Forget the 12 days of Christmas, it's actually the 12 photography projects of Christmas, according to Chris Gatcum
Christmas Photography Project 6 – Try Silhouettes
A silhouette puts the ‘graphic’ into ‘photographic’, reducing your subject to a featureless dark shape against a brighter background. There’s no better time to hone your silhouette shooting skills than right now, when the sun is low in the sky for much of the day and both dawn and dusk are at a reasonable hour.However, don’t limit yourself to the colours at the ends of the day – a black & white silhouette can be just as striking, and ripe for a contrast-boosting lith effect.
There are only two things to remember for successful silhouettes: expose for the background, not the subject (your camera’s spot meter is good for this), and try to avoid having too many overlapping objects in the frame. Keeping things simple is the best option.
Project #7: Make a Bottle Cap Camera Mount
With various family visits and parties, it’s the time of year when a pocketable compact camera might take precedence over an SLR. If that’s the plan, then a bottle-cap ‘pod will let you transform a drinks bottle into a camera stand, allowing you to use longer shutter speeds instead of cranking up the ISO (and noise).
Christmas Photography Project 8: Single Camera Stereo
Stereo photography is often seen as being quite involved, with a need for specialist twin-lens cameras or two cameras mounted side-by-side. But it doesn’t have to be that way: if you limit yourself to static subjects, it’s possible to produce a stereo pair with just one camera and free software. The process starts with you shooting two images of the same subject, shifting the camera horizontally between exposures. Use aperture priority or manual exposure to ensure the depth of field doesn’t change, and set the focus manually.
The amount of ‘shift’ you need between your shots depends on the subject distance, shift distance and a bit of geometry as well, so the easiest option is to shoot more images than you need, shifting the camera a little more each time. This means you have a number of potential combinations that can create your stereo pair. Once you’ve shot your images, copy them onto your computer and use StereoPhoto Maker to combine them. This is a free Windows-only program that you can download from stereo.jpn.org/eng/stphmkr.
Several guides are available via the website to get you started. In essence, though, you need to determine the pair of your exposures that will work best and the software will then align and optimise them for you, making them ready for printing or viewing on screen using the classic ‘cross-eyed’ method.
Christmas Photography Project 9: Make a Macro Tube
You can turn the metal and cardboard packaging from a crisps tube into a ‘super’ extension tube.
Once the glue has dried, cut your crisp can to length. The longer the tube, the greater the magnification, but the more light will be lost (requiring a longer shutter speed or higher ISO). With your tube cut to size, it’s time to mount your lens. A 50mm prime lens is ideal, and as you aren’t actually ‘mounting’ the lens it doesn’t need to match your camera mount – a manual-focus lens with a manual aperture is ideal – the same lens can also be used for freelensing.
Your exposures will have to be set manually and you will have to focus by moving the camera backwards and forwards, but despite these limitations it’s still possible to produce some striking results – you can even turn the lens slightly to create a ‘tilt’ effect.
Christmas Photography Project 10: Create a Photo Cube
To start with, you’ll need to find a cube template – if you search online you’ll find dozens that fit the bill and are free to use.
Christmas Photography Project 11: Make a Panning Device for Time-lapse
If you want to add a panning movement to time-lapse videos this is a simple solution. You need a 60min kitchen timer with a hole drilled in the top that is large enough to fit a 1⁄4in tripod screw. Be careful when drilling as there may be some mechanical parts inside the timer that could be damaged. With most timers it is fairly easy to pull them apart so you can see what you are doing.
With the hole drilled, fix the tripod screw into place. For added rigidity, you may want to secure it in place by using some epoxy resin and a rubber washer. A small compact camera or even a mobile phone in a tripod case can then be attached to the timer. Turning the timer all the way round will allow the camera to rotate 360° over the course of one hour. Using the camera’s intervalometer, you can set it to take pictures every few seconds to create a time-lapse video. The more frequent the images, the longer the time-lapse video will be. For example, one image every second would create 3,600 images, which would be a 120sec video at 30fps. One image every 3secs for 30mins would create 600 images and a 20sec video at 30fps. As an optional extra, drill a second larger hole at the bottom and fit a 3⁄8in to 1⁄4in tripod thread adapter to allow you to mount the panning device to a tripod.
Christmas Photography Project 12: Make a Movie Grip
The quality of the video that can be shot using a DSLR or CSC has increased rapidly in the past years, resulting in a bewildering array of video-orientated grips being sold. However, you don’t need to spend a huge amount to make your camera more video friendly, as this DIY grip proves.
The key ingredients are: plastic pipe (you will need roughly 60cm of 20–25mm diameter tube); two right-angle adapters to fit the pipe; and some sort of flat ‘plate’ to mount the camera on. I used 20mm conduit pipe with an inspection box for the camera base, and came home with change from £10 from the hardware shop.
The aim is to create a rough ‘C’ shape, so you need to cut your pipe into three lengths. The lengths don’t have to be equal as they will depend largely on the size and shape of your camera – about 10–20cm will be about right, but there are no hard and fast rules. Use the right-angle adapters to connect the pipes and form your ‘C’, gluing them together and possibly screwing or bolting them for added security (remember, you’ll be attaching your camera to this bracket).
For the base, I drilled a hole through the inspection box so I could fit a 1⁄2in (12.7mm) long, 1/4-20 bolt to attach the camera, and the finishing touch came in the form of a spare motorcycle handlebar grip I had kicking around my garage (foam pipe insulation, grip tape for bicycle handlebars or tennis rackets, or just the bare pipe would work just as well). It may look fairly rudimentary, but it makes a huge difference when you’re filming – especially if you’re shooting from a low angle.