need some canned air? have an air horn? (originally posted 2007-02-12)

i might be the only person on the planet with this issue, but...

i need some canned air. i just happened to have a couple 8oz air horns. i dunno why, i just do.

carefully unscrew the back of the horn. there's a spring inside, be careful not to let it shoot out. and don't bend the metal disk. set those parts aside and you now you have canned air with a neat little handle.

the air shoots out the small hole at the bottom of the ring:

extra parts:

also, as with canned air, the can will get very cold during/after use. and be careful not to freeze/get the tetrafluoroethane on your skin.

need a macro lens? just flip it. (originally posted 2007-02-12)

if you're ever in quick need of a macro lens, here's a cheap easy way to get one.

first, know that this is not a proper way to use your camera/lens. doing this could result in a damaged camera/lens if you're not careful!

it's simple, just remove your lens, flip it around, and hold the wrong end of your lens against your camera's lens mount. there is obviously risk in scratching/damaging your lens, mirror, and/or shutter, so be careful. if you like this idea and would like something more stable, there are conversion kits made for just this technique.

here's some of my results using my Canon 350D (Rebel XT) and Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens:
(click to enlarge)

original lens at max zoom:

reversed lens at max zoom:

original lens at max zoom:

reversed lens at max zoom:

other tips:
-with most of the weight on the opposite end, holding the reversed lens can be cumbersome. be especially careful while focusing.
-it's a good idea to keep a UV/haze filter on your lens at all times, but especially while trying this. better to scratch a $20-$40 filter than a several hundred dollar lens.
-when you remove a Canon lens it'll return to its max aperture. if you want to stop down, set your aperture like normal, then hold the depth of field preview button while removing the lens. the lens will stay at that f-stop until you reattach the lens. (i don't know what negative consequences might come from this, so be careful. and it's probably not a good idea to leave/store your lens at an altered f-stop for long)
-make sure your lens is parallel to your shutter. if it sits at an angle your image will be partially blurred (similar to a tilt lens).

i discovered this idea here, there's also a lot more information about the technique and equipment.


while doing this there is a large risk of scratching your mirror, sensor, lens, and all sorts of other delicate internal parts of both camera body and lens.

ALSO, the photo sensor inside a DSLR should never be exposed to the open air while the camera is on. And one should avoid leaving any camera DSLR camera body without a lens or body cap for any longer than necessary. a turned-on camera = an electromagnetically charged photo sensor = a dust magnet.


What kind of fash to get for your Canon Rebel? (originally posted 2007-01-07)

i just got this question from a friend. and after writing a long-winded response to it i figured i'd just as well post it is as a FAQ-style blog...


hey bro. its T. i dont know if Z has told you or not but i got a rebel xti for christmas. so far its amazing and im just kinda learing as i go along but i got a pretty nice zoom lens. and if i were to get a flash. from your opinion. what kind and where would you get it at?

-thanks, T


the Rebel's built in flash is a small low-powered direct flash. you can buy larger direct flash units and they're usually less expensive, but direct flash rarely makes for a good photo. you need a good bounce flash, meaning you need a flash with a head that will tilt and swivel. so instead of hitting your subject with a lot of harsh, hard light directly, you're "bouncing" the flash off of a ceiling or near-by surfaces which softens or diffuses the light and results in a MUCH better image. there's a lot you can play with and experiment bouncing off different colored surfaces and different directions (an off camera cord can also be useful for that, but will run you around $50). you can also use diffusers to soften the light. they're generally made from a translucent material covering the flash source. you can buy ready made ones ($10-$30) or make your own using papers, cloth, clear/foggy plastics, etc.

flash photography guide/tutorial for Canon EOS cameras

i use the Canon 430EX Speedlite. it'll do about everything you need, short of transmitting to a slave flash (but that's more advance/complicated stuff). it'll run you around $230. you can always hit Ebay for a cheaper used one or Canon's 420EX which is their older model, but be careful not to buy anything too thrashed. and if the seller is a photographer, ask what kind. if he/she is a photojournalist, field photographer, etc (like me) they're a lot more likely to damage they're equipment (like me).

there're off brand flashes like Sigma and Sunpack, but i don't know much about them. they're cheaper, but you generally get what you pay for. in my opinion you're best bet is to stick with Canon if you can afford it.

but no mater what kind of flash you get, remember they eat batteries quick, so be prepared to buy a lot or some good rechargeables. and be careful how you treat camera equipment. the Rebel is a consumer/pro-sumer level camera. it's damned sturdy for what it is, but it's not built especially tough. and the hot-shoe (flash mount) can come loose if it's thrashed around too much (mine's starting to). also, as far as prices and bargain go, don't trust mail-in rebates.

B&H is generally the best place online to buy camera gear. Amazon probably carries most everything B&H does, but it'll be harder to find, more confusing, and provides less information on the product. and Best Buy usually has a few 430EX Speedlites in stock, but you'll pay a little more (which may balance out compared to item+shipping costs ordering online). and obviously, don't expect anyone at Best Buy to know dick about real photography stuff. Real camera shops are best for quality, quantity, and variety of equipment, but they're few and far between. Peace Camera in Raleigh is the nearest good one, but Camera Corner down Church Street might work. And sometimes Wolf/Ritz Camera will do in a pinch.

Canon 430EX Speedlite @ B&H Photo
Canon 430EX Speedlite @ Best Buy
Canon 430EX Speedlite @ Camera Corner
all other current flashes for Canon EOS cameras @ B&H Photo
off camera cord for Canon EX flashes @ B&H Photo
good/simple diffuser @ B&H Photo
other diffusers @ B&H Photo

Zoo Pictures 2006-12-13 (originally posted 2006-10-13)

please let me know what you think about my new pics, good or bad. i could use some REAL critiques.


Some shots i especially like:


I went to the zoo this afternoon. i didn't have any work to do and RCC photo students get in free.

i feel like i'm actually improving as a photographer, and that makes me really happy. it's great to finally have a firm understanding of the fundamentals. and it's amazing i've gotten as far as i have without them. i think about a lot more when i shoot now. before, it was all trail-and-error. take a few pictures, check to see how they came out, play with some settings, take some more or move-on. now, i find myself rarely looking at the the LCD screen. i think so much more about image quality, ISO speed, white balance, metering, composition, balance, etc. not that i didn't know (or at least have a rough idea) what these terms meant before, but now i'm using them properly, and my end results look A LOT better to me.

this is where i live and proof i'm a nerd (originally posted 2006-10-08)

i just discovered "photomerge" in photoshop, and went to town photographing my apartment (even though it's meant for landscapes and is confused by fisheye distortion).
i've wanted a good fast super-wide angle lens for a while now (the one i want is $1400), and i just get a huge kick out of this little cheat/shortcut to that kind of image.
i did get a little overzealous in some places and overlapped the images too much, which confused the program and caused some distortion, but over all i like it a lot.

these were all shot late this morning/early afternoon
using natural/ambient light and some white balance tweaking:
Living room 1
Living room 2
Dining room 1
Dining room 2
Dining room 3
Luc's (room mate) room 1
Luc's (room mate) room 2
My bedroom 1
My bedroom 2
My bedroom 3
My bedroom 4

i shot this one like normal and cropped: