Light up a scene exactly the way you want using the ExpoImaging Rogue Flashbenders, a collection of portable light modifiers that can be molded into a given shape for directing or shielding light as desired. The Bounce Card/Flag can be used either as a reflector to bounce light onto a subject or as a flag to shield it away. The Small Reflector can be used as a reflector, a flag or as a snoot to produce a narrow circle of light. The Large Reflector serves the same purpose as the small version, but covers twice the reflective surface area. The units install quickly and work with all shoe-mount flash models. Estimated Street Price: $29 (Card/Flag); $34 (Small Reflector); $39 (Large Reflector); $104 (total set). Contact: ExpoImaging, www.expoimaging.com.
THE HDR LOOK HDRsoft Photomatix Pro gives you a number of options for compositing and controlling how you apply the high dynamic range look to your images. Like all HDR-processing applications, Photomatix Pro works its magic by combining data from multiple images. The program differs in that it performs either HDR tone mapping or Exposure Fusion, which reduces noise while blending different exposures into one image. For best results, you should use three photos separated by two EVs (i.e., two full stops) or five shots separated by one EV. Estimated Street Price: $99 (single license). Contact: HDRsoft, www.hdrsoft.com.
Photography books always make for great gifts, and there's perhaps no better way of personalizing such a present than creating one with your own images. Best of all, you can do it from your desktop. Mpix gives you the choice of making a softcover, hardcover or suede hardcover book with three different premium paper options—cover stock, pearl or linen. Once you've downloaded and installed the MpixPRESS software, just drop images and text into one of the many available templates or create your own. Once you're done, submit the book for printing. The software uploads the book to Mpix and automatically directs you to the website for order completion. Turnaround time is usually 24 hours. Estimated Street Price: $50 (11x8.5-inch hardcover). Contact: Mpix, www.mpix.com.
Free your neck from the strain of carrying a heavy camera around it with Cotton Carrier. The basic Camera Vest system accommodates one or two regular DSLRs, comes with a unique one-size-fits-all adjustable vest and is available in a variety of configurations. The lighter, more streamlined Cotton Carry-Lite uses a cotton waist-belt system with a shoulder strap and works best for cameras with small- to medium-sized lenses. Estimated Street Price: Starts at $99 (both). Contact: Cotton Carrier, (877) 852-9423, www.cottoncarrier.com.
BACK TO SCHOOL
For learning more about photography or honing the skills you already have, the New York Institute of Photography is a good place to start. Offering multimedia distance education courses for photographers of all levels, the school provides every student with a dedicated instructor to work with throughout the course. The Complete Course in Professional Photography covers all the essentials, including business skills with hard specifics on negotiating contracts, pricing images and dealing with legal matters. Every course includes printed lessons, supplemented with audio commentary and video displays. Contact: New York Institute of Photography, (800) 445-7279, www.nyip.com.
FOR THE BIRDS
Designed specifically for bird and wildlife photographers, the Lowepro Optic series of bags has plenty of room for long lenses, scopes and binoculars. There are four bags to choose from. The Field Station is a beltpack for binoculars, a field guide and personal extras. The Scope Porter 200 AW fits a spotting scope, tripod, binoculars, hydration reservoir, field guide and more. The Scope Travel 200 AW holds all of that gear, but instead of a reservoir, the bag holds a compact camera. The Scope Photo Travel 350 AW offers the most room, storing a DSLR and an extra lens, as well as a laptop. Estimated Street Price: $99 to $249. Contact: Lowepro, (800) 800-LOWE, www.lowepro.com.