A Visit from The Man

For as long as my kids can remember (and longer than that, in my case) Santa has been paying a visit to our house every Christmas Eve. The evidence is as plain as the nose on your face -- the living room is littered with presents in his wake.

But in 2006, that circumstantial evidence was not good enough for Ben, my (then) six-year-old chief investgator. He wanted hard proof. So he devised a scheme to get a photo of Santa Clause...


The Plan

Santa would not last five minutes on CSI. He's too sloppy. The man has been a veritable evidence factory in our house. We almost always can find a tiny tuft of red coat fuzz on the fireplace screen. And one year he trampled ashes all over the kitchen and living room. Which is not the way to earn yourself a slot on the Missus' top ten list. Or maybe it is, but not exactly the top ten list you would want to be on.

Ben (and his sister Emily) are pretty good at ferreting out the clues each year. My eyes are too old and tired to pick them up, but they see them right away. After viewing all of the tangential evidence, a couple of years ago Ben came up with what I thought was a pretty ingenious forensics solution: Leave my wife's digital point-and-shoot out next to the cookies (Santa always finds those) with a note asking him to do a self portrait. Hey, it never hurts to ask, right?

I would not have had the nerve, myself. But Ben is a risk taker. Last year he pared the Christmas list down to just one item in hopes of concentrating his chances. It worked.

This year, he is asking Santa for a laptop. How do you tell an 8-year-old he must be smoking crack if he thinks that is gonna happen? I tried, but it is still on the list. At least there are backup ideas this time. (A laptop? Criminy...)

So Ben leaves the camera out on Christmas Eve in 2006, and I'll be danged if the Santa didn't come through with a photo -- a single, blurry snapshot. Not of his face mind you, but of his left hand grabbing one of my wife's chocolate chip cookies. The camera's EXIF info puts the time of the cookie theft at 1:14 a.m. on Christmas morning.

It ain't pretty, but it appears for all intents and purposes to be a shot of The Man himself. Which is far better than I ever pulled off as a kid. If we do it again, I am gonna fill up the dining room with SB-800's and PW's to the point of f/16 everywhere. Not gonna screw this opportunity up a second time, even if it scares the old man and all of the reindeer off before they get a chance to drop off the loot.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I have just been informed by Ben in no uncertain terms that there will be no reindeer-scaring SB-800's going off in our living room this Christmas Eve. There might be a laptop at stake. (Yeah, and Detroit might be in the Super Bowl this year, too...)

Okay, so no follow-up Santa photo in 2008. But Christmas came a little early for me this year (with a little help from yours truly) so I had nothing to lose.

Merry Christmas to Me

After agonizing over which "big light" brand to go with, I finally have made the decision to stick with my old White Lightnings for the time being and build up a set of AB monoblocs and light mods that can handle whatever I might throw at them. I am still figuring out the specifics, so more on that later.

Right now, I am patching a couple of obvious lighting holes in my big lights for the end of year tax-spending season. I will be expanding the set more fully soon enough, though. I would love to have the D3x I played with at last week's NPS clean and check. (Thanks, Mark!) But there are about 8,000 reasons I can't right now.

For my EOY purchase I bought an ABR800 ring light, which means I officially have more ring lights than anyone should be allowed. That said, I will soon be comparing the Ray Flash, Orbis and ABR800 (in its multiple differently modified iterations) and posting the results.

But the more immediate need was for a large, controllable light source. So I also picked up a foldable large Octabox. Or, as I call it, my "Annie Light." I got the grid for it, too -- what the heck.

For the money ($169) it is a no-brainer, fantastic deal. The light is gorgeous, and it is built like a tank. Apparently, this is the second design version. Whatever they had wrong with the first one, I am pleased as punch with the current version.

I got it a little early to make a Christmas photo of Ben and Em. (For the grandparents, natch, and not for any reasons of impatience whatsoever.)

Earlier this week we had an overcast day, which made it easy to get a nebulous, background-friendly aperture for a portrait of the curtain climbers. I took the camera to 1/250th and dropped the ISO to get the most wide-open aperture possible. It worked -- at ISO 100, I could underexpose the trees in the background and get a nice, out-of-focus look with my 70-200 wide open at f/2.8.

