September 30, 2010

Diffusion Panels

They are awesome!  They rule the kingdom of DIY Light Modifiers through their old servant Bang for the Buck.  Which still goes strong in my domain.
They can soften the sun or bare flash.  They can be used as a reflection panel for something like this or just put on the ground for this nice cookie-cutter solution (fast forward to about 50% for behind the scene details).  It works so well, after trying one I built another.  Both are a little more than 4'x7' and are made of 3/4" schedule 40 PVC pipe and rip-stop nylon.  Here is the necessary attribution to Dean Collins' tinker tubes with some BTS videos of this great guy.  Building process is well documented.
Look at this one flash head-shot - compare results of use of a 43" diffusion umbrella to that of a 4'x7' diffusion panel.  The light diffused by a large panel is soft and enveloping.
The (only) bad news is that a more powerful light source (or sources!) are desired.  Need to check my Amazon rewards balance!
What works:
  • Large (4'x7') diffusion panel made from PVC pipes and rip-stop nylon offers good quality (both diffused and reflected) light for about $25 in materials.  It is still relatively portable - can be packed in seconds into a 4'x8" cylinder.
  • Ball bungee cords work great to keep the disassembled frame pieces together.  They can also be used to attach one such frame to another.
What does not work:
  • I am starting to run into limitations of 2x SB-600 flashes.  For a high key setup I need at least 3, better 4.   But this has (almost) nothing to do with the subject.

September 9, 2010

Burning Man 2010

Jump right to the photos: Tentura Camp, Reverbia Camp, Center Camp, Playa & Esplanade.
It all started with a loss.  20 min before the departure, while messing with my lesser body (Rebel XT) I dropped it on the floor lens down.  As a result the Sigma 30mm lens could no longer focus on objects closer than about 100 feet.  Bummer!  And this was no more than 3 feet over a cork floor!  This is my first equipment loss due to breakage. So I had to substitute Sigma for Canon 28-105.  The good news is I am not tempted to replace the XT lens as I have only one left!
I also brought D90 with Tokina 11-16 2.8 and Nikon 85mm 1.8 as well as flashes (2x SB600), stands, umbrellas and a tripod.  Both bodies were treated to a gaffer tape wrap to provide at least some protection against dust.  Boy, was it needed!
What worked:
  • Gaffer taping the camera body.  
  • I wore Lowepro off trail beltpack to protect camera - love their slip-lock system.  I used D90 only in the clear weather, Rebel XT at all other times. 
  • Again confirmed that CLS with off-camera flash (two of them actually) offers a great fill in the sun.  Harsh unmodified light from flashes combined with harsh sun at the subject's back opens up shadows and is barely noticeable. And with sun in the back there is no squinting.
  • My flash rig!  It was a hit!  Pictures to come.
  • I am a big fan of wide angle glass.  Tokina worked wonderfully.  Love its constant aperture when zooming.  Most pictures taken at zoom extremes - either 11 or 16 - more of 16.
  • Sensor and lens cleaning with Rocket blaster followed by wet sensor cleaning with swabs with Eclipse. XT sensor and lens are now cleaner than before the trip.  D90 did not even need wet cleaning!
  • Use a small hand-held flash light as auto-focus assist light on steroids.
  • Shemagh rules the desert!  I wore it damp around my neck for cooling in the clear weather.  In a dust storm it offers the best protection.  I can now put it on with my eyes closed.
  • Mountain View Surplus as a source of gear - from goggles to MOLLE vests.  I look forward to PALS-based customizable photo vest.
What did not work:
  • A friend who tried to protect his 50D with rainsleeve had it torn in one day.
  • Twist on/off on mini maglite (I use it as a auto-focus assist light) proved to be hard to execute with one hand and is unreliable.