Thursday, March 31, 2011

Last Minute Chance

Sometimes it just helps to be lucky instead of good. I was taking out the trash and noticed the cloud cover just after a rainstorm. Yeah, it was a moment I should have been prepared for, but some days are better than others. I grabbed my camera and ran to the pond across the street. I tried to keep in mind some things from my NYIP class. One, I need to add something to the foreground to give the image depth. Two, I wanted something to draw he viewer into the image. Three, I needed to make sure I had a small aperture in order to provide the greatest depth of field. It is not a Picasso, nor will I frame it and hang it on a wall, but I think I may submit this for my leading lines assignment in Unit Two.

Once again, thanks for reading.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Well, I went out and tried to shoot the moon as it passed closer to earth than it has since the mid 90's. More frustrating than anything else, since no matter what I did I simply could not get good exposure or composition. I wanted a shot of the moon reflecting off the pond but could not get anything without blowing out both the moon and the reflection.

I was able to save the photo below. It is OK, but rather boring. I would have liked to include some foreground objects to provide some type of compliment to the moon, but to do that I needed to zoom out and the moon became to small to provide interest. So I simply focused on the moon and took a few dozen shots until I thought I had something reasonable. Reasonable is what you see below.

Thanks for reading.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Another try with the water drops

So you more than likely have seen these images before. A zoomed in shot of a drop of water splashing into a tray of water with some awesome colors and great interactions. The image posted here is my most recent attempt, but it is not why I am posting today. Last night I received my new tripod and I wish to officially thank Ravelli APGL4 for making such an awesome tripod. It is sturdy, strong, tall, and came with a pistol grip ball head. The only reason i am upset is because I waited so long to grab one. I may have picked up the last one. Amazon sold out as of today, with no plans to restock. Sad. I set it up last night and it was rock solid. It is bulky but not heavy as stated in the reviews. I would not think twice about taking it with me on a routine day trip. I am 6'1" and had to lower the legs so I could look in the viewfinder, even when my camera was tilted 90 degrees. No more hunching for me!

Well, that is about it. I am taking my camera and new tripod out and start working NYIP Unit two!

Again, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Seen one of these?

I just started NYIP Unit 2, and as I was perusing the kit I noticed a 18% gray card with it. A gray card is used to help set white balance for a scene. This got me thinking about some other, more fancy color cards online, specifically the one made by xrite. Seems like a great idea. I already own a calibration tool for my monitor and I swear by it. The issue I have is how do I streamline the whole process? How to get color I see in camera to match what I see on screen, to what is printed out. Hopefully this would help simplify things. However, IT IS $100!!! Sorry, no can do pal. I can drop $90 for a great tripod (in the mail, review later this week), and I have considered saving up for a new camera body ($500 to $1,500 depending on my mood). But I just cannot part with a Benjamin for something like this, especially when I can do it myself!

I went to the hardware store to see if they had some kind of paint color wheel. Yeah, that was too easy. Well, I had the entire freaking rainbow to choose from in the sample cards provided by the paint retailers (Free BTW!). The hardest selections were the black and white cards. I had to grab a white card and compare it to other white cards to see which was the true white, and the same with black. For the colors, of course nothing is labeled like you would want (Crayola colors would be nice). There was no true blue or green or orange. I had plenty of sunshine gold or harvest wheat, just no yellow. So I grabbed as many of each color (lucky for me each sample card had 3 similar colors). Now all I needed was something rigid yet flexible to mount them on. I found the ideal medium in the signs department, you know like the plastic yard sale signs. I grabbed a tow away zone sign for $5 and took 45 color samples home with me. I cut the samples into one inch squares (except for the black and white ones which I mistakenly assumed were the two most important colors), which I made one by two. More on that later.

I simply arranged the one inch squares into a pattern I found appealing and proceeded to use spray adhesive to mount them on the plastic. Once in the grid, I needed a bumper to both segregate the colors and protect the card itself from getting dirty or damaged. Fortunately my wife had purchased some craft foam, and I swiped a sheet of black (similar to the stuff some people use on a flash to direct the light). This was the longest part of the project because a wrong move could slice a grid right off. So I cut squares with a quarter inch border between each, sprayed it with adhesive and slowly made sure to line up the seams so they did not show. Finally I trimmed the plastic even with the foam and ta-dah! One color checker card for under $5.

I also made a smaller version, about half the size of a credit card. I used a hole punch and obtained a sample from each color I had in the large checker, then punched holes in a strip of leftover foam. I mounted it on a piece of plastic, then put a bit of glue on the back of each punched out color circle. I placed it in a hole and smoothed it down with the end of a bamboo skewer. Done. Ten minutes max and I can use it with my macro photography.

Alright, so now the bad news. I assume that the colors used in the official color checker are standardized, or at least a known color value. I am sure they also have software that calibrates to this known value. I do not. I have 26 colors that I thought looked like what I wanted, and using these colors I eyeball them on my monitor and hope for the best. When I loaded these up on my computer they initially looked decent, and Lightroom allows me to use the eyedropper tool to select a color to change the overall temperature of the image. When I clicked on the white sample little happened. Upon further investigation I discovered that I was supposed to select a neutral color, not white. This is where a known 18% gray color would come in handy. I have three shades of gray, but I have no idea how close to 18% any of them are. However, through experimentation I discovered that using the gray samples made significant changes to the color samples. The colors just leaped of the monitor! So fine, I do not have the fancy software or the carrying case for my color checker. What I do have is $95 in my pocket and a pretty decent tool in my arsenal. I am cool with that.

If I did it again there is not much I would do different. I would look into finding a better way to make holes in the foam, perhaps a punch of some sort. The only thing I do not like is how the foam came out uneven and unprofessional. A punch would fix this, and I like how the circles look on the small card. But I do not own a punch so it would drive the cost of this project up a little.

Once again, thanks for reading.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Unit One Done!

Finally, after months (OK, years...but that is a different story) I have finally completed my NYIP unit one photos! They go out in the morning, no if's and's or but's about it. For reference below are my three images, the first stopping motion using a fast shutter speed. The second is using selective focus to place focus on a subject, and the third is showing a large Depth of Field (DoF) in an image.

The first image was difficult in the fact that I limited my DoF to such a small area. I did this to blur the background and place the focus on the frisbee. However, to do this I had to capture the frisbee in an imaginary box that was about four inches deep. Any idea how hard it is to hit an area around four inches deep with a frisbee? My wife does (thank you beautiful!). The second image was more of an afterthought. The morning I took thi photo there was a low lying fog across the golf course and I went out to capture the interaction with the fog and the sunrise. Unfortunately there was no real interaction so I turned my attention to the golf ball. I tried to show the image in a unique perspective which I feel made the difference between ordinary and something more. For the third, it was a pet project. Once I read the requirements for this assignment the first thing I though of was soldiers storming the beach. In the end, I should have abandoned the idea as an assignment and came back to it on my own later. I could not achieve the long DoF I wanted and still get close enough to the toy soldiers to show real detail. I did not want them to feel small even though they are only an inch tall. I was unable to blend both the closeness I wanted with the DoF I needed and I think the image may have suffered because I refused to simply move on to a new subject. Oh well, you learn from your mistakes.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Creating a Photobox, Day Two

I need to clarify some things before I continue with my project. I am not a carpenter. I am sure there are better ways to build a box, but this is how I chose to do it, either due to tools I had on hand or with the experience level I am comfortable at. If you choose to undertake a project such as this, I welcome you to use this as a guide. I will try to help you avoid some pitfalls along the way, but in the end this is your project and feel free to adapt it as you see fit.

Day two starts with finish up the jigsaw work to make the holes in the top and sides of the photo-box. Once this is done it is time to make a decision. You can either add the hardware to assemble the box now, or wait until after the muslin is attached. I chose to put the muslin on first thinking the hardware would help hold it in place.