I was working fast (the kids were freezing their butts off) so I did not think to grab a setup shot. But here is a shot where the flash had not recycled, so it is easy to see the ambient component of the photo. The ambient light level was moving around, and I think this one was at ~f/4, but you still get the idea. Always be aware of that ambient component -- it sets the mood of the photo before you add your first strobe light, and affects everything the flash doesn't light.

The key light was my old White LIghtning Ultra 600, dialed down to about 1/8 power, in the Octabox. (The Octabox is a 47" octagonal soft box.) It is a couple of feet out of the frame at camera right, about five feet away from the kids and up at about 30 degrees or so. Not that the exact angle matters -- that thing just floods the area with beautiful, forgiving light. In fact, someone could make an entire career out of shooting famous people with a light like this. Ahem.

The light is so forgiving, in fact, that the photo really does not have very much edge, for lack of a better word. I did stick an SU-4'd SB-800 with a spaghetti snoot at 1/16th power at back camera left as a separation light. And in the end I added a little high-pass filter on this one to add some crispness to the look of the main light.

I am still working on that technique, and trying to get it away from the Dave Hill look and more toward the natural-looking end of the spectrum. As with most things, less is more IMO. I'll be writing more about that when I get it a little more honed down. But I like it a lot, and am at least looking at it with every portrait.

I don't always end up going with it, but a little high-pass usually adds a nice layer. No pun intended. Kinda like MSG for photos -- works in moderation, but too much will give you a headache.

So, What'd Santa Bring You?

Do you have anything lighting related on your list? If not, did you already buy a li'l sump'm sump'm for yourself?

Hit us with your favorite lighting-related Christmas booty (uh, not literally -- this is a family blog) in the comments. And have a wonderful holiday week with family and friends as we wind down into the start of 2009.

(Photo at top from the 1983 Warner Brothers movie, "A Christmas Story." Original publicity still photos available here.)


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Blogger Jay said...

Contrary to everything I've learned from this space, I got an AF540FGZ for the AE function. Love my 285HV, but for so many of my events with frequent changes in distance & environment I needed the option of auto exposure.

Love the full to 1/64 manual increment variation though. For the record for other Penaxians, the LQ FXTRA fits great (it was in question because of the top lip concealing the thumbnail groove for the wide angle lens & built in bounce card) after it gets worked a bit to loosen up the material it is constructed of.

That was my big gift & I'm very pleased with the new edge a second strobe has given this rookie.

December 24, 2008 2:07 PM  
Blogger Barnacle said...

The old fat guy never visits me,, ever!
So, I made myself a cereal box snoot. Who needs him anyway?

December 24, 2008 2:11 PM  
Blogger Debbi_in_California said...

For those of us with grown and gone kids off making their own memories, this post brought tears to my eyes! Thanks so much for sharing Ben's adventures with Santa!

December 24, 2008 2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good old SB-28.

December 24, 2008 2:24 PM  
Blogger MIG said...

The fat old man let me get a few items before the time if I promised to take them to KC for an early Christmas visit. Picked up a used $1K 17-35 f2.8, an aftermarket $30 extension cord for the sb400, and married all to the D50. (Our D3 is just too much for snapshots.)

With the corded sb400 in my left hand at 11 and the D50 with the 17-35 in the right hand was able to get some nice pixs x the restaurant table of Carol's 86 year old dad and not upset the family or others. -- Priceless - Best one.
In 21 years I hope I am as sharp and mobile as he is!
Merry Christmas

December 24, 2008 2:31 PM  
Blogger Kathryn Lymburner said...

Santa brought me an SB-900. What can I say, I was good this year :)

December 24, 2008 2:33 PM  
Anonymous Bruce Philpott said...

This site prompted me to ressurect my two old Norman 200B's and fit a 20x32" softbox to one of them. I also picked up some CTO and PlusGreen gells for the box and my 580EX's. I've fitted both 200B's and battery packs and a RayFlash into a Think Tank Airport Antidote backpack with the gells rolled and attached as if the roll were a tripod. I now have a battery powered (2nd) studio so I can leave my Alien Bees behind when necessary.

Thanks, Santa!

December 24, 2008 2:38 PM  
Blogger Joshua M Busche said...

I only have one question, why did the kicker have to be snooted? How would the results have differed had that not been snooted?

December 24, 2008 2:42 PM  
Blogger Keith said...

