An Inexpensive Way to Improve Flash Photos

If you’ve got a digital SLR (Canon, Nikon or Pentax at the moment), Prof. Ken Kobré has developed a cool gadget (Professor Kobré’s Light Scoop, web site here) which vastly improves the on-camera flash by bouncing the light off of the ceiling. Here are a couple of recent examples.

This review is why I bought it and it costs only $30. When you need an indoor flash and don’t want to buy or haul around a big external flash, it does the trick.

And when I reported a strange result, I got a call from Kobré himself (he’s a journalism professor at SF State) to talk about my camera and how to fix it. Great customer service!


Mary & Brian Murphy visiting from Schull

How to Make A Lens-free Camera Obscura

I read once that the camera obscura has been known about for centuries and was observed when a knot of wood fell out of a plank and let a small amount of light into a room.  Based on that story, I did the following (all without any lenses, just like in the old days).

If you want to try this at home, here’s how:

1) Block off all light into a room (for anyone who has worked in a darkroom, it doesn’t have to be quite that dark — light can seep in and this will still work).  A small room with one window is easiest, of course.

2) Cut a small hole into whatever is covering the window with the view (about the size of a quarter worked for us).

3) Let you eyes adjust and see what you get. Move the hole (covering old ones) to change what is projected.

4) Take a photo (it’ll show you more than your eyes can see).   This one was done with an exposure of 30 seconds at f/4.0

Here is the very low tech device used to cover the window (leftover cardboard from the Halloween costume & duct tape).  No lens required!

Please post a comment if you have any luck with this.


You can see that the trees are now losing their leaves. This view was earlier in the day than my original post with great fall colors — things look pretty grey now.


Below is a more recent photo — all the leaves have gone now (11/27/07)


Camera Obscura Day

Leo and I made the most of a rainy day today and built a camera obscura in his room. We blacked out his window using cardboard & tape, and tried various hole sizes (.5 inch to project on a wall 12 feet away worked best) and ended up with an upside-down image of the view across the street. It was pretty dim, but we could make out a couple of trees. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check here and here.