Through the Gadling Lens: photographing skies

Oh, how I’d love to regale you with my brilliant photographic skills in capturing the sky’s majesty!

I’d love to, but I can’t.

For some reason, I’m really, really horrid when it comes to shooting skies. Oh, I can manage to get a good sunset photo here and there, and occasionally my blue skies appear shockingly blue, but the truth is that for the most part, I get by with a little help from Photoshop — bump up the contrast here, deepen a hue there, you know how it goes. My husband, on the other hand, is masterful at shooting sky shots — the image you see to the left was taken by him this past weekend. And that image, by the way, is completely unretouched, straight out of the camera.

He kills me with his sky-capturing ways.

Anyway, I thought this week we could drool over the sky photo porn that currently graces our Gadling Flickr pool, for some inspiration as to how to shoot. This time, however, I’m sitting where you are — looking for any clues as to how to make my sky photographs that much better.

So, on with the show.
1. God rays

My husband calls these “God rays” — the rays of light that appear from clouds when the sun is behind them.

When I asked him how he managed to capture this image (because while he was taking this, I was trying to take the same image with my camera, and failing miserably), and he said, “I set my aperture to a pinhole — about f22 — my ISO was set to about 100, and then I played with the shutter speed to get the shot. It ended up working at 1/500th of a second.”

Okay, so that’s pretty technical. Suffice to say, however, that Marcus — I mean, Alien Hamster — took several shots to experiment with the various settings, to see what worked for him. And really, that’s sort of what photography is all about: experimenting and learning along the way.

Another great God ray shot:

This great shot was shot and shared by othernel, of sunset over the East Village in New York City. Notice how the sun is more golden — therefore, I’m guessing, taken at a later time in the day than my husband’s shot — giving the image an entirely different mood. Notice also in both that the objects beneath the sun’s rays are almost in silhouette: remember that when you’re trying to shoot these God rays, you’re shooting for the rays, not the actual objects in the frame. Well done.

2. Clouds

Clouds obviously also make great subjects for photographs, and the following are pretty stellar:

Now, this amazing shot shared by Patrick Powers has quite obviously been processed; however, it’s been done to great effect. Those clouds — those crazy-white, featherlike clouds — look positively three-dimensional, almost like they could float right out of the screen. The entire scene almost looks artificial, rendering the shot more a work of art, then a documentary image. Really beautiful work.

And how impressive is this shot shared by Bonnie Bowne, taken in the Grand Tetons? Notice all the shades that are in the thunderheads, going from snowy white to dark, foreboding grey. I love how the trees in the foreground are in total silhouette, so that their details don’t compete with the colours of the clouds. If I were to guess (and Bonnie, if you read this, feel free to correct me), she exposed the shot for the white of the clouds, “tricking” the camera into thinking it was shooting in bright sunshine — thus resulting in a faster shutter speed, and making the trees look dark. Amazing.

3. Sunshine.

Of course, the most beautiful subject you can shoot in the sky is sunshine, and obviously, sunrises and sunsets are pretty intoxicating. Here are a couple of really stunning ones.

This sunset, shot and shared by Andy Bokanev Photography is stunning — not just because of the colours of the sky, but notice he also managed to get the light in the lighthouse building, as well as the colours of the flowers in the foreground. That’s some pretty stellar exposure right there. The glow of the light in the windows does so much to set the mood of this image — very well done. I’m guessing that this shot was taken using a very long exposure (that is, a slow shutter speed) and a tripod, with the ISO set to a very low number, to reduce graininess. Absolutely stunning.

In addition, take a look at this sunrise:

PDPhotography, who shot and shared this shot, has revealed one of my favourite ways of photographing the sky: from 37,000 feet. I love shots out of airplane windows, and this one is pretty great. I think we often think that we should only pull out our cameras when we’ve finally arrived at our destination — this shot is a great reminder that there’s some beautiful scenery en route, as well.

4. Silhouettes

Finally, I love the use of silhouette to accentuate the sky. A beautiful example:

This is another shot shared by Bonnie Bowne, taken — get his — in the parking lot of a Walmart store. What makes this shot so effective is that instead of just taking the shot of the sky — which might have been the more knee-jerk approache — she took the shot with the stark, dark tree in the foreground. The black silhouette of the tree has the effect of actually making the colours and light of the sky far more prominent, more impressive. It was an inspired way to shoot the sky.

