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What camera features would you add?

What camera features would you add?

This past year saw a lot of changes and additions to camera standards with built-in WiFi and easy-to-use social sharing features becoming almost an industry standard. Image stabilization, anti-camera shake features, and cleaner image processing also became more widespread from point and shoots to high-end DSLRs. So, looking ahead to 2014, what features do you think will become “must haves” for cameras of all shapes and sizes?

Myself, I think that built-in WiFi will become more and more of a standard. I also think that camera manufacturers will work on better processing chips so that video and photographs can be edited on the camera on the fly. I imagine that Instagram or a similar photography application will make its way onto cameras allowing novice photographers and professionals to mingle and work together to capture great images and to teach each other various tricks of the trade. Professional photographers can bring a lot of experience in composition and lighting where novice photographers, especially those who are younger GenXers or Millennials, can provide the pros with some great tips in photography networking and Photoshopping.

I also think that GeoTagging and journaling will become more standard. For landscape or wildlife photography, GeoTagging can help show that an image was not staged or Photoshopped in post-production to make it look more vital. Also, GeoTagging can be very useful in things beyond just photography. Imagine that you’re lost and all you have with you is your camera. If it can GeoTag a photo, then you can take a quick snapshot of the area around you, upload it to Facebook, and the rescue parties can locate you fairly easily. Journaling — or appending descriptive information onto the image — will also become more common, I think. This will be a quick and easy way for people to remember where, when, and why they took a certain photograph. Included in this information would, of course, be the camera and the settings the image was captured with so that if a shot came out particularly well, the photographer could check the settings and try to reproduce the effect in other shots.

So, what do you think? Let us know what features you’d like to see added to cameras or becoming more widespread in the photography world in the comments below!

– da Bird


The Coolest Photography Accessory Ever

The Coolest Photography Accessory Ever

So, you are probably getting a little frantic now if you’re still shopping for that photographer in your life and still haven’t figured out what quite to get them. After all, buying gear for a photographer can be very hit-or-miss if you don’t know a lot about the kind of photography they generally practice and the kind of equipment they generally use. And, chances are, if you do know those things, then you are not going to be consulting a gadget guide on the Internet (and you probably wouldn’t have waited so late to get that special something).

At any rate, assuming that you’re still scrambling and are fresh out of ideas, the good folks over at Bored Panda have a list of really cool photography gadgets that you can get. My personal favorites are #5 and #6. #5 is just awesome. It’s a super-secret spy lens that allows you to adjust the internal mirrors in any direction so that you can get a photo of what is behind you or off to the right side while the whole time it looks like you’re facing ahead and getting a photo of what you’re facing.

I also imagine it will take some practice to get proficient with that lens. After all, we tend to “forget” which way we’re facing and assume that what our eyes are seeing is what is actually in front of us. Still, it’s cool as a novelty lens if nothing else and chances are that the photographer in your life probably doesn’t have one of these laying around.

#6 is great just for the shock value. Imagine that you are with your photographer friend at a big photography convention. He reaches into his gear back and pulls out what appears to be a very expensive lens. Other photographers begin walking over to admire it and he stands up and pours coffee into it. And then begins to drink it. It’s a definite gag gift but one that is definitely practical. After all, everyone functions better after a good cup of Joe.

If gag gifts aren’t really your thing, then there are some more practical accessories such as the tiny mini camera and level cube. The mini camera is just cute and can be a great back-up camera in a pinch. The level cube can help make uneven pictures a thing of the past. There are several other great gadgets over there so go check it out. And, if after looking through them, you’re still no closer, you can visit our Holiday Gift Guide for further assistance!

– da Bird


Mall Santa Photos: A Staple of the Holidays

Mall Santa Photos: A Staple of the Holidays

Every year during December, we can just about count on seeing elaborate displays of the North Pole where Santa Claus lives with his elvish helpers making toys all year round. And, the centerpiece of these displays is, indeed, the man himself seated in a throne-like chair wearing his classic red and white clothing, his long white beard, and just waiting for little boys and girls to come romping up to sit on his lap and tell him all the things they want to get for the holidays.

