Friday, December 05, 2014

Holiday Gifts for the Railfan Photographer

If you're like me, your significant other has come to you and asked what s/he can get you for Christmas. Here's a list of suggestions I made to my wife as well as a few other items that I already have. (disclosure: the Amazon links are affiliate links, meaning I will earn 4% on any purchases you make by following the link, at no additional cost for you)

Camera Strap

Are you still using the strap that came with your camera? The one that screams CANON or NIKON and hangs around your neck? Why not ask for something that is more convenient, keeps your camera at the ready and saves your neck and shoulders from a lot of pain?

That's me, "bad-ass"
I use the Carry Speed CS-PRO Mark II sling strap*. It is super comfortable and very secure. The strap is wide so it doesn't dig into your shoulder, and the camera hangs at your hip for easy access. A supplied plate screws into the tripod socket in the bottom of your camera and provides a knob that the strap screws into. You can release it from the strap in about 20 seconds and there's no way it's coming off by accident. There are holes in the plate so you should still be able to use a tripod with the plate on. The only problem with the plate is that it blocks access to the battery compartment on my Canon T1i, so I have to have a coin with me to remove the plate to change batteries. Tip: don't buy the Mark 1 version, apparently it sucked. The plate on the Mark II version doesn't look anything like the one pictured in that review. Price: about $100

* I should say I used to use that strap. I lost it somewhere, probably near a grain elevator. I'm hoping for a replacement for Christmas.


I have to confess that I hardly ever use a tripod when taking photos. The exceptions are for low light and night photography.
However you really should use a tripod when shooting video. Don't make your viewers ill with your Blair Witch-Train Project video.

I use a Veibon CX-586 tripod, a reasonably priced tripod that is no longer available. Mine is a bit broken in that it won't lock horizontally so a strong wind will cause the shot to pivot. Someday I'll replace it but it's low on my priority list.

You have a lot of choice in tripods (tripods on Amazon) but the main decision points are:
  • Screw or latch for securing the legs? (I like latches)
  • Center post or no center post? (I don't really care)
  • Aluminum or carbon fiber? (carbon fiber is more expensive)
  • Ball head or no ball head? (ball heads are better but more expensive)
Make sure you get a tripod that you can use while standing up straight. Nobody wants to keep crouching over a tripod that can only extend to 4'.

Check out this Improve Photography link for more information on tripods.

Price: $25 and up but I recommend you spend at least $60

Spare Battery

You already have one, don't you? Right? If you don't, ask Santa for a spare battery. For my camera it's the Canon LP-E5. Many people use third-party batteries for their camera without any issues.

Price: Varies, about $50


This is such a neat application. It's a free app for your iPhone/iPod/iPad/Android device that has a lot of cool features including an intervalometer (take photos every X seconds), trigger on sound, trigger on vibration, star trail mode, and many more. It works with the camera in your device, but the real power is that it can control your camera. You need a dongle (cable) to connect your device to your camera.

I've used the intervalometer a lot when taking selfies - just let it fire away every 4 or 5 seconds and take your time getting into position!

You can buy it direct from Triggertrap or through camera stores like Henry's - right now it looks cheaper to buy direct. Price: ~$40

Rogue FlashBender

I've asked Santa for a Rogue FlashBender. This is basically a positionable sheet you mount on your flash to reflect / shape the light from the flash. I want to have it in my camera bag for a quick way to modify / soften a flash when I'm out and about and need to take a quick photo. Price; $50-$100 (depends on size)

Portable Hard Drive

How about a hard drive for backing up your photos? If you have that, how about another for off-site backup? Check your local flyers - they are often on sale. Price: $65-$200 (depends on size)

Adobe Lightroom

I've already given 5 reasons why you need Lightroom. Photo editing is where you're really going to polish your photo and Lightroom provides great editing and fantastic photo organization all in one package. Price: $130 (lower student rate) or $10/month

There's a few suggestions - leave a comment if you have any more!


Karl A. said...

I second the spare battery idea. You don't want to get caught without it.

I'm passing some of these ideas to my wife. I wouldn't mind having a good camera strap under the tree this year!

Canadian Train Geek said...

I hope you get your strap, Karl!