Aged Wood Is Nature’s Art

I must admit that I have a decided tilt towards trees in general, even the remnants that fall to the ground as time and the forces of nature stress their limbs. Because of this affinity, when I walk, I often find items that turn my head and draw my eye. The following photographs were all done in early 2012 on a long, cold and windy Saturday afternoon. I had stumbled on their existence a few days prior during a walk along some railroad tracks canopied by pines.

These shots were staged and shot in my studio using a Canon 5DII at ASA 50, an EF100 f2.8IS Macro and a some LED lights from Coolights. I dont usually have a specific goal when I begin the process of playfully creating a still life for the pleasure of doing so – that is, other than rewarding my own eye when I think I am finished.

FYI, the colors are pretty close to the actual colors. I had thought about doing a cross-tint (warmer highlights and quarter tones and cooler three quarter tones and shadows), but decided to leave their natural tones intact. I hope you like them.



WeatheredWood_StillLife_MG_9226Please do not copy or alter these images in any way. ©2013 by Bill Deuster. All rights reserved.

Sachtler Tripod DA75L spreader adjustment

I got an email today (Thanks Benji) that asked if I might describe the process of how to remove and reattach the spreader on the Sachtler DA75L tripod (that comes bundled with the FSB8 fluid head).

I will attempt to do so with a little help of close-up pics of the spreader parts that allow you to remove/adjust the spreader form the way it is assembled when you receive it new from Sachtler. First lets look at the “line art” that Sachtler includes with the product –

This is what I looked at when I got my set up. A bit “sketchy” in terms of pertinent information if you ask me. But there are hints as to how to begin to make adjustments. (BTW, the tripod doesnt actually look exactly like this, so bear with me.

First lets look at the screw that you need to loosen (to the point where it can be removed, but dont completely remove it). And DO NOT remove all the hardware/screws that the left hand drawing suggests that you remove. That makes working with the spreader very difficult and sets you up for a potential loss of those parts.

Once you have completely loosened the screw, turn your attention to the opposite side of the spreader to tripod leg connecter (front of the connecter/leg) –

As seen in the above photo and the right hand illustration in the first picture, you have two holes on the face of the plastic spreader to leg connector. By pressing into this hole, you can pull apart the connecter to release it completely from the leg. See how, in the picture below, that the connecter begins to separate when you push a tooth pic (or something a little stronger) into the hole.

Once you have it separated you can remove that portion of the spreader from its leg. Obviously, if you want to remove the entire spreader, you must do all three legs. Reattaching the spreader requires one to reverse the process until it is reattached (one exception is that you simply snap the plastic connector back together by lining up the two channels and stops – you dont need to press into the holes to do this). Once you have the connecter re-connected, you insert and tighten the screw that you originally loosened to begin the process.

I hope this is helpful to those who might be as confused as I was when I originally opened the package and realized that my new tripod would not go much lower than 40 inches from the ground.

As a reminder, here is a full length image of the Sachtler DA75L tripod and FSB8 fluid head. This may help you put some of this into perspective. Please note that when the tripod arrives from Sachtler, the spreader is securely attached to the bottom of the top/first/main leg section. That would mean that the legs could not spread nearly as wide as in the photo below, nor could they move up the leg at all. By moving the spreader form the bottom end of the top leg section, the spreader connecters are free to move up and/or down the main tripod leg sections the way they can in the photo below.

Your comments/questions are welcome!

All images and copy ©2010 by Bill Deuster. All rights reserved.

First impressions of the Cool Light CL-LED256

I have looked at this light for a number of months and considered other competitive units that are available (Switronix, Ikan, Lowel, Litepanels, Bescor, Rosco and others) and after reading some recent commentary on Cinema 5D (please forgive me, but I have been unable to re-find the thread after several searches) I purchased the CL-LED256 (256 LED array, 5600K, spot with Sony battery mount).

