Categories
Hardware MacOsX Workflow

Apple: C’mon, already… update the MacPro

OK, a general rant on Apple and folks who make their living using Apple computers.

I’ve got a production suite at my photo studio, and another at home. They do the same thing… edit and store images and video. My MacPro at home is from 2006; my MacPro at the studio is from 2009. It has been several years since the line was updated, and the updates were just little housekeeping features_subnav_macthings like slightly faster processors.

Other Mac lines have enjoyed some nifty technology boosts, like Thunderbolt connectivity and USB 3.0 — but you can’t get a MacPro with either. I put an aftermarket USB 3.0 card in my MacPro at the studio and still get USB 2.0 speeds with it. Argh!

Rumors have had it that the MacPro will receive the love this year – but with Apple behind in iPad and iPhone development, who knows if it will happen. All told, I’m admin for five MacPro’s and one aged but still fighting G5. I need to replace at least four of them this year! I’m maxed-out on OS – 10.7.5 is the highest I can go on any of the machines I have.

For years the MacPro ruled the personal computer roost with it’s robust processors, the ability to put a lot of RAM to use, and great graphics speed. Couple that with a case that has four internal hard drive slots and room for two DVD burners, and you had the perfect production machine. Now Windows-based machines have closed the gap and probably surpassed even the MacPro. 

Apple, where’s the love? Don’t forget the people who for years have been your bread and butter, too.

Categories
apps Digital Lifestyles Gadgets iOS SDK iPad Reviews Workflow

(Review) ASKetch for the iPad

OK, I’m still playing with my iPad and loving it, and I found another software App that is a lot of fun. ASKetch by Andrew Kern is supposed to work with finger motions and strokes alone, and not be used with a stylus or pen tool.

I’ll tell you what it is supposed to do (and it does it very well). Let’s look at ASKetch as Mr. Kern meant it to be.

First, I’ll quote:

ASKetch is a simple black & white procedural sketching program for drawing with your fingers. It is designed from the ground up to take advantage of the multi-touch interface of the iPad and the iPhone, allowing you to forget about the tools and concentrate on your art. It stays out of your way so you can simply draw. It is perfect for both beginners and advanced artists; from figure drawing to cartoons to abstract masterpieces; easy to pick up and hard to put down.

Absolutely true.

Get on your iPad and run to the App store and read all about it, bearing in mind that it is NOT optimized for a stylus,, but sometimes I use one anyway when I want a very thin line and less shading. You have to use a stylus that is optimized for the iPad. Wacom makes one, and so does several other companies.  They’re priced from $13 to $30 on Amazon. The Wacom one is the most expensive of the choices at $30; but so far all that I have tried have worked properly.

But your finger does it as well. The controls are brought up by a two finger tap on the blank page of the app. The first line below is the normal “drawing page” which has five squares visible, and the drawing line (extreme left) active. The second line below is when the eraser is active.

Beginning with the pen tools facing to the left you will get a hard line; if you stroke across the pen tool to the left you will switch from a hard line to a soft, furry tone and the pen will face to the right as it appears in the second line of tools.. The rest of both lines of tools are pretty self-explanatory. There are some more subtitles so read all the instructions and see the demo video. But below is the short form.

Now, let’s draw a little bit. I’m using it for gesture drawing which is a kind of rapid sketching where the artist is supposed to capture the “feel” and proportions of a model or figure and do it in less than 15 seconds. Here’s some examples. Some of these are drawn with just a finger tip, and some are done with a stylus even though Mr. Kern wants you to work just with finger tips‚Äîand yes, you do get better tonality when you use only your finger.

Sketching with Fingers vs. Stylus

I said I wasn’t going to tell you, but here I am doing it. The drawing on the left was done strictly with the fingertip, and the drawing on the right was done with a Wacom Bamboo Stylus..

Here’s another drawing done with fingertips…

…particularly rolling the finger in the hair areas.

Now here’s one more drawing…

…remember each drawing is saved automatically into the total set of drawings each time you go to the saved area (the two mountains square) and select a new blank page. This drawing was done with my fingertip in less than 15 seconds. Its intent is to capture the essence and proportions of the figure.

Remember, the square that looks like two mountains hides the strip of saved images and gives you access to a new blank page each time you go to it. Once you have images saved into the sketchbook, all you have to do is hold a finger down on an image for a few seconds and this window will appear.

Saving the image selected into the photo album allows it to be reselected and emailed where-ever you want to send it.

Here’s three more sketches that Mr. Kern supplied me that I think are really worth showing that give you a look at what the App can do in the way of toning.

 

Read all the instructions to get all the strengths of the App under control because I have only touched on the surface of its possibilities; but I’m having so much fun I had to share the joy, and hope you’ll take a look at the app. Check ASKetch out on the App store for the iPad.

 

ASKetch by Andrew Kern

This app is designed for both iPhone and iPad

$1.99

Website & Support: http://akernsoft.com/ASKetch/index.php

Categories
apps Gadgets iPad Workflow

(Review) Genius Scan: A Scanner App for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch

OK, I admit from the start that I am in love with my iPad2; but it is the availability of Apps for it that make it such a part of my current life.  I just encountered a new App that I think is going to be extremely useful in the future.  It’s an App called Genius Scan from Grizzly Labs that is intended for use on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

In short, it uses the back facing camera of the iPad (or iPhone or iPod Touch) to take an image that can be corrected and then mailed—that’s in the free version. In the paid (Genius Scan+ version @ $2.99) you can add mailing to Dropbox, Google Docs, and Evernote. Well, you can switch to the front camera too if you want to send a picture of yourself, but it is the use of the rear camera that seems to me to make it so useful.

Take a picture with the camera button which appears once the App is selected, and the resulting picture can then be squared up and enhanced as color or black and white, and saved to a camera roll spot inside the iPad or mailed as a Pdf. Or .jpg.

Since I am always interested in the educational uses that my students might use, I am fascinated by the possibility of the student taking a picture of the whiteboards that are used in classrooms and saving the pictures or sending them as Pdf’s or .jpgs by mail so that they could be studied later.

Some fifty years ago I had a math class in which the professor wrote equations with his right hand and erased behind himself with his left hand.  The frustration that I felt as I tried to follow and master the equations could have been avoided if I could have taken pictures as he wrote.  I can see the usage for this App in student hands today. And more…recipes can be copied; menus, receipts, and sharing class notes—all of these are possible and easily done.

There’s much more that can or could be said, but my own recommendation is for you to check out Genius Scan (and Genius Scan+) at Apple’s App store and see if a version of the App won’t be of use to you. Grizzly Labs has grabbed my attention with this App.

 

Get it:

Genius Scan (free version) at the AppStore

 Genius Scan+ differs from Genius Scan with no ads and upload to Dropbox, Evernote and Google Docs. 

Genius Scan Website 

Categories
iPad Photoshop

Review: Dr. Roach’s Photoshop Tutorial App for the Ipad

Dr. Michael Roach’s newest version of Photoshop tutorial is a hit. Roach takes aim at photographers and artists who are ready to take a systematic, measured approach to learning arguably one of the most difficult photo editing programs to master. With this tutorial open on an iPad in view, a user can go through and unlock many of Photoshop’s mysteries.

Systematic is a word that best describes Roach. During his tenure of 30+ years teaching photography at an East Texas university, Roach devised a systematic methodology of instruction that turned thousands of students into photographers. Roach adopted Photoshop at version 3.0 and has taught every version since.

Have you ever bothered to look at every menu item and every tool? I know I haven’t. I’ve been using Photoshop as long as Roach has taught it, and in the first 30 pages of the tutorial I learned several things I had not known. I learned more about functionality I had never used in the next 150 pages.

The illustrations are excellent, set up in a cartoon/graphic novel approach, with just the right amount of detail on each topic. Some items are fully explained, and some are noted as being beyond the scope of the beginning tutorial… watch for a more advanced tutorial in the future, I suspect.

Because a user can set their pace, and learn in a systematic approach, I can highly recommend this tutorial. If you have used Photoshop some and have upgraded to version CS5, there are new tools and techniques covered in the tutorial that will give you a jump-start on this version. If you have never used Photoshop and are just realizing what you can do with it, this is definitely for you.

As a digital photographer, I use Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop daily. Lightroom to me is the plate, and Photoshop is the gourmet entrée that you are going to ravenously consume. The bonus is that after consumption, you won’t feel bloated, but rather confident in your new familiarity with Photoshop CS5.

Get the App here.

