Making tools for photography: Ring Light

DIY Ring LightSo, because I’m a fan of doing things myself, and building stuff, I took inspiration from Strobist’s article on making lighting tools from what one can find at the big box hardware stores.   I fashioned a ring light from a light fixture, and I think it turned out pretty well.  The light itself is somewhat ugly, but appears to do its job.

The light was  made by buying a overhead lighting fixture, sold by Portfolio.  I suspect they’re rebranded.  But in any case, it has two circuline bulbs, both 4100 Kelvins, for a total of 54 watts of light.  That works out to about 1/60th second exposure at about f/3.2.  The ballast was located at the center of the light, which for a light would be awesome.  But for a shoot-through ring light, not so awesome.

So I removed the ballast from the light (the bulbs, too), and cut a hole in the middle with my jigsaw.   I then filed the edges of the hole to be smooth.  then, I relocated the ballast to the side, and attached it with bolts.  I wired up the fixture to a lamp cord, and wired a switch in.  12 foot cords are a good length.  I made an L-shaped bar that I bolted to the back of the fixture, and tapped a 1/4-20 threaded hole into so I could mount it on a light stand.  Then I tested it a little at home.  It did well.Laurie

Last weekend, my good friend Marty had his birthday party.  I love his parties.  They’re great fun, and a great time for taking pictures.  This afforded me a great opportunity to test it “for real”, which I did.

To recap:

  • One overhead flourescent lighting fixture from Lowes – $33
  • One 12 foot lamp cord – $5
  • One lamp switch – $5
  • Some electrical tape – $1, maybe
  • A 1/4-20 tap and die, already had this
  • Some steel that I bent into an L-shape, already had

So, for $44, I made a ring light that allows me to take pictures that I think work out pretty well.

Judge for yourself.

Dentistry, mouth feel, nitrous, and lisping.

Yesterday, I had to go to the dentist.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had dental work.  Like 10 years long time.   So I’m behind on my maintenance.  Yesterday was my third time seeing this dentist, and the first time having invasive work done.  I highly recommend Loren Tarr in Madrona.  Great guy.  Very nice, very kind.

A couple years ago, one of my molars; which had a few fillings in it, and it broke.  I pulled the pieces out that I could when it happened, and things mellowed out with it.  It didn’t cause me problems, so I let it be.

I have a lot of work that I need done in my mouth.  Fillings on a lot of teeth.  A handful of crowns.   Lots of fun.  Maybe $9000 of work needed.  Yesterday, he did some of that work. Three fillings in my upper left quadrant of my mouth, the extraction of the old broken root-tip, and a decayed tooth that was a lost cause.  Those came out, and I went home.  He gave me a scrip for vicodin, but I don’t think I need it.  Yesterday was the only day with pain.

They asked me if I wanted nitrous oxide.  I said yes.  What a trip!  At first, they asked me if I was feeling it, and I wasn’t, so I told them no. They turned it up.   And then I felt it.  It was kinda fun, and for a while, as they were preparing to begin, things were floaty and disassociative.  But then I got to feeling that I was too disconnected from what was going on, so I had them turn it down some.   Proceedure occurred. Fillings happened.  Somewhere.  I wasn’t terribly engaged to what was going on.  Which is the point.  Time passed (somewhere).  Then I had them turn it down some more, cuz I was feeling overwhelmed.

Then we got to the extraction.  Of the broken molar in the back, that was easy, and I didn’t even notice it happen.  But the front.  Oh god.  I had him tell me what he was doing as he did it, because otherwise I would have not known.  I hate to not know.  They use a tool that presses between the tooth and the bone to move the bone a little.  Bone is softer than tooth.  It felt … odd.  And it crunched a little.  Ugh.    And then it came out.  I kept the tooth, and it’s at home somewhere.

Now I have a flipper (two fake teeth on a removeable partial plate, like a denture).    The flipper was then test-fitted.  It fit ok, as far as we could tell with half my face numb.

I hate it.   It feels weird.   Eating is weird, and now I lisp.  So, next week when I go back for the follow-up I’m going to talk to my dentist about this, and move up the priority on dental implants for the missing front tooth.  The rear one too, I guess.  But I want to be able to do without this as soon a possible.

On direct reflections in glass, and yummy beers

Glass Direct Reflection 03I’ve been doing a lot of self-study in Light: Science and Magic; a book about the use of light in photography. Some of that has been a study in the behavior of photographing glass on dark backgrounds. See, glass isn’t photographed by capturing what it looks like, but rather, the effect it has on the light passing through it. On a light background, the lack of brightness shows itself in dark portions. In a darkfield study, such as at the right, the glass is shown by the light reflected off of it.

The light bends through the glass, its path wrought in the camera’s sensor. The strobe shows where the glass bends the light.

A few nights ago, I set up the following still life to practice on. It’s composed of a Disk’s Working Man Brown Ale, a small wine glass full of the beer, and a martini glass full of mountain dew (for the color.)

On a semi-related note, Dick’s Variety pack of beers contains a lot of yummy stuff. They’re out of Centralia, so they’re local.

Go see the full-size image on flickr.

Project Shopping Cart (American Dream)

Shopping CartSo, a friend and I were talking about what we might do as an art project at Burning Man or Critical Massive. And we thought about the theme this year. The American Dream. And then we talked some about what that means to us today. Shopping. Today Americans are in large part defined by what they buy, and their buying habits.

So we thought, “Hell, let’s build a giant motorized shopping cart the people ride around in.” And we knew this was a Great Idea. I’ve been drawing plans and sketches of what we’ll get with this. I think that we’re too addicted to shopping. Too addicted to More Stuff We have to have things.

