Tuesday, May 25, 2010

DIY Vertical Studio Fluorescent Lights for about $50

I researched around for bulbs to get, and found that some newer Fluorescent bulbs are pretty reasonable color accuracy and offer the best lumens/watt/$ of about any light source. After scouring the Internet for information, I didn't find much, but found that Home Depot had a selection of daylight balanced bulbs.

Why I haven't posted much for a week or more.

I wandered through their selection and found some CFL bulbs that were daylight balanced for $8.00 each, but that is fairly pricey given they are only 27 watts or so (and probably not as bright as an equivalent tube fluorescent with external ballast). I would probably need 6 or 8 of them to get the scene bright enough, and I would have to make a suitable fixture to hold the bulbs by wiring something up.


Instead I wandered the fluorescent fixtures and found a Lithonia Lighting Shoplight for $10 ea, and they each take 2 T12 bulbs, which matched the Philips Natural Sunshine (5000k and 92 CRI, color rendering index) bulbs that they had for about $5 each (40 watts, 2200 lumens). The only other tube T8 bulbs that were near daylight or flash color temperature had to be purchased by the case. I was hoping for a fixture with a nice diffuser, but they were all in the $50+ price range (per fixture), and it turns out the fluorescent tubes are soft enough light without any diffuser.

The only trick was mounting the fixtures, they were designed for hanging so they aren't supposed to be flush mounted. I built a simple stand using some 1x4" pine I had left over from other projects, and hung the lamp at the top using a 30 lb picture frame hanger, and drilled a large hole in the middle right below the lamp to feed the power cord through and keep the lamp from swinging. Very simple to make, I was able to complete the project by my deadline (before the Season finale of Lost), and under my budget of $50. If I had to buy the wood it might have cost more like $60.


The important thing with the base is to make it wide enough that the lamp doesn't tip over, and make sure the vertical is supported on at least one side by a sturdy bracket. I originally tried just the metal L bracket I had laying around, but it wasn't sturdy so I added the wood support as well.


The hole keeps the lamp from swinging around and also keeps the cord out of the way.


I have mine supported only by a picture frame hook. I wouldn't mind adding a sturdier bracket to support it, but build according to your needs. If you have a dog that might knock the thing over you might want to build the base a little larger and attach the light more securely (although my picture frame hook seems more than adequate).

Enjoy. This is useful for still life photographs, misc small objects, etc. I don't think the light color would be up to critical work, but does well enough for my test charts. I am not testing color though. Overall this is a nice setup that produces almost no heat. The lights do flicker a little, not enough to be very visible, but enough that it tricks the camera meter a little.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Sad Day

IMGP1657_28 mm_1-15 sec

I dropped my Schneider Kreuznach Curtagon 28mm f/4 on the cement a few days ago. I figured it was fine besides the filter threads, but not so. I ran a resolution test of it today and noticed that it was strongly decentered.

I love some of these older lenses like this as they aren't necessarily large aperture, but they are better corrected than many current lenses. This old Curtagon has virtually no distortion, and very little CA and is fairly sharp.

Whoops! Don't drop your lenses...

Notice the blue on the right side of the image? That is really soft, around 800 LW/PH or less. It looks like a ghosted image or something and basically covers the entire right half of the frame.

A sad day, at least I don't have much invested in the lens.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Last Breath

Photo 16 of 52:

Last Breath 16/52

I finally got around to taking another weekly shot. I got home and had to shovel the drive a bit before I could park my car. The temperature plummeted today and the wind was blowing. I loved the light in front of the car with the blowing snow so I thought why not lay down and look like I was dead ;)

So often I will get an urge like this to take a photo. Usually I don't, as I think something along the lines of looking like an idiot, being lazy and not wanting to get my tripod out, or I will make some other excuse, but tonight I decided to follow through.

The cell phone I added after doing 10 or so shots (I am sure the neighbors think I am nuts) as it draw attention to the shadows in the foreground. I didn't totally like this composition, but it had the main compositional elements I wanted. The others I was too close to the car, too far away, laying at a funny angle, etc. This one seemed the bet compromise. I cloned out the license plate on the car quickly with Lightroom.

And the view as I originally saw the light by itself:

The reason I didn't use this with me lying in front, is I took up too much of the image and blocked the car significantly. It was a bit harder to see what was going on, but I still like the shot.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Forest of Fire and Ice, Year 2


The Jet Stream has been pumping cold air into the midwest again, I have a killer chest cold, and the temperature has fallen to only -10 °F (-23 °C), it isn't supposed to be above 15 °F (-9 °C) for a week, what better morning to go out and take pictures?

Decked Out

The last time I came out in such cold I made the mistake of leaving my snowshoes in the car and didn't bring a ski mask. This year I remembered to bring both. I head to my regular spot at Boyson Park, hoping to catch the light at the springs again. I missed some shots last year because I accidentally turned off shake reduction, and I showed up a bit too late.

Morning Wave

The air is crisp and calm as I begin my walk into the forest. My jacket becomes stiff from the cold. The snowshoe cleats crunch on the frozen snow and ice. My breath blows regular clouds of fog into the air. A large reddish slash cuts across the horizon behind the trees, separating the dark blue sky from the ground. Each step sounds as though I am awakening the entire forest. I felt out of place; as though I were the harbinger of the day waking the woods from a peaceful sleep.


I walk from the path to the forest deftly avoiding the brambles and deep snow drifts I became entangled in last year, and went out to the corn field. I snapped a few images and quickly noticed the white balance was off. Thinking of course that it was the camera, I quickly set it to CTE white balance and it immediately looked much better. Later I came to realize the tinting on the ski goggles I was wearing was throwing off how I observed the review image, and it wasn't the camera after all.

Watching the Sunrise

Not being inspired by the corn field, I went back to the springs where I arrived a bit late the year before. I watched the sun rise with a pair of leaves, and then I walked around the springs and climbed up on a wall on the far side to avoid looking through a chain link fence.

Light Fog

And was it a sight to behold. As soon as the sun poked through the trees and started hitting the water, large amounts of steam started to rise from the surface, and the light shining through the forest made beautiful rays. The wood of the trees appeared to be on fire. Divine.


After about two hours out in the cold, and the zoom ring on my lens starting to freeze up, I decided to head back to the car. I see a hat hanging in the tree, and think to myself, "why is the hat hanging in the tree? Wait, why is my head cooler? ... ah, that is my hat". I used it as a photo opportunity.

It was a fine morning. I am glad I made the time to go. I wish I had time to see every sunrise and set; like every one of us, each one is different. I only wish the pictures could do it justice.


See my flickr photostream