Archive for category Photography

“I am a newbie to photography”. What does ISO, Aperture, exposure etc. mean? do I care?

I have read many explanations for these things but nothing really helps a newbie. There are concepts / acronyms that are confusing and make very little immediate sense.

  • Some cameras allow manual control and some are automatic.
  • Do you need to know how these settings work to get good images?
  • Ever asked yourself if a point and shoot camera, is as good as a Digital SLR (DSLR)?
  • Do I need a good camera body or good lenses?
  • What is full frame? how many mega pixels ?
  • Crop size? Mirrorless ?
  • Is Canon, Nikon or other better ?

So many questions !!

Firstly, the final photo will only be as good as the scene you create. How you compose it. This is why many people refuse to say that they “Take photos”. They instead “Make” Photos. It is all up to your interpretation.

Secondly, the best camera for the job, is the one you have with you. If all you have is a phone, then that is the best camera for your photo. No point trying to prepare for every situation and carrying loads of accessories, lenses, cameras etc. Use what you have. (Or break your back carrying things you will not use)

Thirdly, A point and shoot camera can take great photos. Just point it and shoot it. A fancy camera on “auto” mode can take great photos. some awesome photos have been taken by complete novices and completely by accident in “auto” mode.

Lastly, The best camera for you, is the one you can afford. Don’t spend up big, don’t spend more than you can afford. Cheap camera’s, even kids toy camera’s have produced some cool notable shots. The most important thing is to get out there, take photos and learn what looks good with the camera you have. Want to know more?

In essence, what is a photograph?

it is a capture of light. All the fancy photography words like ISO, Aperture and all the other geeky settings, just modify the light that will be captured. In “auto” mode, your camera will make decisions to control all these things for you to get the best light. Sometimes the best light is not what you want so whilst “Auto” can do a good job, it stifles the artist in you. That is why you can take it out of “Auto” mode and into the Creative mode.

How does this light work?

It can be observed from a dark room with a small hole separating you from the bright outside world, given a small enough hole, the light that comes through can cast a sharp image on the opposite wall, all be it upside down. This is such a simple fact of life that you can imagine cavemen, hiding in caves, could have seen the outside world inverted on cave walls through small holes. Were cavemen the first people to see “photographs”? No fancy technology, no science magic. This just happens with light. The simplest camera, is a box. A pin hole camera.


If you want to read up more on this, check this out

A camera obscura (Latin: “dark chamber”) is an optical device that led to photography and the photographic camera. The device consists of a box or room with a hole in one side. Light from an external scene passes through the hole and strikes a surface inside, where it is reproduced, rotated 180 degrees (thus upside-down), but with colour and perspective preserved. The image can be projected onto paper, and can then be traced to produce a highly accurate representation.

The largest camera obscura in the world is on Constitution Hill in Aberystwyth, Wales. Using mirrors, as in an 18th-century overhead version, it is possible to project a right-side-up image. Another more portable type is a box with an angled mirror projecting onto tracing paper placed on the glass top, the image being upright as viewed from the back. As the pinhole is made smaller, the image gets sharper, but the projected image becomes dimmer. With too small a pinhole, however, the sharpness worsens, due to diffraction. Most practical camera obscuras use a lens rather than a pinhole (as in a pinhole camera) because it allows a larger aperture, giving a usable brightness while maintaining focus.


So, it is a trick of light. suddenly, Cameras do not look so complicated. Believe it or not, this whole light behaviour was noted as long ago as 470 BC. (almost 2,500 years ago). The only lesson man had to learn was an image created this way, will be upside down as light travels in straight lines from its source.

So the cool thing about modern camera’s, is someone worked out how to capture images that naturally occur in nature. From Glass plates to film. Now onto electronic sensors that read the light values, flip the image and give us a photo. So, let’s think about this light. It enters a hole, it is projected upside down (in colour) and we view it. Sounds like the humble eye ?

Light enters the eye, projects onto the back of your eyeball and the brain takes the intensities / colour and flips the image to help you make sense of the structures around you.

That is cool, but how can we control light?

Thinking still about your eye, if you are indoors and walk out into bright light, you need to squint or put on sunglasses until you can see clearly. Given time, your eyes adjust and you can stop squinting. The glasses help to change the exposure. It “dulls” down the light so you can see things clearly. It stops your surroundings being bright white and overexposed. Walking back indoors, you need to take off the sunglasses as everything is dark and underexposed. You also stop squinting.

By squinting you are reducing light by bringing your eyelids together giving time for your Iris to enlarge and shrink. A bigger Iris = Bigger hole to let light through = more light and more exposure. Your Iris gets bigger at night and smaller in bright light. This circular opening (Iris) which controls how much light enters, is called the aperture.

By controlling your aperture in your eyes, using sunglasses or waiting for your eyes to adjust, you are controlling light.

You are playing with your bodies own ISO, Aperture and time. These “body settings” allow you to modify the final exposure you see. It allows you to see things better, clearer and at the correct exposure.

Comparing the eye to a camera is hard. Throughout history it has been suggested that the human eye is equivalent to a camera 35mm to 45 mm lens. Some say it is 22.3 mm f/3.2 Full frame. (I will explain F/ and Full frame). 45mm lenses were never made in any huge quantity and 50 mm whilst plentiful, does not quite line up with our eye sight. 35 mm became the accepted standard equivalent to our eyes.

Due to 35mm being the accepted standard to build things around, many early cameras had 35 mm lenses. This then developed into 35 mm film (there were smaller sizes). This is the width of the film’s recording surface (negative) for a single photo (or frame). As the lens could completely fill a 35 mm frame, it was called Full frame (The image fills the full negative frame). The film world also has bigger formats (e.g. medium format and others) but in the world of DSLR, these big formats are too expensive for most of us to play with.

A lens of 20 mm, sees more than our eyes. It has a wider field of view. It is a wide lens. A lens of 16 mm is ultra wide. It can capture way more than we can see. It has to squeeze the information into the same size sensor or film so the result is a wider field of view with everything smaller so it will fit. A 300 mm lens is a Telephoto and it enables you to see a lot further with more detail than your eyes. With these lenses you are zooming in on a small part of what you can normally seeing and making it fit to your sensor size. My biggest lens is 1600mm and with it, I can see the craters on the moon in great detail. The mm measurement in lenses is called focal length.

The mm measurement just gives you an idea how far into the scenery you will zoom or how close to your own eyesight, the image will appear to be. No biggie and fairly easy to understand. (Be aware that cameras with lenses you can’t remove, most likely have a multiplier “X” to tell you it’s zoom capabilities. This means, you take the focal length in mm, and times it buy the multiplier to get the Zoom focal length. Digital zoom is bad as it means it takes your photo and applies some maths to it to make it look zoomed in, often creating dots of the image that don’t exist. Optical zoom is good. A camera of 24 mm with 3 x Zoom and 6 x digital zoom means it can see a wider area than our eyes and zoom into 24 x 3 = 72 mm. If you take it to full 6x zoom, it means it takes the camera to x3 optical zoom and then does some “guessing” to zoom in further. It will be not as sharp and may loose colour).

