The Discriminating Photographer: A Gift Guide

The Discriminating Photographer: A Gift Guide

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This is an homage to the website, The Art of Manliness or in less poetic words, a complete rip off of one of their features as well as the graphic’s of Ted Slampyak. I thought this might be a nice list that someone might want to use as a Christmas wishlist or something similar. I really love The Art of Manliness , both for its retro design (thanks Ted) and its sometimes tongue-in-cheek but always interesting articles aimed at helping today’s young men remember what it was like to be men (where else on the internet will a young man learn How to Shave, or Dating Advice from 1944: How to Pick Your Right Girl). If you haven’t checked it out go poke around, it is a wonderfully refreshing change from Facebook, Google+ and Twitter induced doldrums. The Art of Manliness has a feature called  Outfitted & Equipped always brilliantly illustrated by Ted Slampyak. A few weeks back they added to the series with a post titled Outfitted & Equipped: Whisky Tasting (That’s whisky without the “e” much to the chagrin of my WordPress spellchecker) that made me chuckle. The post had an era of snobbery to it that I frankly found enjoyable. I have to admit, I am a bit of a snob when it comes to some things. There is nothing quite so maddening as poring a friend a wee dram of 16 year old Lagavulin fine scotch only to have them throw it back like a cheap cowboy bourbon.  So it is in that same spirit of elitist snobbery (and good fun I hope) that I share with you my list: The Discriminating Photographer.

