Self Portrait
This self portrait was taken using a homemade PVC/ Lightstand backdrop holder. I took the original idea from Martin Kimeldorf and, as usual, did a little of my own thing with it. The smaller images in this article can be clicked on to see larger versions.

PVC/ Lightstand Backdrop PartsThe parts list for this is pretty easy. Two 2′ sections of 1/2″ PVC pipe (Schedule 40, Home Depot has pre-cut 2′ lengths for about $0.79ea), one 6″ section of 1/2″ PVC pipe (if you don’t have any laying around, get another 2′ section), one 1/2″ Sch40 T, one 36″x1/2″ wooden dowel, one lightstand, one backdrop, and two or three clips or clamps (simple binder clips would even work). I found that, with my particular lightstand, the 1/2″ PVC slipped right over the top and fit quite nicely. I then put the T on, put the 2′ sections of PVC into the T, and then inserted the wooden dowel to keep the PVC from sagging. Once all that was on, I draped the backdrop over the pipe, clipped it with the clamps, and was all done.

PVC/ Light Stand Backdrop Holder Overall I was pleased with how well it worked, and even more impressed by it’s portability and the ease with which it broke down. One con is that it takes up one of the two lightstands I have, but I have been meaning to get more anyway. Just in case I need a wider backdrop, I purchased two 1/2″ couplers and two extra 2′ sticks of PVC, along with an extra dowel. That will give me a lot of coverage should I need it, say for a group or something. Now I need to try making my own backdrops. If you have any nifty DIY things I should try, leave a comment or send me an email.

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PVC Backdrop Holder by Martin Kimeldorf
I decided last week that it is time for me to make a backdrop holder. I had a shoot recently where I wasn’t terribly happy with the results, so I knew I needed a proper backdrop holder. As luck would have it, I found some good tutorials on how to make quality light and backdrop stands. Also found a nifty tutorial on making your own muslin backdrops. I have some headshots to do tomorrow, so I will definitely be building some of this today. Check back next week to see which one(s) I build, and how well I think they work.

  • Kimeldorf system which uses PVC and a light stand. I like it, but may not build it since I will need both of my light stands tomorrow. There is also a followup article that has some improvements to the original design. Very portable.
  • Jeff Geerling design, which would be good at home, but not sure about portability.
  • Brian Zimmerman’s design which seems designed for portability (longest length of pipe is 5′), but also has modifications for lighting. Also shows how he made a backdrop. Certainly the most complete system of the ones I am linking to. Might also take the longest to build, depending on the mods you use. VERY cool though, and I plan to build this one at some point, just not in time for tomorrow.
  • Plunger head version that uses telescoping paint poles, plunger heads, and misc clamps. Not quite suitable for my needs, but possibly workable for you. Worth looking at anyway.
  • David Thurman’s design is for people who already have poles and just need to build a base to put the poles in (kind of like the base for an umbrella on a patio table or something). Not at all applicable to my situation, but still useful for some people.
  • Create your own muslin backdrop – I really like this tutorial and will use it at some point. Already have something I plan to use tomorrow though.

I also want to mention that I attended a Colorado Strobist meetup last night, and the guest speaker was none other than David Tejada. I have been following his work for quite some time now, and was very pleased to be able to meet him in person. His work is definitely an inspiration to me, and it was great to hear how he setup certain shots. He also agreed to speak at my daughters high school photography class. I am sure the kids will be excited about this. If you haven’t heard of him, check out his work – it will help you think creatively on your next shoot.

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Review – Gorillapod GP3

Gorillapod GP3
I have to be honest. When I opened my Gorillapod GP3 as a gift last year, I wasn’t terribly excited. I already had an Ultrapod II and it was working just fine for my needs. I really didn’t see where I would use it in place of the other one. Now, over a year later, I see it for what it is and what it can do.

The unique design of the Gorillapod enables you to make micro adjustments to the height or tilt of whatever you have sitting on top. Not as smooth as a pan/ tilt head, but it isn’t meant to replace a full fledged tripod. The GP3 is the model designed to hold DSLR’s, but they have a range of models for different size cameras, and at different prices.

Mine has been used for taking macro shots, mounting the camera to odd objects (the rubber feet hold it on windows well, as long as you straddle it that is), even wrapping the legs around small fence posts and such. Just the other day I was doing taking some pics in a warehouse and didn’t have a lightstand with me. There was a small step ladder nearby, so I grabbed the Gorillapod, put the Cactus trigger and flash on it – instant lightstand with great “fine-tuning” ability.

It is also quite a conversation piece. I keep it latched onto my Caselogic Hardshell Backpack at all times, even while traveling. People are always asking me “how do you like that? I have been thinking about getting one.” I understand their curiousity and, perhaps, hidden skepticism. I felt the same way. But now I am a believer. If you don’t have one, you don’t know what you are missing, but I would encourage you to get one and try it for yourself.

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