Who doesn’t love a good Christmas list?! I thought I would give you a few things to quickly order for somebody you like, love, or is blackmailing you. Or you can give this to those mentioned as hints at what you want. I know Christmas is super close so I included direct links to each item on Amazon. How can you beat free 2 day shipping??! (If you don’t have Amazon Prime yet (which gives you free 2 day shipping) then slap yourself and then sign up.
This list is what I call essentials for Adventuring. Adventures can be a trip to the back country of Africa for a month or simply anytime you walk out the front door! HERE WE GO!
Leatherman WAVE. My #1 Everyday Carry! I have 4. I keep one in the truck, my camera bag, the airstream and my Bike. The Perfect Multitool
Mefoto SideKick360 Plus Today we take tons of photos and video with our phones. From group photos that I want to be in to timelapses I’m always trying to prop up my phone. This little tripod isn’t the cheapest phone tripod but it is by far the best I’ve used. It’s so versatile, basically you can get any angle, but also very stable holding my big iphone 7plus with no problem at any position. The best camera is the one you have with you. If you don’t want to haul a bunch of gear with you, this is a nice solution. Comes in a bunch of cool colors too.
BRAVEN BLADE SPEAKER. Bluetooth. Drop-water-freeze proof. Really great sound. Amazing battery with USB plug to charge phone. From photoshoots to my trip to Nicaragua, its been a great speaker to add music! Highly recommend it!
Sony a6300. I get asked a lot, especially this time of year, for suggestion on SLR cameras. Reasons like beginning photography to shooting better family stuff to sports or travel. But I won’t recommend something I haven’t personally used. This is little camera is phenomenal. My favorite travel camera and honestly one of the best in the world for all around purposes. Shoots crazy fast stills and video (good for sports, babies, and puppies). Super light while still having all the cool tech the top tier SLR functions have. Also will charge by USB, which makes charging remotely so easy. If you want the newest of this line get the Sony A6500 (upgraded with stabilized sensor) or the earlier generation, the Sony A6000. Any of these three are fantastic!
Bose QC 35 This is the only thing on this list that I personally have not used but am hoping to get for Christmas. BUT I do have its predecessor the QC15’s that they don’t make anymore. The difference is the 35’s have BLUETOOTH, the 15’s do not. Simply put I don’t travel without my bose headphones, ESPECIALLY on airplanes. Noise Cancelling is an understatement with these headphones that go completely over the ear. By far the easiest way to upgrade yourself to first class and get rid of that baby’s crying a few rows behind you. When you turn these on the world is silent. Pairs excellent with Led Zeppelin. Turn it up to eleven!
Jumpl Bluetooth Adapter This little guy is amazing for making any speaker or headphones into bluetooth. This especially comes in handy with the new iphone 7 series that doesn’t have a headphone port (without using a dongle). I use it with my bose qc15’s while working out, working in the shop, and riding my motorcycle (using different headphone in my helmet). Like Sheldon says, “EVERYTHING IS BETTER WITH BLUETOOTH!”
Nite Ize Carabiners. Stocking Stuffer. I know these sound a little minimal to make this list but there isn’t a time I don’t walk out the door with one of these. I use the tiny S carabiner to attach my strap to my camera. I keep a few of the locking carabiners to my all my bags. These are perfect for giving quick access to a water bottle or securing one bag to another. They aren’t heavy or big by any means but the are so handy.
North Face Base Camp Duffel – Travel experience hinges on how easy you can move…or TRAVEL. The right bag can make or break a trip honestly. Ever seen somebody’s bag fall apart on them mid trip way out in the wilderness away from a store? I have. It’s not pretty. My first experience with a Base Camp duffel was my month long trip to Africa and man did it impress. Ultra tough. Very affordable considering the build quality. Comes with two long shoulder straps that can be worn as a backpack very comfortably. It doesn’t have anything hard structural to it so the bag can compress super small. Technically not water proof but I’ve had mine sit outside in a storm all day and nothing got wet on the inside. They come in a variety of colors and sizes. I think I have at least 2 of each size. (always Black on Black). If I had to choose one bag to live out of it would be this one.
