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I need lighting for product shots, macro work, video interviews, and gosh-knows-what when I'm on the go. But my camera bag has only inches of space to spare. So I've devised a kit using the Ikan iLED-MS Micro Spot On-Camera Light, a film can diffuser, and a Joby GorillaPod Tripod. The entire kit weighs less than 7 ounces, yet provides powerful, flexible, diffused lighting.

portable-lighting-rig.jpg The Ikan LED light with DIY film can diffuser and Joby Tripod. Photos by Derrick Story.

The Ikan light by itself is a nifty unit. It's a lightweight, cool-to-the touch, daylight-balanced, LED about the size of a small flashlight (5" long). The front of the light incorporates a lens system that creates a 30 Degree beam angle providing a directional light well suited for on-camera use or also as a kicker light.

The unit features a discrete on/off switch and is dimmable from 100 to 10 percent on using an integrated thumb wheel on the side. It also includes a built-in diffuser panel, CTO filter for balancing with ambient indoor lighting, and a set of barn doors. Everything folds up neatly. You can recharge it via any USB charger you already have in your bag.

I was impressed with the built-in diffuser panel that simply flips over the LED bulb. But there were instances when I wanted even a softer light. So I retrofitted a FujiFilm 35mm canister to create a gentle light for macro and product photography.

diffuser-with-gaffers.jpg FujiFilm 35mm canister with white gaffer's tape for a snug fit.

The film can mounted pretty well in the LED light, but it was just a tad loose. So I wrapped a few strips of white gaffer's tape to create a snug fit.

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The modified light with the film can diffuser works great for close up work. And since I can adjust the output from 10-100 percent, I can get just the look I want. The entire kit weighs just ounces and fits nearly anywhere in my camera bag. In fact, it's so nimble, I may set up a second kit so I can use two-light schemes.


Nimble Photographer Logo

The Ikan iLED-MS Micro Spot On-Camera Light kit has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

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If you've shot with a Canon DSLR, chances are good that you have an Off-Camera Shoe Cord 2 stashed away. Well, it's time to break it out!

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I was hanging out with Lumix Luminaries Joseph Linaschke and Giulio Sciorio the other day, and Giulio wanted to test my Canon flash cord on his Panasonic GM5. And darnit, if it didn't work great.

Then I was reading Rico Pfirstinger's excellent guide, The Fujifilm X-T1 111 X-Pert Tips where he wrote that his Canon off-camera flash cable works with the Fujifilm X-T1 also. Son of a gun!

So, I just had to test this with my Olympus OM-D E-M10 and the FL-300R Flash, and wouldn't you know it, it worked again! In fact, I had full TTL capability with flash exposure compensation.

Bottom line is this: if you have a off-camera flash cord by Canon, your mirrorless kit most likely just got an upgrade.


Nimble Photographer Logo

The Canon Off-Camera Shoe Cord 2 has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

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Most photographers think a lot about their camera gear. But once the bodies and lenses are packed, there are a few additional items that should be included.

Here are five non-photo accessories that I carry for every trip.

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  • Flashlight - Yes, my iPhone has a handy light for digging around in the bag, but I don't want to use that for working my way down a trail after sunset. And it's not very good for light painting. So I bring an additional light, such as the Ultrafire LED flashlight torch ($15).
  • Swiss Army Knife - I've lost count of the number of times my Victorinox has saved the day. I like the lighter models, such as the Climber II Pocket Knife ($20).
  • Ziploc Bag - Everyone knows to bring one, but they are often forgotten. In addition to everything else they do, put your camera in the Ziploc before you come indoors after a cold weather shoot. The condensation will accumulate on the bag and not your camera.
  • Rubber Bands - They can hold DIY bounce cards to flash heads, stabilize daring camera set-ups, serve as hanging loops, and a host of other MacGyver solutions.
  • Gaffer's Tape - If a rubber band doesn't work, gaffer's tape probably will. You don't need an entire roll, a few strips on the inside of your camera bag should work just fine.

One final thought, if you're flying to your destination, remember to move your Swiss Army Knife from your camera bag to your checked suitcase. I hate having mine confiscated by the TSA.


Nimble Photographer Logo

These items have a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

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As we roll into Fall and Winter, it's a good idea to have a little extra protection for your camera bag. If yours doesn't include an All Weather cover, you can easily convert a Reusable Shopping Tote into an emergency rain cover.

I prefer the reusable totes to other solutions for a few reasons:

  • They look good. Yes, I could tie a plastic grocery bag over my gear, but that's not really the way I want to walk around the city.
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  • They stuff into a compact pouch that's easily stored in my camera bag, or hook to the outside with a D-ring.
  • They're multifunctional. Yes, if I find myself in a store and need a good looking shopping bag, I have one.
  • They're affordable. I can buy a 4-pack for $20 and have spares for more photo gear or bigger shopping trips. (Or in the case of the one shown, a free give-away at a conference.)

I carry a few office clips (also handy for other uses) and stretch the reusable tote over the top of the camera bag, clipping it at the bottom on both sides. This protects the main compartment of the bag from the top, front, and back. I can attach it quickly, then stuff it back into its pouch when no longer needed.


Nimble Photographer Logo

The reusable tote has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

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DIY Slide Digitizers for Fun

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I just read an interesting article on Petapixel, DIY: A Cheap and Effective Rig for Digitizing Negatives Using a Smartphone that shows you how to make an easy rig to use with your smartphone to copy slides.

The article reminded me of how many times, and different ways I've address this type of project. So I thought I'd list them all here for your entertainment and reference.


Review of the Lomography Smartphone Film Scanner

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The Lomo enables you to connect a smartphone, in my case an iPhone 4S, and scan 35mm film strips. The internal light is powered by 2 AA batteries. Operation is simple. Feed the film into the unit using a knurled knob, turn on the light, mount your phone, and take a picture of the illuminated image. Read about the Lomo film scanner here.

Bottom Line: The Lomo is fun to use and convenient, but the results are so-so at best.


DIY Copy Stand for iPhone 3GS

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If you've ever tried close-up work with the iPhone, you know you have two challenges. The first is holding the camera steady enough to avoid camera shake. The second is getting the plane of the camera parallel to the plane of the subject to avoid distortion. This little device helps with both, plus diffuses the light for a more flattering rendering. Read about the DIY Copy Stand here.

Bottom Line: It might not be pretty, but this rig produces great results.


DIY Slide Digitizer with Olympus OM-D and Leica Projector

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This set-up solves the quality problem by using an Olympus 60mm f/2.8 macro lens with an Olympus OM-D E-M1. The Olympus 60mm has excellent edge-to-edge sharpness, plus a small barrel diameter to correctly couple with the slide projector. I simply remove the lens that came with the projector, then point the 60mm optic toward the illuminated slide. Read about the DIY Slide Digitizer here.

Bottom Line: It's a bit of a hassle to set up, but the digitized slides look great and can be used for a variety of purposes.


Canon 5D 35mm Slide Digitizer - DIY

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If you have a full frame DSLR, you can easily digitize your favorite 35mm slides at home. I'm using a Canon 5D, Sunpak 444D flash, and a 1980s slide copier. That's all you really need. Read about the Canon 5D Slide Digitizer here.

Bottom Line: If you find the parts, you'll like the results.

So there you have it. A roundup of whacky, but often effective devices for digitizing content. What can you come up with?

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All the stuff that ends up in the bottom of your camera bag - spare change, rubber bands, bandaids, pain reliever packets - and more. The problem is, you're carrying it around all the time, yet you can't find the items when you need them. It's a lose/lose situation.

My solution? The MacGyver Box for Photographers. This is just one of the weekend projects that I write about in my latest post for lynda.com Article Center, Photography Hacks: Power Charging, Repurposed Loupe, MacGyver Box.

You'll have to jump over to the lynda article to learn about the alternative charging methods for your mobile devices and how to repurpose an inexpensive loupe for field work. But I'll cover the MacGyver Box right here.

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Start with an emptied-out filter box, then assemble all the widgets that you need to have accessible in your camera bag. I use rubber bands, coins (as screwdrivers too), paper clips (SIM removal tool), Bandaids (great for emergency tape also), pain reliever, flash drive, white business card (bounce flash card and ID too), wire ties, and safety pins.

They all fit nice and neat in this box that stashes easily in your bag, yet can be located quickly. No more digging around in the depths of your kit, only to be rewarded by being pricked in the finger by an open safety pin.

More about the MacGyver Box and the other goodies at the lynda.com Article Center.

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Make a Shade for Your Camera's LCD

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Very few things in photography are as tough as composing on an LCD in bright conditions. It's basically "guess and shoot."

I've designed a simple solution using a cardboard jewelry box. It's easy to make, has adjustable depth, and can double as an accessory storage container. And the best part is, in bright conditions, it really works.

I explain how this gem works in my latest article for the lynda.com Article Center titled, Photography Hacks: Make an LCD Shade, Battery Protector, and Lighting Field Kit. It's the first installment of a 3-part series that I'm authoring for the site.

accessories-in-box.jpg When it's not shading your LCD screen, the shade can serve as a handy accessory box.

If you've got a little time to tinker this weekend, you might want to take a look at this post. I think you'll like what you end up with.

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My original iPad was in virtual retirement on the top closet shelf. Since it doesn't support iOS 6 or 7, it seemed destined for my personal electronics museum. And that seemed wrong.

The battery is still good, the screen is colorful and bright, and the wireless is just as viable as ever. I was determined to make it relevant again.

ipad-picture-frame.jpg The original iPad displaying a slideshow of my work in what used to be a dark corner of the stairwell where my iHome AirPlay speaker system is located.

