Dedolight

Allen's Blog Archive:

Finding Your Niche – Ultra-Precise Lighting Made Possible by the Dedolight Imager Projection Attachment

As noted many times on this blog, the photography and filmmaking business has seen huge changes in the last decade. Smartphone photos are running on the front page of the New York Times. Lights and cameras have become cheaper, often with little regard to their quality. And what does it mean to be a photographer when everyone is always taking pictures? If you’re a freelancer, this last item is an issue you’re forced to reckon with in order to get paying work. As the saying goes: “it isn’t your fault, but it is your problem.”

One way to stand out from the crowd is to find a niche and own it (preferably in a line of work for which people will pay well.) In the case of Angel Penchev of Bulgaria, that means focusing (sorry) on rare coins and medallions. Watch this video to see how he uses Dedolight heads, including the Dedolight Imager Projection Attachment, to control light across each tiny element on the coins’ faces.

Some time ago, I did a few tests on the focusing capabilities of the DP2. We had recently moved into a larger office space and, much to our surprise, discovered that the previous tenants had left a box of old Barbie dolls in one of the filing cabinets. (Why isn’t it ever a briefcase full of cash??!)

Anyway, I had the tongue-in-cheek idea to use the dolls as models; you don’t have to pay them, they never get tired, and they always sit perfectly still. Using the Dedolight Imager Projection Attachment along with the DPEYESET filters, I was able to easily highlight details like the dolls’ jewelry or eyes. Obviously, this method would work equally well on tiny details on live models — who you do have to pay, but, by the same token, can probably give you more than a single vacant expression.

Barbie doll highlighted with Dedolight DP2 and EYESET

Be sure to have a look through some of Angel’s website (I particularly appreciate what he’s done with pasta.) And for more information on how to use the Dedolight DP1, DP2, and their siblings, see the following video:

Eclipse 2017: Let’s Be Careful Out There

Unless you’ve spent the few weeks hiding under your desk for some reason or another, you’re aware of the total solar eclipse that will cross the United States today. Whether or not you’ve traveled to a region that will experience totality, it’s critically important that you take appropriate precautions while enjoying the view.

While astronomy buffs will likely already be aware, some photographers may not realize just how powerful the sun’s rays can be. Watch as the staff of Every Photo Store tests a vintage Canon Rebel XT’s sensor with a six second exposure. Obviously, this is far too long for a solar photograph, but is a reasonable amount of time to expect an average person to stare at the sun during an eclipse. (Trigger warnings: camera abuse, dubstep.)

Lesson learned: do the research in order to find an appropriate filter for the lens you plan to use. And never look through the optical viewfinder!

More importantly, you need to protect your two most precious sensors – the ones inside your skull. Former NASA/JPL employee Rod Ryle lost significant sight in one eye as a result of ignoring safety warnings as a child:

I viewed partial solar eclipses with faulty equipment as a child, and lost nearly half my vision in one eye. Trust me, it’s not worth it. And the worst part? There are no pain receptors in your eyes, so you won’t know you are damaging them until a few days later when it’s too late.

So how do you tell whether your filter or eclipse glasses are reliable? First of all, if they’re scratched, creased, or damaged in any other way, throw them out. Then, check the American Astronomical Society’s list of reputable vendors. Their web server is under extreme strain today, but Google’s cache comes to the rescue. Sadly, thousands of subpar products have made their way to market in the past weeks from unscrupulous vendors, and a great many people across the country are now at risk of permanent eye damage. If your filter isn’t on the list, please… view the eclipse through a pinhole projector instead – a method that’s been in use for thousands of years, and a simple, cheap way to observe the sun safely.

A Minor Rant on Camera Straps

The weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal is always full of great articles in the Off Duty and Review sections, but a recent small feature on camera straps got me really riled up.

Last week I offered to photograph an extended family visiting one of the beaches on Martha’s Vineyard. When I was handed their Canon EOS 5D, my willingness to take what became a very nice photo was accompanied by my insistence that they replace the strap as soon as possible. (“It came with the camera,” is—invariably—the response I receive for my earnest pleas.)

I’ve noted before the unfortunate (and dangerous) practice of wearing a ‘steal me’ advertisement around your neck, where the strap included with your camera lets the whole world know exactly which high-dollar camera you’re carrying. All manufacturers seem to be guilty of this; from their perspective, it’s simply Branding 101. For the customer, though, it begs an extra measure of vigilance while out and about.

WSJ camera strap feature So back to the WSJ: the photo shows a roundup of so-called “dapper” straps—none of which looks particularly comfortable—priced from 29 to 140 dollars. You’d be far better off with a strap from OP/TECH, superbly designed and made in the USA. I have found their Envy Strap to be perfect for both my mirrorless Fuji X-series bodies and my full-frame Nikon SLRs with long lenses. And the price can’t be beat: under 20 dollars. They’re comfortable, reliable, and they don’t attract the wrong kind of attention.

OP/TECH camera strap on Fuji X-E2

Raj, our technology director and blog contributor in his own right, goes one further and uses our microGAFFER tape to obscure the logos on his Fuji X-E2. Not only does it make the camera look more generic to thieves (perhaps even a touch dilapidated); since it leaves no residue, there’s no need to worry about ruining the camera’s finish when time comes to peel and resell.

Raj's Fuji with microGAFFER

Back in the days when I carried as many as three cameras around my neck and two more on my shoulders (zoom lenses didn’t exist), the strap of choice was known as the “Schwalberg Strap”, likely purchased from Marty Forscher’s Professional Camera Repair in New York. Now, it’s two cameras at most, with zoom lenses that can cover just about any optical range.

The bottom line is to spend your money on the things that really help you make better images, rather than just looking the part. More about that shortly, when I address the remarkable supplemental iPhone optics from ExoLens, which feature Zeiss glass.

Allen shooting Nikon tele lens