Post your HOMEMADE equipment here

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by Robin Usagani, Jul 6, 2010.

  1. Robin Usagani
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    Robin Usagani Well-Known Member

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    I dont know if there is a thread already about homemade stuff. I searched and did not find it. If you have made anything homemade for photography, post it here a long with description how you did it. Let me start:

    Reflective insulation $16 USD (25 ft long, you can make other handheld reflector)
    A bag of nut fly 1/4" dia. thread $1 USD
    Washer $0.09

    Just use your sturdy tripod to hold it. Punch a hole on the reflector and use the washer and the nut to screw it to your tripod. Make sure you make the reflector long enough so you can put the end underneath one leg. Then you can change the height of the legs to get different angles.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
  2. Buckster
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    Buckster New Member

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    Buck's Macro Flash Bracket Project
    A while back, I got a Sigma 180mm macro lens that will finally do true 1:1 macros, and ran into the problem of needing more light in order to get the most optimum settings I could squeeze out of it. I've since worked out that the sharpest aperture to use and still get a lot of DOF for macros is f/22, but in the meantime, I wanted to be able to stop it down to the full f/32 with an ISO of 100 and a shutter speed of 1/250 (fastest shutter sync on my Canon 40D) as a goal. That's as deep as I could have to go, but even at less than that, I'm gonna need more light - no two ways about it. So, I got determined to deal with it head on.

    First I looked at ring flashes. Commonly used and apparently adequate, I read as much as I could in the way of reviews. What I found is that if I was going to get a ring flash for macro work, I should get the Canon MT-24EX, a twin light wonder that is very versatile and doesn't have the common problem with ring flashes: Flat light. Here's a photo of it:
    [​IMG]
    Turns out the thing's about $650.00 new. Okay, so I go to EBay... Incredibly, there are people there bidding up to $850.00 on used ones! WTF???!!! Okay, I want one, but not THAT bad!

    Still, I'm now convinced that the two lights mounted in such a way that they can be repositioned in a versatile way is a great idea. Hmmm... I could get a 2nd Canon 580 EX II for about $320.00 and that would be even MORE versatile because I could use it for more than just macro shooting (I've been reading the Strobist blog lately too.) Well, there's TWO good reasons to get a 2nd flash, so I go ahead and order it. I figure I can work out SOME way to mount them later...

    Back to digging around on the internet for bracket ideas to hold my 2 flashes, I found this really cool bracket setup:
    [​IMG]
    Those are Wimberley Flash Brackets. VERY cool, very versatile, very efficient, very excellent. Also, VERY expensive @ $169.00 each, and I'll need 2, plus a new Arca Swiss type mount ($85), plus shipping, handling, tax - I figure it'll run me about $500 altogether, which is just plain more than I want to spend on just the bracket to hold my two flashes.
    Okay, I go with plan B, and I'm off to the nearest Home Depot...

    After having a look through the hardware, I come up with a plan, buy a few parts, and have a go at it...

    What I came up with is this:
    [​IMG]
    That's one "T" strap, two spring clamps, two 1/4"X 3/4" bolts, two 1/4" fender washers and two 1/4" wing-nuts.

    Total cost: $8.51 (plus tax). That's WAY closer to what I wanted to spend!

