Sunday, July 21, 2019

China Ball studio light

Lately some brainstorming with a friend lead us to improvise portable China Ball lighting for a small vlogging setup on the cheap, after having discussed the use of lighting stands and soft-boxes.

The basic idea is to use materials as inexpensive and in-obstructive as possible. While hanging China Balls might be the obvious choice, however, this means that the lighting setup is not really portable.
We came to the conclusion that a suitable floor lamp would be able to hold a China Ball in a decent height, enough for a desk to be illuminated with a soft key light.
A first choice fell on an IKEA product called NOT.

The next problem to be solved was to mount a China ball to the lamp, such that the light source is essentially in the center of the ball, while the ball remains easily removable.
Household grade China balls are usually hung with little eyes on hooks.
Collapsed China Ball as seen from top, note the eyes to the right and the left
Having a ball mounted on a stand, it needs to be mounted upside down.

Your regular household China ball comes with a steel wire frame to suspend the ball from the electrical wire. This employs some sort of clamping mechanism. With a little bit of pliers work, this clamp can be re-purposed as a lower stabilizer. Have a look:

Only one of the two arms is used, the other is bent out of the way

This is how the frame engages with the post of the floor lamp

The frame of a China ball is created by welding two rods together. This creates a very small lip in the middle of the frame. Here this lip is arranged to abut with the metal cone of the lamp housing.

Weld of the frame rests on housing cone
To fix it all, gaffers' tape can be used. For better visibility, white gaffers' tape is used for demonstration.

Needless to say that in this setup, the China Ball is mounted from the top and clipped in to the little hooks on the lower end of the frame (*).

Top of the China Ball

Gravity holds the lower end down.

Bottom of the China Ball

In this example, a 90cm China Ball was used. Seen the flimsy wire holding it all up, a somewhat lighter, i.e. smaller, ball should be used. Inside the ball, there is a TRADFRI bulb installed. For the following photo, the color temperature of the bulb was set to warm in order to form a contrast to the bright blue sky shining through the curtains.

NOT and TRADFRI standing China Ball

(*) Clipping the hooks into the eyes creates tension in the frame and slightly deforms the frame. By doing so, the stability of the frame is compromised. During the first attempt, the ball was clipped to the frame. It turned out to not only be unnecessary, but also detrimental to the setup.

Just as a final remark, NOT, as it comes, provides a maximum height. Using less segments will provide a lower light height. Using more segments, e.g. from a second NOT, could increase the height. The latter option should be taken with great care to stability of the stand. Maybe adding some weight on the food for added stability.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

New Angles - Get a Selfie Stick

Lately, my life took some turns which prevented me from writing unfortunately. So, a lot was going on photography wise, which I did not (yet) document.

First of all, I have decided, early December 2018 actually, to quit my day job. So, my professional activities will certainly get a new angle. I will focus of photography and arts in general. However, this is not what this post is about.

In preparation to my new business, I began to look into stock photography. Some of my pictures already sold, so I am confident that I am on the right path here. Remarkably, about half my sales are pictures shot the my Huawei P9 phone, no kidding!
In stock photography, one needs to find a way to distinguish from millions of other photographers. And smartphone photographer are a real competition out there.

Today, I got a brain fart and solved the problem of being a little different than other smartphone stock photographers. I got myself a selfie-stick with a shutter release button for not even €4. With my arm upright the phone can take photos about 3+ meters from the ground, giving a very different angle, in particular in street scenes.
Here is an example:

I have to admit, figuring out the timing of such a shot, not seeing the screen of the phone and not knowing what the auto-focus will do and when the shot will be fired, is a bit of a gamble all together. However, this €4 accessory allows me to get photographs that look as they were taken with a €1k photo-drone. Even better, using a selfie-stick is legal, while the photo-drone would already be illegal for such a scene over here in The Netherlands.

In the light of that, I will certainly investigate into more sturdy and sophisticated selfie-sticks. 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Oly OM-D E-M5 struggles

For some years, yes, years, my OM-D struggled to start up properly! Once alive, the picture were as good as always. What is going on? Personally, I get a sense of planned obsolesce, in particular since many more appear to be complaining about the same failure my OM-D exhibits.

Some additional searching revealed a solution found by some: set the camera to burst mode. It might fail a couple of times, but will continue in single frame mode eventually.
I can confirm that this will work initially.
However, once the camera is switched on again, the good-ole black-out will return.

By now, I experimented with switching the camera back to high speed burst mode, before turning it off. The next power-up will again lead to a black-out of the camera. Restart yet again appears to be leading to a camera that actually does not shut off immediately... up to now, this appears to be woking, i.e. booting the camera will result in a functioning device.

I am close to discarding the OM-D and abandon Olympus all together, in favour of the new Panasonic cameras employing IBIS.
By now, I can only share positive experiences using the Lumix GX85.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

(Semi) Stand Development

Some opinions might make you believe that you need at least 5ml of Rodinal to develop a film in stand development.

To be honest, I never understood that statement.

When doing stand development with 1:200 dilutions, I just eyeballed with what I got, and it turned out alright every single time; mainly for 120 and 135 Foma films. My tanks are using either 590ml or 250ml of liquid. In both scenarios, the amount of Rodinal is obviously less than 5ml for a 1:200 (give or take) dilution.

I have the suspicion that the above statement is more based on the lack of a device being able to provide decent accuracy for measuring small volumes.
While I do not claim this finding for me, I feel it would be a good idea to promote the finding by Will Agar.
While I did not learn about stand development from Will Agar, I was made aware of a cheap measuring device Will is abusing for photography purposes: the medicine (or dosing) spoon.

