Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Another tripod option

My buddy James Coulter posted today about a still life stand he got recently that is much cheaper than my tripod. He says he spent $80 on it. So if you're looking for a cheaper alternative to what I posted the other night, this could be it. I'll post a link on my other blog too.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Shadow Box & Tripod

I've been meaning and promising to do this for a LONG time. After the fire I had to figure out a replacement for my tripod and shadowbox. I couldn't find the same tripod I had so I researched a new one that was possibly even MORE hefty and stable than the one I had before, but also had the same range of height (I want to be able to look at my stuff from above or straight on - eye level, and anything in between). I found this fabulous, beautiful tripod (below).

I ordered it from Stakemill online, here. It is made in Germany so you know it's well-built. The only downside is - it's expensive! $339, and that doesn't include shipping. But it works like a champ. It's easier to raise and lower than my old one - it has a nifty little crank. Here is all the pertinent info.

Ok, so onto the shadow box. Many have asked if my husband (the mastermind behind the box) is willing to make and sell these. I have asked many times and his answer is always no. Sorry. I figured pictures and instructions were the next best thing, so here ya go!

The idea behind the shadowbox is to control the light on my subject, and mounting it on a tripod gives me the ability to get any angle easily. The first step is to buy the parts. We used mostly PVC because it is lightweight. The diameter of the longer parts is 3/4". You'll want to buy these first corner pieces to fit 3/4". Get 8 of each of these first two pieces - you'll then screw them together to make 8 of what's in the second picture.

The eight assembled corner pieces are shown in this next picture on the left, along with the other two lengths of 3/4" PVC you'll need. Cut eight 20" pieces and four 24" pieces.

Next you'll want to fit all 8 corner pieces to each end of the longer pieces (as shown below). You don't need to use glue. It holds together just fine with friction.

Then fit all the pieces together to form a cube with the 4 longer pieces forming the width of the cube. Then let your 6-yr-old pretend the cube is solid and he is trapped inside (this is a very important step).

This is where my new shadowbox is better than the one I had before. This is a platform that sits under my box, that keeps the thin bottom piece from bending - it basically keeps everything stable without adding a lot of weight. Take my word for it. The bottom part is 1/8" thick and 18" square. The placement of the 10" lengths aren't super important. There are a couple of inches wide. The hole in the middle fits the metal threaded piece that sticks out from the top of my tripod.

So then you sent this whole thing on top of the tripod and screw a big nut on so it stays.

This is what it looks like on top of the tripod.

Next you're going to need four little screws ... what's that, about an inch long?

You're going to use these screws to attach this next piece (1/8") of plywood to the platform you just attached to the top of the tripod. It is 23 7/8" by 20 2/8". The location of the screws isn't terribly important, as long as they go through the 10" lenths. You are going to want to drill two little holes (about 1/4" in diameter) in each corner and one along each side. The exact location doesn't matter.

This is what this piece looks like attached, from below (below).

Next you'll need a bunch of these 8 (or so) inch cable ties, aka quick locks. They don't have to be white.

You'll want to thread a quick lock through each of the little holes on the edges of the plywood, then around the PVC, and lock. It's easier if you get someone to help you with this part since you'll have to hold the PVC cube in mid-air for just a little while until you get enough of the quick locks in. HINT: don't tighten any of them all the way at first. You are going to end up kind of suspending the cube around the wood, and you want all the ties to be evenly tight/loose.

Next comes the back piece, which I suppose isn't entirely necessary. I like it because I often use smaller sheets of paper as backgrounds and I can lean this against the back. This piece is going to be 23 7/8" by 22 7/8" - same 1/8" plywood, with 2 little holes at each corner and one along each side. Do the same routine with the quick locks. You may note I didn't do the quick locks at the bottom, middle of the back piece and back, middle of the bottom piece. I had them before and they got in the way, and I decided I had enough stability with all the others.

I went ahead and cut off all the ends of the quick locks to make it neater.

Lastly, in order to control that light like we talked about, I drape fabric over the whole thing. I like to use white first so my shadows come alive (try black to see what I mean). Then black over that because my overhead light would come right through only white.

I clamp the corners so the fabric stays on. And I pull down the fabric on the front if I need less of my overhead light shining in there.

This is all sturdy enough to clamp a light directly to the PVC, and this is what I've been doing for months. However, I had it attached to a tripod before and I found it was more flexible. I admit I bought an extra long goose neck (from B&H photo) and a special little clamp dealy to attach that to the tripod. I got the lamp head from Wal-Mart.

I'm very happy with this setup. If you have any questions please ask them as a comment to this post. I'm sure I've left some things out and everyone would like to hear the questions. I will leave my answers also as comments. Thanks!