Monday, June 16, 2008

DIY Moth Photography

Today's post isn't very complicated. In fact it's pretty darn straight forward and simple. I'm sure you can figure out any details I may have left out on yer own.
Macro photography of insects is an addictive habit. I love chasing after butterflys,dragonflys,grasshoppers you name it. For some reason early this spring I got hooked on moth madness. Turn the light on and they will come. I noticed that there were a lot of moths this year compared to last. In fact last years spring was so drawn out there was a major die off of many species of moths and butterflys in my area. This resulted in bats struggling to find food sources. Well I'm off topic here.

The basic premise is to leave an outdoor light on all night. In the morning you go out and photograph the accumulated moth species that have gathered on the outside of your house. In researching some moth sites. Yes, there are moth sites. I found that many scientists collect moths by putting a light behind a large white sheet draped between two poles or even stepladders. They sometimes use black or ultraviolet light sources.

In the morning if it is a cool one I have found that you can sometimes, I repeat, sometimes move moths to a more natural setting by slipping a dark piece of construction paper slowly under them and carefully carrying them to a new spot and slowly sliding them off.

I use natural light, a tripod and a gold metalic reflector to fill the shadows. The lens I use is a 100mm flat field focus lens made by Phoenix. This lens is identical to theVivitar and probably made for a few other companies as well. I use it with a set of Kenko extension tubes.

So turn on the lights sweet darlin' tonight we're gonna play.

God's light and love to all,


Saturday, June 14, 2008

DIY Floating Blinds

When spring and early summer come aroundsometimes I get the urge to go jump in the water. Not to swim mind you. But to shoot pictures of waterfowl and other small critters that live in ponds and other shallow water. I use a floating blind and I will tell you that with patience you can sometimes get really, really close to birds in the water. I have been shooting out of various floating blinds for a number of years now. I use two types of blinds. One designed for really shallow water 6 inches to two feet and one for deeper water 2 feet or more. A word of warning. Most floating blinds (Human powered type) should not be used in rivers or large bodies of water where you can get blown away or swept away by the current or possibly run over by a boat.

Well I'm a bit off track here so.... On my deeper water blind I use a float tube covered with a muskrat sort of looking blind. It is essentially a 1 inch diameter piece of tubing formed into a circle set on top of the float tube. I drilled (6) evenly spaced 1/4 in. holes into this ring of tubing. Into the holes I stick (3) fiberglass bike flags. Each one is bent into a "U" shape to make sort of a tentlike support (just like a dome tent). Over the fiberglass poles I use a lightweight cotton camo material that is attached to the ring of tubing. Over that is some surplus camo netting. . The surplus camo gives it that 3d appearence. The netting is also longer so that it hangs down off the tubing so that it covers the float tube. The primary advantage of this blind set up is that it is very lightweight and it can be broken down flat by taking the bike flags out. I don't use any added natural vegitation on this blind but it probably wouldn't hurt.

My shallow water blind is called the Fred Flinstone blind. It is a 4ft x8ft sheet of styrofoam that is 6 inches thick. There is a large hole cut into it amidships so you can sit on top of it and propel yourself through the hole with your feet like Fred and Barney. It has a 1/2 inch sheet of plywood covering the styrofoam. The blind on top is made out of 3/4 inch PVC Made into a box shape about 4x4x4 I covered the blind with 1/2 brown nylon netting. Then I cut cattails and tied them up into bundles and covered the blind. Then I covered the whole styrafoam base and plywood with burlap. For the final touch I drilled 1 inch holes all over the base and stuck cattails in it. The finished blind is very 3D. It looks like a floating island. This blind is very effective in flooded fields and shallow marshes. It is comfortable and very mobile. It is not however easily transported. You need a full isze pick up. I generally leave it wherever I'm using it for the season. It takes two people to load and launch. It also has to be recovered with cattails periodically. I just tie the bundles on with natural jute fiber. It matches the dried cattails pretty well. Well how is that for a tome.