    The clamps have holes in the handles, hidden under the orange plastic grips. I simply pulled one grip off each to expose the holes, and I had a way to bolt them to the T strap as shown.
    [​IMG]
    I bent the T strap as shown because it allows me to gain versatility in positioning the spring clamps and, thus, the flashes.
    [​IMG]
    Here's a closer look at the assembly of spring clamp to T strap. Not much to it.
    [​IMG]
    When I bent the T strap, I made sure that the result would clear the lens. I didn't want to mar it in any way during use. I've since replaced the 1/4"X 3/4" bolts with shorter 1/2" long ones, and replaced the wing-nuts with simple hex nuts to trim the whole thing down. The wing-nuts simply weren't as useful or needed as I thought they'd be. Bolted tightly, it won't move at all on it's own, but with a little pressure, I can still twist the assembly by hand to reposition as needed.
    [​IMG]
    Next, I position the mounting hole on the newly completed Macro Flash Bracket (MFB) over the lens' mounting plate.
    [​IMG]
    I used a spare tripod head quick release plate to clamp it down which also serves the purpose of giving me a way to mount the whole thing onto my tripod.
    [​IMG]
    Next, I clamped the flash holders of the Y adapter flash wiring harness into place. These spring clamps hold them GREAT! No slipping at all! They are INCREDIBLY strong!
    [​IMG]
    So, here's the whole assembly, mounted on the lens and ready to go onto the tripod and have the flashes placed and positioned for firing.
    [​IMG]
    Mounted on the tripod, with everything nice and tight, I made sure to leave enough clearance associated with the clamps for the flashes to mount nicely and not to pinch the wires.
    [​IMG]
    Finally, I place the flashes and lock them in place. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the whole rig with camera, lens and flashes is balanced fairly well at the lens' mounting plate.
    [​IMG]
    Between the twisting and turning capabilities of the flashes themselves, and the twistable versatility of the clamps because of the way they're attached to the bracket, I've got a LOT of ways I can arrange these, just what I'd hoped for! I can see that it wouldn't take much to bolt on an extension bracket to the T strap either, should I find a need to do so. Of course, that would cost me another 3 or 4 bucks maybe! 8)
    [​IMG]
    I played with it hand-held quite a bit before I decided to shoot these photos and document the whole thing. It all stayed tight and right for me - a very workable system. And at under $10, I'm VERY happy! It's been about 2 years now, and it still works just like the day I completed it, and I use it a LOT, and not just for macros.
    [​IMG]
    Just a look at it from another angle. I've got Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce diffusers on there right now, and they help a lot, but I'll get some polarized film to work with soon - I've read that's much better for cutting glare and shiny flash-back (makes sense).
    [​IMG]
    One last look from another angle, showing how easy it is to get to the controls.

    This is really just a starting point for me, and I fully expect that it'll evolve as I modify it over time. Still, I think it's a pretty good starting point, and the best thing that I've learned here is that the inexpensive but effective "T" strap works great as a "base" platform to work with and build on, which is a good tip for other kinds of DIY projects well beyond photo gear, I think.

    Okay, so after some initial technical tests, I headed out to the field for the real deal, and here's the first field test shot using my new MFB:
    [​IMG]
    This test photo of a bee working in a field of clover was shot hand-held at ISO 100, shutter speed 1/250 (flash sync), aperture f/22, both flashes set to auto TTL. No crop was made on this test shot, just a slight curve adjustment, resized to 800px wide, then typical USM. I usually strip out the EXIF info to make my online files lean, but I've left it intact on this one, in case you want to check it out.

    First, I confess that, strictly speaking and being perhaps over-critical, the composition itself is nothing to brag about, with the bee centered and the clover flower behind it competing for attention - it would have been much better had I isolated the bee working a single clover with that nice, green OOF background behind it and positioned to the right of the frame; some things for me to keep in mind for future shots of this nature.

    Having acknowledged that, for my test purposes, this will work just fine to analyze the performance of my new lighting rig. There are some shiny bits in there on the reflective surfaces of the bee, and hopefully my future experiments with polarized film will help tame stuff like that. The depth of field looks pretty good at f/22, I've got good, sharp detail at a shutter speed of 1/250th of a second even though it's hand-held, clarity is optimum at ISO 100 with no noise to speak of, and the lighting is quite nice I think, with diffused light and shadow providing a sense of depth to the image, and good color and white balance provided by the twin 580 EX II flashes.

    Overall, I'd say it's a success, and I'm very happy with my new sub-$10 MFB and the results!