The 35mm works well on Full frame digital cameras. These cameras have sensors in the back of the camera, to receive the upside down image, that are 35 mm wide. They are the same size as the negatives in 35 mm film cameras. Full frame is desirable for professional photographers but for yourself, you don’t need it. They are more expensive and work better in low light, but you pay more. To make mass production of cameras cheaper, camera makers made sensors smaller than Full frame. These are called Crop sensors. Most of the cheaper (sub $2000 cameras use crop sensors)., They are perfectly fine for normal photography. The sensors are smaller than 35mm in width (A Crop of the full frame size). They often have special lenses designed just for them so that they can work with the smaller sensors.



Here is a diagram that might better help you understand the sensor sizes.


So we have light coming into a lens, through a small hole creating an upside down image inside the camera on a sensor. What can we do to take this up an notch ?

We can play with the manual settings.

Now we can play with the light and change the exposure. (Take it out of “Auto” or point and shoot mode). We might want to do this so that we can take photos in low light, maybe stars? Maybe we want stars as pin pricks of light or maybe we want star trails (these photos need different settings). Maybe we want our subject in focus but to blur the background. Maybe we want to overexpose an image and just get the raw shapes of items in the sunlight ? All of this and more, is just playing with the light. This is where Shutter times, Exposure, ISO and Aperture come into play.


Maybe you want to deliberately over expose your photo ? (This image below, is 100% done in the camera).


Maybe you want to pause stars as pin pricks of light


Or a long exposure showing the star trails and movement of the stars around the celestial poles.


These things can’t be done in Auto mode.

Firstly note, not only does your lens have a focal length measured in mm, it has an F/ number. This is the “F Stop”. It is a measurement of the Aperture size. The number you see will tell you how “fast” a lens is. The smaller the number, the faster the lens can be. It just means you can expose the camera to the light for less time. The smaller the number, the better it is for night-time photos, as the shutter can be faster, hand held shake is less of an issue. It also means at the smallest number, the closest subject (if that is where you focus) will be in focus and it is a good chance the background will be nicely blended out of focus behind. The subtle changes you can make between sharp objects and blurred backgrounds is referred to as the Depth of Field (DOF).


Check out your lens specifications on the end of the lens. This lens has a Focal length of 35 mm and F/1.8

In this image you can also see the aperture circle in the middle of the image. This hole is made larger and smaller via small curtains of metal moving over each other when you change settings.


Here are some examples of Aperture sizes.


Most of my lenses range from 16 mm to 200 mm focal length and have aperture values of F/2.8. I have one 50 mm F/1.8 lens (which is faster) and a 250mm at F/5.6 (very slow). My slowest lens is 800mm at F/11. The 50mm is super fast, the 250mm is fairly slow. To get a good image on the 250mm I need more time to let in more light and I will get hand held shake making the image blurry. Just to confuse you more, A smaller f-stop means a larger aperture, while a larger f-stop means a smaller aperture. When you walk into the dark, your Iris gets bigger, which is a smaller F Stop. So a F/2.8 is a big hole to let in light whilst a f/5.6 is smaller and needs more time and light to make an image.

Don’t get wrapped up in this. You will learn it after playing with the setting for a while. Just know that the Aperture (normally called Av) affects the size of the hole which lets in light and changes what is in focus.


So changing the Av value on your Camera, which changes the F Stop value, is the first way we can change the light. What happens when you are in Av mode on the camera ? you can change the aperture and the camera will automatically change the other settings to control the final exposure. If you open your Iris right up (as you are inside in the dark) and then walk out into the bright sun, if your Iris did not contract, you would be blinded. your body automatically makes changes to protect your sight. In Av mode on your camera, if you let in too much light via the Av value, the camera will change the shutter time or ISO value to try and give you the best image. In this mode, you can control what is in focus (DOF). You control only the Aperture and the Camera’s brain is still doing some things in auto.


  • At F2.8 in full daylight, I get sharp up close, drifting off blurry in the background, at about 1/6000th of a second
  • At F5.6, I get super sharp up front but also sharp behind the object, only blurry way at the back. Time is now about 1/200th of a second
  • At F/22 I get super sharp all the way back, time is at 1 second or more (depends on light and ISO)

So, what if we instead change the Tv value? This means we change the exposure time. The time that the shutter exposes the image sensor to the light. Great for night time photos. Great for waterfalls. Long exposures of a few minutes create excellent night time images. In Tv mode, you can change the time but the Camera will change the Av and ISO settings to again give you the best image. If you let in too much light over time, the camera will change the Av or ISO to modify the light. The camera still wants you to get the best image (not always the “right’ image). In super bright light, your camera will let you take images at 1/8000ths of a second. In the last few minutes of sunset, you might get 1/60th of a second (Which is as low as I will go hand held, after this you need a tripod). At night, depending on what lights are in the field of view, anywhere from 1/13 of a second to 2-5 minutes. Star trails at night take hours. If you mess about with the time value, you can create interesting ghosts in your photos.

So you change the Av value, the camera changes ISO and Tv to give you a nice image. You change Tv, the camera changes Av and ISO to make your image. See a triangle of settings here? These three light modifiers can all be balanced to give you a nice image, with the right amount of blurriness and colour. This is where you can get arty.



Whilst you can independently change the time and aperture. In many cases this is not enough. If I take photos of the stars and all I change is the time or Aperture, I will likely end up with a photo that is just bright white and over exposed. I need more control.

You can flick yourself into full manual mode and override settings of all three light modifiers. Before you so that, what is ISO ?

ISO is a left over setting from film days. It was a measurement of how sensitive the Negatives were to light. you would buy a roll of film with the sensitivity you wanted. It meant once you had selected your sensitivity, that film (30 shots) was limited to that type of photography until you used it up and swapped it out for another. A roll of 100 – 200 ISO was good for full sun. A roll of 400 – 600 was good for indoors with a flash. You really could not get less than 100 or higher than 800. Another value, called an ASA, is now considered to mean the same thing as ISO. Many old films had an ASA rating and not ISO, ASA 100 loosely was the same as ISO 100.

These days, ISO tells the sensor in the camera how reactive it can be to light. Anywhere from 50 ISO to 12,800 (Depending on camera).

Basically ISO = how much light before the image is created

In bright light (sunlight) you need a lower ISO before the image forms.In very low light, you need a higher ISO before the image is created. Daylight normal ISO’s are 200 to 400, night time can be 800 to 3200 or more The longer the exposure, the more the image burns in.

ISO 50 is super insensitive to light. This is great for light painting where you are in a dark setting and want to light things up with a torch. Also great for star trails at night where you want the image to slowly form for the foreground but want the stars which are bright, to “burn into the photo:” and create a swirling pattern. )When I am light painting or fire wool spinning I want 50 ISO as the fire / lights are very bright. This means the fire will appear in the photo but very little of the background as at night-time, ISO 50 will not let enough light in, So to give the background time to “burn in” we need more exposure time. At least 1 minute. We need lot’s of time but don’t want the camera to over expose and make a single white picture.)

