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Thread: Photo Essay: Building a Fiber Optic Snoot

  1. #1
    Fruit Pie the Magician. RIP Mo2vation's Avatar
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    Default Photo Essay: Building a Fiber Optic Snoot

    Lets just start with Snoot.

    You can smile - its a funny word.

    A snoot is essentially a cone that concentrates light from a large strobe or flash or hot light into a small beam - so you can aim it with precision at your subject, and achieve your artistic objectives. Think about the model shots you've seen with the perfect hair halo, or the rippling bicep on an athlete that is lit just so. Chances are these were lit by a discrete Snoot - precision aimed and tuned to the artist's taste.

    Underwater, you can imagine the uses - mostly for macro and super macro. You've all seen my love of injecting negative space into my images - I do this mostly with composition (essentially making sure there is unlimited water behind my subject.)

    With a snoot I can pinpoint the light to very specific places - say the head if a fishy or the rhinophores of a nudi - and because the only light is the light from the tiny cones (not a huge wash of lights from the strobes) I can draw the viewer in, portray intimacy, and highlight specific parts of the organism - regardless of where its currently residing.

    This is exciting stuff... the issue is simply this: commercially available snoots are both expensive, not not nearly rugged enough for my diving and won't generally achieve what I want to, artistically.

    After a couple of weeks of research and prototype development, I've built a flexible, robust, effective and thrifty fiber optic snoot out of parts that are readily available.

    My total cost for this was about $40 - $45.

    Below I'll detail how I built it, provide the BOM and the specifications, and a couple of test shots.

    Some early observations:

    • It really works. Who knew??!!


    • There is no real way to operate this effectively on-camera. This has to be leveraged with the remote set up I described here: Linkola When in the viewfinder, there is simply no way of efficiently getting the snoot arms to position correctly on the tiny subject. The margin of error with this is too small.


    • This is design 1a. For design #2 I'm adding a jubilee clip and will be using some type of washer on the bottom of the 1/2" fitting. I will also silicone the F/O cable into the arm somehow.


    • This will work best with a 105mm and above lens - as all this snoot hardware really gets in the way and I need to shoot 'between' the arms, kinda putting the subject in the bulls eye. A 60mm won't let me get far enough away, and I'll be literally sitting on the remote strobe and hardware.


    I cant wait to get this into the water. The land shots with 'Daisy' (the mini cow) are very promising.


    More soon.

    -Ken
    You've got some new momentum - you better keep on going
    Tomorrow soon will be your yesterday
    You've got some new momentum - you better keep on going
    You've got to move to make it all the way... - NM

  2. #2
    Fruit Pie the Magician. RIP Mo2vation's Avatar
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    Building the snoot

    I had the basic design in my head - there are several posts and articles on the subject, so I knew the basics. I know what I needed - I just didn't expect to find it commercially available.

    The first thing I did was take one of my strobes into Home Depot, and start grazing in the plumbing department. I found several items that would securely fit over the end of the Ikelite DS-125 strobe. I loaded up a bag and checked out. The cap was to be the heart of the snoot. Without a cap, the rest of this would be worthless.

    I found what is probably the perfect solution. This wacky 3" cap thingus. It fits very snugly on land, and with a pipe clamp it'll be rock solid. One of the great things about the DS-series strobes, is the gray muzzle spins freely. So I can clamp this cap down, and still have full articulation.





    Once I had the perfect cap, the rest was cake. There was no flexibility in the rest of the parts list - I needed what I needed. Finding the cap made all this really possible.

    The rest of the partss:

    • Two arms made from the 1/2" ID Loc Line material


    • At one end of the arm, a 1/2" thread. The other, the small tapered end


    • End-Glow fiber optic cable





    Cutting the cap

    I'm sure Tobin or James (or Tobin James... ) have a better way to do this. For me? I measured the 1/2 NPF end of the thing, and cut a little smaller so I could screw the loc line into the cap. I used an exacto to shave it to where I could get a perfect fit.




    Two holes, no waiting! I put them here as this is about where the circular strobe tube resides on the DS-* series strobes. To transmit the maximum about of light down the fibers, I want them resting right over the tube.




    Mounting the Arms

    Once I had the cap cut close, I started screwing in the arms. A time or two they were crooked, and I needed to shave a bit off of the holes. After one or two passes they locked in perfectly straight and very solid.