Santa brought me a couple sb-26's! Before this I only had one sb-24 and a canon 430ez. I'm pretty sure I'll be getting another one soon. I love that they have built in slave and go to 1/64th! I didn't feel like buying another ebay radio trigger, so the slave rocks.

Now I want a couple more light stands and a case for all my stands and strobes. My little lowepro compudaypack is seeming pretty tiny now that you have me addicted to this lighting stuff.

December 24, 2008 2:44 PM  
Blogger Shaun said...

Santa gave me the loot for my first flash.

a 580 EX II :-D to match the XSi that I got for my birthday on 12/6

December 24, 2008 2:54 PM  
Blogger Rsplatpc said...

$200-300 older laptop off ebay + fresh Windows XP install + older version of photoshop + easy point and shoot = awesome entry for a 8 yr old to both computers and photography. I'd not hesitate building a old laptop for my 8 yr old (if I had one)



December 24, 2008 2:57 PM  
Anonymous Aaron said...

Is an Octobox useable with speedlights? It looks like they come with a ring. What else do you need to stick a SB-800 in one?

December 24, 2008 3:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike Fergusson said...

B&... i mean, Santa, delivered an SB-900 with umbrella, stand, justin clamp and some other little things the other week, but i'm not allowed to play until tomorrow. Gonna be a fun Christmas!

December 24, 2008 3:03 PM  
Blogger Luis said...

haha I´m still trying to imagine your sons face when he look at the picture of santa´s hand hahaha.

The Big guy this year brought me a Kit of D-lite 4´s :D

but, he had to pay a lot of extra cash, cause of those darn customs chilean elves, they always trying to ruin christmas with those taxes and other stuff that nobody here Chile knows about!!

Either way, I still have to send santa a thanks note, this year he rocked!!!

December 24, 2008 3:10 PM  
Anonymous Jiddu Villarin said...

gosh where do i start. Santa got me a 285hv, a note saying aa powered poverty wizards was still on the way from where he ordered it. Plus he hooked me up with a friend in dire need of a working phone in exchange for a 530ez.
So just another christmas more and i should have my stand, bracket and brollies. in the meantime gotta make do with all available vals and masking tape i can find.

Cebu- Philippines

PS. dude i know you get this a lot but thank you for putting up this blog. I still suck at taking pictures but the quality has gone from a** looking suck to low grade suck. I'm praying for an excellent year ahead for you and your family in 09. be blessed man and i hope i can get santa to get me your dvds next year.

December 24, 2008 3:11 PM  
OpenID duronboy said...

Well, I bought myself 3 used 550EXs to go along with my two 580EXIIs. Don't quite know what I'm going to do with it all, yet. However, I'm pretty sure it will involve high-speed sync and lots o' people!

December 24, 2008 3:23 PM  
Blogger Mark Harris said...

Santa North Pole Delivery Service (UPS) is bringing me a Paul Buff Vegabond II battery pack for my White Lightning X series heads. I can finally use them on rural (i.e. no AC hookups) assignments along with my speedlights.

Seems a shame to waste those bigger strobes, softboxes, octoboxes, etc by leaving them in the closet when I see guys like Chase Jarvis using the heavy duty stuff on location.

And my other Santa (wife) is leaving me an IOU for a set of Radio Popper JrXs come release time in February.

December 24, 2008 3:23 PM  
Blogger Furious said...

Rumour has it Santa is considering a chimera strip light.

December 24, 2008 3:46 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

I scored this year on some Norman light gear. A 1200 watt pack, a 2400 watt pack, 3 heads, reflectors, cables, a couple light stands and a boom for $550.

I'm now switching over to Norman gear from Alien Bees though I still plan on using those as backup. I can't wait to use them on a shoot on the 5th and 6th.

Happy Holidays, David! I wouldn't be where I am now if it weren't for you and your blog.


December 24, 2008 3:52 PM  
Blogger artripoli said...

Well I just get money because honestly, my family + trying to buy me camera gear = not gonna happen... So I'm debating on the rayflash... We shall see.

December 24, 2008 3:55 PM  
Anonymous Jass Foley said...

Santa was very kind to me this year... well, kind to myself this year! New MacBook Pro illuminating my face in its lovely glow- a welcome PP addition!

Secondly I'm almost being forced into getting a Nikon D3 by the rather ludicrous Irish pricing policy. The price of the D3 is due to GO UP by 25% on January 1st!!! This is, according to supplier, because of the change in the Sterling currency rate. Arg.

