Weston portable portrait background

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by mysteryscribe, Jun 24, 2007.

  1. mysteryscribe

    mysteryscribe TPF Noob!

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    Now here is something you wont see everyday....

    I am a huge fan of Edward Weston. In reading his daybooks (journals) I saw the plans for his outdoor portable portrait background. When I first saw it, I wasn't really impressed. At the time I had a full studio with lights and hanging backgrounds all over the place. At this time all that is gone as I have been retired for about five years. I find myself ready to go back to work on at least a limited basis so now it is of interest.

    Retirement is a bore.

    My studio became my workshot and half-dark room so I had a huge problem. How to shoot pictures and yet not tear down my playroom. (simi dark room and table top still life set up. While I was considering it, a thread here reminded me of Weston's day books then of the backdrop.

    Weston's backdrop was not intended to leave his yard. Just like me Weston didn't have a pickup truck or SUV. It was designed by him to be stable and to be somewhat adjustable. What kind of adjustments, you ask. His background could be tilted to catch more or less light. My guess is so that it could be used in most any sunlight condition. I am going to have to experiment with that after I get it finished.

    If you have access to a pickup truck this would be a whole lot easier. I didn't so it was a bit more work. Everything came home in the trunk of my midsized car. It also all fell out when I turned into my driveway.

    Here is what you need. First you need three 24" by 48" sheets of masonite. These come precut at the home center. Then you need four 1x2 by 8' strips, also 2 2'x2'x8' boards. One 2x4 long enough to cut 2 18" pieces from. box of 1/2" wood screws two shelf L brackets. couple of lag bolts and a couple of nut an bolt sets to hold the L bracket to the 4x6ft panel.

    step one

    lay your three sheets of maxonite on the ground butted against each other to make a 6'x4' panel. Cut the 1x2 into lengths to build a frame around it and on all four sides, then cut two more strips for the inside joints. Screw the masonite to the strips with the 1/2 wood screws. This step takes about ten minutes.

    Cut your 2x2 to a length of 6ft each. Then mount them staight up to the 2x4 pads. This makes an upside down T with a hell of a long leg. I personally drilled a hole in the 2x4 with a counter sink for the head of a lag bolt. Then I glued the bottom of the 2x4 and drilled a pilot hole in it. I assembled it and then put in a couple of corner braces. You can do it anyway you like.

    The 4'x6' panel gets a shelf L bracket half was up on each side. A hole is drilled in the appropiate place about four feet from the bottom of the 2x2 end post..... The one central holder point should allow the panel to tilt forward and back to change the amount of light it collects. At least that's what Weston said. I have a piece of canvas I did a Rembrant style background on so I plan to attach it to the panel. I also have a some cloth background i can drape over it if I need colors for some reason.

    I am in the final stage of construction and will test it soon. I know one thing for sure this is more stable than my savage paper holder. This thing costs under 25bucks to build and should be easy to assemble and use. I'll let you know when I get a chance to shoot with it.
     
  2. mysteryscribe

    mysteryscribe TPF Noob!

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    Well believe it or not I finished the thing today but it didn't come out like the one the great man used. I could not make it tilt. I was to ramshackled.

    I settled for one that just stands up straight and wont tip over. Of course in doing that I had to make it solid not portable at all. I can move it around my studio but I can't get it out the door. No it isn't too tall it's a matter of twists and turns. Oh well I needed a portable one to sit in the middle of my studio floor anyway.

    If I wanted I could put it against a wall in the house and have an instant studio drop just by moving to a spot with enough room to set up lights. In my case I have a very nice set of three swivel light sockets in the ceiling of my studio left over from another project. I'm going to put a three 150 watt bulbs in the fixture and use it as a hot light setup. I love strobes but I don't think i want to bother with them this time. Maybe a low powered one at or near the camera to kill the under nose and chin shadows.

    I was thinking about it and decided on having the customer hold a white card in frame one. There is a certain mystique to that. Since I bill myself as a retro photographer it seems to fit the image quite well.

    I stick up a shot one day soon to show what it looks like.
     
  3. The_Traveler

    The_Traveler Completely Counter-dependent Supporting Member

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    Have you thought of taking a picture of it and posting it here?
     
  4. mysteryscribe

    mysteryscribe TPF Noob!

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    why not indeed I wanted to wait and show what a portrait would look like using it but with just a few explainations here it is.

    first the background itself as it cuts my old sudion/now workroom in half. This shot is made with my poor lil ole ebay camera very very low quality as you can see.
    [​IMG]

    this is a test of my lighting setup. I just hung the drip to day so it has to have time for the wrinkles to fall out.

    [​IMG]

    all images shot with the ebay digital camera.

    [​IMG]

    though it looks green in this unlit backside shot. the rear is a gray backdrop as well. Blondes in the front brunettes in the rear.

    First real portrait I shoot on this background I will post for you..
     
  5. mysteryscribe

    mysteryscribe TPF Noob!

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    and if you think it looks like one of those portable blackboards from high school it does to me as well. It is a big larger but the design is similar.
     

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