    I will likely put a nut on the back side soon - only I need to find a very low profile one (like a round panel nut for a panel-mounted switch) as there isn't much room in there. Until then, its working great now.

    A word about Loc Line - good stuff! The Aquarium line is all black. The 'normal' stuff is white and orange and blue. Send in the clowns.

    I went with the black. eBay rules.

    I got the Loc Line pliers from McMaster. Same day delivery, $11. Makes it easy to add AND easy to take away segments. The pliers work for both.




    Mounting arm two. Now this is looking like a snoot!!



    Now we're talking!!!




    BUT - will it fit on the end of an Ikelite DS-* strobe? Yeah, baby. Nice tight fit... must be my size!
    You've got some new momentum - you better keep on going
    Tomorrow soon will be your yesterday
    You've got some new momentum - you better keep on going
    You've got to move to make it all the way... - NM

  3. #3
    Fruit Pie the Magician. RIP Mo2vation's Avatar
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    Time to Fiber Out!

    I learned a lot about fiber optics over the last week and a half. The different types, the way they're bundled, light transmission, flexibility, etc. After all of this, I decided on a 75-fiber, end-glow jacketed bundle. Each strand is .75, and the whole bundle is just over 1/4" - perfect for the 1/2" ID Loc Line, and small enough to get down right near the end of the tapered end.

    I was able to buy enough to make a couple of variations on the snoot and have enough left over for my next F/O project. (shhhhhh....)





    And where did I get this stuff? EBay.

    Duh.



    Cutting this stuff was easy. I used a pair of HD wire cutters. They cut anything, so I figured they'd cut this stuff. They did with ease.




    Once I had a clean, flat end, I stuffed it down the Loc Line arm and left a bit hanging out of the end. I made the cut. Now I wanted to trim back about 3/8" of an inch of the jacket from each side, so the cable bundle would be able to sort of mold into the tapered end. For that, I busted back out the exacto and cut away.



    Clean cut and there it is!




    With the cable bundle prepared, its time to stuff it into the Loc Line arms.




    Stuff in bundle number two, and be sure when you snap on the cap, the cable is resting against the strobe. This is important. It took me a couple of tries to get the cable bundle just the perfect length so it rests right against the strobe.





    Fire it up!

    I snapped the unit onto the stobe. What a great fit! Fired up the modeling light, which is not even directly under the fibers... just in the proximity of the fibers... and its working great!
    You've got some new momentum - you better keep on going
    Tomorrow soon will be your yesterday
    You've got some new momentum - you better keep on going
    You've got to move to make it all the way... - NM

  4. #4
    Fruit Pie the Magician. RIP Mo2vation's Avatar
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    Time to test it!

    Now with it all together, its time to test this beast.

    I grabbed my test subject, Daisy the cow, and headed to my studio to get some shots.

    I played and played and played - different positions, different intensities, different settings. I finally started to get a feel for how these behave and how I want to use them.

    Once again, I can't stress enough: Remote triggered strobes is the best way to go here. Either that, or a long azz sync cord!


    Daisy Zot - here's the set up. Snapped the Snoot over one of my Pixars, and here it is. Pretty insect like.




    And a closer view of above




    Time for Daisy's close up






    THE SHOTS

    Here is a shot of Daisy with a 105mm Lens, using two strobes - basically my normal Macro config. Its lit well, there is balance and dimension. Its a fine shot.







    Here's the same shot, same position, same settings on the camera, same lens - only this time I turned off one strobe, pointed the other downward to fire the remote trigger, and lit Daisy with only the snoot.

    You can see this is just a more dramatic shot. Lots of negative space, emphasis on the eye, better demensionality and just a different shot altogether.






    Thoughts:

    The Fiber Optic snoot is simply an artistic tool (much like myself....) If I'm shooting something very small on a busy background, I can't imagine a better way to make the subject pop off the page than lighting it this way.

    Its not an "all or nothing" - the shots above are two extreme examples. I can mute the background or, better, de-emphasize it without introducing all that negative space. That is a very cool effect, too.

    The subject needs to be in the right place - the snooted-up remote strobe assembly is pretty large. If the subject is on a wall, for example - not likely.

    I can't wait to get this rig to an octopus hole, or over to a moray hole... where I can now fire light deep INTO the hole, while dialing down my key light (on-camera strobe) and working with balancing the effects.

