Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Sometimes as photographers we get so tied up into creating images that we don't stop and take the time to thank God for all he has given us. Today when I got up it was about to rain. I immediately thought about all the images I had lined up that I planned to photograph today. Instead I took a long walk and had a good talk with God. When I got home the rain was just beginning to start and the wind started gusting. I decided to go into the kitchen and whip up a batch of Peppermint Toffee. After all it is the Christmas season. What better way to show God's love than by giving of oneself to others. Well at least in a round about way in the form of toffee!
For unto us a child is born and he shall be called ,Jesus.
Merry Christmas and God bless,
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Greetings Image Makers,
I just got back from a very productive photo shoot in the photography blind at the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge. Every winter I make a a couple of trips over to California's Central Valley to photograph waterfowl. It is an experience I always cherish. Each year in August the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex has a lottery for spots in the photography blinds at the Sacramento, Colusa and Delevan refuges. When I first started shooting there in the dark ages it wasn't that way. You can check out how to apply here.
Anyway there weren't too many birds but I did mange to get some superb Mallard shots and later on the auto route I took some nice snow geese shots. overall it was a superb experience.
When I returned from my trip I set to work on completing the two photo blinds I was building. I painted the insides of the blinds a battleship black. Next I installed the window coverings. I used landscape fabric which is both waterproof and mildew proof. It has the advantage of being see through but is still opaque enough to hide your movements from outside the blind. the last step was to paint the outside with a mix of black and white for a camo sort of look. i'm reall happy with how the blinds finished up and i am looking forward to some great shooting days ahead with them.
God's light and love to all,
Friday, November 27, 2009
Greetings to all,
I hope that everyone has been out getting some great images made. I just got back from a trip up into Northern California to do some shorebird photography. Humboldt Bay has some superb marshes for photography. Since I returned I put some more time into the blinds I have been building. Today I worked on completing one of the adjustable shooting shelves.
I believe that one of the best features that a permanent or semi permanent blind can have is a shooting shelf. A shooting shelf is an adjustable platform (table) to support your tripod head so you don't have to use a tripod in your blind. The shelf also frees you from having to fight with tripod legs while still giving you a stable platform to shoot from.
The shelf easily can easily be adjusted to the desired camera height by loosening two wing nuts, raising or lowering the shelf and then tightening the wing nuts again. A swing arm ballhead support on the shelf allows the photographer to move the camera position closer or further from the window sliders as well as to the right or left. Additionally the swing arm can be moved to the far end of the shelf to enable shooting from the side window sliders. To make full use of the side sliders the shelf can be repositioned to those windows by undoing the wing nuts and moving the shelf.
In summary the combination of the shooting shelf, swing arm ballhead and the window sliders make a blind very comfortable and easy to shoot out of. If you are planning on building a blind or want to make a nice addition to one you already have consider this feature.
God's light and love to all,
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Greetings to all,
Just when I thought I was through building blinds for awhile i came across a really superb blind designed and built by Mike Zurawski. In searching for blind designs on the WWW I always find a bazillion hunting blinds and hardly any designed for photography. (not that I don't like hunting) Mikes is that rare exception. He has designed an awesome photo blind. He has some other great ideas that you need to check out too as well as some really great photography. A tour of Mikes work shows that you don't have to travel all across the world to create wildlife images.
I used Mikes design for my new blind with a few changes. First I made it a little bit bigger as I'm not a little guy. Mike's is 30" x 33". I made mine 33" x 33" a small change with a big difference in that I can turn and shoot out of all the sides fairly easily. Another change that I made and not one for the better is that I used smaller wheels. I couldn't find any wheels that i could afford anyway unless I payed over thirty bucks apiece for them. So the cheap guy that I am I bought ten dollar wheels instead. I can always put on bigger ones later if I find a decent set. The most notable change that I made was that I used 1"x6" T&G sliders for the camera openings. These are really versatile especially when used in conjunction with an adjustable shooting table.
What is left to do on the blind is to paint it and add landscape fabric to the camera windows. I'm also going to add an adjustable shooting table with a ball mount on it to both blinds. As promised I will be showing you that in one of my later blogs as it is next on my list of projects to complete for both blinds. I think it is the number one feature that all permanent and semi permanent blinds should have.