 

Categories
iPad Photoshop Software

For The iPad- Adobe Photoshop CS5: Tutorial for Beginners Available in the Apple Store

If you have noticed my free version of Adobe Photoshop CS4 Tutorial which has been available here for download at DigitalAppleJuice.com, I have to tell you that Apple has just accepted my Adobe Photoshop CS5—A Tutorial for Beginners as an App in the iPad section of the Apple App Store.Searching by my name from your iPad is the fastest way to find it, and it is available for $3.99 until the first week in October (October 9, to be exact) as a “Back to School Special.” After that it returns to its $9.99 pricing.I designed the CS5 version to run only on an iPad because I wanted it to “lie flat” beside the computer and not be like the typical book that is continually trying to close. One of my pet peeves when I am working from or reviewing a book about photography or Photoshop is that I usually have to put a heavy weight on each side of the pages in order to keep the book in a readable position. An iPad seems to me to be the ideal companion that will behave itself and be available to switch forward and backward between pages so that the reader can go over a technique in a step by step manner and can refer back easily when needed.

Numerous comments from previous students convinced me that if a photographer has already invested in their computer and a legal copy of Photoshop© that the odds are high that they also have access to an iPad, and the ease of use of an iPad as a resource makes it an outstanding learning tool. So I was convinced to make the current version of my workshop lessons available only for the iPad.

If you want to know how Photoshop CS5 works, I think you will find this a valuable tool to take you step by step, and menu by menu, through the set up and utilization of the program. I’ve tried to show the reader how the same problem can often be solved with different tools, and which tool to use is often a matter of choice or preferred workflow.

Considering how many people have taken advantage of the free CS4 download I am hopeful that my graphic novel approach (done in Comic Life by Plasq) will appeal visually to both the new and experienced user of Adobe’s incredible Photoshop CS5 .

Categories
Digital Lifestyles iPad Workflow

iPad2 Review: OK, I MUST BE A FANBOY

On March 11, the first day iPad 2’s were available for order, at 5 A.M. I got up to go to the bathroom (something common when you are 73 years old), and on a whim sat down at the computer and ordered an iPad. White, 64GB wifi only, with a spare power supply, a Camera Connection package, VGA and Digital AV Adapters, and a red leather cover. I had intended to make this order eventually, and the computer seemed to call to me as I returned from the bathroom. It was a good thing too, as within 24 hours the waiting time had switched from 3-5 days to 2-4 weeks.

My wife wanted white for the color and a red leather cover, and since she is to be the primary user, what she wants—she gets.

The accessories arrived two days before the iPad itself, but on the 25th of March the iPad duly arrived via FedEX, and within forty-five minutes I had loaded Keynote, Pages, the Kindle reader, Good Reader for PDF reading, and put Facebook and Google News Apps in the list of instantly available icons, and had the mail configured as well as going to the Kindle bookstore and choosing Lonely Planet’s travel guide for Iceland and adding two books that were already on my Kindle shelf on my MacBook Pro. How’s that for knowing right off what I wanted to do? All that in forty-five minutes.

Since my wife is traveling to Iceland this summer, our goal was to have an easier to use communication device so we can email one another back and forth easily without her having to carry her laptop. So I set up a unique Gmail account for use on the trip only and we won’t have to sort through spam and extraneous mail from others to get to the specific day to day communication.

My wife is a teacher, also, and her goal is to use Keynote and Pages which she uses regularly from her laptop in the classroom, and get her Art History and Art Appreciation slide lectures on an iPad and not have to carry her MacBook Pro to class with her along with the stack of books she usually has along for show and tell in the lectures and discussions. Anything to lighten the load is the goal.

Any reader who can suggest the easiest way to get large PDF files onto the iPad without trying to mail them please give me a hint. I’ve discovered that her lectures are too large to mail since they are loaded with images in the keynote presentations and exceede the 25 MB file size for my mail service. So what do you think are the easiest ways to move large PDF files? Googling how to on that gives some answers but they all seem relatively complex; can anyone suggest a simple method?

I’m still hunting and pecking on the keyboard with high speed single finger typing. I just can’t seem to get my fingers on the correct keys on the virtual keyboard. It looks like I will add a Mac Bluetooth keyboard as some reviewers have suggested. It can sit quietly on the desk until needed at home, and for travel the hunt and peck may be the answer unless my wife’s hands can do a better job with the virtual keyboard than mine do.

The red leather cover is a deep red and the leather is luxurious and feels very good to the hand. The magnets snap into place perfectly every time that the cover is removed and replaced.

My only previous experience with an iPad was about 10 minutes looking at pictures on a friend’s first generation iPad, and I was a bit hesitant as to how fast I would pick up the gestures and operations of the touch controls. I should not have worried. In 15 minutes with the manual in the bookmarks and I had it. The remaining thirty minutes and I had ordered and installed three apps, Kindle books, and configured security and mail. Leave this iPad alone for 15 minutes and it locks itself up for protection and requires a four digit unlock code. My wife, who is a quick learner, did it even quicker, I believe if I’d left her alone she could have done all I did setting up in less time than it took me.

I wont’t go over all the uses and potential uses of the iPad, I’ll simply say I’m hooked and I guess I qualify as a Fanboy and I’ll admit it. The iPad just works.

Categories
Hardware Parallel Desktops

A MacBook Pro and a Dying Battery

I've gotten a lot of e-mail lately asking why I haven't been updating my blog. Frankly it's because of two reasons: my business has kept me busier than a one-armed wall-paper hanger and my Macs have just worked. With my adjustment period from Windows to Mac firmly in the rear view mirror and a well rounded set of applications available for use, I haven't really had any issues to speak of.

 
That is, until this last weekend when my MacBook Pro's battery decided to act up.

 
Since I have a very powerful Mac Pro humming away under my desk I don't use my MacBook Pro too often. I'll take it when I travel but don't use it on battery power too often. Since I bought the machine about 18 months ago I've only cycled the battery 47 times according to System Profiler.
 
While traveling over Thanksgiving I pulled the MBP from my bag, powered it up and started happily working away. Oddly the battery indicator—which should show a full charge—rapidly dropped to 92%. Within about 15 minutes my battery power was already dropping below 70%.
 
I kept working away, popping open some web sites and updating a spreadsheet with some of the data I was looking up. I glanced up at the battery gauge and saw that it was already down in the 40% range after only about 20 minutes of use when suddenly my MBP shut down.
 
This wasn't a graceful "I'm going to sleep now" shut down. There were no warnings, no kernel panics and no obvious signs of distress from my Mac. The screen just went black. I had about 3 seconds of noise from the fans and hard drive spinning down while I contemplated what had just happened. Did I save what I was working on? Did I really only get 20 minutes of use out of my battery?
 
I closed the MBP and flipped it over, pushed the little battery indicator button and two little green lights winked back at me. Odd. I pressed the power button and the MBP started to boot up. It was nearly through the boot process when it decided to give up and shut down again.
 
I grabbed my power cord, plugged the machine in and booted it up. It came up fine, no issues and dutifully reported that it was charging the battery. I remembered that I had recently seen an article on calibrating the battery from Apple. The process was simple:

Get the machine fully recharged then let it rest in that state for at least 2 hours. Once charged, unplug the power and run it down until the machine goes into a sleep state. Let it stay in sleep mode for at least 5 hours to fully exhaust the battery. Recharge from there and you are ready to go.

The problem was, the machine would shut off well before I got down too low on the battery. I decided to get it as close to the "shut down zone" as I could (about 40%), then put the machine to sleep. The graceful pulsating light told me it was happily slumbering away. I left it like that to see how long the battery would last while preserving the memory in sleep mode.
 
Three days later I lost patience and tried to wake it from sleep mode while still disconnected from power. Though the light was still pulsing I couldn't wake the machine. Not completely dead, it appeared to be in a coma. I reconnected power, turned on the machine and it quickly restored itself. The battery gauge was registering numbers all over the map and after it charged fully it indicated that I needed to "Service Battery":
 
 
At this point I'll try taking it into to my local Apple store and see how they deal with it. I have an Apple Care extended warranty though I'm not sure if they will cover the battery with that. Stay tuned and I'll post an update once I learn the outcome. I posted a note about this on Twitter and got lots of responses telling me that Apple quickly replaced their batteries for them. Then again, I also got a link to this page about Apple's battery policy.
 
Had a battery issue with a MacBook Pro? Did you get a resolution that worked for you? Drop a note in the comments and let me know!

Visit DavidAlison.com

Categories
Hardware Photography

Monitor Calibration : Xrite i1Display 2

The road from getting the color you see on the computer monitor to that you see on an inkjet print is a long and torturous path. What-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) is not what is going to happen with a printer right out of the box, your monitor, and bargin inkjet paper from the office supply store.

