Category Archives: Macro

Lume Cube Review

The makers of Lume Cube have a new  smaller and less powerful but a highly efficient light designed for phone photography called the Life Lite.  This is a smart, Bluetooth controlled, pocket-sized Lifestyle Light for iPhone, Android, DSLR or a GoPro. The Life Light will be available in March.

This gadget review however, is of the original Lume Cube and the cheaper version that does not have any bluetooth connectivity. Both are identical in performance and while you can controll one with a smart phone the lite version is all manual.  I have been using the Lume Cube for many months and have been most satisfied with its performance and portability.  I have used these lights for macro, video and portraiture and love the results they have helped produce.

Specs:

  • Type LED
  • Output Variable: 0 to 1500 Lumens
  • Strobe: Variable 1/8000 to 1 second
  • Mount Type: 1/4″-20 female
  • Power Source: Integrated battery
  • Battery Duration: 100% Brightness: 20 minutes; 90% Brightness: 60 minutes; 50% Brightness: 120 minutes
  • Power Connector: USB (for charging)
  • Waterproof Depth: 100′ / 30.5 m
  • Dimensions: 1.5 x 1.5 x 1.5″

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

The Lume Cube comes in a small cube shaped cardboard box that contains the Lume Cube and a USB charging cable.

You do need to unscrew a small cover to access the charging port.  This access cover is a requirement as the Lume Cube is rated to be waterproof to depth of 100 feet.

Shaped as a cube, the unit has two rubberized push button switches on the top and a 1/4 20 mount that can be used to mount the light on a light stand, tripod or any flexible light mounting device.

The two push buttons control the video light and the alternate flash function of the device. Each time you depress the on/off video switch the light cycles through 10 levels of intensity.

You can also control the Lume Cube using the mobile app. Lume Cube has simplified its lighting controls with a proprietary wireless, Bluetooth-enabled app, available on both Apple iOS and Android. The app is capable of controlling up to 5 Lume Cubes simultaneously. The app allows you to adjust the brightness, flash duration and red eye latency on each Lume Cube independently; and with its onboard optical sensor, Lume Cube can be configured as a slave flash unit to be fired by any other external flash.You have to register your Lume Cube to sync it to your app once registered you can control all your Lume Cube’s power and settings separately.

Lume Cube Setup and test for portraits

To test the Lume Cubes I fitted two Lume Cubes on two separate light stands. The “Main” Lume Cube was place so as to create Rembrandt lighting on the dummy head.  The second was place to create a gentle fill.  As you can see from the image below, the Lume Cube, due mainly to its size creates a fairly hard light.  The settings were ISO 200, f/1.7 at 1/125 sec. using a Panasonic Lumix GX85 body and a Lumix 42.5mm f/1.7 lens wide open.  The light emitted is cool and for this test I used an X-Rite Color Checker Passport to balance the temperature.

The second test was conducted with the same placement of the lights but instead of the Lume Cubes facing the dummy head directly the light was bounced off two Rogue Flash Benders.  No Diffusion material was used.

As you can see the light was much softer and way more pleasing in the image below.  The settings were ISO 640, F/1.7 at 1/80 sec.  Clearly there is about 3 stops of light loss when using the Flash Benders.  However, the soft light is excellent for portraiture.

 

Lume Cube for Macro/Close-up Photography

The Lume Cube produces a really hard light as it is a very small light, but also a very powerful one.  The Lume Cubes were about 1.5 inches from the subject.  Exposure triad: F/4, 1/800 sec., ISO 640.  The lens was a 30mm macro with an extension tube.  Camera: Panasonic Lumix GX85.

The following is the setup:

The image shown below is a 45 image stack using the GX85’s focus bracketing feature.

The portability of these little powerhouses has me convinced, and I tend to carry two in my bag at all times.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Also posted in Accessories, Lighting, Lumix GX85, Mirrorless, Panasonic, Photography, Portraits, Product Reviews, Stacked Image

Review of the Platypod Pro Max

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A while back I had done a review of the exceptionally versatile and compact Platypod Pro® Deluxe Kit. Now the makers have introduced a follow-up to the Platypod Pro called the Max.

Much planning, engineering and fine machining go in to making the Platypod Pro® Max. The Max’s initial form is stamped out of a 5mm thick sheet of aircraft grade aluminum maintaining absolute flatness. Using Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM), the plate is computer machine precision drilled for all holes and slots. Edges are round-routed and holes either threaded or chamfered to avoid any sharp edges. Key holes slots for attaching the spike screw box are drilled only partway through the plate with very low tolerances to allow easy but firm attachment. These last holes are invisible from underneath the plate.

