2021 Holiday Gift Guide for night photographers

As night photographers, we have different needs than a lot of everyday photographers out there. While we already have an amazing holiday gift guide on Photofocus, I thought I’d make a gift guide targeted at us night photographers.

Below $25

Storacell SL18650ORG by Powerpax SlimLine 18650 Battery Caddy

$5.94; available via Amazon

Organization is important, especially for flying, keeping the terminals from touching. But it’s also crucial when trying to find things in the dark, as you would with night photography.

The one I am showing is for 18650 batteries, but you can get this for AA or AAA batteries as well. I like that both ends of the battery are protected. And as a night photographer, I also appreciate that it is orange so it is easier to see in the dark. This keeps your terminals from touching, something that your TSA employee will love. But it also keeps you organized, enabling you to find your batteries easily in the dark.

Coast HX4 80 Lumen Dual Color (White & Red) Magnetic LED Clip Light with Beam Rotation, black

$14.99; available via Amazon

Sometimes, head lamps don’t work so well. For instance, when wearing a beanie, they tend to push the beanie up and slip off. Enter the Coast light, with its strong clip, holding it firm to the brim of a baseball cap, the straps of your backpack, your pocket, or your jacket. The light is fully adjustable for hands-free operation. 

Under $50

Abandoned Texas: Under a Lone Star Moon, Mike Cooper

$23.99; available via Amazon

Abandoned Texas: Under a Lone Star Moon, Mike Cooper

Gifted night photographer Mike Cooper, whom we interviewed in Photofocus, has released his second monograph, this time covering the enormous state of Texas. That he pulls this off is in itself astounding given his wide variety of locations. “In Abandoned Texas: Under a Lone Star Moon, join photographer Mike Cooper as he travels thousands of miles on his late-night treks across Texas. From the ruins of a school in Terlingua to the burned-out remains of a hotel in Caterina to the crumbling, deserted hangars of Rattlesnake Bomber Base, Cooper illuminates a side of Texas you’ve likely never seen.”

Night Salvage: Haunting SoCal’s Automotive Graveyards, Troy Paiva

$24.99; available via Amazon

Night Salvage: Haunting SoCal’s Automotive Graveyards, Troy Paiva

Troy Paiva is a pioneering night photographer who has been honing his craft for decades. He has almost singlehandedly starting a night photography/light painting movement. We caught up with him in a four-part interview here in Photofocus. As usual, his book is stunning. “Night Salvage is a nocturnal love letter to three rarely seen collections of junk cars, lost in the deserts of Southern California. Follow the author as he haunts these vehicular graveyards. Even as he paints his scenes with light during the lengthy time exposures, he paints pictures with words as his essays capture the essence of the experience. Drift with him like a ghost through these strange sites: a classic abandoned High Desert junkyard; a TV and movie prop vehicle graveyard; and a little known art project, consisting of thousands of cars, forgotten up a remote canyon.”

Abandoned Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: California Revealed, Ken Lee

$23.99; available via Amazon or signed via Ken Lee Photography

Abandoned Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: California Revealed, Ken Lee

I’m going to be crass and recommend my second book, offering many nocturnal glimpses into forgotten locales. “Abandoned Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: California Revealed is an unforgettable nocturnal journey through secret locations hidden in the deserts of California. California has more than its share of abandoned planes, trains, and automobiles. Famous for its aviation and aerospace, the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad, and car culture, California has long been at the forefront of transportation. Wander with Ken through rarely seen locations as he illuminates these forgotten scenes with light, creating haunting dreamlike exposures of several minutes or more. Immerse yourself in the experiences and adventures. Discover precisely how these night photos are created.”

Under $100

Oben CTT-1000 Carbon Fiber Tabletop Tripod

$99.95; available at B&H

Oben CT-1100 tripod with a giant DSLR on top. It still held its own.

I wrote about the strengths of this tripod earlier, noting, “The Oben CTT-1000 impressed me with its build and stability. It won this large tripod user over after employing the multiple exposure test with a macro lens. I would definitely recommend this for any application requiring a small desktop tripod.”

