Light is Everything!

Archive for May, 2011

30 Days

After buying wood tick medicine for my dog today in the illustrious community of Carnduff, a fellow photo pal of mine invited me to do the 30 Days of Photo fun challenge. It’s a photo assignment for everyday of the month of June. Very cool. As I looked at the topics I thought it looked pretty slick. And to make things even more fun, other people are also doing the challenge. Then, after the 30 days, all the various images taken by the different photographers will come together as a comparison experience. Should be pretty darn nifty. Why not give it a shot for yourself? Here’s the daily topics:

Macro Studio

I put together a macro studio light box tonight in about 3.9 seconds. It’s totally a synch. And, best of all, it’s cheap! Cardboard box, parchment paper, background and away we go! Check out how to make your own DIY Macro studio in this youtube vid.

The results rock the set. I was blown away at how nice the light comes through. And, using my SB-600’s made it super easy to control the ratios and placement of the lights. You could light this with ikea desk lamps too and control the falloff by simply moving the lamps closer and farther away. But strobe is cooler. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It see endless possibilities for still life in this easy lightbox. Or, product photography if you do any selling of goods on eBay. Very cool stuff!

Photo Walk!

Well, yesterday we had our first ever Photo Walk as a super fun activity in our Souris Valley Photography Club. 5 of us went out to pound the pavement on the mean streets of Oxbow and show off our mad Jay Maisel street photography skills! hehehehhe….. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It was a lot of fun, other than getting rained on half way through. I brought along the trusty Flip Cam and took a little video of the event. Nothing too fancy. The video ends with a slideshow of some of my images from the photo walk. Our plan as a group is to donate all of our images to the town office as stock photos they can use for website/media publications. It’s another way that the photo club can give back to the community and have fun in the mean time. ๐Ÿ™‚


Raindrops Keep Fallin’

For the record and the journal, I’m sick of rain. Thoroughly sick of it. As I’m sure all the farmers are too. But, it does provide some way cool macro opportunities. I grabbed my 105mm Macro and an SB-600 flash and went out in the rain, hunting drops and whatever I could find. The trickiest thing ever was the near hurricane force winds that were blowing everything around and drying up the raindrops at a rapid rate. I had to move quickly. As I was also using flash, I ย wanted to try some edgier light stuff. I dialled in Manual exposure of 250th at f/11-18 and then simply flicked the strobe at 64th power. A wee flick of light is all it took. I tried zooming the flash head too from 24mm to 85. I found that the wider swath created a nicer look. It would be sweet to have Nikon’s ring flash setup but it’s way too much cash. I think I will develop some ghetto form of a 2 flash setup for on the go macro stuff. I’ll put the order into the R&D department of Schultz Photographic… ๐Ÿ˜‰

Gary Fong Dong

I’m now officially addicted to light modifiers. I can’t stand bare flash and I want to control and shape the light. Make it work for me. I’m open to just about any kind of solution and option available too. I don’t discriminate that much. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Enter, the Gary Fong Lightsphere. It’s been around for a number of years now and had several updates and redesigns. The latest is the collapsible version. Before, you had to carry around an awkwardly sized tupperware bowl with you. They don’t fit well in your camera bag. They don’t fit well anywhere. So, the newest version remedied that problem. It collapses down to only an inch and a half in size. Pretty slick. That fits in the gear bag easily.

The general concept with the Lightsphere is to take the light from an external flash and make it bigger. Bigger light is softer light. More diffused light. More even light. Think of clouds in front of the sun. Light is softer and more diffused because the light source got bigger – instead of the 93,000,000 mile away sun (a huge light source, but so far away it’s small — like the light from a flash) – you have clouds becoming a giant soft box. The Lightsphere takes the small light and makes it bigger and spreads it out. That’s basically all it does, no magic. But it’s handy in SOME circumstances.

Hardcore strobists and professionals may poo poo the Lightsphere, calling it the “Fong-Dong” (due to its, *ahem*, Phallic ย design). And as a directional light shaping tool, it’s not that great. In fact, it’s downright poor. But, as a solution for on the move, candid “I need some soft diffused light and don’t have no time for off camera flash solutions” it rocks the set giving you really soft, flat, even, boring, light. Plus the new version collapses down flat-ish so it fits in your bag nicer. Did I already mention that?! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Don’s Photo sells this thing for $90 Canadian Bones. That’s a bloody ripoff for this thing. You can seriously get similar results by plopping a $3.00 tupperware bowl over your flash head. It’s not worth $90 bucks. B&H Photo sells it for $56.00. Any of my border folk friends reading this, have it shipped to Donna’s and save the mad cheddar on this. Even at $56 US bones, it’s still pricey. But then again, everything in photography is an overpriced ripoff.

Final Verdict:

Buy the Gary Fong Dong Lightsphere Collapsible if you: a) need a quick on-camera light solution b) don’t have time to do a much nicer off camera lighting setup c) have an extra $90 bones you don’t mind parting with.

Don’t buy the Gary Fong Dong Lightsphere Collapsible if you a) want/expect cool & nicer directional off camera lighting b) will lose sleep over losing $90 bucks.