Ah well, I'll have to dig deep and make another steep purchase. All for the photographic good though! :)

December 24, 2008 4:22 PM  
Blogger Phil G said...

We celebrate Hanukah and Christmas (we're a little confused but lots of booty helps us deal with it)...

This year I bought lots of lighting gear for my first paying gig - corporate headshots. This included alien bees cybersync radio triggers and I love them. They really free me up to put lots of strobist techniques into practice now with just two off-camera flashes.

For combined Hanukah/X-Mas I got a Westcott softbox (Apollo 28" model 2334) as well as honl snoot and grid modifiers. The softbox sets up just like an umbrella and is very portable - can't wait to use it.

Going to setup the 'Strobist Christmas Game Plan' tonight to catch all the paper-ripping frenzied action tomorrow morning too!

Happy Holidays to all...

- Phil

December 24, 2008 4:37 PM  
Blogger Brad Steels said...

Ha, ha, This thread made me laugh, since I'm still making up for last Christmas when I discovered Strobist and bought a 430EX, 580EX, two Manfrotto stands and 43" Wescott umbrellas... etc.

Right now I'm holding off for early '09 when I can get myself a set of the new JrX Radiopoppers.

Merry Christmas,


December 24, 2008 4:41 PM  
Anonymous Dean said...

Santa brought me the nicest piece of photo gear that I've ever had in my entire 66 years on this earth. A 70-200 mm Nikon VR, f2.8 lens for my year old D80. I'm as happy as a pig in mud. Boy this lens is nice!

December 24, 2008 4:46 PM  
Blogger Thomas said...

Santa shops eBay! Got a Canon XSi, 18-55mm, 28-90mm, 55-250mm lenses, 430EZ exclusive for slave, 430EX, remote trigger, wireless flash triggers, 2 45" convertible umbrellas (shoot through or bounce), 8' stands, tripod, & more. Planning to revive a passion for portrait photography that was pushed aside over 20 years ago. (I used a couple of Mamiya C330s & Norman studio strobe system back in those days). Now retired with time to do what I enjoy. Planning to start a free portrait project where I live. Thanks for "strobist"!

December 24, 2008 4:49 PM  
Anonymous Tony Rowlett said...

What a sweet story about your son Ben, and what a marvy idea, too. I'm hoping for another PW so I can stop tripping over the wires. Thank you for writing this blog, you've seriously enhanced my lighting knowledge. Merry Christmas to you and the family, and a happy and safe New Years, too.

December 24, 2008 5:06 PM  
Anonymous Joris said...

Your story is hilarious, you should write a lot more than you already do, preferably on light.

Well, Santa (=Me) brought me an Orbis Ring Flash Adapter. I think I have been a good boy this year.

Merry Christmas to all of you.

December 24, 2008 5:16 PM  
Blogger Mark said...




December 24, 2008 5:22 PM  
Blogger edward said...

"santa" is bringing me a set of elinchrom skyports!

December 24, 2008 5:23 PM  
Anonymous Andy said...

I know its not light related but I did pick up a lensbaby composer and the optic set. Will be really interesting to see what this looks when used with the manual flash!

December 24, 2008 5:44 PM  
Blogger R Mireles Photography said...

Merry Christmas to all,

I was able to obtain a 5d mk2 as my xmas gift..

December 24, 2008 5:45 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

I was hoping for a couple of Pocket Wizards but the little woman, I mean smokin' hot supermodel babalicious most awesome honey on the planet, got me a Nikon 70 - 200 f2.8! I am so in love...

December 24, 2008 5:50 PM  
Blogger stuffjunkie said...

I know you're an Apple guy...but, Dell Financial Services has off lease Latitude notebooks for a few $100. Their sturdy and will take a linux distro for $0. Your son can then control the world (and your home network) from his room...Ooops, does Ben read your blog?

Some guy in a red suit should be dropping buy soon with a Panasonic LX3. I'm a waitin.

December 24, 2008 6:40 PM  
Blogger Marshall said...

Honl speed snoot. The long one. Sweet.

Other than that, the only thing photographic was a fast fifty for those times when I need speed but can't add light (which, sadly, does happen).

(And yeah, our Christmas came a little early because some family have to be other other family on the day itself...)

Happy holidays to all.

- Marshall

December 24, 2008 7:01 PM  
Blogger LucaRagogna said...