ISO 12,800 is super sensitive to light. It is great for night images of stars as pinpricks of light. Unfortunately it is so sensitive that it will see light bouncing off dust and the sensor will have “noise” making your photos look granulated.

Moving to “M” mode, manual, you can set the ISO, Aperture and shutter time, all by yourself. Changing one value, affects how the others will work. If you get the balance right, you can get that perfect night photo, with the right amount of blur and the exposure you want. In M mode, the camera’s brain is offline. You are completely in control.

If you are in a bright setting (full sun), you can use a low ISO (200), short Shutter value (1/6000th of a second) and then set the Aperture to a value that makes the item you want sharp and the background blurred. Maybe F/5. If you want the background to also be in focus, you can use F/11 or maybe f/22 but will need more exposure time (maybe 1/250 of a second) and maybe a smaller ISO (100) as the higher F number shrinks the aperture and lets in less light. Most camera’s will have a display showing you if the final exposure will be over or under exposed (this normally comes up when you are getting the focus correct).

If you are in a dark setting (outside, no moon), you can use a high ISO (1600), slower Shutter value (1/30th of a second or minutes) and then set the Aperture to a value that makes the item you want bright. Maybe F/2.8 or F/1.4. If you want the background to also be in focus, you can use F/11 or maybe f/22 but will need more exposure time (maybe 30 seconds or minutes) and maybe a larger ISO (3200) as the higher F number shrinks the aperture and lets in less light.

With these basics under control, there are usually other settings on your camera. One for landscape, portraits, sport and more. Landscape will normally increase the aperture sports will decrease the shutter speed, portraits will set the aperture and all the other settings will be auto adjusted by the camera.

So, you have questions.

Is a point and shoot camera, is as good as a DSLR?

If you are a pro, if you know your camera well, a DSLR is better for photos in the “creative zone”. If you are not a pro, a point and shoot is great. Why over complicate and confuse yourself?

Do I need a good camera or good lenses?

These days, most DSLR cameras can be sold as a kit, just the body or just as accessories like lenses. Most of the kits have “average” lenses. Cheap to make and do the job. Not bad lenses but could be better. Perfectly fine and can take great photos. A pro can do better with better lenses but these will do you fine. Time to upgrade ? Keep the lenses and invest in a better body. As long as the lens mounts have not changed you can keep using them. You can look at buying better bodies second hand. Lenses hardly drop in price as the technology does not change. The bodies get superseded all the time and drop in price. Once you have upgraded your body, you can add to your lens collection.

What is full frame? how many mega pixels ? Crop size?

Full frame sensors are better in low light and offer a better overall picture. Crop sensors have their “light detectors” packed into a much smaller package (making them cheaper ) but this smaller sensor is not as good in low light. Full frame sensors are 35 mm in width. If you remove your lens, use the menu setting to flip the mirror up, you can see the sensor. A full frame sensor is 35 mm. Many full frame camera’s can’t accept lenses designed specifically for Crop cameras and if you put a normal lens from a full frame onto a crop camera, the crop will mean that the focal length of the lens is modified by the Crop factor. A Canon 1.6 crop camera fitted with a normal 35 mm lens, is modified to be 56 mm.

Full-cropped2 mirror1024ed

Here is a photo showing the mirror in position over the sensor

Mega pixels are not that important. Many pro camera’s are 22 MP yet you can now buy cameras with 65MP or more. Many smartphones now have more Mega Pixels than pro cameras. The higher the MP, the more you can zoom into a picture and the bigger it will print. You can imagine if the camera has bad electronics for ISO or a fixed aperture, that the more MP’s just means a bigger crappy image compared to the smaller 22 MP on a good camera with a great image. Mega pixel count is great but is not the “measure” of a great camera.

Is Canon, Nikon or other better ?

Due to the number of users out there, the technology they use and the many accessories available, I consider Canon and Nikon to be in a 2 horse race. Other brands have some great tricks up their sleeves but they have not really penetrated the market enough to be in the race. Is Canon or Nikon better ? They are the same. They will always make some improvement to make them better than the other, but then the other catches up. Most of my friends have Canon, so I chose canon so I can share their lenses and accessories. I now have numerous Canon cameras and all share lenses and accessories. I will likely never move to Nikon as my investment is in Canon. Do I like Nikon ? I love them. They do a great job. Once you go down the Canon or Nikon path, you will likely stay on that path (up until Canon or Nikon change their mounts and start making things incompatible). Maybe the best advise is to try one from each brand and see which one you like and feel comfortable with.

What is mirrorless?

SLR cameras (Single Lens Reflex) and now DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) use an internal mirror to reflect the image up to your eye whilst you are viewing through the view finder and then flick it out of the way when you take the photo. This makes the camera “less compact” as it needs room to move the mirror. New mirrorless camera’s are more compact as they no longer have the mirror and electronically display the image whilst you are composing. These cameras use different lenses and mounts to the manufactures SLR range. They are not currently as “quick” at taking photos or focusing but they are coming along. Personally, I would wait a few more generations before looking at a mirrorless camera.

Here is the basic design of a DSLR showing the mirror


There are still more questions. What sort of tripod do you need ? What is HDR ? How do I use the histogram? How do I pan? fill flash? Bounce Flash? but these answers can come later.

Has this post inspired you ? Maybe take it up a notch with some Light painting


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Light painting with orbs and firewool spinning


For some time, the art of creating a Light ORB has been an unintentional secret. There were no tutorials on Youtube, no articles online and many people scratching their heads working out how it is done.

There were many attempts to think it though and create Orbs, but the results whilst OK, were not as good as those they were trying to copy.

The ultimate way to create an Orb, is expensive. You need something like a Telescope equatorial mount with a motor (maybe a drill on slow speed) attached to long wires (maybe 1 meter) or a pole, which attaches a small battery source to a light source and can spin so that the extended swinging lights always pass over the ground in the same spot. This will give a perfect sphere and spin the lights at a constant rate, with the right mount programming.

You need the mount to be thin and move so it does not appear in the image. A long exposure should remove it from the image and the bright light hide it. (Especially if it is black). Spinning the orb far enough from the camera should hide any imperfections.

Set your camera for a long exposure and set your rig running. In reality, you only need about 180 degrees in the right direction to get a sphere.

If you expose long enough, the surrounding will come out in your photo, and a sphere.



You want your photo to start after the device is spinning at a constant rate so you do not see any odd light marks on the photo.

I have often heard that people have built their own machines to make orbs. I have yet to actually see one. I am just guessing how to put one together.

Update: After reading this, you might like to watch (It is a low quality video I knocked together to show some friends how I do these things).

Orb machine version 1

So, the cheap alternative, is what I started with. It creates a wobbly orb and relies on my steady hand.

cable spinner_sm

I have an LED light on the end of some wire which I spin over a single location on the ground (Marked with a coin) as I turn my body.

