Saturday, October 28, 2006

From PW to any Hotshoe Flash in $12

You can attach your Pocket Wizards to any hotshoe flash without any expensive PC sync cords and without multiple cables. And it can cost you as little as $12.

What you see there is a female port 1/8" mini plug to hotshoe adapter. It's exactly like the PC sync models only with a 1/8" mini plug instead. The beauty of this adapter is that the PW already uses a mini plug port, so the only cable you need is male mini plug to male mini plug. As luck would have it, these cables are pretty easy to find at Radio Shack, Fry's or your local electronics store and come in different lengths. I had one laying around the house; you might have one too.

You can get your hotshoe adapter from an ebay vendor. She doesn't auction the adapters directly but she will sell them to you for $5 a piece with $2 shipping ($3 International). Contact (I think her name is Julie) and ask for a hotshoe adapter or just paypal her with your $7 and your address. I ordered a backup adapter and it got here in a few days.

So here's the math:

$5 Hotshoe Adapter
$2 Shipping for above adapter
$5 Price of a stereo male mini plug to mini plug cable
$12 Total

Last I checked the PC sync to mini plug cables were like $40-50 so this is a pretty good deal by comparison. I hope this helps those of you on a budget.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Review of Umbrelsoft II by DyanPhos

36" Umbrelsoft II by DyanPhos sold on ebay via

I found this interesting umbrella/softbox on ebay. At $.025 plus $10 shipping I figured it was worth the investment to see if it was a worthwhile investment over a shoot thru umbrella.

I've disliked the idea of having the round portion of my shoot thru as the diffuser since light spreads everywhere, making it hard to control. This looked like a better solution since the diffusion panel was flat and could be spun around just like an umbrella to only light certain areas.

As you can see the flash head is supposed to enter the diffusion area, bounce off the silver backed umbrella and leave thru the diffusion panel. Simple idea that sounds like it'd be perfect for us Strobists.

The Umbrelsoft 2 comes with a little nylon sleeve to put the umbrella into. The Umbrelsoft itself is made of decent weight nylon but certainly nothing I think would withstand abuse. Certainly not as well made as my Photoflex Softbox, but then it was 10x cheaper too. Care should be taken when retracting the umbrella as the white diffusion panel can snag on the umbrella tips.

moment I realized I had a problem. My Sigma EF500 flash didn't quite fit into the hole where the strobe is supposed to go; it was too tall. I could stretch the material around the flash and insert the flash into the Umbrelsoft bIt sets up exactly like a regular umbrella, only the Umbrelsoft 2 is brought much closer to the stand so the flashhead can poke thru the special hole in the diffusion panel. It was at thisut even then the flashhead itself was pointed much higher than the umbrella's center. I believe these were designed for studio strobes where the distance from the head to the center of the umbrella shaft is rather close. My 6" flash was maybe an inch too tall. Adding my hotshoe adapter to use my Pocket Wizard just made the issue worse.

About 8 hours later, I thought of a possible solution. I decided to reverse my umbrella adapter. One end of your umbrella adapter connects to the lightstand and the other end is supposed to hold both the hotshoe flash and umbrella. By reversing the adapter so the umbrella was held by the bottom end, I was able to rotate the upper portion so the flash was angled toward the Umbrelsoft.

This lowers the flashhead considerably and as you can see the flash can now fit into the hole in the panel. Of course this sacrifices the adapter's ability to tilt the umbrella so it's stuck parallel to the horizon. However for my applications, I don't think this will be a major issue.

The Umbrelsoft 2 provides nice diffused light that is more directional than a shoot thru umbrella. It's more efficient as there's no light lost either. For $10 its not bad and certainly better light than my shoot thru umbrella. I'd recommend it for anyone with a shorter flash or anyone for which tilting the Umbrelsoft II is not important.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

New Toys, Yeah!

I just received some new toys! I'm quite excited to get out and play with my new Pocket Wizards Plus.

Thanks to David Hobby at the Strobist for providing a great source for them. I'm looking forward to using them on new and exciting ways. I think it'll be a little while before I'm really using the PWs in creative ways but I'm quite excited about the possibilities.