God's light and blessings to all,


Friday, June 13, 2008

DIY Creepy Crawly Set Up

Todays Blog will be nothing special for some viewers for they already have created things like these for themselves. Photographing bugs and other crawling things can be addictive. Don't get me started on Hummingbird photography as I'm even more addicted to that. But there are already plenty of tutorials out there on that. What we're talkin' bout today is bugs. Yes bugs and other small creepy crawly things.

Bugs are fun to photograph in their natural environment stalked like a big game hunter. There are times however when taking them into the studio (my house) can produce some images that are superb with little effort. Care should be taken to not injure or stress the little buggers. Keep your shoot short and don't expose your captives to extreme heat or cold.

My basic set up consists of a large, flat plastic container placed on top of a TV tray. I place this into indirect lighting near a window. I almost always use a small gold reflector to bounce light in to fill the shadows. You can make one really easily by covering a piece of cardboard with gold mylar gift wrapping paper. I place a rock or piece of wood and some leaves into a container. I then place the insect onto that and shoot away. It helps here to have an insect/critter wrangler. In my case this usually happens to be whomever in my family I can wrangle into doing the job. Usually that's my daughter because she likes to move critters around. I use a plastic container because 'er well it contains them. The sides are slippery enough that most critters can't climb it.

I generally like to take two kinds of shots. I shoot one overhead view (SetUp #1) and one side view (Set Up #2), The side view shots are the most challenging to take due to depth of field issues. But they are usually the most interesting as they get down to the insect/critters level. They seem more intimate than our usual human perspective of looking downward.

When shooting a side view I place a back drop (a piece of colored cloth) on a convenient chair about three feet behind the set up. I block or flag off the back drop with a piece of cardboard if I am using a black backdrop. In looking back on todays "Great Potato Bug Shoot" I can see that i probably should have used a dark green or even a burnt orange color. I think that would have complimented "Spud" a bit better.

So go out there into the garden or backyard and find some critters to shoot.

Gear used today
Canon 10D
Phoenix 100 mm Macro Flat Field lens
Tokina Extension tube
Old beat up Bogen 3021 Tripod
Bogen 3055 Ballhead
Remote Switch Canon RS 80 N3

God's blessings to all,


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

DIY Water Pond Part Two Sample Images

Things have been hectic with family life and I haven't had any time to shoot any images with my new pond that I created. Sooo rather than keeping anyone that may read this and wonder where the sample images are I decided to look through my files and pick some from some prior ponds I have built over the years. I usually make one or two pond set ups each summer and as the summer progresses I change them around a bit with partial or complete redesigns. Wild Bandtail Pigeons like bigger deeper pools they can almost float in while Chickadees and Juncos seem to prefer smaller shallow ponds with a lot of small rocks to perch on. Quail seem to prefer secluded hidden spots. I'm still playing around with ideas and finding out what works and what doesn't seem to. In any case it is a lot of fun to sit in my blind and watch the birds come in to feed and bathe. What a real privilege to have some time to myself to sit and ponder. I'm lucky to have a wife and family that both supports and enjoys my endeavors. Well enjoy the images and go out and create some of your own.

God's light and love to all of you,


Monday, June 9, 2008

DIY Knothole Feeder

Have you ever seen those cool pictures of birds and squirrels poking there heads out of knotholes in trees? The photographer must have spent days following birds around trying to find their nests. Well I actually have done that and gotten some neat shots of birds bringing in food to their young. But what do you do about the times when its not nesting season? Well one day when I was getting some wood from the wood pile I came up with a great idea. I picked up a piece of firewood that had a knothole in it and the bark came right off of the wood with the knothole in it. I got to thinking... Some of you out there are already ahead of me here. Why not add a feeder to the backside of the bark? After a number of tries of using wood, wire and string I finally settled upon using some wood screws, a coffee can and some Plaster of Paris. Basically its a simple messy process. Put the can on a stick. Spray paint the inside of the can black. Put the can opening on the back of the piece of bark centered over the knothole. After that you drill a circle of wood screws into the bark around the can. Be carefull here not to go through the bark with the wood screws. Next you mix up a batch of Plaster of Paris and build up a wedge or ramp around the can onto the bark. Making sure to cover the wood screws to hold it all together. Let it set for a couple of hours and your done. All you need to do now is find a convenient fence or pole to mount your feeder on. It is best to place it near other feeders to help critters discover the feed that you put inside of it. Be sure to take into consideration what kind of light you want to fall on it. It also helps with birds to place feeders of any kind near bushes for cover. They are a lot more comfortable feeding in places they know they can dive off into safety if a predator comes near like some photog with a giant lens of some kind. As usual I have attached some directions and some samples of what can be accomplished using this type of cool cheapo feeder.

