Cross polarising technique

The cross polarising techniques is a simple one to create. Just place a polarising filter in front of the lens and photograph a stiff plastic object in front of an LCD computer screen.  To illustrate the tip I attached a Hoyarex Linear Polarising filter* to the front of a digital camera.  Hoyarex polariser

I then positioned a plastic cereal container in front of my computer monitor (make sure the background is neutral grey and not a screen saver ) and mounted the camera on a tripod. You can hand hold if there’s enough light to get a camera shake free photo.
cross polarising technique

When you rotate the polariser you will see a rainbow of colour with the background colour of the monitor.

polarised cereal container

As you rotate the colours will become stronger and the background will go black.

polarised cereal container

I repeated the technique using a plastic wine glass

polarised wine glass

polarised wine glass

polarised wine glass stem

* Any polarising filter can be used – linear or circular . We have a selection for sale here in both screw in and system filters. Polarising filters for sale. The system filters are more practical as you can use one filter with a variety of lenses with different filter threads. Just get the filter, a holder, and a range of adaptor rings for the holder to attach to different lenses.

Tilt Shift Bellows

Large format photographers using cameras with bellows have always had the luxury of being able to adjust the lens and/or sensor plane so they are not parallel. This technique is performed to alter the plane of focus. While a conventionally parallel set-up provides front to back sharpness from a focus point parallel to the sensor, the adjusted lens, swung or tilted, places the focus plane at a different angle. This is a very useful technique for landscape photography, allowing sharp focus from close range to infinity, even at wide open apertures. But it’s also incredibly useful for macro photography. With this in mind Photography Attic has taken a set of BPM camera bellows and modified them to create a versatile set of custom bellows with tilt, swing and also shift options.

Custom modified bellows

The bellows lens and camera platforms are individually mounted on a pair of small ball & socket heads which can be attached to a straight bracket like the one you would use with a flash gun. You can then slide the ball and socket along the flash bracket to extend the bellows increase magnification. And then tilt the front or rear panel to create the new plane of focus.

Custom bellows with tilt

Here’s an example of the tilted bellows in action. A small 25mm pocket watch has been photographed at an angle. Rather than head on and parallel to the camera lens. The lens was then tilted on the camera bellows set up and as a result the widest aperture of f/2.8 can be used with full front to back sharpness. As a comparison a second shot was taken with the lens set conventionally parallel to the film plane. Notice how the sharpness falls off to the rear.

close up with normal bellows

close up subject taken with tilted bellows

Another option is to use the swing feature. Here the lens is angled in a clockwise or anti clockwise direction to provide sharer front to back focus on an upright subject.
Custom bellows with swing

You can also adjust to provide a combination of both tilt and swing when the subject is not horizontal or vertical.

This process is technically known as the Scheimpflug Principle. If you would like to lean more check out the wikipedia page here: Scheimpflug Principle

You can buy a set of modified bellows with tilt shift here:Custom Tilt Shift Bellows You will also need to buy a bracket to mount them on.

How to photograph snowflakes

An amazing selection of snowflake macro photos and a article showing how to photograph snowflakes can be found on Alexey Kljatov’s ChaoticMind blog


If you have an SLR you can reverse your lens on the body using a reverse adaptor, or reverse a lens on a lens using a coupling ring (which has filter threads on both sides), or use extension tubes, close up lenses, macro lens or bellows. We have all these available on PhotographyAttic. If you cant find what you want contact us with specific requests



David Noton and Joe Cornish discuss grad filters

There’s an interesting series of videos appeared that were produced by Lee Filters with conversation between the revered landscape photographers, Joe Cornish and David Noton. Epsiode 2 sees them discussing the changes digital photography has made in capturing the moment, and why they still use graduated filters. It’s not like the usual manufacturer produced media as there’s no mention of Lee filters, and well worth a view.

