A home for the things I think are worthy of sharing. Will largely be photography based.

Archive for May, 2012

Photography meets Street Art

JR Street Artist/photographer

Although I’ve seen a lot of stencil street art – I’ve always wondered if there’s any photography biased street art around – and I’ve just come across some thanks to a post on PetaPixel about street artist.

This is the second post on him atually – they also did a story on him when he won the $100,000 TED award.

JR Street Artist/photographer

Initially he seemed to be pasting his photographs/art in poor and deprived areas – mostly slums around the world – be it for art and creativity and to highlight the plight of people living in such areas.

As well as interesting and creative photography he uses them in very creative and artistic ways – I really like it, but don’t take my word for it – check out his website :http://www.jr-art.net/

Post the grant from TED he’s started the Inside Out Project. Here’s the short TED talk:

If I was campaigning for some worth cause I’d be seriously tempted to partake. Ha may even consider it when not. I like his conditions – no credit, no sponsorship, no branding, no marketing etc.

EDIT: Ah – there has been an Inside Out project in London : http://www.insideoutproject.net/#@section=view_project@project=272

Terrence Higgins Trust – Walk for Life 2012

On Sunday I did my usual stint of charity work – covered the Terrence Higgins Trust sponsored walk- the walk for life.

A few years ago I thought it would be nice to do something worth-while with my photography and asked around so see if there’s anything I could do. At the time my friend Michael (a.k.a. Funtime Mikey) worked for an AIDS and HIV charity called Crusaid who organised the Walk for Life charity event and he put me in touch with it’s organisers. Since then I’ve covered it a few times (My sieve of a memory has lost count) and since then Crusaid merged with Terrence Higgins Trust.

The walk starts and ends at Potters Field Park – between Tower Bridge and the Greater London Authority building – a great location.

Had celebs Sugar Dandies and Sarah Cawood starting the race.

In the end there were performances from Louise Dearman, 4 Corners and Freddie impersonator.

People always dress up and there’s a great vibe lending itself to some fun photos. Thankfully didn’t rain but it was a bit on the cold side and was overcast. Means no nice blue skies for photos alas. Having done these before I’ve learnt that ins such conditions a pop of flash is handy to illuminate faces and some exposure compensation is sometimes needed as the light overcast sky can trick camera metering if you use it (which I do).

As I currently have more free time – may be worth looking for other such charities/events that could do with some photography.

EDIT: Here’s a link to the THT set on Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150909225967332.433512.6316017331&type=1

Here’s a very abridged gallery of photos:

Food Shoot : Wheat Free Cakes

Love Wheat Free Baking - Cake

Continuing my run of product shoots this last week I did my first food photoshoot!

This was for my friend Maxine who’s starting a new business – Wheat Free Cakes.

Here’s a quick selection:

Food photography tends to have re-occurring elements, and since her business is just starting and this is my first food shoot I thought might as well stick to those, give or take:

  • Shallow depth of field
  • Light or Hi-key
  • Natural light as much as possible
  • Warm/homely tones such as wood surfaces

We shot on Maxine’s dinning room table: Wood – check 😉

Aperture wise they were shot around f2.0 to f2.5 on my 50mm f1.4 lens. Looking at them in more detail – I think I should have stuck around the f2.5 mark, or possibly even more – as the closer you get to something (aka focal distance is shorter) the depth of field gets shallower for a set aperture.

For the light – the table was close to patio doors and there was sufficient light to shoot at shutter speeds of 1/250 to 1/160 at ISO 100-160 – so light – check. Thankfully it was also a slightly overcast day – although this might be bad for landscape photography it can be very good for other types of photography as it totally softens the light reducing or completely removing shadows. Great for this purpose.

So go view + join her Facebook page at : https://www.facebook.com/LoveWheatFreeBaking

And maybe even buy some cakes – Yum.

DIY Softbox grid / egg-crate

I have a couple of long + tall softboxes, what I guess you could call strip softboxes.

