmares personally….online dealers stripping the name brand items (batteries, chargers, English manuals) out of the boxes replacing them with cheap knockoffs and foreign language manuals, and outright lying about whether the product is a USA Warranty or a Gray Market product.  Also, don’t be fooled by some unknown camera store offering 20 additional ‘free gifts’ if you buy the product from them.  99% of the ‘free’ stuff is junk that you shouldn’t even allow near your camera.  Buy the camera from a place you KNOW won’t rip you off, and then buy quality accessories to go with it – not pre-packaged “BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!!” deals.

We personally shoot Olympus mirrorless cameras. They are small, lightweight interchangable lens systems compared to DSLRs, with high quality and are packed with specialty features you can’t get in other cameras.  If you know someone looking to downsize but not sacrifice in quality, this is your system.  If you have questions, shoot us an email.  If you decide to purchase, please use the embedded links below so that they take you directly to a safe purchasing source.

For Olympus Black Friday Deals CLICK HERE

Olympus EM10 Mark III – The entry level camera for the OMD system....entry level, but not stripped of features. Use simply Auto mode or full manual....the decision is yours.  There are two options here:

  • Buy the KIT – (CLICK HERE) Contains the EM10 Mark III Body and 14-42 collapsible lens ($800) for the smallest/lightest combination.  Can be put in a small bag or coat pocket. You would still probably need to purchase the 40-150 (CLICK HERE) if you wanted to add some zoom – a very small, very light 2-lens kit for around $1000. Neither the camera nor these lenses are weather-resistant.
  • Buy the BODY separately (CLICK HERE) and an all-in-one lens like the 14-150 (CLICK HERE).  The ultimate in a small, do it all, travel system.  One lens with fantastic zoom ability…no changing lenses.

Olympus EM5 Mark II – This is the mid-range camera body and a great upgrade if you want a little more than entry level. Weather resistant with a better focusing system, great image stabilization and amazing video and more customizable features.

  • EM5 Body-Only – (CLICK HERE) - You will choose whichever lenses you would like to go with it.  Again, for a good all-in-one lens, consider the 14-150 (CLICK HERE).  If you want something more high-end, go with the Pro 12-40 2.8 lens (CLICK HERE).

Olympus EM1 Mark II – The flagship camera of Olympus.  This is the pro camera that can do it all.  With the most advanced focusing system for difficult subjects like birds in flight and other quickly moving subjects and packed with ALL the Olympus features, this camera is for Pros as well as any advanced amateur photographer.

 

Olympus Tough TG-5 - $450 - (CLICK HERE) Amazing quality and features packed into a small point-n-shoot camera.  Impact resistant up to 7 feet and waterproof down to 50 feet. Wireless share and raw image capture. 

 

For Olympus Black Friday Deals, CLICK HERE

For the Olympus WEEKLY DEALS page, CLICK HERE

 

Tripod Gear – It is imperative that any photo enthusiast have a GOOD tripod as a base for their photography.  It is very important not to skimp here.  Do not purchase tripods at discount stores or even big box electronics stores.  Here are a few of our recommendations:

  • MeFoto Tripods – Small, lightweight, foldable and compact – there are 3 different sizes of tripod depending on what camera gear will be attached.  All of these have legs that twist to lock and unlock. All of these MeFoto tripods come with a ball head already attached and a tripod bag included. You may notice there is an ‘AIR’ version of all 3 models we discuss, we prefer the original non-air models for build and quality.

*Backpacker Aluminum – $150 - (CLICK HERE) Very small and compact and lightweight – not for the mid to pro DSLR user.  More for a point-n-shoot camera or a small, lightweight mirrorless system or an entry level DSLR (Nikon D3000 series, Canon Rebel series)

*Roadtrip Aluminum – $200 - (CLICK HERE) Still small and compact compared to others out there – more for mid to pro mirrorless systems or entry level DSLR camera systems

*Roadtrip Carbon Fiber – $350 - (Click Here) Even more lightweight than the regular Roadtrip – still for the mid/pro mirrorless or entry DSLR user

*Globetrotter Aluminum – $250 - (CLICK HERE) The largest in the MeFoto line, but in our opinion the most sturdy and the best option if you have heavier gear such as mid to pro mirrorless gear or mid-weight DSLR gear such as Cannon 80D or Nikon D7000 series.

