I've used the Spiffy Gear Light Blaster
periodically since authoring a review of the strobe-based projection aid nearly two years ago. Over that time I've used the Light Blaster in several different ways. With a brand new studio space (giving me more room to work than my previous place), I decided to illustrate some of the different ways you can utilize the Light Blaster for creative portraiture with a series of (yep, you guessed it) self-portraits. The Standard – Using the Light Blaster for Backgrounds
The most common use for the Light Blaster is to project an interesting background for your portrait. It's relatively easy and straight forward to use the Light Blaster in this way. However, you need to make sure to control all the light sources in your scene as stray light can wash out the projected background. Notice that the left side of the image above is slightly more washed out than the other side which is a result of me using a reflector as opposed to a gridded softbox for fill.
Here was the setup:
The main light was provided by a Canon 580EX flash diffused by a gridded softbox while the fill light was provided by a reflector positioned just out of the frame. I used another 580EX (camera left, gridded) as a rim light and a final 580EX provided the light being projected by the Light Blaster. Note that I had to use my widest angle lens (a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8) to create a projection wide enough to fill the wall behind me and I had to pose carefully so as to hide the Light Blaster during the shot. Projecting an Image onto the Subject and Background
This was one of the techniques I used when creating the Light Blaster Review
. This is a relatively challenging technique because of the multiple planes of focus you must consider when creating this type of image.
One plane of focus you must consider is that of the lens attached to your camera. That one's pretty straight forward as you can increase (or decrease) depth-of-field by adjusting your camera settings. The other plane of focus is more troublesome because you can't vary the aperture of Canon AF lenses that aren't attached to the camera (in other words, the lens attached to the Light Blaster). Unless that lens is fully manual (and in most cases it won't be), your lens will be projecting the image using a wide open aperture meaning you must choose a working distance and focal length which are optimal in terms of making use of the projection and obtaining the depth of field necessary for the effect.
While I was eventually able to overcome the challenges and produce an effect I liked, the projection on the background was not perfectly in focus (although I think the slight out-of-focus text looked good in that particular image). Projecting an Image onto the Subject (But Not Onto the Background*)
This is probably the second-most utilized technique when using the Light Blaster. If you have enough working space, you can position the Light Blaster so that it strikes the subject yet doesn't appear in the background. That may sound simple, but it's a little tougher than you may think.
The problem is that for a full-sized projection to cover your subject, pointing the Light Blaster straight ahead is best. However, that leaves you with the projection very noticeable in the background. You can compensate for this by independently lighting the background (blowing it out) or you can avoid the situation by angling the Light Blaster in such a way that its projection doesn't fall into the background of your composition.
Depending on the space you have available to you, it may be difficult to position the Light Blaster perfectly so that it lights the subject in a pleasing way while not also appearing the background. If you position the Light Blaster too high, it may not light your subject's eyes when looking at the camera. In my first attempt
, the projection fell onto the lower part of my frame in the background when used at the height necessary to light my eyes. I dealt with it by cropping the image so as not to show that part of the frame. When showing the image to Bryan, he wasn't terribly impressed by the attempt. He challenged me to create an image with "more power."
More power, eh?
I'm glad that Bryan challenged me to make a better image, as the one shown above turned out to be one of my favorite self-portraits ever. The Light Blaster was positioned similarly as in my first attempt (high, pointed downward) and a couple of rim lights were used to help define my outline. Instead of cropping out the part that was "contaminated" by the Light Blaster's projection, I used it heighten the effect of the image. That's why there's an asterisk on this section – the projection did hit a small portion of the background (and that turned out to be a good thing).
The out-of-focus (OOF) areas of the projection which fell onto the background looked a little bit like flames to me, except that they were greyish in tone. The projection was not perfectly centered, either, which led to a black area on the left side.
Here's the straight-out-of-camera (SOOC) image:
I cloned a section of the OOF area on the right side, flipped it horizontally, set the layer blend mode to "Lighten" and placed it over the lower black portion of the left side of the frame. I then created a new layer set to "Color" blend mode and painted the OOF areas behind me with a yellow color. The alterations transformed the OOF areas into something reminiscent of flames which added to the overall intimidating, tyrannical look I was going for.
The setup looked similar to this except Speed Grids
were used on the rim light flashes: Using the Light Blaster with In-Camera Multiple Exposures
You can also use the Light Blaster when capturing in-camera multiple exposures to create interesting and creative images. For the above image, I pointed the Light Blaster at a wall and projected a slide contained in one of the Spiffy Gear Blaster Creative Kits
(think it was the Backdrops
one, but I'm not 100% certain). I then set my 5D III to Multiple Exposures (Additive) and chose the Light Blaster slide as my base image.