I must say that I am quite impressed overall. It comes packaged in a nice soft case, the cable, dc power supply and XLR connecter are first rate and the filters are decent as well (more on this in a bit). The removable barndoors are solid and functional and the filter tray is excellent. I really like that the unit has three separate switch banks as well as a dimmer – all of which are solidly constructed. It is made of powder baked aluminum (in black) and, though compact, it has an overall solid feel.

The included stand adapter is OK but I prefer the Lowel adapter pictured in the images below.

This is the Cool Lights CL-LED256 (5600K Spot) with all three light banks turned on – shot with Elinchrom RX monolight strobes.

This is the Cool Lights CL-LED256 (5600K Spot) shot from the rear with the XLR DC adapter connected. Note the long dimmer knob on the bottom right of the fixture.

This is the Cool Lights CL-LED256 (5600K Spot) with the Sony battery attached.

This is the Cool Lights CL-LED256 (5600K Spot) that shows the master and bank light switches. Note the Lowel 5/8 inch light stand adapter.

This is the Cool Lights CL-LED256 (5600K Spot) from the front with the diffusion filter and open barndoors.

Someone on Cinema5D wanted to see the light in action (I know, in some moving image footage) and so did I. So here it is, the light illuminating its own DC power supply and other accessories.

I am actually quite excited about this light, its battery operation (dont have run times yet but will update this as I gain more experience), its solid compact build, the fact that it is 5600K and that it has three light banks as well as dimming capability. It is not really a camera mount light (though some might use it that way) but it is a great little mini spot.

The only observation at the moment that I have is about the filters that come with it. They are good, solid filters, but to my taste, the two minus green filters have about 500K too much amber added. I find that I prefer to use a Rosco 1/2 minus green (#RO3313s). It does lower the K to about 5000K but it matches so much better with the florescent lights that I use and the green is gone (I also filter my florescent lights with Rosco 1/4 or 1/2 minus green filters).

Comments or questions welcomed.

All images and copy ©2010 by Bill Deuster. All rights reserved.

Making of “C clamp sculpture”

Over the last ten days or so I have finally had time to put together some snipets of footage that are captured on my Canon 7d using the Sachtler FSB8 fluid head, Shoot35 CINEfocus mounted on their DSLRmount and rods amd a few seconds of footage using the Kessler CINEslider.

I picked a “subject” that I could easily set up and reposition so I could concentrate my efforts on getting long focus pulls, quick slides and smooth pans. The three C clamps clamped together made a willing subject and had no shyness for its purpose. 🙂

Here is the link to Vimeo to see the piece. I welcome comments and observations and am happy to answer questions on how the equipment was used. For your convenience, I am including, here, the production notes from the end of the film so you can more easily read them.

The focus (pun intended) of this short is to acquire, edit and display FF/pan/slider footage that relies on the the Shoot35 CINEfocus (V1), Sachtler FSB8 fluid head and Kessler CINEslider.

All the scenes, in one form or another, are designed to demonstrate pulling focus, pans or slider moves. Since I have only used this equipment a few times (just acquired) and have not done any kind of video work for over 25 years, I thought this might help folks who, like me, are trying to understand the subtle operations of this type of equipment – and to see that it needn’t be intimidating to use.

I am not trying to convey that this piece demonstrates my technical acumen. On the contrary, it is full of weaknesses. But it left me with the hope that, with practice, I might get skilled enough to deliver solid, consistent results that will contribute to a decent production at some point in the future.

I am inviting constructive observations and will be happy to answer any questions about the equipment. Please feel free to contact me.

©2010 by Bill Deuster. All rights reserved

Canon 7D Car Mount Using Woods PowerGrips, Foba CombiTubes, Manfrotto CrossArm and Giottos Ball Head

I have been researching and building my camera car mount system for many months. I have shot a fair amount of footage (to be posted at a later date) using different combinations of the parts that will be described/shown here and am quite pleased with the capabilities that I now have to mount a camera almost anywhere on a car and get acceptable to very stable footage.