And finally, this amazing night shot by fiznatty:

Seriously, does this shot not take your breath away? Fiznatty says, “the moon rises above the snowy slopes overlooking the Swedish town of Bjorkliden.” Unbelievable.

Okay, again, taking a guess as to how fiznatty managed this: obviously, no flash was involved, and he likely used a tripod and left his shutter open for quite some time, in order to pick up the light of the stars in the sky. If I’m right, then fiznatty stood still for quite some time — maybe a minute or two? — while the shutter was open, taking the shot. Amazing.

So that’s it. Again, if any of the photographers who took these shots would like to share their expertise here, I’d love to learn from you. And if you have any questions or additional comments, as always, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.

Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.

Through the Gadling Lens: water, water everywhere

Over the last year or so, I’ve become really intrigued with photographing water — I love how organically it moves, I love all the different forms it takes. And since almost 71% of our planet is covered in the stuff, it makes sense that it would sometimes find its way into our travel photographs.

So this week, with some help from the amazing shots in the Gadling Flickr pool (with a few of my own images tossed in for good measure), I thought we could talk about some of the ways that water can be the focal point of our photographs. I suspect we’re not even going to make a dent in all the ways there are to photograph water, but let’s give it a go, shall we?

1. Movement.

One of the most marked characteristics of water is how it moves — and obviously, it can be a bit of a trick to convey this type of movement through still photography. Still, it can be done — generally by holding the camera very still (even using a tripod, if available), while controlling the shutter speed, so that the shutter stays open long enough to capture the blur of the water. If you have an SLR camera, it means playing with the shutter priority adjustment on your camera (or going fully manual). A couple of beautiful examples:

This great shot, captured and shared by CCB images in Colorado is a beautiful example of capturing the blur of the water — notice how sharp the fountain is (as is, indeed, the ice at its base), but the water itself is blurred to the point of being indistinct, thus conveying the speed at which the water was moving. Beautifully done.

Another great example:

Another wonderful shot shared by fiznatty. Says the photographer: “For the first time, I had a chance to photograph the fascinating harlequin ducks at LeHardy Rapids. Harlequins migrate through Yellowstone in the spring, and are commonly seen at LeHardy, where they surf the rapids and brave the raging waters of the Yellowstone River. With their unique look and daredevil antics, it’s hard not to enjoy watching them.”

I love how the ducks appear to be absolutely still as the water races around them. Great capture.

2. Light

Of course, another great characteristic of water is the way it reflects light. Often, however, even though we appreciate the light in water, we don’t always make a point of shooting the light, rather than shooting the water. A couple of examples about how this is done:

Notice in the image above, it’s not the water that’s actually in focus, it’s the light sparkles that are so beautiful captured and shared by jonrawlinson. If, instead, he had focused the ripples on the surface of the water, this photo could’ve easily turned into just another shot of a pool. Instead, it’s a rather stunning shot of light.

Another example:

In this image of a garden hose, I didn’t want to capture the movement out of the hose, so much as I wanted to capture the reflection of light on the water against the brilliant blue sky. And so in this case, the shutter speed was set to as fast as I could make it go, and I had my husband hold the hose up into the light, and I grabbed the shot. The result is that the water almost looks frozen; however, the light is the focus of the shot.

3. Power.

When you’re confronted by tons of gallons of water crashing in front of you, it’s pretty hard to ignore the power that water is capable of. Here are some great examples of how to capture it.

I love this shot shared by Ylwstonegirl98. Oftentimes, when you’re in the vicinity of a waterfall, the temptation is to step back and capture the full length of the waterfall, so that the scenic setting around it also makes it into the shot. By all means, do this; however, don’t underestimate zooming in close to really show the volume of the water that is crashing to the river below. This amazing shot by Ylwstonegirl98 is such that I can almost hear the roar of the falls.

Similarly, this shot, shared by Patrick Powers and captured in San Clemente, California, is pretty great as well — after all, is there any more clear communication of the ocean’s power than the image of a surfer being thrown around like a rag doll? Fun, exciting shot, here.

