I have not written about some software or hardware in quite some time. I have a few good pieces of information to share in this post, a useful piece of hardware, a software, and a Web site.
I have been working on building a lighting kit at low-cost. I was using umbrellas and still have a few, but umbrellas do not control the light as well as reflectors or soft boxes. Last year I got a couple of soft boxes with rear loading holes for flash units. Mounting them and making them work took a little doing, thanks to Dennis they eventually became reasonably easy to set up. Since that time I also switched from Canon flashes that used an infrared remote trigger system to the new Canon RT system flashes that use a radio signal. The advantage of the new system is that the flash units do not need to be in a line of sight of each other to communicate. After that obstacle was removed, I noticed a soft box that opened like an umbrella and contained the flash inside. I thought the setup would be a snap, the price was very reasonable and I got two of them. Indeed, the setup was very simple and the flash neatly disappeared inside the box, along with the flash mounting bracket that allowed me to adjust the angle. Ooopps!
Extend The Reach
As a solution to the disappearing bracket, I found a boom arm which would separate the articulation of the angle from the flash mount. That worked, it still does but is a bit cumbersome. At a PSRI meeting, Hunt’s Photo and Video had a spread of photo gear from cameras to lenses and many other small items. I had seen a new product by Phottix that was like a long bar with a flash mounting bracket. The whole contraption fit on the main mounting bracket and after the softbox is placed over the flash the angle control remained outside. I asked the Phottix salesperson if he had one. Since it was too new he only had a picture which I had seen before. I ordered one of them from Hunt’s and recently received it. Its official name is “Phottix Multi Boom 16″ Flash Bracket” and it is a well-made product. It consists of a nicely finished round bar and a well-fitted flash mounting plate. This model can take up to 2 flashes and the distance between them is adjustable. The position of the flash mounting plate can be raised or lowered depending on the umbrella or softbox mounting shaft. It is a clean solution to this problem. An added advantage is that the flash heads can be placed at the level of the mounting shaft for even distribution of light inside the box or umbrella. I think it is money well spent. The people at Hunt’s Photo and Video were kind enough to extend a special discount to the readers of this blog, 10% off their regular price if you follow this link and purchase your item. Here are some photographs that show the item:
Keep on top of your software updates
The second piece in this post is related to keeping all your applications up to date. You may think your applications are current, most applications give you warnings that they need to be updated including Windows, but I found and installed Secunia Personal Software Inspector and I am amazed how well it tracks the updates. I have seen a warning in the PSI screen that some software need updating even when the software itself does not indicate an update more than a few times. Upon close inspection and checking on the vendor site I usually find the update PSI indicates. It is uncanny. Even Windows at times tells me that everything is up to date, but if I follow PSI advice and check around the update emerges. It is a free software but the setup has a little geeky detail without which it fails to work. It is not terribly complex but read the instructions before attempting to install and configure PSI. If you do not understand any part of it either seek help from a friend or skip this program. Here is how to proceed:
- Before doing anything, read the instructions in step 3, if you think you are up to handling a bit of geeky stuff, proceed with the next steps
- Download Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI) and install it. I am using version 2. There is apparently some dissatisfaction with version 3, I am not aware of that since I have been using the older version. Ironically, PSI has not warned me about upgrading itself! Here is the link to the older version 2.0.
- Go to their FAQ page and read the instructions on how to adjust the security settings on Windows
It loads on Windows start and keeps the system on its toes. I recommend this software based on my trouble-free use for more than a year.
Look at some photographs, lots of them
Looking at photographs will sharpen one’s appreciation of different genre of work as well as ability to learn to read photographs. The Internet is filled with photographs but generally in a chaotic way with little or no structure. One of the richest source of photographic work is freely available online, The Library of Congress Web site. It contains an amazing variety of materials including a very large collection of photographs from all over the world. In fact, the first collection that is listed is Abdul Hamid II Collection with pages and pages of photographs, close to 2,000 of them. Of course, the legendary Farm Security Administration photographic collection of 175,310 will keep you busy for a few weekends!