I also picked up two Nikon SB-26's flashes. I'll be using these as remote flashes. I got them from KEH in bargain & ugly condition. I'll have to test them some more to make sure I'll be keeping them but so far the idea seems sound. That will give me either 3 or 4 flashes. Sounds like a lot but after using them a bit I realize that 4 really isn't too many.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Quick trip to the Zoo

Ended up on Sunday having an extra hour to kill. So I stopped by the zoo to see if I could get maybe one worthwhile photo in 45 minutes or so. As it turned out I got 2 I was quite happy with. I think maybe I'll try this again when time permits.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Visiting Venice

Ahh, Venice!!

Venice was everything I thought it would be and more. The city is so full of life.

The best advice we got was to put the map away and get lost. And we did. There's a unique aspect to Venice that you actually see more if you allow yourselves to wander than if you plan your every step.

The Future Mrs. & I spent the whole day in Venice and were exhausted by day's end. But we did a lot including, go up the bell tower (San Marco's Campanile), watch Murano glass making, learn about Venitian lace, visit a few churches, shop for souvenirs, take a Gondola ride & eat dinner with live music. Oh, and along the way we took a few photos too =)

I could have spent 3 weeks in Venice shooting the city. I had so many photo ideas that I felt sad that I didn't have more time to capture the essence of the city. But I guess that also will get filed under the "Things to Do Next Time" list.

I have 19 photos from Venice in my gallery here:

Its so hard to pick only a few sample photos, so I encourage you to visit my gallery where there are more images. As always, I appreciate your comments either here or on Pbase itself.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Visiting Amsterdam

The Netherlands, what a wonderful little part of the world. I visited for about 24 hrs and that really can't do anywhere justice but I was there long enough to know I'd like to visit again.

Arrived in the evening and we had time for a canal cruise to see the city from the water. Unfortunately it rained nearly the whole cruise and there were no good photo ops. But we did see a lot of the city that way.

We had the next morning to ourselves as were leaving around noon. I decided it was a great morning for a bicycle ride. I found Mac-Bikes which rents bicycles and off I went. 12 million bicycles in The Netherlands for 16 million people and today I was one of them. The crisp morning air was great as was the views & people. Several friendly folks waved & smiled at me. I was Dutch for the morning. Ring, ring... ring, ring (bicycle chime).

As luck would have it about 2 hrs later and several miles away, the rain made another appearance. I decided to pull into a little sidewalk cafe with an awning to wait out the rain. Unfortunately, I was pressed for time as I had to return the bike & catch my coach. Reading a map while riding a bicycle in the rain is best left to someone with 3 arms & 4 eyes. Eventually I made it but I was quite soaked. Walking to our meeting spot the rain stopped and I had enough time to buy some souvenirs.

Only 6 images in my Amsterdam page. Next time I hope it rains less.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Visiting London

The Future Mrs & I really like London. We had fun riding the Tube to & fro, meeting new people and discovering how little our puny American Dollars would buy. Weather was hot & humid but still much cooler than where we came from.

We had about 2 days to explore London. We saw a lot in that time although my photos don't really reflect this. We had fun and would like to visit again as long as the security issue is taken care of. Unfortunately we flew back home thru Heathrow and the mess was quite surreal. If there was a hint of that again, I'll probably chose to visit elsewhere.

Nonetheless I'll fondly remember London. Thanks to the Brits for a nice visit. I'll always remember to "Mind the Gap". There are 12 images & commentary from London here:

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Art of Revisits

Visiting a photography location more than once seems rather tedious to some. But there a lots of good reasons to take a second trip to a location.

Obviously there can be different light conditions which can radically change your visit & photos. In fact visiting at a different time of day is a good idea. And there also may be areas you didn't notice or explore fully the first trip. Or perhaps there was one area you wish you could have spent more time at, but didn't. Last but not least, you may just have different lenses or equipment to use.