*Globetrotter Carbon Fiber – $399 - (CLICK HERE) Again, lighter than the regular, but not quite as sturdy for heavier gear

  • Benro Tripods –  Very good, very sturdy tripods with the clip locks that a lot of people like.  Benro has tripods that are twist locks and flip locks.  We like their flip lock legs the best….and for people want flip-locks, this is the way to go. Benro has A LOT of different versions and options - legs only, head only, leg & head combo.  We are going to mention the legs models and head models separately, but you may be able to find a combo of these that work for you - but remember - you do have to have a head to go onto the tripod legs.  We also recommend ball head styles over pan-and-tilt styles because they are more compact and (we believe) easier to use.  Most of these tripods come with tripod bags included. Here are the ones we like the best:

*TAD 28A (legs) – $130 - (CLICK HERE) This is an aluminum tripod.  Slightly heavier than its carbon fiber sibling, but at a lesser price.  A good mid-size tripod that is very sturdy with clip-lock certainty for heavier pro mirrorless systems or entry to mid-level DSLR systems.  (Two smaller versions are the 18A and the 27A…..but, we recommend the 28A and the 18A more strongly because they collapse down smaller when folded).

*TAD 28C (legs) - $280 – (CLICK HERE) OUR FAVORITE.  This one is carbon fiber and in the middle of the sizes.  We shoot Olympus mirrorless Pro cameras and this tripod is very sturdy without being too large and heavy.  If your photographer shoots mid to Pro DSLR cameras from Canon or Nikon, they may want to go with the larger 37C.

*B2 (ball head) - $130 – (CLICK HERE)This is a great ball head to go with the legs above OR if you are looking to replace an old head. Medium weight with good flexibility.  Works well for light to mid weight DSLR gear and most mirrorless gear. If your photographer has pretty light weight gear, you could go with the B1 at $110.  And of course there is a B3 for heavier Pro DSLR gear.

**Our Highest Recommended Legs/Head Combos:

  • Carbon Fiber – $330 -  TAD28C legs/B2 Ballhead – (CLICK HERE) Mid-weight for mid-weight to heavier gear
  • Aluminum - $170 – TAD18A legs/B1 Ballhead – (CLICK HERE) For beginners, smaller gear/mirrorless gear/small DSLR and smaller and lighter tripod that is still very sturdy.

 

Tripod Accessories

  • Tripod Strap – (CLICK HERE) OP/TECH makes a good tripod strap so you can carry the tripod hanging on your shoulder and can quickly open it up to set up and use.  Model 1201012 is around $20.   
  • Tripod Bag – $20-$35 - There are a lot of tripod bags out there and you don't need anything really fancy.  But, be sure to get one that is padded and is long enough for the tripod while it is collapsed, measuring it WITH the head on….be sure to measure the whole thing.  Promaster is a brand we sold in our retail days, and their tripod bags are quite nice…one of these three should fit whatever tripod you have:
 Promaster TB3 – up to 25” - CLICK HERE to purchase.
 Promaster TB4 – up to 29” - CLICK HERE to purchase. 
 Promaster TB5 – up to 35” - CLICK HERE to purchase.