Santa brought me an SB-900.
Thanks big guy.

Merry Christmas to all the Strobists out there.

Luca Ragogna

December 24, 2008 7:08 PM  
Blogger Kurt Shoens said...

Santa brought me (via this blog) the setup to shoot a friend's 9-year old's birthday party. It worked great!

I'm trying to find a low-cost way for the same friend to shoot the 9-year old's basketball games as a present to her.

December 24, 2008 8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you
We have been battling the dreaded is santa real questions. Your photo for your son gave me the idea of how to pull of at least one more year of the magic. Thank you sir and Merry christmas to you.

December 24, 2008 8:57 PM  
Blogger John said...

Can't wait to read the write up on the AB ring light!!

Got a few little goodies from Santa early, so far: Honl speed straps and gobo's for my speedlights and the Rosco sample gel kit!! Can't wait to play with the goodies!

Merry Christmas DH and all of the Strobist readers! Hope you have a great one!

December 24, 2008 8:59 PM  
Blogger MPM said...

Mrs. Clause is putting a California Sunbounce Micro Mini under the tree for me. After seeing what Bert Stephani did with it, I can't wait to give it a try.

December 24, 2008 9:14 PM  
Anonymous Brandon Foster said...

I fed your family for Christmas--one Strobist Lighting DVD set sits in front of me ready to be devoured. Yum!

December 24, 2008 10:58 PM  
Anonymous james said...

the addition to my lighting kit this year via santa was a beer brewing setup. uh oh.

December 25, 2008 12:01 AM  
Blogger Shane said...

I got a D70s for christmas. It's not really lighting gear, but 1/500th sure does help!

December 25, 2008 12:08 AM  
Blogger bmillios said...

The next best thing to "more light" is "a camera with higher ISO capabilities". 5D Mark II coming, but the sleigh's a bit slow. :^)

Merry Christmas to all.

December 25, 2008 12:36 AM  
Blogger Mattograph said...

Santa is bringing me a 580 EX II with a Lastolite Ezybox to wrap around it (thank you Scott Kelby)!

December 25, 2008 12:40 AM  
Blogger Jeffrey Byrnes said...

I love your blog. Im one post you provide a wealth of useful information. Thank you!


December 25, 2008 12:47 AM  
Blogger JVL said...

So far I got a second 580EXII, which means I can use that Canon wireless thingie with my other two flashes, or not and get something reliable with a third PW. Maybe a HONL snoot is waiting for me in my Stocking!!

December 25, 2008 1:47 AM  
Blogger SmD said...

Thanks for including the ambient component frame. It really is a great learning tool for those of us who haven't quite converted our mental processes to f/stops yet.

December 25, 2008 2:49 AM  
Anonymous Fotobyte-uk said...

Treated myself to the SU-800 and ordered the Nikon Lighting DVD "A Hands-on Guide to Creative Lighting DVD"

Merry Christmas

December 25, 2008 3:43 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

I gots me a "Standbagger" light stand bag. It rocks. Hard. No more clanking around in the back seat.

December 25, 2008 4:07 AM  
Blogger MARTYr said...

Sounds like you're going to let Ben learn a little something about the good ol' fashioned let-down. 'No laptop? Santa's a jerk!'

I bought myself nothing directly lighting related, aside from Annie's new book...which I only found mildly interesting. I was surprised. The most interesting thing I learned was that much of her color magazine work in the '80s was shot with print neg film, because of its wide latitude. Makes sense.

My resolution for the new year, on the other hand, is centered around a resolve to commit myself to the all mighty image...creating, capturing and cataloging for moments further down the road when I wanna look back and remember the nouns in my life.

A happy and safe one to you and yours.

December 25, 2008 4:57 AM  
Anonymous Jara said...

What about that lovely Dustin Snipes post-production he did on basketball players? He said he is going to tell later so that would be superb Xmas present.

December 25, 2008 6:57 AM  
Blogger Marco said...

Got myself a 50D and another 430EXii with anoither stand, now looking for a portable softbox due to space restrictions!

December 25, 2008 7:23 AM  
Blogger Addison Geary Photography said...

I made the mistake of going to a big box electronics store on Christmas Eve, to get my wife a voice recorder. On the way to the register I had to walk by the camera counter. Sitting on the clearance shelf was a demo G9 for $289. I wrapped it myself and it's waiting under the tree.