Apart from those obvious reasons, revisiting often makes you work harder the second visit, either by improving the execution of ideas you formed the first time or looking for new ways to shot your subject.

To assist me I often go over the older photos I shot, analyzing areas of interest and looking for areas of improvement. I found I can't get enough practice on the execution of photography. If I find a photo that had a good idea but I failed to execute properly, I'll focus finding a better method to capture the idea.

On the other hand, if I like what I shot I'll practice looking for new ideas. This is fun because I don't get bogged down with technical details. Using this thought process, I often shoot less and focus on more abstract subjects/ideas.

Either way I find revisiting is helpful to keep both the mind & eye sharp.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Strobist Assignment #2

So I've joined the Strobist Online Bootcamp. What is the Strobist? Well you can learn all about it here but the short version is its an online class to learn how to use portable flashes effectively.

The first assignment was a simple headshot. The current assignment is a portrait with a lit background. So I came up with a few ideas and developed a good plan for them. Later I shared them with the Future Mrs. and she provided great feedback and improvements.

The first idea was to shoot me, in the garage with my motorcycle. Ideally I would have liked to have three seperate flash units, but I only have 2 so I had to make do. As it turned out I was quite happy with the results although, setting up the shot, shooting & modeling can be a lot for one person to do. I took a lot of photos cuz I wasn't pleased with my expressions. Next time I'll find a model.

Tech data:
Pentax *ist DS ,Tamron SP AF 28-75mm f/2.8 XR Di LD (IF)
1/90s f/6.7 at 63.0mm iso200 with Flash
Pentax AF360 on camera for fill in light about 20ft away
Sigma EF500 from camera right bounced off umbrella about 8ft from subject

The second idea was to shoot a simiar photo on a road with a Curves Ahead sign in the immediate background. We decided we didn't really need my bike as the attire & sign would be suggestive enough. We drove around for a while searching for a sign with the right scene, facing the right direction etc. We finally found one on Mulholland just east of Kanan. I set up the lights & camera took a couple test frames and starting shooting. As luck would have it, a motorcyclist came by, and I was able to capture him driving across the background. I took a couple more photos but I think I knew the one with the motorcycle was "the" shot.

It was a long day of prep & shooting but in the end I think it was worth it.

Tech data:
Pentax *ist DS ,Tamron SP AF 28-75mm f/2.8 XR Di LD (IF)
1/60s f/8.0 at 43.0mm iso200 with Flash
Pentax AF360 lighting road sign from above camera 20ft away
Sigma EF500 lighting subject from camera left at eye level 4ft from subject

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Planning for the 4th of July Fireworks

What's the most crucial element for a successful fireworks photo on the 4th of July (other than the actual fireworks)?

Getting there early & saving your spot?
A good tripod?
Shooting a couple test frames to ensure your exposure is correct?

While all these are good & very important, they don't quite carry the weight of the most crucial step to planning a great fireworks photo.

The most important part of a great fireworks outing , is knowing where the fireworks are. That's the step that Derick, Tom & I will be making sure is at the top of our lists next year. You see, we did everything else right. Tom drove down to the Long Beach Harbor the night before to scout the area & shoot a couple of test frames. We arrived about 3 hours early on the 4th and saved our spots, with the Queen Mary directly across the harbor from us. We set up, determined our compositions & exposures and even tested a few frames to improve our shots.

All it took was 3 seconds and we realized all our planning failed. When the fireworks show started we discovered we were facing the wrong way! What happened next was a scene right out of 3 Stooges. We all said "D'oh" and tried to move our tripods to a better location. Only thing was we had no room to maneuver and had 3 tripods almost on top of each other. As it turned out we had to duck & lean out of each other's way to shoot. Tom went high & extended his 'pod fully. I went low and in the corner. Poor Derick, well he was caught in the middle. I remember thinking this isn't what we planned for. And it wasn't. We did our best in the situation, but when all was said and done, something Derick said kept ringing in my ears... "There's always next year."

