A Quick Fix With Sugru

SugruHopefully, your weekend went better than mine the other day, I accidentally broke my intervalometer's cable... Always fun. So in cases like this, it's where I break out the Sugru, a mouldable glue that hardens into a rubberized silicone. You might remember a few years back in an article, I used this on my tripod plate adapted for Black Rapid making a tighter fit and keeping everything snug. Since I'm cheap and an intervalometer costs about $20 I'll go with the $4 fix.Sugru is basically like Play-Dou for adults so using it is pretty simple. Once opening the package all I had to do was stick it to the cable, shape it, and let it sit for a day. Compared to electrical tape it makes a thorough seal that works great. As it's made from silicone it's waterproof, handles heat/cold, durable, and shockproof... so perfect for fixing a cable. It's great for DIY repairs as Sugru sticks permanently to lots of stuff like ceramics, glass, metal, wood, rubber, most plastics, and fabrics.      Some Tips For Using Sugru:

  • There's a new family-friendly formula that's less messy and the original formula. Personally, I stick with original but it's up to you, I use gloves with the original as its a bit sticky.
  • Store in the fridge to get it to keep longer, 3X! I throw it in the butter drawer honestly and get it to last about a year or more.
  • Make sure everything is clean, including you. Sugru bonds better to clean surfaces and it tends to pick up dust so keeping clean is best. I use a paper plate for a clean area, sugru can stain when fresh and a plate is disposable.
  • Pressing against it with a flat object helps get smooth edges. It's like Play-Dou, just using something smooth rolled against it adds a nice clean finish. If it's sticking apply some soapy water to your object to smooth it out without sticking.

Repairing cords is just the start though really. Add magnets to hold gear, repair a hole in your camera bag, make stands for product photos, make a clip, bond two pieces of gear together for a mount, make a grip, and more.Sugru SaleJust FYI, use the code PARTYHAT at Sugru's site for 40% from now until Sunday, October 8th, midnight PST. Otherwise, if you missed out check out Amazon to get a great deal and get your DIY on today. As a little goes far I suggest the 3 packs (black | white | mixed), just remember to store them somewhere cold to last longer.  