Without taking time in this article to give you a background in additive color(projective color—ie: your monitor—color built with Red, Green, and Blue) and subtractive color(printed color—ie: your printer—color built with Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and black) suffice to say that because they come from different color spaces and one is made with light and the other with pigment that they will never exactly match, but they can come close. That's where color calibration of your monitor comes in because we can adjust our monitor's color with only minimal difficulty where adjusting the printing ink color is a major undertaking.

Making adjustments for the type of paper we are printing on is another adjustment we'll save for later. Right now we are trying to get what you see on the monitor to match a known standard so that we can make adjustments from a standard. The problem is that with a multitude of different manufacturers of monitors, the color that you see on those monitors matches whatever the manufacturer decides for the default. They may be adjusted to a standard of that manufactuer or may be allowed to simply occur—that is, they come off the production line without adjustment.

So, the first thing you need to do is get your monitor to match some standard that is acceptable to the paper and ink manufactuers for comparison in making decisions. To do that we need two things: (1) a sensor that can be placed on the screen of the monitor to read specific colors as they are generated by (2) the software provided by the manufacturer of the device. Once the system has been run, the colors on the monitor are as close to a standard as that particular monitor can be adjusted. Laptop monitors do not have as much potential adjustment as does a stand-alone monitor. Some photographers will tell you that they can get very close as they produce a profile for their laptops, but a separate monitor should produce even better results.

I use equipment and software from XRite with the specific device being called Eye1Display2. Why am I really doing this and why an Eye1Display2?

WHAT I WANT TO HAPPEN

My studio has four MacBook Pro laptops and one MacPro. I want them to match as closely as possible so that an image seen on one machine looks the same there as on any other machine in the studio. When my wife prepares her art for printing on our older Epson wide format 7600 printer I want the images on my 30" Apple monitor to match what she was working on when she designed them. Done that way it keeps a lot of piece in the family and saves a lot of ink, paper, and time. What I print will be what she wants. The only additional change I will have to make will be that which occurs when I soft proof an image.

I want before and after results in order to see what the profile adjustments do to an image. I want as nearly as possible neutral grays when I print black and white prints. I want it to be consistent, relatively quick, and easy. All of those goals are satisfied for me with the Eye1Display2.

WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN

When the software for a particular color calibrating system is activated, it will ask that you place the color sensor (sometimes called the "puck") on the center of your monitor screen. A cord connects the sensor to a USB port on the computer, and a small counterweight is attached somewhere on the cord in order to offset the weight of the puck and to keep it hanging and resting on the computer screen without accidentally or easily moving.

First, the software will ask you what kind of device you want to calibrate. In this case you will select MONITOR.

The software will ask you what kind of monitor you are working with, that is whether it is a laptop screen or a LCD or CRT screen.

As you can see above we are choosing LAPTOP from the choices of monitor type.

Then the software will ask you to make decisions about the WHITE POINT, GAMMA, and LUMINANCE you want in your screen profile.

Once you have made those decisions the software will ask you to position the puck on the display of your monitor.

Once the procedure has begun, a series of white rectangles will appear on an otherwise black screen. These rectangles will appear at what appear to be randon positons until they have pinpointed the exact location of the puck—the sensor. In this illustration the gray is really black; it is lightened here so that the puck does not disappear against the black screen.

Once the puck location has been determined a series of color and value rectangles will appear and the sensor will read the colors to determine what is seen vs. what is intended to be seen. The colors will appear to repeat themselves as the sensor narrows down the differences and adjusts the monitor to match the standard.

The progress of the procedure is visible in the progress bar visible on the top right of the monitor.

Once the procedure is finished you should notice a difference in the screen colors from what you had when you began the program. The software will save the profile that it has developed for your screen and will use it as a basis to show all your art or photographs from now on.

However, and there's always a "however", computer monitors age and change color almost on a day to day basis. Therefore, the software asks you to set up reminders on when to run the profile again whether it is daily, weekly, or monthly. This is not something that is done once and then forgotten. What has happened up to this point is that the monitor and the printer standard have established rules by which they can talk to one another. What should have happened at this point is that what you see on the computer monitor and what you get as a print should be closer together though they may not be perfect—the effects of specific papers are not yet in the equation.

Why is it not perfect? Because each manufacturer's paper by the nature of its production has the potential for a color bias in it. The paper itself may have a blue, cyan or other cast to it that cannot be seen by the naked eye but will be visible when it reacts with ink. That bias is also called a profile—though in this case it is a paper profile and not a monitor profile. The paper profile is taken into account when "soft proofing" from inside of Photoshop or whatever printing software you are using.