I found a wall mount for it at Padbracket.com and decided that my old iPad could become the ultimate digital picture frame. After a few days of use, I can't imagine why I waited so long. (There are a variety of creative wall mounts for your iPad online. Shop around a bit to find one you like.)

The setup is easy. Create an Album in the Photos app specifically for the images you want to display on your new digital picture frame. Then go to Settings > Picture Frame, and select the Album along with the other options you prefer, such as transitions and display time for each image.

When it's time to show off your work, you don't even have to unlock the iPad. Push the Power button, tap on the Picture Frame icon in the lower right corner, and enjoy the show.

You can change things up by running a weather app with pretty pictures and the local temperature. There are still many available for iOS 5.

I like that my original iPad is back in business. And the looping slideshow brightens up that corner of the studio. If you have an iPad collecting dust, you might want to give it new life as a digital picture frame.


iPad for Digital Photographers

This is the kind of stuff I write about in iPad for Digital Photographers-- now available in print, Kindle, and iBooks format.

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Join me on my Instagram site as I explore the world of mobile photography. And now Instagram features 15-second movies too.

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Like many seasoned shooters, I have a library of slides that I'm not using, simply because they haven't been digitized. Thanks to inspiration from Victor Kaijser Bots, who converted a slide projector into an automated digitizer, I've created my own high quality rig with components that I had on hand.

My digitizer is a single-shot system that emphasizes quality over speed. I've dabbled with these projects in the past. The problem was always mediocre quality because of cheap optics.


Olympus Image Share app running on an iPhone 5S controlling the E-M1 that's digitizing the slides in the projector.


This rig solves that problem by using an Olympus 60mm f/2.8 macro lens with an Olympus OM-D E-M1. The Olympus 60mm has excellent edge-to-edge sharpness, plus a small barrel diameter to correctly couple with the slide projector. I simply remove the lens that came with the projector, then point the 60mm optic toward the illuminated slide.

slide-projector-setup.jpg I remove the lens from the Leica P 150 slide projector and point the macro 60mm toward the image. I used the Olympus Image Share WiFi app to control the OM-D E-M1.

The trick to making this rig work is to install a diffuser between the slide and the light source. This creates even illumination that's ideal for digitizing the image. I cut an piece of translucent plastic that was originally used for a portable light box that no longer worked. (I usually take apart broken items and salvage parts before discarding them.) I sandwich the diffuser with the slide and insert them into the single viewing slot on the projector.

slide-projector-diffuser.jpg The diffuser (on the right) is placed between the light source and the slide.

I used the Olympus Image Share app on my iPhone to focus and trip the shutter on the camera. This is really nice because I get a preview on the iPhone and have access to camera controls, without have to fiddle with the camera itself. Plus, I don't jar the E-M1 when initiating the exposure.

Riding the Train

The resulting digital images were very faithful to the originals, and quite easy to scan. This portrait was captured on a train in Scotland in 1992 with a Contax 167MT and Fuji 100 slide film.
The picture below was captured with the same equipment, then converted to B&W using Nik Sliver Efex Pro.

Holyrood House, Scotland

I could further automate this process by figuring out a way to mount the diffuser in the slide projector without damaging the projector itself. I still want to be able to present traditional slide shows with the Leica P 150. But I can tackle that challenge another day. For now, I'm having a blast converting images from my past and adding them to my Aperture library.

Aperture Tips and Techniques

To learn more about Aperture, which is what I use to image edit and catalog my digitized slides, check out my Aperture 3.3 Essential Training (2012) on lynda.com. Also, take a look at our Aperture 3 Learning Center. Tons of free content about how to get the most out of Aperture.


The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!


Fujifilm X20 Tele Extender

My goal at game 3 of the Warriors vs Nuggets NBA playoff was to have a good time. (And boy did I!) But I also wanted to capture a few memories from the event with my compact camera. And I knew I was going to need a bit more reach than the 112mm zoom the Fjuifilm X20 provided. So I created a Frankenzoom

The key components were a Fujifilm adapter/lens hood for the X20 and an old Canon 1.5X tele extender that I had for my G2. I used gaffer's tape to connect the lens hood to the tele extender, then screwed the device into the front of the camera.

Fujifilm X20 Tele Extender

I was able to extend my reach from 112mm at f/2.8 to 168mm with virtually no light loss. This made it much easier to capture candids during the exciting game, and even capture a shot or two of the action on the floor.

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I rarely let go of old glass, even if I'm not using the camera anymore. Because when I go into my lab filled with optics, adapters, and gaffer's tape, I never know exactly what's going to emerge.


iPad for Digital Photographers

If you love mobile photography like I do, then you'll enjoy iPad for Digital Photographers-- now available in print, Kindle, and iBooks versions.

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