The photo starts after I start spinning (Timer or 2nd person) and have the light going at a constant rate and I try and have my hand that holds the centre of the Orb in place, at the same place at all times. I wear black and try and not appear in the image. (Avoid doing this in a strong Wind).

My spinning is not accurate and the LED’s do not always pass over the coin, my hand moves to keep the momentum happening and I don’t turn at a constant rate.

The pictures look ok, but I need to practice more to get a good image.


I started with 1 LED and a 3.3 v button cell battery but that was useless. I needed something brighter.

ORB setup version 1.1

To make this new setup, you need to know the basics of using a soldering iron. (Don’t do anything silly, know how to “tin” your leads and don’t burn yourself).

You need to know how to use solder.

I purchased:

  • 15 LED’s (white .. or your favourite colour). I used 3.2 volt units.
  • Suitable Resistors for LEDs
  • A length of 2 core cable (around 2 metres) .. Car audio cable is good
  • Insulation (Electrical) Tape (Black and non reflective)
  • 2 x 9v Battery’s (18v)
  • 2 x 9v Battery Connector’s (To be connected in Series)
  • Push-to-Make (Momentary push) Switch
  • Small yogurt container
  • A coin (To spin over)
  • Soldering Iron, wire strippers and Solder
  • Solder Shrink
  • Fishing sinker or weight (Use large bolts ?)

Understanding how LED’s work, I joined 5 x LED’s in series (Note the LED’s have short and long legs, join a short leg from one, to a long leg of the next).

Once I had three sets of 5 LED’s in series (Which I will call “runs”), I eventually joined the groups so that the three “runs” of LED’s were now in Parallel (But that is a few steps ahead).

Depending on your power source (I will have 2 x 9 volt wired in Series giving 18 Volts) you can add a resister to each of the runs, to make sure you don’t blow your LED’s. (attach the resister to the last LED in the run)

To help you decide how many LEDs you will be using and calculate what resistor will be needed, you can use this resource (LED Series/Parallel Array Wizard) which will work out the resistor required for you and provide you with a circuit diagram.

After you have wired each “run”, make sure the LEDs are the right way round. Now it’s time to solder the LED’s in the “Run” and the resister, to make the connections secure (The forces in spinning the rig could make them come apart). Use the soldering iron to apply heat to the underside of the twisted parts and push the end of the solder onto the top. The solder will melt and coat the twist.

I then used Solder shrink tubing to melt over the LED’s legs. You don’t want any of the legs to touch each other (except where we have joined them) as this will cause a short-circuit. I also covered over the resister in the run.

I left the first leg of the run and the last lead of the resister free.

I take the three runs and join the first legs together and the least lead from the resisters to join all the runs in parallel.

I now solder all of these twisted legs to make it rigid and secure.


Now strip back a length of your cable and slide some solder shrink around it. This cable will go to the battery and switch so should be a good length, around 1.5 to 2 metres would be good. Twist one wire onto the positive wires from your orb tool, and twist the other wire onto the resistors. Solder them all into place, and remember which colour wire is positive and which is negative.

Shrink the solder shrink into place.

To hold it all together, wrap all the LEDs in tape. Try to position the LEDs so they point in the right direction. (And when you spin this try not to bash them into the ground).


Spinning this will be easier if the wires are taught. I wired a fishing sinker to my LED’s and then wrapped insulation tape around my creation.

I then grabbed an old yogurt container. This will be a container to hold my 2 x 9v batteries, the on off switch and I cut two slits in the sides so I could slide my belt through. I found the belt holding my pants up is at the perfect height to have the power switch and the excess cable.

I made a hole in the end of the yogurt container, slipped my switch though and tighten the plastic but to hold it in place. I took the 2 x 9v power connectors and joined in series. Wired the black lead from one connector to the red of the second one. Connected the live (red) wire (from the 9v connectors in series) into one of the terminals on the switch and soldered it in place.

Strip back the other end of the cable that goes to your orb tool. Remember which colour was connected to the positive legs of the LEDs. Connect it to the other switch terminal (switch leads will be assessable inside the yogurt container) and solder in place.

Twist the remaining wire from the cable onto the negative (black) wire from the battery connectors in series. Solder them together. (Again the wiring is done so that it can poke into the yogurt container)

Now add the batteries and test it. The light should come on.

cable spinner 2sm

At the end, the length of swinging cable from the LED’s to the batteries is 1.9 m

If everything is working, insulate the connection in the wires and the switch terminals to ensure nothing can short-out. Just wrap some electrical tape around them.

Now tuck your battery’s and connectors into the yogurt container.

Spinning your first ORB

So, you have your orb tool but now need to use it.

  • Find a great location with very little light (Except the moon)
  • Have a camera capable of long exposures and maybe a remote release (or use a timer)
  • A good Tripod (Be sure not to trip over it)
  • Black clothes (maybe a beanie to cover your hair)
  • A torch and a bag to carry the odds and ends.
  • A second person helps.

To create the light orb, you are spinning your light (Swung around on your wire) which has the lights at one end and your switch at the other. This setup will allow you to turn the lights on while they are being swung around.

I slide my belt through the yogurt container so that the switch and all the batteries are at my side, easy reach and don’t have to carry it as an extra item.

Find a dark space and set up your camera (use your torch to figure things out). Put your camera onto the tripod and compose your shot, ensuring your camera is focused properly. You will want to ensure your camera can see the entire orb so leave plenty of space in your frame at first.

If you have two people, wander out into the area and shine your torch, have the second person focus on the light. (Or drop the light out in the scene and focus yourself).

Pick your place carefully. Ideally, you are not going to light your path or start your photo until the orb has started, else you will get trailing lights.

Set your camera to Bulb mode if it’s available (Or I sometimes use 30 seconds on a 10 second timer if by myself) – Bulb mode allows you to open the shutter for an unlimited time. This will allow you to take as long as you need to create your orb. Most cameras require a shutter release cable or remote control to do this. If you don’t have bulb mode or a shutter release then set your exposure to the maximum time allowed, usually 30 seconds (like I mentioned) so you’ll have to be quick! Set your aperture to a mid way point to start with, around f/11 should do for now. If your lights are not very bright you can set your aperture a bit wider (lower number), or smaller (higher number) if it’s particularly bright. Go for a low ISO setting to avoid noise in your shot. ISO 100 or 200 are good.

Find a spot within your frame and place your marker on the ground. A coin makes a good marker as it’s shiny, but a stone, weed or any small object can work well too.

Hold the lights by your side in one hand and start swinging them in a circular motion. Try to get your circle directly above your marker. Once you have established a good swing you can turn your lights on.

Now comes the tricky part. You need to start turning yourself around while still swinging the lights in a circle. The circle must stay centred above your marker at all times. Start to shuffle your feet backwards and move slowly around your marker.

Don’t let your LED’s hit the ground. Keep a constant speed. If you feel your orb is not lined up, don’t try and make big corrections.

You need to move around 180 degrees to create an orb, or you can go round the full 360 degree circle to create a fuller orb.

Turn off your lights and then stop swinging. Get out of the frame. Close your shutter.

There are lot’s of tutorials for this online, now.

Orb machine version 2

So, at this point, starts the project for my orb, version 2. This is an experiment and I have no idea if this will work.

I have started this with a very small LED as my light source as I am just testing.

I have collected together

  • An LED
  • 3.3 v button cell battery and holder
  • Switch
  • 2 meters audio cable
  • Zenith eye bolt
  • Adhesive Teflon furniture slides/glides
  • 2x 25mm x 2.5m black flyscreen frame (Note – Black)
  • washers and nuts
  • A cork
  • Large long nail
  • Fishing sinker
  • Cloth tape (100 mile an hour tape) – Black and not reflective
  • A drill with drill bits
  • Soldering iron, solder and heat shrink
  • Black permanent marker

I wanted to join the two flyscreen frames like a big pair of scissors. The plan was to hold one frame and spin the other through 360 degrees. (One becomes a walking stick touching the ground).


Of the first of two frames, I measured up to 1.5 meters and bent it. I then marked about 15 cm from the bend and cut of the excess. I basically had a metal “walking stick”.

I cut the other piece of flyscreen frame to 2.06 meters and drilled a hole in the centre (1.03 m). I then drilled a hole in the walking stick, up near the bend and used the Zenith eye bolt to join the two. The long 2.06 piece is about 2 inches short of touching the ground as it spins around. Perfect. I have a walking stick to hold and an arm that rotates through 360 degrees.

On the flyscreen frame, there is a running trough where the fly screen is pressed in and secured. Into this I wedged a nail into the end of the “walking stick”.


It stuck out about 1 inch. As is was a big nail, it wedged into the trough, tightly.

This gives me a point to spin this contraption on it’s new axis (On the ground). I used the cork to make the nail blunt whist I was working on this and for transport.

On one end of the long section (2.06 m) I wedged the fishing weight (Sinker) in. This is to make the piece want to spin back to earth. I taped it over to hold it in, using black cloth tape.


Now, I pulled the centre bolt out. I fixed the adhesive Teflon furniture slides/glides (About 1 cm in diameter – round little buttons) between the two flyscreen frames and drilled through them. I ended up with a sandwich of Zenith eye bolt to washer, to Teflon glide outward facing, through the first frame, through the next Teflon glide inward facing to the next washer and spacers, then to the next Teflon glide facing in on the next flyscreen, through the next flyscreen, the next outward facing Teflon glide, a washer and some nuts. All of this to make these two flyscreens glide easily.


Now that this all spins easily, I ran the audio cable up the flyscreen trough to the end without the fishing sinker. I soldered an LED onto the cable and then wedged it in. I drilled a hole in the trough and poked some excess cable out and back into the trough so that I have excess to play with later.


At the other end, I soldered on the button cell battery holder and a switch.


I setup the switch and Battery on the outside of the swinging edge so that when the two flyscreens meet, they don’t make contact. I also made this arrangement stick to the swinging flyscreen with the cloth tape, at a comfortable height to find the switch to turn it on. All the cables were in the trough with tape over it.


Now I need to test this and fine tune it. Use the permanent marker pen to blacken out any scratches in the black fly screen.

To stop the two flyscreens banging into each other, I need to spin this slowly. This will mean with the camera, bulb will be best. I need to rotate this slowly and also need to rotate the whole arrangement on the nail, slowly.

I will post back and update when I try this. I will likely need bigger batteries and more light to make this work in the final version.

Update: My rig needs more light. I need to spin it slower. I need less vibration and I need a more complete orb. Here is my first test shot. Camera on ISO 50, BULB (90+ seconds), F/2.8, 10 sec timer.


Update: I am onto my 3rd Generation of the ORB tool.

I have added more power and more LED’s.


I have combined 3 x 6 Volt White LED’s in series and 2 x 9v batteries in Series (18v). I have added the 9v Batteries to one end of the spinning arm (rotor) and  some fishing sinkers to the other as counterweights (I removed the original weight). I have cut a slot in the central spinning bolt and fitted an R clip to stop the nut undoing as I spin.

I am now working out the best swinging action and how far to be from the camera.

133 Seconds, 18mm, Manual focus, Bulb mode, ISO 50, F/4, remote trigger, Tripod and torch.

I used

  • 2 x 9 volt batteries
  • 2 x 9 v connectors
  • 3 x 6v white leds
  • 2 x fishing sinkers
  • Some black cable ties to fasten the batteries to the arm (rotor)


Update: I have added black Velcro to the end of the swinging arm, near the LED’s. I then cut some thin strips of  clear plastic, folded and stuck different coloured cellophane into the hinge I had made. I stuck the other half of the Velcro to the clear plastic. Now I have different coloured Gel’s to put on and off during the long exposure.

I now have white, yellow, green, purple and red. I can change these between orbs.

I have also taken the various items I have made and attached some reflective tape so that they are easy to find if I drop them at night.

Now I can change colours quickly.


Update: I have built my new Orb tool. Generation 3.1

I now have three sets of LED’s I can turn on and off. I can also use the Gels to change their colours.
I have built an Identical frame and spinning device using Flyscreen extruded frame.
I have a three position switch to light up either 3 x 3v LED’s in series at one end or light up 3 x 3v LED’s part way down (to create an “inner orb”) and a 9 v battery.

At the other end I have 2 x 9v batteries in series and 3 x 6v leds in series and a switch.

Here is what it can do




Firewool Spinning

Another light painting favourite is Fire Steel wool or Fire Wool spinning.
Here are some examples of mine

Disclaimer: Wear three layers of clothing. Wear glasses, a beanie for your head. Wear welding gloves and have no skin showing. Realise that this is dangerous. If you do this unprepared you can burn, blind, or set fire to yourself. A burning shard of metal can burn through the three layers of clothes in seconds.

Wear welding gloves, have a fire extinguisher and a person on standby. Do it near/over water. Don’t do it in a fire danger season. Check the area for danger before doing this and hang about afterwards and make sure nothing ignites.

Be very sensible and limit people hanging about watching.

Ok, so what are we doing? We are spinning a cage holding steel wool. We are not doing an ORB, just a circle. The steel wool will catch fire and ignite when air flows over it after applying heat from a lighter or a short created by a 9v battery.

Be aware that banging the cage into an object might send shards your way. The cage I made may melt and large chunks might get out.


What I like to do is ask myself before performing this shot, “Is there anything nearby that could catch on fire?” When I say nearby, I mean within 150 feet. Spinning steel wool as fast as you can will shoot chunks of flaming wool in multiple directions. Unsure whether it’s safe? Then don’t.

I have seen this made with a whisk but I like this cage idea.

