Monday, 21 December 2009

'All I want for Christmas' What we would like from Santa here in the Bluedog Kennel

With Santa and his elves busily stuffing sacks for the long haul we thought we’d ask the Bluedog crew what photographic gear they are hoping for in their Santa Sack this year.

Augustine: For me (as I am about to go travelling) I am asking Santa for a new lightweight carbon fibre tripod and a new carry bag for all my gear :), oh and if he could sort me out with a Sherpa to carry all my stuff around the place that would be handy as well.

Danielle: After having slipped three discs in my back at once this year from carting around my bag and tripod, a lightweight carbon fibre tripod that can hold my camera steady in vertical with any lens is at the top of my list. Come on Santa bring it on! Next would be to attend the Mary Ellen Mark workshop in Mexico and visit my friends Rebecca and Emmanuel in the US to have some ‘fun’ photography time.

Garry: Being the resident Swiss in the Bluedog Kennel I am hoping that Santa can bring me a gift from my homeland. Seitz (a specialist Swiss camera manufacturer) makes an amazing camera addition, the D3 digital scan back, that allows me to take seamless panoramas with the flick of a switch. Where better to use such an incredible toy than in the beauty of Australia’s vast outback.

Mel: Top of my list is the AF-S VR Micro- Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED and the Nikon AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF VR II lens. Not too much to ask for a girl who’s been good?

Suellen: There’s a rumour that Bluedog is planning a tour to Tuscany to sample all the delights that the Italian countryside has to offer. Santa – I want to go, please pretty please.

Nick: With Santa not needing to worry about weight in his sleigh I’d like him to bring me that big heavy 70-200mm Nikon f/2.8 lens that I have been hankering after. Just gotta love a big zoom. Oh and I’ll have the 2x converter because you can never have a lens that is too big. And ... I’d like a fisheye lens to really give the world a whole new look.  And ... oh, hang on,  I’d better save something for next year’s wish list.

Paul: I have my fingers crossed that Nikon brings out their new camera in time for your delivery this year. I have heard that there is a new model that is following on from the D700. Now I know that the D700 is good, but hey, sometimes newer is better. Thanks Santa and hurry up Nikon.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Tips for Buying Photography Gift Vouchers

Christmas is here and that means gifts. Of course we all enjoy spending time with the family, seeing relatives and enjoying some down time but … like I said, we get gifts. I love gifts.

It seems nowadays my Santa sack is nowhere near as bulky as my childhood memory remembers it. I think this new slimmer form is less from fad dieting and more a direct result of the popularity gift vouchers are enjoying today and I can see why. They are a great way to ensure our money isn’t wasted on something that the receiver doesn’t want or need – we’ve all gotten those gifts (no, really mum, I love that vase )

Gift cards and vouchers are a photographer’s best friend … er… gift. We’re able to get what we really want – photography gear, equipment, courses, and the list goes on.

Let’s be honest, our families often have no clue about photography especially about what we’d really like to learn in relation to courses or what gear we want, therefore they really don’t know where to start buying for us.

Many head to Mr Google, he has become a good friend, and while it does often cut out the middleman you can also be ripped off. Before we go requesting vouchers from Santa we should be aware of the pitfalls to safeguard yourself whether you shop online or in a bricks’n’mortar store. We call it ‘awareness insurance’.

To minimise the risk:
Ask if gift vouchers can be combined from one outlet to get larger purchases – that’s one big pressie! Like a Bluedog trip to Vanuatu that one lucky person has been bought by a group of friends and relatives this year.

Always try to use the voucher as soon as possible (which for me is never a problem – I have the list all ready to go)

Look for a gift voucher that has a clear expiry policy – and use it before it expires, no second chances on this policy.

While most of us hate fine print, indeed some of us are lucky to be able to even see the fine print these days, it is worth giving it a quick look. It generally covers the details about such things as what happens to the unused portion. Where and when you can use it and what happens if you accidentally wash it in those favourite jeans pocket or the dog eats it ... well these things can happen.

Do your research! Read reviews, ask advice. It’s a bit like buying a new car you need to kick the tyres so to speak. And only deal with reputable sellers – these will have a physical address.

Check out the return policy and their privacy policy. If the don’t have one the onus is on you. And if the retailer is OS the returns may be costly.

Common problems occur with buying online such as delivery delays and poor after sales service. Not to mention the product does not match the description offered by the seller or your credit card is misused. A good tip here is to have one credit card for on line purchases with a low limit.

Don’t judge an online retailer by their website – just because it looks good does not mean it is safe, though an old and outdated website should also ring alarm bells.

Here’s a couple of tech tips you can do with your computer to safeguard your online purchasing:

1. Ensure your computer has the latest updates from your operating system provider.
2. Download the most recent version of your browser to stay up to date with encryption capabilities.
3. Install a firewall, virus scanner and spyware detector.

Now that we have given you a few useful hints, it’s time for a little plug. Why not hint to Santa to consider a Bluedog Photography Gift Voucher. It is valid for 12 months and can be made out to any amount and guess what? If it does go through the wash, gets thrown out with all the Christmas wrapping or the dog does eat it, that is no problem at all. All voucher are kept on file so you can always reclaim them AND as a special bonus this year everyone buying a voucher and the person they buy for go in a draw to win a $100 canvas print voucher from WOW Prints!

Gotta love giving :)
Merry Christmas and happy shopping to all!

Just thought of another reason Bluedog Photography vouchers are so great for Chrissy – no searching for a car park in a crowded shopping centre :)

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Tips for photographing Christmas Lights

Yes it’s that time of year – the trees are going up and presents are being wrapped.
Here’s a few tips for capturing great photographs of Christmas lights:

Do a drive-by and scouting mission first then depending on what you were after consider photographing it later in the evening. Early evening (6.30-8.00pm) tend to be chocker block with people to the point where the lights may be obscured, especially any garden lights.

Setting wise, use a wide aperture (small number) to allow maximum light into your camera. Team this with a shutter speed high enough to be able to hand hold your camera, around the 1/60th-1/100th for most people. While a tripod will get you lovely crisp images at night it can be a weapon of mass destruction at a crowded house. If the light levels are too low to get your shutter speed up remember that you can always lift that ISO to make the sensor more light sensitive.

Make sure you apply plenty of mosquito repellent - they are out in force at that time of night.

All those pretty lights can mean the opportunity to play around a little as well. Bokeh photos are a source of delight for most photographers and Christmas lights make perfect bokeh. Ok, so what is bokeh you ask? It is little points of light that are out of focus, often in the background of photos, where there is a really shallow depth of field. Large apertures (small number) will often produce this effect but there are ways to get even more creative bokeh intentionally. This requires a little bit of prep usually best done at home. Trying to cut card in your car is not always successful, I know, I’ve tried.

Cut a piece of card the same size circle as the end of your lens eg:57mm diameter and cut or punch a shape into the middle of the card. I’ve done Christmas trees, Santas, stars etc. Then carefully tape the piece of card over the end of the lens so that no extra light can sneak around the edges. With the lens on manual focus and the aperture as large as you can get it start snapping. The effect will be lots of little lights totally out of focus but in the shape of your cutout. Very satisfying and very impressive for a fairly simple process.

Remember that while you hope to get good shots, these displays are really all about people getting into the Christmas spirit so be sure to be considerate of others while you get your shots and keep a sense of Christmas cheer.

Ho, ho, ho and happy Christmas shooting to all.

Image by Anita Bromley