Simple Studio Lighting

Simple Studio Lighting

When I was younger, I had to go to the photo studio to have a head and shoulder photograph taken for passport or whatever. Usually three lights were used, they were the main, fill and background lights.

In the early nineties, after I knew photography, I decided to shoot my own self portrait, head and shoulder photograph. I wanted a soft lighting that will cast no hard shadow, no reflection on the glasses and no shadow on the background. With the knowledge that I had, I figured out how to achieve this. I had in hands two umbrellas which I had ordered from an umbrella maker. The material was a very light yellow satin cloth provided by me. I only chose the frame that had a nice parabolic shape from the maker. The reflective side was on the inner side of the umbrella.

In the set-up for the shooting, I made use of only one umbrella held high on a stand, angled downward and slightly to the right of the camera. No reflector. One of the walls in the living room was used as background. The stool where I sat was about one metre away from the wall. The camera was set on the tripod with 135mm lens.  It was cheap, bright, sharp and have a good contrast. Light source was from a flashgun bounced off the inside of the umbrella. The strength of the light was measured at the point where my face was assumed. I had someone stood in place for me so that I can set the focusing and framing. At other times when I was alone, I propped up an empty frame around the location of my face, which I later removed before triggering.

I shot a number of frames and from it chose the one that I like best. A luxury that you don’t get with the studio shot.

The light source.

The chosen frame was then printed 4-up on a 3R paper.

Back then I had a personal web page from my ISP. I had put up my photograph together with the explanation. One of the comments that I remembered till now was from someone who probably knew photography saying, “Nice Technique.”

I used this technique for a couple of years as my makeshift mobile studio taking head and shoulder photographs for an organisation as a service to its members.

Update 9 Jan 2011:

I had inserted two photographs of the setup. Slightly tight because the space is tight. The photo of the light source shows a camera mount flash and not that of a flashgun that had the camera mount on it. I still have the flashgun but this flash unit is quite strong too. I can still get F4 and F5.6 at ASA 100. Furthermore, it sits nicely on the wireless receiver. Ah, the luxury of today, no more cable to concern with. Absolute freedom. To trigger any slave unit, the light sensor triggering unit is still good though. Less of a hassle because it doesn’t consume batteries, very green, only that it needs to be on the striking distance of the main light to be effective. For wireless triggering of slave unit, the transmitter and receiver set claims a distance of 100 metres. A 100 metres headstart that is, for someone to grab the slave set and run away. Anyway, it is still useful though, just bear in mind the safety of the unit and to take appropriate measure.

My First Serious Antenna Construction

I had done constructing antennas albeit in a makeshift way and the results were never satisfying. I was never serious about it until recently. I had an access point which was some fifty metres away at another house and I was getting weak signals. That was the turning point, I decided to build a good high gain antenna.

It goes without saying that the first step was to do a research. After all the searchings and readings, I set my mind on the biquad antenna. It was simple, easily construct and did not have many parts plus I had the parts readily available. Suffice to say that the construction was not exactly according to the specifications given that parts were practically from scraps.

The main radiator element came from the field coil winding of a car alternator. Aluminium plate encasing a pc floppy drive was flattened and used as reflector, and an RF(?) panel connector to connect them together.

After spending some times cutting, filing, drilling and bending, the result was as in picture #1. On the downside, I had to connect a RF to BNC female connector at the back of the antenna. Another potential loss, this was not good. I improved it further by constructing another design. This time the antenna was directly connected to the RG58 cable at one end and a female BNC at the other end while being encased inside a tube. I knew that the BNC was not up to par but it’s almost there and cheaper. Furthermore my situation was not that very critical that every improvement matters. I ended up making two antennas this way with slight variations.

There was improvement in signals but still there was interference. The transmitting and receiving angles of the biquad were quite broad. I wanted to narrow it down. In the end I ended up with a narrow, almost line of sight, high gain 21 elements yagi at both ends, the access point and my client.

In retrospect, signals are best amplified immediately after the antenna and not after the loss incurred by the cable. This means that I need to spend away with a usb dongle that can be attached to the client antenna almost immediately. Then, instead of RG58, I just need a longer usb cable. I will not be doing this on the access point side because of the cost involved and the hassle of putting up the access point router and POE device to power it plus the need to protect it from the weather.

Anyway, here are the pics.