Friday, April 23, 2010

Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day!

Just a quick reminder to everyone that April 25 (2010) is Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day so get out and shoot some pinhole images, pick your favorite, and upload it to the site. Don't know what a pinhole camera is, or how to make one? Keep reading!

A Pinhole camera, is quite simply a camera without a lens which has a very small aperture (hence the term pinhole) it's very much like a camera obscura, but instead of being project onto a wall, your image is projected onto a piece of film, or sensor device. That's a really basic definition and for some more depth, consult a site like wikipedia.

Now to make one you've got several options, the first is perhaps one of the most old school ways of doing it, albeit a great weekend project--an oatmeal container pinhole camera. This is going to require a bit of work, and will be totally new to many people as it requires developing your own paper in a dark room. The a fore linked to site is the same I used when I made my camera years ago. The gist of it, is you cut a hole in the container, take a piece of soda can and put a pinhole in it, tape that in, put some photographic paper in in the dark, expose it, and develop it, the site gets much more into it. It'll take about a day to make, and you're getting 1 shot at a time. It must be loaded and reloaded in the dark, with the image being processed between each stage, a fun time though.

The next option is a 21st century approach to a very old school photographic style. This is probably going to be a little cheaper, unless you have darkroom supplies lying around. All you need is a (d)SLR, a body cap, and a soda can. Assuming you already have the (d)SLR (digital is parenthetical because this could be done with a film SLR) and assuming you have the body cap, if not its about 4usd (and you're going to put a hole in it, so it's a good idea to order another one if you don't already have 2.) The soda can could cost you between $.05 and $.08. Quite simply, find the center of your body cap, and drill a hole in it, 3/16 in diameter or so. a wee smaller than a dime. Next cut a 1" square from the soda can using kitchen scissors or tin shears if you have them, sand the edges down. If you really want to do a good job with making the pinhole, I'd refer to the afore mentioned site page 4 on "drilling in the pinhole." Now simply tape this pinhole square inside your body cap, so that the pinhole is in the center of the previously drilled hole. Put the body cap on, and start shooting. You'll be looking at roughly 5second+ exposures depending on the light, shoot a bit, and chimp away!

No Matter what you do, I want to hear from you, so leave a comment, send me a message on flickr, shoot me an email, or tweet me! If you shoot some pinhole images Sunday, I want to see them!

Eventually, I'll write a nice formal post on making a digital pinhole body cap, (A really good one) and I might even do some more with the oatmeal containers!

One of my First Digital Pinhole images

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sun Printing, for when the sun Comes out (Cyanotype)

A Brief History of Cyanotypes
Cyanotyping is a photographic printing process that gives a cyan(blue) print. It is one of the cheapest, simplest, and oldest photographic processes dating back to the 1840s. Cyanotypes are made by coating a piece of paper with a 1:1 mixture of Potassium Ferricyanide and Ammonium Iron(III) citrate (C.F.) Cyanotypes were later used by engineers because they were simple and cheap to produce, this is where we get the term "Blue Print" from.

Making the Mixture
The Mixture is a 1:1 ratio (10ml:10ml, 1oz:1oz, etc) of Potassium Ferricyanide and Ammonium Iron(III) citrate that applied to an absorbent surface and allowed to dry in the dark. The 2 mains ways to get your cyanotyping chemicals are to order them in liquid form. You get 2 bottles one is "Solution A" and the other, "Solution B" you can get around 1/2 liter of each and they're sold together for around $20.00 from B&H. ( That's how I get my chemicals. For those who want to be a bit cheaper, need more than the liter of solution that you get from Photographers' Formulary or are just a little more ambitious than most, you can order the chemicals in powder form, and put them in solution yourself etc, this will require a bit further reading and some experimentation, but it'll be cheaper and possibly more fun/versatile.