The parts that make up this system are as follows –

10 inch Woods PowerGrip cup (rated to hold up to 175 lbs) with an aluminum platform that has two holes – one threaded for 1/4 20 and one threaded for 3/8 16.

10 inch Woods PowerGrip shown with a Manfrotto 131DDB tripod crossarm.

Two 4 inch Woods PowerGrips that have a 3/8 inch 16 threaded stud that is 5/8 inch long.

Shown mounted with a Foba Combi Tube attached. Note that the system for securing the camera is based  on 3/8 inch 16 threaded studs to which a Combi Tube may be attached.

The Manfrotto 131 DDB tripod crossarm to which I can mount my Giottos MH 1300 657 Ball Head (modified with a Giottos 621 quick release plate that came with my CINEslider).

This actually shows the entire camera mount system for this application – main 10 inch cup with two additional 4 inch cups with securing Combitubes. Also shown is the 6 inch cup with the flip handle to which the camera tether attaches.

The final part is the Giottos MH1300 Ball Head. It originally came with the 657 slide plate system, but I preferred the 621. It is rated to hold up to 20 lbs. Note the tether holding the camera strap.

Giottos MH1300 ball head shown on my custom car mount system attached to a Manfrotto 131DDB which is attached to a Woods PowerGrip 10 inch cup. Canon 7D is mounted to the head.

I have found from testing that the camera can bounce/jiggle quite a bit if the mounting system is not secured to the glass on my RAV 4. There are several places that the sheet metal is rigid enough on my RAV 4 to mount a cup and get acceptable results, but wider angle lenses are usually needed to accomplish this. The glass and the most rigid sheet metal perform the best with the widest range of lens choices.

My system from behind without the camera mounted.

Front view of my car mount system with Canon 7D mounted on the Giottos head. Remember that this system is made up of many parts and a camera may be secured to a car in an infinite number of ways.

This shows the 6 inch Woods PowerGrip (3/8 inch 16 stud, Giottos MH 1300 head attached) holding the Canon 7D. The 6 inch cup with the flip handle has a tether that secures the head/camera in case of a cup failure.

One of the things that came up during my research was the idea of securing the camera with a tether independently of the camera cup mount. Note in the photograph above that a tether attaches the camera to a Woods PowerGrip 6 inch cup with a flip handle. This cup is rated to hold up to 70lbs as is the 6 inch cup that holds the Canon 7D. The photo above also shows how versatile the cups are. I have used the 6 inch cup that holds the ball head on the hood of my RAV 4 and gotten acceptable footage at speeds up to 50mph.

One additional thing about the Woods PowerGrip cups. These cups are quite ingenious. They have a red line on the pump that hides when the cup is fully secured and visible when the cup has lost suction. Note the image below. The red line is showing and it needs re-pumping to secure the cup. Note, as well, in the image showing the camera mounted to the side of the RAV 4 I can see all the pump buttons from my side mirror. This is not by accident. It allows me to see if a cup might be losing vacuum and needs some attention to re-secure it to the vehicle.

Photo of the 4 inch Woods PowerGrip with the pump red line showing. This means that the cup has lost vacuum and needs attention.

This photo shows a 10 inch Woods PowerGrip cup that needs re-pumping to secure it to the surface. Note the red line showing on the pump cylinder.

The 10 inch cup has a release lever. It has so much suction power that you cannot remove it by hand when the vacuum is solid. The smaller cups have a nub on the outer edge of the cup that you lift to deplete the vacuum and remove the cup.

I will post more on this topic in the future as well as footage captured using this system. Until then thoughts and comments are welcome.

All images ©2010 by Bill Deuster. All rights reserved.



