While I wasn’t sure if I could pull off another holiday gift idea guide, here we are, a little late into the season but I found a few nice things none the less. I do my best to find things that are not already posted in every other holiday gift guide online. Like last years list these are things that I personally enjoy or would enjoy having around myself based on my own random standards. I have written up a little bit about each thing on the list and included links to either the company that makes the item, or a nice webshop that sells it. No affiliate links here, just sharing the joy.
From time to time I write something in Day One that I feel others may enjoy. This past weekend after a five day work run out of town I found myself driving south toward home knowing I wouldn’t make it all the way without falling asleep at the wheel so I started keeping an eye out for a hotel and thankfully just as I was having to shake off the exhaustion settling in, I found one. Below you will find the entry from the following morning, in two parts:
Late last night I stopped in an odd little motel simply called “Budget Inn” on the way back from a simple gig at a Frat party for an 80’s cover band. I came across a strip of hotels on a small highway in the middle of VA at around 3:30am and figured I should stop rather than risk an all night drive home. I checked in and blacked out after posting a photo of the room to YWO. This motel is the kind of motel you would start a meth lab in, or discover a weird murder in, or hide from the police. It’s the sort of place that you would imagine affairs took place and roaches secretly infest somewhere just out of sight. The skunk like stink from too many cigarettes burning through. But, it is what it is, and I for one am thankful for it because it was the only place around without a “NO” in front of the neon vacancy sign so here I am, well(isn) rested and ready to get out of here.
20 minutes later… Well, judge not… said someone, somewhere. I leave the room and realized that I actually slept quite well and remembered waking up noticing how firm the mattress was where as most of these types of motels are notorious for having the worst mattresses you could imagine. Ones which leave you sinking down to the floor and waking up with a curved spine. Anyway, as I walk toward reception to check out I have a flashback of the messy haired man who checked me in through a tiny plexiglass window late last night after ringing his bell a couple of times. Clearly I woke him and I remembered feeling a bit guilty about it. I step into the office and immediately get a kick back to my time spent in India. The room smells of Indian Spices, subtle but there, stuck to the walls like the stale cigarette smoke from the room the night before yet clearly a much more favorable experience. The same man walks out well composed this time and I recognize he is an older Indian man. Easier to recognize without jaded, sleep deprived eyes and a desperation to find a bed to sleep in.
With a little smile and a tilted head he asks if everything was ok and if I was checking out. “Yes, and yes, time to head back home,” I said with a smile. I thanked him and left the room. On the way out of the office to the van a cleaning man speaks up and asks, “did you sleep well?.” “Yep, sure did!,” I replied. He then goes on to tell me that many of the rooms had brand new mattresses in them. Which explains the more comfortable than I expected night of sleep I managed to get as well as the old mattresses leaning up against the outside of the motel which I had hastily assumed were ruined from a night gone wrong.
I have no idea why my mind was wading in such pessimism late last night. This constant stream of work and time away from home must have been getting to me. I am thankful though, to have had a reminder that even in shady places in the middle of nowhere USA, there is kindness and a certain level of acceptance that comes with the territory. Not all of us travel, not all of us have lofty ambitions and websites and iPads. Sometimes a slowly eroding motel in the middle of nowhere is more than enough and I for one am thankful I stopped through last night. Oddly enough, it has left me with a renewed sense of creativity and purpose. It’s so easy to loose sight of the simple pleasures and misstep in your assumption of others around you.
So, sitting here outside at a picnic table on this cool fall morning, watching locals mumble through their late morning at a gas station nearby, I’m sipping on bad coffee and watching a steady stream of large pickup trucks and boots with suits fresh from church filter in and out. There is a real beauty hiding here in the honesty of this moment and I plan on taking full advantage of it.
It’s that time of year again, for many of us, to share time and wonderful things with loved ones. In recent years I have grown fond of finding unique gifts for friends and family. Functional but fun, things that they may have not thought about or even knew existed prior to receiving them. Whats the fun in buying something for someone if they know exactly what it is they would be getting? Part of the joy is discovering something great and taking a chance on striking a note of joy in the surprise of getting something unique and thoughtful. Last year I had fun making a list of interesting gift ideas and while there are probably a million suggestions out there already I thought I would toss in a few of my own again this year. Seeing as nearly every christmas gift guide I come across online is full of exactly the same gadgety stuff I thought I would try to dig a little deeper with a few of these ideas. Feel free to suggest something in the comments below, I will add things if I find anything else interesting.