4. Reflection.

If you ever find yourself face to face with a body of absolutely still water, pay attention to how it might be acting like a mirror, reflecting everything above it. I have to admit that it’s often hard to remember that when you’re framing a shot, you don’t just have to take a photograph of everything above the water, the fact that the water is mirroring everything makes it twice as beautiful. One great example:

The shot of above was shared shared by bovinemagnet, taken in Melbourne, Australia. It’s framed beautifully, so that the lights above the water are mirrored below — as is the beautiful deep blue hue of the oncoming dusk. Wonderfully framed.

And lest you think you need a deep body of water to make this happen, check the shot below:

This image, shared by PDPhotography in Toronto, Canada, was made simply using a puddle on the top of a roof deck. So remember: you don’t need a glacial lake to make the reflection work, any still body of water will do nicely.

5. Up close.

Admittedly, my favourite way to shoot water is using a macro lens, and shoot tiny water droplets. I love the way that the surface tension of raindrops makes them almost defy gravity, and look like little crystals. The following images were taken after area rainstorms:

Had I taken the shot above from farther away, you would’ve seen a rather unimpressive, bedraggled, seen-better-days spider lily. But by getting close up, you notice the beautiful little raindrops, and the same bedraggled petals add a splash of bright red colour.

In the image above, I love how you can see the grasses behind the flower reflected upside down in droplet hanging from the petal. It was hard to focus on such a small space, but I’m thrilled it worked.

Notice the surface tension I was talking about, and how it makes the tiny raindrops cling in almost perfect spheres on the clover, above.

6. At the surface

Another great way to shoot water, particularly if you’re at a beach, is to take a waterproof camera (or place your camera in a waterproof housing), and shoot images taken simultaneously below and above the water’s surface. This is great for shooting snorkelers, or kids, or if you’re as crazy as our own Willy Volk, lemon sharks:


(But admittedly, some pretty spectacular shots.)

7. Kids.

And finally, there is truly nothing more fun than shooting kids playing in water. When there’s a lot of splashing going on (as there is in the fountains of Discovery Green in Houston, where I shot the following two images), the trick is to just set your exposure and other settings to shoot images of the kids (because, let’s face it, when there’s splash water, kids are not going to want to sit still while you try to adjust your shutter speed to create the lovely feathery flows that you see in (1), above). Simply take photographs of the kids having fun, and let the water do its thing:

So that’s it — and again, I’m sure there are lots of other ways to shoot water, and we’ve just — pardon the pun — skimmed the surface. If you’ve got any other great ideas or links to your water shots, I’d love if you’d share them below. And as always, if you have any questions or suggestions, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.

Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.

Through the Gadling Lens: photographing the children of the world

I was recently instant-messaging a friend of mine, asking him if he had any suggestions for what we could talk about this week here on Through the Gadling Lens.

“Why don’t you talk about taking photographs of kids?” he asked.

I demurred.

“Umm, I really try to keep this column about travel,” I explained gently.

He looked at me like I was stupid. Well, as much as one can look at someone else on instant-messaging.

“Karen,” he said patiently, “people travel with their kids. Besides, there are children all over the world. Children make great subjects. You should share how you capture kids on camera.”

Well, duh. He’s right, of course. So this week, with the additional help of some fantastic images in our Gadling Flickr pool, we’ll talk about how to capture the essence and innocence of childhood while traveling. A couple of points to remember, before we begin:

1. Be sure to ask permission before you snap any photos, particularly if the children are with their parents or other adults; and

2. Remember the rules about shooting strangers in general (you can see some general guidelines here).

And so now, let’s get to it:
1. Expressions.

I think one of the main reasons that most people are drawn to photographs of children is the way that they tend to be so honest with their emotions — it’s not usual that you meet a child who is really adept at hiding his or her feelings. Because their expressions tend to be obvious, their faces make for great subjects. Here are few great examples:

These angels were captured by LadyExpat and shared in our Flickr pool. She writes: “Mabul Island was full of children, and they all loved having their photos taken. I love the looks of delight on these two young ones. “

Man, so do I. This is a great shot. Notice how tightly the image is cropped, which exemplifies the number one rule of portrait photography — don’t be afraid to get in close. Because of this tight image, there’s nothing extraneous that competes with the light in their eyes or their wide smiles. Very well done.

