31 Dec

Light Paint Brushes

In Gear,Mods by Greg / December 31, 2011 / 0 Comments

I’ve always wanted to learn lightpainting ever since I first saw photos in my various Google searches for photographic related techniques. It just seemed so cool, but its an art very different from your ordinary photography. It really is more like painting than photography, except that you are painting in the dark, facing the camera, guessing at how it will turn out. You cant see the result of your work until the picture is finished, and even then its hard to see the result until you put it in a photo program where you can flip the image horizontally so it has the same orientation as you originally drew it. Don’t bump your head or stub your toes fumbling around in the dark, and definitely try not to knock your camera over, tripod and all! Not that I did any of those things, just some deep thoughts I thought I would share for those inclined to clumsiness of which I would normally be categorized, but I did pretty well on that account for this project.

So anyhow, my great plan to make Christmas cards was to rely heavily on photos created by lightpainting. I started brainstorming different ways to get good colored light, particularly cheap ways. I realized I had the perfect cheap solution, small LED flash lights modded to hold colored LED’s. I already had a couple strands of LED Xmas lights I didn’t need so all I really had to buy were a pack of flashlights, and those I found in an 8-pack for just twelve dollars! I did end up buying a few extra Xmas light strands because they were on sale, but I didn’t need them.

I ended up coming up with a few different designs for my light brushes. I made some that were long wands with some very directional LED’s. I realized these were a bit difficult to use because you really need to hold the stick near the light end, like a pencil, but the on/off switch is on the back. I might re-wire them use in the future, with a pushbutton switch near the front. I also realized it wasn’t really necessary to make them so long. I just used pieces of PVC to make the wand extensions. If I had to do it again, I would make them much shorter.

I cam up with another design which used flexible arms which I scavenged from a pair of those clip on LED reading lights. This allows me to spread the lights around to different positions for different kinds of effects. They also have sockets so I can put different kinds of LED’s in them.

This is probably a good time to note differences in the Christmas light LED’s I was using – if you are running them off 3.6V (aka 3 rechargeable batteries) then red and yellow LED’s need 100 ohm resister, but blue and green ones do not. You can use a resistor in series with any of them to lessen the amount of light they create, since when working in the darkness they can be quite bright actually but you may want that effect.

Also if you need another color besides what you can find in LED’s, you can either use white LED’s and cover them with gelatin filters. You could also recolor the painted images in Photoshop, since the colors are pretty consistent should be quite an easy adjustment.

Here are a couple shots of my lightbrushes (the next post will feature the greetings I created with these lightbrushes):

Wand style

Light Brushes

31 Dec

Shane and Shane and Phil Wickham Concert

In Events by Greg / December 31, 2011 / 0 Comments

On December 7 my church had the honor of hosting a Shane and Shane and Phil Wickham concert. They were amazing performers, playing a lot of great Christmas and worship songs. They brought in their own sound system and lighting and really made our auditorium look spiffy, and the sound was great too. Our own worship leader, David Swidrak opened for them, and he did a great job too. I was honored to be able to take a few pics to commemorate the event. Check them out:

[nggallery id=3]

31 Dec

Vietnam Missions Trip

In Blog,Video by Greg / December 31, 2011 / 0 Comments

In October I had the awesome opportunity to go on a missions trip with my church to Vietnam. My objective for the trip was to shoot photos and video that we could use to get other folks on board with missions abroad, to motivate people to get out there and serve. It was a very busy 10-day adventure for me to say the least, a lot of fun, but extremely tiring. During my time there I shot around 5000 pictures and 2+ hours of video (all in short clips). I ended up processing around 350 pictures which you can see here on my Flickr stream.

As I side note, I absolutely loved the food there and did not get sick of it at all (most Americans do I guess) – but honestly when I landed in Chicago I had a burger, and was really really missing the delicious Vietnam food already! They eat a lot more vegetables and fruits there, with smaller portions of meat and also a lot of seafood and I really think that is the way to go. I believe in moderation, rather than strict vegetarian or vegan diets. I like meat, and a certain amount of it is good for you, too much is bad, along with all the other crap we eat in the US, which has more grease than stuff your body can actually use. Lets just say I ate like a pig in Vietnam for 10 days and lost 10 lbs.

