As well as being a writer (and all the other hats I wear), I’m a photographer. I carry cameras everywhere. This can become annoying both to me (“Gack! Why did I bring a full size Canon on an eight-mile hike?”) and to others (“Gack! Why did you bring a full size Canon to a formal brunch?”). But I like taking pictures of things. What can I say?
However, most of my camera work is outdoors. I like using natural light — and only in part is that due to the fact that I don’t own a lot of fancy light rigs and such. I just like the way natural light looks as it falls across the landscapes I love taking pictures of. Also, I always remember from my photography classes (if I have remembered nothing else) that dealing with off-camera flashes requires a certain affinity for math. I tend to avoid math in all but the most pressing circumstances (“Solve this quadratic equation, Mr. Bond, or we will skewer you with this laser-powered toaster!” — okay, okay, my villains may be questionable when it comes to their death-dealing mad science projects). But in every photog’s life a little light must fall (as well as math). Thus it was that I found myself building a light diffusion box and researching daylight bulbs in order to complete a project I had agreed to for Angela Bliss of Art of Bliss (www.angelabliss.com). The project involved photographing around 60 pieces of painted art, many of them heavily textured, thus creating a nightmare of shadows and lighting issues. After several failed attempts at using my beloved natural lighting, I realized that only a light diffusion box would do. But some of the pieces were 40 inches long, so it had to be a pretty big light diffusion box. PVC pipe to the rescue.
Here’s the recipe for that (if you’re building one of these at home, you can make the pipes any length you like; just make sure that the sides are the same size): 8 lengths of 34-in-long PVC pipe (1/4-in); 4 lengths of 40-in-long PVC pipe (still 1/4 in); eight three-node connectors (1/4-in, duh); and a couple of cheap, white sheets from Wal-Mart. Safety pins will also help until you have the time to cut the sheets up and make a sleeve for your box. I made the box 34-in high, 34-in deep, and 40-in wide (thus the 40-in pieces of pipe will be top and bottom, front and back, while the 34-inchers will be everywhere else.
Slap a couple (or four) lights all around the outside (it helps, too, if your studio has a skylight allowing you to augment with lovely, natural sunlight. Bonus!) and snap away. Well, yeah, there’s some tweaking to be done along the way. Every piece you put in the box, art in this case, will be different and have slightly different requirments for being photographed.
Anyway, you can judge the results for yourselves. Here are some samples. There are plenty more over on Angela’s website, where you can see them with far better detail. And, hey, if you’re an artist living in the Columbia River Gorge area in the Pacific Northwest and want your art photographed, let me know. Now that I’ve figured out the math, my services are swift and reasonably priced. In the meantime, go take a picture, or paint some art, or look at a landscape. It’ll make your day a better place to be…