Through the Gadling Lens: photo gifts for Father’s Day

About a month ago, I shared some ideas for some last-minute gifts for Mother’s Day. Well, Father’s Day fast approaches (this Sunday, for those of you taking notes), and so this week, I thought I’d share some of the best gifts you can get Dad this special day. Now, I admit: the Mother’s Day gifts were easy for me to come up with, because, well — I’m a mom. So this week, I enlisted the assistance of some dads and other friends out there in cyberspace, and the following are some of the best ideas that they had.

I have to say: they’ve got pretty good taste.
For the sportsman: A GoPro wearable camera.

This suggestion came from my husband, Marcus: the GoPro wearable camera. My husband is an avid mountain biker, and an avid surfer — and like most people who love to do very active sports which require a keen amount of concentration, it’s very difficult for him to get up close shots of him doing his thing. The GoPro wearable camera actually allows you to mount the camera on your person or to your gear, so that you get some wonderfully intimate photographs (and videos!) of you being the daredevil you know you are. They’re impact resistant and water resistant, and I have to say — some of the images that are on the GoPro site captured by their cameras are pretty astounding:

Amazing images. The cameras range from US$159.99 to US$ 199.99, without accessories.

For the camera buff who doesn’t like the idea of a bulky SLR

Recently, my colleague Scott Carmichael pinged me to ask what I thought about the new Olympus PEN four-thirds camera. “If you hate massive SLR’s as much as I do,” he asked, “would this camera be the best thing ever invented?”

Now, I love my SLR, and it’s pretty hard to convince me to lay out a lot of cash for anything less. But I have to admit this Olympus four-thirds camera is pretty great. With its retro design, it looks like a throwback to the cameras of the 60’s. And because it doesn’t have the mirror box of most SLR cameras, the entire camera is as small as a point-and-shoot (as shown to the left) — but! The lenses are interchangeable just a regular single-lens reflex. This, my friends, is huge. Couple this with the fact that the camera can record high definition videos, this baby is really a powerhouse.

That said, I have to say that its hefty price tag (starting at about $800 for a body and a lens, and rapidly going past US$ 1000 if you throw in a flash and a couple of spare batteries), I have to question if it makes more sense to just go ahead and by the SLR. But I’m willing to confess that I’m an SLR purist, and this could just be my bias talking. Scott ended up purchasing the Olympus, and is thrilled with it — you can start following his reviews here.

For the shutterbug who is always looking for inspiration:

When I asked the question on Twitter and other areas of the internet, I received a couple of responses related to great books for finding inspiration. One such twitterer (tweeter?), @Hugh_Resnick, recommended Camera Ready: How to Shoot Your Kids, by Arthur Elgort. Despite its dubious title, @Hugh_Resnick shares that the book is written by a fashion photographer who speaks simply and clearly about how to take pictures of children. I imagine that this would be the perfect sort of gift for the new dad, who just can’t get enough of taking shots of the new child in his life. And let’s face it: shooting kids is tricky. They’re just so wiggly.

I also received another good book recommendation from my friend Tracey, founder of Shutter Sisters. Her recommendation has a bit broader appeal (and might be easier to obtain a copy of): The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos, by Michael Freeman. She was pretty impressed with the book, as was the author of this book review, which provides a chapter-by-chapter roundup of the content of the book. The general premise of the book appears to help teach a photographer how to visualize the final image before actually squeezing the shutter and taking the shot.

Hmm. I think *I* might actually pick up a copy.

For the dad who’s always on the go:

You really can never go wrong with buying any photographer a new camera bag — or maybe that’s just me. Still, for someone who travels a lot and loves to shoot while they do it, a good camera bag can be indispensible.

When I look for a camera bag, there are three things that are important to me:

1) it’s easy to carry around while I’m rushing from one terminal to another (which usually means a backpack);

2) I don’t want to to scream “there’s an expensive camera in here!” — it preferably has to look like any other backpack; and

3) since I shoot digitally, I generally want to it also hold my laptop, since invariably, I’m going to spend my evenings on my trip with a glass of wine and Photoshop.

There are lots of great sites out there with really good camera bags, but for me, the brand I’ve found that most easily fits all of my criteria is Crumpler — and specifically, I own the Customary Barge. A warning — these bags aren’t cheap — but I love how they’re so cleverly designed so that zipped up, they look like any other standard sports bag; and yet, they have enough padding that the bag can fall out of the overhead compartment and I won’t (really) worry about whether my camera, lenses and computer will be able to withstand the impact. A great bag.

Again, there are lots of other great manufacturers out there, and I’m always looking for the next great bag. If you have a specific brand you’re pretty fond of, I’d love to hear it.

For any dad who owns an SLR — a new lens:

Let’s face it — if the father in your life is a bona fide shutte
r bug, he’s not going to turn down receiving a new lens. Of course, there’s always a risk to buying gear for someone who has a beloved hobby — you just never know if you’re going to get “the wrong” item. However, if you think that a lens is what Dad needs, here are some tips to purchasing them:

1. Make sure you know the brand of camera, including make and model, before you purchase the lens. Often only particular lenses fit particular cameras, so this knowledge is essential.

2. Figure out what sorts of lenses Dad already has — as we’ve discussed in the past, lenses are often defined by focal lengths and apertures. You don’t want to end up buying a duplicate lens, and knowing what Dad has (and what he’d like to shoot, or is fond of shooting) would be a plus.

3. Consider a fixed focal length lens. Often, lens kits come with zoom lenses, which are certainly convenient, but you can get some beautiful fixed-focal-length lenses with wonderfully low aperture numbers, which create great images and lovely, buttery depths of field. My favourite? A 50mm 1.4 lens (which I used for the photograph at the top of the post).

4. Finally, you can always purchase Dad a novelty lens. I recently received a Lensbaby as a gift, and I have to admit, while I likely wouldn’t have thought of purchasing the lens on my own, it’s sort of fun to play with, now that I own it. The Lensbaby allows you to manipulate your focus, so that only one part of your image is in focus, while the other goes to a funky blur. Like the picture of my dog, below, where only his nose is in focus:

It makes for a cool effect.

And with that, Happy Father’s Day, everyone. If you have any other photography-related gift ideas for Father’s Day, please leave them in the comments below, for those of us who are going to definitely be doing some last-minute shopping. And as always, if you have any questions, 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.