  • Roughly 120 – 130 cm (4 feet) of 1/16 steel cable (which will spin)
  • Chicken wire or wire mesh (Thicker wire will last longer but be heaver to spin and retain heat longer)
  • 1 x 4 Pipe (Becomes your handle to spin this and if you pull the cable through it, can create vortex photos)
  • Dog Leash Buckle
  • Sleeve Stop wire crimps (holds metal wires together)
  • Extra Wire
  • Wire Cutters and Needle Nose Pliers
  • Lighters
  • #0000 / fine steel wool

fire wool sm

Cut the wire mesh in the shape of a squashed box. This will be bent into the shape of a box. Cut the mesh so that the tabs on the sides are sticking out to be used to hold the structure together. This wire cage will be about 3 wide on each side, but only about 1.5 tall.


Bend the sides up and start making the box

Use the protruding wire tabs to bend around the sides to hold together. The step requires a bit of patience and it can help to have your needle nose pliers to help twist the tabs around the support wire on the corners. Make sure not to stick yourself with the wires. Repeat on all for corners.


Cut out a separate top piece with one row extra on one side and bend that down. This will be the lid, and the extra row bent down helps keep the lid in place when closed. (It will overlap with the box)


Use the extra wire to make a hinge by wrapping it around the opposite side from the bend, and secure the lid.

Take the steel cable and string through the front opening and the lid. Create a big enough loop so the you can open the lid far enough to put steel wool inside the cage.

The cable will pull on the box and lid and due to the forces whilst spinning, will keep it all closed and the wool inside it.


String the cable through the pipe, and crimp the dog leash buckle on the other end.

You hold the buckle in your left hand, and the pipe in your right. This allows you to change the radius of the fire wool by just letting cable in or out as you spin it.

The cage it is re-usable in a quick fashion to set up the next shot. Replacing the steel takes only a few seconds. Be aware that the wire cage can be hot, so it is a great idea to give it a few seconds, or dip it in water before reloading.

If you hit the cage against anything or it melts, it can be dangerous so please check your cage.


Camera with Manual Mode

  • Wear a hoodie, beanie or hat, long sleeves, and pants. Dark clothing, and goggles/glasses.
  • Steel Wool (#0000)
  • Lighter or 9V Battery (to light or short out the steel wool)
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Gloves
  • Flashlight
  • Spinning Wool Rig

This is where having a second person will help. I don’t ever recommend doing this shot without a second person. Wherever you plan on standing to spin the wool, have your friend shine a flashlight on their face so you can set the focus manually. On Canon cameras, you turn on Live View and zoom in to set the focus with the help of the LCD screen. Remember, that most likely it will be dark out, so having a flashlight will help in more ways that just being able to set focus.

You don’t want the sparks to fly at the camera, or other people, so stand perpendicular to the camera when spinning the wool. Chunks of flaming steel wool will be flying out of the spinning cage. The faster you spin, the farther the flaming sparks are able to fly.

Camera Settings (Manual Mode)

  • To reduce the amount of noise, set the ISO to around 200
  • Your exposure should be set to 20 to 30 seconds. You can have wool last the entire 30 seconds if you don’t spin too fast.
  • I’ve experimented with different f-stops(f/9 – F/11 recommended)
  • Some cameras have long exposure noise reduction settings
  • Lock the shutter open to minimize camera shake.
  • Set the camera to include a 10 second delay or use a remote release

When you light it, don’t panic, it will not catch fire. It looks like it’s smouldering when you first light the steel wool. You don’t get fire until you spin it, causing oxygen to fuel the fire.


Use a wide angle lens or fish eye, to capture everything

Hang around after taking the photos and look for anything that is burning. Also check your clothes.

Make sure any remaining steel wool in the holder goes out.


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I bought a Personal Solar Telescope .. now what ?

I have seen some excellent images of the sun. Some up close, showing the writhing gasses moving about and some with sunspots, with patterns around them. Huge prominences shooting Plasma into space and more.

Here is a classic example.


Wow, looks good!

I want to do this with my PST. So how?

I have found very little newbie information online. The one page introduction I got with my Personal Solar Telescope (PST) was lacking. The box looked great with fantastic images but can I really do these things?

I have by no means achieved the same results as per the marketing images. With the right gear and a lot of patience I believe it can be done. I am not there yet. I wanted to share my experience to help other newbies with PST’s.

My Gear

I have the Coronado PST (Meade). It is a 40mm f/10 H-alpha telescope – 400mm focal length – 0.5 Angstrom. (external tunable etalon)

It is a Hydrogen alpha (Ha) band pass scope. It allows light into the eyepiece from the Hydrogen alpha frequencies. You can get scopes using other frequencies but for us amateurs, Ha is the most interesting and with it we can see surface features and prominences (via tuning for the right feature).

An etalon is just the optical device containing parallel mirrors which gets the image to you. This PST let’s through a frequency range of just .5 Angstrom’s (This is just a very small unit of length).

I got my unit as just the scope, end caps and an eyepiece, in a box.

No fancy tripod or extra eye pieces.

Coronado PST


I grabbed my Manfrotto camera tripod, bolted the Manfrotto quick release base to the PST and tried to point at the sun.

First lesson, camera tripods are really for looking straight ahead or down. Not up. I rescrewed the camera mounting plate on backwards to how it would normally be (It has an arrow pointing to the lens, I just reversed it). This means using my Manfrotto tripod, I can now point up, by my adjustment handles for the head are in an awkward place. Still, I can point up at the sun. (Just be careful … and make sure all adjustment screws are *Tight*)


Now I need to find the sun. I used the built in Solranger and got the sun in the middle of the viewing window. I looked through the eyepiece. Nothing. I tried the method of reducing the equipment shadow (if you minimise the shadow, then you must be pointing directly at the sun). Nothing. There are two problems. The Solranger just gives a rough idea to let you know if you have the scope pointed in the correct direction. Once in the correct direction you need to do some very small movements to actually locate the sun. You have to hunt about in a vast sky before you find it. You also need to avoid clouds, even little whispy ones. The Solranger window actually represents a large amount of sky. 1/2 a mm off of centre is thousands of kms in the sky.

Below you can see the Solranger with the sun centrally.


Often whilst moving about, you see the image of the sun fly past the eyepiece. You just have to practice to find the sun.

This is where I also learned about Eyepiece relief, he effects of wearing glasses and the “mm” rating on the eyepiece. The larger the relief around the viewing end of the eyepiece, the more accurately your eye needs to be in position to see an image. Sometimes moving your view just slightly will show an image. As normal eyepieces can be used (All the filtering is done by the PST so it is quite safe), I borrowed a 20 mm and 12.5 mm eyepiece from my skywatcher telescope. This made things easier.


Finally, I can see the sun. It was blurry. Turning the knob on the back, underside of the PST, the image was getting sharper and easier to see. Don’t wind it if you feel tension. You are at the end of the available focusing range.

At this point, I had a clear orange disk. No features. Turning the tuning mechanism on the tube, I could suddenly see prominences at one extreme and surface features at the other. You can’t see both at the same time.

The next problem is the sun moves from your field of view, very quickly. Putting the PST on an equatorial mount that is trained on the sun would be very helpful. Many mounts using Goto can track the sun. (My Skywatcher HEQ5 pro does).

