Tuesday, February 26, 2008


1/4sec (from van window!) F2.8 iso200

Secondly, a photo of a finished scone, for those who were curious! Sorry, its the best I have right now. Take it from me though, they do look great.

Although I wanted to start this post with a good photo, the rest of it is going to be about the DIY softbox I am in the process of making.

I ran through a variety of ideas for making this softbox but this is what actually happened! For holding the bulbs, cheap standard screw-type light bulb bases (with pull chains to turn them on/off if it will be necessary to lessen the amount of light - the spiral CFL's I am using are not dimmable). For mounting them to, a piece of plywood. I had originally envisioned a rectangular arrangement of 2x3 bulbs but while fiddling with arranging them came up with the idea of a circular pattern. This has proved really easy with the exception of the reflector - I'll get to that.

While making the pattern for the circle I went ahead and drew in the circles for locating the centers of the light bulb bases (I knew I would need to drill a hole behind them to wire them) and the mounting hole locations for the bases (to make centering the bases over the holes really simple). Drawing these was really simple using some wire mesh I found - I just measured the appropriate distance and used it for a compass (see photo). The wood circle is 16" d. The wood is 1/2 ply, a scrap I had around from another project.

I drilled the wiring holes with a 2 1/8 holesaw bit, a size I happened to have. A little larger would have made the wiring easier. I cut the circle with a bandsaw set for 45 degrees - for the reflector. A jigsaw would be another good option.

Here's the finished wood - base mounting screws in place:

Wiring was done using 12 gauge THHN copper - white is neutral, black hot. I ran a bare copper wire for ground out to the front of the fixtures - somewhat unnecessarily but the cord I was using did have a ground and I figured it could ground the aluminum foil I planned on covering the front of the wood with! The bases are wired in parallel.

The bases in place:
For the reflector I used some stuff with a brand name of "reflectix" - it is an insulating material available at my local building store. Basically bubble wrap with silver foil either side. I chose this because it is very reflective and also has some rigidity of its own. It comes in rolls - I bought 25' 16" wide.

At this point a square design would have paid off - I wanted the reflector at approximately 45 degrees to the wood base. To do this I had to fold it at various points around the circle. To make it simple I measured 6" intervals along one edge of the roll, then every 6"I folded the next 6" length and stapled the edge together. The photo will explain this better. Later I taped each fold with real aluminum duct tape (rather than the redneck variety this is really made of aluminum and is really shiny!). Although these "ribs" were a pain to make they do add a bit to the stiffness of the whole.

I didn't calculate the needed circumference but simply made as many of these "gathers" as I needed, stapling the reflector to the wood circle as I went - which if you remember already had a 45 edge which helped the whole effect.

Final touches - some white sheet material over the front to diffuse the light. (It was interesting to see the multi-shadow effect that using this light bare gave.)

Since these photos I have modified the design to make it more portable. I pulled out the staples holding the reflector to the wood base, and replaced them with sticky-backed velcro, the hook side stapled to the wood, the loop side stuck to the inside of the reflector. Where I had taped the two ends of the piece of reflectix together I replaced the tape with another velcro connection - this was the whole reflector comes off and can be rolled up.

Things for the future of this light:

- An elastic edge to the white sheet to hold it nicely on the reflector.
- Backing, with mounting system of some kind, to go behind the wood and cover up the wires.
- Possibly a fan, or vent holes somewhere? The lights get fairly hot in the enclosure. No where near as hot as incandescents, but then I'm not sure how hot these CFL's run well at...?

I've included some example shots made using this light. I have noticed that many people who make DIY lights / flash modifiers end their post with some quick fashion shots of some of the hot models who apparently hang out around photographers :) As for myself, I could only get one model to sit for me...

...How do you like the studio?

You can see the catch lights in this one:

1/38 sec - F3.2 - iso400

...Both are shot in iso400... On the day I can use iso800 in a pinch, having a better camera. I needed iso400 to get the shutter speed in the handheld range. There was no other light in the room for these photos & no flash used.

- I need to experiment more.
- I'm pleased with the quality and quantity of the light, and the nice soft shadows it produces.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The glorious colours...

1/45sec - F5.0 - iso100
Black Spruce

1/220sec - F5.0 - iso100
This sky is gorgeous!

The framing is a little off, but I wanted to show more of the sky...

I shot the three photos directly above in Fuji's chrome color mode, as I could see the camera was not capturing the color properly. It is certainly an improvement - but no exaggeration, the real sunrise was better!

1/10sec - F4.0 - iso100

Here you can see the scene off to the left of the photos above, with that sunrise adding an edge of warmth to what is otherwise quite desolate.

In other news, I am going to be involved in photographing another friend's wedding. Borrowing a camera again. I'm thinking a lot about the logistics of it all. I've started making a softbox using daylight spiral CFL's from Home Depot. They reportedly have a CRI of 82+ and hopefully this will be enough. I will post some pics of the project soon (along with a completed sconce!).

Also, speaking of thinking ahead, I am pushing to get the fluorescent lights changed in the hall the wedding takes place in! Currently they are magnetic ballast and who knows what kind of bulbs. What I am asking for is electronic ballasts and T8 SPX50's. These are by GE and have a CRI of 86 - also better light output and efficiency than the T12's they have been running... The upgrade will pay itself off in a few years anyway. My thought was, sure you can adjust for white balance and all - but with a low CRI bulb you are missing color information that all the white balance in the world can't put back.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Now for something completely different

In the beginning there was... a gift from pottery barn - a pair of wall sconce candle holders.

This post will deal with converting it into an electric fixture.

Step one: drill a hole for the wire to enter through. I'm planning on using the little rubber grommets (local hardware store) you see in the photo to soften the edges. Drilling this hole was the hardest part of the project. Two low and the bit hits the curved iron bracket; too high and the decorative glass will hit the wire. Thin metal is difficult to drill gracefully.

The grommets advertised their need for a 3/8 hole but I second-guessed them and used 5/16 - and was very glad I did. The grommets were a tight but nice fit.

View from top - hole is right beside the candle-holder proper:

Rubber grommet inserted:

When brainstorming this project I browsed the local hardware store looking for the parts that would make it all work. The minute I saw the light bulb socket below I knew all was possible. It is tiny, cheap(!) and simple to assemble. A screw-on cap spears each wire onto a sharp contact - see finished connection two photos down.

This is the socket for a standard candelabra type bulb - something I have never worked with before. It is however just the type of bulb that would look good in these fixtures.

Getting close now: I've clamped the bulb socket in position (between the spring steel tabs that hold the glass on) ready to epoxy it in place.

Here are the two fixtures - I've filled the candle holder with epoxy and the bulb holders dip into the top of it. Looks like it will be a very strong mounting option. I screwed in the bulbs to help me eye in the levelness of the sockets.

Lastly (for tonight!) a couple of ventilation holes. With a 40w bulb the glass was getting a bit hot - though not too hot I don't think. However (since I could) I went ahead and drilled some holes (out of sight from a normal viewing angle) for air to circulate through. I figure with a chimney like that they should draw pretty well!

I'll try to update this when they are finally mounted on the wall!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

iso100 - f8.0 - 1/850sec
view of a snowy curved roof

That's a moose, that is!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Getting warmer...

...But after -55F, what wouldn't seem warm? It certainly isn't summer yet :)

Sunlit - iso100 - f4.0 - 1/220sec

Snow Dunes - iso100 - f8.0 - 1/950sec

I love using low iso when I can... This camera may be better than most compacts in that dept. but I find I still can't really bear anything over 400.

Friday, February 8, 2008

No time for text

I like night photos!

fence - 15 seconds

Sunday, February 3, 2008

1/20s - f5.0 - iso400

f5.0 because I am zoomed in, iso400 because I had no tripod and couldn't afford a slower shutter!

Well, a fair bit of time since my last post... This blog has become wildly popular in the meantime, garnering its first comment! At last I understand what Friday meant to Crusoe! I am in touch with humanity!

Ok, enough of that.

Above you see the inside of a fiber optic splice case. Thats what I've been at in the recent past. That and some miscellaneous comm work. The fiber was fun, being new to me. I enjoy new things that are somewhat challenging. I imagine splicing fiber optics could easily become old hat to a seasoned pro. However, I am not one and the romance of new technology still hangs around the splicer. I'm still amazed at the tiny size of those fibers - considering that what carries the light and must be aligned correctly is a tiny core at the center. How about this for an interesting fact: The fiber is made from a glass rod about an inch thick that has been carefully doped with the right chemicals to make the core a higher refractive index (keeps the light waves inside). Its a perfect model except it is unbelievably short and squat compared to what it will be after a visit to the drawing tower - where it is heated and drawn out to be this incredibly tiny fiber, still containing a perfectly round core... Thats a very un-technical summary of course. You can look it up if you are fascinated.

I'm trying right now to upload a (another first) video to youtube of a splice that I took with my faithful camera - I took my headlamp off its band and mounted the camera to the band (nice elastic) using a couple of cable ties. I could reach up and start the video rolling by feel. It took a bit to get a feel for how low the camera needed to point to capture things I was doing. Also you will see (if this works) that I really needed to have a macro mode for the video for things to be clear. Nice clear video for low light however - I actually messed up the image more by trying to light things more clearly with my headlamp.

The resulting file was 800MB so I used the ever-faithful VirtualDub to reduce it using Divx Low-Mo. Its a little blocky but just scrapes under the 100MB barrier. I'll add-on the link if it works.

Ok, here it is. I had to cut it a little more because it was over 10 minutes. Enjoy!

Fusion splice video