December 25, 2008 7:41 AM  
Blogger Rik Sanchez said...

Santa didn't bring me any lighting gear, BUT, he did bring me a Canon 5D Mark II with a 24-105 2.8L lens.
I'll probably have to get some lights for shooting video with that camera, though. I might add a ring light sometime in the future...

December 25, 2008 7:48 AM  
Blogger Jakob said...

Does anyone know - ca you attach the mentioned octabox to a canon ex430 flash somehow?

December 25, 2008 9:09 AM  
Blogger s u r l y p h o t o said...

Chrismas was really great to me this year. I got in reverse order:
Mack Pro
70-200 2.8 IS
A baby boy

Not a bad take eh?
Loved your christmas story. Something for me to look forward too.

December 25, 2008 10:55 AM  
Blogger BillRead said...

Merry Christmas to you, Dave. I know you get a sense of how many people appreciate what you do just by the response on the site. But I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate what you do, and tell you that you have ignited and kept burning a desire in me to make good pictures and keep raising the bar. Gratefully yours, Bill Read

December 25, 2008 12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got a 50mm f1.8D, and your wireless kit with midwest!

Merry Christmas

December 25, 2008 12:56 PM  
Blogger The Day said...

The wife went way overboard and got me a Macbook!!!
Wooo Hoooo!! I was silent for 10 minutes...thought it was a dream.

December 25, 2008 1:52 PM  
Anonymous Nathanael Gassett said...

Merry Christmas everybody! Wishing all a wonderful and joyful holiday!

As far as loot goes, I was gifted a signed copy of Chase's photobook. SCORE!


(Special greeting at the site to all! www.NathanaelGassettPhotography.com)

December 25, 2008 3:12 PM  
Anonymous Jesper Revald said...

Merry x-mas to all!

Santa brought me a Canon 50mm 1.4. Damn, that is one sharp prime. I read somewhere that the 1.2 isn't noticeably better, so I'm glad Santa didn't spend his money on that one instead... perhaps now, he'll have the dough for an 85mm 1.2 L next year :-)

Take care and a happy new year too to everyone!

December 25, 2008 5:08 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

What did get for this season? (I'll avoid the comments of still having a day job in this current economy)

1, I was able to buy a Nikkor 50mm 1.4 auto focus from a pawn shop for 50.00!!! 289.00 new? 150.00 ebay?

2, The irony of all irony, my FIRST dslr. (Yes, my financial life is "unpredictably interesting") With a tiny bit of savings: Nikon D70s with lens. Body/Lens: about 350.00, ebay.

Something I always wanted when the initial D70 came out with awesome specs! I don't think another camera (for that retail price) would be as great. Please, don't bid against me for the next couple of listings, thanks.

Humor: Not expecting a serious response (except laughter!): Anyone willing to donate a D70/70s w/lens to me so that I can spend the 350.00 on a flash or two?

3, Poverty Wizards, mono pod, tripod, light stands, clamps, holders, filters, gaffer tape (so expensive!), sync cord, umbrella, bounce, etc... I'm feeling the onset of slow death by Nickle-n-dime-ites.

4, Delayed Christmas gift to myself: Macbook 13" to replace my current G4 1.25mhz. Expecting this 'gift' to myself in the spring/summer after I pay off my used car.

personal comments:
Nothing like starting from the bottom. It's not that bad, actually. My situation goes to prove to me that equipments means "nothing". The ONLY important thing is knowing what to do with it.

This leads me to my feeling of (smugness?) being totally thankful for the knowledge I was given. What I know is far more important than what I own. (even if a few of my non-photography friends bought various cameras ((d50, d200, d50, d200, s3pro, d90)) over the past +3yrs while I was coaching them on the subject)

I'm very thankful for strobist.com, pbase.com, diyphotography.net, hackaday.com, makezine.com, flicker.com and seasonal jobs I had with Xcamera (chain retailer) and Ycamera (local retailer) as a sales person where I felt the need to learn every button on cameras.

Again, thanks for the knowledge, Jedi Master: Dave. Strobist.com really clued me in to understand that I do -NOT- need 600ws for over 90% of what I'm interested in doing. Saves me a ton of non-existing money!!!

December 25, 2008 6:58 PM  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

I must have been good this year - I got my 5D Mark II, and some radio poppers for my 580's - so excited to give those a try!!