But our concern at this point is producing the monitor profile that is our beginning point. That's the XRite i1Display2. It's available from XRite for $259.00 and from a number of color service providers and retail stores for a slightly discounted price. I estimate I paid for it in ink and paper I saved in the first show I prepared for. It has made waiting on a final print a lot less breath holding. After applying the soft proof, now what I print is what I have on the monitor screen.

Categories
Hardware Software Workflow

Random Musings on Apple’s Migration Assistant

Well, this sums up my recent experience with Apple’s Migration Assistant. I just received my new Snow Leopard, 2 x 2.26 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon processor Mac Pro. It came with 8 gig of RAM, and I immediately added four more 2 gig Kingston chips for a total of 16 gig. The memory was recognized after restarting, and there was a new message indicating all the memory was installed correctly. Sweet, Lightroom should love the extra speed and RAM. Upon setting the machine up, I decided to try the Migration Assistant for the first time. My older Mac Pro was the target to get data and move my software over.

This is where it got really boring. It just worked. I hooked up the firewire 800 cable, rebooted the old Mac Pro to firewire by holding the “T” button, and selected the items I wanted to transfer from a short list. I clicked OK, and wandered off. It sat there and chugged along, transferring everything I had selected down to my browser and network settings. It took about two hours, but that is a huge time saving over installing and setting up a new machine. Normally I would expect to spend two days!

Next, I opened my CS4 upgrade and installed it… it just worked, too. After this install, I dragged the CS3 stuff to the trash to free up that disk space.

I guess, really when you get down to it, that boring can be good. I have a few applications that need updates. I updated to 10.6.1 OS X, and then grabbed the Snow Leopard HP printer drivers… my first print job, a 20-page brochure from InDesign CS4 opened from a CS3 document, printed flawlessly. Next I updated my Epson drivers from the Epson support website for my R2400. The page says in red letters “This file contains everything you need to use your Epson Stylus Photo R2400 with your Macintosh.” Perfect.

So here I sit, less than four hours from putting it together out of the boxes, working on a brand new system with everything from my old system. Now the old system can be re-configured to be a capture station for new images, and hopefully run my now discontinued Epson 4870 scanner. So far, that doesn’t want to work, but that is on the old system. Bottom line? Migration assistant rocks!

 

Categories
Featured Gadgets Hardware Photography Tutorials

Lighting On A Budget – Pt. 2

My 6-light CFL fixture worked well in the studio, but I wanted more light and the option to add a light modifier.  I decided to move up to 3” PVC and install eight lamp sockets around the outside of the pipe.

We’re going to call this fixture a SPIDER, you’ll see why in just a moment.

Here is my original collection of parts.

A 3” clean-out plug serves as a hub for the sockets.  My original idea was to attach the clean out plug to a 3” bushing that would be attached to the front of the 2” tee fitting.  The power cord would run out the back of the tee and the light stand would attach to the base of the tee.

I measured and marked the clean-out plug and drilled it with a 5/16” bit.  I made a simple jig from scrap wood to hold the fitting in place.

Using a 2” lamp nipple and a pair of channel locks, I carefully cut the threads for the shorter nipples.  This is where the working characteristics of PVC came into play.  You can cut threads into PVC with a bolt and a little patience, instead of using a tap and die.  I chased the threads all the way through the side of the fitting.

Here is the clean-out plug with all of the lamp nipples fitted.  I chose a clean-out plug as opposed to a regular cap so that I could access the wires more easily.

Each socket was wired and the wires passed through the hole of the mounting bracket.  The design of the bracket and the lamp nipples allowed me to keep all of the wires hidden.

Above is the front of the SPIDER WITH the wiring in place.

Above is the back of the SPIDER with the wiring in place. The sockets were wired in pairs, then the pairs were wired together.  I used wire connectors instead of soldering so that a socket could easily be replaced if it failed.

LOOK; it works! 

At this point I realized that my original design was way too front-heavy.  I needed to move the center of gravity farther back.  So, I’m off to Home Depot yet again.