    So now, there's just one thing left to do - make it pretty! And here it is with the shorter bolts, no wing-nuts, and nice black finish:
    [​IMG]

    -----------------------

    DIY Gimbal Head
    For most of my photography, I use a ball head on top of my tripod, and it works great. But when I put my really big lenses on it, the thing gets WAY top-heavy and harder to manage. It's center of gravity is below the lens/camera, so the whole camera and lens wants to flop over, and if you're not careful, it'll do just that - sometimes HARD. I've pinched a finger on occasion when I've neglected to tighten the ball again after shooting in 'freestyle' mode.

    The answer is a Gimbal style mount. That allows the photographer to put the center of gravity above the camera, so that it's hanging in a balanced position. The problem is that they cost a small fortune, especially for a really good one, and if I'm going to spend a couple or few hundred on the thing, I'd just as soon spend a bit more and get a better one.

    Well, as much as I want one, I just can't really afford it right now. Plus, there's the fun of seeing if I can make something myself that works to meet my needs. So, off I go again with an idea in my head, gathering up pieces of scrap metal and a couple of old bearings...

    A couple hours of cutting, grinding, welding and bolting later, I have the basic concept fleshed out and give it a test:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Yeah, it's ugly, but it works pretty well. I get some ideas for improvement from there, and make some modifications. When I've finished that, I grind down any sharp edges, as well as some of the worst welding boogers, then hang the pieces and give it a paint job:
    [​IMG]
    Several coats later, after letting each one dry first, I let it cure overnight. Today I assemble it together and give it a test run:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    One of the modifications was this assembly that allows me to set up where the center of gravity is, by moving it up or down and locking it into place. I figure that will come in handy later, when using different lenses, stacking on lights, or whatever twisted thing I come up with next. :lol:
    [​IMG]
    Another mod was this slotted base plate, so that I can achieve the best balancing point with each lens/camera combination:
    [​IMG]
    A mistake I made and rectified: The base plate that the camera and lens sits on wasn't directly over the tripod anymore. It was an easy fix.
    :wink:

    Here's a few low budget cam shots of the rig with my 100-400mm lens on it, fully extended:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
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    Angled to show positioning ability and slotted bars for balance adjustments:
    [​IMG]

    And to wrap it up, here's a couple of short vids of it in action:

    [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTuCb2ATQS0[/ame]

    [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wb3UYwr_cfw[/ame]

    Yeah, I didn't bother to put on a suit and tie for that. That's my cutting/grinding/welding/crazy old man at work in the barn look. :lol:

    Bottom line: It works, and it works well. Total cost: Maybe a dollar's worth of weld wire, a quarter can of spray paint, and my time. I'm REAL happy with it! :D

    --------------------------------
    IR trigger / timing circuit

    Here's a shot of a test with two strobes (upper left and right) fired by the circuit.
    [​IMG]
    When I break the IR beam with the Sharpie (or anything else), the trigger fires, delayed by an adjustable amount of time, up to one second.

    The photo itself was taken by holding the camera with my other hand only - no other support at all, during a two second long exposure (EXIF included for those interested). Even with the very long shutter time, It's not blurry at all because it was in a darkened room and a tight aperture, so without the strobes it would have just been a picture of black nothing.

    The strobes were each set to just 1/128[sup]th[/sup] power, for
    lightning-fast exposure, which was one of the major points of building the circuit - no flash sync requirement with the camera itself. The other was to get a precise adjustable delay time between trigger and fire that I can control.

    Now for the platform and liquid drop delivery system.