At least, that’s the idealized image we have of him. But, I’m certain that, at one point, all of us have either seen or been part of one of these kinds of photos. Yes, the classic “crying Santa photo.” So, the main questions here are: 1) why are the kids crying and 2) how do you get them to, you know, not do that? The answer to number one is “who knows? Not me.” But, the answer to number two is a little bit less mystifying. So, here are a few quick steps to try to ensure that this year’s visit to the mall Santa doesn’t end with a teary red-faced photograph.

1) Stay in sight of your kids at all times. I don’t mean stay where you can see them. Stay where they can see you. Kids don’t have a very well-developed sense of time and if you disappear, they’re going to freak out and think it’s forever.

2) Don’t make them stand in line for ages. Look, if it’s really crowded and they really want to see Santa, then make friends with the people around you in line. Talk to the people running the Santa exhibit and see if you can get an appointment or something. Many places that have crowds like that do assign each person in line a time to visit Santa. If neither of those is an option and you’re there with a friend (or spouse), then have them save the place in line while you take the kids off to do something else. This way, they’re much less likely to be frustrated and tired by the time they do finally get to see the main attraction.

3) Bring snacks. Kids get hungry. Hunger makes them moody. Moodiness means meltdowns. So, pour some cereal into a snack bag and use it to keep your child placated during the wait.

4) Don’t get your kids riled up. Don’t tease them or do things that will upset them right before you hand them over to complete strangers. Even if you think it’s funny, just don’t. The guys running the Santa land don’t get paid enough to deal with your emotional immaturity.

5) Don’t try to make the mall Santa pictures The Photos of the Season. Unless your kid insists on dressing in their Sunday best, let them wear comfortable clothing. For the Picturesque Family Photo, go to a professional photographer in a less stimulating setting.

6) If your kid cries, don’t fuss at them to calm down. The younger they are, the more futile this is. Instead, try to get up there and distract them. If that doesn’t work, then let them finish up and then take them home.

There’s no guarantee, other than age, that your kids won’t be the ones crying in this year’s Santa photo. However, with a little forethought and planning, you can reduce the odds of it happening and deal with it better if it does happen. Trust me, your local mall Santa will thank you.

– da Bird


Weekly Wrap Up

Weekly Wrap Up

Wow. Just a few more of these before the year ends. And, with that in mind, our Twitter feed has been filled to the brim with photo essays of the year in review. Also, with Nelson Mandela passing away, this week has been filled with a lot of reflections over his life and the things he did that helped to change the world. There was even a bit of a photography controversy at his memorial service where three world leaders decided to indulge in a “selfie.” Probably not the smartest move ever.

In additions to look-backs, this week has been filled with advice on getting the perfect gift for a photographer and on how to take your own photography to the next level. Gear and camera reviews have been coming out at a steady pace with information that can be very helpful in deciding which camera, lens, bag, or flash to get a photographer for the holidays. All of these stories and more were featured in our Twitter feed this week. However, if you’re not following us on Twitter then we’ll recap the highlights from this past week for you below.


That’s all for this week, folks! Have a great weekend and see you again on Monday!

– da Bird


2013 in Review: Photos from the Year

There are only about three weeks left in 2013. So, while you’re out doing your holiday shopping, traveling to see your friends or family for the holidays, or just sitting at home and enjoying the quiet (or the noise, whatever you’re into), try to take some time to check out In Focus’s three-part series on photos from the major events of 2013. Some of the photos are graphic because no year is completely peaceful and happy. Still, take some time to check it out and be amazed by just how much happened this past year. (You can find it here: Part I, Part II, and Part III.