Oddly enough I found myself straying away from photography gear, the world has enough of it as far as I am concerned. Outside of a camera, and a good lens what else does a photographer really need? You can have a peak at my list from last year which has a few more photo centric ideas. I did toss in one idea related to photography but well get to that in a bit. This is not some amazon kickback link filled junk article written for clicks, I have no affiliation with anything here and none of the links are affiliate links. This is just a list of stuff I thought would make a great gift for just about anyone. Photos were pulled either from online shops or a google search, sorry for the random size and consistency there. Of course many of the shops I link to are US based, most of these products can be found elsewhere in the world as well. Follow the Read more link to get to the list.
The night of the wedding we were given a large three room suite as part of the wedding package high up on the 23rd floor. The view overlooked Seoul and what was forecast as a rainy day a few days beforehand ended up being a beautiful afternoon.
We had all of our friends over to the suite after the wedding for wine and finger food. As the sun began to set the many photographers, including YoungDoo and I, in attendance were all glued to the windows as an epic sunset rolled across the city below.
Time slowed and the sun and buildings seemed to sing to us. Even as the sun dipped behind the edge of the horizon the world seemed to be putting on a show just for those of us in that room. Lights around the city started to slowly trickle into existence and subtly mimicked the few stars in the sky that crept through the cities impeding glow.
One by one the guests started to leave until it was just the two of us alone among empty plates and wine bottles. Everything seemed so very quiet and at once I felt a calm fall down onto me and I knew something great had just taken place, something we would not soon forget.
Night fell deeper, the city grew quiet as a bitter cold wind started to echo through the streets yet I put my mind at ease because I knew that from that day forward, no wind would ever feel quite as cold, no room would be as empty, and my heart would, from that day on, have nothing left to fear.
Sorry, no desktop this time. I was posting this photo to flickr simply for the sake of sharing something new and as I looked at it before making it public some thoughts started to come to mind so I started to write the above. I was laying around here in our room and decided it may be nice to share it here as well because I know not everyone follows along on flickr and its something I wanted to share. Just a memory that was brought back to me through this photograph. I love that about photography. Its power to rekindle memories is uncanny and I am thankful to have the ability to capture things within my life this way. I don’t often get too sentimental here on 50ft but I figured why not share a little bit of the joy I felt that day with all of you.
It’s that time of the year again and many out there are scratching their heads trying to decide what to get a friend or family member for Christmas. Of course most of us seem to hint heavily at something specific I like to think that a good surprise is still alive and well within the gift giving spirit. I don’t particularly like the crazed rush and pressure that comes with the holidays but I do enjoy sharing and gift giving so I thought it would be fun to assemble a photographer biased list of things to consider when looking for that special something. I did my best to avoid anything too horribly obvious and included a number of fun film cameras.
This guy makes amazing leather camera straps which are great for smaller and larger cameras alike. There are a number of options such as color and more or less padding to choose from and each strap is hand made and of the highest quality you could imagine a simple strap like this having. I bought one for my Olympus OM SLR and love it, its strong enough to leave the camera hanging from your wrist without worry when you need both hands and keeps your camera steady and safe otherwise. I love a good, high quality hand made product and this is one that excels. There is plenty of info on his site on different options and sizes.
For those who may be a bit more traditional about their camera strap, these straps from Souldier are the best around. Sturdy, dependable and gorgeous. They come in 23 different colors so you have a lot of unique options and they are also all made to order in Chicago. There is also an option to add padding in the middle which is handy because it does keep it from being too slippery. The padding is not very pretty though as it is a simple grey foam like material. I enjoy having it there but others may like the smoothness of not having any padding. I have used a red one for years now it seems and always get questions and compliments on it. It has been one of my favorite accessories and the perfect step up for any photographer wanting to ditch that ugly branded default strap.