Sachtler FSB8 Fluid Head with DA75L Tripod

I am going to express, here, my first impressions working with the Sachtler FSB8 fluid head and the prepackaged aluminum tripod (DA 75L). This is an item I learned about on Cinema 5D from the well-informed and helpful Yoclay (thanks Yoclay!) I purchased it from B&H as a package ( ) when the package for the FSB6 and carbon fiber tripod package went up over $200.00 in just one night (I was originally going to purchase the FSB6 with this CF tripod). After rereading the posts by Yoclay on Cinema 5D I realized that, for my long term needs, the FSB8 head and packaged tripod were actually much more suited for my needs.

Here are the pics –

Sachtler DA 75L Tripod with the FSB8 fluid head on top.

Closer view of head mounted on the tripod with the handle.

Close up of the operational controls of the Sachtler FSB8 fluid head.

I will start with the out of box first look experience. To say I was looking forward to putting this head and tripod to work quickly would be a bit of understatement. But, initially, I was not so happy. And until I deciphered the cryptic line art for dismounting/adjusting the mid-level spreader I thought I might have made a mistake. You see, the spreader initially comes fixed to the lowest points on the main legs. This limits the leg spread so the lowest the tripod can go is about 4o inches – not good or acceptable. But I went to the B&H site and re-read the specs and it said it would go much lower. B&H has proven over the years to be the poster child for excellent service and truthful sales and technical advice (at least for me and I have purchased hundreds of items and many tens of thousands of dollars of equipment from them over the past ten years) so I went back to the instructions which didnt seem to offer a way of changing the spreader in any way.

To make a long story short, I did discover a way to remove and reattach the spreader in a way that allowed the legs to spread  way out and lower the height to meet my needs. I am not certain I have it all correct yet, but what I have settled on can be seen in top photo and seems to work very well.

As I come out of the still end of the business (shot video for about 6 years back in the late 70’s thru the mid 80’s) and am very much rooted in the making of a still photograph, working with a tripod primarily designed to capture moving picture footage is quite eye-opening. But, once I fixed the spreader, I quickly came to appreciate the thoughtful design attributes of this package.

First the tripod is light and rock steady. It has stainless spikes at the end of the legs (for softer, spongier surfaces like sand or ground that might be moist or carpet over thick padding), but Sachtler has included red rubber feet that quickly attach/detach from those spikes and provide exceptional stability and grip on a harder surface like concrete, tile or wood.

The FSB8 head is mounted on a 75mm ball and rests in a 75mm bowl on the top of the tripod. It is fixed/leveled on the tripod with an M10 metric thread (similar but not compatible with a 3/8_16 thread) The head has an illuminated bubble level that has already come in handy.

The FSB8 head has a number of precise and functional adjustments. On top is the quick release plate that I have come to really like. Instead of sliding in from the back like so many quick release systems, you can place the plate with the camera rig mounted to it directly down on the head and hear it “snap” into place. You then tighten the red clamping screw to secure the plate with camera rig attached. To detach you loosen the clamping screw and press the red “release button” on the back of the head. Now, simply lift the rig off the head.

As you can see from the pictures above, the plate is quite long. This allows for a quick balancing of the weight of the camera rig so that the drag adjustments and the spring counter balance systems work properly. If you will look to the top left scale that controls the vertical drag of the head you will see some numbers in white – the scale goes from 0 to 5 with 5 being the highest amount of drag. While it isnt visible, a “zero” setting is allowed and this is what you set to get the basic balance of the attached rig by sliding the release plate back and forth. Once you get your basic balance, you turn this dial back to the amount of drag that you want.

Depending on the weight of the rig, you can set the counterbalance dial (marked 1 thru 10) to allow a camera weight anywhere from 2 to 20 pounds. It seems to be quite sensitive and the system does work. I have found that one must play with it a bit to get a sense of how to quickly get a usable head balance and a functional counter balance for silky smooth vertical moves.

The last adjustment is the horizontal or pan drag settings. Once again, the scale goes from 0-5. I should note that with any of the three settings (horizontal or vertical drag adjustments or the spring counter-balance system) one needs to move the head thru a full arc to get the new setting to engage. One will hear a noticeable but quiet “click” that indicated that the new drag or spring setting has engaged and is now functioning.