I can see the sun, not in great detail, and I have it focused but a bigger zoom in my eyepiece would help. Maybe a Barlow extension is needed.


Time to add a camera or even a laptop.

My first attempt at a photo was using the Afocal technique. a Camera held to the eyepiece. (An iPhone)


I can see a sunspot. Not much more.

I created a custom T piece to mount my Canon EOS camera.


I used a  MEADE Series 4000 #126 2x Short-Focus Barlow (1.25″) and a cut down T piece. the T piece is cut so that the hilt fits up against the top of the eye piece holder on the PST and I removed the lens from the Barlow and drop that down into the Eye piece holder on the PST. This gives my Canon EOS prime focus.

Using the live view feature on the camera, I can now zoom in and get better focus. I took my first few photos this way. I also took some video, with the sun at the top right hand side and let the video go to the bottom left of the view finder. I get about 30 seconds on my normal tripod before the sun is starting to wander out of view. If I used an equatorial mount I could have longer exposures and better images. Something I will one day try.

I have tried a Canon EOS 600D full spectrum modified, A canon EOS 7D (unmodified) and a Canon EOS 500D with a Ha band bypass expansion for astro photography.

I like that the 600D lets me manually select ISO in video mode but out of all the cameras, the 500D with Ha modifications works the best for me. Here is a photo from the normal Canon EOS 7D on the T piece.


I was then introduced to the idea of taking my image into an image editor, breaking into a Green/Blue/Red split image and only keeping the red image. I could also combine two images. One with a tuning emphasising prominences and one with surface details.


I am still not seeing the incredible images that I see in the advertising.

Video Stacking

I now take the video I took and put it through Registax and AutoStakkert. I used pip to convert the Canon Video into a supported format. Using Wavelets and playing with the tools I was starting to see something cool.


To get the best image for this purpose, try and have the video taken only when the full disk of the sun is in view. Any clipping of the image as it has moved off frame seems to upset Registax. Any editing or converting reduces the image quality so try and get it right the first time.

Using a connected laptop

I quickly learnt that using “EOS utility” on a laptop, connected to the camera via USB, allowed me to see the images from the camera far better. I needed to shield myself and the laptop from the sun. The reflections on the laptop screen were very distracting and I needed to block out the sun to help my eyes adjust to the laptop screen. I grabbed a table, a large box, some alfoil (Aluminium wrap) and tape. I wrapped the box in alfoil to reflect the sun (keep me cool) and the box was big enough to almost sit my chair under it but my body in it, dropping a sheet or towel over my back to block the sun. I could reach the PST to make changes.


Using the EOS utility I could zoom in and focus better. I could tune better as I could see the prominences and surface features larger. I used a remote trigger and mirror lockup to reduce camera shake. I did find that to see the image on the screen I had to unreasonably increase the shutter time and ISO. (I take many sun images at 1/13 sec and ISO 400, I view at 2 seconds, ISO 3200 or 6400).

So to produce these images you need a really well focused PST, long video (use an equatorial mount to track the sun) and then stack images and colourise the final result.

I wish someone had explained all this to me before I started down this road.

Double Stacking

Now I want to see more. Time to double stack. This allows sharper focus.

I first had to order the SME40 (new name is the SM40) Coronado SolarMax II 40/ RichView Tuner Package for Double-Stacking SM40 Filter Set or Telescope

Increase the amount of detail you can see through your SolarMax II 40 filter set or SolarMax telescope when you add a second filter! This is a genuine Coronado Instruments SolarMax II 40 / RichView unit that will, when properly matched, narrow your bandpass to <0.5 angstroms, greatly increasing the amount of surface detail you can see and image with your SolarMax 40 telescope. The unit is a second SolarMax II 40 filter and RichView just like the primary unit on all SolarMax II 40 Telescopes. The new unit will fit directly to the front of your existing unit.


This arrived, I screwed it to the front of the PST. I went to line up the sun with the SolRanger and found it does not work. The SM40 is wide enough to block light into the Solranger. I tried lining up the PST first, then screw on the SM40 but the time that this takes (doing it carefully) the shaking you produce means it is not lined up. I tried hunting for the sun but even with the tuner on the SM40 turned all the way to the left (which seems to let the most light in) I could hardly see the sun. There was very little light let in.  I made a home made Solranger.

Home made Solranger for double stacking

I used some tin snips to cut a length of a tuna tin, 1 cm wide by about 5 cm long. I drilled the smallest hole possible in one end, bent both ends up. Taped the arrangement to the PST (Actally used Blu tack in the end). Without the SM40, I alighned the built in solranger, located the dot of light on my home made unit and marked it. Now  I attached the SM40 and can align to the sun fairly accurately. It is tall enough not to be blocked by the SM40.


Observing whilst Double Stacked

I found winding the tuning of the SM40 from the left to the right (Standing behind it), the image got darker and darker.

I attached my camera and laptop. No matter what I did, I could not get an image on my laptop. I tried Tv of 10 seconds, ISO 6400 and higher. Nothing. Then I accidently took a photo and I saw the sun.

It seems liveview can’t see the sun (it can’t emulate the final result) but a photo can. I reduced the ISO and Tv vsalue to stop the image blowing out.

Now I had to focus it. I took a photo, focused a little, took another photo, focused better again. After I was focused, I turned the tuning knobs and tried to capture some detail. This is hard. Especially as the richview tuner and other bits of the SM40 easy screw off when you try and tune.

In video mode, I can’t see the sun.

I am limited to photos at the moment. This means I am not going to get good sharp images as I can’t run anything useful through Registax (video). This is my next challenge. Here is a photo with a little curve manipulation in Photoshop.

Adding a little colour, patience etc I am sure I can now reproduce the images I have seen. Maybe also another Barlow lens. Zoom in a little more.




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Lenses I am trying to use for UV on a Canon EOS 600D full spectrum and Baader U

I need a reference place to store my feedback on various lenses I have tried for UV photography.
I do not have access to any kind of spectrum analysis so this is my real world playing about.

My setup: Canon EOS 600D (Canon EOS REBEL T3i) with full spectrum modification by Ehab Eassa  (Eassa on eBay) Using a Quartz Spectrosil replacement for the removed IR/UV block filter.

Microlenses still in place. (Removing these renders the camera incapable of colour but improves contrast. It turns it into a UV only camera, not full spectrum).

Sensor cleaning mechanism removed.

Pros of this camera : Appears that the Sensor is UV sensitive and the fold out display with Live view is excellent.
Cons of this camera : cheap and nasty plastic design unlike the more professional series. (also a pro, as you can modify and obtain the camera cheaply).

Full spectrum Canon camera setup for UV (UV Gear)

You can see some of my UV photos here

Canon Lenses

Canon EF L series 24-70 mm with step up/down rings and a BaaderU filter (1.25″) on the end – needs a high ISO and long exposure time. Not suitable for anything that moves. Not enough light for Autofocus to work. Nice images but frustrating to use. Click through to the photos for more details.

