For about five years now, I've been using a set of old Nikon speedlights (SB-25s and SB-26s) modded to give me remote power control with my RadioPopper JrX triggers. It was a lovely little system for me, and I got accustomed to being able to adjust my power levels at will from a distance. Unfortunately, after five years of use things are starting to fall apart. The 3.5mm jack I hacked into one of my flashes came loose, and in a single day the plate on the bottom of my JrX transmitter fell off and I lost the foot of one of my flashes to a falling lightstand.
I finally had to admit that it was time to stop super-gluing things back together and update my flash system. First I went looking for a replacement to my fallen JrX transmitter, only to find that RadioPopper has discontinued the JrX line of radio triggers. I ended up getting my hands on three separate sets of triggers for some amount of time, so I'll give a brief review of each in the hopes that it might save others some time and frustration of their own. If you just want to see the solution that ended up working for me, skip ahead to the last section.
Glass is one of the trickier materials to photograph, mostly because it's both transparent and highly reflective. Its transparency can be perplexing---how are you to photograph something that you can see right through?---and its highly reflective nature confounding as unwanted reflections and glare mar your images. With a thorough understanding of those properties, however, you can manipulate them to get just the image you want. In this case, let's take a look at the process I went through to make this image of a glass of tea.
For Mother's Day this year, my church decided to offer free portraits. We did something similar for a back-to-school event last year, and while it was well-received it also ended with our communications director spending the better part of a week sifting through photos and breaking them up by family. This time around, I decided to see if I couldn't automate that process, and in the end we managed to pull it off with almost no human post-processing effort, and no extra equipment aside from a box full of printed cards. We sent everyone home with a card that gave them everything they needed to get their photos online the next day. You can find all the code I wrote to make it work in the Github repository I set up for the purpose (click the "Zip" button at the top of the page if you just want to download everything). You'll need Python to run my scripts, and a web server that supports PHP if you want to use the web viewer. This is how I made the whole thing work, and how you can replicate the process.
I've been using Radiopopper JrX Triggers for a while now, and one of their more useful features is remote power control. They can remotely control the power level of up to three groups of flashes, provided the flashes support the older style of TTL: this works with Nikon flashes up through the SB-800, Canons up through the 580EX, and probably others I'm not aware of. The catch is that to make it work, you have to attach your flash to their $30 RPCube. With Nikon flashes, you can make it work by building custom cables with 3.5mm on one end and Nikon's TTL connector on the other, but those are expensive to build and easy to lose. My solution is to build a 3.5mm jack right into the flash so you can connect it directly to the Radiopopper with cheap cables. I've done this with both SB-25 and SB-26 speedlights before. In this post I'll be showing the modification of an SB-25, but the technique is not difficult to apply to an SB-26.
The mod is relatively simple, but you'll need basic soldering skills. In addition, my method removes the auto flash sensor to fit in the 3.5mm jack, so you won't be able to use the auto mode afterwards. Of course, messing around inside a speedlight can be dangerous, so I'll start out with the obligatory disclaimer.
WARNING: The inside of your flash contains a very large, very dangerous capacitor. Take caution opening and modifying the flash. You are solely responsible for any damage you cause to your flash or yourself.
As far as activities go, photography is pretty benign. Aside from lugging the gear around, there's generally not much physical exertion to be had on a shoot---not on the part of the photographer, anyways---and it's certainly far from perilous. My last shoot at Lewis Park, however, turned out to be the exception to the rule. Admittedly, I never truly feared for my life, and none of my muscles ached the next day, but I definitely did a lot more shoving and clinging and climbing than I've ever done for a photograph before.
Continued from Christmas Portrait, Part I.
For this year's Christmas portrait, I put my girlfriend inside a snow globe. In the last entry I talked about the hard part: photographing the snow globe. Today's entry covers photographing Danie and actually getting her into the globe, which was really more drudgery than anything.
Last year I made a Christmas portrait of my girlfriend, and we've decided to make a yearly tradition of it. Last year's was a simple affair, just a standard headshot with a Santa hat and a red-gelled background. This year we've decided to go for something much more involved, and I'm going to be compositing two photos together. I won't reveal my plan until the composition is finished (that should be up in a blog post tomorrow morning), but I'll start out by walking through the creation of one of the photos I needed: a snow globe.
For a shoot I'll be doing soon, I need a big-ish light source a little more directional than my usual umbrella, so I decided to throw together a little posterboard softbox. I thought I'd have it together in a snap and move on to shooting my subject tonight, but it turned out to be a much, much more time-consuming endeavor than I'd intended. In the process I came up with some templates for the pieces and thought I'd share them, along with a little review and some instructions.
I haven't gotten a chance to shoot anything recently, and my screencasting plans have fallen by the wayside thanks to technical problems, so today I decided to dig up some photos from an older shoot and write a post about it.
A little over three years ago, I shot my friend David's senior portraits. We were both competitive divers at the time (although the "competitive" part was debatable in my case), and he wanted a set of diving portraits, so I went with him to practice one day to shoot. I had a 300mm f/2.8 lens checked out (one of the perks of editing the school's yearbook), and I planned to put it to good use. I thought we'd get there a good hour before the sun went down, during which time I'd make some nice available light shots with the 300, and then once the sun set I'd play around a little bit with some lights.
For well over a year now, I've had "flaming light bulbs" on my to-shoot list, and I've just now gotten around to doing it. Light bulbs come with a gas inside them that won't burn, so the filament can glow really hot without actually catching fire. Break the glass around the filament and the gas all escapes, exposing it to the oxygen in the air. From that point, once you turn on the power, the bulb will burn brightly for a second or two and then go out.
IF YOU'RE THINKING ABOUT TRYING THIS, PLEASE HEED THE SAFETY WARNINGS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE POST.