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The Christmas guests are going home today, the shopping-with-giftcards is almost done, along with the 50%-off sales of ornaments and wrapping paper to be used next year.
Finally, a few hours of free time to go out and shoot the photos that I want to shoot will be available.
Oh, but it's going to keep raining???

It's been fun but frustrating grabbing photos here and there amidst all the holiday activity and not being able to really try out my new toys.
Two kind people who I met on another forum, one of whom I recently met in-person, just sent me an IR filter and a flash unit.

The IR filter is actually a filter that cuts visible light, allowing infrared-only to reach the sensor. My Sony F717 has an IR mode that lets me shoot in total darkness, but is also just the thing for shooting the IR spectrum during the day as long as you use a visible light cutting filter, so the gift was a perfect way for me to branch out and explore new territory.

My new flash unit is the one that was designed for my camera, and while it has a few drawbacks as far as the kind of day and night flash photography I'm interested in, it's a welcome addition to my equipment roster.
For example, while my camera uses true TTL metering for it's pop-up flash, this new one has an exposure meter built-in that overrides most available settings, so EV compensation doesn't work, and the exposure ends up being based on everything the flash's sensor sees, rather than what is actually in the frame.
And no manual adjustment for the flash output.
Adjusting the aperture in manual mode and adding lens filters are about the only ways to really control/fool it, so there is a lot of testing to be done.
On the plus side, it's single pulse allows me to use a slave flash I've had for awhile, for artistic effects and adding light from a second angle.
A minus is that nobody makes an extension cable for it, and the plug is proprietary, so getting it far enough off-camera to suit my needs will be difficult but not impossible.
Looks like I'll be cutting it's cable in half and soldering connectors to add my own removeable extension system into the middle of it's short cord.

And then there's the drill press my brother gave me that I need to assemble and make room for......

All I'm saying is that I really need for the world to return to normal so that I can get out and use my new toys to make some decent photos happen.
But to be honest, I did find a few photo-ops amid all the craziness.

This is a tree I "painted" during a long exposure with my new 2,000,000 candlepower rechargeable spotlight, caught from my back yard in the middle of our Annual Christmas Night Party.
Everyone thought I had gone nuts until I showed them the LCD playback.
Rechargeable spots are a night-shooter's friend for sure, and I'm already collecting/making colored gels and diffusers and gobos for it.

(Click for 800x600 version)
[Image: kak.spotlight.jpg]

This is a quick test of my new flash, made while sneaking outside instead of going to the restroom during another party and grabbing my tripod out of the car.

[Image: kak.treeflash.jpg]

Anyone else wishing for the time to put their photography-related Christmas gifts to good use?
Good for you -- IR filter and flash are both useful additions to the toolkit. I have no doubt that you'll put them both to excellent use. Anyone who has a tripod in the car when going to a party has the right attitude.

(What, you can't shoot in the rain?)

I didn't get any photography-gear presents, but there were a couple of nice books under the tree.

I took over 400 photos over four days, and now need to go through and edit them down to a useable number to send to the two families. As soon as I kick this cold, I'll get on it.
Great innovation Keith I really like the first one with the stars in the background to add to the effect! Interesting dissertation on your holiday goings on too.

My only holiday gift to use with my craft was my upgrade to Elements 5.0 to upgrade my" Photoshop Elements For Digital Photographers" class starting in mid January. I like this version over the previous Elements 3.0.
Good plan for the spotlight. I'm going to have to keep that in mind. Also, I must say I'm with you about things returning to normal. If we could just get over the new year hump.:/Smile