Here’s another example of a great portrait of children, this time far less posed:

This photo, aptly titled “Fragile Innocence,” was shared with us by photographer madang86, and was taken in Vietnam. In this case, the children seem unaware of the camera (the best way, obviously, to get a natural shot), but what makes this photo particularly stunning is (a) again, the the tight crop on the children’s faces, and (b) the masterful use of colour — children’s clothing almost blend seamlessly into the background of the photograph, allowing their brightly coloured collars and their lovely faces to be the focal point. Again, well done.

Then, of course, there’s nothing like getting a kid to ham it up for you:

This great shot was shared by fiznatty in our Gadling Flickr pool (and by the way, get used to that name — this is a man who clearly gets how to capture photographs of kids. This is the first of several I’ll be featuring in this post). He writes: “School children beckon to have us join them in their classroom.” Obviously, the lovely beckoning hand and engaging face of the young boy to the right of the picture is pretty hypnotic, but after you stop looking at him, notice the laughter on the face of the boy to the left, partially obscured by the window! A really great image.

And now, the second of fiznatty’s images:

Words really can’t describe how much I love this image, captured in Rwanda. Fiznatty writes, “Despite being dressed in drab, second-hand clothing, [the lead boy] exuded a confidence that I feel reflected his countrymen as a whole.” And yes, I would agree that the boy’s confidence (bravado?) is probably the first thing you notice in this image. And I particularly love the choice of shooting the image in black-and-white — it conveys the starkness and difficulty of life in war-torn Rwanda. Wonderfully shot.

2. Movement.

In addition to their wonderful expressions, probably the characteristic most notable in children is their inability to sit still — they always seem to be on the move, which can often make it difficult to capture their photographs. In my experience, the best thing to do is just go with it — capture images of children doing what they do best. To wit:

This beautiful image, shared by jonrawlinson, totally captures the exuberance we can only imagine this young boy must be feeling as he leaps into sea off the coast of Gibraltar. The feeling of freedom, conveyed by the boy’s outstretched arms, is only enhanced by jonrawlinson shooting the image straight into the sunshine, which emphasizes the boy’s silhouette. Great shot.

And again, by the ubiquitous fiznatty:

This image, also shot in Rwanda, is of “probably the most enthusiastic member of the dance group” — and if this, I have no doubt. You can just imagine this young girl swing her arms with abandon, and her face registers pure joy. This girl lives to dance, no question. Seriously, can you even look at this photograph without feeling really happy?

3. With parents

Sometimes, what you might find you want to capture is not just the expressions and movement of the children, but their relationships to their parents — their helplessness and dependency, and the love of the parents for them. Here are a few great images:

This image, shared by Un rosarino en Vietnam, positively took my breath away. It’s a classic example of how the way you shoot an image can sometimes convey far more emotion that the subjects themselves. In this photograph, the faces of the subjects aren’t even visible — and yet, somehow, you get the distinct impression that this parent (Mom? Dad?) is quite devoted to his (her?) young child. By removing the colour from everything other than the central figures, the aridity and dustiness of the region in Cambodia is beautifully conveyed. Well done.

And taking another look at the parental r
elationship, look at this lovely image:

This image was taken and shared by uncorneredmarket, photographed in Burma. I love the wide-eyed curiosity of the baby, and the wary, protective expression on his mother’s face. She seems to be saying “Yessss…. I *suppose* you can take his picture … but just one.” And really, is there anything more lovely than witnessing a mother’s protection of her children?

4. The condition.

Finally, often nothing conveys the standard of living of a community than its children. And the following image conveys this concept so powerfully:

This image, as you might imagine, stopped me dead in my tracks. This photograph, captured and shared by lecercle, is of a child worker in India. Photographer lecercle writes:

Suresh works in this purgatory six days a week.

Nine years old, nearly lost in a hooded sweatshirt with a skateboarder on the chest, he takes football-size chunks of fractured rock and beats them into powder.

The dust on Suresh’s face, the darkness of the industrial building behind him, all help convey the “purgatory” of his situation. Amazing image.

How about you — do you tend to take photographs of the kids in the locations where you visit? If so, feel free to share your best in the comments below. And as always, if you have any questions or suggestions, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.
Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.

Through the Gadling Lens: photographing autumn

Here in the United States, Labor Day is now over, and all of the kids are back in school — sure signs that, despite the actual calendar date, summer is gone and fall is right around the corner. This makes me happy: while spring has those beautiful blue skies, winter is certainly pretty with all its whiteness and, let’s face it, summer gets all the really great press, in my opinion, autumn is really the most photogenic season of the year. There are just so many moods of autumn, you know? And so, this week, I thought I’d share some inspiration, with thanks to the people who have shared their images in the Gadling Flickr pool, on how to capture this beautiful season.
1. Colour

First of all, and most obviously, autumn is known for its rich, vibrant colour. If you’re lucky enough to live in a place that gets really showy around this time of year (or you’re planning on taking a trip to a similarly beautiful location), there’s no end of inspiration for taking a great photograph that really showcases and shows off autumn’s amazing colours. Here’s a great example:

This beautiful image shared by Matteo.Mazzoni in our Gadling Flickr pool is a great example of not only capturing amazing vibrant colour by filling the image with it, but it also shows how you can use depth of field to really enhances all of the beautiful hues that autumn can bring. A really (and quite literally) a brilliant shot.

But what about if, like me, you live in (or are traveling to) a place that isn’t particularly well-known for its resplendent foliage? (Who am I kidding: here in Houston, we barely have any colour change at all — leaves just turn brown one day and fall off). In this case, if you’re still looking to capture the colours of the season, you need to get a bit more creative:

In this great shot captured and shared by Donna Dow/Funkiller, instead of focusing on entire trees filled with red foliage, she instead captures the colour of only two leaves — the result still gives the feel of fall, still makes you wonder at the vibrancy that is autumn, but it takes the pressure of of her to find an entire treefull of great, bright leaves. I love this: even I might be able to pull this off here in Houston.

2. Mood.

Once you get past autumn’s colour, one of the things I love the most about autumn is how changeable the weather can be, and how the mood can change from bright and crisp one minute, to dark and gloomy the next. If you’re traveling to a location that has a true autumn, don’t forget to capture some of the dark moods of autumn in addition to the light ones. The following are two great examples:

I love this shot of this foggy autumn day in England (particularly since I lived in London for a little under 2 years, and boy, does this look familiar). This image was shared by mingthien in the Flickr pool, and is a great example of how sometimes sharpness and deep contrast can detract from the mood of an image. Looking at this shot, you can almost feel the tiny little cold drops of moisture in the air, and the dampness that sinks into your bones.

I think I feel a cold coming on.

In contrast, however, look at this image:

This amazing image, shared by t3mujin, was taken in Paris — and with far more contrast in this shot, the image conveys the darkness autumn is sometimes capable of creating. I love the pop of orange in the leaves on the ground — the telltale sign of the season — and I particularly like the inclusion of the man in the right corner, bracing himself against the windy drizzle. Beautiful, beautiful mood.

3. Activities and sports.

I think when most of us think of seasonal activities and sports, we tend to think of only two seasons: summer and winter. But the truth is, when you take a look around, there’s usually always something going on, even in autumn. And the beauty of capturing these activities in the autumn is that oftentimes the scenery and the setting around the action can help convey the season.

One great example:

(An admission: it’s entirely possible that I’m drawn to this photograph shared by localsurfer because it was apparently taken in Devon, and my English husband used to constantly surf in his neighbouring county of Cornwall. They’re both bloody nuts, if you ask me — the water in England is cold). This shot appeals to me because even though it’s a pretty classic image of a surfer on a beach, the fact that (a) the surfer is wearing a wetsuit (and judging from the bunching around his neck, a pretty thick one, at that), and (b) the colour of the ocean is mirroring the grey clouds, above, it’s pretty clear this shot was taken on a chilly day in autumn. Beautiful capture.