Hydro Flask 40 oz. Water Bottles are very often overlooked when packing for traveling but I’ve learned that its crucial to have water with me because its not always easy to get. Nothing worse than getting on a 3 hour bus ride through the jungle without water. The Hydro Flask is the best water bottle honestly (yes I’ve tried Yeti). No they are not the cheapest by any means but it blows me away how long it will keep things cold. If you want just a liquid holder then get a Nalgene. If you want something that will keep ice ICE for days get a Hydro Flask. Warm water is no fun during a hard hike. I’ve had my HF in my sidecar out in the Texas sun & heat all day and still kept my water as cold as I put it in there that morning. I honestly can’t figure out the witchcraft involved with these but I won’t complain. Quality gear won’t let you down. These are well worth the investment.
Braven Power Bank it goes without saying we use a lot of electronic things all the time. So when you’re out and about, especially traveling, we don’t always have access to charging spots. This battery called the Power Bank by Braven is amazing. Not the smallest or cheapest but has TWO usb ports and is built super tough. With my travels I’m not easy on my gear. I need it to be tougher than me so I know it will be there for me. It also has bluetooth with a ton of super cool features you would never think of. Don’t leave home without it.
Things are not what is important for the holidays. I’m perfectly happy if I don’t get anything for Christmas, but I don’t hate it when I get something I really can use everyday. More lists coming. Happy Holidays!
Be Well, Go Far!
I’ve been with Canon since the 5D mkii came out. I left my beloved Nikon for Canon when they were clearly paving the way for HD video integrated into their bodies. Adapt or die. Roll with it. And so I did. It wasn’t that hard of a decision because at that time I was shooting on my Nikon D300 with a 4/3 sensor. To go full frame meant getting all new lenses anyways, so I went with Canon and never looked back. My Canon was great too. First the 5dmk ii’s and then to the iii’s. They let me create so much I’m really proud of. Took them all over the world. Never letting me down, I’ll always be grateful for them.
Then the new kids, Sony, hit the scene. first slow. Like Fuji, and olympus, they had developed a smaller lighter camera. The mega pixel war was over. It had been for a while. Photographers wanted different things now. Sony’s shiny new pony was Mirrorless. Looked at by most, including yours truly, as intriguing. Neat. A fun idea but by no means a professional weapon. Sony didn’t have a track record of professional equipment, despite being the brains and engine in every digital Nikon made. Then Sony made more moves. First with their A7s. A low mega pixel ninja that shot 4k in absurd low light conditions. Ears perked and pupils dilated. Chins scratched but the gavel had not fallen as to was this a cheap trick or truly the yellow brick road to the emerald city of future.
Then came something really exciting. the A7ii. What’s so great? They stabilized the sensor instead of the glass! Brilliant! I had the chance to take the A7ii to Turkey and the tingle began. Instead of 30-70lb’s of travel gear I took under 7! I’ll go into this trip in more depth soon. ONWARD!
Then they released the Kraken! The gloves were off and the game was now officially changed. TKO. Don’t get up they declared. Everybody else is fighting with muskets and updating the steam engine. The A7Rii was their answer! 42 FULL FRAME megapixels. 4k Video. Mirrorless. Lighter. Stronger. Smarter. A beast undeniably better than my 5dmkii in every way. I had held out to see what Canon’s response to the Sony contender’s artillery but nothing recieved. Bigger Bullets? A whopping 50 megapixel Canon 5d body. A Killer Elite for sure if one is simply looking for an alternative to buying a medium format camera. But few of us are, and the ones that can shoot medium format do.
The signs were clear. My beloved partner in crime, Canon, had not evolved. Once the leader of the digital movement, now standing on its sinking podium, refusing to stop shouting “bigger is better”. Bruce Lee would say other wise. My work style had changed over the last few years. I still shot my advertising, but given my rebirth as a travel and adventure shooter. I needed my gear to fit me. My needs were more fluid. Forget the stealthy weight and size. Sony’s tech in the camera that integrates with my phone: being able to view the live view from the camera, change the camera’s settings, trigger, and finally pull the image directly from the body to my phone to be posted to the world within 20 seconds of the capture. This was a body for today’s photographer’s media needs without sacrificing full metal jacket functionality of our beloved Nikon and Canon bodies. My technical creativity hatched like gremlins under a sprinkler. Welcome to the revolution.