Once you have your chemicals in solution (whether you ordered them from photographers forumlary or you ordered in bulk) you now make a 1:1 mixture of the chemicals. Typically I do a 1/2 a cap of each. Stir this together (using the brush is fine) and now apply this to your medium. Typically I use watercolor paper, and apply it with a cheap foam brush, but you could use any number of surfaces/brushes (C.F.)After the mixture is painted on (and you want to do this away from UV light as we are dealing with a UV sensitive chemical) you want to store it in the dark until it dries.

Preparing the Print
This entire process will vary based on what you're printing, here's a basic guide, but be creative! Typically I try to print things I find outside, such as leaves and branches, but I've also tried other stuff--paper clips are an alternative. You're not limited to objects of course, you can make prints of (dense) negatives. Once you've chosen your object/negative/whatever, place it on the paper, put glass over it to keep it flat on the paper (the flatter the sharper) *Don't use glass with a UV coat! and clamp it together (between a board and glass or something of the such.)

Exposing the Print
This is the part where experimentation is really required. The amount of sunlight required to expose the print varies from region/time of day/time of year, etc. Most of my stuff I did in the winter in the north, not a lot of sun, I left prints out for a 1/2 hour or so. Its easy to tell when they're ready as they start to change colors a little bit and if you move what you were exposing there should be an outline.

Basically what happens is the UV light from the sun reacts with the mixture and causes it to become fixed and bond with the paper, where as what is hidden under the object/negative isn't exposed and when the print is rinsed this bit washes away!

Developing the Print
Once you've made the paper, let it dry, picked something to make a print of (the hardest part) and left it out in the sun for a suitable amount of time you now need to wash out the not exposed bits, and finish "fixing" the rest. This is accomplished by rinsing the print under some water! I usually do this with a big dish tub I got at the dollar store. Just put the print in, and you'll start to see the covered bits washed away and the greenish brown exposed parts turn blue. Agitate this solution for a few minutes/until it stops changing a lot. Now take it out of the water and let it drip off a bit, transfer into a tub with a bit of water (at least 4cm or so) and a cap or 2 of Hydrogen peroxide (h2o2) this acts as an oxidizer and gives the print its nice deep "Prussian Blue" color. Let it soak for a minute or two, agitate it around, take it out, shake it off and hang it up on your DIY/make-shift print drying line!

Sit back, and enjoy the time lapse of me making cyanotype paper, notice the proper lab technique of eye-balling my 1:1 ratio, and the fact that I'm wearing a lab coat.. I use any excuse to put it on. I apologize if you're in German, Apparently Sony doesn't want you to hear the song in the video. It's "Sunshine on my Shoulders" By John Denver--I saw the name as fitting the concept of sunprints here.

And Here's the video on how to expose/develop your cyanotypes! Thanks for reading, and stay tuned next week for some crazy cyanotype ideas!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pimp your Monopod

When I purchased my 40D back in June of 2008. Newegg was running some thing where it came free with a tripod and monopod. From some off-brand crap, called "Dolicia." The problem with this is that from day 1, the damn monopod (or the tripod really) wouldn't support the cameras weight.

This is supposed to be a big year for my Schools (American) Football team. I have been asked to cover some of the bigger games. The first one was Saturday, and Friday night I decided I would want to rig my monopod up, so it could help in some way. I've never shot sports before, and I was under the impression it was an absolutely essential skill. So my first step was to break off that little tab that keeps the ball head from getting unscrewed thinking that I would be able to tighten it more. Well over tightening didn't do it. So I unscrewed it and the ballhead came into 4 parts. There's a ball with the tripod screw; 2 halves of the container, and the screw. So the first thing that came to mind was increasing the friction and how tight the ball was. This was achieved by taking a roughly 2 inch strip of 1 inch wide gaffers tape, and wrapping it around the ball. Then I took little tiny squares and put one in each half of the ballhead. Re-assembled and voila problems solved! After I re-assembled I couldn't get the head to slip with a lot of force. Held the camera great too. The tiny problem is you really need to loosen it now for it to be loose and it's not as fluid as it was before.

