You can find several gift lists presenting cameras, lenses, etc. on the Web to help you buy the right gear. Rather than reviewing my old cameras and lenses, I am focusing on other items that I find essential for photography. Here is my list of tested items for 2019.
No one wants a tick bite or any other insect bite. With global warming, tick bites seem to happen more frequently than ever. Last year, I was on an outing with forester and he told me that his staff had starting using Insect Shield clothing and their tick bites were reduced by over 90%. I immediately purchased a pair trousers and a shirt. No tick bites! I wish they offered a heavier hiking sock. The treatment is effective for around 70 washings. You can return your clothing for an additional treatment or send them your favorite clothes to be treated. Just think, something for your gift list that is not photography gear!
If you want to treat your own clothing, then you can use this Sawyer product. I have two bottles, but have not yet used it. My daughter highly recommends it. Just be sure to let it dry for several hours before wearing.
I have been using the wipes for several years and prefer them over DEET products. It is also available in a spray that my wife prefers. I keep can of spray in my car and will spray my lower pant legs, socks, and shoes. I have never had a tick bite when using this product. I treat my neck, waist, knees to my toes, and around my wrists. You want to be careful to wash any insect repellant of your hands as it will take the paint off your camera gear. A package of Natrapel makes a nice gift or stock stuffer.
I never seem to have enough pockets or very large pockets when my camera is on a tripod and I need to remove a lens hood, filter, etc. One piece of gear is this sling is now permanently attached to my larger tripod. I no longer need to try and stuff a lens hood into one of my pockets. I use the sling to hold the bags for my neutral density filter and holder and my lens hood. I always try to remember to put my lens cap in my left front pants pocket, but if it is not there, I look in the sling. Be sure to remove the items before slinging your tripod over your shoulder!
I hate trying to read the dials, screens, or look at an image on camera’s screen with bifocals. I saw Mike Wolfe wearing a pair on American Pickers and decided to give them a try. They live in my camera bags with all my other gear and they are wonderful. You can purchase them in different strengths and styles. Over the years, I have worn out a couple pairs as I am tough on glasses when I am in the field. I actually popped both lenses from my good glasses one day. The opticians just shake their heads when they see me coming and ask no questions. Another item for your gift list that is not from a photography store!
Sooner or later, you will have filter stuck to a lens. The first time it happened to me, I had friend with a very strong grip. For the next time, I decided to purchase a couple of filter removal tools. They come in assorted sizes for different lenses. I have some that are for 77 mm lens and I have lid removal tool by TwistOff that will fit various sizes. They are not expensive, so purchase one now so that you are prepared.
If you print your own photos, then you might want to purchase a Spyder monitor calibration tool. I have used one for years and my prints and monitor are very similar. The tool allows you to calibrate brightness (set for 100) and RGB values. Make sure your monitor has the controls to make custom changes.
I have had a Gura Gear Kiboko 30L bag for many years that is my main camera bag. It has plenty of room. But, fully loaded it is very heavy. I recently purchased a ThinkTank Backlight backpack camera bag. It is excellent for carrying a single camera and lens on a hike. You can add an additional lens, but I typically hike with just one lens. It has plenty of pockets, but the purpose here is to leave some gear behind for a lightweight backpack for hiking. It has a great system for attaching a tripod to the side or front of the pack. I prefer the front attachment as it is more balanced and use the side for my hiking poles.
Backing up your photos and other documents is critical. I have been using Synology NAS drives for many years. My son visited for Thanksgiving and he reviewed my whole computer setup. One of his recommendations was getting rid of two of my older NAS boxes and add a newer NAS with four 4TB hard drives setup as Raid 5. I have two other NAS drives in use that are used for backups including all my raw files as they imported into Lightroom.
I have other backup strategies that I will discuss next year.
I like to protect the ball heads on my tripods when they are not in use. I have found that the least expensive covers are the pouches used for lens. It cheaper to purchase a package of three or four as opposed to a single lens pouch. I always keep extras around as I tend loose one or two a year. A set of these can make a nice gift for a fellow photographer.
I have a couple of bean bags I use when photographing birds from my car. They work well to support my camera when I am outside the car, but they are cumbersome to use on a window.
Steve Perry at Backcountry Gallery offers a simple and cheap solution to protect your window and camera when photographing from the car. He recommends a piece of ½ inch pipe insulation from you local hardware store that you can cut to size. It is already slit and you simply slide it over your window. It provides a soft rest for you lens and protects your window for under $2. When you close your window, you will either want to remove the insulation or make sure you stop the window before it fully closes. I keep several in my car for use by fellow photographers. If you are crafty, then you could add a name to make a personalized gift for your friends.
If you use an L-bracket on your camera, then you will find that the screws will loosen over time. That means a search through your camera bag for the right size hex wrench. All of a sudden, you will understand the look you receive from significant other when you ask her to search through her purse for her keys…. This little wrench is perfect and easy to identify! No more searching through every pocket and corner for that hex wrench. Hopefully, someone will create one for the screws on a tripod that is different shape, but as easily identifiable.
That is my list for this year. I have some new cold weather gear that I will be testing this winter including several pairs of gloves. I know that one pair is not really warm, but they work well.
Best wishes for Happy Holidays and a New Year full of photography opportunities!