A cheap one that keeps breaking but came with lots of additions such as a grid/egg-crate and a nice one from Interfit (SLBR412 – 120cm x 40cm) that didn’t.  I initially bought the big Interfit strip to use as a main light – for even whole body lighting – but on occasion and more recently I’ve been using it as a rim-light. However due to it’s size (particularly 40cm width) the spill from it is quite significant. So I started looking for a grid for it.

The task was not very easy. I even e-mailed Interfit and they couldn’t suggest anything. Having looked around I seem to remember  (it was a while ago now) finding a custom maker that would make it for about £150 from the states – more than the cost of the actual softbox! (about £100). 120×40 cm was a tricky size too as other manufacturer strips seem to be about 120×30 cm.

So I decided I’d try to make my own, how hard can it be 😉

I found a few online examples of making DIY softbox grids and took some inspiration from those (See References below).




Since I had a pre-existing one I thought I might as well replicate that ones as it seems to work fairly well.

Material wise – it was made out of some form of thin but stiff material/webbing. Since I have no idea about material really, or more so about something unusual like this I just went into a haberdashers and asked what they had was black and fairly stiff. Just happens I was in John Lewis looking for something else (think blackout material) so asked them. They directed me towards “Bolton Twill” saying that another photographer had used some recently! In fact they’d taken almost the last of it so I had to order in. Bit foolish of me really as I hadn’t done any measurements at that point.

Dimensions wise I kept with the existing squares dimensions 6.5cm x 6.5cm and also the same depth – approx 4cm as this softbox has an extending edge from the diffuser panel – as per the cheap one.

I followed the design pattern used by Adriel Henderson give or take a few minor changes. I cut a couple of lengths that were long enough for a side and and a top/bottom – so 120cm + 40cm = 160cm, which would server as the outside edge. For the boxes followed this plan (see diagram). This is the view as seen if looking directly at the softbox. These strips of fabric would also be approx 4cm deep.

The Blue points = the contact points where you join them. (I’ve only displayed for the first strip)

The Red areas = As per Adriel’s design – there is a bit of doubling up where a length of the strip will cover an existing portion of fabric.

I did find an alternative design (sorry I can’t find the link to reference now) which would do away with this doubling up BUT:

  • It would mean marking out and cutting a fair few more strips.
  • The strips would be of varying lengths – so more work/time consuming
  • I had enough fabric to not worry about this doubling.
The layout would be something like this, I hope you can understand the colours. Rather than going down in squares, the strips go diagonally down in zig-zags.
I designed the layout in Excel and added the numbers for the lengths so that I could easily sum the columns and get the lengths of the strips I needed to mark out and cut.


All materials/equipment used:

  • Material – Bolton Twill ~ 3m – £27
  • Fabric Scissors ~ £7
  • Hand held sewing machine – £4
  • Thread £1
  • Bobbin – £0.60
  • Stick-on Velcro (hooks)  ~4m – £6
  • Fabric glue – £3
  • Chalk to mark out lines – already had.
So in all a cost of roughly £39 for the materials that went into it and additional £11 for the scissors and sewing machine which I will use again. I have a fair amount of the fabric left so could try to make something else like spill-kills.
Of course – it cost a fair bit of my time – but having a bit of spare time at long last and ability to do this while at home watching TV/a film – it really isn’t too bad.
Initially I was only going to glue the fabric together but I saw mention of a hand sewing machine somewhere and thought, what the heck. I’m glad I did – although this sewing machine had it’s faults – sewn joins are probably a lot firmer than glued.
The little hand sewing machine was one of these:

I had considered buying a mini proper sewing machine – you can get them for £20-40 but rejected it as it would take up space later, and I thought the above would be more suitable as I could sew up into the grid holes, while a larger machine would have issue with sewing parts already stuck to existing small holes – the holes wouldn’t be able to fit…. but I was mistaken – more on that later.

Production Notes

Although 6.5cm squares don’t fit into 120cm evenly – I thought I should round up to the whole square as it’s not a bad thing having a grid slightly too large – better than one that’s too small.