5 hours of shooting the game (probably only use the monopod for 1/5 of that) and it worked well. The strap I Velcroed and clipped on was also a huge help. I'll say that the monopod is awesome for carrying the camera over the shoulder. It was very comfortable when just standing around. It got it from around the neck or in the hand to resting off the ground, very comfy.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Vivitar DF 383 Review

The Old:
The Vivitar 285HV flash was (and is) truly the cockroach of flashes. It was pretty tough. So back when it was re-launched back in 2007 everyone was very excited. Sadly, the 285 eventually started suffering quality control issues. Most of them work fine, a few people have complaints. I've had mine for a year or so, and I love it. But there were a few issues (lack of 1/8th power, 70's appearance, lack of TTL.)

The New:
Enter the Vivitar DF 383. Released very recently by vivitar, it's like the younger, and better looking, but less healthy version of the 285. What makes this flash so great, is it features ETTL (which any die-hard strobist will say is ew but some people like having a flash on camera in a pinch)it's also got 1/1-1/16 (including 1/8th power.) The features don't end there though. Sadly, the got rid of a sync port, so if you were to want to use a cactus trigger you'd actually have to mount your flash on it. It's not quite compensation for this but the 383 does feature a slave sensor. For some one who's already got a flash or 2, and uses them off camera, this could be handy, no need to buy another receiver.
Also a nice feature is the automatic (power zoom.) Theres 2 zoom modes. A (auto for use in TTL if you want) and M. In A if you're using Ettl on camera, if you zoom in nothing happens until you half press/press the shutter button. In order to enter Manual zoom you press the zoom button once, it goes into M and zooms out to 24mm. Press it once more for 28mm (then again for 35, 50, 70, and 85mm) one more press and back to auto. The zoom is a bit noisy, and slow, but it's power zoom!

Exposure Calculator:
Anyone who's ever used a 285HV knows about that really neat calculator on the side. Put in your ISO, f-stop, and power and it gives you distance at which you can shoot. Well, the DF 383 offers this too! on the LCD on the back (you'll see it in the video.) The LCD is also lit up when you press the light button, Although as I mention in the video, it's not lit very well.

Build Quality:
The DF383 isn't quite a cockroach like it's older brother. It's built fairly well, and looks a bit more modern but vivitar is still roughly a decade behind on style(doesn't look like a 580exII or sb-900--but hey thats not important.) My biggest built issue is with the on/off and s(slave)/off switches on the back, they just feel a little cheap. The foot is made of plastic, so I'm curios as to how that'll hold up. (I'll tweet/post if&or when it fails.)

The Verdict:
The Vivitar DF 383 is a great flash for someone looking for a first time flash who wants Ettl and to try some off camera stuff. It could also be a good compliment to any one's flash set (especially if you're using say, 285HV's {which have gone up in price, so this is only $29.00 more at the moment.}) The color temp is right about where flash would be, in fact, in shooting with this and the 285 the 285 had a much warmer tone.

Build: 17/20
Handling: 18/20
Specifications: 18/20
Value: 20/20
Overall: 91% I highly recommend this product!
Pick it up@ B&H

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Lightroom Galleries

Lightroom is a photographers best friend. It's perfect for cataloging images, and your color/sharpness adjustments, and converting RAW images all without photoshop. Lightroom, also has the ability to create some awesome web galleries.

Now a lot of us have Flickr's so why do we need this? Well when I go on a trip, or do a shoot, or what ever I often have lots of keepers. Rather than flood my flickr with a bunch of mediocre photos (like I did with the Moose River Plains Trip) why not put them in a lightroom gallery? Galleries are also good, for presenting images that are similar.

I like to keep mine to a low(er) number of photos. No more than 50 for sure, that's way to many! I've made 2 so far that I've uploaded and they've been 20 and 10 images. They've all been related, and I hope they've sort of told mini-stories. (my "Gone Fishin' gallery didn't as much as the other)

Here are my 2 sample galleries:
20 Photographs from Washington, DC
and 10 Photographs from an early morning fishing trip

As you can see, I prefer the flash galleries, and I've been uploading them to my server, and giving them subdomains (e.g.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Induro ABO tripod Review

Alright so a few days ago, I purchased the Indruo ABO Adventure Series tripod, and I guess looking back now I didn't put a video up (check back tomorrow.)But this is going to be my short little review of the tripod.