God's light and love to all,


Friday, June 6, 2008

DIY Photo Blind (Hide)

The main idea behind blinds is to prevent movement from being seen by whatever creature you are photographing. Because of this there are literally hundreds of different ways that you can go about making blinds. One of the cheapest things I have discovered to use over the years is a large cardboard box. The best kind to use are large appliance boxes that washers and dryers etc. are delivered in. Just walk into most any appliance store and politely ask for a box and they usually will give you one. After getting the box its a simple matter of cutting an opening for your camera lens to stick through. A utility knife or a serrated blade knife will do nicely for this. Just be sure to cut the opening at a comfortable height for your tripod. Next cover up the opening with some gauze,batting or netting. After that it is a good idea to cut an opening slot for your front tripod leg down at the base of the box below the window. This allows the tripod to sit closer to the opening and it is more comfortable for you. I always drive a few wooden stakes down at the corners to hold the blind in place if the wind comes up. Where I live there is a lot of fog so I throw a tarp over the blind at night so i don't return to a soggy pile of cardboard. It helps to throw a little native cover over the blind to break up its outline. Brush, leaves etc. work well for this purpose.

The most comfortable blind I have ever used is my office window. I just cut a piece of cardboard the same size as the widow opening and taped it over the window opening. I then cut a hole for my lens just above the window sill. I set my ground pod on the window sill and shot away at the birds, squirrels and chipmunks that came to my backyard feeders. In wintertime when it is snowing it is great to be able to stay nice and warm while shooting.

Attached today are some quick pictures of a blind I made with a large cardboard box and some pictures of a commercial "Dog House" blind I use. When they are on sale they can be purchased for less than fifty dollars. They can be purchased online from a variety of sources.Cabelas, Bass Pro etc.

Good luck shooting. God's light and love to you,


Thursday, June 5, 2008

DIY Water Pond for Bird Photography

With the arrival of spring I love to do bird photography. That's not to say I don't like doing it at other times of the year, but in the spring birds are in their breeding colors. Also, because I live in Northern California all the water sources start drying up. You know the song "it never rains in California..." This means that birds start looking for places to drink and bathe. This is where the Dollar Tree comes in handy. Believe it or not I finally noticed the sign. It's a Dollar Tree not a Dollar store. Oh what ever it's cheap! They have all these wonderful flat platters and shallow bowls that work perfectly for cheapo bird baths. Add some rock, sand and gravel around them and even some plants and you have a perfect water set up to photograph birds drinking and bathing. I start with scrap plywood and cut a hole bigger than the base of the platter with a jigsaw. Next I set the platter in the hole and spray paint it with flat black spray paint. Following that I find something level to support the plywood on. I have used saw horses, cinder blocks and bricks in the past. This time I'm puting the plywood across a raised bed in my garden. The last and most creative step is to decorate around the outside of the platter on the plywood with rocks and stuff to make it look natural. You can put in mossy rocks, branches, plants and leaves etc. Add some water dripping into it overhead from a hose and wait for the birds. Most of the time I also place a few seed feeders close by. This seems to attract more birds. It's kind of like. Well, we've had dinner might as well go have a drink while were here. The last thng you will need to do is set up some sort of blind (or hide as the other English say.) Mornings are usually best both for lighting and the birds. On hot days mid afternoon seems to work best.