I love this image shared by ultraclay!. In this shot, captured in Rockefeller Center in New York City, the presence of the ice rink makes it clear that the shot was taken in a colder time of year; however, the skater isn’t bundled up like you would imagine she would be in the dead of winter. In addition, I love the movement of her hand that was captured, as well as her placement to the left-of-center. Really great work.

4. Comfort food

Finally (and you had to know this was coming), I love the concept of doing some food photography to capture the mood of the season. Summer might be all about cooling beverages and crisp salads, but as the temperature starts to drop, it starts to be all about comfort food, baby. So why not capture the mood that comfort food tends to bring to the season? For example:

Doesn’t this crepe look delicious? Styggiti shot this image while in Brittany, France, and claims it was easily the best crepe he’d ever had. And there’s just something about the soft lighting, the grilled vegetables, and that fantastic fried egg in the middle that just totally screams comfort food. This meal is definitely not one meant to be enjoyed in the heat of the summer — this is a meal that’s all about taking the chill off.

And finally, how about this shot:

To me, this shot screams autumn: the night is cool enough for a bonfire, and the sausages on the stick are all about that wonderful, hearty smoke-filled comfort food that is just perfect as the year is starting to wane. This looks to me like the perfect late summer/early autumn night. Thanks for sharing this, sgoralnick.

Hopefully, the above images will inspire to hang on to your camera as the seasons change, and keep clicking away to capture the new mood. As always, if you have any questions or suggestions, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.
Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.

Through the Gadling Lens: 5 photography items I’m glad I blew money on

In my family, I’m definitely the saver, while my husband is definitely the spender. I’m always the one who can “make do” with what I have, whereas my husband is always looking to purchase the latest and greatest gadget available. So back when I was doing photography solely as a hobby, I could always count on him to buy me the coolest photography-related gadgets on the market. I’d complain how much money he spent, but secretly, I loved it.

Now that my profession, in great part, involves photography, I tend to buy all of my equipment myself, and I always find myself torn: should I succumb to my generally frugal nature, and look for the great deal? Or should I instead follow my husband’s footsteps, go all out and splurge on the best? My struggle with this is constant; however, I thought this week I would share a few items on which I’m thrilled that either I or my husband went ahead and spent the money. A couple of these items are wildly expensive; others, not so much — however, I suspect I’ll be using all of them for many years to come.
1. My manual 50mm lens. When I first started in photography about 15 years ago, I took a photographer friend with me to buy my first second-hand camera. At the time, I remember him warning me that I wouldn’t spend less than US$ 500, an amount that seemed exorbitant to me for a used camera. But he was right: I spent $501, and $275 of that amount was on the lens: a used, fully manual, fixed focal length 50mm 1.4 lens. The lens was already about 10 years old at the time of purchase, and being fully manual means that I have to manually adjust the focus and the aperture, the camera won’t automatically do it for me.

But oh, my heavens, how I love this lens. I don’t have any other lens that can create the beautiful bokeh (depth of field) that this lens can, and while manually focusing can sometimes be difficult (particularly with a wiggly subject), when I get the image, boy do I ever get the image. It remains my very favourite lens in my collection.

Moral of the story: If you’re ever in a camera store, torn whether or not to purchase an old second-hand lens, if it’s in good shape, I say go for it. You’ll end up learning far more about photography than you would likely learn on your own with a fully automatic lens, and I have yet to see similar results from a newer, more modern, fully-automatic lens. Best $275 I’ve ever reluctantly spent in my life.

2. My Jill-e rolling camera bag. Not too long ago, I wrote about my search for the perfect travel bag. I’m thrilled to report that my recent purchase has met and exceeded my expectations. I will admit to you that the US$ 300 price tag made me balk considerably before shelling out the cash, but the truth is that the bag has performed admirably. The wheels make maneuvering in crowded airports relatively easy. I love that the design of the bag doesn’t scream “EXPENSIVE CAMERA EQUIPMENT HERE.” And when I’m not traveling, the compartments provide great camera storage in a corner of my studio/office, ready to go at a moment’s notice. It’s a great bag.

Moral of the story: If you plan on taking lots of photography equipment (and your laptop) with you when you travel, go ahead and splurge on a good travel camera bag, particularly one with wheels. You’re going to want to buy a bag that you know will survive the general battery and abuse of travel, while still protecting your expensive gear, and this rarely comes cheap. Spend the extra cash — you won’t regret it.