The first thing I'm going to say is if you're like 6ft+ tall, this might not be the tripod for you. It's got a maximum height of 56.9" (144.5cm) and I'm not that short, so it's a bit short for me, but with the battery grip, it's no biggie. It's got a load capacity of 10.3 lbs (4.7kg) now to put that in perspective: the 40D with 28-135mm weights in at 1.6lbs (740g) if I'm not mistaken, and the grip is just under a pound at 10.2 ounces(290g) so we're talking a mere 2.2lbs(1.03kg) with grip and lens so that leaves us with around 8lbs(3.67kg) to play with and to give more perspective the 70-200 f/2.8 IS weighs in at 3.5lbs, So you can do a bit.

Now that's a lot of quantitative stuff, but we can all look that up so I'll tell you about the qualities. Again it's short, folded and extended, folded it's great. It's so tiny you could (and I did for my 2 day trip in the wild) leave it under the seat in your car. As short as it is it's also super light weight, at just 2.7 lbs (1.2kg)you could carry it all day and not notice anything. Again just to prove it I did, up 2 mountains. The Case it comes with is quality, I haven't had any problems so far with the case it self, very comfy very padded. So basically, I'll say the tripod and case are great for someone who's a bit short on cash (Only $135--which sounds like a lot but keep reading) but wants a quality tripod (aren't you sick of that crappy 'Dynex' from best buy-yeah I figured) or for someone who already has a $400 Manfrotto but doesn't want to carry around that beast.

So there's gotta be a downside right?
Yeah, there is sorta. I'm not going to lie, I love it, but the levers aren't the strongest I've ever used. I think if you're not super super abusive it'll last a while, but it's been less than a month for me. Another problem lies with the ballhead. Now frankly, I'd been skeptical, been using 3-way pan heads since 2004, and until I got my DSLR they were fine, then they weren't strong enough. I was worried the ballhead would slip a lot--it didn't. I infact like it a lot. My problem lies with the lever to adjust tension. it's a little hard to tighten on the tight end, that's expected I guess. So to loosen it you have to yank kinda hard and in doing this I snapped off a little bit--the piece that stops you from going over loosening. At first I was very very upset, it'd been literally less than 12 hours. Then I realized it was sort of a pain anyway and that got it outta the way. Now the thing to be cautious of is completely unscrewing the ballhead, but that takes a lotta turns. Now I wouldn't recommend breaking it off if you buy one, but if it happens, you can live without that bit, you might like it better. If not--theres a 5 year warranty.

To sum it up:

It's very portable, it's very stable. The leg levers aren't, well lets just say, titanium but, they're not "dyenx" either. The head is strong and there isn't slipping at all (but see above) The quick release plate is a bit small, but at the same time it's kinda nice. it's a great tripod, probably more so for someone who's on the go, walking a lot, I wouldn't suggest it for like shooting 3/4 portraits in a studio.

Got Questions?

Leave'em in the comments! Or how about tweeting me on Twitter? I'll get back to 'ya.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Quick Video #4 - Simple Strobing

Few months ago, there was a guy who made a lot of guest posts on the blog DIY Photography. Nick Wheeler is an amazing photographer with some amazing amazing stuff. And his creations with light were when I was just discovering lighting with clamp lights and CFL's. I tried to re-create one of his photos with my CFLs and at the time I was mildly happy with it.
So Recently, I had a friend ask about purchasing that picture, which I wasn't happy with. Fuji Finepix s6000FD's photos weren't great and lots of sharpening was evident. So today I re-shot it and took some I liked.
The one above is by far, my favorite. I've made a video with a tour of the set here, and a time lapse break down.

Want to see the rest of the photos? They're here: Jake's Flickr Tag: Homage to Nick Wheeler.
and want to see Nick's Flickr? Check'er out!.

Wanna know when something gets posted? Follow Jake on Twitter!