Making of "Pens and Swords"

Today I’m going to start a little project about how I make some of my photos or build my light tools, usually using materials that can be found at home, because sometimes there’s no need to have an amazing studio to create decent photos. I won’t describe the details in each case, and the making of photos will probably be made with the smartphone, but feel free to ask if you have any doubts 😉

The idea was suggested by my friend and photographer Xavier Carol, check his blog if you want: lalquimista.com

For this first photo, I used a feather I found on the street. With a cutter, I carefully cutted the feather to the point I wanted, and then I placed a decoration sword I had at home inside the feather. I wanted a dark background but also emphasize the details of the sword and feather, so I used my computer screen and a polarizing filter in the lens, rotating the filter to a point where I saw a black background.

With some exposure time, I could illuminate the objects and also keeping a dark background. Also, although I knew the final capture would be vertical, it was much easier to make the photo horizontally due to the working area of my “soft box”.







DIY Water Balloon Photography Tutorial

One of the interesting techniques I hadn’t still tried until now was to capture an exploding water balloon just in the moment the plastic breaks, but the water still has the shape of a balloon. I didn’t want to invest any money in laser barriers or something similar, so I built a very simple mechanism that wouldn’t give me the perfect timing but maybe an acceptable approach.

Materials I used:

  • 2 sewing needles
  • A pice of plastic of about 20cm of length to build the lever.
  • 3 meter camera cable (for ease, depending on camera position)
  • A plastic washbowl
  • A small flash with wireless remote
  • A bag of small water balloons
  • A hot glue gun if possible (or just glue)
  • A tripod to hold the mechanism and water balloon, and another to hold the camera.
  • A mop!

Camera and flash settings:

  • Shutter of 1/100 or similar is enough, because we’ll illuminate the water balloon with the small flash only.
  • I recommend using an apperture of f/8 or narrower, because sometimes water goes in many directions and this way we’ll get more dof.
  • For the tests the flash was at 0.5m approx, at 1/64 of power. I recommend using the lowest power if possible to get a more sharp result.
  • Camera focus must be set to manual and I also recommend to adjust the frame for each photo since the size of the water balloons is not always the same.

Shutter trigger construction:

About the shutter trigger, my Canon 5D MKII uses an N3 connector, so I cut an old shutter cable to build the new one. It has three wires (Ground, Shutter, Focus) that will allow us to make a photo by doing a short circuit between Shutter and Ground wires. I’ve marked with a green dot the two necessary pins in the photo of the N3 connector. It’s not necessary to use the Focus wire since the camera will be in manual focus.

To build the other side of the wire, I welded each wire (Shutter, Ground) to a needle. Then I used the hot glue gun to attach the needles to a long piece of plastic with a little inclination so that if the needles touch a rigid surface they will touch each other. My initial idea was that the water of the balloon would short circuit the two wires, but at practice it didn’t result in my case, so with a little inclination in the needles they also touched each other when breaking the water balloon.

To hold the lever I used the materials I had at home, but it’s possible to hold it in many other (and better) ways.

Once the setup is mounted, a water balloon is hold with a string in front of the lever so that when the lever is released it will break the balloon and the needles will also touch each other to activate the camera shutter and make the photo, so the only thing we have to do is hold the lever in a higher position and release it to make each photo.

Photos of the parts and results:




























Video of the mechanism in action:

As you can see the results are quite different between each other, because the timing was a little unpredictable. There are a lot of ways to improve this first test, trying to anticipate the explosion by placing the shutter cables in another place in the lever or changing the way the wires touch each other.

Opinions and questions welcomed 😉


DIY LED torch for light painting: Results

I tried my recent built tool a few days ago, and I’m quite pleased with the results. Even using the LEDs at less than half power they illuminate a lot and worked great to create light orbs and other shapes like letters. Some examples below.


DIY LED torch for light painting

Light painting is an interesting photography technique in which we use long exposure in low light conditions and then draw using a flashlight or other objects that emit light, so that the resulting photo will contain all the movements and shapes we did with flashlight.

My purpose was to build a high power LED torch with the possibility to hang it from a chain or string so I could spin it or rotate it fast enough to draw an orb or other objects and still getting a bright result in the photo, because a typical LED torch or flashlight works well when trying to draw letters or lines in the light painting, because we move slowly, but when we move the flashlight much faster, the lines and spirals look much weaker, that’s why is useful to use high power LEDs, to see the light painting clearly. In addition, the batteries would add more weight at the end of the string, facilitating the spinning of the torch.


Component list:
– 1x 4 AA battery holder
– 3x high power SMD LEDs
– 1x PCB (1cm x 13cm approx.)
– 1x switch


The electrical circuit is very simple, basically there’s a 5ohms resistor and 3 SMD LEDs in parallel. The LEDs work at 3.8V with a power consumption of 350mA, but in this case I used a little higher resistor so the LEDs could still make more light, but I prefered a longer battery duration.

The circuit is divided in three small PCBs with one LED in each one, to illuminate in three different directions during the light painting.

To attach a string to the LED torch, I’ve added a M3 screw in the top part, but I still have to find an appropiate string or chain to use.

To make an orb with light painting you have to spin the LED torch with your wrist while you rotate slowly around yourself. This will create the effect of some sort of sphere, you can find a lot of examples of this technique.

I still haven’t tried it properly, I hope to post a new photo using this tool soon in my photography section, thanks for reading.