Tuesday, December 11, 2012

High-speed event photography follow-up

This is just a quick post to say "Thanks" to everyone who came out tonight and to Jeremy Hall and Pete Stott for asking me to demonstrate how to capture shots of apples splashing and balloons popping. I had a great time and enjoyed sharing.

Here are the slides for anyone interested.

If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment below and I'll answer them to the best of my ability.

Update: Here's the eBay store that sells the wireless triggers I use: Gadget Infinity. Note, they are cheap. I haven't had too many problems with them, but some people have. For hobbyist use, I find them acceptable. If you're a pro, you'll probably want to go with something better.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

High-speed event photography presentation

I'm excited to give a talk on doing high-speed photography. This Tuesday, at the Utah County Studio Co-op led by my friend Jeremy Hall, I'll be showing the light and sound triggers I built a couple years ago. I'll go over how to setup and use them to consistently get shots that, without them, are pretty hard to capture.

It's basically similar material to a talk I gave a couple years ago at Photocamp Utah 2010. The video from that presentation is still available on Ustream and I wrote about it in a previous blog article.

If you're in the Utah County area on Tuesday night feel free to come out. The event is free and open to all. More information can be found on Facebook.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Treasures from Time: Polaroid SK-70 Land

The seventh and last of the cameras I brought back from my Dad's was another one that caught my wife's eye: the SX-70 Land camera by Polaroid. Manufactured between 1972 and 1981, this model with chrome and leather trim was sold to higher end markets.

This model has a number of interesting things. First, its form factor. It collapses down into a relatively thin package and pops up easily (once you figure out the technique), ready to make pictures. Second, due to the folding and the fact that it's a SLR, the light path has to go through some odd shaped lenses in order to provide a proper image to both the view finder and film. Next, the disposable flash bars had logic circuits in them to determine which bulbs were used and which one to flash next. Finally, the film pack included a 6-volt battery to power both camera and flash. This ensured power was always available whenever there was film in it.

Later variations of this design introduced in the mid-70's allowed the price to drop, being made out of cheaper materials and with more features. Film chemistry was improved over the life of the product and by the late 70's, this format was the top selling film in the United States.

Open Source Hardware is an interesting movement to watch today. Sort of like Open Source Software groups that publish all their source code, there are companies that publish all the source documents for making their products. The idea is to allow more innovation, providing a means for customers to easily understand and modify their technology. Polaroid, while not opening up to this degree, was a fore-runner of this concept by selling two kits for hobbyists to incorporate their technology. One was their sonar kit for measuring distance that they developed for the OneShot camera, a descendant of the one pictured above. The other kit allowed people to use the flat, high-current 6-volt battery in their own projects.

That's it for this series. If you want to see other articles about the cameras I recently acquired, the introduction to this series has an index.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Treasures from Time: Canon T50

This Canon T50 caught my wife's eye, probably because she has an AE-1. The T50 has an interesting mix of features. It was designed as an inexpensive, entry level 35mm SLR and was the first of the T series, replacing the previous A series SLRs. Because of its position as a beginners camera, automatic is the only exposure control mode. It has auto-loading and a motor advance, allowing 1.4 frames per second. All the electronics are controlled by two AA batteries. In contrast to all this automation, the focus and rewind are manual.

The T50 accepts FD mount lenses, as was standard for Canon when this model was made between 1983 and 1989. This allowed an impressive array of glass options from a 7.5mm fisheye to a 600-830mm zoom.

Canon introduced a new shutter with this model. All their previous SLRs had horizontal sliding cloth shutters. The T50 pioneered the vertical sliding metal shutters that are still used in their current SLRs. This allowed sync speeds higher than the 1/60th second limit imposed by the old technology.

The introduction to this series has an index of all the cameras I recently acquired.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Treasures from Time: Kodak Pony II

As solid and advanced as the Retina IIc was yesterday, the Pony II is light and basic today. Shown above with an optional flash attached, this camera was manufactured between 1957 and 1962. It has a bakelite body with a simple viewfinder and takes 35mm film.

