My father won first place in a local sailing regatta, and asked for photos of his trophy. The trophy is a clear glass whiskey decanter, with an etched inscription. A beginner strobist’s nightmare.
My first attempt was lighting a sheet of dark purple silk, draped about a foot behind the trophy. In this shot, a Vivitar 285HF at high power is snooted directly at the background from a fairly shallow angle off to the right. The 285 illuminated the background, and was blocked from casting much light directly on the glass. The sharp angle created strong, contrasty shadows on the backdrop.
To make the inscription visible, a second, low-power flash held four feet above the trophy and snooted on the top-left front corner. This flash made the text readable, but is also the cause of the glare on the left side.
Trophy, Purple Backdrop
My second attempt was a ‘dark-field’ setup, with a powerful Vivitar 365 aimed at a white wall and an opaque wood board placed between the illuminated wall and the trophy. Here’s a shot of the setup:
Trophy shoot setup
Light from behind the board illuminated the edges and gave depth to the image, and provided enough light to make the text readable. More front lighting could have helped the readability of the inscription.
I threw a dark t-shirt over the board to darken the background more, and hide the flaws in the wood:
Trophy, Black Background
I got a Jobo CPA 2 roller processor from a guy on Craigslist who had looted it from a newspaper some years back. I was doing C-41 in a rubbermaid container with fish tank heaters before, so the automation and fine-grained controls of the Jobo are a welcome improvement.
After one day, and one roll, the pump stopped working. I was dismayed, but it turns out it’s really easy to open.
Jobo CPA 2 with heater/pump removed
It has a nice big heater, and a spinning water pump mounted to the bottom of the control unit.
Jobo heater and pump
It turns out the pump was blocked by a hardened, crusty bit of old chemical goo. Scraping that out got the pump moving again.
Jobo pump tip
It’s all running again, and boy is it nice. I can actually walk away for a few minutes. I don’t have the ‘lift’ version, though, so I still need to be there for chemical changes.
I bought a cheap shoot-through umbrella and light stand a few months ago, and the afternoon that it arrived I grabbed the first model I could find to test it out: Pogo, my fluffy, old, standard poodle.
We were in my kitchen with the setting sun providing even fill light. I dialed down the aperture to create a shallow DOF (to hide the messy background), and cranked up the shutter speed so the sunlight just provided a light fill. I setup the umbrella on the stand just a couple of feet above and to the right of Pogo, and dialed the power on the Vivitar 285HV down since it was so close.
The effect, as seen in the two examples below, is a strong texture in his hair where the flash was straight on, and very quick fall-off into (still detailed) shadow on the other side of his head, and in the deeper tufts of hair.
Unfortunately, you can see the umbrella’s reflection in his eyes.
His dark, matte, gray and black hair makes such textured and contrasty photos of him unusual, and really emphasizes the intricate network of wavy fuzz that makes him so adorable. I liked it enough that it became the banner for this site.
This post was addressed directly to my girlfriend. It shows examples of some basic photo improvement techniques. These are all photos she took, and I spent a few minutes with each one in The Gimp. Photoshop can do it, too (obviously).
I post-processed the photos you sent me to give you some examples of common manipulations in Photoshop.
Color casts – when the entire color palette is shifted towards one color. Notice how your original copy is very red: the white sheets looks orange, and skin looks reddish pink. By adjusting the curve of just the red color channel, I made the colors more natural:
This photo is impressive because the bee sticks out against the background, but the background still has some interesting texture to add. Since the subject is supposed to pop out, cranking up the contrast emphasizes it even more:
The faces of the men are a critical part of the picture, but the autofocus didn’t target on them so they are a little soft. It’s hard to notice in digital copies, but using the filter called “unsharp mask” makes subtle focus improvements. It can make a big difference when printing a photo. Be careful with it, though, as over-sharpened pictures look bad. Some pictures, like the bee one above, are already sharp and running the mask makes them look unnatural.
This one exhibits atmospheric haze. Smog in the air reflects blue light stronger than other colors, and makes the background look hazy. Outdoor photos always look their best immediately after it rains because there’s no haze in the air. Haze shows mostly in the blue spectrum, so for this one I selected the top half and reduced the blue curve to drop the haze. Then I bumped the contrast a bit to help the kids jump off the background, and finally sharpened it mildly.
Here’s another one that is meant to jump out at you, but it’s so desaturated and lacking in contrast that it doesn’t have much oomph. I cranked the contrast way up, which gave the pavement a really cool texture. The leaf was still nasty and bland, so I outlined just the leaf and saturated the colors heavily.
This one is excellent framing, but the colors are muddy and too similar in intensity, and the bird is a little out-of-focus. It needed something to make it exciting, and I couldn’t get the colors to jump out enough, so instead I desaturated it (turned it black-and-white) and railed the contrast so the background turned solid white and the bird’s wings turned solid black. There are some artifacts in the leaves now, but the overall image pops more.
For Ciara & Christian’s engagement photos I experimented with a snoot on an off-camera Vivitar 285HV. The 285 was triggered optically by a Minolta 5400xi, turned towards it and set to 1/32 power. Exposure was ISO 800, 1/2s, f/8 to allow ambient light on the bridge and background and to keep the skyscrapers in focus.
These three made a neat storyboard sequence:
This is a Konair 35 rangefinder featuring a 45mm f/1.9 T.K.C Super Color Sygmar lens. Shutter speeds are 1 – 1/400 and B, and it has a 5-blade leaf shutter. It looks identical to this Windsor Deluxe.
The shutter is cocked with the lever on the top of the lens, and there’s a self-timer lever on the bottom. Neither functioned properly when I got it.
Konair 35 - Lens Opened
Nothing was broken inside, just in dire need of some lubrication. Much of the timing is handled by tiny metal wires that just provide a little tension. Some of them aren’t as tight as they once were… I think that’s why bulb still doesn’t work very well. There’s an arm that blocks the shutter from moving, and when you release the shutter it looks like a springy wire is supposed to pull that arm away. It doesn’t pull hard enough, though.
Konair 35 - Shutter Mechanism
The slow-speed mechanism is on the right side of the above picture. I lost the metal tensioning wire, so speeds under 1/25th don’t work anymore.
Konair 35 - Self Timer
Above is the self-timer. The metal horseshoe shaped piece on the left bounces back and forth as the gears rotate, and that bouncing slows them down. The arm that releases the timer when the shutter is pressed was horribly bent. I was unable to get it back to normal, but by bending it out of the way the timer works, it just doesn’t latch. As soon as you release the lever the timer begins.
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