Nick Carver Photography Blog

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New Filters and Pictures

Well, I finally decided to treat myself to an entirely new set of filters. I've been shooting on the Cokin system for years with Singh-Ray (and before that, Hitech) filters, but I kept running into the filters just being a little too small. I upgraded to the Lee system with its 4"x6" filters. They are absolutely sublime...

My complete system includes the following:

  • Lee filter holder and 77mm wide-angle adapter ring
  • Lee 1-stop soft transition grad ND
  • Lee 2-stop soft transition grad ND
  • Lee 3-stop soft transition grad ND
  • Lee 1-stop hard transition grad ND
  • Lee 2-stop hard transition grad ND
  • Lee 3-stop hard transition grad ND
  • Lee 3-stop solid ND
  • Lee circular polarizer
  • Lee 10-filter wallet

...mouth watering.

I decided to test out my sweet new filters with a little photo shoot in the nearby Cleveland National Forest. I found a great, big, old oak tree in a beautiful meadow out in Tenaja Canyon that I figured would be the perfect subject. Here are the results...

Homemade Plamp

One of the most frustrating things in macro photography is trying to keep flowers still while photographing them. At the high magnifications of close-up photography, even the slightest trembling in the wind will ruin a shot. That's why someone smarter than me invented the Plamp (plant clamp) - an articulating arm with clips on either end that attaches to your tripod and can hold a flower steady for you.

It's a really great product, but I just couldn't justify the price, size and weight for something I'll use so rarely. So, instead, I made a trip to my hardware store, picked up a yard or so of their heaviest-gauge wire, bought a pack of charging clips and decided to throw an imitation plamp together myself.

Total cost of materials: About $3.00.
Total assembly time: About 10 minutes

Basically you just attach a clip to either end of the wire and you're done. You can wrap it around your tripod and position the arm to hold the flower just right. Of course, this isn't as good as the Plamp itself (it isn't as sturdy and is a little "springy"), but it definitely is cheap. Here's a shot I took with and without my homemade plamp (both pictures: 1/25 at f/14):

Without:

With:

See? Much better. Now go out and get your supplies!

My Custom Ring Light

I made myself a DIY ring light over the weekend that I wanted to share with everyone. Its design is inspired by the Ray Flash and its materials are inspired by this DIY ring light tutorial. Truthfully, I'd much rather own a Ray Flash, but $35 and a little elbow grease looked much more appealing than $300.


Sorry, I didn't take pictures of the building process, I don't have diagrams and this isn't a how-to post. Why? Partly because there are about a billion DIY ring light tutorials on the internet already that are probably easier than mine, but mostly because I am way too impatient to stop and take pictures throughout the building process. If enough people really love this design and need to know how to make it, I'll do another how-to post in the future. But unless I get bombarded with requests, I wouldn't count on it. It's that I'm selfish, it's just that I'm impatient.

But to give you a short description of it's design, I used galvanized rain gutter pipes (the kind that are really shiny) to reflect the light from my on-camera 550ex down into a clamp light reflector diffused with a store-bought cutting board mat. I think the picture of it on my camera is pretty self-explanatory, but let me know if you have any questions.

Here are the results of my first tests on my niece and sister-in-law. Took some time to figure out how to use this thing with good results...never worked with a ring light before. All pictures are shot with a 1/2 CTO on the flash.






Sorry for the poor image quality of the picture showing the ring light attached to my camera. My 5D is my only DSLR, so I had to use my little point and shoot Casio to get that shot.