Using the Additive setting in Multiple Exposures mode will cause the lightest pixels in each exposure to stand out. I took advantage of this by using gridded rim lights to burn my profile into the original image. Full disclosure: I was really lucky with the placement of my eye within the frame. The fact that my eye just happened to occupy a dark area in the slide meant that it became a big focal point in the image. I converted the in-camera multiple exposure to grayscale in post.
Of course, you can achieve multiple exposures in post-processing simply by layering your images and changing the blend mode to "Lighten." And in that case, you certainly aren't limited to the specific Light Blaster slides you own. But there's a certain elegance to capturing the image you want in-camera, and it can certainly be more fun to do it that way.
As you can see, there are many different ways that a Spiffy Gear Light Blaster can be used for creative portraiture. Another great thing about the Light Blaster is that purchasing used 35mm transparent slides
on eBay allows for an endless variety of backdrops and projections to use. List of Gear Used Spiffy Gear Light BlasterSpiffy Gear Blaster Creative KitCanon EOS 5D Mark IIICanon EF 24-105mm f4L IS USMSigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM ArtRokinon 14mm f/2.8 IF ED UMCInduro 8X CT-314 Carbon Fiber TripodArca Swiss Monoball Z1 Ball HeadMatthews Maxi Kit Steel Stand (9.5')Avenger Light Stand (Black, 12.6')Avenger F600 Baby Offset Arm24" Collapsibe Softbox for Shoe-mount FlashesImpact Collapsible Oval Reflector - Soft Gold/White - 41x74"Radio triggersShoe Mount Umbrella Adapter
& Umbrella SwivelFemale Hotshoe with Miniphone Jack5/8 Inch Spigot with 1/4"-20 Threaded StudHonl Speed StrapOpteka 1/8" Universal Honeycomb Grid35mm Transparent Slides
From Tamron: August 17, 2015 – Saitama, Japan
– Tamron Co., Ltd. (President & CEO: Morio Ono), a leading manufacturer of precision optics, has announced that the European Imaging and Sound Association (EISA) has presented its "European DSLR Zoom Lens 2015-2016" award to the world's first* F/2.8 ultra-wide-angle zoom to offer image stabilization, Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD (Model A012). Excerpt from the Award Citation of the EISA Jury
"The Tamron SP 15-30mm F2.8 Di VC USD is quite simply a revolutionary design, being the first wideangle zoom to combine a fast f/2.8 maximum aperture with optical stabilisation. It covers a focal length range suitable for landscape photography, interiors and architecture thanks to the low optical distortion, but can also be used for street photography and atmospheric portraits. The optical performance is exceptional and provides a high level of contrast and detail. The autofocus and image stabilisation systems are highly effective, too. Build quality is high, with moisture resistant construction. It's a large and heavy lens, but great value for money."Tamron Lenses that have received the EISA Award
The receipt of this prestigious award marks the 17th year Tamron has won an EISA Award, and the 10th consecutive year since 2006.
|Year Awarded||Product Name|
|1992-1993||SP AF35-105mm F/2.8 Aspherical (Model 65D)|
|1993-1994||AF28-200mm F/3.8-5.6 Aspherical (Model 71D)|
|1997-1998||SP AF90mm F/2.8 MACRO [1:1] (Model 72E)|
|1999-2000||AF28-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Aspherical [IF] MACRO (Model 185D)|
|2000-2001||AF28-200mm F/3.8-5.6 Aspherical -IF Super? (Model 371D)|
|2002-2003||AF28-300mm Ultra Zoom XR F/3.5-6.3LD Aspherical [IF] MACRO (Model A06)|
|2003-2004||SP AF28-75mm F/2.8 XR Di LD Aspherical [IF] MACRO (Model A09)|
|2006-2007||SP AF17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical [IF] (Model A16 )|
|2007-2008||AF18-250mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II LD Aspherical [IF] MACRO (Model A18)|
|2008-2009||AF28-300mm F/3.5-6.3 XR Di VC LD Aspherical [IF] MACRO (Model A20)|
|2009-2010||AF18-270mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC LD Aspherical [IF] MACRO (Model B003)|
|2010-2011||SP70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD (Model A005)|
|2011-2012||18-270mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD (Model B008)|
|2012-2013||SP 24-70mm F/2.8 Di VC USD (Model A007)|
|2013-2014||SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD (Model F004)|
SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD (Model A009)
|2014-2015||16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD MACRO (Model B016)|
SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD (Model A011)
|2015-2016||SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD (Model A012)|
carries the Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD