Thursday, February 26, 2009

DIY Gobos! can click on any photo for a larger view

Since I am a HUGE speedlight freak ..err. I mean fan, there comes a time when using these guys that there are places you want the light to go, and there are places you don't want the light to go. So, I decided to make my own gobos to be able to control my lights more effectively. I created these based on what I've seen photographer David Tejada use. This was his idea, not mine, I merely crafted it to my own specifications.

The first thing to do is, go to a craft store and pickup a piece of 12"x18" black foam (roughly 1/8" thick). A sheet of this stuff will cost you a whole .33 cents!!! This is a photo of the stuff I bought. I went ahead and splurged and bought two! =) This sized piece of foam should easily make you 2 gobos for virtually any sized speedlights. Mine just happen to be sized for my Nikon SB-800s and SB-600s.

Then you will need to get some Velcro. The stuff I bought is roughly 1" wide and this roll is 18" long. Its not very long but should give you enough to make 4 gobos. The photo is the velcro I bought and cost me a total of $3.17. This stuff has a sticky backside and you just pull the paper off to expose the sticky part.

Next you take the piece of foam and wrap it around the head of your speedlight to get the size you want. I use Honl speedstraps on all my flashes so I measured my foam by placing the Honl speedstrap on the flash head and then wrapped the foam around that to get a more accurate measurement. You can see this in the photo. The measurements don't have to be precise, but I'm kinda anal about things like this.

Then I cut pieces of the rougher part of the velcro (my straps have the softer velcro exposed on the outside) and placed three pieces of it on one end of the gobo. The reason I used three pieces and not a strip is that a strip seemed to buckle a little when I wrapped it around my speedlight and I didn't want the velcro pealing from the foam. (I tried that first). In the photo, I put red circles around the pieces of velcro because they are kinda hard to see, black on black ..hmm, imagine that.

After you get your pieces of velcro attached to the foam, you're ready to wrap them on your speedlights. Again, I use Honl speedstraps for all of my speedlights, which is basically a velcro strap with a rubber back, but you can use any means of velcro attached to your flashes.

Above is a photo of the finished product. This was a quick, easy and very inexpensive DIY project, that I think will be very handy in the future. Another nice thing about these are, you can wad them up and shove them in any bag. They pop right back into form and weigh next to nothing! Oh yeah, total cost for this project.. $4.06 for 4 custom gobos!! Not to bad, eh?

Hope you make some of these for yourself!

Sunday, February 22, 2009


I can't believe my nephew is 21 years old today!!! He was such a cute kid too! =)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

DIY Macro Photo Studio

f/8 at 1/400 sec ISO 100

The shot above was taken in a professional macro studio. Actually, no it wasn't, it was taken inside a cardboard box, with the sides cut out and had pieces of copy paper taped over the holes to act as diffusers for my speedlights.

For a long time, I have had an interest in getting professional looking stock photography shots. Several years ago, I made my own macro studio with PVC and a white cotton bed sheet with pieces of white, black and colored cardboard to act as a seamless background. However, since I keep the pieces of PVC unglued, it does take some time to setup and tear down.

On the Strobist blog, I ran across a tutorial David Hobby posted on how to make a DIY macro studio out of a cardboard box in about 5 minutes! After seeing the results, I had to "build" one for myself and I have to say that I like this version better as the light is much more controllable and you can build one of these on location in most instances.

In a nutshell, you find a cardboard box, cut out three sides (left side, right side and the top), then you can cut the bottom out too or leave it, this is a personal preference. I cut the bottom out of mine because it makes it easier to just simply place over your subject. Then you tape over the holes, pieces of white copy paper to act as your diffusers. This is a shot of my setup for the photo above. Click it for a larger view.

In this shot you can see that I left the flaps on the box to act as gobo's so I didn't get a flare into my lens from the speedlights. Also, you will notice I had my subject (a Nikon EM 35mm SLR) sitting on a piece of fairly reflective black formica. This gave a smallish reflection of the camera in the foreground. I also taped a piece of black construction paper to the back of the box to use as a black background.

If you notice my camera settings above, I actually used Auto FP High Speed Sync on my D300 to get the background as dark as I wanted to achieve the effect I was looking for. However, you could have easily done this with your camera's fastest, native flash sync speed (usually around 1/250 sec) and stopped your aperture down a bit more and/or decreased your flash power.

My flashes on this were at 1/4 power on the SB-800 camera right, and at 1/8 power on the SB-600 camera left. Both of these flashes were triggered with my Nikon's built-in CLS system.

This may seem difficult, but its absolutely not! Also, you can use a white piece of cardboard for your background as opposed to black. I just wanted to do this shot in a somewhat low-key black setting.

This method is easy, cheap and fun! Give it a try and you will be thoroughly impressed. Another good thing about his method is, if you damage your "macro studio" box, pitch it, and build another one! =)

::David Hobby's DIY Macro Studio on the Strobist blog::

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Photographer Zack Arias was the "guest blogger" on Scott Kelby's blog today. He made the most profoundly enlightening video I think I have ever seen! It gave me chills, literally. Regardless if you're a photographer or anything else, please take the time to visit Scott's blog and watch this video.

You can get to the post by clicking HERE.

If you ever watch a video I've posted or linked to on this blog, watch this one!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pocket Wizards vs. ....well, EVERYONE else

Today, Pocket Wizard has announced the release of two new radio transmitter/receivers ...the MiniTT1 and the FlexTT5. These guys are the latest in Pocket Wizard's lineup of wireless radio frequency triggering devices. Unfortunately, these triggers only work with Canon cameras, but a Nikon set is on the way. This agitates me a bit since I am a Nikon guy, but since the pin design on Canon and Nikon cameras/flashes are different, I understand why they have to have separate devices for each line of camera (guess they're saving the best for last huh?) =)

The new transmitter/receivers will enable TTL commands and high speed syncing, all controlled from the camera! The pricing will be a little higher than the already existing Pocket Wizard Plus IIs but with full TTL control and the ability to high speed sync, I can see these giving Radio Popper and a handful of other radio trigger manufacturers a run for the money.

To read more on the new Pocket Wizard toys, check out the Pocket Wizard site.

Also, check out the review by David Hobby on the Strobist blog.

Just one more thing to consider in the world of RF triggering devices... great. =)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What the Duck!

I stumbled across this online comic strip, by reading the Strobist blog, called What The Duck. It is a comic strip that is centered around the life of a photographer, or shall I say the life of a duck who is a photographer. =) It has some good, light-hearted humor that photographers from all skill sets can relate too.

Take the time to check out What The Duck if you need a few chuckles!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

YOUR Portfolio

Do you have questions about how to organize your portfolio and/or what should be in it and how it should be arranged?

If so, hop over to Scott Kelby's blog and check out the cool post he made today. Its all about how to setup and organize your portfolio, how it should be done, how many photos to use and how to display them. Also be sure to read the comments on his post as a few others have chimed in with good advice.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Trapped Under Ice

What we take for granted!!

Its Groundhog Day today in the U.S., and I finally got my power turned back on after a massive snow and ice storm. On Tuesday Jan. 27th 2009, most of Kentucky was blanketed by a snow and ice storm that crippled the state. The governor declared a state of emergency and our newly elected president declared Kentucky a federal disaster area.

At one point, the news stations were saying that around 700,000 customers were without power in the state of Kentucky alone! I can only imagine what the clean up and repair bill is going to be, but I've heard estimates of around $45 million!!! This has been the worst winter storm that Kentucky has seen and there are still many people in the state without power. Mine came back on Saturday afternoon, and I'm fairly certain it was due to the good people from Pike Electric, based out of North Carolina. Thanks guys!!! There are electrical crews from all over the country here helping out with the effort, including the National Guard.

My power went out Tuesday afternoon but fortunately, my girlfriend graciously tolerated me and my cat for a week until the power came back on. Even if my power had come back on, my driveway (I live on a farm in a fairly rural area) was impassable to anything other than large, heavy 4-wheel drive vehicles. In the course of six days, I got my car stuck three times, my girlfriend's 4x4 stuck twice, caught a cold, and have generally been in a foul disposition. The power came back on Saturday night, and then the temperature warmed enough on Sunday, that I was able to make it home in my car. My internet is still down, but that is only a slight problem ....for now. =)

Its funny what we take for granted. Simple things such as shelter, running water, a warm bed and download connection speed of 1.5M can be highly underestimated when you don't have them. I'm sooo thankful to have friends that were kind enough to help me out and a girlfriend who had the patience and tolerance to put up with me, my OCD issues and my less than friendly cat.

On a side note: Punxsutawney Phil can kiss my rear!!!

Also, if you haven't seen it already, photographer David Bergman was at the presidential inauguration and rather than capturing the standard shots, he made a 1,474 megapixel panoramic print of the event!! It has been such a huge success for him, that he made prints of it available for sale. CHECK IT OUT!