God's light and love to all
Mike's blind can be seen at
Monday, November 16, 2009
Greetings to all photographers new and old. Well winter for me is just around the corner. With it on the way I need to be prepared for heavy down pours and the occasional snow storm. Most of my blinds are fairly waterproof but they will only put up with so much water. That is why I decided to build a new winter blind. I already had one but it was in such disrepair after all these years that I decided to build a newer and better one. One that will keep me snug and dry and be exceptionally useful for photography. Lucky for me I spent a number of days over the last few winters shooting out of the blinds at the Sacramento national Wildlife Refuge Complex. I learned a few good tricks looking at how they built their blinds.
I started off by going to the lumber yard. There I picked up a free 4' x 4' pallette. Just asked nicely and they gave it to me as they get tons daily.
My materials list
(4) sheets 3/8" plywood 4' x 8'
(8) 1' x 2" x 8' fir
(8) 2" x 4" x 8'
(3) 1" x 6" tongue and groove pine
For this project i would say that you need to have some carpentry skills. I'm not a skilled woodworker but I do know how to use basic tools. So if you aren't very confident with this sort of thing just get someone to help you who is. Give them some free beer, lunch or maybe a free portrait session. Just work out some sort of a trade.
The first step was to cover the pallette with plywood. Next I framed up the sides and the stood them up. Following that I added some framing and screwed the back on. The next and most complicated step is frame the roof. Then to keep it all nice and dry I screwed on the roof and then the sides of the top. One needs to get in and out of the thing so the next job was to frame up the door and put the hinges on. After that I cut in the opening in the door the camera window. Making the slider assembly wss next on the agenda as well as cutting a small piece of plywood for the slider itself. Whoo hoo!
The last part of the project was to cut the window openings in the sides and the back. I then cut one by twos to hold the sliders for three camera openings. The final step was to cut the tongue and groove into sliders.
Obviously that is a quick description for a couple of afternoons of work. In a following blog I'll cover how to build a shooting table.
Good luck and God bless,
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Greetings to all you DIY Photographers,
It has been awhile since my last posting. I have ben really busy shooting images of birds, Round Ups, turtles, millipedes and a number of portraits among other things. You would think that somewhere in there I have a life.. Through all of this has been my burning desire to create a new chair blind. I have been using an Ameristep chair blind for a lot of my nature photography. It works really well but i have found after a lot of usage that it lacks a few things for photographers as it was designed as a hunting blind. The biggest problem with it is that the front of the blind is too far away from the seat. This is because it was designed with a rifle barrel in mind. The second thing is that the visibility out to the side is very limited. Last of all is that it is fairly heavy. With those thought in mind I set out on a quest to build a reasonably cheap chair blind.
Step 1 was to find a good chair. The best thing i found was a folding camping chair with a canopy sunshade at Rite Ade for 23 bucks.
Step 2 was to buy some camo fabric at Wally world for 23 bucks.
So now onto building the blind.
Step 3 I taped a piece of 3/4" PVC pipe and a slip coupling to the canopy frame
Step 4 I made a "U"shaped extension with 3 pieces of PVC pipe and a couple of 90 degree elbows. This slipped right into the slip couplings on the canopy. These were not glued so it would be easy to break down and transport.
Step 5 I set the chair up in my living room and measured from the ground on the right hand side oft he chair up over the top of the chair and down the left hand side of the chair to the ground. I cut a piece of fabric this long and draped it up over the chair. Be sure to add 1/2 inch all around for the seams.
Step 6 I measured the front and back of the chair and cut two panels adding 1/2' to all sides for the seams.
Step 7 I sewed the top of the front and back panels to the top of the blind.
Step 8 and 9 I sat in the blind with my camera,lens and tripod and i marked where the lens port opening and viewing ports should be with a marker.
Step 10 I cut the lens port and i sewed a flap to cover it.
Step 11 I cut the viewing ports and I covered them by sewing mesh over the openings.
Step 12 I sewed the corners of the blind together on right front and both back corners
Step 13 The final step was to use a snap tool and add black metal snaps to the front left corner of the blind for access to get in and out of the blind.