Canon L with Baader U (UV)

Baader U on Standard Lens


Canon EF 50,, 1.8 mm lens with step down rings and Baader U filter. ISO 800 and 1/13 sec exposure works well. Might be good for Video. Autofocus in UV range works. Native EF mount is a bonus. Cheap nifty 50 lens. Well worth playing with as it causes the least frustration and messing about. It is cheap so within reach of most people. Works well showing sunscreen response, not as good showing flower patterns. I need to do a video with this one.

UV Suncream Test (UV)

Canon FD 50mm 1.l4 with adaptor for EF mount – not yet tried


Minolta E.Rokkor 50mm f4.5 Enlarging Lenses, M39 Mount – No idea just yet. Just ordered this and will know soon.

Minolta E.Rokkor 75mm f4.5 Enlarging Lenses, M39 Mount – No idea just yet. Just ordered this and will know soon.

Helios 44-2 2/58 Russian USSR lens M42  Zenit 1979 – preset. This lens is a preset lens which gives it two aperture rings. An Aperture lock ring and a smooth (no click) manual aperture ring. Great for Video. Yet to try UV.

Normal spectrum photo

Helios Lens Experiment 1 (100% crop)


Nikon EL Nikkor

Nikon 1:4 50mm El-Nikkor Enlarger Lens f=50 – works ok on UV. Need to be close to the subject. Need a M39 Screw Mount to EF adaptor and I use a Bellows to get focus. Step up/down rings to fit Baader U. 75mm is better.
Nikon EL-Nikkor 75mm f/4 Enlarging Lens – works ok on UV. Need to be close to the subject. Need a M39 Screw Mount to EF adaptor and I use a Bellows to get focus. Step up/down rings to fit Baader U. Most of my UV photos in the flickr set that involve flowers were done with this lens.

NIKON EL-NIKKOR 80MM 5.6 PROFESSIONAL ENLARGER LENS – works ok on UV. Need to be close to the subject. Need a M39 Screw Mount to EF adaptor and I use a Bellows to get focus. Step up/down rings to fit Baader U. 75 mm is better.

Optomax (Pentax)

Optomax 35mm f/3.5 – You have to stand too far from the subject, the UV response is bad and focus is hard to achieve. It is a wider lens than my EL Nikkor so it does have it’s place.

Flowers in UV (UV)


Jena (Zeiss)

Jena Aus 135 (Zebra) (see the Flickr image for more information)

UV Lens test - Jena Aus 135 (Zebra)

Jena Carl zeiss sonnar 4 135 (see the Flickr image for more information)

UV Tests, Jena Carl zeiss sonnar 4 135

Jena Carl zeiss sonnar 4 135 (see the Flickr image for more information)

UV Tests, Jena Carl zeiss sonnar 4 135

Jena DDR Aus T 2.8 -50 (see the Flickr image for more information)

UV Lens test, Jena DDR Aus T 2.8 -50

UV Lens test, Jena DDR Aus T 2.8 -50

Jena flektogon 2.8 – 35 (see the Flickr image for more information)

UV test lens, Jena flektogon 2.8 - 35

UV test lens, Jena flektogon 2.8 - 35




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Sun damage, sunscreen, UV and photos

I have been playing with UV photography on a Full spectrum Canon EOS 600D (Canon EOS REBEL T3i) for some time. I wanted to see the UV markings on flowers that some animals / insects etc can see.

I discovered a world where paint patch ups, metal alloys and many other things also look unique and different when viewed in UV.

Early on I tried a sunscreen experiment where I painted half of a subjects face and then filmed the person, hoping to see the blocked UV. I was unimpressed. It caused a greyish hue or cast over the face, but nothing with any real impact.


Then, a little later,   Thomas leveritt posted a Sunscreen video on Youtube. I have been trying to replicate it ever since.

I figured that Thomas leveritt may have had more than a full spectrum conversion done to his camera. Maybe they also removed the Micro filters ? Perhaps he is using a quartz lens ?

Finally, I have similar results. Thanks to Antoni Łoskot for pushing me hard to find a solution. It turns out that with a Canon 50 mm 1.8 EF canon lens, I can get the same results.

UV Suncream Test (UV)

My understanding with UV has been turned on it’s head or maybe, Canon cheap lenses are *real* cheap.

I have been acquiring old lenses. lenses that are manual focus, with as few glass elements as able, before UV blocking multi coatings came into fashion. Lenses that need EF adaptors and limited to a specific focal range. I have then been adjusting the lens to move focus into the UV spectrum, from the Visual spectrum. Tedious and painful.

All of this so I can reduce ISO to 400 and time to 1/25 sec. But .. am I looking at this wrong ?

Maybe with the sunscreen video, you can have a higher ISO and slow shutter time as the subject is moving and you do not notice ? Maybe I am looking for a UV response in the spectrum too low ? Does sunscreen react at a higher wave length ?

so, using a Canon EF 50mm 1.8 lens with a 52 mm to 1.25 ” adaptor and Baader U filter, I get the results I need.

1/13 sec and ISO 800 looks a little blurry for a still shot but the Sunscreen is a black colour, not grey. This is what I want. Finally, the results I wanted !!!

I will have to test further but maybe my EL Nikkor lenses will work better for flowers ?

I have to use my EL nikkor with a bellows to get focus. With the canon EOS and EF lens config, I get Auto focus in the UV range !!! Awesome. Less fiddly.

I have tried a Canon L 24-70 mm and I needed ISO 3200 at 3-4 seconds to get any UV response. Maybe the difference of L professional series to “kit” cheap lens ?

Regardless, I am happy it works.

My Full spectrum mod was done by eeassa (Ehab) on eBay. I love it !!!


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Experimenting with turning my Canon EOS 5D camera into a wireless Access Point

I am tired of pulling out CF memory cards, loading them up in a reader and dumping down files to my PC.
I have a WFT wireless adaptor for it but it is clumsy and uses FTP to upload files to an FTP server.

It’s just not simple and something that words without prep time.

So, for under $40 (Aus), I bought a Toshiba FlashAir 32 Gb b/g/n SD card and an Extreme CF adaptor (SD to CF).
I setup the FlashAir as an Access point and it works really well in the CF adaptor in my older Canon EOS 5D.
It draws it’s power from the camera and the transmittion speed on N band is great.

I suddenly have a very compact wireless solution for my Canon EOS.

Now comes my next issue.

There are tools on Android and iOS to access the files and do bulk downloads. The only way to do it in Windows is in a web browser, one file at a time.

I was then pleasantly surprised to find that this is because Toshiba have opened up the windows space for developers and published the API’s.
Checking out the tools at

I found an awesome tool called snowy.

So far I am very happy with this wifi card, especially on Wifi N band.
I have turned my Canon EOS 5D into an Access Point and it has wifi passthrough so my normal Wifi can stay on (I turn if off when using Snowy).

I can share my files with other peoples devices easily and I can do a bulk download.

Awesome !


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