A lot of my photos and video will by used by my church to create presentations, but I too decided to use them as a way to say thanks to all those who supported me on the trip, through prayer and financially. To do this I decided to take on video editing. I spent several weeks researching software, learning techniques, watching my vid clips over and over, and writing out ideas for how I wanted to make a short vid. I think the end result was well worth it and I definitely picked up a lot of new skills along the way.

I used Sony Vegas Platinum HD as my editing software, I didn’t want to spend too much money on software to use for my first time editing. I am really quite happy with Vegas and may upgrade to their pro version later, as opposed to moving to Premiere or something else. I definitely want to do some more video editing in the future as I really enjoyed it, and its very satisfying to work and work on something and then see it come to life in a final rendered video! Here is the video:

Along with this short video, I created several longer clips showing some things we did on the trip (I will not be posting the others online, but if you know me personally, feel free to ask to borrow the DVD I created). I put these all together on a DVD, complete with a DVD menu, created in Sony DVD Architect. The software made it really easy to create a simple DVD menu with video background.

To make it a nice finished product, I created some album artwork completely from photos (except for the text) I shot on the trip, along with a Lightscribe DVD label:

Vietnam artwork

I am really thankful to have gone on the trip, thankful to have learned a number of new skills, thankful to be used by God to serve others, thankful to all my friends who supported me. I really hope that the video and photos I captured motivate others to want to go out there and serve Christ. I know it doesn’t make sense to those of you who are not Christian, but all I can say is that it is the purpose for which we are meant, living in relationship with our creator, and it is awesome.

31 Dec

National Metal Day Poster

In Graphics by Greg / December 31, 2011 / 0 Comments

To commemorate National Metal Day, I created a special poster featuring a picture of myself. I originally wanted to do two posters that went together, but I couldn’t get the second to look the way I hoped, so I decided not to do it. The second poster would have had fire to match the orange lighting on my front side in this poster, which is lightning themed. I read a number of different tutorials online on how to make lightning in Photoshop as I was working on this little project. I love coming up with something I want to do and then getting to learn lots of neat new Photoshop tricks to make it possible. It’s also a good reminder that there are so many things I just don’t know how to do yet, because there are still many tools in PS I never even touch, but I am learning!

To shoot the image for the poster, I used two flashes on strobe stands, the flash in back of me with a blue gel filter and one in front with a red gel filter (if I had orange I would have used it instead). I then white balanced and color adjusted the photo carefully to shift the red to orange to match the color of fire a bit better. I also purposely over processed the photo using a Topaz Adjust filter in Photoshop to give it a more dramatic and cartoonish look.

National Metal Day was on 11-11-11, because it’s the only day this century that goes to eleven 3 times, and that’s a very important thing for any guitar amp made for metal. On a normal amp, when you are all the way to 10 on your amp and all the way to 10 on your guitar, where do you go from there? Well amps with knobs that go to 11 are one louder, so you have that extra little bit when you need it.

Along with paying homage to metal, this poster references 3 different favorite things from my younger years. The lightning references Ride the Lightning by Metallica, one of my all time favorite albums. The Thrasher t-shirt and yellow camo pants are from my younger years as a skateboarder. I also used to have matching camo DC shoes which were sweet. Lastly, the position I am taking and the orange lighting on my front side are a reference to the original Doom video game cover, one of my all time favorite video games.

The guitar I am holding is my Ibanez “frankenstein” RG strat. It’s a frankenstein because it was assembled from parts I had laying around from 4 separate guitars, along with a few after market parts I wasn’t using. Nothing about this guitar is normal. The neck came from an RG-120 which I had re-drilled to fit an RG-550 curly maple body (its tinted a deep blue which is why it looks black in this photo). The tuners and Ibanez Double Edge Pro bridge came from my Ibanez RG-1570 which I upgraded. The pickups are DiMarzio Super Distorion’s. The 5-way switch is made for a Fender 3-way single pickup setup, not for dual humbuckers. So I figured out a truly unique wiring for these pickups that gives me some interesting tonal choices on the different positions of the switch. Even the pickup mounting plates for this guitar came from a different model Ibanez (I can’t remember which) but they match the deep grey powder coat finish of the knobs, bridge and tuners. Eventually I would like to mod the neck to put a locknut on it, since floating trems don’t work real well without them.

