Monday, February 25, 2008

Snootier Snoot

A snoot, as you may know, is a tube or cone used to restrict the light from a flash or other light source to a narrower beam. I wanted a snoot that, instead of throwing a fuzzy blob of light, created more of a spotlight effect. I designed and built one for this purpose.

Usually when a snoot is used, the gentle transition from light to dark that is cast is considered desirable. When you want a crisper edge to the transition you need to address two issues:

  1. The usually relatively short snoot compared to the relatively large light source surface (i.e. the flash head) means you will naturally have a fuzzy light edge thrown on the subject.
  2. Unless great care is taken, the inside of a snoot is prone to reflect light off the snoot walls causing stray light to reduce constrast of the edge transition.

Using optics to focus the light beam would be an obvious choice to address these problems. If you don't want to use optics, you need another approach. I did this by designing a long snoot with carefully sized baffles inside to block all but the beam of light I wanted to throw. Total cost was a couple dollars worth of materials.

A detailed explanation of the design and construction of this snoot is available on my Web site.

So, how good a job does it do? You be the judge. The spotlight on this cheeseball lounge singer is from the Snootier Snoot.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Strobist Preliminaries

For photographers living under a rock: David Hobby over at has created quite a popular sensation with his advocacy and education for strobist photography, his term for the use of smarts and off-camera small-flash photography to elevate images to the next level. If you are one of the few photographers left who haven't seen it, you really need to at least browse through the wealth of information, wit, and wisdom this former Baltimore Sun photographer has to offer.

I, like many, was bitten by the bug and dusted off my old Vivitars to join the fun. Some aspiring strobists struggled a bit with the very beginning basic essentials so I put together a little slide show multimedia thing called Strobist Preliminaries to try to help. Once David mentioned it in his blog, it got 10,000 hits within 24 hours and the response from viewers has been great.

The same thing in true video format is available at Viddler and a typically YouTube-compromised low-quality version is available as well.

This was my first experiment with Soundslides software ( for generating Flash-based multimedia projects. It has a few small idiosyncrasies but, overall, I found it to be very easy and fun to use. Created by and for photojournalists, it's proving to be valuable for a wide variety of uses.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Tripod Leg Wraps

Tripod leg wraps provide welcome insulation for hands on cold days, padding for over-the-shoulder lugging, and protection for your expensive tripod's finish. You can pay big bucks for a set or you can do it yourself for a fraction of the cost.

Head to your home center and get some ordinary foam pipe insulation for a couple dollars. Get the size for pipes slightly smaller than the diameter of your tripod legs.

Cut to length, open the lengthwise slit, and fit the insulation over the legs, slit-side in. Run a piece of gaffer's tape up the length of the slit opening and you're all set. This works best if the pipe insulation is undersized enough to leave a bit of the leg exposed on the inside to give the gaffer's tape something to adhere to on the leg itself.

You may have to trim a bit of the insulation to get the legs to close completely around the center column. When you're done, the finished job will look neat and professional, and give you and your tripod some welcome relief.

By Way of Introduction

This blog exists for three reasons:

  1. I want to do my share of the heavy lifting on the Web: we're apparently not close to filling up the Internet yet.

  2. I want to try blogging just to see how it all works and add to my growing résumé of what will become obsolete skills.

  3. This will be the place where I toss things related mostly to photography that I find interesting. I'll try to keep content original: fresh misinterpretation of facts, new misleading and incomplete information, and uniquely useless tips and techniques.

With good luck and hard work, I hope my twice-yearly posts will build up a loyal following of 3 or more readers. Off we go...