Here’s a list of current used graduated filters for sale on PhotographyAttic:

B+W 77mm 502 Grey Grad 25%
Cokin A 120 Gradual Grey 1
Cokin A 122 Gradual Blue 1
Cokin A 123 Gradual Blue 2
Cokin A 124 Gradual Tobacco T1
Cokin A 151 Fog 2
Cokin A 198 Gradual Sunset 2
Cokin P 120 Gradual Grey 1
Cokin P 121 Gradual Grey 2
Cokin P 122 Gradual Blue 1
Cokin P 123 Gradual Blue 2
Cokin P 124 Gradual Tobacco 1
Cokin P 125 Gradual Tobacco 2
Cokin P 198 Gradual Sunset 2
Cokin P 665 Gradual Fluo R2 red
Cromatek G210 Dark Green Graduated Filter
Cromatek G211 Light Yellow Graduated Filter
Cromatek G212 Dark Yellow Graduated Filter
Cromatek G215 Light Sepia Graduated Filter
Hitech Yellow 3 Grad 100 System 94mm
Hoyarex 527 Gradual Y2
Hoyarex 521 Gradual G2
Hoyarex 522 Gradual B2
Hoyarex 523 Gradual T2
Hoyarex 524 Gradual M2
Hoyarex 525 Gradual P2
Hoyarex 526 Gradual E2
Lee 100×150 Pop Red Grad Hard
Tiffen 77mm sunrise grad
Tiffen 77mm blue grad
Unbranded 84mm ND Grad 0.3
Unbranded 84mm Cool Blue Grad 0.3
Unbranded 75mm Square red grad
Unbranded 75mm Square Green Grad
Unbranded 75mm Square blue grad

How to process scanned colour negatives

In the last article we showed you how to make a custom slide duplicator for 35mm negatives and transparencies. And the first problem you will encounter when you start scanning your colour negatives  is how to convert the result to a positive digital file.

When you use a proper film scanner it has built in settings that convert the negative to positive automatically, but the digital files from a slide duplicator look just like the original –  negative image with an orange colour.

We’ll not go into the colour – you can find all those technical details here: Why is colour negative film orange?

You may think it’s simply a case of pressing the invert button in your image editing software. That does make the photo look positive, but the orange inverts to a blue colour and that needs fixing.

Here’s how I process photos in Lightroom. You can do similar with most image editing programs.

Below is the imported negative in Lightroom. Scroll down to the tone curve. Notice the line in the graph goes from bottom left to top right.

original negative scan

Click on the bottom left corner and drag to top left, then click top right and drag to bottom right. This inverts the image – notice the blue cast.

Inversed negative

Using the WB dropper click on a neutral part of the image to adjust the white balance. I chose the black hair of the boy  facing us. This makes the colours  more natural. Now adjust the tone sliders to beef up contrast darken shadows and brighten highlights.

Lightroom adjustments

The result is a fairly good conversion of your digital negative

Processed negative copy

DIY negative copier for Olympus OM-D

If you’ve moved over to digital from film, chances are you will have a collection of film based photographs – either negatives or transparencies.  If you don’t have a film scanner you can use your digital camera to digitise these old films.

I decided to do that using my Olympus OM-D. The problem I had was that the usual slide copier, such as the  Aico Zoom Slide Duplicator or similar products from the likes of Jessop, Ohnar and Kenlock, is that they were designed for full frame cameras. So when the copier is mounted onto an OM-D (using a T2 mount and Adaptor from Micro 4/3 to T2 camera fitting) the image is cropped and you can only copy the centre (or edge if you adjust the frame position). You cannot copy the full frame.

An alternative is to make your own copier. I dug out the Tamron 90mm f/2.5 macro with Pentax K Adaptall 2 attached, and mounted it on the Olympus body using a micro 4/3 to Pentax Adaptor.

DIY Slide duplicator

Any macro lens with 1:1 capability will be suitable. Attach the macro lens, turn the camera on and move the slide away from the lens until it comes into focus on the camera’s LCD. This give you a rough indication of position needed for the slide/negative.

Cut a piece of tubing (postal tubes are perfect) to the necessary length. Now find a way of attaching the tube to the lens. I used a combination of stepping rings from the 55mm of the Tamron lens up to 58mm which was the external size of the tube. The tube squeezed into the inside of the ring and locked in place. If this hadn’t worked I would have super -glued a 55mm Cokin series A adaptor to the end.

You can now position the slide negative at the other end of the tube. A budget option is to use Blu Tack to hold the slide frame on the front. You could mount negatives in a frame too. As I have a lot to copy I decided to take off the carrier part of the Aico Zoom Slide Duplicator and mount that on the front of the tube. This ensured a faster throughput of film.

Aico Slide Duplicator

The carrier has three small screws holding it in place on the duplicator. These can be loosened so the whole front section slips off. Don’t unscrew fully as the screws are tiny and fiddly to get back in.

With the custom duplicator assembled it’s time to get to work copying. You can use a household lamp as backlight illumination, or a flashgun, or sunlight. You need to diffuse the light so it’s even across the film surface. The slide duplicator carrier has a diffusing plate built in. If you’re just mounting the slide on the front of the tube put a sheet of white cloth, or several layers of tracing paper in between the film and light source.

Use the camera’s zoom focus magnifier if it has one to focus accurately, making sure the film is centered in the frame and not cropped at any edge. Adjust exposure using the LCD as a gauge. Do a few test shots to check focus, framing an exposure before rattling through your library.

In the next article I will explain how to process the copied negatives.  How to process scanned colour negatives

Bird photography

To be successful with bird photography you either need a very long lens or a shorter lens with a remote control (or hide) so you can position yourself far enough away to avoid frightening the creature.

Blue tit with nesting material

The long lens approach needs to be around 500mm allowing you to magnify the bird so it appears substantially more than a spec on the photo.

The shorter lens approach (300mm or less) and you probably need to hide (in a hide), or use a remote control.  This is the approach I took for this shot of a blue tit preparing to nest in a box in the garden. I’d watched the bird’s activity for a few hours and noticed it landed on a particular branch of the nearby tree. So I mounted the camera (an Olympus OM-D EM1) on a tripod and focused on that particular branch. It  was about a meter away from the branch and using the 40-150mm gave me a reasonable crop.

The focusing was set to manual so nothing could cause it to shift out of focus and the exposure was also set to manual adjusting to ensure that highlights on the bird wouldn’t be blown out.

Hama Gigi T Pro II remote

I used a Hahnel Gigi T Pro II remote control and attached the receiver part on the camera flash shoe and plugged the cable into the camera.

I could then take the transmitter and sit out of sight, triggering the camera when the bird landed on the branch. To make things easier I used a  pair of 8×21 binoculars. With these I could look at the bird and fire when it was in the right position, and then look at the camera LCD as it flicked up the preview of the shot just taken.
To get a cleaner background you should ensure that any background bush is further away from the landing position, also use a large aperture to reduce depth-of-field.

If you don’t have a modern camera with an electronic socket for a remote release you can buy an air release with a bulb to trigger the camera via the cable release socket.

Here are some cable releases and remote controls

How to Photograph the Moon

The best camera to use to photograph the moon is a Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera. With this type of camera you usually have the most manual control, allowing you to fine tune focus and exposure to ensure a sharp and bright photo.

The Moon The moon photographed with an SLR and telephoto lens

An SLR usually has an interchangeable lens so you can attach a long lens (telephoto) to magnify the moon to make it much bigger in the photo. A standard zoom of 18-55mm that is normally provided with an SLR is not really long enough. You can use a lens like this but you will have to crop the picture dramatically to make it any decent size on your photo. The more you crop the less detail you will have in the moon.

The best thing to do if you want serious pictures is to buy or borrow a longer lens. A 300mm or above is good – Ideally a 1000mm or longer. You can do this using a 500mm with a 2x converter. The teleconverter sits between the camera and lens and doubles (or trebles with a 3x) the lens’ focal length / magnification. With modern digital SLRs the sensor is smaller than film and gives an effective magnification of 1.5x/1.6x too, so the 1000mm becomes 1500mm /1600mm. This is perfect for frame filling photos.

You will also need a tripod or other support for the camera to avoid camera shake if you are using a long lens, and a cable release / remote control to trigger the shutter. If you don’t have a remote release set the camera to the self timer mode and use that. The reason to use a delay or release mechanism is to prevent any hand contact with the camera that could cause vibration and the possibility of camera shake. This will be more apparent when using extreme magnification lenses.

Position you camera on the tripod or mount and set the lens to its longest setting.

Switch the camera to manual focus and adjust focus around the infinity setting so the moon appears sharp. If your camera has live view, switch to that and use the magnifier to help you focus.

You cannot use the camera’s auto exposure mode (P) because it will be fooled by the black surround of the moon which is really bright. A shot taken on auto will result in a bright blob of a moon with no detail. You need to switch to manual (M) or use exposure compensation.

Although it’s night time you don’t need long exposures the moon is as bright as daylight. Set the ISO to 100, and the aperture to f/11 and the shutter speed to 1/500sec and take a test shot.  Have a look on the LCD preview screen and see how the photo looks. If it’s too bright either increase the shutter speed to 1/1000sec and/or the aperture to f/16. If it’s too dark, reduce the shutter speed to 1/250sec and/or the aperture to f/8. Then take another photo. Repeat this until you have a perfect exposure.

See article on the Blood Moon