Craters on the surface


Craters on the surface
Craters on the surface: light wheat bread recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice featured on Smitten Kitchen | Canon 7D and 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens | Exposed 1/60 sec. @ f/8, ISO 200 | 580 EX II Speedlite fired in the DIY Beauty Dish on camera left.

Over the past month Elizabeth and I have been working on a new project I’ll be unveiling soon.  Part of it is a new-found interest of mine: baking bread.  I’ve never considered myself a good candidate for the Atkins diet because I simply cannot get enough bread in my life.  Elizabeth has a bread machine that she purchased from a second hand store, and while neither one of us particularly likes the loaves it makes, I’ve found that it’s a fantastic dough-making machine–plus it takes care of the first rise.  Pictured here is the top crust of a very basic, but very functional sandwich bread: Light Wheat Bread from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and featured on the Smitten Kitchen.

Beauty Dish is Coming…

Beauty Dish
Home Depot Beauty Dish

Two coats of paint, a couple weeks of curing, some mishaps in assembly, and a third coat of paint to fix aforementioned mishaps later, and the beauty dish is ready for testing.  Stay tuned…

Catface | Canon 7D and 50mm f/1.4 lens | Exposed 1/250 sec. @ f/2.8, ISO 100 | 550EX strobe fired with built-in wireless flash control

The Home Depot Beauty Dish – Part One

Building blocks
Building blocks: a paint can lid, a "terra cotta" planter, a shoe-mount speedring, and satin-finish black and white spray paint

Inspired by a post at Strobist about David Tejada’s Home Depot faux terra-cotta (plastic) planter-turned-beauty-dish for shoe-mount flash, I set out to create one of my own.  Unfortunately, the “plans” Tejada followed won’t really work for me: the gutter downspout connector he used really only fits the head of a very small flash (the Nikon SB-800 was a remarkably compact flash) but my Canon 550EX units are far larger.  After doing some research on “the Internets,” I found a beautifully made dish that employed a mixing bowl and a pizza pan: Todd Owyoung’s “Chinatown Special.” Remarkably, there’s a restaurant supply company near my house, but I am without a Dremel tool, so I was faced with a choice: increase the cost of the project by getting a Dremel, or adapting Owyoung’s idea to the plastic Home Depot planter.  I’ve chosen the latter.

So what about the reflector in the middle?  Tejada, along with many people online, went with a CD case with a blind-spot mirror for a car epoxied in the center, but I thought the Chinatown Special’s use of a pizza pan was much more true to the design of actual beauty dish light modifiers.  Unfortunately, an eight-inch pizza pan would occupy far too much space within the planter, so I went hunting for something a little smaller–something between five and six inches.  Ultimately, I found a metal disc that would fill the same proportion of the Home Depot planter that the pizza pan filled the center of the mixing bowl: the lid from a paint can.

Finally, I had to decide how to mount the flash to the dish, and once again I borrowed from Todd Owyoung’s design and have found screws that serve as attachment points for a shoe-mount strobe softbox speedring: specifically, from this kit at Cowboy Studio.

Beauty dish
Beauty dish prior to painting

Now, the exciting thing about all of this?  The dish is currently drying/curing, all of the holes have been drilled, the window for the flash has been cut (there was some minor cracking in the bottom of the planter…oops!) but I don’t yet know what quality of light I’m going to get from this, or how evenly the paint can lid will bounce the light around the dish.  So whether it turns out beautifully (pun intended) or is tragically revealed to be an example for others not to follow, you’ll find out here soon!

A DIY Grid Light Modifier for portable speedlights

DIY Beverage Straw Grid on 550EX
My Panera-Straw Grid on 550EX

I’m at the point in a lighting class at MU, Advanced Techniques in Photojournalism, where it is time to leave the studio and venture forth into the world with one (or two, if Canon ever repairs my other 550EX), small speedlight.  I have become enamored with hard light sources in the studio; softboxes have their place, but I thought that grids, snoots, and barndoors were my favorite to work with.  I remembered reading at Strobist a couple of years ago about making a grid out of black straws (easily sourced from your local Panera…).

Mine is not pretty: in fact, I’m already planning on making a second one with a more refined technique of stacking and gluing rather than lining up in a row and sandwiching with gaffer’s tape.  For now I’m attaching it with gaff tape, but will make a little cardboard housing for it soon so that it can be slid into place on the head of the strobe.

But what its present incarnation lacks in aesthetics, it makes up for in performance.  I will admit that I have not perfected the art of aiming the speedlight with this grid, but I love the effect.  It makes for a very circular, “spotlight” effect, and the light fall-off is rapid and dramatic.

Portrait of Meg Wiegand
Portrait of Meg Wiegand, Heidelberg Restaurant, Columbia, Mo.

How dramatic?  I took the flash with me to a get-together of friends at a bar last week and did some experiments with it.  I only brought my TTL cord; next time I’ll just take the wireless transmitter, as its far less cumbersome.  (Nothing scares your friends more than a zipline of TTL cord randomly roaming a table with the potential to knock over their beer.) More after the jump…
Continue reading “A DIY Grid Light Modifier for portable speedlights”