What's on your "photographic" Holiday wish list? What do you hope Santa drops (gently) down your chimney?

Martin Burke and Meredith McCall in a series of images
marketing "Santaland Diaries" at Zach Theatre.

It's a tradition for photographers who blog to do a laundry list of stuff they recommend to their readers. I presume that the conceit is that you would never have heard of these products if talented bloggers had not brought them to your attention. And now that you've been informed the smart thing to do is to click through the links supplied and make sure you get that perfect camera, lens or light before the stores run out. Or before the companies making the goodies decide to give up and move on to greener pastures; like the design and marketing of innovative new microwave ovens and smart phones. 

I thought I'd take a different tack and ask you what you are actually interested in getting for yourself during this holiday season. And I thought I'd start the ball rolling by letting you know which two or three things I have bouncing around in my head right now:

1. Since I'm a sucker for the "idea" of really good lenses the first item is a "want" and not a "need." I have my mind set on thinking-about-getting (as opposed to actually getting) that Sigma 24-35mm f2.0 zoom lens I rattled on about a few weeks past. I love big, heavy zooms because the implication is that fewer compromises in design and construction were made. My fantasy for this lens is that every time I need a wide angle of some sort I'll be able to put one of these amazing lenses on a D810 and out image the hell out of everyone else.  Buildings will be sharper and more three dimensional, faces more animated and products made more desirable just from having been photographed by this two pound wonder lens. The fantasy continues all the way through post production when I will hand a finished print to a client who will be so impressed, and content fulfilled, that he or she will faint onto a convenient settee and need to be revived with smelling salts. 

The reality might turn out to be that I buy one and compare it to my ancient, Nikon 25-50mm f4.0 and realize that the old lens is at least 90% of the new lens but is already paid for and nicely broken in. But by then I'll be too embarrassed to sell the new lens or return it because of the amount of uninformed gushing I have been doing on my blog.

2. All of a sudden I want a Nikon D4S. Don't know why. Maybe it's a reaction to all the pixie cameras I've been buying and using over the past five years. Maybe I believe that if I spend obscene amounts of money on a camera that it will have special imaging powers that most people don't understand. Maybe I want a camera with a battery that lasts all week instead of all day (or just a couple of hours). 
I'm pretty sure I'm not going to buy one of these either. But I'm sure if I wore it around my neck all day as I walked around downtown two things might happen: a. A lot of people will ask me if I am a "full time," "professional" photographer. And, b. I will have a very sore neck by the end of the day. 

There are things to like about the big camera. The finder is extremely nice. The sensor is supposed to be extremely good, and it will most likely take more of a beating that a more reasonably sized and priced camera.

All very rational stuff but I'd still like to find one in my stocking this year ---- unless those people at Nikon want to buy me off for a while by sending me a D5 for free instead. I'll take a prototype, as long as the firmware is upgradable...

3.  I would dearly love to have a Leica M4. The original M4, not the "P" version. I'm a little light on M bodies since I lost one in that horrible Range Rover accident in Lisbon. That's what I get for loaning equipment to Henry White.  If you are sending me one as a gift for all of my hard work and brilliant (and funny) writing here on the blog, save yourself some money and don't send along a 50mm lens for it. I already have one that will work. This is one camera I would buy, if I had the money and could find one in mint condition (black, enamel, please). 

Those are all my camera, self-gift fantasies for right now. Sad (or happy) thing is that I can't really think of anything I need, photographically. Nothing I can point to and say, "Not having this is holding me back!" But it's nice to think about what I would buy if I got all capricious and silly and went on a spending binge. But that will have to wait a while as most of my extra cash goes off to a college somewhere. 

So, this is the interactive part. Is there some cool stuff that's not on my radar? A camera out of the mainstream that we haven't written about? Some product or finely crafted tool that you think all VSL readers might need to know about? What do you want for the holiday? Tell us in the comments.

(and yes, I think all of us would list PEACE ON EARTH, and all the other planets too...)

Coolest lenses?
Coolest cameras (existing or imagined)?
Coolest lights?
Coolest light modifiers?
It's kind of an open forum: Go!

Sorry. No gratuitous links. You'll have to look up your own "must have" gear.

This used to be the view walking toward downtown Austin. Now it's littered with high rise buildings. I guess that's not so bad.

I was struck more by the range of colors and tones of this image. It was not taken with one of the modern, super cameras but with an older, Kodak SLR/n. That was a bitchy camera that often stopped to "recalibrate" itself in the middle of a shoot, but when it was good it was very good.

Every model of camera has its own palette. Some more interesting than others. The one area in which the old Kodaks excelled was in the rendition of skin tones and colors. Operationally it was less wonderful. But back then we had to suffer a bit for our art.....

A portrait of Belinda.


Someone recently suggested that I only want to shoot "beautiful" people. This is true. But one's definition of beauty can be so wide and encompassing as to include the majority of people one meets in life. Sometimes we are "blinded by love." But most of the time I like to think people don't work hard enough at finding the combination of things that make a person "beautiful."

Eyes. Poise. Strength. Wisdom. Calmness. Being comfortable in one's own skin. These things are the nature of beauty. Harder maybe to capture in photography than traditional measures of beauty, but more permanent and engaging. 

People have said that a portrait can only capture what is on the surface. I think a subject's presentation and energy can provide much more.

We just need to shoot with more appreciation for the beauty that exists at a remove from popular culture's glossy surface.