These are cheap and a lot of fun to have around YoungDoo has been shooting with one for a good while now and I am always impressed with the results. It is about as simply as you can get, go out on a sunny day, point, and shoot. Load it up with any random film you can get your hands on and enjoy. If you know someone that enjoys playing around with different cameras this is a perfect new toy. The results offer a slightly distorted, wide angle effect as well as a nice contrasty, vignetted image. They come in a variety of colors so you can pick just the right one for the person you are gifting it too. A fun alternative to one of these would be a Juice Box Camera, seems childish but its super inconspicuous and a lot of fun to mess around with.
Sure, its not the cheapest gift at $250 but these are among the best all, point and shoot film cameras out there. I think they have been given a weird reputation because of its hipster “lomography” upbringing but they have been around forever and for good reason. The results are vivid and unique and I think its a great way to get into shooting with film because it offers something different from a camera offering clean or tidy results all the time. I find that it does take a little getting used to the quirks of the camera but once you get the hang of it it can be a realy satisfying little camera to have around. I think this would make for an unexpectedly fun gift for any open minded photographer. Have a look at some of the great images taken with these cameras on flickr.
These can be a challenge but offer a fun, do it yourself, camera kit. They use 35mm film and offer a cool experience when putting them together as you see exactly how the camera functions. The photographic results are a mixed bag but you can get some cool images from it if you stick with it. Being a fixed shutter speed and aperture its another sunny day camera but its more for the experience I think, and this offers a great one. The original kit came packaged with a Japanese magazine and the instructions are all in Japanese but there are many guides online to help you out. Alternatively, you can get one with english instructions and different color options because a new company started to manufacture them again once they gained a cult like following, here.
This would make a great gift for just about anyone. They are cotton fabric squares treated with a cyanotype solution which allows you to lay one of the squares out in the sun and place opbjects on top of it which will create an image based on the shadow that is cast onto the square. You then simply rinse the square in water and the image will be on the fabric permanantly. It is a lot of fun and I think it would be a fantastic gift for children or anyone who enjoys experementing a bit. I love messing about with these. There are different sizes and even colors available as well as simple paper versions which cost a bit less.
Know a photographer that likes to try new things? There is nothing more classic than a pinhole film camera and this is a great one. With its classic wooden body and brass knobs it’s a beauty and would be a great addition to any camera collection not to mention a lot of fun to use.
As many of you know already from my glowing review, I love this camera bag and feel it would be a great choice as a gift for any photographer not using a huge amount of gear. Keep in mind my note within my review about it maybe not being the best for someone with a smaller physical build. Otherwise you can’t go wrong with this fantastic bag.
While I don’t shoot with one of these I do think it would make for a nice gift to any photographer doing portrait work or simple commercial work. I have had my eye on one for quite some time now because I think it could be a quick, useful tool while out shooting to quickly get a handle on the white balance in post for those times when I want that extra bit of control and support. It’s a simple gadget that is portable and easy to use. You simply take a photo of the device before or during a shoot and use that shot as a quick refference tool to grab the perfect white balance for the situation at hand. Great for someone you know spends a bit too much time in post messing around with their white balances for every single photo.
This is my favorite portable light meter. Simple and stuffed full of abilities for its size and price, it’s a great option for anyone looking to get into using an older manual camera or those who want to experement and have a tighter control over their exposures. The one thing that is a bit annoying about it is that there is no ‘off’ so the buttons get pressed while in my bag. The battery lasts what seems like forever so its not that big of a deal and the good totally outweighs this one quirk.
If there is a photographer out there without one of these in their camera bag I have to question their sanity. Simple and cheap.
When you grip your camera to take a photo it can be more of a natural feel to let the shutter button rest on the first joint of your finger rather than bending your finger to point down onto the shutter release button. A soft release is a simple screw on button designed to give extra height to the shutter release and in turn let you hold your camera more naturally. This leads to you being able to hold your camera in a steadier position letting you keep still at slower shutter speeds. I love them and use one on my older cameras which have a threded screw mount on the shutter release. So for anyone you know using a camera with a screw mount release these make a great addition. There is a handy list on the site that they originate from telling you which cameras work best with which release button. They are also available here which I have ordered from a few times, a great guy runs the site.