I found a 3”-3”-2” tee fitting that solved my problem of balance nicely.  I added a 3” to 2” reducer to the back of the tee fitting and a 2” to1.25” threaded reducer to that.  A 4” circle of plywood and a 1.25” male fitting is attached to the reducer and this holds the speedring to my Paul C Buff OCTOBOX™ firmly in place.  A 2” to .75” threaded reducer is mounted at the bottom of the tee for the light stand fitting.

Here’s the light inside the OCTOBOX™.  It throws a very even lighting pattern, even without the diffusion panel.  It’s well balanced and easy to handle in the studio.  I’m working on an improved version for my still photography.  Stay tuned…

Kirk Draut
Director of Design
Aarthun Performance Group, Ltd.
281.580.5705

 

Categories
Gadgets Hardware Photography

Lighting On A Budget (Pt. 1)

A few months ago, my boss told me that we are expanding my department (me) into the world of video production. I was given complete freedom in choosing the camera, computer, and lighting. Like any good photographer, I spent the entire budget on the camera and computer.

Whoops!
 
I initially thought that I could use 500W work lights with diffusers, but two problems arose.
 
 
One- the color temperature of the work light bulbs is very warm and it changes with bulb life. Two- They throw out a lot of waste heat. Sitting between the equivalent of two space heaters gets old fast. The PVC clip "T" holding the light also began to warp from the heat. I needed something different.
I decided to go with CFLs instead, but I couldn’t find any multiple bulb fixtures that fit my non-existent budget. I wandered around Home Depot for a while grumbling until I saw the security light aisle and the modular fixtures. I sat on the floor of the aisle and started test fitting parts, with a couple quick trips to the plumbing aisle for fittings. A stop at the grocery store and I had everything I needed to make my new light.

Let’s get started:

16" mixing bowl
6 light sockets
2 ½" PVC tees
1 ½" PVC threaded tee
1 ½" PVC cross
5 ½" PVC 90-degree corners
½" PVC pipe
The total cost for materials was less than $35. CFL bulbs were another $18.

The PVC is assembled as shown. Short pieces of PVC pipe are used to join the fittings. The threads on the PVC match the threads on the light fixtures. The wires for the fixtures will run through the PVC.

The PVC assembly is test-fitted on the back of the bowl before any cuts are made.

The bowl is primed and marked for cutting. 

IMPORTANT: EYE AND EAR PROTECTION IS A MUST WHEN CUTTING METAL WITH HIGH-SPEED TOOLS. You only get one set of eyes and ears. The drill and the Dremel™ both throw tiny pieces of sharp metal that can instantly end your days as a photographer.
 

My trusty Dremel™ tool made short work of the bowl. I used a 1/4" drill bit to create pilot holes, then opened up the holes with the Dremel™.

Each light fixture is threaded through the hole in the reflector, into the PVC assembly. The fixtures have a lock washer at the base that allows them to be tightened in place.

The wires from the fixtures pass through the angled pipe. My original plan was to run all of them into the central tee fitting, but the pipe was too small. I drilled a 3/8" hole in the backs of the tee and cross fittings and ran them out the back of the assembly.

I used twist-on connectors to join the wires to a computer power cord that I had in my big Pile-o-Cables. Zip ties are used to secure the power cord and keep the wires from being pulled apart.

Each fixture gets a 23-watt CFL bulb. This gives me the equivalent of 600 watts of incandescent lighting for a quarter of the power and a lot less heat. I can also vary the color temperature by changing out bulbs. The light attaches to my light stand with a piece of SCH 80 pipe fitted with a thumbscrew. 

 
 
It’s alive! Even without a diffuser, the new CFL light gives a nice even light with less heat, bulk and power. 

Stay tuned for part 2 when the CFL light gets a big brother…

 
Kirk Draut
Director of Design
Aarthun Performance Group, Ltd.
kdraut at aarthun.com
 
 
 
 

 

 

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Featured Gadgets Hardware Photography Reviews

Lensbaby Composer: A Selective Focus SLR Camera Lens (pt 3)

A Three Part Series  Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Pt. 3 of 3: Be My Lens, Baby…always

Another improvement over my Lensbaby 2.0 is the lens cap – the 2.0 shipped with a nice, heavy solid metal lens cap that screwed in place… unfortunately, it was kind of slippery and difficult to get off sometimes. The Composer ships with a new squeeze-type lens cap (the style that lets your fingers get inside a lens hood, hmm, what a handy accessory that would be?). Easy on and easy off, but not so easy that you can lose it. In fact, the lens cap is flush with the front of the lens only when focused at the closest possible distance, so the style of the lens cap has something to do with getting the cap on and off when the lens is focused at a further distance and the front element is recessed into the front of the lens housing. The size is compact, about the same physical length as my Nikkor 50mm lens.