So, in light of that, we’re going to build a shopping cart. Not an ordinary one, but a grand one. One that stands five feet across, nine feet long, and 7 feet tall. Out of steel. Oh, and it will be motorized. It will be steered by a large wheel mounted in the front of the basket. Drawings will be forthcoming.

Consider this the project announcement page. There will be more to come. And why not donate to our project?

Soda Can Stove

Last night, I made a soda can stove. Melissa has been reading about various people’s methods of cooking for the Pacific Crest Trail. We talked about the soda can stove, and I decided to make one. It’s pretty easily done, as long as one is careful to follow the building guide, and maintain strict tolerances during construction. That is, measure twice, cut once. ;) It took about 45 minutes to make, from start to successful flaming operation.

So after building it, I of course had to test it out buy kamagra oral jelly online uk! We ended up cooking dinner with it. It will boil a cup of water in about 4 minutes. Faster than the “real” stove in the house . Wow. It took about 1 oz of fuel to boil ~7 cups of water for our ramen and udon noodle dinner.
I considered rewriting the build instructions here, but rather than do that, I’ll direct you to the instructions I used. They’re on this website.


BNSF 2930, GP39Last November, I went to Portland, OR for some MySQL training for work (High Performance stuff). The training was great. I took the Amtrak Coast Starlight down from Seattle. The ride was pleasant. At one point, the train stopped, and I looked out and saw that there was a loco next to us. Since the opportunity presented itself, I went down to the lower level of the car, and opened the window. I quickly shot the Amtrak around the curve ahead, and this GP39 sitting on the rails.

Quite a sight to see!

Trainspotting details:

This GP39E originally belonged to Union Pacific, and had the road number of 753. It started life as a GP-35, and was rebuilt by GE’s Electro-Motive Division (EMD) and by request of BNSF into the GP39E.

The full size image can be seen at my flickr photostream. Prints are also available. :-)

Flickr Meetup at the Model Train Show

Three locomovies waiting to goToday, we went to the model train show for the 4th division[1] of the pacific northwest regional chapter of the national model railroaders association[2]. Whew, a mouthful. This group puts on a show every year at the pacific science center in Seattle. This year, I ended up going at the same time as the Flickr Meetup group, to which I had tentatively rsvp’d a maybe.

This morning, I woke up in a crappy mood due to a few things. The most major of those being nightmare dreams. Probably due to stress over work. Yuck. So it’s been a hit-and-miss day for me relating to that.

Still, I got some nice shots of the trains at the science enter, and they can be seen in my flickr account.


[1]: 4th Division PNR Website

[2]: NMRA Website


I’ve got my ticket.  I’m going.   Awesome.  At 9:57AM, I realized, “Hey, this is ticket day.  You better get over to, and buy a ticket!”  And so I did.  And I clicked refresh.  And ten o’clock came ’round, and I clicked refresh again.  I scrolled to the bottom of the page, and clicked the buy ticket link.  Then I got to sit in line.  About 2500th in line.  It took about two hours to get to the purchasing step.  Whew, I made it.

On writing more often

Looking at this blog, I see that I’ve posted roughly twice a year. That’s a woefully poor showing. There’s so much more going on that I’d share. I find it hard to share my thoughts with others in verbal or written ways.  To reach in, and coherently spit out a concept doesn’t often come across well for me.  I feel that I confuse my words.  That I don’t get the message out.  That I speak too quickly, and don’t say enough.

I’m trying to change that.   I want to be better at putting down my thoughts into stories.  To tell others about my experiences, my thoughts, and my feelings on things.  So, I’m going to write at least one good entry per week here.  We’ll see how well it goes.

I’ve been thinking about Burning Man a lot lately.  I’m going to go for the first time this year.   Eagerly, I seek out the experiences that this adventure will bring.  New things to see, new things to do.  People to meet and talk to that one often doesn’t have the chance to in this Real Life we all live in.  To see and do absurd things.

I’m preparing my things for the adventure.  I’m considering what camera gear I want to bring; how I want to record the journey for myself, and how I want to participate there.

I expect that a great deal of it will be catch as catch can.  That’s for the best.  Don’t over plan.  Don’t over think it. Do it.  Live it.

And hopefully when I get back, write about it.

What do you do when someone asks to take your picture?

So, for me this is an interesting question because I often am the one behind the camera. I’ve been the one on the asking side of the fence. I worry about the reaction people have to being asked. So often, I see someone who has an interesting face, a detailed face of age, a youthful face of beauty, all kinds of faces that I think would make excellent images.

One sad example is the old man on the bus who hit me one time (unrelated to photography). He’s 97 years old, and has a great deal of visual impact. He dresses well, wears a derby hat with a feather, his hand bears an ornate gold ring, and he has a pretty cool cane. On morning, I was sleeping on my way to the office. I was in the window seat, right hand side of the bus. The first thing I know is that I’m getting jabbed in the shoulder with a cane.  He would make a great subject, if he weren’t so out of touch.
But I rarely ask. Partly because I empathize with those who don’t want their picture taken, and partly due to an avoideance of rejection. Ironically, most everyone I’ve asked has been positive about it. I tend to always give out a biz card, and offer them a copy of their picture if they email me. Fewer than two hands full of people have taken me up on the offer.

I, myself, don’t have a problem with people taking my picture. I’m cool with it, especially since I’m interested in making photographs of other people.

Musings on Technology, Society, and Photography