December 25, 2008 9:01 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

Santa drpped by New Jersey a couple of weeks early and left me a Canon Speedlight 430EX. My first! I'll learn it and go from there.

December 25, 2008 10:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lumiquest Softbox III


Westcott reflector arm http://www.filmtools.com/westcott-illuminator-arm-1100.html

December 26, 2008 12:03 AM  
Anonymous TwoEyesOpen said...

On Christmas morning, before the crush hit, I checked my last Lottery ticket and found that I was one of 968 who won $150.00.

Now where is that list?

SU800? SB900? reflectors? part of tax on D700? So many choices!!!

December 26, 2008 12:07 AM  
Anonymous Juliano Moreira Dasilva said...

I'm going to share what I got from Santa this year. Since I started reading this site(Thanks Dave, this site rocks) for the last weeks intensively, Santa decided to get two strobes, SB-24 and SB-25 to get started on my lighting career path. I guess Santa has been reading the strobist.com because he also decided to get me a Canon XS with a couple prime lens, lighting started kit as opposed to getting the Canon 5D Mark II, another words Santa intelligently got me lighting equipments rather than high-end expensive camera. I'm not sure but he's got be reading the strobist.

December 26, 2008 12:10 AM  
Anonymous Juliano Dasilva said...

I'm going to share what I got from Santa this year. Since I started reading this site(Thanks Dave, this site rocks) for the last weeks intensively, Santa decided to get two strobes, SB-24 and SB-25 to get started on my lighting career path. I guess Santa has been reading the strobist.com because he also decided to get me a Canon XS with a couple prime lens, lighting started kit as opposed to getting the Canon 5D Mark II, another words Santa intelligently got me lighting equipments rather than high-end expensive camera. I'm not sure but he's got be reading the strobist.

December 26, 2008 12:17 AM  
Blogger the soft & poofy one said...

Santa's email inbox was full and my wish list got bounced back to me, so I went out and got myself a Nikon 50mm f1.8 lens, a Westcott 43" umbrella, and made myself a bunch of snoots too.

I hope The Big Red Guy does reimbursements, I'm mailing him all the sales slips next Christmas... ;-)

December 26, 2008 4:13 AM  
Blogger Heipel said...

Dang, not a drop of photographic "stuff" from Santa. He must hear the constant chanting from my partner: "You've got too much gear already!!"

Gonna have to treat myself to another sb800 during the sales today.

Looking forward to more of this great website in 09 Dave!!

December 26, 2008 9:15 AM  
Blogger Dennis Pike said...

I got a backdrop stand, not prefer natural backgrounds, but you can't go wrong with a little white seemless from time to time

December 26, 2008 10:27 AM  
Blogger dnlk said...

I bought myself, err.. I mean Santa got me... a continuous lighting softbox kit which has two 50x70cm softboxes, two fluorescent 85w bulbs, two very sturdy but lightweight lightstands all in a padded carrycase for £122 (http://www.backdropsource.co.uk/ I also got a pair of 60x60cm ezybox hotshoe softboxes they weren't so cheap. Anyhoo, I plan on having lots of fun with 'em.

December 26, 2008 10:48 AM  
Anonymous Jeff Maanum said...

I just sold my AB800 and large folding octobox to fund the purchase of a sb800 and 28" Wescott Apollo. I loved the AB light and box, but it did not get used much due to its size. That sucker is big, but the light it cast was gorgeous. I'm just starting out with the whole strobist thing. I have a sb800, sb600, and a couple stands and umbrellas in addition to the Apollo. I really like the portability and it all works better in the small area I have for a home studio. David, you are really going to like that octobox.

December 26, 2008 12:33 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

Santa brought me a Cybersync set with two receivers and splitters so I can fire four flashes with two receivers. My powerty wizards will go up for grabs on the ebay.
I also converted everything to 3.5 jack connections as I got fed up with the PC connectors. The system now works like a charm, no misfires just pure joy. I used it to try Dave's crosslighting pattern on christmas morning. I opened the boxes real quick and attached the gadgets to the already set up flashes. It took about 30 seconds... The thing just WORKS. I think it is time to update the lighting 101 and add these as cheaper alternatives of the PW's.
I'm so happy. Thanks Santa (me)!

December 26, 2008 6:50 PM  
Blogger Kristof Vandebeek said...