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I have been informed by the manufacturer that the machining quality and workmanship on the Max is so meticulous that despite computer aided manufacturing the factory can only produce 1500 every 25 days!

Like the original Platypod Pro the Platypod Pro Max is a sturdy flat mini tripod ideal for low-angle shots and situations where traditional tripods are cumbersome or impractical. It is however, significantly larger, has four spikes/reversible rubber feet rather than three, a belt loop, a single 3/8 inch 16 ball head mounting screw and a 1/4 inch 20 removable stud to mount accessories.

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Using the Max in Yosemite

Here is an image captured with the Max set up on top of the stone wall at Tunnel View – Yosemite NP.

Tunnel View at Sunset

Tunnel View at Sunset

Unlike its smaller brother the Max supports ball heads of any size and is rated to support 300 pounds. A 3/8 inch 16 threaded screw hole allows you to mount the Max directly to your tripod as and when needed.   Made of aircraft grade aluminum anodized black with beautiful self-explanatory laser etchings, the Max comes in a red microfiber drawstring pouch.

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Max mounted with my heavily used RRS BH55 mounted to an Arcatech 1170 leveling base (note the Acratech bubble level)

If you already own a Platypod Pro the Max does not replace it, rather it compliments it where situations demand a larger base or when you need to physically move your low lying camera rig across the sand or grass when photographing wildlife.

Specifications:

  1. Base – 6061 black anodized aircraft-grade aluminum. 5 mm thick. 5.25 x 7.75” (5-year warranty—Full replacement of parts for any defect in workmanship.)
  2. Fiberglass-reinforced nylon removable “bayonet style” storage box mounted onto plate to hold four 1/4-20 spikes, 2 inches long, with heavy-duty rubber feet and locking nuts. Small magnets keep spikes in place for storage.
  3. Five 1/4-20 threaded holes strategically placed to allow use of spike feet in configurations of one, two, three, or four at a time.
  4. Two 2-inch belt slots to secure to any cylindrical object or to tape onto floors for remote camera setups.
  5. 1/4-20 and 3/8-16 accessory threaded holes for attachment to tripods or quick-release devices under the unit.
  6. 3/8-16 TA2 titanium photographic bolt drilled and countersunk through the plate and welded in place for large tripod ball heads, such as the RRS-BH55, even with spike-feet in place.
  7. Two non-threaded holes for permanent or semi-permanent mounting to floors, walls, ceilings or panels.
  8. Weight: 13 ounces, including spikes and storage box.

At approximately 5 x 8 inches it is about the size of an iPad Mini and fits well in any camera case that has a slot or pouch designed to hold a laptop or an iPad. As an option you can use either slot or one of the non-threaded holes and a carabiner to hang the Max from your belt or a loop on your backpack.

_DSC4380-EditAs compared to the original Platypod Pro, Max’s larger footprint means more stability. Like the Pro, Max is made of aircraft-grade aluminum with an embedded 3/8-inch titanium bolt. However, it does come with a few features, including a pair of slots that can secure Max via a bungee cord, zip-ties or even your belt to freestanding objects and structures. In the center are 1/4- and 3/8-inch holes to attach Max to quick-release devices, such as the Peak Design Capture Clip, or directly onto a tripod center column. A very convenient 1/4 – 1/4-inch male cross-nut allows attachment of flexible arms, speed-lights and numerous accessories.  Here I used a Novoflex Flex Arm and a Lume Cube LED to light the crystal.  The camera is a Panasonic GH4 with a 30mm Lumix macro lens.  A second 1/4 – 1/4 and a second Flex Arm would be ideal for cross lighting a macro subject.

The Max‘s larger base allows use of most any ball head. The RRS B55 is the largest ball head I own and I had no problem attaching it to the Max and all the knobs have adequate clearance. As I no longer use large DSLR’s all my tests were done with Sony and Panasonic mirrorless bodies. Using the Max with an A7RII and the 70 – 200 mm f/4.0 lens was a breeze. I also mounted a Panasonic GH4 with the new Leica 100-400 using a Wimberly SideKick for quick reaction time and maneuverability. When using the Sidekick it is imperative that you remove the holder for the spikes with a simple twist and place the cross-nut in one of the corner positions, out-of-the-way.  This gives the sidekick the clearance  for 360 degree rotation. The Max supported this rig very well.