Cleaning your DSLR or Mirrorless Sensor

Disclaimer- Cleaning your sensor isn't risky but does carry risks. If you damage your sensor while cleaning it is not going to be covered by your camera manufacturer's warranty and the only official cleaning method recommended by the camera manufacturers is to send in the camera for cleaning. The information I present in this post and video is based on my own experience, by following, you accept complete liability for any damages that may result.Let’s talk about dirty sensors. It happens, it’s not a big deal.Dirty SensorsDust on the sensor typically doesn’t show up unless you are shooting at smaller apertures. Bigger bits might show up starting around f/8, but it is really above f/14 and up to f/22 where you see the dust. If you are shooting lots of landscapes, this can be an issue. If you are shooting lots of portraits, with apertures below f/5.6 you can stop reading and go back to enjoying life. It is unlikely you will see any dust impact your image.f/22 - can you spot the dust and HAIR!!! Embarrassing. The first step in cleaning is to determine how dirty your sensor is. A quick way to test is to take a picture of a clean white piece of paper at f/8, f/14 and f/22 - don’t worry about your shutter speed - the dust spots will be sharp even if you shoot at slow shutter speeds, but you do want to keep your ISO fairly low to avoid noise confusing the issue. You could also photograph the sky on a clear day.Now pop that image in Lightroom and in the develop module there is a nifty option to Visual Spots located under the Spot removal tool.  Need Lightroom?Screenshot_9_8_15__8_43_AMScreenshot 2015-09-08 08.42.33Rollover the image below to see the before and after Visual Spots with my Sony a7RII sensor at f/22[himage]Dirty SensorDirty Sensor[/himage]If your sensor looks like Sony a7RII sensor does after just a few weeks of use - you probably want to clean it.Many DSLRS and Mirrorless cameras have a sensor cleaning mode - some run every time you turn the camera on or off and some run when selected. This is the first option you should try. With many of the systems, it is recommended to either hold the camera normally or facedown with the lens off so that the dust falls out. The Sony A7RII I have violently vibrates the sensor for a second or two and did absolutely nothing to reduce the amount of dust on the sensor. Hopefully you will have better results. Test again after using the in camera method.CleanSensorGif_animThe next step is to use a rocket blower - NEVER use compressed air or air in a can dust off products. Again hold the camera in such a way that the dust will fall out and give a few puffs directed at different areas of the sensor. They do sell sensor loupes - little magnifiers with led lights that make it easier to judge your progress. I used a tiny LED bike light to help see the sensor but it is clear that a bit of magnification will help too as some of these dust specks are invisible to the naked eye.$17 Sensor Magnification and LED light Sensor Loupe LED Magnification$9.95 Rocket BlowerRocket Blowers are cheap and do a great job of cleaning your sensor.Buy Rocket Blower from Amazon | B&H Photo VideoI was impressed with the results of the rocket blower- it did a good enough job that I would be happy stopping there - but if you want to get your sensor even cleaner you are going to need to touch it with something.Please read and follow all directions carefully for the kit you purchase and consult your camera manual for additional information.You have options - there are the expensive static charged brushes like the Arctic butterfly (see it at B&H) for $130 - you drag a statically charged brush across the sensor and it picks up the dust. In theory this should work fairly well with all but the stickiest particles and you never need to replace any pads etc but your up front cost are quite high. It does have two nice, bright LEDs to see what you are doing.butterflybrushOr you can go with something like the DustAid Platinum DSLR Sensor Cleaner for $26 that provides 6 cleanings - you get these little sticky pads that you gently press on the sensor, the dust sticks to the pad and then you use included “tape” to clean the pad.Dust Aid Platinum - Sticky lollipop for your sensorOr a more traditional kit like this DustAid Dust Wand Kit for $30 - Should provide about 20-40 cleanings depending on your sensor which is what I used in the video. You simply take one of the dust cloths out, wrap it carefully around the wand and apply a few drops of their cleaning solution- The larger your sensor the more drops you apply.Dust Wand Kit ReviewIf you are working with a DSLR you do need to put it into manual cleaning mode which pops the mirror out of the way. The dust aid directions suggest starting in the lower left corner and moving across the sensor. Put a new cloth on and repeat the process from the top left to the right again. Use your light and or loupe to inspect and if necessary wipe again with a clean cloth. Note that the special liquid evaporates fast so you should wipe immediately after applying.I hope this video was helpful. Do you have a favorite sensor cleaning method? leave your suggestions below and if you have any questions - you can leave those too. I’d love it if you hit that subscribe button - that way you can be notified of future videos, tips, tricks and reviews.Follow me on Instagram to see more of what I am up to day to day and all my dirty sensor photos.Make sure you don't miss a future video, subscribe to my Youtube ChannelLearn Lightroom 

Tips & Ideas: Photographing Fire

MMM Lobster

Safety first, you're playing with fire so take a few precautions.
  • Plan ahead where things are going to go and do a dry run before it gets too dark.
  • Fire is bad, water is good, but water is also bad for a camera. Remember to have a bucket of water to put the fire but don’t fill it so full that it's going to spill everywhere if you accidently knock it over.
  • Wear cotton or wool will burn normally so you can take it off in a hurry if it does catch fire. Materials like polyester and nylon will melt onto you and then you're going in for a trip to the ER.
  • Remember your camera is plastic, don’t get it too close to the fire if possible. If you still want to be close shroud the camera in something that isn’t immediately going to burn up to protect it.
  • Watch where the fire and especially the embers are going. Keep track of your lighter and any gas so you don’t cause any accidents.
  • Finally if you live in California don’t play with fire, it’s the last thing you guys need at the moment.
Composition & ExposureIMG_5720