Random Accessories

  • OP/TECH Rain Sleeves, 2-pk. – $6-$10 - For the photographer who does not have weather-resistant gear.  They come in three sizes – small, original, and ginormous. 
Small – (CLICK HERE) for mirrorless and small DSLRs
Medium – (CLICK HERE) for most DSLR cameras and long lenses
  • Spudz lens cloths – $5-$10 - Lens cloth that retracts back up into a protective pouch to keep it from attracting dirt, oil or grease while bouncing around in photo bags or pockets. Be sure to get the larger 10x10 size.
The following link is to a RED option that works great so that you can spot it in bags, purses and among other camera gear. (CLICK HERE)
And this is a BLUE option: (CLICK HERE)
  • Extra Batteries – You can never have enough batteries so grab one (or two) and throw it in the gift box.  But be wary of 3rd party batteries.  Some are good, some aren’t.  Go safe and get the brand-name ones.  $25-$75 depending on the camera.  Either look at the model directly on the battery or google search the EXACT camera model that is written on the front of the camera….there are MANY different battery models for all the different cameras.
We shoot Olympus as do many of our participants….the batteries are as follows for the Olympus OMD line:
EM10 Mark I, II & III = BLS 50 (CLICK HERE
EM5 Mark I & II AND EM1 Mark I = BLN-1 (CLICK HERE
EM1 Mark II = BLH-1 (CLICK HERE
  • Extra Memory Cards - SANDISK 64gb capacity and 95mb/s write speed - $36 - (CLICK HERE) - Do not buy cheap memory cards. SANDISK is the best brand out there and get one with enough capacity and speed. 
  • Right Angle Plug Adapter – $8 - (CLICK HERE) For those photographers whose battery chargers have long detachable bulky cords that connect the charger to the wall.  We own 10 of these, attached to all of our camera battery chargers and LOVE them….less bulk while charging and WAY less bulk in the camera bag. Plug this piece in and throw the bulky cord away!
  • Tenba Battery Pouch – (CLICK HERE) We LOVE these and have 5 of them. Helps to organize multiple batteries.  Holds two large batteries or 4 medium to small sized batteries.
  • LensPen cleaning accessory – (CLICK HERE) Always keep one of these in the bag. We like the one that says ORIGINAL on the package or NLP-1.  Cleans filters and lenses with a pad and a brush. Don’t get the mini sized ones….they are for point-n-shoot cameras and too small to really clean interchangeable lenses. $15 
  • Pre-Moistened Lens Wipes – (CLICK HERE) Always have cleaning options ready to go.  Easy to keep in the bag or in pockets.
  • Kiwi Focusing Rail – $80 - (CLICK HERE) For all of the macro photography enthusiasts out there, a focusing rail is a must for micro-adjustments to get the perfect composition and proper distance from the subject for stunning macro images. This is a very good product for so little money.  Most of these with bigger names cost several hundred dollars.  NOTE:  do not go cheaper than this product.  Other focusing rails out there that are cheaper are terrible.
  • Foam Knee Pad - $6 - (CLICK HERE) for any photographer who crouches on the ground for their photography.  We seriously get tons of people asking where to get one of these for macro and other low on-the-ground shooting. 
  • Filter Pouch - $9-$30 - Whether you have just a couple of filters or many, filter pouches help orgainze, protect and give easy access to your expensive accessories.  

OP/TECH Filter Pack - Made for 2 filters - (CLICK HERE) Easily store in the bag or hang from a tripod for easy access during shooting

Tiffin 6-filter Wallet - (CLICK HERE) - Holds 6 filters in a trifold wallet style...slimline to fit in the bag or a side pouch

Tycka Belt-Style Filter Pouch - (CLICK HERE) - Holds 5 filters and attaches to the side of the bag or to your belt for easy access while shooting (This is the style we use most)

 

Lens Filters

Another word of CAUTION here.....do NOT purchase lens filters in 'kits'.  Most filter kits include filters made of substandard glass and will degrade the quality of your photos.  Often filter kits throw in an outdated film era filter or two that aren't even in use anymore since the proliferation of digital photography.  Buy filters one at a time for the type and the particular size needed.  A filter is one of those things that if you aren’t willing to buy a good one, then possibly don’t use one at all.  It is additional glass that you are putting over your expensive lenses, so that glass needs to be high quality so as to not impact your images negatively. A good rule of thumb: never spend less than $40 for a filter...and that is for one of the smallest sizes 30mm - 46mm.  You will be from $60-$120 for a good one for sizes 52mm - 77mm....even more for 82mm - 86mm.

  • B+W Polarizing Filters –  A polarizer is the MOST IMPORTANT filter you can have for outdoor photography.  Every outdoor photographer should have one for each of their lenses. Our favorite brand is B+W and it should indicate MRC or 'multi-resistant coating'.  To determine what size you need, you must look at the end of the lens that it is going to go on – there are about 15 different filter sizes out there and you have to look at the lens to see the 2 digit number on the end that has a circle and slash through it immediately to the left of the number….that is the filter size.

This link is for a B+W 62mm filter….(CLICK HERE) but you can follow it to Amazon for any filter size that you need. 

  • B+W Neutral Density Filter – This filter blocks light from entering the camera so that it forces the camera to provide much longer shutter speeds that it normally would – good for long exposure images showing blur and motion – ex. Shooting waterfalls.  Same goes as with the polarizer, buy a good one if any at all. We recommend a 3-stop (indicated by (.9) or 8x in the description) to start.  Again, MRC or 'multi-resistant coating' should be in the description.

This link is for a B+W 67mm filter, (CLICK HERE) but look for whichever size you need with the same specifications in the name. 