It started out with some great photos of beauty amidst destruction with images of cars, barrels, and more frozen over with water that was used to battle the blazes in a Chicago warehouse fire. Then there were images from the rebellion and fighting in Mali, from the ISS, the inauguration of President Obama, the riots for and against Morsi in Egypt, a meteor landing near Chelyabinsk in Russia, the Boston Marathon Bombing and the manhunt that followed, Baroness Thatcher’s funeral, and the on-going war in Syria. Spring and summer showed us images from Saturn, the destruction of the Moore, OK tornado, California wildfires, protests in Turkey, floods in Europe, the birth of a new royal family member, airline crashes, Papal masses, and Miley Cyrus showing her classlessness. As the year began to wane and the weather cooled off, we saw Batkid and Batman saving Gotham city, fields of dyed heather in France, fighting in the Philippines, the standing devastation from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the US government shutdown (which had the National Park Service spending more money than usual to close monuments that weren’t guarded in the first place), the Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, a rare total inversion in the Grand Canyon, and finally, the death of Nelson Mandela.

All of us here at Beach Camera would like to take a moment to thank the photojournalists who captured the images of the events of 2013. Photojournalism is a messy, dangerous, but necessary job. Without their efforts, many of us would have no idea what was going on beyond our horizons. And, as always, here’s to hoping that 2014 is a better year than the years that have come before it.

– da Bird


Leaving the Camera at Home

Leaving the Camera at Home

While checking out photography news stories today, I came across this advice article over at Digital Photography School about good habits for photographers to develop. Oddly enough, one of them was “leave the camera at home.” The more I think about it, though, the more this is a really good idea. Granted, if you’re a professional photographer or are going on a once-in-a-lifetime kind of trip, you should take your camera with you. However, if you’re going to a special event like a school play, a wedding, or a religious ceremony and you are not the professional photographer hired to photograph the event, then leave the big DSLR at home and satisfy yourself with a point-and-shoot instead.

Photography is becoming more and more common and the gear is getting better year after year. It’s also getting smaller and cheaper so that many novices today have access to equipment at under $200 that professional photographers fifteen years ago couldn’t even dream about owning. However, one area where a lot of novice photographers are lacking is in the area of photography etiquette. This can be an especial problem at weddings (amateur photographers committing all kinds of faux pas caused this article to be written. Read it. Some of the guest photographer’s behaviors are beyond cringe-worthy).

So, from time to time, consider leaving your camera at home. Yes, you should always be ready to capture a memorable image or event. However, if you’re going to a wedding or other milestone event and are not the one in charge of photographing it, try to find contentment in just being there as a witness. And, if you’re the kind of parent who lugs a high-end DSLR to every kid’s event, consider backing off and using a smaller, less obtrusive camera.

Photography is more than just capturing photos. Etiquette and politeness will go a long way towards helping you learn more about photography as well as potentially building a network for you to use if you ever wanted to transition from amateur to pro.

– da Bird


Weekly Wrap Up

Weekly Wrap Up

It’s been another interesting week in the world of photography. Several great gizmos and gadgets for mobile photographers have been announced ranging from more refined apps and better onboard processing to snap-on lens extensions that allow you to get better, clearer images and focus. In addition to these nifty little things, the camera manufacturers have been unveiling their holiday specials on cameras of all shapes, sizes, and models. Photography magazines and experts have also been gathering together their gear and shopping suggestions for the holiday season.

All of these stories and more were featured on our Twitter feed this week. However, if you’re not following us on Twitter then we’ll recap the highlights for you below!


That’s all for this week, folks. Have a great weekend and see you again next week!

– da Bird


Lighting Tools for the Holidays

Lighting Tools for the Holidays

If you’re still looking for that perfect gift for the photography professional in your life, then you might want to consider some lighting rigs or tools. Our friends over at VideoMaker.com have some basic lighting tools and their explanations. Some of these rigs and tools can be quite pricy. However, if you’re budget-sensitive and looking for a way to recreate some of these gizmos, we have some advice for how you might be able to pull it off (at least temporarily with some of them) without having to go without eating.