Just because it's a bit chaotic doesn’t mean fire cannot be composed correctly. Take the time to setup your shot and get the rule of thirds going or break the rules and go for another angle. Remember fire can be very versatile for shooting as a main element to a photo, a supporting character for the subject, a fiery background, or just a light source for another subject.Normally when you look at a subject the default for your camera is evaluative metering. In this case the whole area is used to determine what the exposure should be, which for fire is bad to a degree. Setting up for a center weighted average or spot metering allows for a more accurate method of finding the correct exposure settings, especially in modes such as P, and Av.Shooting fire on its own can be easy as it's a lightsource but shooting multiple elements in low light with fire can be hard as it's not emitting a lot of light. With fire your best option is to underexpose your shot and bring it back in post for the most detail. For those using the automated modes your best bet would be to drop exposure compensation around to -2 or lower, for manual it's a bit trickier. Like always for a low light shot using a tripod would be recommended and a remote also helps remove camera shake.Depending on the amount light the fire is putting out its going to be a low ISO of 100-400 with an aperture of F/8 or so to get plenty of detail, the big issue is speed. As its a lightsource if you are only shooting fire you can go with a faster aperture at the cost of ISO and lock the fire in place. If you're shooting people with fire it depends on the amount of light. If it's daytime you can stick with the above rule but if its night you're going to have to raise the ISO and sacrifice speed. Remember to check your image preview for the “blinkies” aka clipping warnings (for canon hit info while reviewing an image) as your underexposing you don’t want to accidentally lose part of the photo that you need to bring back later.The goal would be to have a fast shutter speed to freeze the fire, but it's not a perfect world, and if you're trying to get enough light for a portrait that's just not going to happen. In low light there isn’t one correct answer to fix your problem but rather three major options. Since the fire wouldn’t be the main subject in a portrait you exposure to get the person with the glow of the fire rather than the fire itself as it would be overexposed. Alternatively get the best of both by using Photoshop to combine multiple exposures (camera bracketing certainly helps). If worst comes to worst and your problem is low light you can always add more and fight the fire with a flash.If you try to shoot with a flash you need to add to the light, not beat it, so its hard to pull off correctly. You need to set a low flash exposure compensation of -2 to -3 which dims it down enough that you're not losing the fire. In the case of a portrait or another subject separate from the fire snooting your flash helps keep it away from the flames as it makes it go from a shotgun effect to a focused beam. While they do sell snoots for speedlights online in a pinch there are plenty of DIY approaches that work. As your flash is set for a daytime white balance you will have an issue with color, a orange gel would be best otherwise you will have to fix it in post.Expoimaging Rogue Gels Universal Lighting Filter Kit is Available From B&H and Amazon


Try to Think Outside the BoxIMG_4971Lots of things use fire or create fire so try to think of things beyond your standard campfire such as:

  • Hot air balloons
  • Fire starters, starting a fire
  • Firefighting or a wildfire
  • Matches being lit, lighters
  • Tobacco: cigar, cigarette, or a pipe
  • Volcano or magma
  • Making glass or steel

Elementsfire-ice-06While fire is versatile it's also complicated, remember that you’ve got multiple elements of a fire to use and that it's a also an element by itself. Try shooting embers coming off the fire, smoke being lit up by the fire, show heat through the air refracting light, or even shoot through the fire to get the wavy texture. As an element itself try pairing it up with an opposite such as fire and water or another similar element such as fire and steel.For fire and ice shots real ice works but Acrylic ice still looks the same to the camera. With fake ice it can take a bit more abuse and won’t melt screwing up an entire image. As acrylic ice gets quite expensive for professional grade, http://www.trengovestudios.com/acrylicice.htm, you can try to buy something cheap I.E. http://www.amzn.com/B00VZSA5N8/?tag=ptrv_roy-20. Good acrylic ice is hand made while the cheaper variety is mold made, they will have a few bubbles and seams that you will have to edit in post.For something different try adding fire to a water and ice photo for a new look on a overused trick. http://www.diyphotography.net/how-to-photograph-the-perfect-fire-and-ice-cocktail/LightpaintingPhoto by Von Wong, taken with a smartphone if you can believe itAs they put out a lot of light you can draw with fire and sparklers. With Toby’s article below you can try this yourself. You can try drawing words with a sparkler, making lines in the sky of fire, to even complicated effects such as wings of fire from Von Wong.http://photorec.tv/2013/06/how-to-sparkler-photos-long-exposure-light-painting/Abstract FireWant to try a fire and black background shot? If you want a lot of fire in a small spot for abstract fire photos use a ping pong ball. An actual ping pong ball, not the cheap plastic ones,  are made out of nitrocellulose which combined with the large air ratio burn strong for a photo. You won’t have time for a lot of photos with one but being relatively cheap you can go through a few to get the photo you want. With a ISO 100, mid range to high aperture, and high shutter speed as long as it's somewhat dark out your background will become solid black.Colorcolor-Edit Fire is not just one color so you have the opportunity to think out of the box. While the standard flame is nice you can get blue through a torch or alcohol for example. Using chemicals or photoshop you can extend that to many more colors. Not to mention the multiple colors and patterns of a firework you have to work with creatively.You can use household chemicals to make a rainbow of fire or go for just a ethereal green flame. As a bit of a warning some of these can be a bit toxic, others a bit smelly, do it outdoors so you have proper ventilation. Soaking wood in the chemical or adding a bit beforehand to the fuel provides the longest amount of flame but it does take a bit longer to get everything ready. For photos where you just need a small fire using methanol in a small dish provides the best color, commonly found in Heet antifreeze for cars.How to Make Colored FireColored Fire - Where to Find Metal Salts for ColorantsIf you just want something quick and easy they sell rainbow color packets to throw in a campfire (small fire not bomb-fire). They burn up fast but make for a short show you can shoot with a bit of color. They are quite cheap on amazon for a 12 pack so it’s worth a shot if you're interested. http://www.amzn.com/B008LM32QS/?tag=ptrv_roy-20.Another method you can use for constant color is tiki fuel. You can it find at your local Walmart in green, red, and blue.http://www.tikibrand.com/Torch-Fuel-Lamp-OilLike always you have the option of cheating to get your desired result as well. In lightroom reduce the saturation of the photos then use split toning to change the flame to the color you want. Since there is only the fire and black in this case it's a bit easier. Choose a color in Hue for highlights and adjust the saturation to get the desired color.If you have more items and a background it gets a bit trickier. Since you cannot effect the image on a global scale you have to use local adjustments to a similar effect. Set desaturation and a color effect then paint over only the fire. It’s a bit heavy handed of an approach as it requires you to be quite exact in painting and effects everything painted. Painting gets a bit challenging to near impossible if there is background color showing through the flame. Photoshop would do better but if you don’t have photoshop this way will work in a pinch.In Photoshop the process is somewhat the same, just use a hue/saturation layer to accomplish the same effect. Create a hue adjustment layer in place of split toning (layers > new adjustment layer > hue/saturation). Where it's set for the master channel select yellow and drag the hue to the color you want then repeat for red. If you need to only affect part of the image select the layer mask for the adjustment layer (white box on layer panel next to the hue layer name). First turn the effect off by inverting the layer mask with the invert tool image > adjustments > invert. At this point with a white brush you can paint the effect back on where it's needed.ScienceThe PyroboardGet your inner science geek on with a bit of fire!

  • A Fire Tornado
  • Reigniting Smoke
    • Most people don’t realize it but smoke is flammable, with good timing you can actually catch it burning. Get a candle going and blow it out, when the smoke rises light it again with a match and it will relight. With the camera on burst mode you can actually shoot the flame running down the smoke.
  • Ruben’s Tube, Sound + Fire!
    • Not a DIY but ask around, you might find someone in your area with a Ruben’s Tube. If you remember from any science demos this is a pipe using fire to visualize sound. The Pyroboard photo is actually a 3d representation of this demo.
  • Fire in a Bottle
    • Get a glass bottle and add a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol. Shake vigorously. Timing is a bit tricky but if you start a burst of photos while your lighting the vapor you can photograph a explosion.

FireworksIMG_9829With July 4th coming up it’s time again for some fireworks photos. Definitely one of the more colorful things you can shoot it makes for a nice shot and an easy one at that using the the DPR articles below.

  • Fireworks: http://photorec.tv/2011/06/fireworks-how-to/
  • Macro Sparks: http://photorec.tv/2015/06/macro-sparks/
  • Sparks with Steel Wool: http://photorec.tv/2014/02/steel-wool-photography-quick-how-to/
  • Remember the black snake fireworks you used as a kid that grew when you lit them? Well now you can try the same thing, in mass, and its actually pretty cheap overall. Make yourself a army of growing snakes by following the recipe below.
    • 4 parts sugar + 1 part baking soda, add rubbing alcohol or lighter fluid and light. Ammonium Nitrate instead of sugar has a stronger effect but is more expensive.
  • Paper Lanterns & Other Special Eventslantern-fest
    • Check your area to see if they have any special firework events. Using my state of Michigan for example Grand Rapids has a Lantern Fest each year in October.