God's blessings to all,


To be continued

Monday, June 2, 2008

DIY Ground Pod

Hi all,

Over the years I have struggled with macro photography. One of my main difficulties is getting down lowwwww. I have reversed the centerpost, layed the tripod on its side and used a bean bag or a jacket. Probably the best thing is a Benbo tripod. My friend Joe Benoit has one and it is superb for getting down to the ground. By the way he is an excellent photographer. So if you are Joe Dough go out and buy one. My wife would kill me if I bought another tripod. Bean bags get wet and aren't very adjustable. The commercial ones come with a 1/4 '' mounting screw on top and you have to spin the bag to attach it to your camera. They are also hard to get into position and maintain good focus. So what is a Cheapo solution that works well. To be honest this solution isn't the cheapest but it was for me. I happened to have an old Bogen ballhead lying around from a long dead tripod. I drilled and mounted it to a piece of scrap 1" x 12" with a carriage bolt and then epoxied the bolt in place. Voila! A new Ground Pod is born. It is light and easy to carry with a camera mounted on it. I can easily switch from horizontals to verticals. (try that with a commercial bean bag pod) It is easy to slide back and forth for critical focus.
Overall I am very pleased with how manueverable the ballhead makes it work. The only modification I possibly might make to it would be to add a focusing rail to it for doing below 1:1 macro work. The sample photos are all taken with this Ground Pod.

Keep shooting and God bless all of you,


Sunday, June 1, 2008

DIY Product Photography

Hi all.

Recently I had to photograph a number of products for my wife to use in her speech therapy practice. As usual I began looking for a cheap way to do it that would yield professional results. I saw a lot of the products being offered on that auction site but I wasn't all that impressed. What if I wanted to shoot something bigger? Prowling around the Dollar Store. My favorite place. Maybe they should pay me to do this blog!!! I ran across some foam core board. I held a piece up to the light. That Immediately that got my mind to clicking. The DIY foamcore product photography lightbox is the result. Total cost was about eight dollars. It could be done cheaper than that if you make a smaller one or you have some tape and tagboard on hand. From the attached images you can see that the lightbox is just a box constructed out of foamcore with clear packing tape used to hold the seams together. A great Cheapo Depot DIY project.

God's light and love to all,


DIY Beauty Dish

Frustrated by the high cost of beauty dishes I began a quest for something cheap but professional. I made a number of trips to the Dollar Tree and the hardware store for reflective gold and silver paint. I created some really nice dish reflectors for my Canon 550 EX flash using plastic mixing bowls, shish kabob sticks and reflective paint. The portraits of my daughter that I took with them looked great. While I was pleased with the results I was not impressed with their appearance. The next step I felt would be to make some beauty dishes for my Alien Bees Studio Lights. Immediately a problem occurred. The modeling lights got too hot and began melting the plastic. Hmmmnnnn. Possible fire danger here! They also didn't look very professional. The solution came to me while browsing at the hardware store. They had stainless steel mixing bowls on sale. Nice big ones too. So I bought two bowls, some 1/8' allthread rod (36"), a steel bit, a steel cutting jigsaw blade (fine cut) and finally some nuts and washers for the allthread rod.
The total cost of the beauty dish was around sixteen dollars. That was the cost of the bowls, some allthread, a saw blade and a drill bit. Compare that to a commercial beauty dish for 400 to 600 dollars and you can see why I go the Cheapo route

God's light and love to all,


DIY Cheap Models

Hi all,
Sorry for the misleading title. I was just looking for a creative way to introduce my underpaid models.

Last week part of the woodpile fell over. In the process of restacking it I was startled to find some old friends under the pile. When you are not wearing gloves they can speed up your heart rate a little bit. They became willing photo models when I got finished with the job. The scorpion was quite cooperative. She just gave me dirty looks once in awhile. Lizards as you probably know make lousy models. He was very uncooperative, very fidgety and sullen at times.He would seldom look at the camera and he also kept trying to walk off out of the shoot. With grim determination I was able to finish the shoot up and set them free for all their hard work.

God's light and love to all,