An SB-25 to be used with my Cactus triggers on a Sony Alpha 900.

December 26, 2008 8:06 PM  
Blogger Kristof Vandebeek said...

An SB-25 to be used with my Cactus triggers and my Sony Alpha 700. Pretty pleased with that, since I'll be having 4 of them now! Great stuff, never had a misfire!

December 26, 2008 8:09 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Yah, happy days

I got a AB800 with a trigger to and a vagabone 2 to boot. I love you Santa

December 26, 2008 9:17 PM  
Anonymous Greg Takacs said...

Santa brought me an Orbis flash adapter. I haven't had much time to play with it yet, I've been too busy putting together a 900 piece Lego construction site and doing hula hoop exercises on Wii Fit (my son's and my lovely wife's presents).

December 26, 2008 10:26 PM  
Blogger Quin said...

The only lighting stuff I got this year was a lot of shiny metallic wrapping paper. I'm thinking snoots, bounce sheets, and even shooting the flash through a few of the thin tinted ones.

For the camera, another 8 gigs of storage, an Arduino to (hopefully) control things, and a Minolta MD adapter so my old glass can be put back to use.

Next year, I'm asking for something in the high singles or even low teen focal lengths. I suspect I'll get the same answer that Ben got on the laptop.

December 26, 2008 11:22 PM  
Anonymous Phillip Sumner said...

Santa brought me a box of black straws! :)

December 26, 2008 11:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

8 years old is not too young for the kids to have their own computer. My two guys have had one from two years old to now. The oldest is 6.

The first grader will be learning to touch type this year.

We picked up a really cool small laptop called a Netbook that is a great small computer. It had a 10" screen and runs XP. With the large battery it will go 5 hours.

You might take a look at the MSI Wind Netbook. It is just the right size for the road.

Turn off the WiFi to keep them off the net and it should be OK.

Great site. I have been reading for over a year.


December 27, 2008 2:31 AM  
Anonymous Philipp said...

I got a Canon off-cam-flash-cable-thingy and a wireless trigger set for big studio heads from ebay. Thing is, I hate those ebay triggers and dont own any studio heads. Speedlights all the way. So I guess they´re going back to ebay...
...though the TTL Cable works great and even had its first official assignment on 25/12, been working at an ICU.

December 28, 2008 12:18 PM  
Blogger Peter said...


Are you sure that the wireles trigger set you've got cannot be used with hotshoe flashes???
Maybe all you need is a few cheap converter (jack-to-hotshoe or -PC). I suggest you take a look at flashzebra, or talk to Lon (the owner), he will help you out.

December 28, 2008 9:36 PM  
Anonymous Ken H said...

Santa left me a Elinchrom 400BX kit and a Elinchrom 53" Octa light bank. For the times when my sb-28's just don't have enough umph :)

December 29, 2008 11:20 AM  
Anonymous BLR said...

I received only two photography related gifts:

Best Business Practices for Photographers and an Ansel Adams calendar. Both are a joy. I have the gear, just need to get the business brain.

Cheers, BLR

December 30, 2008 4:04 PM  
OpenID frogman2212 said...

Old red left me enough money to get a medium range lighting kit(i think he new my brother in law has just bought a furniture business) and a yashica 635 TLR.
Very kind, very kind

December 31, 2008 1:47 AM  
Blogger klebanc said...

This has become my site for information about lighting and learning the craft, and I applaud and thank you! Have been meaning to comment for some time, so here goes. The Christmas shoot went off nicely for the second year in a row, thanks for the tips - pics to come! Santa had to send a new AC adapter for the laptop this year, the old (cheapo HP
style) one frayed at the puny cable coming off the brick and started firing off like a sparkler! Love the Octabox idea and will now have to put into the budget - thanks, I guess. Happy New Year!

December 31, 2008 12:05 PM  
Blogger johnsonsbasement said...

I know this has been asked in the comments, but I haven't seen an answer. Is there a way to use a small flash with the octobox. I have a small setup to mount a small flash to a softbox, all the softbox needs is a threaded 1/4' hole.

January 03, 2009 8:33 PM  
Anonymous Virginia photographer said...

Photos much better this year with my 580's cooking the corners.(helps to read strobist) Santa better have come as I was emotionally broke and bitter. We lived and santa refused the cookies as he never east after 8 p.m. (Who knew!)

January 04, 2009 1:26 AM  

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