Realising that my studies will end all too soon I have been looking at what equipment I have and should perhaps consider acquiring before the end of the academic year when I will lose access to the University facilities.
For my still life project I had found shooting tethered very useful and I have some other projects in mind where it would be useful, such as photographing water drops – a long held idea for a personal project.
I found the college solution, particularly for use with the medium format camera somewhat clunky. The Canon remote shooting software is much more elegant in use with my Canon 5d Mk III but does require a physical cable between camera and laptop. This is fine with a static set up such as still life or tripod mounted camera such as used for the headshot shoot. It becomes more problematic when using the camera hand held. Issues such as length of cable and the obvious trip hazard become an issue.
Tether Tools – a specialist in tethering solutions – recently introduced a wireless tethering solution for Ipad at the relatively low cost of £178 retail in the UK or $160 in USA. I found an ex-demo unit on the B&H website on offer for $110 and a fellow (American) student who was home for Christmas kindly brought it back for me. Basically it creates a local wireless network with an Ipad App to provide camera control and shutter release and of course a larger image display which is one of the key advantages of tethered shooting.
Initially I struggled to make it work reliably, but after upgrading camera firmware, unit firmware and IPad operating system it all worked much more smoothly and I plan to use it for future shoots. The software is very functional controlling not only obvious camera settings such as ISO, aperture and shutter speed but also focus – there is a coarse and fine focus adjustment. Once the basic framing has been set in the camera everything can be controlled from the ipad, you get the live view from the camera and the image uploaded to the Ipad automatically after capture. The ipad being a much better tool to review images from than the camera display.
We had recently received a timely reminder from Kellie about the importance of editing on large screen, colour calibrated displays to ensure the best quality final result when producing images for print. My home set up for editing is on a PC with twin 24″ Viewsonic screens. The primary editing screen being of higher resolution of 1920 x 1080. I do also have a X-Rite ColorMunki calibrator bought last year and regularly scan the displays, however the primary screen has started to show its age with an area of dead pixels at one edge.
I had been vaguely considering a replacement but prompted by Kellie’s remarks did some more serious research into the best monitors for photo editing which, it turns out, is a combination of resolution, screen display technology – something called IPS (in-plane switching) being considered best – versus price. There are are very high end monitors from suppliers such as Eizo with a price range in the £1,000 plus range and cheap monitors from no end of suppliers starting around £150. I quickly discarded the low end monitors on the grounds of quality and the very high end monitors on the basis of price.
Looking at lots of reviews Dell’s range of ultrasharp monitors was highly rated having a similar display specification to the higher end monitors but lacking some of the more advanced features such as self calibration, not an issue for me as I have a calibration tool. They come in range of sizes and I selected a 27″ model the U2715H which is an IPS screen with a 2560 x 1440 native resolution. The improvement over the old Viewsonic in terms of resolution and screen is literally eye opening. Cost was £390 from Amazon, there is a cheaper 25″ version but decided the additional screen real estate was worth the extra £100 or so. There is also a 34″ version but that is significantly more expensive and would also require a graphics card upgrade costing £200 + to make use of the additional specification.
Early days but seems to be an excellent purchase. Update: After 3 weeks monitor started to develop a think yellow line down middle of screen, the monitor comes with a 3 year replacement warranty and after speaking to their customer service a replacement was delivered next day and the defective one collected a day later. Truly excellent customer service on behalf of Dell, highly recommended.
So whilst I think its worth spending money in areas where you have no choice such as the monitor above then I also think its easy to spend money unnecessarily on some things which with a bit of thought and imagination can be improvised or made yourself.
I had an example with the reflector purchased for the headshot work. It comes with a gold / silver reflector but I also wanted to use it as a white reflector, however the manufacturer doesn’t seem to make a covering for this.
The frame is basically 4 spring rods that fit into a central hub and into an eyelet at the reflector end. I managed to acquire an old screen originally used for projecting slides / home movies that was destined for the skip. The vinyl screen material was perfect for making a reflector from. Cut to size using the supplied reflector as a template, I bought a tarpaulin eyelet kit off ebay for £6 which consisted of a hole punch and riveting tool which produced seals as good as the original reflector.
I made seams all round by folding the vinyl on itself, stuck down with contact adhesive and covered with duct tape. The finished reflector looks like it was purchased, works a treat and cost very little.
In the early stages of still life project I was using the camera mounted vertically to photograph items laid out flat using studio stand, I wanted to be able to do the the same thing at home and found my tripod awkward and inflexible for this purpose.
Solution came in the form of an old enlarger which was acquired on a well known auction site for £1, it was in Warrington which would have made it cost prohibitive to collect but managed to co-ordinate the collection with one of my regular visits to Liverpool so it was effectively free to collect as I was passing anyway. It was a straightforward task to remove the old enlarger head and replace it with a wooden base plate using the original fixing and screws to allow the camera to be mounted using a standard tripod mounting screw which are readily available.
To finish it off I covered the camera side of the base plate with some sheet rubber and contact adhesive and then trimmed the edges when dry with a craft knife. In combination with my, also acquired free, light box it is perfect for this task. The light box was free from the Radiology department of the hospital I used to work at as they are being scrapped by the skip load as X-Ray film is replaced with digital images.
There a couple of other items that I have found particularly useful at University and will ultimately acquire, I will have a look at the photography show next week with the following list.
- Boom Stand – Could envisage making something but at the end of the day mounting expensive lights on a Heath Robinson contraption is likely to prove frustrating if not expensive.
- Floor stand – pigeon toe as they are referred to here – for mounting light at floor / low level to illuminate background. Can definitely make one of these but will have a look.
- Beauty Dish – Classic portrait lighting set-up which I want to explore further, good quality beauty dishes are not cheap but come highly recommended.
- Stand mounted table for mounting laptop whilst tethering, professional versions of these can cost £100’s but I am certain I can make something reasonable very cheaply.