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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Holiday Buyer's Guide

A look at some of the gear that’s available for the nature photographer on your gift list

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Manfrotto 804RC2
Like tripods, there are so many different kinds of heads available that we can’t cover all of the good options for the nature photographer on your holiday list. Here are descriptions of a few different types of heads. Most popular are ballheads because they allow you to quickly position the camera just as you want it by loosening a single knob, then lock it there by tightening that knob. Three-way, pan-tilt heads let you adjust each axis separately, but are slower to operate.

Gitzo GH2780QR

Really Right Stuff BH-55

Giottos MH5011

Kirk BH3


Arca-Swiss Monoball Z

Gimbal Heads
Bird photographers like gimbal heads such as those from Custom Brackets (www.custombrackets.com), Jobu (www.jobu-design.com), Kirk (www.kirkphoto.com) and Wimberley (www.tripodhead.com). Gimbal heads make it possible to pan a long lens any direction to track a moving subject, while providing the support of a solid tripod.

Tamrac Summitt 777

Tenba Shootout Large
Every nature photographer has his or her favorite bag. It becomes like an old pair of shoes that are comfortable and just slip on. But like shoes, they do wear out, and after a certain amount of time and mileage, it’s time to make a change. Photo backpacks are the most popular bags for our kind of photography. The Tamrac Summit Photo Backpack Model 777 is a full-sized pack that can carry a full complement of gear into the field. For increased weather protection, the bag features Tamrac’s LockDown Rain Flaps, which provide a weather-resistant barrier that protects the main compartment zipper from the elements.

Kata HB 205

Lowepro Photo Trekker
The Lowepro Photo Trekker AW II is a full-sized backpack that can hold a pair of pro D-SLRs and plenty of lenses and other gear in the field. It’s constructed of water-resistant nylon and has a fully adjustable harness system. The Tenba Shootout Large Backpack is another full-sized option with capacity for a complete outfit of cameras, lenses and accessories. Like the other backpacks in this guide, it has a fully customizable interior and a tripod carrying system. The Kata HB-205 Hiker Backpack accommodates two to three D-SLRs, lenses and accessories. The interior is modular with an adjustable harness system and plenty of protection for your gear.

Not Just For Miners
If you’re looking for an ideal stocking stuffer, the Petzl Tikka 50 headlamp is one of the most useful single items a nature photographer can have in his or her bag. Yes, headlamps aren’t going to score you appearance points at a local dance hall, but they do allow you to keep both hands free, see your camera controls and find things in your bag as you’re composing in the fading light of late afternoon. They’re also key items for finding your way back to camp or the car after you get that perfect late-day shot. Contact: Petzl, www.petzl.com.

Nik Software Viveza
Those dreary, winter days when bad weather won’t let you get out to take pictures are ideal for doing computer work. Nik Software makes a number of excellent software applications for enhancing your photographs.

Tiffen Dfx
Nik Viveza lets you selectively manage the colors and brightness in the image through the use of their U-Point technology. It’s a powerful program that gives you a lot of creative options. Dfx from Tiffen is a sophisticated package that brings a number of functions into a single application. Masking, color enhancement, over 100 individual filters and more than 1,000 “new filters” and effects presets make Dfx one of the most popular packages available to nature photographers. The Alien Skin Photo Bundle is fully described in this issue’s In Focus section. It brings five popular plug-ins together in a single package—Bokeh, Blow Up 2, Image Doctor 2, Exposure 2 and Snap Art 2.

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