So for the outside edges I needed to cut 2 strips of  124+39 + 2cm spare = 165cm (+ spare if there was)

For the vertical zig-zag sections I had to cut 6 strips of 241cm + spare – so roughly 245cm (+more spare if there was)

One definate tip is while you mark out the strips of fabric – also mark out the markers for where you will join them together – so every 6.5 cm for me. This makes it a lot easier to mark them at the same time – no need for duplicating work – and means you’re sure your glueing/sewing the right place.Thought I had a picture of this – obviously not.

Joining cells

Initially I was going to glue the strips in place but glad I went with sewing as it was sturdier.

I thought that the little hand sewing machine would be able to sew into the squares as I consructed them – but turns out it has one of those fabric advancing feet as standard sewing machines and it moved across – so I had to sew sideways into the squares.


I would initially sew the squares together – but as the little machine would miss some stitches I’d sew one way and then another – I could turn the machine around with some wrestling.

Since the stitch the machine makes can easily pull out along it’s length – the ends do need to be fastened. Rather than sewing this into the fabric by hand I took the easy route – I glued the blighter’s on 😉

Shame I didn’t take more photos explaining the production really… but I guess the layout is fairly basic.

After finishing the grid I trimmed off the fraying edges and put a little spot of glue at all the intersections to try to stop any more fraying.

Attaching to softbox

My existing grid uses stitched on velcro (hook side) to attach to the rim of the softbox which is lined with the opposite hoop side velcro. As my large softbox has this too – I thought migt as well do something similar.

Rather than sew-on (I don’t think the littlsewing machine could cope with it) I’ve gone for srick-on.

Velcro strip usually start from about 20mm but I thought I’d go for slightly wider 25mm to give more support and even out the weight.

Finished Item


Strip pointing at white seamless without and then with the grid:

Softbox without grid

Without Grid

Softbox with DIY Grid

With Grid

Here’s a view from what I’d roughly say was 45 degrees. The exposure was as the above two shots – no post done to the levels etc.

You can see there’s more light bleed coming from the first column of cells. InitiallyI wasn’t sure why this was – although not exact – my cells were of roughly similar sizes. But I think I’ve figured it out – because the softbox is a wedge shaped – i.e. narrow at the back where the light is, and wide at the front – the side of the softbox the grid is attaching to isn’t perpendicular if looking head on of course – it’s flared. And so the first column/row on both sides and top/bottom will be wider and have a slanted edge.

To Improve

There are a few things I would have done to improve the grid….


Although it does a good job – I think I could have looked around a bit more – that of the existing grid is softer and lighter.

Sewing machine


I was initially tempted to buy a mini-big sewing machine – but rejected it thinking it wouldn’t be able to sew the squares together as they are only 6.5cm square, and the base of the machine would not fit through there.  I also thought the little machine would would sew into the squares, making it easy, but due to the fabric advancing feet I had to sew sideways into the squares. 

To do this I flattened the edges of the squares and this made me realise I could have just dones this with a standard machine!

The little sewing machine was also rather temperamental about making stiches – sometimes the back hook wouldn’t catch – so I doubled up.


The velcro attaching the grid to the softbox does come away a little – even though the stick does seem very firm. Looks like I’ll need to sew it a little. Maybe just at regular points rather than al along.

Size of grid cells

Although it does the job – in reality I would prefer that the grid restrict the light more – especially at the edges where I discovered an issue. To do this I would have needed to do one of two things – either make the grid deeper (unlikely as there was no more space to velcro it in and the fabric isn’t THAT firm) or make the squares smaller.

Of course making the squares smaller would mean more sewing and more strips.

While looking up the references to write this blog I came across an old DPreview forum thread I’d started when looking for a grid last year. I’d forgotten someone had linked to a page detailing technical measurements/sizing for grid cells for the angle of light.


A 30 or 20 degree grid would have been great, but with 2-3cm squares that would have meant double the amount of sewing. With this little machine – not a task I’d fancy.

Maybe I’ll consider making another with smaller square – but as I’ve not even used this one properly yet – I’ll stick with it for now. Should probably use my time to do other things…… like writing this blog 😉

References (+ other examples)

Material – used their pattern/design


Gaffer tape  didn’t really use