Tue, 14 Aug 2007


— SjG @ 3:35 pm

Ever since I saw a “how to” in Popular Photography back in the early 80s, I always thought it would be cool to make my own super-macro lens by mounting an ordinary lens backwards.

So, on Saturday, using 58mm skylight filter, a dremel tool, hot glue gun, and camera body cap, I created a reverse mount. Into this contraption, I inserted the kit lens (28-70mm) that came with my Nikon N-80, and, tried it out on the Nikon D-70. Obviously, autofocus and automatic exposure are out of the question (although it might be interesting to run wires across from the lens’ connector to the camera. Hm… maybe it’s not out of the question!), so it entails a lot of manual twiddling of focus and looking at histograms.

It’s too much magnification (even at 70mm) to hand-hold, and, even with my old tripod, it’s hard to get a sharp image. Also, with this kind of macro, there’s not a lot of depth of field to play with. I started by taping the aperture lever at full open, and didn’t get dramatically different results when I allowed it to stop down somewhat. I tried to figure out the optics of the situation, but quickly realized that with a variable aperture and a collection of lenses, I would need to go back and hit the books to understand the physics.

Here’s the stinger of a wasp, who was found dead on the driveway:

Sun, 18 Feb 2007

Mardi Gras!

— SjG @ 10:26 pm

Saturday was the Grand View Krewe’s annual Mardi Gras extravaganza at Venice Beach.

I took close to eight hundred pictures. I’m currently sorting, refining, color-correcting, cropping, etc. They’ll be available in the gallery soon! You can see pictures from 2003 and 2004 there now … If I get my act together, I’ll post up pictures from not just this year, but the last three years…

While you’re waiting, check out some music by The Gumbo Brothers.

Wed, 29 Jun 2005

Organizing Digital Photography

— SjG @ 9:20 pm

Well, it’s an impossible problem. My digital cameras all have high-speed “spray-and-pray” modes, which are the only reasonable response to the challenge of taking candid pictures of children. One shoots a buffer full of pictures, and in one of them (if one’s lucky), all of the kids will have their eyes open, there will be no fingers stuck up noses, and, if one’s really lucky, there will be nice expressions on all of the visible faces.

But the downside is the proliferation of pictures. One develops a certain Tommygun mentality, and, hey, disk space is cheap. Composition’s easier in Photoshop than through the viewfinder.

In short, I have a digital picture management problem. Apple’s iPhoto is a good start, but it can’t handle the quantities of images I’m throwing at it. Recently, I’ve been using an evaluation version of iView Multimedia’s iView Pro. It seems good, with lots of options and configurability. I’d rather not spend $200, but if I can learn to use it adequately, it’d be worth it. And I certainly don’t have time to write my own (witness the moribund Samuel’s Last Attempted Gallery [SLAG] web application that’s never made it past the schema design phase).

I’ll report here eventually what I find.

Mon, 28 Mar 2005

Photographing Teapots

— SjG @ 9:36 pm

After trying a lot of different approaches, I am now getting close to the results I want when photographing teapots. I figured it would be worthwhile to share my system in the hopes that it’s helpful to someone else, and with the idea I might get some suggestions from others.

First, the goals:

  • A clean image that shows detail of the piece.
  • An image that’s reasonably accurate in color reproduction.
  • An image that gives a little drama to the piece, rather than a cold, clinical look.

The Lighting Equipment:
I’ve tried several approaches. The one that I find best (so far) is not the cheapest approach. It involves about $300 in lighting equipment, not including the cost of any photographic gear.

Teapot Photo Stage
(click for bigger view)

I started with a kit from Table Top Studios. It included a 30″ light tent and a two-light set. I bought a graduated backdrop from another photographic supply house, which I needed to trim to size — Table Top Studios now sells a custom sized backdrop which seems to be ideal. One other word of praise for Table Top — I was facing a deadline, when one of the bulbs burned out. They were extremely helpful and overnighted me a free replacement, so I was able to make the deadline. That made me a loyal customer from here on out.

I set up the tent on a card table in the overstuffed Meier Quagg Library. I installed the nylon sweep, and used clothespins to fasten the graduated backdrop to it. Because the light tent has a lip, I raised the front portion of the sweep using the two-volume Oxford English Dictionary. The 1982 version is perfectly sized; you might want to use something else of the same general shape and size.

Before placing a teapot upon this stage, I metered off of an 18% gray card, oriented vertically. Then, I tried it with a teapot. I did a lot of experimentation, bracketing, spot-metering, etc, and, to my simultaneous delight and dismay, found that for both digital and film, Nikon’s Matrix Metering was spot on for the best exposure. To get the best images, I stopped down to f/11, which necessitated a fairly long exposure time (on the order of a quarter second), which, of course, makes a tripod all the more necessary.

To see how these results compare with my previous efforts, compare:
before to after (obviously, different teapots!)