    The platform is a paint-stirring stick found in the barn with a metal "L" bracket glued on so I can temp clamp it to the light stand with the orange-grip clamp. I cut a hole in the stick to let the drops pass through.
    [​IMG]
    Two clothespins glued to it allow me to reposition the IR LEDs as needed or remove and use them completely apart from this rig in other applications.
    [​IMG]
    It can be powered from a 9v battery or a power supply. I'm using the power supply and the battery option is just a backup option.
    [​IMG]
    The liquid drop delivery is done with this child's medicine dropper. I get no drips until I decide I'm ready for it. Then a little squeeze, and I have the control I want when I want it. It's held in place by a re-purposed wire coat hangar.
    [​IMG]
    I've attached it to one of my photo light stands, which lets me adjust it up and down to fine tune the time it takes between when the drop passes between the IR LEDs and the time it hits the target, in addition to the electronic time control.
    [​IMG]

    Results:

    [​IMG]

    More photos from it here: http://www.thephotoforum.com/forum/macro-photography/178920-milk-drops.html

    -----------------------------

    Apparatus for making light orbs

    LED lights, batteries, wire, tape, hot glue, fishing poles and a bearing to make a spinner with lights on the ends allows me to make stuff like this:

    [​IMG]

    ------------------------------
    Snoots, reflectors, scrims, gobos, etc

    I've got a pile of this stuff made from various objects and materials re-purposed. A couple of my favorites are:

    Large portable scrim system made from PVC pipe and various fittings for getting different angles, 3-ways, etc, and rip-stop nylon sheeting. Can be configured into endless sizes and shapes for sculpting light, from about 2' x 2' to about 10' x 10'.

    A telescopic snoot that lets me change the coverage area without changing out to longer or shorter snoots.

    Flash filter holders that allow me to change out filters fast - no tape or velcro or anything like that on them - they simply drop into a clear DIY "wallet" in front of the flash.

    Grids made from black corrogated plastic sign stock.

    A battery holder box with two sides marked red and green respectively, for keeping track of which rechargeable batts are ready and which need to be recharged.

    I'd post photos of them, but I'm currently on the road, and they're back at the house.
    -------------------------
    That's all I can think of right now...
  3. Robin Usagani
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    Robin Usagani Well-Known Member

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    ^^ the photos do not work.

    EDIT: Nevermind.. my office blocked it!!! GRRRRR
  4. bluetibby1
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    bluetibby1 New Member

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    Amazing work guys!
    Blue
  5. Josh66
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    Josh66 Well-Known Member

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    LOL, way better than the crap I've made.

    Usually just little light modifiers and stuff like that.


    Not really a homemade thing, but a simple little mod I did was to glue some velcro to the back of my remote, and glue the other half to one of my tripod legs.

    The remote just hanging from the camera between shots always bugged me. Now I have somewhere to put it.
  6. OrionsByte
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    OrionsByte New Member

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    The "@" probably makes it think it's an email address. And actually, in quoting this message I can see that's exactly what it's doing because it has tags wrapped around it.
  7. el_shorty
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    el_shorty New Member

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    I'm a DIY guy and I am always looking for the next project and I think I have found it, a gimbal head like the one Buckster made.
    Now to show some of the things I've made in the last year.


    Modded Flashes
    I added a 1/8" phone jack to my Nikon SB-600s and Quantaray PZ1-DSZs so I can trigger them with my Cybersyncs.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Beauty Dish
    Made a beauty dish out of a 15" plastic punch bowl.
    [​IMG]

    But I broke it before I got to use it.
    [​IMG]

    Tilt/Shift Lenses
    I made two T/S lenses from a 50mm and a 75mm Zenza Bronica lenses.

    [​IMG]

    I used a shock boot, a M42 macro Extension tube and a M42 to Nikon F adapter.
    [​IMG]

    and this are images I took with both lenses

    50mm
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    75mm
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I spent a total of $90 on both lenses.
  8. Robin Usagani
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    Robin Usagani Well-Known Member

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    buckster.. you are da man. You know how to weld, paint, set up a circuit system... What cant you do?
  9. Buckster
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    Buckster New Member

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    Even after three wives, I still can't figure out women :confused: :lol:
  10. Robin Usagani
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    Robin Usagani Well-Known Member

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    You need to stop shooting beautiful women. :lmao:

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