Barn Doors — These are the big flaps that go on a major light source. A photographer can adjust the flaps to control the amount and the direction the light strikes at. They’re usually part of the cover. However, if the lighting rig your photographer friend is using doesn’t have these flaps, you can make some quite easily. You’ll just need to get some cut-to-size and shape pieces of metal or wood (metal might be better), hinges that have stops on them so that they don’t flap freely once set in a particular position or at a particular angle, and some solder. If you’re not used to working with metal, then a trip to your local vo-tech school might be in order. Making these should be fairly simple so you might even be able to find a welding student who wouldn’t mind doing it fairly cheap.

Bouncers/Diffusers — These are the umbrellas, the funny screens, the foil-covered things, and the weird looking mirrors that photographers use to bounce light exactly where they want it or to diffuse light from a given source to soften it. The umbrellas aren’t exactly what you would find in a store but are made out of cloth that can reflect and absorb the light. If you’re patient and good with sewing, you can head down to the nearest fabric store and experiment with some fabrics there until you find the one that works best for the effect you want. Then, take a standard umbrella and paint the interior arms black (so they won’t reflect the light themselves) and then cut and stitch in the fabric around the inner side of the umbrella. Screens and scrims can be made using fabric of particular color and cloth-type strung over a wooden frame or bunched into a window-curtain like manner for easy hanging and positioning. Finally, the foil diffusers really are that easy to make: go to the store and buy some tinfoil. Get a piece of cardboard cut in the size and shape you need. Cover the cardboard with the foil. Done and done!

Gels — Gels are a bit more specialized. They’re generally treated pieces of glass or plastic that can be placed directly over the light bulb to color the light. They need to be made to fit the source light easily and they need to be able to withstand the heat it will put out. However, if you can make stained glass, you can make some simple gels to help hold your photographer friend over until you or he can get proper gels. Just remember that the key here is to use only enough stain to color the light filtering through the glass, not to block it. You’ll also want to use a fairly uniform spread across the glass instead of more artistic renderings or stylings since consistency in the lighting source is important in photography.

So, there you have it. If you’ve been wracking your brain for a gift for your photographer friend or relative and can’t afford to purchase a lot of fancy toys, why not try to make one of these and let him add it to his bag of tricks?

– da Bird


Good-bye Comet ISON?

Good-bye Comet ISON?

It looks like the comet ISON might not have survived its encounter with the Sun. When it drew near to the star of the Solar System, the sun’s gravitational forces and heat may have ripped ISON apart. So, if you were planning to try to capture this comet on its way out of the solar system later this month, you may need a better camera since the comet has been declared “dead” by NASA and it will only be pieces of it that manage to make their way back out to the Oort Cloud and, perhaps, to points further beyond. There are some hopes and arguments that the comet might still be alive, however, so keep those dates open if you can and take the best astrophotography camera you can dig up with you since you may very well need it to see ISON (or ISON fragments).

If ISON (or Fraggle ISON) does manage to make it through the rest of its orbit, it may never visit Earth again. It seems that ISON was on an extra-solar trajectory which would have taken it out to interstellar space where it could hang out with other luminaries such as the Pioneer and Voyager space probes. Many comets that make a pass around the sun are on those kinds of trajectories. It actually isn’t that uncommon though the most famous comets are those that are actually in an orbital plane around the sun such as Haley’s Comet and the Hale-Bopp comet. Still, even if ISON turns out to be completely dead and invisible to the naked eye, there are still plenty of comets that could provide stargazers hours of great footage as well as more details about what is going on at the edge of the solar system (objects from the Kuiper belt and from the Oort Cloud can tell astronomers and astrophysicists a lot about what is going out near the interstellar boundary along with what conditions were like in the early solar system).

Also, don’t let ISON fragmenting (if, indeed, it did fragment) upset you. While there currently aren’t any comets on the calendar for 2014 that can always change as objects from the outer edge get a nudge and decide to go check out that bright light so very far away. ;) There will be plenty of things to observe through telescopes and to capture with cameras in 2014 so don’t let ISON discourage you. Who knows but that your photographs and observations could lead to the discovery of another comet — one that might survive its close encounter with the sun!

– da Bird