  1. Airport Navigator. The first item in this list is the newest bag from Think Tank Photo, the Airport Navigator. I have been waiting with much anticipation for this bad boy ever since it was announced. Think Tank’s Bags are know for their quality as well as functionality but this bag goes one better with it’s innovation. This roller bag takse the classic pilot’s navigational bag and turns it into the perfect photographer’s roller bag. It holds two pro-size bodies, plus three to six extra lenses and a 15” laptop or smaller, iPads and documents.  The two external side pockets can also accommodate pro-size flashes or water bottles. There are a couple of new innovations that make this bag stand out. The first being the way it opens. As you can see from the image above it opens both on the top as well as the side making it  possible to shoot out of. Though I pack mine way too heavy to sling on my shoulders. The bag has a strap that is split that allows the whole bag to be toted over another roller bag like the Airport International (In case you need more gear!). Given the amazing amount of gear this bag can hold, the foot print of this bag is small. I don’t think you will every be stopped and asked to weigh this carry-on. (By the way, click the ad below this post and get FREE GROUND SHIPPING on all Think Tank Bags till the end of the year!)
  2. Wrangler Five Pocket Twill Jean. In Malaysia I sit around in shorts most of the time. But if I go out and need to look halfway decent I wear long pants or trousers. But I am not one for dress trousers or what we used to call “slacks.” Give me a good pair of cotton jeans any day! I have long since quit buying nylon travel pants. They are hot and have an uncomfortable feel. So the best of both worlds come together in the Wrangler Five Pocket Twill Jean. Cut like a jean but made with cotton twill, they look practically like dress pants, yet durable. They go great with anything from tee shirt to button down. They are light weight, breathable and for a pair of long pants, cool. But the best part of all they are only $19.50! Don’t tell Wrangler, but I paid $60 for a pair of trousers that aren’t half as comfortable. (Editors note: Apparently just as I was to post this, Wrangler seems to have “misplaced” these jeans. I am not sure if they have discontinued them or what. But it is a shame. I think they realized they were giving them away! Kühl makes a fantastic pant that I really like. The only problem is they look heavy and I think tend to be hot. I know my buddy Karl Grobl loves Kühl products and practically won’t be seen wearing anything else.)
  3. Anokhi’s light weight 100% cotton hand blocked printed shirts. The tropics rarely allow me to go through a day without sweating like crazy. So when I found Anokhi’s light weight 100% cotton hand blocked printed shirts I found relief. For a slightly over weight middle-aged man I like to look nice when I can–I gotta do what I can–after all I am married to a gorgeous Asian woman. These shirts fit the bill, light weight, casual, with a certain sophistication or dare I say je ne sais quoi. Each shirt is like a piece of hand made Indian folk art. Gavin Gough‘s been lusting after my collection for years. I don’t go to India without picking up one or two of these shirts. They are practical in that you can soak them with sweat but they dry within minutes if you are in a breeze. The only catch with Anokhi is finding them outside of India. Here is the best I can do for you : Anokhi’s retailer’s listing and a catalog of images of some of their other product.
  4. Savinelli Roma Lucite Pipe Shape 804 & Peterson’s Christmas Blends I admit, I smoke a pipe. But I don’t inhale . . . wait did that sound like a famous president? But it is true . . . for what it’s worth, no pipe smoker inhales. That’s how you smoke a pipe. Yes, I know I risk lip cancer. But it is one of my vices–it helps me to relax,  and frankly most people around me enjoy the aroma as well. My favorite pipe is one my wife and daughter bought me: a Savinelli Roma Lucite Pipe Shape 804. It is a classic “Canadian” style pipe–6.5 inches long with a long briar stem to cool the smoke. It’s a pipe that Bing Crosby would be proud to smoke. But a pipe is only as good as its tobacco, and the finest tobacco that I can find here in Malaysia that I enjoy is the yearly special Christmas Blends by Peterson. The blend changes from year to year. This year it is a blend of Virginia and three kinds of black Cavendish leaf. It is said to have aromas of hazelnut, caramel and baked apples.  These Limited Edition tobacco blends are always highly aromatic and enjoyable.
  5. SIM caddy by Mishu. This is where many of my American friends can go take a break, grab a bite to eat, maybe go to the powder room if you need to. I’ll only be a minute, but what I have to say doesn’t concern you. For those if us who have cell phones that are not locked into a carrier, you might be like me and find it handy and cheaper to buy a prepaid SIM chip once you arrive at your destination. If you do, you also might find like me, you start collecting those SIMs and risk loosing the one from your home. Enter the SIM caddy, at least that is what I call it, made by Mishu. It is the size of a credit card and fits in your wallet. Made of cheap plastic, it holds your extra SIM chips and your SIM extractor (aka paperclip). Inexpensive but priceless!
  6. Sol Republic Head Phones. I love my Shure SE210 ear buds but sometimes you just don’t want things in your ears! Sol Republic were the answer, their head phones are virtually indestructible (they bend all the way backwards, frontwards and every which direction!). Their on-ear “Tracks” headphones start at $99 and deliver incredible sound quality at a great value. If you don’t mind the something stuck in your head, their in-ear Amps start at $59 and deliver the same quality as well as a guaranteed ear-tip replacement for life. I have the Ultra’s and let me tell you, they are a bright and full sound. I needed something small but still with an accurate sound for editing audio in the field or for just sitting back with #4 and #12 and getting lost at the end of a hard day’s shooting. By the way, I will be giving a pair of these head phones away in a few days, so be checking back here for more information.
  7. Akubra Squatter. A truly discriminating photographer can not be seen in public without a lid. There are those that like to wear caps such as baseball caps or tuques (aka toboggan). I wear caps, but I prefer a hat with a brim (as opposed to a bill). A wide brim–at least 64 mm or 2.4 inches in width. Nowadays when a person sees a fedora the first thing they think of is Indiana Jones. This is both good and bad. On one hand the movies helped revive the mighty fedora, on the other hand people think you are trying to live out some movie fantasy. I have worn a good looking classic fur felt fedora off and on since high school, long before the first Indiana Jones movie. To me a man looks better with a hat on, and there is no finer hat that says class as a high quality fur felt fedora like the stylish Akubra Squatter shown above. Be advised, the Squatter comes with a open crown, meaning it is not ‘bashed” or bent to look like anything, You have to make it look the way you want it. It’s part of what makes it yours!
  8. Blundstones Boots.There are shoes and there are boots and then there are Blundies! This I am embarrassed to say is my first pair of Blundstones. They are out of the box comfortable. Though be advised, I find they run a size big. So, if you are used to wearing a 10 buy a 9. These boots are a bit like a Volkswagen, they are so ugly they are cute. They can cover your little piggies in a hike, or around town and in a pinch in a moderately formal dinner. They come off and on easy enough so wearing while traveling through airports is not an issue. They came recommended by folks like, Gavin Gough, Alan Finlay, David DuChemin and others, so I had to try them out. So far, so good.
  9. Bison Designs Last Chance Belt. I feel naked without a belt. I like a leather belt with the typical “pin and eye” buckle. But I keep going up and down in the size of my . . er . . “belt section” so I find it handy to have a more versatile belt buckle. Enter the Bison Designs Last Chance Belt. This is a nylon web belt with a tri-glide buckle made of something akin to aircraft aluminum. It will not loosen once fitted in place. Best belt I have every owned. If only it came in leather.
  10. Fujifilm X-pro 1 & X100.  I love my Canon 5D MK III but sometimes you want to go light. The Fujifilm X-pro 1 and the X100 are perfect for that. A classy, retro looking camera that delivers pro-quality images. Frankly if Fujifilm was to outfit me with an extra X-Pro 1 and the rest of their lenses I might just only shoot this camera alone.  Light weight so it saves my back, the high ISO is unmatched by any camera on the market as far as I am concerned. It is that good. If you are looking for a small system camera then the X-Pro 1 would be a great choice. Its older brother, the X100 is also great, but lacks the advantages of the system lenses.
  11. Kindle Touch. I never travel without my ever trusty Kindle Touch. Heck, I don’t even Barbeque in the back yard without it. There are very few things as relaxing as sitting in the evening shade, smelling a fat cut of meat cooking slowly on the grill, a nice pipe in one hand, and with a good book on my Kindle in my lap.
  12. 16 year old Lagavulin, 10 year old Talisker & a Royal Selangor of Malaysia Hip Flask.  There is whiskey and there is whisky. Despite what the spell checker might say, a fine scotch is whisky is spelled with a “ky”. There is nothing finer than a 16-year-old Lagavulin (pronounced: LA-ga-VOO-lin) or a 10-year-old Talisker. Beware, the Lagavulin is an Islay and that means peat! It has the taste of smoky peat, sea air and a slight vanilla over tones. If you close your eyes you’ll think that you’re standing on a hill on Islay in Scotland (or so I imagine). The Talisker, on the other hand, is smooth and spicy with loads of black pepper. Two different tastes, both deserving a spot on a list of a Discriminating Photographer. But, don’t try to haul one of these bottles with you on your next trip. You’re liable to have a smelly suitcase by the time you arrive at your destination. I carry mine in a beautiful hand made pewter hip flask by Royal Selangor of Malaysia. This isn’t your normal hip flask, this is truly a work of art. They have others that are quite nice but I like the timeless classic feel and look of this model. This highly polished piece of pewter is heavy and the cap fastens securely. I have used it for years and have never had it leak any of my precious liquid into my baggage.