    This is gonna change the way I manage my light-table Nudibranch shots. A remote strobe will be about a zillion times brighter than Claudette's can light under the kelp leaf. Geeze I can't wait to try that! Wrap one arm of the snoot to the top of the leaf and light up sluggo just a bit with a pin light.

    I am SO going to blast through NDL with this rig. Just sayin...




    This is gonna be fun!!!



    -Ken
    You've got some new momentum - you better keep on going
    Tomorrow soon will be your yesterday
    You've got some new momentum - you better keep on going
    You've got to move to make it all the way... - NM

  5. #5
    Senior Member Jeff Shaw's Avatar
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    Ken,
    Bringing the studio underwater.
    Very cool!

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    Very cool. Love the adaptation of the coolant lines and the fiber optics and the "cram it on the the strobe" closed end cylinder thingy.

    Tobin
    Innovative dive gear

    https://www.deepseasupply.com/

  7. #7
    Fruit Pie the Magician. RIP Mo2vation's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TobinGeorge View Post
    Very cool. Love the adaptation of the coolant lines and the fiber optics and the "cram it on the the strobe" closed end cylinder thingy.

    Tobin
    hahahaha! It really is a cram it on the end of the strobe thingy.


    There were several plumbing caps that would have qualified - but this met nearly all of the most important requirements of being cheap, being field repairable, and being just snug enough to be able to go on and off with confidence I won't lose it.

    I have no idea how positive buoyant it is - I suspect a bit. I'm gonna be using ankle weights to keep this insectile whatzus from blowing over or falling off the edge of the rocks.

    This was fun.

    Next up is a F/O ring flash. I'm almost done with that, too.


    -Ken
    You've got some new momentum - you better keep on going
    Tomorrow soon will be your yesterday
    You've got some new momentum - you better keep on going
    You've got to move to make it all the way... - NM

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    Senior Member airsix's Avatar
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    Very cool how-to!

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    May I have this dive? HBDiveGirl's Avatar
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    Gorgeous, eloquent, effective photo essay, Ken. BRAVO.
    But... Must.... Rescue......DAISY..... FROM.....EVIL PIXAR!!
    Quote Originally Posted by Mo2vation View Post

    'RUN, DAISY.... RUN!!!! Don't look into the lights!!!" (...while hurling rocks at the Insectile Nightmare to distract it...)
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." --Albert Einstein

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    Senior Member airsix's Avatar
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    Now see, this is a perfect example of appearance discrimination. Why do we assume Pixar is evil simply judging by appearance? And how do we know that Daisy is the sweet and innocent bovine she appears to be simply because she is cute? This is rubbish. Pixar is innocent until proven otherwise, and I don't trust that cow for a second.

  11. #11
    May I have this dive? HBDiveGirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by airsix View Post
    Now see, this is a perfect example of appearance discrimination. Why do we assume Pixar is evil simply judging by appearance? And how do we know that Daisy is the sweet and innocent bovine she appears to be simply because she is cute? This is rubbish. Pixar is innocent until proven otherwise, and I don't trust that cow for a second.
    Bwhahahahah....

    "Daisy! Klaatu barada nikto!....."
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." --Albert Einstein

  12. #12
    Senior Member airsix's Avatar
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    Oh, now THAT is funny. Ken, you have to call that thing Gort now.

    (I'll admit I was confused and had to look up the phrase because I couldn't remember where I'd heard it.)

  13. #13
    Were you at DYFO Taco Night? Sounder's Avatar
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    I'm not sure how to feel about this, but I'm visibly troubled.

    First, Ken now has "macro-death-rays." God Speed nudi's of the world!!

    Second, and more troubling... Tobin used the term "thingy" to describe something technical. W...T...F...?!?!
    I think the real reason Peter was fired because he was sleeping with his DM. - Ben V.

    Someone from Team 1 pinballed off one of the 2,700 pilings we were playing around. They stopped, I didn't, and the rest is proctology. - Mo2, my brother.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sounder View Post
    Second, and more troubling... Tobin used the term "thingy" to describe something technical. W...T...F...?!?!
    Dude, thingy is a highly technical term, you need to get out more.
    John Sampson
    Phoenix, AZ

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    Senior Member SparticleBrane's Avatar
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    Fantastic, Ken.

    Never would have thought of it myself.

    Simply...fantastic. I can't wait to see the shots you come up with.

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