Focus is set by estimating the distance to the subject and dialing in that value on the dial around the lens. The lens is marked as 44mm at f/3.9 but the aperture control ring is indexed with exposure values, not f/stops. An EV of 9 is wide open and 15 closes the four bladed diaphragm to its smallest opening, which looks to be about f/22.

There is only a single shutter speed. I found a chart online that correlates exposure values/ISO to f/stops/shutter speeds. If I'm interpreting the chart correctly, I think the shutter speed is probably 1/30th or 1/60th of a second.

This is a really basic camera which made a perfect gift when I received it around 2nd grade. That's right. This is my first camera. I thought it had been lost or given away in the moves growing up, but Dad had it stored away somewhere and here it was, all ready for me to pick up again and start making pictures. It's light and plastic, but simple. And that means there's not really much to go wrong with it. It seems to work as well now as it did when I first got it, more than a couple decades ago.

The introduction to this series has an index of all the cameras I recently acquired.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Treasures from Time: Kodak Retina IIc

The next camera in this series is this Kodak Retina IIc. It's an incredibly solid little camera; the weight for it's size and the feel of all the mechanisms scream craftsmanship. The leather case is built such that it could probably survive years of hard abuse and still provide superb protection for the camera.

The Retina line was manufactured in Stuttgart, Germany for Kodak by their subsidiary Nagel Camerawerk. The original Retina was introduced in 1934 and pioneered the 35mm film format. The Retina IIc shown above was produced between 1954 and 1957. Like the other Retina II series cameras preceding it, it has a rangefinder viewfinder, an exposure calculator and interchangeable lenses.

The exposure calculator is an interesting feature, apparently introduced on the second generation Retina I model. The user sets the "light value" which locks in a ratio between shutter speed and f/stop. A ring can then be rotated that allows the shutter speed or f/stop to be adjusted that keeps the other in sync for proper exposure. It's basically a mechanical version of the aperture value and time value modes on current DSLRs.

Shutter speeds are bulb mode or between 1 and 1/500th second, and the flash can sync at any speed. There's a 10 second self-timer. The standard 50mm lens is f/2.8 and is reputed to be a very good lens. Close-up adapters, wide angle (35mm f/5.6) and telephoto (80mm f/4) lenses were also available along with quite a few other accessories, including a microscope adaptor.

This camera has no personal history; my Dad could not remember how it showed up in his collection. But its solid feel and the exposure computer caught my attention and drew me to it. It should be fun to give it a try.

The introduction to this series has an index of all the cameras I recently acquired.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Treasures from Time: Wardflex II

The twin-lens reflex Wardflex II is the next oldest in my new collection and the second with some personal history. Most of the cameras I recently acquired have quite a bit of information available online. This one is an exception.

About all I've been able to find out about it is the Wardflex was a rebadged import sold by Montgomery Wards. The original plastic version was sold before World War II and used 620 film. Post war through the early 50's they introduced another model by the same name with upgraded optics and a metal body that used 120 film. In 1957 they updated to the Wardflex II and sold it for several years.

The lens opens up to f/3.5 and closes down to f/22 with a focal length of 80mm. Looks like the shutter speed is limited from 1 second down to 1/300th second and bulb mode.

Like the Graflex, there's a bit of personal history with this one too. It also belonged to my great-Grandfather and given to my Dad by my Grandparents. He used it all through my growing up years until he got a Minolta SLR when I was in Jr. High or High school. Other than the shutter being a bit gummy it's in great shape. I need to get it in to get cleaned up and it should be good to go make some images.

Also shown is a Sekonic Auto-Lumi model 86. There's more online information available on this than the camera. It was made between 1963 and 1978 and sold new for about $9.00. It uses a selenium photo cell as a sensor with the output displayed on a micro-amp meter. The amount of current generated by the light hitting the photo cell is directly shown on the meter. A simple, battery-less system with very few things to go wrong. It shows the average reflected light but can't be used for incident light.

The introduction has an index of all the cameras in this series.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Treasures from Time: Graflex RB series B

The next oldest in my new collection is a Graflex RB series B camera and the first with some personal history. The company changed names a number of times over its history, making it easier to narrow down the age. The manufacture's plate indicates it was made by The Folmer-Graflex Corporation. According to Wikipedia, this was used between 1928 and 1946. Near as I can find in searching around, the RB series B was made until 1942, further limiting the possible date of manufacture.

This one has a number of interesting features to it.
  • The back film carrier rotates, allowing the photographer to switch between portrait and landscape without rotating the camera.
  • Normally there is a sheet film holder on the back. Mine has a "newer" 120 holder that clips into where the sheet holder would usually fit.
  • The lens is interchangeable and had several options. I just have the standard lens made by Kodak. It has f/stops from 4.5 to 32. There was also a telephoto lens that was popular with portrait photographers.
  • The shutter is a length of fabric with various sized slits in it called curtain apertures. It is rolled onto a roller that has spring tension on it. The more it's rolled, the higher the tension and the faster the shutter speed. The combination of which aperture is selected and the amount of tension on the roller control the shutter speed from 1/10th to 1/1000th of a second.
  • The viewfinder is setup like a twin-lens reflex with a 45 degree mirror and a ground glass. The difference is there's only one lens. The image on the glass is size-for-size exactly what the film will see. It's a real SLR.

As I mentioned, there's a bit of personal history with this one. It had belonged to my great-Grandfather and my Grandparents didn't have any use for it, or one of the other cameras, so they gave them to my Dad when I was an infant. I have early memories of playing around with this but I've never known it to be used. I don't know that my Dad ever put any film in it. I think it's time to get some 120 and see what it'll do.

The introduction has an index of all the cameras in this series.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Treasures from Time: Kodak 1A Autographic

The oldest of the cameras in my new collection is the Kodak 1A Autographic. It takes 116 film and according the Kodak web site was made between 1917 and 1924 with an original list price of $21.

The aperture is marked in the old Uniform System to indicate the diaphragm opening. It's marked 4 to 128 which, according to a table I found on Wikipedia, corresponds to f/8 to f/45.2.

The shutter has five speed settings: 25, B, 50, T and 100. Based on sound, I think 25, 50 and 100 are 1/25th, 1/50th and 1/100th of a second. B, which I assume stands for Bulb, keeps the shutter open for as long as the shutter release is held down. T, which I assume stands for Timed, opens the shutter on the first shutter release press and closes it when the shutter release is pressed a second time.

The view finder consists of two lens 90 degrees to each other with a 45 degree mirror reflecting the image from the front one into the top one. You look down into the top one to frame your image; basically a rudimentary twin-lens reflex. The assembly rotates 90 degrees for either landscape or portrait mode.

Probably the most unique thing about this camera is in the back. It has a little metal window that opens up. The camera takes A116 film. This is normal 116 film with a sheet of tissue paper rolled up with it. The idea is you can open the window and write on the tissue paper for each exposure. Who knew there was keyword tagging for your photos at the beginning of the last century?

The introduction has an index of all the cameras in this series.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Treasures from Time: Introduction

Over Labor Day weekend last month, Lady Pebbles and I made a fast trip to northern California to pick up a shop tool that my Dad has been storing for me. While we were rummaging through his shop looking for something, he yelled "Ah!", pulled out a box, probably two feet square and 18 inches deep, handed it to me and told me to take it to the house for later. I did, went back to working on the project at hand and forgot about it.

After dinner, he set it in the middle of the floor, opened it up and started pulling out cameras. He needed to clear them out of his storage area and was giving me first dibs on them. There were a lot of cool old mechanical picture taking marvels. Each was interesting in its own way but there were too many for me to want to bring them all home.

A good portion of them had been given to him over the years by people who knew he had an interest in cameras. He used to have a shelf running around his office to display them on and so it was pretty common knowledge. But since moving a number of years ago, they've been in storage, out of sight.