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With the Platypod Pro you had to be careful mounting heavier gear. It was best to ensure the center of gravity was as close to the center of the Platypod Pro mounted ball-head. With the Max, this is a less of an issue. With a medium or large ball head the Max will comfortably support most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras fitted with normal to long telephoto lenses. A super telephoto lens properly mounted on a good ball head works well too. Here as in the image below I tested it using the RRS BH55 and the Wimberley Sidekick with a Canon 500 mm f/4.0 lens attached to a Sony A7R II using a Metabones IV adaptor.

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Similar to the Platypod the Max is ideal great for ground level photography and videography, a mount for action cameras and for creating panoramas. When creating panoramas use a pan/tilt ball head like the Unique as shown below or attach a leveling base (see following image) below the ball head as shown in an image above where the RSS BH55 is mounted on top of the Acratech 1170 leveling base. As the Max is made of a relatively thin aluminum plate it would be difficult to have a built-in level. A third-party bubble level can be adhered to the max or simply place on it to level the Max. When it is necessary to level the Max it is best to use three of the four spikes or rubber ends. Four legs are great for stability but not so for leveling. The Max is best used without spikes or feet when you want to have the flexibility of sliding it in any direction on flat surfaces, sand or grass. When friction is important then the spikes are the best option. In the reverse orientation the rubber caps not only provide friction preventing the base from sliding around but also prevent damage to furniture, painted surfaces, etc.

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For surfaces like asphalt, rocks and brick the spikes are your best choice for stability. To attach the base plate to a fence post, rail or tree limb, a pair of bungee cords, straps or your belt work great. All you need is to secure the cord around your object and hook the ends into the slots or holes in the base plate. Belts and straps can be passed through the slots on each side of the Max to secure it to any post, tree trunk or similar object.

The Max with its little brother the Platypod Pro have a permanent home in my photography kit. I find I am using these support systems more than using my tripods.

More on the Platypod products and their web site

All company names, products and devices mentioned in this review are trademarks of the respective companies, registered in the U.S. and other countries.  

Also posted in Accessories, Mirrorless, News, Panasonic GH4, Panning, Photographs, Photography, Product Reviews, Sony A7R, Time-Lapse

One Day Workshop Schedule

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The following is the workshop schedule for the first half of 2016:

ALL ONE-DAY WORKSHOPS INCLUDE A PIZZA LUNCH

Workshop details are available from the Registration Page.

March 20 – Macro and Close-up Photography

March 26 – Flash Photography, High Speed flash, creative lighting

April 3 – Macro and Close-up Photography

April 9 – Portrait and Lighting Techniques

April 10 – Digital Photography A-Z.  This is a one day three part course that will teach you camera basics, post processing and printing.

June 4 – The Digital Darkroom – a course that covers image capture, asset management, processing and enhancement, output to print and web media. A one day program for digital image making workflow

June 5 – Flash Photography, High Speed flash, creative lighting

June 11 – Timelapse Photography, post processing and video assembly

June 12 – Macro and Close-up Photography

If you have any questions or would like more information please call 617-759-0010 or email sv@shivverma.com

Please use this REGISTRATION link to register for these workshops.

Also posted in Composite, Flowers, High Key, Lighting, Mirrorless, Noise Reduction, Panning, Photography, Portraits, Software, Stacked Image, Strobes, Time-Lapse, Tips, Workshops

Light of Cape Cod – Photo Workshop

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A 4 day 3 night photo workshop that includes lodging and site fees

Mid Spring in Cape Cod is a multi faceted photo opportunity with truly spectacular scenics and some wildlife.  The tourists have not crowded the roads and traffic is not a nightmare.  This very special workshop is for all levels of photographers from beginner to advanced.  The Cape provides some of the most incredible landscapes and seascapes and the light during spring is exceptional.  We will explore and photograph the Cape’s classic sea shore, sand dunes, light houses and some wildlife (including migratory birds).  We will determine schedules and locations based on weather forecasts, tides and sunrise/sunset times.  We may even explore the opportunity to do some night photography.

(CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS)

Also posted in Educational, Night Photography, Photographs, Photography, Stacked Image, Star Trails, Time-Lapse, Workshops

Wild Flowers, Smoky Mountains and Cades Cove – Spring Workshop

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April 17 to 22, 2016 – Six Day 5 Night Photo Workshop

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a world-renowned preserve of wildflower diversity over 1,660 kinds of flowering plants are found in the park, more than in any other North American national park. In fact, the park is sometimes referred to as the “Wildflower National Park.” From the earliest hepaticas and spring-beauties in the late winter to the last asters in the late fall, blooming flowers can be found year-round in the park. Wildlife is fairly abundant in Cades Cove and we will have opportunities if lucky, to photograph bears. Landscapes, rivers, waterfalls and much more – a photographer’s paradise.

CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS

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Also posted in Black & White, Blur, Educational, Flowers, Horses, Mirrorless, Night Photography, Photographs, Photography, Time-Lapse, Workshops

Hummingbird Moth Hemaris thysbe

Hummingbird Moth Hemaris thysbe

Hummingbird Moth Hemaris thysbe

The Hummingbird Moth Hemaris thysbe, unlike most moths that are nocturnal or shade loving, is seen on bright sunny days. It is a fantastic hovering species  that flies like a hummingbird and hence its name.

They feed on nectar using a very long proboscis.  Their wings flap at incredible speeds.  This image was captured at 1/1600 sec and I was unable to freeze the wings.

 

Also posted in Blur, Educational, Flowers, Mirrorless, Motion, Photography Tagged , |

What else is in my bag – Part 1

Apart from cameras, lenses, filters we as photographers carry a number of gizmos to help our image capture.  This is part 1 of my list of gizmos.  These are all reasonably priced and many are less than $10.  Most on-line photography stores carry these items and you should check them out.

  1. Gray Card  – Get your exposure right. Available in cardboard and durable plastic these are one of the most valuable tools for your camera kit. The camera may be smart but it is easily fooled.  It will under or over expose very bright or very dark scenes. You should use a gray card to set the exposure for much more accurate results. Some of the newer cards come as sets with a black and white card.  This can also help you set your white balance.  A step-up would be the X-Rite Color Checker Passport.
  2. High velocity blower – Never clean your lens without first blowing off any dust, grit or lint.   The last thing you want is to scratch your lens as your clean it with a lens pen or lens cloth.  A good blower costs under $10 – the one I like is the Visible Dust Manual Blower. Adorama and B&H have these.
  3. Lens Pen – This is another must have tool for your bag.  There are many manufacturers and models available.  The ones with a carbon bad need to be activated before each use. Others like the Allsop have replaceable tips.  I keep an Allsop in each of my camera bags.
  4. Lens Cleaning Cloth – A good lens cloth is a must in your bag.  Zeiss makes some of the finest and can be purchased from Walmart and B&H for $3 and up.
  5. 1 or 1.5 inch natural bristle soft painter’s brush – An ideal too to get lager dust and sand particles off your equipment.  Keep one in your bag – you will be happy you have it on those dusty trips.
  6. Small micro fiber or cotton hand towel – You never know when you will need it.  These are great for wiping of moisture from your gear on those wet days. Grocery stores and Bed Bath & Beyond carry these.
  7. Spray bottle – You may not always get a dewy morning but you can create dew on flower petals and spider webs with a handy fine-mist spray bottle. Fine mist spray bottles can be found for under $2 at Amazon.
  8. Bubble level – A three axis bubble level for your hotshot mount will keep your horizons level.  If you have an inbuilt electronic level in the camera then you can skip this tool.
  9. Elastic bands and small ziplock bags – You will find many uses for this combo. A lost lens cap can be a problem but not if you can put a ziplock bag around the front element and secure it with an elastic band.  If your zoom lens tends to creep the elastic band can help keep it in place.
  10. Large garbage bag – During any outdoor shoot I always pack one or two large garbage bags in my bag or in the car.  They are great when you need some rain protection, need to keep your equipment on the salty sand, need to lay down at ground level when shooting low to the ground.  A black garbage bag acts as a great gobo when needed, translucent bags make great diffusers.
  11. Gaffer’s tape – 1 inch width in black, a small roll is perfect to secure items when needed.  This is a must have to tape down your lens at infinity when doing any astro photography.  A small piece can be used to cover the eyepiece of the viewfinder, preventing stray light from spoiling the exposure.  It is also a great all around repair tool.
  12. Parchment paper, issue paper, or rip (stock) cloth – A small piece about 4 inches square is good but larger pieces can be useful for other situations.  You can tape this (using gaffer’s tape to your flash to diffuse the light.  If you keep a larger piece you can have someone hold it to diffuse bright sunlight while doing close-up or macro photography. Get parchment paper any kitchen or grocery store. rip stock can be purchased from a fabric store or on-line.
  13. White foam-core – This makes a great reflector, if you need a silver reflector keep some kitchen foil and fold it over the foam-core.  You can use the foam-core as a gobo or even as a white background for small subjects. Staples, Office Max, Michael’s or A.C. Moore are ideal for this.
  14. LED Flashlight – a must have when you are in the dark.  A great tool for light painting and when you need just that added light for filling in shadows or adding a highlight. My favorites are Coast and SureFire (SureFire lights are available from the SureFire website and Amazon).  Others can be purchased at Home Depot, Amazon or Lowes carry great LED Lights
  15. Small notebook and a ballpoint pen – Journaling is key.  Write down locations, notes, day and time of best light, etc.  Draw sketches of what there is so you can come back for better images.  If nothing else – you can use it to jot down names and contact info of fellow photographers you meet.