In the gallery below are pictures of the Lightsphere Collapsible product itself, as well as sample shots from it being used in a real life lighting situation – candid shots from Ethan’s Birthday party. All those B-Day party shots are on camera in TTL mode. Finally there is a comparison shot of off-camera light modifiers using a bounce umbrella, shoot through umbrella, Lightsphere and a Soft Box, so you can take a look and see for yourself the quality of light that is produced.

Go Go Gadget Fong!


I saw a really rad photo on the strobist site and wanted to see if I could recreate it. Whilst down at Menards, I bought myself a sweet piece of acrylic that was on sale for 20% off. What a deal! For like 6 US bones you have instant way cool reflections for still life and macro shots. How can you go wrong?! ๐Ÿ˜‰ I also dug out my D80 and took a shot of the setup so you can see the magic in the making. Two strobes being fired wirelessly from the commander flash blasting all kinds of white light everywhere. I also used some foam sheet craft stuff to pickup some black color for depth and contrast. I think it worked out OK. I might use it as one of my Black & White photo entries for this weeks photo club night on Friday. ๐Ÿ™‚


I went out on a bumble bee hunt with my macro lens the other morning before I borrowed it to a friend. Had to get my macro fix. Fortunately the weather has been ridiculously cold and I haven’t missed much macro action. I’ve been waiting for a whole year for my nan king cherry trees to blossom and attract the big buzzers. One of them showed up so I gave chase and nabbed a couple quick shots before he buzzed off for good. Our tulips in the front yard were also in full bloom, backlit wonderfully by early morning sunlight. And, this years crop of bush bunnies were also munching away. So I nabbed a couple shots of them too. All in all, not a bad little walk!

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2 Light Madness

I got a second flash from my folks for an early birthday present! (LOVE YOU!!!) ๐Ÿ˜‰ And I’ve been putting it to good use. With just two lights you can create some pretty fun portraits. Throw in a set of Honl Gels and you’ve got a portable studio with you no matter where you go. And that’s what I like, having very simple and effective setups that can go anywhere and pretty much do anything. Versatile? You betcha! Person wants a shot, is wearing red and you only have a pink backdrop? Hmm. Unless you are going to a candy striping convention, it might be nicer to have something different back there. Now you can! A gelled second flash and a wall and away you go!

How can does this all work? Well it has to do with principle from physics called the inverse square law – which I’m not getting into here. Be it enough to say that light has depth of field and you can control it and use it to your advantage.. You can essentially light 2 different planes – one for the subject and one for the background. You’ve experienced this before. If you take a flash photo of someone close to your light, they’re super bright while the background is totally dark right? That’s why everyone hates “flash” photography. It looks crappy. BUT, you can use this law of light to your advantage. You can light subject and background independently of each other.

In all the portraits in this post, the subject is about 6 feet or so from a white wall. We put one gelled flash back near the wall and lit it up. We also made the flash shoot through objects to put the pattern up there. So you get color and pattern for the price of one. What a deal! Then, we used a shoot through umbrella with another flash to light the subject. It makes for a really cool, simple and effective portrait. You’re only limited to your imagination! Be sure to read more about this on the strobist blog, David Hobby rocks the set!

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Phos + Graphe

For your Greek Etymology lesson today, we look at “Photography.” It’s a combination of Phos (light) and Graphe (write). Literally “light-writing.” I have always found that part very interesting because the term itself suggests that the person doing the light writing is actively making the image verses simply “taking” the image. It’s a subtle nuance, but it is a telling one. Why? Because with photography you are using light to tell the story of the image. When you are first starting out, you are simply taking pictures. Then, you get a bit more experience and you start muddling around with Shutter Speeds and f/stops and you find out that you have a lot more say in the story telling than you did before. But you’re still in the realm of taking pictures vs. making them. When you start wielding light, bending it and shaping it, you really start telling the story. You start exercising the control and creative license that has always been there, but now it’s on a more kicked up level than it ever was before.

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You start paying attention to the direction of the light. Where is it coming from? ย What mood does it create? How does the light flavour the image? What part of the story is being told by how the light bends around objects? How harsh are the shadows? How bright or dark is the background? Does it look like a kid with a polaroid blasted the living crap out of it or does it look like a master of the universe creatively made the image with beautiful soft diffused light? It’s all pretty cool stuff. Light is everything. We should learn all we can about it and when we do, we start to unlock it’s power.

Rainy Day = Productivity(?)

Well, today we got some more rain. What else is new? But, if you can’t go out and have fun, you can get stuff done. I went to work putting together the Fight for Fonstad CDs, which are now encased and ready to go. It’s nice to have that project completed and everyone will have their photos this week. ๐Ÿ™‚

I also spent the morning watching a new DVD I got from the Nikon School on the Creative Lighting System. The first half of the video is Bob Krist in the studio, doing portraits with speedlights as well as showing off some macro lighting techniques and the ins and outs of the Nikon flash system. The second part is cool stuff with Joe McNally in live lighting situations. The DVD rocks the set and for $30.00 it’s worth it. I was familiar with most of the content already via Joe McNally’s sessions on Kelby Training and also from reading the Strobist Blog. But it was still an excellent learning tool and resource that we might be able to put to good use in the photography club.

As for now, back to watching it downpour. ๐Ÿ˜