3. My 60mm macro lens. Several years ago, my husband bought me a macro lens, because I mentioned it might be cool to have one, on a whim. I will tell you that if he hadn’t bought it for me, I probably wouldn’t have purchased it myself: spending around $500 on a lens solely for the purpose of taking close-up shots of things seemed a bit excessive. Still, I’m hardly one to turn down photography-related gifts, so I accepted it gratefully.

Little did I know how much I would grow to adore this lens — shooting images so close up opens up an entire new world of photography that I didn’t know existed. In addition, when I’m not shooting things very close up, the lens acts like a normal lens; in other words, it behaves very much like my 50mm manual lens (that I spoke of, above), except it’s fully automatic, and I’ve taken some very respectable images using it in this manner.

Moral of the story: If you think you might be into macro photography, you won’t regret spending the money on a macro lens — because, remember, the lens can be used like a regular lens of its focal length. Don’t let the “macro” in the name fool you — it’s more versatile than it sounds.

4. My vintage Kodak Duaflex camera. About a year ago, I was on vacation with some friends, when I saw my friend Andrea aiming her camera through a makeshift, cardboard contraction, the end of which was taped to an old, antique camera.

“What in God’s name are you doing?” I delicately asked.

“Oh, it’s a technique called Through the Viewfinder,” she responded. You simply aim your digital camera through this tube, which is attached to a twin-lens reflex camera. The result is a digital image which has the vintage look of the antique camera — very timeless.”

I was skeptical, but when she told me that dual lens reflex cameras could be purchased at antique stores or online on eBay for anywhere between US$20 and US$50, I became intrigued. It didn’t seem like a lot of money to risk, so when I returned home, I started searching eBay for a Kodak Duaflex, the twin-lens reflex she recommended.

Once it arrived, and with the help of some duct tape we had lying around, my husband turned an old cardboard box a pair of boots came in into the tube necessary to attach to the camera. I’ve absolutely loved shooting with this thing, and eventually, a collection of the images I shot at a friend’s ranch became my first major exhibit at a gallery. I’m officially hooked.

Moral of the story: If you’re looking to expand your photography skills by using a different technique or lens, you can’t really go wrong with trying out the Through the Viewfinder technique. I wrote a bit about it at the bottom of this post (which includes some links to get you started), and the best part? If you decided you’re not that into the TtV method, for $25 you’ve managed to score yourself a cool vin
tage camera to display on your bookshelves, giving guests the signal that you’re a Bona Fide Photography Buff. That has to count for something.

5. My 70-200mm zoom lens. Okay, so I’ve saved the most shockingly expensive item for last — and believe you me, when my husband showed up with this puppy at our house, I gave him a SERIOUS talking-to about spending that kind of money on a lens. In fact, just typing that last sentence, and linking to the price on Amazon just sent a pang of rage through my little tightwad heart. This is really the sort of lens that should be saved for SERIOUS pros, and the only reason that I didn’t make him return it immediately was because he’d ordered it from the States, and at the time, we were living in Trinidad — there was really no store to which to return the damned thing, without risking it being damaged in shipment.

So it remained.

And I have to admit, this lens has become my absolute pride and joy. It is positively perfect for taking beautiful portraits of people from far away, so that they’re not even really aware that you’re taking their photograph, much less capturing such lovely tight shots. It is my go-to lens when I attend weddings, my tool for my standard wedding gift of an album of candid images. And of course, now that photography is part of my profession, I’m thrilled to own it. When it comes to going to festivals or other public events, there really is no comparison.

Moral of the story: Do not spend the money on this lens unless you have some serious cash burning your pocket. But if you can afford it, and you’re the type of person who likes to travel to visit the famous festivals of the world and capture close-up expressions of the faces you see around you, you’ll be swooning at the results you can get with this bad boy. It’s an excellent lens.

So those are my will-never-regret photography purchases — how about you? Are there any photography-related items that you’re so happy you spent the money on? If so, please share them in the comments, below. And as always, if you have any questions or suggestions, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.
Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.