Monday, July 03, 2006

You Can't Afford Not To Get

So in trying to get myself a good professional image, I decided to get some business cards. And I mean real 4 color press, coated business cards. Cards you can feel proud to hand out, and not the kind you print at home and feel you have to apologize for.

After cruising various online forums reading both good & bad stories, I settled on using Their webpage is very simple to use and I have to say they must have the best set of online instructions I've seen anywhere. They list a wide variety of detailed instructions all based on whatever application you have installed on your computer. I used the Photoshop instructions and they were easy to follow, had graphic examples and were accurate.

After about 20 minutes (most of it was me screwing around PS trying to get the photo just right) the business card was all done and my order processed. I decided to order 100 cards because I didn't want too many lying around and I can always order more. I choose 4 color printing on one side (as a photographer you have to have a photo on the front) with a white back for room to write on. All in all with ground UPS shipping the grand total was $20. Just twenty dollars.

The cards arrived about 6 days later (I did say I ordered UPS ground). I was very impressed with both the quality & accuracy of the design. Essentially what I had seen on my monitor was now in my hands.

A couple of days ago, I found a discount for to use at overnightprints. Use the code VALUEDCUSTOMER and you'll get $10 off your order. That's half off an order of 100 cards. Now that's a deal you can't afford not to get.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Twice Around the Clock

Twenty thousand frames! Wow I usually don’t like to do anything I like (or anything else) that many times but the experience has been quite fun. But this last month I rolled the image counter over for the second time while shooting horses at Santa Anita Racetrack.

So I decided to use this milestone as a chance to reflect on my DS ownership.

I’m approaching 2 years of DS ownership: Zero problems (Thanks Pentax!)
I own 2 cameras: my DS & a tiny Sony P&S
I’ve bought 12 lenses since I got my DS.
I’ve sold 6 lenses with 1 more on the selling block.
I’ve borrowed 3 lenses from a family member.
I rotate through 5 sets of NiMH batteries (flash included)
I use 3 SD cards.
I’ve cleaned my sensor with a swab just once.
I’m on my second camera bag and I just bought a photo vest.
I have over 700 images on Pbase.
I am very proud of the 43 images in my Best of ’06 gallery
I just bought a domain name (a little piece of the WWW that’s my very own)
I’ve joined 2 local photo groups to go out and shoot.
I have many new friends (local & online) who share my passion for photography.
I gave away a photo calendar to friends with my best stuff from ’05.
I’ve explored and attended countless places & events that I would have never been to without my camera.
I've made a couple of perfect strangers happy by taking their photos and emailing it to them.
I’m 32 weeks into my Photo A Week project.
And started this cool little blog along the way.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Most Important Lenses

The Most Important Lenses for Photography

The best & most important lens to have... the one that sits on your nose!

Go see your eye doctor for a check up every now and then. Your eyesight is critical for manually focusing, checking DOF and also for post processing properly on the computer. You can have the best most expensive body & lenses but if your eyesight is slightly off, your photos will be too.

As photographers, we spend too much time & money on photo equipment to not pay attention to the health of your eyes.

Welcome to the Trapped Light Blog

Welcome to the Trapped Light Blog.

This blog has been created to share my thoughts & ideas. Most will pertain to photography which is my passion, but occassionally I'll wonder off topic.

I'm just a regular guy. I live in Los Angeles with the Future Missus. I love to spend taking photos with my friends and sometimes wondering on my own. As part of the LA Shooters Photography group & the SoCal DSLR group, I regularly join them for photo shoots. Those shoots are usually outdoors at various locations. In fact the irregularity of the shoots is something that keeps me constantly testing new techniques & methods, helping me improve.

I've been shooting digital photos for about 4 years now. I've bought & sold about 6 Point & Shoot digicams before I bought my Pentax *ist DS DSLR. About 2 years & over 20,000 frames now, the DS has provided me with stellar performance and I'm extremely happy with it.

I'm also a regular at the Pentax SLR Talk on DPReview. I find this is the single best source of information about Pentax DSLRs and its really a pleasure to discuss photography with this fine group.

Anyways, I hope this blog becomes a source of useful information and helpful for all.