As my previous post indicates, I have recently purchased and received the Shoot35 CINEfocus and DSLRmount. It is mounted on the Sachtler head. Everything works quite well together and I am working on a simple video that will show the capabilities of both. I will post it when I complete it.

I should note here, as well, that all the lock-down/adjustment knobs are strong and secure – very well made from what I can tell. All in all a fine fluid head and tripod system!

I look forward to your feedback!

All images ©2010 by Bill Deuster, all rights reserved.

Thoughts on Shoot35 CINEfocus and DSLRmount

The shot above shows the Shoot35 equipment on the new Sachtler FSB8 fluid head and Sachtler Tripod – to be reviewed separately at a later date.

View looking from behind the Shoot35 CINEfocus and DSLRmount.

View looking from above/in front of the Shoot35 CINEfocus and DSLRmount.

Over the past several months, I have benefited from the experiences of the many posters on Cinema5D. As a result of the commentary there, I purchased the above items and wanted to give my first impressions regarding both the equipment and the shopping/shipping experience.

First for the very slight complaints. These observations should not be viewed as negative, but rather as constructive observations. I love the fact that I benefitted from the sale going on at Shoot35, but there were a number of errors on the refreshed site and I was never able to get all the info (from them – Wayne, I suppose) that I would have liked. I got all the info that I needed (to make the purchase) from the terrific folks posting their experiences on Cinema5D!! (Thank you!) Shipping was prompt. I ordered on a Monday and received the package on a Thursday. One must remember that by the time I ordered on Monday it was after business hours in Great Britain.

Now for the equipment observations.

Notice in the pics above that the rails have exposed threads. I want end caps to cover those and finish the otherwise flawless rendering of these clean, strong, no nonsense and superbly performing tools.

The manual is simple and informative. I read it and am glad that I did even though the gear is virtually self explanatory. The DSLRmount and rods are rigid and strong and provide a solid base for mounting the 7D to my Sachtler fluid head. The CINEfocus is both a work of art and a functional workhorse. I am not steady of hand and the CINEfocus helps me get shots I couldnt possibly get without it. And I havnt really learned how to fully take advantage of its capabilities. I need to practice and am looking forward to exploiting its full range of capabilities. I wasnt originally going to get the CINEcrank but because it is included in the sale package, I did – and I am grateful that I did. It is a profound benefit for someone like me who is just learning this gear and attempting to become proficient in the variety of techniques that produce the elegant shots that make a film special and an HDSLR like either the 5 or 7D such a powerful visual tool.

The CINEfocus is much bigger than I expected (but about the weight I expected – go figure) even with the commentary from the posters at Cinema5D. It is also more rugged than anticipated – it is a solid, well-machined, well-designed piece of gear. The red stop is quite beefy and more than a little helpful. So far I have found that removing the marking disk and using a small memo clip in conjunction with the stop (many thanks to Howard on Cinema5D) is a quick way to mark a firm termination point for your focus pull. Operation is smooth, though I did discover that it is imperative to line everything up properly and to keep just the correct amount of “looseness” between the lens gear and the drive gear on the FF – too tight renders a bit of “cogging” and too loose gets quite sloppy very quickly.

As for the Shoot35 lens gear, well, I am sorry that I didnt get a couple more. They dont fit several of my lenses (lens too big, gear too small) but on the ones that they do fit they are a solid, easy to set up gear. Had I fully understood the nature of these gears I would have purchased at least 2 more. As for my Canon 85 f1.2, well I havnt determined what gear is the best one to get at this point – Indisytems snap gears, Zacuto flexible gears or possibly the JAG35 universal gears. I am open to your thoughts, so please let me know.

To say that I am pleased with my purchase would be a bit of understatement. And that is primarily because of the great info available on Cinema5D. Thanks guys!!

All images ©2010 by Bill Deuster, all rights reserved.