In the near future I will follow-up with additional items I find useful.  Some for the bag and others that are good to have. In the mean time, why don’t you use the comment link on the top of this post to share with us some of your special items.

If you do plan on getting any of these items please use my affiliate links on the right column of this blog post or use the Products and Discounts Page for additional links. 

Also posted in Accessories, Educational, Lighting, Night Photography, Photography, Tips

Nissin i40 – an exceptional pocketable flash

Nissin i40 for MFT

Nissin i40 for MFT

I had been anxiously waiting for the two evaluation units to arrive and finally they arrived two days ago, December 15, 2014. The small Nissin i40 is made for Canon, Nikon, Micro Four Thirds, Sony and Fuji cameras. With a current street price of $269 this is a very affordable unit.

In the box is the flash head, a stand with a metal 1/4 20 thread for mounting on a light stand or other device, a diffuser, and a quick start instruction manual.  A nice belt mountable pouch for carrying the unit is provided and they include a carabiner so you can attach the pouch to any belt, strap or camera bag loops and rings. A spare set of AA batteries fits nicely in the diffuser so you can carry enough reserve power in one convenient pouch.

The i40 weighs 7 oz and fully extended is under 3 1/2 inches. The unit is powered by 4 AA batteries and unlike the larger Nissin flashes this does not have a cartridge system for the batteries. With a guide number of 40 or at ISO 100 of 131′ at 105 mm and 89′ at 35 mm position, the unit is suitable for most photographers who like to carry a handy flash for fill as well as indoor photography needs.Nissin 140

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Also posted in Accessories, High Key, Lighting, Photography, Strobes Tagged , , , , , , |

Winter Storm Nika Forces Indoor Photography

_S5A9977-Edit nkWe have about 10 inches of snow, but with the rain the snow is is getting packed down and getting heavier by the minute.  It’s just not conducive for any outdoor winter photography so decided to play with some water drops.  Using a TriggerTrap V1 hooked up to a Nissen 866 flash head, Rogue gels, a dropper and a pan of water.  Flash set at 1/64 power backlighting the water drop through an acrylic panel. Camera at ISO 100, aperture f/10 in Bulb mode.

 

Also posted in Lighting, Photographs, Photography, Strobes Tagged , , |

2014 – 1st Quarter One-Day Workshops

Here is the schedule for the first Quarter of  2014.  Please use this REGISTRATION link for details about each workshop and to register.

REMEMBER ALL ONE-DAY WORKSHOPS INCLUDE A PIZZA LUNCH

January 11 – Product Photography and Lighting Techniques

January 12 – Food Photography and Lighting Techniques

January 18 – Lighting for Portraiture

January 19 – Timelapse Photography, post processing and video assembly

January 25 – Macro Closeup

January 26 – The Digital Darkroom – a course that covers capture to process and enhancement to output to print and web media. A one day program for digital image making workflow

February 1 – Flower Photography, Textures, Blending and more

February 2 – Lightroom 5

February 8 – HDR – done right using Photoshop, Photomatics, NiK HDR Efex 2, Enfuse

February 9 – Macro Closeup

February 22 – Timelapse Photography, post processing and video assembly

February 23 – Photography Basics 1 day Class 

March 1 – Flash Photography

March 2 – Lightroom 5

If you have any questions or would like more information please call 617-759-0010 or email sv @ shivverma.com (please remove the spaces)

 

Also posted in Educational, Flowers, Lighting, Motion, News, Photography, Portraits, Presentations, Software, Stacked Image, Time-Lapse, Video, Workshops