An Extra 12″

29 08 2014
An Extra 12" (adjustable spanner)

An Extra 12″ (adjustable spanner)


Been doing a few product shots this week, mainly tools. The texture on some of these is absolutely stunning. Choosing a background that compliments the product is quite a big part of the process. In this shot I wanted something other than a plain background, but not with too bold a texture. I used my son’s balance disc, and lit it with a single gridded strobe, shooting at F2.8 on an 85mm lens at pretty much closest distance to the spanner, which was sitting on a piece of glass between two chairs, over the training ball.  Ambient light illuminated the upper side of the tool. I also used a 0.6 ND filter in the gel holder of my Pro Shade, just to allow the use of a wide aperture (throwing the rubber spikes on the balance disc out of sharp focus).

The camera was mounted on a Manfrotto 3021 tripod, with the centre column set parallel to the floor. This is a great tool and the only way I think it could be improved is perhaps a carbon version, with titanium fittings. Just waiting on that lottery ticket….


Cheetah Bare Bulb modifiers – first impressions

30 03 2013

if you follow my occasional ramblings, you’ll know that I expressed an interest in the new to market Godox bare bulb flash and, more pointedly, the associated light modifiers that had been announced by the US distributor CheetahStand. I already own a couple of Sunpak 120J  barebulb units, and am quite happy with them. However finding modifiers has been a thankless task, until now. I ordered one of each of the following:

Std 5″ reflector

Wide Angle Umbrella Reflector

Honeycomb Grid and colour gel set

Conical and Cylindrical Snoot Set

12″ Beauty Dish

19″ Softbox with grid and ‘beauty dish’ reflector

All the accessories above come in plain white boxes, none of which could be considered substantial. The snoot set is the only item that has any kind of internal packing (a preformed card holder, which locates the units securely inside the flimsy outer box). Both snoots seem well made, and the honeycomb inserts are both removable.

Both reflectors, compared to my Sunpak originals, have the same planished finish inside, albeit with a slightly duller finish.

The grid and colour filter set seems well put together, just a shame there is no soft case or wallet included. Perhaps the case for my 122mm filter will fit? The grid has a flexible plastic  pulltab screwed to the side, to allow easy removal from the standard 5″ reflector, which has an appropriate sized lip to accommodate it.

The 19″ octagonal soft box, which is based on an umbrella design, has a recess of maybe 2″ deep at the front – this recess is lined with velcro, so that the front diffuser and grid, can be attached. The whole unit costs just $50…..which could be the cost of a eggcrate type grid alone, at another more well-known maker. There is a slightly dished metal reflector panel supplied, this screws onto the crown which surmounts the umbrella ribs, with the idea is emulating the light which comes from a beauty dish. We will see!

Finally, I did purchase the purpose-made 12″ beauty dish, which comes with a honeycomb grid, and white front diffuser. The construction is all metal but this hasn’t made the unit any less prone to damage…my example arrived damaged. I am fairly certain that this damage could have been avoided had the white box packing been supplemented with internal locators (expanded foam?) and possibly a double wall ‘white box’. Since CheetahStand have decided that international customers need to pay to return their faulty goods, it seems  as though this one is destined for the bin. Which is a shame. I had looked forward to using a decent metal beauty dish.

Over the next few days I hope to be able to get some practical experience with the modifiers, and report back. Cheers for now

the young adonis

6 09 2012

shooting with my son Nash

Lemon Drops

3 05 2012


So here we are on a wet Thursday afternoon. Middle of Golden Week, the national holiday of springtime Japan. It’s chucking it down with rain for the second consecutive day, and it’s my job to entertain & educate my two small boys, and their mates. Let’s have a bit of fun with flash:

We’ll take this PET bottle and cut it roughly in half lengthways. A fishtank would have been better, but we just didn’t have one lying around. We’ll put some towels down on the floor, and another towel on this low table. Lay the bottle on top of the towel, and light. A Nikon SB26 in the front, set to 1/16th power, and a Metz 40MZ in the back, at 1/32nd power. Fill the bottle with water, and find some colourful fruit……


Having these Nanostands makes life quite simple. The Metz in back is fired by a radio trigger, and the SB-26 simply has an integral optical slave unit, which explains a lot of its popularity, I think. In the setup pic above, I put a black poloneck shirt on top of the towel, to try to make the background a more continuous black. We hung a black canvas background behind the set. Much as I would LOVE Black Sabbath curtains, I can’t see the missus going along with it.


Find a willing participant – no shortage of small boys wanting to get wet and lob fruit around. Great! This guy’s even colour-matched his pajamas to the lemon. Take aim, and fire at will:


Missed! No fancy laser beams or sound/light triggers here, just a degree of ever more accurate prediction of impact. Just a fraction of a second later, and I would have nailed it. But the beauty of this little setup is, you can have as much splashy fun as you want. The camera and shutter speed are largely unimportant…….because, as I explained to a group of students last week, the only light in this shot, is coming from the flash. Which is burning for only perhaps 1/2000th of a second. Maybe even less. You just want to make the exposure based only on the flash, ie a low enough ISO, small enough F stop, and high enough shutter speed, to completely exclude available light. All shot at 125 asa(iso), started at 1/800th F5.6, and ended at 1/1250th F8. Just experimenting really. I should add that I shoot with the Nikon D1x, whose flash sync speed is unlimited. Most current cameras can’t sync beyond 1/250th, but with dim available light, that shouldn’t present a problem.


Getting closer


Ah-ha! Perseverance pays off. I’ll own up to being a grumpy old curmudgeon and say now that there are a number of things I’m not happy with – could always use a little bit more depth of field with the water drops, some of the ribs in the PET bottle have distorted the light, there are lots of ways that this could be improved but yes, we had fun, my two sons both have their own DSLR cameras and got involved with shooting, which was half the battle really.


And yes, he really got his teeth into our little project…..still scratching my head about that. Happy trails!



29 04 2012

Griffin Survivor iPhone ‘Armored’ Case

21 03 2012







I recently noticed a small chip on the rear of my iphone; assuming that this was down to kid-related damage, I’ve acquired a Griffin Survivor ‘Armored’ case. This does make the phone quite a bit chunkier, but function over form is definitely valued here. The only downside I’m aware of, is that accessing the icons at the base of the screen does require more slender fingers than I’m equipped with, due to the thickness of the casing. The belt clip has yet to be put to the test, mainly because I prefer to work naked…

My friend Freya, Goddess of Metal

18 03 2012

My friend Freya, Goddess of Metal

…so after we did her very serious-looking headshots, we then went upstairs and watched some Aerosmith videos. And then fooled around a bit. My studio doesn’t have a wind machine but an assistant with a large cardboard box worked fine…