Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Browser plug-in: CoolIris

I want to introduce a browser plug-in I installed over a year ago and use on a near daily basis. It's so familiar to me, I'm surprised when others just discover it. However, this happens frequently enough, I realized it's still relatively unknown and thought I'd write about it.
CoolIris intro
The plug-in is called CoolIris and is hands-down the best way to view large numbers of photos on the web that I've found. After installation, it is activated by clicking a small icon in the bottom corner of pictures where it's available. When activated, it displays images on a "wall" covering your entire screen, three images high and as long as it needs to be for the list of photos it's showing. The images are automatically scaled to the same size to look balanced and consistent. There is a slider control across the bottom to move the wall back and forth. Clicking on an image will zoom it to medium size.

Double clicking an image will zoom it to full screen. When in this mode, each image fills the screen with thumbnails across the bottom that can be used to select different images. There is a play button to automatically advance to the next image after a brief delay, basically functioning like a slide show.

Each image has a number of buttons to provide various functions related to the image. These include such things as e-mailing a link to someone, viewing the original web page containing the image and marking images as favorites. Some of the functions require creating an account with CoolIris for configuration information. This is optional to use the plug-in, but required for certain features.

There is also a search function that allows you to search any one of a number of photo sharing sights such as Flickr, SmugMug, Google images and Yahoo images, to name a few. You don't need to start your search in CoolIris however. You can go to one of these sites directly, or any other site that supports the MediaRSS feed format, do your search, and then start the plug-in.

If you run a blog with galleries, you need to enable this on your site. People who have the plug-in installed will love you for it; some may even ignore your site if it doesn't support it. More information can be found at

The CoolIris plug-in is available on both Windows and Mac in Firefox 2.0 and 3.0. Additionally on just Windows it runs in Internet Explorer and on just the Mac in Safari. Click the image above to go to their site to download it and start viewing images on a whole new level.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What Would MacGyver Do?

At Photocamp Utah, I presented several do-it-yourself projects. This posting contains the details of those projects. Details can be seen in the pictures in the power point notes (pptx).


The first project were clamps that can have flashes or cameras or any other device that is designed to be mounted on a tripod. All the materials come from a home improvement store.
  • Spring clamp. Some brands come with holes pre-drilled in them. Look for them since it's easier to construct without having to drill a hole. If the clamps used don't have holes, drill a hole in the side by the hinge large enough for the 1/4" bolt.
  • 1/4-20 bolt. Make sure the bolt does not have a shoulder on it. Typically 1" long bolts work well.
  • 1/4-20 Jam nut.
  • Locktite or lock washer for 1/4" bolt.
  • 1/4-20 Flange nut.
  • Fender washer. Make sure the hole in the washer is large enough for the nut part of the flange nut but not for the flange to go through.
  • Two-part epoxy.
Put the bolt through the clamp from the inside, place the lock washer on the bolt and then tighten the jam nut on the bolt. Use the epoxy to glue the fender washer to the flange nut. When set, screw the nut onto the bolt, flange side up. Any accessory with a standard tripod mount can be attached to the clamp. Use the flange bolt to lock the accessory in place.

Light tent

The second project was a light tent. These provide a very even light for small objects. They're frequently used for product shots.

From home improvement store:
  • 18 ft of 1/2" PVC pipe. Length needed is dependent on the size of the box desired. For the demonstration, I had 8 lengths 24 inches long and 4 lengths 30 inches long.
  • 8 tees
  • 8 elbows
  • Or 8 corner connectors (if they have them)
  • 8 thread x slip adapters
  • Clips. Clips can be made either from the same sized pipe if using thin walled pipe or the next size up if using thick walled pipe. Cut in short pieces several inches long and then slice out about a third length-wise.
From party supply store:
  • White, disposable table cloth
  • Large sheets of paper to use as a backdrop.
Cut the pipe to the desired lengths. Eight equal lengths are needed for two sides and four equal lengths are needed to connect them together. All twelve can be the same length if you want a cube. Slide the pipes into the corner pieces to make a frame. Drape the table cloth over the frame and use the clips to hold the backdrop and table cloth in place.

An alternate design using just a cardboard box and tissue paper can be found in this Strobist article. Thanks Elizabeth for the reminder!

Speedlight modifiers

Finally, I talked a bit about light modifiers for flashes. Velcro can be wrapped around the flash head to use as a mounting point for various light-weight gobos, snoots, grids, small light boxes and gel holders. Thin craft foam available at craft stores can be purchased in sheets and cut with scissors to any desired size and shape. Ready made accessories can be purchased at Honl Photo or the pictures used as inspiration for your own designs.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Photocamp Utah 2009 wrap-up

Photocamp Utah 2009 is over and by all accounts was a great success! We had a couple rough edges and learned a few things to do better next year, but many, many more things went right than had problems. Jeremy Hall coordinated a great group of people each taking responsibility for different areas and every one doing a bang-up job. It couldn't have been done without a lot of work by many people.

The speakers I heard were all excellent with different perspectives to share. I am still amazed that the seemingly small niche of photography has such a wide variety within it. From technical techniques to visual style, there seems to be infinite diversity in peoples' photographic vision. This was especially evident in the final series of rapid-fire presentations where we saw everything from urban decay to landscapes to sacred places.

And of course it would have all been for naught without all the wonderful attendees. Everyone was enthusiastic and encouraging. There was a superb, energetic buzz throughout the day as people talked, laughed, shared and learned from each other.

If you haven't already, be sure to sign up for notification of future events at the Photocamp UT website.

Finally, Mike Calanan, the official Photocamp Utah photographer, has his photos online in this Flickr set and there's the Photocamp Utah group pool where everyone can post their pictures from the event.

Congratulations to everyone for such a dynamic, fun-filled day.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Photocamp Utah 2009

I'm really looking forward to Saturday's first ever Photocamp Utah event. The event officially runs from 8am to 6pm. I expect it to be a great day of sharing with a lot of other photography enthusiasts, learning some things in the workshops and generally being inspired. My own workshop on making photography equipment is coming along fairly well and hope someone finds it informative. Looking at the list of other presenters, I'm humbled to be included.

Space is limited and the registrations filled up fast. I know there were a number of people interested in going who weren't able to sign up in time. On the main website there is a form to sign up for mailings about future events. Go sign up now so you won't miss the next one.

If you are on Twitter, you can also follow PhotoCampUtah for the latest news and details.

If you see me there and we haven't met, be sure to come up and introduce yourself. And of course, if we have met, make sure to say "Hi".

Hope to see you there.