Backgroundsfire-wall-10Wall of Sparks via Steel WoolUnlike spinning steel wool you can get sparks oriented with your subject which makes for a nice background for a portrait.  This one requires a bit of elevation to get the effect which gets a bit tricky as you're going to end up with someone on a ladder or up in a tree with an extension cord. It makes for a nice effect as unlike the spinning sparks this creates a shower background. You can even add to the show by integrating the background, for example having a couple hold an umbrella that's getting hit by a few sparks that are falling.Take chimney starter (or a pipe with a catch on the end) and add a layer of steel wool, use a 9v battery or lighter to get it started. Now use a hair dryer or even better a heat gun to blow air through the pipe and unlike spinning it this way you can get a wall of sparks oriented straight with your subject. By doing this behind your subject you can use gravity to feed the sparks down while walking left or right to make a complete wall.Wall of FireFor a bit more of a dramatic background that adds contrast to a photo you can try making a firewall. Essentially its the same process as lightpainting but done on a much larger scale. Like the wall of sparks above it does require a bit of help but makes for a great shot overall.http://www.diyphotography.net/how-to-create-a-wall-of-fire/CookingcookingFire and cooking just go together, and it’s an excuse to pull the grill out this weekend. For you foodies it's a nice way to stand out for fire photos and makes for a nice photo overall. As a bonus you get some nice food so its a win-win.

  • Grilling
  • Cooking with alcohol
  • Over a campfire
  • Cooking with a wok
  • Cooking for show, such as the Benihana Onion Volcano
  • Birthday cake

Melinda FireLeave It to the ProsLastly be safe, no unnecessary risks for a photo, if you think it might be dangerous it's best to avoid it. One of the local photographers in town here has a scar on his hand from trying to hold two steel balls while they were on fire. That said if you know someone trained to do it, or have an event in town, take a few shots just be safe doing it.

  • Fire dancing, breathing, eating, swords, poi, etc
  • Holding fire
  • Being on fire
  • Big explosions
  • Flaming aerosol
  • Flash paper
  • Fire arrows

Don’t forget to enter this weeks fire Instagram challenge ‪#‎PRTV_Fire

How-to: Macro Sparks Photography


Safety first, you're playing with fire so take a few precautions.

  • Plan ahead where things are going to go and do a dry run before it gets too dark.
  • Fire is bad, water is good, but water is also bad for a camera. Remember to have a bucket of water to put the sparklers in but don’t fill it so full that it's going to spill everywhere if you accidently knock it over.
  • Don’t wear synthetic material around fire. Cotton and wool will burn normally so you can take it off in a hurry if it does catch fire. Materials like polyester and nylon will melt onto you and then you're going in for a trip to the ER.
  • Remember your camera is plastic, don’t get it too close to the sparks if possible. If you still want to be close shroud the camera in something that isn’t immediately going to burn to protect it.
  • Watch where your sparks are going and keep track of your firesource so you don’t cause any accidents.
  • Finally if you live in California don’t play with fire, it’s the last thing you guys need at the moment.

Materials Neededsparklers

  • Camera
  • A relatively close to macro lens, in my case a Canon 55-250 since I’m not made of money
  • Tripod
  • Sparklers
  • Lighter
  • Bucket of Water to douse sparklers
  • Flashlight
  • Remote, not required but very helpful for taking bursts