I sold my Canon’s. All the perfect glass I had said to myself when I bought it “this is it. the last one of these I’ll ever need” They are all gone and new steeds are in the stable now. No regrets
to be continued.
For the past 10 years there has been an event that has stirred in my heart! Ask anybody about it and you’ll get a variety of descriptions. Naked, dusty, drugs, weird, artsy, crazy, awesome, etc are the common words that you’ll hear. And so this year i set out for the playa of the mysteriously famous Burning Man, knowing only a few things for certain. One was that whatever you brought in, you take with you out (including every scrap of trash and not a drop of liquid hits the ground) and the second was that I had to be prepared to be there for 8 days straight. Food, Water, and whatever else had to last.
Really not knowing what to expect I finally reached the gates after crossing miles and miles of desert. A beautiful woman dressed like something from a mix of OZ and Mad Max opened my truck door with a smile pulled me out and gave me a hug. WELCOME HOME! She rejoiced! The optimism was infectious and I couldn’t help but smile. Like Disney Land for adult, you couldn’t help but jump up and down from excitement. “What burn is this for you??” she asked with a genuine eagerness. “my first” I replied. “A VIRGIN!!!!!” She yelled embracing me yet again only to feel 4 or 5 more people join in the hug also announcing my new found “virginity”. I had arrived.
Filing into another line down the hill, the playa was exposed at random by a cloud of dust that had the tormenting power of a tidal wave. The winds shifted for a second and then all of the sudden there he was, the Man. Towering over everything like some foreign monument so random “Alien” was the only explanation. Too Illogical to come from us mere humans, but yet he did. Logic was nowhere near this place I learned as an “art car” the shape of a rhino transformer and the size of a semi truck rolled by full of people in it’s belly. All rules were off, the game was on. The Walk on the Wild Side had begun.
The Next week was a blur of surrealism. I’m writing this 2 days after I left the playa and I’m still processing what happened. Like waking from a heavy vivid dream, grasping at fleeting details. A mix of dust, nakedness everywhere, and the most amazing art one can think of. Mash that with a constant thumbing of EDM (Electronic Dance Music) that kept you moving like a pace maker for the spirit. A soundtrack for the mind. You kept moving. The setting for this was obviously perfect. The sterile desert complimented the sculptures, leaving the focus for them. As physically demanding as it was to get to see art for the heat and the deep sand made you earn the experience, reaching them left you intimate with the visuals.
The inhabitants of Black Rock City were all very much like the gate keepers. Open loving creatures. Eager to embrace you. (naked or not) Excited to talk about what you had seen and their experiences. Longing to encourage you. It was intoxicating to say the least. My camp mates were pretty awesome. Only knowing one going into it we quickly became family as we hung out and ate together during the day and looked out for each other at night. I am so grateful to have met each one of them.
70,000 people come to Burning Man at Black Rock City
The key to any travel is to go into it with an open mind. You don’t go to foreign lands expecting it to bend and cater to your comfort zone, and the same way goes for Burning Man, except its another dimension. You will lose the point of traveling if you do this. Like most movies, if you go into it with a certain expectation then you will more often than not be let down. But if you go into it with an open mind, then you let your life truly experience something. NOW, I am not saying you have to do drugs or any/all of what is being offered with any travels. One of my favorite sayings is “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”. It’s ok to say “thats not for me”. Nobody at Burning Man gave me crap about not indulging in certain things. I thought of it like a concert, sure you know people are on drugs…but that doesn’t mean you have to be or you can’t enjoy the experience. So chill out. Enjoy the ride
“There was madness in any direction, at any hour. You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . . And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .”
will share more soon.
Be Well, Go Far, Dream BIG!
Setting out on my journey I quickly realized 99.9999% of the time I would be traveling alone. This means 2 things I had to be aware of. The first is that I would have to be very proactive in meeting people. The second was that any and all of the gear that I so deeply love to use would have to be manageable only by me. So you can imagine my excitement when Profoto announced their new B1 lights.