The Composer I received fit nicely on my Nikon, but you can also order Canon EF, Sony Alpha / Minolta Maxxum, Pentax K or Olympus 4/3. That covers most of the current digital SLR’s… of course, you could mount the Nikon version on your trusty Nikon F from 1965, and mount the Canon version on any autofocus Canon body ever made, including those that shoot (shudder), film. Pentax K mount may have had more bodies and lenses manufactured for it than all others combined. On my Nikon D3, I found that the website is essentially correct in that you need to shoot in manual mode and check your exposure via the histogram. I found it easy to get my exposure set for a scene, and then I set the bracketing to 3 shots (first exposure normal, 2nd exposure one stop underexposed, and the 3rd exposure is one stop overexposed). Most of the time, the normal or one stop underexposed produced the best images.

The first weekend I had the Composer, I visited my mother and grandmother. I got my mom interested in photography in the early 1980’s, and she has shot Nikon film bodies for 25 years now. At my gentle prodding, this year she upgraded to a Nikon D200, which she is never without. I showed her the Composer, and let her put it on her body… I almost didn’t get it back. I had to promise to order her one that very night to get it off her camera.

My shooting was sporadic over the time I had the Composer, but I did get to try it on a variety of subjects. Things, landscapes, people. I shot over 1,000 images with the lens… in other words, I barely scratched the creative surface. Having used many of the possible configurations, I have a starting suggestion for you: start with the Composer. It is not a huge investment by the standards of lenses made by camera manufacturers. Please check the Lensbaby website for current pricing at   http://www.Lensbaby.com/shop/ — there are some special pricing options there if you buy the Composer and Optic Kit and/or Accessory Kit at the same time. All told, you can get the entire system for the Composer and all the optics and accessories for well under $500.

A new feature I noticed as this article goes to press is the photo gallery on the Lensbaby website. There are many images to view with captions to tell you which lens optic made the image  http://www.lensbaby.com/gallery-photo.php . Every time you refresh the page, new images come up.


But Britt, surely there has to be something not perfect with the Lensbaby? Are you selling out? Well, no, I am not selling out. There are a couple of picky little things. When Craig Strong first developed the Lensbaby, my understanding is that he did it to fill a niche for his digital SLR. When he was first doing this, there weren’t too many full-frame digital SLR’s in the world. Certainly, I didn’t have one. So my original Lensbaby 2.0 looked and felt like a 75mm lens on my Nikon D2X (still half the focal length of the Sima, which translated to a 150mm). Now I have the D3… with the Composer (I have not tested the Muse or Control Freak), it is possible to skew the image to the point of cutting off or vignetting the image circle. Once I saw this and realized what was happening, it was no big deal. There is plenty of movement available without vignetting. I didn’t see vignetting with the D200 or D2X, which are both 2/3 frame sensors. Second, I wish the directions for removing and replacing lens elements were a little more detailed. Maybe I’m just not too bright. Are either of my minor gripes deal breakers? Not even close. One accessory I would like to see is a lens hood made to screw into the lens threads, although it would be funny shaped or maybe not possible because of the way the lens optic group moves into the body as you focus to infinity.

So, the bottom-line? Get one. I didn’t test the Muse, but it is essentially the Lensbaby 2.0 upgraded to use the interchangeable optics. In my opinion the Muse is best for fast, on-the-go photography.  Or, step up to the Composer (my recommendation). To me this is the most versatile lens in the series. If you shoot little toy soldiers in dioramas or architectural elements and want the ultimate in precision control, go for the Control Freak. Get more detail on all of these lenses and accessories at  http://www.Lensbaby.com/ . Any prices noted are current as of the time this article goes to the webmistress, but check the website for current pricing and availability… the Composer is currently in stock and shipping in about 3 weeks. The one that I ordered for my mom arrived in about four weeks, which was early by two weeks of the estimated shipping time on the website at the time it was ordered.

Lens Baby SLR Lenses

$150-270

Free Shipping Via USPS

For more information or to purchase, visit

www.lensbaby.com

The Lens Baby Composer – A Selective Focus SLR Camera Lens : A Review in 3 Parts

Part 1 |   Part 2 |   Part 3