Friday, March 30, 2007

Purple Haze

I stole the lightbox info from here and the photographing smoke info from here

Here's my ligthbox setup for smoke:

I've got a desk lamp and a slaved flash on the outside and a stick of vanilla incense with a black foam board background on the inside. People my not believe me, but I'm certain that the flavor matters :)

I think there are a couple of changes that I need to make though

- I really need much better light. the flash on the right is ok, but the lamp is pathetic. Stronger light would really help the smoke stand out more and would let my play around more with settings on the camera - especially faster shutter speeds

- I think I probably should have cut up the box lengthwise. The thing is that I'm getting a little more of the background in focus than I'd like. Part of that is because I'm not using a light sucking black fabric or something, but I think more length would really take the background way out of my focus area.Maybe I can bring the incense out a little further...

Ok, so I shot a couple quick ones so we could play with the photoshop side of this thing. The smoke is so finicky, and it moves so fast that I usually take a lot of shots to get one or two that have a couple of interesting parts. Click your lens onto manual focus and move the lens around to find the eddies. Don't worry too much if it seems you're getting a lot out of focus.

Here's a I got shot out right off the card:

Interesting but we can do better. I'll bring it into photoshop and crop it up to isolate the lower right hand corner.

The most fun is fixing the levels (Ctrl-L)

First click on the little eyedropper with black ink. That'll tell photoshop that you are going to select what you want to be the blackest of the black in your image. I would chose the little section marked 2 in the image. Then click the eyedropper with white ink and select the part of your image that you want to be the whitest of white - I picked the part marked #3, but it would probably be better to choose the part under "Click" in the photo up there. Play around with this a lot and you'll get a lot of fun possibilities.

That'll give you something like this image which has a nice black background (although I'd like it a little more black in the upper right), and a really fun near-oversaturation in the curls down on the lower right :

Which is fun, but we can make it more fun. I accidentally shot this with an ISO of 400, so it's noisy. I'll do a little smart blur to even it out a bit.

The color is easy. Just go to the color balance (Ctrl-B) and fiddle with the bars until you dig it. I thought the green worked well

The other thing you can do is color invert the image (Ctrl-I) before (or after) you fiddle with the color balance. That gave me a fun purple

Then you save it and pop it up on flickr and your 365 blog and it's your daily photo and a how-to walkthrough!

Like I said, I'm still not happy with a lot of the process and I think this can be made a lot better. So give it a shot and tell me how you make your smoke cool!

Rhymes With Orange

Ok, I stole the lightbox how-to from here, but here's the rest:

backlit orange

Step 1:

Cut a hole in the box.
(har har har)

Honestly, I cut three holes in the box, put paper towels over the holes to diffuse the light I'll be adding. For the backlighting, I hung another sheet of paper towel on the inside of the back of the box. All I did then was aim all the lights at the background so the light would bounce and hit the back of the clementine.

I carved up the thing so there was a slice sticking up, but it would still stand up.

I took a really quick shot with my non-macro lens and this is what it ended up looking like. It's blurry and it ain't nearly as good as the earlier one, but you get the idea. My clementines are starting to get a little ragged too. I think I need to finish 'em off.

Next post will be the smoke walkthrough

Something Tells Me It's all Happening at the Zoo

Nothing truly exciting today, just meetings and such, but yesterday, ah yesterday.

I had decided to dive into adventure and brave the long long trip to the nearby (in a relative sense) zoo! See, I have a lot of trouble with zoos in general. I love the animals, but the cages really bother me. I've been to some really sad zoos, too. The problem is that I've also been to the San Diego Wild Animal Park. That place rocks. Rocks a lot. They had the funding to actually put things together pretty well with enough room for everyone and no weird concrete-ish display areas.

Back at Old U, there was a small zoo, but they were pretty well funded and did an ok job making the living areas pretty livable. Alas, Urban Sprawl City's zoo is... well, I should say that it's not awful. In fact it's good, really. They're trying to build a lot of new areas and add room for the critters, but still, I guess I've been spoiled for zoos.

The one thing that absolutely kills me is seeing the animals, usually the big cats, pacing back and forth mindlessly in a really small enclosure, and this zoo had nothing like that. Really it wasn't bad.

Anyway, the end result is that I practically lived on buses and at bus stops for most of the day, but had a great time at the zoo while I was there. Yea zoo!

Here's pictures. Most of them are pretty average and a lot of the beasties were hiding as usual, but I really liked the tortoise. He (She?) is very cool.

Also, I'm going to put together a how-to post on the smoke pictures because a few people asked. I'll try to get that together soon. It'll be a good excuse to shoot some more smoke and try to figure out what I'm doing wrong with the background :)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Have Fun Storming the Castle

Just in case you happen to have time that needs, umm... wasting... I present to you the most insidious evil little strategy game I've seen in a long time.

Desktop Tower Defense - Try the easy setting first

Heigh Ho the Paper is Gone!

That nasty piece of trash that I took an incomplete on last fall has been turned in! It was utter crap and too short and fundamentally flawed, but...


I just hit send on the email a few seconds ago. Poof! Gone!

I feel like I need to take a shower to wash the bad off of me, but I think I'll settle for planning a photo outing tomorrow. Or a shopping outing. I do need a new lamp or two...

The really dangerous thing is that even though I really didn't like that paper, in finishing it, I started to get more and more excited about my next project. I was going to really start research today, but they kicked me out of the library. Closed early. Hmmph. Let's hope the enthusiasm holds.

Oh, and just a side note to a favorite commenter - I don't think anyone wants to see the road rash :) Do you?

Monday, March 26, 2007

81/365 March 26


Very tired so I just tested the lightbox with my point and shoot. With my DSLR. How very meta. I need to get a white backcloth too.

Whoopsie - wrong blog. Oh, well. I'll leave it cause it's funny


Scrivener asked about the homemade lightbox I made for the smoke pictures. I got the ideas here (lightbox) and here (smoke). So here's what I've got:


It's basically just a cardboard box with windows cut out on the sides and top. I draped paper towel over the windows to act as a diffuser until I can get something a little better (tracing paper? sheet?). Inside on the back and bottom are chucks of black foamboard. Then there's a lamp on the left and an old slave flash on the right in addition to the diffused hotshoe flash on the camera itself.

The setup didn't work that well actually though. I think with a little tweaking it'll get better. The main problem was that there still wasn't as much light as I would have liked for the smoke. The on-camera flash was also too direct, even with my bounce diffuser. I think the answer is to get a shop lamp, or something like that - something with a little more umph than my little desk lamp.

As for the smoke itself, I used incense sticks poked into the cardboard. Camera settings were ISO100, 1/250 and my best ones came out at about f11 or f14, but I'm sure that could be changed a lot.

Finally I popped it into Photoshop and fiddled with the colors. Fair warning - clean your glass. every tiny little dust speck will show up :)

Anyway, if you aren't checking out my photo365 or flickr pages, here's some incense smoke!

Wham, Bam, Thank You Ma'am

First off, if you've ever seen a James Bond movie, or played that old Spy Hunter game, you know that oil slicks are a great way to get rid of cars that are following you. I also submit that it works quite well for bikes.

I'm a good bike rider. I've commuted by bike for about 7 years now, and well, everyone has their bad days, right? Anyway - here's the oil slick I hit:


I went into the curb and onto the ground and got some nice road rash for my trouble. Nobody else involved, nothing bad, but still a great way to put a damper on the day.

Also, my Nano died. I've been threatening to leave the iCult, so maybe this is my chance. My laptop in the pannier bag survived though, so that's good.