We spent several hours going through them. It was a really cool. We did a lot of web searching on each one, just out of curiosity. When it was all said and done, I choose eight to bring home. One (not pictured) I knew my good friend Rich would appreciate. Three of them have personal history for me. The rest I got just because of their coolness factor.

Back to front, left to right, mostly in age order:
Kodak 1A Autographic
Graflex RB series B
Wardflex II
Kodak Retina IIc
Kodak Pony II
Canon T50
Polaroid SK-70 Land

Saturday, July 14, 2012

How to convert film negatives to digital images

This entry is a bit different... I recorded a photography related video for my maker themed video blog. The video is shown below. Go to the entry for House of Hacks if you'd rather read the transcript than watch the video.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Light painting tool - First results

In previous articles I showed the brains of a little light wand device and then subsequently the control unit. I finally got it all assembled and took it out for a field test the other night with the Friday Night Fotogs.

Here it is all assembled.

And here are some detail shots.

It's comprised of an RGB LED with a ping-pong ball on the end for a diffuser, a micro-controller board to control the color of the LED and three sliding adjustment potentiometers to control the hue, saturation and value of the LED.

There is still work to be done on it. As it stands, I haven't put much time into making it sturdy. The wires are all exposed and the computer board is only held on by the wires which in turn are only held on by a couple zip ties. I had an instance where the wind blew the ping-pong ball diffuser off and I had to go dashing across the salt and sand in the dark to retrieve it.

Additionally, I want to put a mechanism on it to be able to easily spin it. I have some skateboard bearings sitting on the workbench and some ideas about how to go about it. I just need to finalize the design and machine a mounting bracket.

Here are some of the first images I made with it.

Overall I was pretty pleased with the way it worked out. I was initially concerned that the single LED wouldn't have enough light output to work too well, but as can be seen, that was unfounded for night conditions. In twilight, it might still be a problem.

I'm going to play with this for awhile and see how it works out. If I make a second version, a couple improvements I've thought about include a power switch, multiple LEDs, a push button switch or two, better construction and possibly running off AA batteries instead of a single 9V. After working with it, I may add some others to the list.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

In need of a visit to the gear doctor

A couple months ago I wrote about my new-to-me 5D camera. Last Sunday, Lady Pebbles and I took a day trip to Cedar Breaks National Monument to make some photographs of the eclipse.

It was a beautiful day. We got down there mid-afternoon to spend time scouting locations before the big event which started a couple hours before sunset. Everything was mostly dry, but there were still patches of snow in a couple places on north facing slopes on the trail. Being a nice warm day, the snow was melting, making the fine clay soil slicker than snot. As I went around one of these spots on a particularly steep slope in the trail, I stepped on what I thought was firm ground. However, it turned out to be a dry crust on top of slick mud. I immediately slid right down into the center of the snow and mud.

Fortunately, I was able to catch myself and slid just on my hands and feet so I didn't get all muddy. All my gear stayed out of the mud. Except my camera. I was carrying it attached to my R-strap by my back hip. As I slid down the hill, it slid around my body and into the mud. It didn't fall; it just crept around and bumped into the ground. My hands were caked in mud and the top of the camera and lens had a little mud, but overall, things weren't too bad.

I used the snow to clean my hands and the worst of the mud from the camera. Everything seemed to be in good shape. We continued scouting locations and making images. Finally we found where we wanted to stay and setup our gear.

I made a couple hundred exposures of the gorgeous canyons as we waited for the eclipse to start and chatted with other photographers setting up next to us. About 45 minutes after the start of the eclipse, I clicked the shutter, looked through the viewfinder to reframe and saw nothing but black. Weird. I hit the shutter release. It opened and stayed open for several seconds before closing again. The image was completely blown out. Really weird. I cycled power and tried again. Same thing. I took it off the tripod, removed the battery grip to really make sure the power was disconnected. I put it back together and tried again. Still the same thing. Hmm. I took the lens off and immediately saw the problem.

The inside is supposed to look like this:

But instead, what I saw looked more like this:

Arg. The partially silvered mirror that allows you to see through the lens had separated from the flippy-uppy thing that takes it out of the way of the sensor. Hence the black viewfinder. And since the exposure meter is mounted behind it, it wasn't geting the proper readings, causing the long exposure times.

This is actually a known problem with the 5D model and Canon has a recall notice out on it. I'm not sure if this body has been in for the recall upgrade or not. And I don't know if the minor tumble had anything to do with it or not. I'll be taking it in to Pictureline to have them send it in. Hopefully, Canon will repair it as part of the recall, but if not, I'm going to have a camera doctor's bill shortly.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Light painting tool - progress update

Last post I showed a couple circuit boards for a light painting tool I'm building. I planned on getting it finished by last week, but spring time house projects intervened and I didn't get as much done as I had hoped. However, I did get the user controls assembled. The three controls will adjust the red, green and blue sections of the LEDs. There are two ways to program it: either as RGB sliders or HSV sliders. I'm undecided which will work best, so I'll probably try both ways and see which I like better. Any thoughts on which way to go?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Light painting tool

I was scheduled to teach a course in the local university's life-long learning program, so over the last several weeks I've focused on making some tools for one of the topics I was going to cover: light painting. This is a photo of control boards I worked on this week for two of these tools.
For this project, I decided to make my own printed circuit boards for the first time. At times it was pretty frustrating learning just the right technique to make them come out properly. But in the end, I am pleased with the results, particularly for a first attempt.

As part of the process, the copper covered board is put in an acid bath to etch the traces. It was pretty cool watching that happen; took me back to the days of watching a print emerge on a white piece of paper in the darkroom.

I plan on finishing them this week and taking them to the next Friday Night Fotogs get together. When I do, I'll post a follow-up with pictures of the completed tool, some build notes and the resulting images.

Monday, March 26, 2012

New (to me) gear

Canon 5D
With this week's release of Canon's 5D Mark III, my good friend Rich Legg upgraded his main camera. In doing so, his old Mark II shifted to the backup position and his classic 5D became surplus. So, he made me an offer I couldn't refuse and my new primary camera is now full frame. Even though this body is newly mine, we're already old friends. In the last three years, I've probably shot it more than Rich has. He let me borrow it for a long weekend trip and I've shot second shooter at a couple shoots for him. I'm now looking forward to using it full time.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Hear them? The crickets? It's been pretty quiet around here for awhile.

The reasons are multifaceted.

One: I've been busy with things other than photography and haven't spent much time posting articles here.

Two: I have three blogs that I try to keep up. A couple years ago, I'd made a plan, and set up reminders, to write one post for each blog each week. It was simply too ambitious. It was unmaintainable. And it got to the point where I simply dismissed the reminder without giving any serious thought to it. The reminders, rather than spurring me into action, ended up being a means for me to put a guilt trip on myself and resenting. I simply over-committed myself, got overwhelmed and ignored things.

Three: I ran into the issue that some of what I wanted to share didn't fit well into any of my blogs. Things crossed over into other areas that didn't weren't really about the topic of the blog. Additionally, some things didn't fit the written format well.

So, the last couple months I have evaluated what I want to do and how I want to move further with my blogs. I've decided to continue the three blogs. However, instead of posting to each one each week, for a total of three posts a week between them, I plan to only write one post a week and rotate through the blogs. This means each blog will be updated once every three weeks. I think actually writing one post a week is better than not writing three.

I have also started a new video blog. It is less focused on a particular area and so it allows me to share more variety of things. Some of those things will be photography related and when there is cross over, I'll also cross post.

This blog also has a related twitter account. It serves as both to alert of new articles here and also pointers to other things photography related I find out in the internet. I plan on having several posts a week there, so followers will get more than they do here, but won't be spammed with huge amounts either.

Until next time, keep watching the light.

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