I bought a few of these earlier this year and I love them, they are a great way to transport film. Both 35mm (without its original canister) and 120 film will fit. There is room for 6 rolls of 35mm or 4 rolls of 120 film, the only downside of the 35mm ability is that you really need to keep a full 6 rolls of film inside so they dont rattle around loosely inside. I still feel its a great accesory for anyone shooting film often and they are currently listed as clearance so they may not be available for much longer!
Seems a bit of an odd thing to add to the list but I think its cool. A simple round corner cutter that allows you to give paper a rounded corner. I love putting round corners on printed photos, it gives them sort of a vintage feel. Also useful for postcards or anything really.
A 35mm Film SLR
There are hundreds available on eBay as buy it now right around $100-200 with a simple 50mm lens. You just use your best intuition as far as which one you buy based on photos (make sure they are nice high quality images of the product), Seller feedback score, and an honest item description. I could easily suggest an Olympus OM2 based on my own great experience, its a great sturdy camera and surprisingly compact for being an SLR. There are other classic options as well such as a Canon AE-1 or Nikon FM-2 which would give the photographer getting it the option of using the lens on their current DSLR should they already use a Nikon. Shooting with a film SLR is a quintessential experience for anyone wanting to call themselves a photographer.
If you have any suggestions for something photography related that is fun or interesting, feel free to leave any ideas in the comments below. Also, due to a number of requests, I have made the image above available as a wallpaper, see links below.
When was the last time you sat or laid down to listen to an album all the way through, start to finish? Just you, the music, the environment you are in, and maybe a significant other. Could be an older album that you have heard a million times before or a new one where your ears and mind come in fresh, ready to explore. I asked this question over on Twitter earlier today and had mixed responses. Many have never done this while others could not remember the last time they have. It is an experience that requires a few simple things, a love for music, a little patience, and time.
Many people seem to think it is unreasonable to do something like this because of the amount of time it takes to devote to the process. Odd thing is that most of us wouldn’t think twice when deciding to watch a two hour film yet when asked to devote 45 minutes to an hour with a collection of songs it seems like a far fetched notion, a waste of valuable time.
A good album can read like a book if you let yourself fall in. Just like reading a new book there is sometimes that little bit of hesitance within the first few chapters, your’e not sure if this will be worth your time when you get started and you let yourself get distracted or anxious. I feel focusing your attention to music without doing other things at the same time is akin to meditation. To many it would seem it is seen as simply white noise to fill the silence while they work and play. Even if you have your favorite songs that you listen to countless times over there is still something magic about letting yourself exist purely with the music and nothing else.
When I give myself time in the morning or evening to simply lay down and listen to music I catch myself getting lost in the words or nuances of a recording. Other times I find I am staring off into the sky lost in a memory or an idea. It gives me a chance to slow down and get lost in my own mind rather than having my hand be held as I am guided through a story and instructed how to feel as movies or books often do.
Music allows you to be anything, it gives you the chance to clear your mind and let your thoughts guide you to a place not often visited within the fast moving world around us. If you give yourself an empty palate within your mind the music will fill it with color and emotion. If you allow yourself to get lost from time to time you will quickly start to discover ideas and memories once forgotten or create new ones in the process.
Here in lies the beautiful part of the idea. Take a moment here to consider the last time you gave yourself a few minutes to simply exist with no distractions. Sometimes we trick ourselves into thinking we have while in reality it seems a lost art. The art of doing nothing. It can seem to be a bit of a zen idea, sure, but I believe we could all use a few zen moments in our busy lives. I do realize that things change, and maybe for some of us there really is no time in today’s world for admiring music in this way but that idea makes me kind of sad to imagine.
Music can be an experience just like any other form of art or meditation and it should not be overlooked so casually. Life is too short not to allow yourself to get lost in your imagination every now and then, it’s a gift and it should be exploited. I think what brought these thoughts to my mind was the fact that I have a few distinct memories of listening to albums in this way and they are such fond old memories that will stay with me. This is not something I would expect everyone to do on a regular basis, but it’s something that I could encourage anyone to explore at least once.