So there you have it. A DIY Chair Blind costing less than half what a commercial hunting blind would cost and being lighter and far more cameraa friendly to use.
God's blessings to all,
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Greetings to all,
I can always remember seeing the ultimate floating blind. I really do mean the ultimate. I was trying to get some beaver pictures in a pond alongside the American river in Sacramento, California with my float tube blind. As I was shooting I noticed a guy show up and launch the coolest floating blind I have ever seen. It looked exactly like a floating log with bark and all. There was a door that popped open in the top of the log like a cockpit of a fighter aircraft. The photographer laid down belly first into the log and shut the lid. There was a knothole shaped opening on the end of the log for the camera lens to poke out of. To top it off there was an electric motor to propel it slowly around the pond. It was really cool. Perfect for an agile, small person not older than twenty five years of age. Believe it or not I don't fit any of those qualifications anymore? In fact I don't think I was ever agile and small. Well.. maybe when I was under twelve years old.
Now more to the point. I have been looking for a small boat that could be used as a photo blind. It would be powered by an electric trolling motor. It would have to be small, stable, and light enough for one person to move around. I have used canoes and kayaks in the past and gotten good results but I didn't feel very comfortable in them. I also happen to own three kayaks and after paddling around for two or three hours I can hardly stand up and walk. At least my kids can still use them. Duck boats looked promising but they were pretty pricey and weren't as stable as I would have liked. I have met a few photographers that love them. They also wouldn't work as well for fishing when I wasn't shooting pictures.
After a lot of searching I finally settled on a very small pontoon boat. Pontoon boats can go into really shallow water. Most of them are lightweight weighing in at around a hundred pounds. They can hold two people and most are rated to carry around 500 pounds. They work for fishing and you can stand up in one without fear of it capsizing. They are a little big for car topping but it is doable.
There were quite a number of models to choose from. I chose the Bass Raider 8 from Pelican. It has a higher freeboard than most models and it had the flattest hull shape for stability. Size wise it is very small. Coming in at one inch less than eight feet. Price wise the Pelican was in the middle of the pack. I ended up buying it online from Wally Mart and they delivered it right to my front door. Prices were competitive from Dicks Sports, Fog Dog and a few other places.
Next on the agenda was to purchase an electric trolling motor for it. I didn't need a lot of power because you need to approach wildlife very,very slowly or they will disappear before your very eyes. So I bought a Minn Kota Endura with a short thirty-six inch shaft and thirty pounds of thrust. If you have the bucks and can spend it go for one of the pricey models that come with a foot controller so that you can shoot photos and steer with your feet! I then purchased a deep cycle 12 volt marine battery for it. With life jackets, a paddle and an air horn the boat was ready to go.
The next step was to build a light weight PVC frame for it. I made one that can be broken down flat into four parts for easy transport. The right and left sides are the first two panels they fit into the cup holders on the sides of the boat. Next the front is snapped to the two side panels with two large caribiner clips. Lastly the top and back drop onto the side panels with four wooden dowels that slip easily into place into PVC "T"s at the four corners on the top. I then took the frame out into the front yard and spray painted it.
After making the frames I covered the top sides and back in a heavy Dacron material that is waterproof. I just used short decking screws and screwed the material right into the PVC. Luckily for the sides I had some material for a blind i no longer use and it already has camera ports and zippers already sewn into them. For the front of the blind I used a a small three sided pop up blind. I added on a small piece of dacron and camo to the bottom of the pop up blind to cover the front hull of the boat.
Following that I bought some camo netting at an Army surplus store. I cut out pieces of camouflage to cover each panel. These i attached using an awl to punch holes in the Dacron and cinching the netting to the panel with black electrical ties. The last and final step was to add a little bit of 3D to break up the square shape of the blind. I did this by adding a variety of green silk plants I got at the Dollar Tree.( Hey, Dollar Tree when are you going to offer me that corporate sponsorship? )
The last step was to find a swiveling office chair on wheels. I put some plywood in the bottom of the boat. That way I can turn around to steer and I can also easily roll around the boat to shoot out of the different shooting portals.
Coming up at a later date I will post some images from my Photo Barge. I've got to come up with a better name than that.
God's blessings to all,