I assumed this would be the most difficult task of the project. I was afraid I would rip the muslin, have it somehow be off center, or simply not be taut enough and look bad. I was surprised that the process was not too bad. I used my air compressor and nail gun to drive staples into the MDF. I worked down the full length of a short side first, then pulled the muslin tight across the hole and put a single staple in the opposite side of the MDF to hold it in place. From there I went to the long side and methodically worked my way up each side pulling taut as I went. I switched sides every other staple so i could work evenly up the face of the board. I did not worry about wrinkles across the board since I could tighten them up from the last edge.

I should not have to say it, but make sure your work space is CLEAN before working with the muslin. I have no idea how to clean the muslin once it is mounted on the board. So now that the muslin is taut, I flip the board over, trim the excess, and use some spray adhesive I had from another project to keep the edges flat and out of the way. If you choose this be wary of spraying the exposed muslin, hard glue would more than likely cast a shadow.

Now comes the most frustrating part of this whole exercise. Assembling the box should have been fairly simple and I managed to butcher the whole process. The first smart thing I did was to put scotch tape over the spot where I was going to drill through muslin. I liken this to putting a pin through a balloon. The tape kept the muslin from wrapping around the drill bit. I drilled four holes through both the top and back, and matched the holes to a half inch hole on each side. So a hole in each corner in the top and back panels, matching two holes in the top and back of each side panel. In each side panel hole I hammered in the furniture mount. These ended up being a bad choice as they simply slid out, making assembly a huge pain in the rear. I plan to replace these with something more durable. I do not think the screw type mounts will work since I think they are wider than the MDF.

That was it. Once everything is screwed together it comes out fairly nice. The opening is the same width as a sheet of poster board, which is extremely convenient when setting up the white infinity background. This of course was by sheer accident, but now that I see it in action I wish I would have planned for it. The box itself is bulky but not too heavy. Do not try to move it assembled too much. The first time I moved it I pulled out the mounting screws (Again). Below is the final setup, my overall 'studio' setup, and a sample infinity white background.
So once again, thanks for reading.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Creating a photobox, Day One.

Yes, it has been some time (again). A week away at sea and another week with my camera away to be cleaned, and here we are. So to keep my spirits up I took an idea I tried earlier and tried to make it better and more 'permanent'. Some time ago I tried to build a light box or photo-box out of cardboard and tissue paper. provided a well written guide to create a simple photo-box, and it worked fairly well. The issues I had were that it simply was not large enough, and it did not collapse so even though it was not large, it was big enough to take up space.

So my idea is to create a 24"X24"X18" wooden box that I can take apart when not in use. I started with a 4'X8' sheet of Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF). I had the store rip it down to four 2'X4' sheets so I could get it home in my car. I also purchased eight machine screws and eight furniture locks (explained later). In theory I should be able to thread the machine screws into the locks and remove them without damaging the MDF. I considered hinges, but the puzzle I would need to create in order for it to fold flat when not in use was well beyond my skill level. I also picked up some white muslin fabric from the fabric store. So far I am in this project for about $60. Honestly, the MDF was half of that, but I used half of the sheet for a different project. So let's call it $45 and some hard labor.

I cut the back to 24"X24", the top to 18"X24", and the sides to 17.25"X24". Once assembled it should measure 18"X24"X24". From there I needed to cut out the holes in the sides and top. My first mistake was to try and round the edges of the hole. I thought it would make it stronger and honestly believed it would be easier with holes to start cutting from. I used a circular door cutter used for installing door locks to start with. It was about two inches in diameter and looked good, but it was extremely difficult to handle and created a ton of smoke. So I turned to a simple one inch bore hole driller. The holes are obviously smaller, but it was much easier to use and the corners are rounded better than before. From there I used a jigsaw to cut the straight lines from hole to hole.

That was enough for one day. So far this has taken about 90 minutes from start to stopping point. Tomorrow I will finish cutting holes in the the second side and top. The back will remain solid. Once the holes are complete I will cover them from the inside with muslin. Also, my camera returned today so I will need to find some time to work on my NYIP homework. I need to finish my Unit One assignments and submit them for review. Real life keeps getting in the way. Until tomorrow...

Thanks for reading.