In terms of sparklers I use TNT Fireworks #8 Gold Sparklers, $2 for six boxes at Kmart so they are not the most expensive ones. Honestly they are junk, but in our case that actually works out for once. Mainly they are short, so short I’d never give a kid one as they go out in about 30 seconds max. For us though being a macro shot anything outside of the frame is wasted so thats a plus. Being so cheap the material also has a tendency to flake off as it's sparking which is nice as we can catch a lot of secondary sparks as those pieces burn up. I wouldn’t suggest the color changing variety as your white balance is going to be a bit random.Sparks_1Once you’ve got a sparkler in the ground setup the tripod to your lens’s minimum focus distance, or in other words as close as possible for your lens. Getting it as close to the subject and still in focus is the goal but watch out that it's not dangerously close in the case of a true macro lens. In the case of a partial macro shot just keep in mind that you will have to do a bit of cropping later (See Photorec.tv - Super Moon? Super Crop!).SparksYou need to nail the focus perfectly. Use a flashlight or whatever light source you have available to light up the sparkler. You need to be exact as being a macro shot your depth of field is going to be about the same as the width of the sparkler. Since the focus is so shallow we want to catch sparks traveling parallel with our focus plane, the window of focus in front of the camera, so that everything lines up in focus as much as possible.Sparks_3Decide your composition. I don’t think you're going to want a pole(the sparkler) in the center of your photo so adjust as needed to get it to the far left or right so its not in the way. You want to get the middle of the sparkler in frame as the top is a bit of a waste before it gets going. I prefer out of frame personally as it maximizes the amount of frame you have to work with to get the shot even though you lose one side of the sparkler.SparksFor manual settings it’s a pretty simple shot to setup. Being it’s a light source we can use ISO 100 which conveniently blacks out the background if it's not completely dark yet. F/13 aperture to get the depth of field wide as possible. Speed is the tricky part, too slow and you’ve got a massive overexposed explosion, too fast and its dim with tiny lines. For a more chaotic busier photo go 0.3” Sec, to catch fewer straighter lines go 1/25” Sec, and 1/10" Sec for a happy medium.Sparks_6If you have image stabilization turn it off. It’s not doing anything while attached to a tripod and actually induces a slight blur. The system can’t detect any movement and on occasion will inadvertently cause a shake. With the macro shots in this case the tiniest shake is going to blur the photo and you just wasted a sparkler. This isn't a constant effect and will only happen to a few rare photos but its better for this to be a habit now then learn the lesson while your on a expensive vacation.RemoteFor shooting your going to want a burst of photos without touching the camera. A remote is going to be very handy in this case as it can be held down to continuously take photos. Alternatively a self timer set to take multiple shots is your best option sans remote. At this point its the same process as shooting lightning, we want to capture a bunch of shots so we can sort through them later.

With everything set up now light the sparkler, count to three so its in frame, and start taking photos of the sparks.Post processing is a bit tricky in this case. Unlike shooting thunderstorms where a shot with lightning is evident you have to sort through the photos to find the sparks in focus. As I said previously if you can’t get to a 1:1 macro shot you will have to do a bit of cropping for size and composition. Camera’s now take large enough photos that if you have to lose a good portion to get your shot overall it’s still plenty large enough for small prints and displaying online.Quick tip: For editing check your white balance, you may have to bring it back a bit cooler to get the gold color as in some shots they might be a bit warm.Sparks_7 Learn how to Take Epic Fireworks Photos 

DIY - Black Rapid and Dolica Tripod Plate - Making them work together

One of my readers sent me his excellent solution that allows him to use his Black Rapid Fastener and Dolica quick release plate. Dolica AX620B100 and Black Rapid SportFor a Dolica quick release plate to use it with a black rapid sport requires a few modifications if you want to use both without having to switch. Technically this works on any similar designs with a 5mm or more available space under the quick release plate. I didn’t want to spend the money for a Manfrotto tripod for it to be compatible, and even that has issues with tolerances.Suggested fixes were Black Rapid’s recommended M-plate by Custom SLR is $70 and Really Right Stuff has an L plate for $60. For $17.95 you can replace the fastener with Black Rapid’s FR-T1 Manfrotto RC2 version and skip the adapter plate. Unfortunately while looking up the FR-T1 the same issue pops up with the neck of the screw blocking the inset of the quick release. Black Rapid sent me the specifications and compared to the Dolica fastener everything is relatively the same except for the inset.Black Rapid FR-T1So… Remove the offending material! Really, it’s made out of stainless steel, it’s going to hold either way. No guarantees but if you’re paranoid of the screw coming out or metal breaking you can use an op/tech H uni-loop as a backup to a top connection(more about using the uni-loop as backup). It is the perfect size to connect from behind the Black Rapid carabineer to one of the top points of the Canon Rebels.Black Rapid fastenerGet a grinder, dremel, etc. with a bit that can grind stainless steel. Take the lip down to the hole in your quick release so it can inset for the least amount of wiggle. You can use Sugru to rubberize it and fill in gaps as well so things don’t slide around. Connect it all up and secure the carabineer with gaffers tape (does not leave residue) to make sure the slide does not retract.
Thanks to Roy for sharing this excellent DIY.