Dosing spoon
The dosing spoon is good for 10ml of liquid to be dosed. In my use, that would make about 2 litres of developer. However, the spoon displays sections of 1ml in good distance, such that a measurement in the region of 1/4ml is possible.
And yes, I used that kind of spoon to dose the amount of raw Rodinal required for my JOBO 1510 tank for developing a 135 roll of Fomapan with less than 5ml of Rodinal.

Method for 120 film:

  • pre-soak for 2min
  • rinse twice and empty tank
  • pour developer in tank and agitate slowly for 1min
  • tap tank a few times
  • let stand for 90+ min
  • empty tank and wash before fixing

Method for 135 film:
  • pre-soak for 2min and empty tank
  • pour developer in tank and agitate slowly for 1min
  • tap tank a few times
  • 2 slow agitations every 15min, tap tank after agitations
  • after 90min empty tank and wash before fixing

Maybe the agitations for 135 film are not necessary... however, in some experiments, the sprocket holes of the 135 film created streekes of uneven development. The somewhat regular but seldom agitation appears to overcome that problem. However, the agitations will also prevent some of the beneficial effects of stand development  to fully appear.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Agfa Jsolette V Bellows Repair

Some months ago, I decided to enrich my collection of medium format cameras by a model that is literally pocketable.
During a stroll in "de bazaar" I found a Agfa Jsolette V, the most primitive one of the Jsolette family. Just about perfect for what I had in mind. For the looks of it, the camera was in mint condition... sold by a serious collector.

The Jsolette V was build between 1950 and 1952. So, consequently, I had to assume that the bellows were probably not a light tight as they should be any longer. And, guess what, when sending photons off some semi-conductor device inside the camera, while being in a dark room, the bellows gave a preview of a Christmas tree all along the folded edges. No surprise, really.

Before I put any film into the camera, I figured it would be a good idea to fix the bellows first. And yes, one can order replacement bellows... while the replacement process is well documented, combined with time of shipment to arrive... this is just not worth the effort.

When browsing for bellows repairs, one finds strange methods using pins and needles combined with dyed glue... not sure about this! Well, this might just work, who am I to judge, but for now long?
Further, one finds comment like "electrical tape is for electricians, not photographers". Hmmm, OK! I remember that in photography, gaffers' tape is commonly used... however, I never came across the comment that "gaffer's tape is for gaffers, not photographers". Something seemed wrong with that electricians tape statement...

And guess what, I grabbed a roll of black electricians tape and put a generous amount along the edges of my camera's bellows. Using about 30% more than the actual length of the edge fives sufficient material to fold the tape into the undulations of the bellows. Too long, and there might be too much tape to squeeze in, too short and the tape might just peel off every time you open the camera.

With the tape applied, I noted that the camera folds open a lot slower, i.e. with a lot less force. What I am trying to say here, you should never just let the thing snap open (as many folks show in Jsolette videos). Push the release and let the camera gently open by holding the front mechanism.
And here is the reason why: the atmospheric pressure against the bellows will weaken the most agile parts of the bellows by airflow. Once a hole was created, the airflow when opening or closing the camera will weaken that particular spot, thereby creating a light leak and/or pinhole.

While the bellows of the Jsolette are made of a material that appears to call for electricians tape, that solution might be valid for other cameras using bellows, e.g. large format.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

ISO in Digital Cameras

Doing some film photography here and there, my mind is often with the sunny 16 rule. This rule works for me big time.

However, I noted when using digital cameras, this is somewhat of a different beast. The Fuji X100S seems off by about 1 stop of light (see earlier tutorial), however, the basic principles are working here. With my Fuji X100T, this is a different story.
Today I tried some sunny 16 shots with the X100T @ ISO 200. Fully overcast by bright should have resulted in f/8 with 1s/250 (give or take). That was by far too dark. Auto-exposure brought it to 1s/30, or 3 stops darker. The ISO 200 of my X100T appears to behave like an ISO 25.

For comparison, I got my Leica X2 out at ISO 100. At f/8 with 1s/125 the image was slightly dark, but could be considered well exposed. Auto-exposure resulted in a shutter speed of 1s/80. Mind you, the next real stop shutter speed would have been 1s/60.

What do I learn from this?
  • I will trust the ISO settings in the Leica and snap away with the sunny 16 rule, giving me full control.
  • The Fuji sensor will need some calibration before trustworthy. The native ISO 200 might actually not be ISO 200 at all.
So why bother? It is all about speed and delays. I shoot with manual focus. The only shutter-lag can be created by some auto-exposure in aperture priority.
Operating in full manual control, one needs to be able to trust in some given parameters, e.g. film speed. I expect from digital cameras to actually reflect the correct film speed when I set the ISO sensitivity (aka amplification) of the light sensor.

With my Leica, it seems that I can trust the ISO settings.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Canon Selphy CP400 under Windows 10

Back in the day, I bought a Canon Selphy CP400. Still have it! This is so long ago, I did not even remember the OS I was using to that time.
Now with my Windows 10 laptop, I wanted to revive the good old sublimation printer for use with Lightroom. Turns out, there are no drivers for Windows 10 available. Still I got the printer working perfectly fine. And this is how I did it.
  1. Download the latest Windows Vista drivers.
  2. Open the download folder and right-click on the downloaded file selecting "properties".
  3. Click the "Compatibility"tab.
  4. Click "Run this program in compatibility mode for:"
  5. Select "Windows Vista"
  6. Press Apply/OK
Double  click to install.
In the course of install you will be asked to connect the printer and power up. The installation should not finish.

The above procedure worked fine for me. Lightroom 5.7.1 on Windows 10 printed flawlessly on the old CP400.