What’s so great about these lights Braun?? Because good people, the head has a battery built into it! Brilliant! That means no more lugging heavy power packs around. No more tripping over cords! The Profoto radio trigger can also control the power of the heads (both TTL & Manual modes!) That means you don’t have to get up from your shooting position. You don’t have to break that connection with your subject you’ve been talking to for 20 minutes to get them to relax! When you say “Hold on” and walk away you loose momentum. And if you did have an assistant holding a stand you wouldn’t have to ask them to go change the power on the pack because you have the control right on your camera trigger! Genius. This light is great! 500w (solid power) of beautiful legendary Profoto light that fits in the top of a medium sized backpack! Strap a light stand & umbrella to the backpack and you’re off! Full Metal Jacket & Hiking up the mountain with your subject without a team of donkeys hauling gear!
Profoto is hands downs the standard in rental houses. Sure they aren’t the cheapest , but they are consistently quality light and robustly designed. The B1 is nothing short of it’s designer’s legacy. The head feels solid. The menu on both the head and the trigger is simple and easy to use. Grip it and Rip it! Sure this light isn’t for all productions. The battery is rated to get 300 shots at full power, which is quite a bit for portrait shoots. I’ve shot many of the portraits below at 1 pm when the light is the harshest. No power cables tangling generators or power packs let me place the light stand in the water while I was shooting a beautiful girl out in the Florida Keys!
Lately I’ve really liked using a big deep umbrella with a diffuser over the front of it. Like an Octobox but no ring and poles to wrestle. It Is a bit of a wind catcher so a diffused beauty dish will join my arsenal quite soon for sure. As a photographer taking people’s time for your photograph you must be respectful which is another reason why I love this set up. Takes me about 2 minutes to set up from “backpack mode” to “light is up and we’re shooting!” Quick and painless is the name of the game. Never give people time to freak out in their head.
All of these portraits were done with this exact set up. thats all. I don’t use the camera tripod, just for illustration. lenses I typically use the new canon 100mm 2.8L IS ii Macro or the 50mm 1.2L. Below are some from my new portrait series “Faces Along a Journey” (all shot with the B1). I started this series because I do like shooting nature, I greatly enjoy photographing portraits. When on the road you meet all sorts of people, you learn their history and background, or that of which they want you to know. This is what I wanted! To value not just the amazing sights to behold but to know the people that make up this country. It might be a 10 second encounter or you might be neighbors for a couple of weeks. Taking the time to get to know people is so crucial. Social media definitely does not supplement real people to people interactions. I’ve met all sorts of Airstreamers, Mormon (Grateful)Dead Heads (that don’t smoke or drink). A BBC Radioman. A future rap star that was caravaning across the country with his sister in a prius! Snow Birds! French Canadian college kids. French Canadian snow birds, outlaws, veterans of huge Military careers, computer hackers, big fashion photographers and on and on and on. People that own real movie Batmobiles. People that invite me out to the Ranch in Utah, Colorado. You never know. Never discount anybody, Never assume.
The point is everybody has a story. Take the time to say hello and talk, because you’re interested, not because you have an agenda! If you think you would want to take their portrait ask them. They might say no, they might say yes. 90% of the time I ask they have never been photographed by a professional photographer!
My approach to my lighting is to feather the light across the subject’s face. Almost emulating the sun but just lower. Place the back end of the umbrella almost at the ear of the subject slightly angled toward them. This causes the light to fall right across their face while leaving the other side untouched and shadowed…thus creating mood! ahhhhaaaa! If you put the sun behind the subject you can basically use it as a backlight with this combination.
Hope you find this helpful my friends. Be Well Go Far. -Braun
Over the mountains and across miles of endless of fields nestled in New Mexico lies the desert park, White Sands. Rolling dunes of sugar white sand go on and on with mountains looking over. Quiet is not the word. The dunes seem to absorb the any noise and all you are left with is peace to soak in the surreal beauty. This has a special place in my heart from my Dad and Grandfather taking my brother and I to it when we were small kids and still remains one of my favorite places on earth.
So if you find yourself anywhere close to the southeast corner of New Mexico, not far from Texas, I highly encourage you to venture out to see the white desert. A place so surreal that you could easily see a scene from Star Wars (the cool ones) being shot here. I fully plan on coming back to use it for several projects. Be Well Go Far. – Braun