 

Camera Straps

There a number of great camera straps out there – many for design and many for feel and use. Below are just a few of the ones we’ve used over the years and have liked:

  • OP/TECH Neoprene Camera Super Classic Uni Loop Straps – $16 - (CLICK HERE) If you want comfort from a cushioned, slightly stretchy camera strap, this is a good one.  They are strong and shock absorbing for moving around with your camera on your neck. 
  • Black Rapid - $50 – Black Rapid makes a number of cross-body camera strap models, but our favorite after trying all of them is the CROSS SHOT.  It has a padded and rubber shoulder pad that is comfortable and stays put.  All of the others slide around.  NOTE:  it is the CROSS SHOT….NOT  just the SHOT. 

Black - (CLICK HERE)

Orange - (CLICK HERE)

  • Peak Design – $50-$60 - Another good maker of cross body straps that have connectors that serves to interchange with all of their other products as well.  (We like the Slide for DSLR cameras and the Slide Lite for mirrorless and smaller cameras).

Slide - Black - (CLICK HERE)

Slide - Orange - (CLICK HERE)

Slide - Blue - (CLICK HERE)

Slide Lite - Black - (CLICK HERE)

 

Camera Bags – Backpacks, Shoulder Bags and Waist Carry Systems

  • Backpacks – There is no one perfect bag out there, so generally any given photographer will need several for different trips and different types of shooting.  A backpack is always a good idea so that you can safely store everything in one place and safely get everything from place A to B.

*Lowepro – This company makes our favorite backpacks of all brands, and here are a few options:

              --Smaller/Mirrorless Systems:

                            Lowepro Tahoe BP150- $55-$70

(Black - CLICK HERE), (Blue - CLICK HERE), (Red - CLICK HERE)

                            Lowepro Photo Traveler 150 - $40 - (CLICK HERE)

              --Larger DSLR/Pro Mirrorless with several lenses:

                             Lowepro Pro Runner BP 350 AW II – $175 - (CLICK HERE)

                             Lowepro Photo Classic BP300 AW – $90 - (CLICK HERE)

  • Shoulder Bags – Good for travel and city shooting to always keep the bag on your person. A great option if you want to travel light and still protect your gear. 

Lowepro Toploader Zoom 45 - $25 - (CLICK HERE) Small bag for a mirrorless body and small, or all in one lens attached.  Comes in Blue or Black

Lowepro Toploader Zoom 50 - $35 - (CLICK HERE) Slightly larger small bag for small to mid-sized DSLR or Larger Mirrorless - for carrying one body with lens attached.  Blue or Black.

Tenba DNA Messenger – $90-$170 - (CLICK HERE) 5 sizes and 4 colors to choose from, so one will definitely fit!

Lowepro Passport Sling – $50-$70 (CLICK HERE) Great for travel and sightseeing. Good for holding a body and about 2 lenses plus personal gear like wallets, phones and other sundry items generally needed for travel. Easy cross-body style that keeps everything close and safe

Lowepro Event Messenger 150 – $50 - (CLICK HERE) 2 colors - Basic sturdy shoulder bag for a limited amount of gear

  • Waist Systems – This Lowepro waist system is weather-resistant, comfortable and great for people with upper body/shoulder injuries or strain – the belt is the base then get a couple of pouches to add, but we suggest all 4 pieces below depending on how much gear you own:

              Lowepro S&F Light Utility Belt – $50 - (CLICK HERE) one size fits most

Lowepro S&F Deluxe Technical Belt - $40 - (CLICK HERE) different waist sizes available

              Lowepro S&F Utility Bag 100 AW – $45 - (CLICK HERE) for lenses and other random gear

              Lowepro S&F Lens Exchange 100 AW – $35 - (CLICK HERE) for short to medium length lenses

              Lowepro S&F Lens Exchange 200 AW – $45 - (CLICK HERE) for longer lenses

 

THANK YOU for visiting our site for your Holiday shopping convenience.  If you have further questions please shoot us an email.  AND DON'T FORGET....a PHOTO WORKSHOP is ALWAYS a fine choice for Holiday gift giving! Gift Certificates are available upon request. 

Please NOTE:  if you intend to purchase any of these aforementioned items, PLEASE use the direct links provided to the website so that we get credit for the referral….THANK YOU all for being part of the Natural Connections Family and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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