Under $250

StarTech.com SATA Hard Drive Docking Station – USB 3.1 (10Gbps) Hard Drive Dock for 2.5″ & 3.5″ SATA SSD/HDD Drives

$126.40; available via Amazon

StarTech.com SATA Hard Drive Docking Station – USB 3.1 (10Gbps) Hard Drive Dock for 2.5″ & 3.5″ SATA SSD/HDD Drives. Looks like a toaster,

This is a really super easy, robust, inexpensive way to connect your SATA hard drives to your computer for additional storage and backing up your computer. You DO back up your computer, right?

Lensbaby Sweet 35 Optic lens

$179.95; available via Lensbaby

Lensbaby Sweet 35 Optic lens. Instant fun.

Lensbaby makes innovative lenses designed for creativity. This lens enables you to place your subject in a sharp sweet spot of focus framed by beautiful blur.

Under $500

Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 ED AS IF NCS UMC Fisheye Lens

$399.95; available via B&H

Photographed using a Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 fisheye.

I was concerned that I would use the Rokinon fisheye a few times, and it would become a gimmick. However, I found so many creative uses for it that I cannot help but love it. Sometimes, when stuck, I will stick this fisheye on my camera for instant weirdness and creativity.

Under $1000

Robus RC-5570 Vantage Series 3 Carbon Fiber Tripod

$549.95; available via B&H

Robus RC-5570 Vantage Series 3 Carbon Fiber Tripod, tall and mighty.

The quality of the Robus tripod impressed me, as I wrote earlier: “The Robus RC-5570 Vantage Series 3 Carbon Fiber Tripod has the fantastic combination of high quality, rock solid stability, and low price. It is made for photographers who need extra stability and height, and value the added bonus of being able to use a Robus 75mm Leveling Adapter (sold separately) when using its included video bowl.” As a bonus, for how sturdy it is, it’s really not that heavy.

Over $1000

Cape Nights Photography night photography workshops and more

Prices vary; available via Cape Nights Photography

Cape Cod Nights offers a wide variety of night photography experiences and personal tours of the Cape Cod area. Photo by Tim Little.

Tim Little specializes in night photography workshops and private night tours of Cape Cod and the surrounding area. He has done over 150 night experiences. He even occasionally conducts workshops on the West Coast, as he did with a recent Nelson ghost town extravaganza with the incredible Troy Paiva. Tim writes, “This is our 11th year of offering night photography workshops here on beautiful Cape Cod.  More than seventy percent of our attendees are returning participants!  Make some new friends or see some old ones!   Like minded, fun people sharing these experiences in great locations make for good memories and an artistic diversion from crazy times.  Be part of it!” Photography teachers don’t get much better, knowledgeable, or kinder than Tim.

National Parks at Night night photography workshops and more

Prices vary; available via National Parks at Night

Rapa Nui, Easter Island, one of the many fantastic locations you could sign up for in a National Parks at Night workshop. Photo by Lance Keimig/NPAN.

The ever-popular National Parks at Night continues to expand their night photography workshops. “In 2021-22, we are delighted to offer even more learning experiences: the tried-and-true Passport and Adventure Series workshops, a bevy of scintillating Voyager Series international photo tours, plus three Skills development workshops including two weeks of post-processing and an expanded week of night portraiture!” How do they keep getting better than they already are? I’m not sure, but they do.


Head on over to the Ken Lee Photography website to purchase books or look at night photography and long exposure photos.  My latest book, “Abandoned Southern California: The Slowing of Time” is available there and Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target, Booktopia, Books A Million, IBS, and Aladin. If you enjoy the book, please leave a nice review.

Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page (poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like)

Behind the Shot video podcast – interview February 2020

Conversation about night photography and my book with Lance Keimig of National Park At Night

A Photographer Captures Haunting Nighttime Images of Abandoned Buildings, Planes, and Cars in the American Southwest – Business Insider by Erin McDowell
A Photographer Explores Southern California’s Desert Ruins – Los Angeles Magazine article by Chris Nichols



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