That’s my list for this season. If you are in the US of A I hope you have a great Thanksgiving weekend. Don’t shop too much. Remember, the holidays are not about shopping, but about things like family, friends, thankfulness and of course a small baby that changed human history.

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About The Author

Matt Brandon

Matt is a Malaysia based humanitarian and travel photographer. Well known as a photographer and international workshop instructor, Matt’s images have been used by business and organizations around the globe. Matt also on the design board for Think Tank Photo, a camera bag manufacturer. In 2013 Matt founded the On Field Media Project to train the staff of non-profits to use appropriate technology to produce timely as well as quality images.


  1. Cathy

    When I clicked over onto this post, I just KNEW there was going to be a hat in there somewhere. You didn’t disappoint 🙂

  2. Gavin Gough

    Nice wish list there but I have to correct you on one point, I’ve never worn those boots.

    As an ageing Mod, only Dr. Martens would ever do. My mod friends would kick me out of the 2-Tone club if I was seen wearing anything else. Dr. Martens ( And they’re not “ugly like a volkswagen”. They are “handcrafted in Dr. Martens’ original Northamptonshire factory” and are “legendary”.

    • Matt

      So sorry, I could have that you had told me you liked them. But if your a Mod, where’s your Vespa?

  3. Gavin Gough

    You’re thinking of Mods v Rockers fighting on Brighton beach in the 1960s but I’m not THAT old. I was only 5 years old when Quadrophenia was released.

    Dr. Martens were more 2-Tone and Ska. Late 70s, early 80s.

  4. Fernando Gros

    Thanks for this Matt. A fun list – really enjoyed reading this!

    Blundstones run a little big, because they are meant to be worn with old-school football (Rugby) socks. After all, they are workingman’s boots, which is why I am always amused to see certain, well-known photographers, wearing highly buffed and polished ones. Blundstones should always be covered in a generous film of unidentifiable (and probably toxic) industrial waste and by-products.

    Although I have fond memories of my Blundestones (a stone carver in Zimbabwe once offered a table full of sculptures AND THE SHIRT OFF HIS BACK, for mine, back in 1993), I don’t wear them anymore. Instead, I long ago switched to R.M.Williams boots, which are every bit as iconic, infinitely more comfortable and come with a lifetime warranty.

    I also highly recommend the slip-on boots from Ecco. I have a pair that are very Blundstone-like, but lighter and far more comfortable. They were my day-to-day boots with you in Ladakh in 2010 and I’ve worn them in over a dozen countries since. Of course, they have never been polished…

    • Matt

      Your the second person in the past two days that has mentioned R.M.Williams boots. Maybe I jumped the gun on these Blundstones!.

  5. Kevin

    Matt great post and I think that this would be a great exercise for any photography pick the 10 great things we love and can live without. Then say hey for Christmas I want the accessories for them.

    • Matt

      Sounds like a plan 😉


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