So ‘nuf with the yacking and hype, check out this poster!

National Metal Day

31 Dec

Thank You Graphic

In Graphics by Greg / December 31, 2011 / 0 Comments

Lately, I have been spending more time learning my way around Photoshop to do things other than process photos. I’ve had a few things recently where I need to make some kind of graphics, and so I took the time to learn a lot of new techniques to create them. On example was for Thanksgiving I created an old paper style graphic, using a tutorial I found here. I only used one photo (actually a scanned image of a piece of paper) to create the whole thing and in the end result it played only a minor role in achieving the effect I was looking for. For me this is quite unlike how I normally like to do things, where I typically rely heavily on photography, even though I realize many things could just as easily be done in Photoshop without using a camera at all.

I think this was pretty good for a first attempt, but I also know I have many things to learn! Here is what it looks like:


You will probably see more postings like this one as I have been doing more and more graphics and its a lot of fun learning fancy new tricks.

25 Dec

Lefty Camera Grip with Shutter Release

In Mods by Greg / December 25, 2011 / 0 Comments

Recently, I needed to be able to shoot easily while supporting the camera entirely in my left hand. Most often for me I like doing simple shots with my right hand in the picture, like a product shot for example. Plus this also allows me to dual wield camera (although generally not practical) which can be fun. I am also left handed (well, technically semi-ambidextrous) but the camera makers seem to ignore us! Nikon thought about making some left handed bodies at one time, but then decided it wasn’t important. In general it really doesn’t matter if you are left or right handed when it comes to shooting a camera, so I don’t get too terribly upset that the camera makers show no love for lefty’s…

Anyhow, this grip was very simple to make from about $25 worth of parts. First I took a dual camera rail I got off eBay for %10, attached an Opteka pistol grip to the rail’s 1/4″ thread and then used gaffers tape to attach a YonNuo camera trigger to the grip. It works surprisingly well and I positioned the trigger so it was just in the right spot for my index finger. I have some ideas for how I might rig up another one that would be a little bit better, but this works quite well for the time being:

Lefty grip

23 Nov

Modding the Samyang 7.5mm for NEX

In Mods by Greg / November 23, 2011 / 1 Comment


The Samyang 7.5mm is a remarkably good fisheye lens which is perfect for the NEX, except that it has the wrong mount on the back of it. Since the NEX has the shortest flange distance of any current interchangeable lens camera, almost any lens can be adapted to it. This is especially true since the Samyang is an all manual lens, where other Micro Four Thirds mount lenses are not, having electronic apertures controls which makes them all but useless when adapted to the NEX. The combo of the Samyang fisheye and NEX camera makes one of the smallest 360VR camera setups I have found so far.

The first thing I recommend doing is removing the mounting ring so that you can calibrate the focus. To do so there are just 3 small screws that you must remove (be really careful not to strip them):

sam rear

Once you get the ring removed, you will find 3 metal spacers that you can remove. This will get the lens to where it will almost focus perfectly to infinity. You may even want to try putting it back together and testing it on your MFT to NEX adapter to see if you can perfectly focus before doing further adjustments. If it does not see the next step below.

sam spacers1

If you determine that a further adjustment is needed, you can unscrew the rear lens element just slightly to get the rest of the adjustment you need. After doing this on my lens, I used a small strip of gaffers tape to hold the element in place since it was no longer tightened all the way down:


Once you get the focus adjusted properly, now you can deal with trimming the hood. You will find that the hood is actually attached by 3 black screws which are hidden underneath the circular name plate around the objective lens. This plate can be pried up very carefully with a small screw driver (its just sticky taped on, if you are careful enough you can reattach it without using new adhesive):

hood screws

Once you get the hood removed you can trim the petals. You need to shave the smaller petals off entirely. The larger petals should not be completely trimmed off, only about 2-3mm is needed. If you go to far you will not be able to attach the factory lens cap any longer, so remove a little at a time then test it on your camera to see if any of the petal is visible in the image.

hood removed

Once you get it all done you can now enjoy some awesome fisheye shots (360VR anyone?) with your NEX-5.

NOTE – You are following the above steps at your own risk, if you damage your lens I will not be held responsible.

22 Nov

NEX-5 + Samyang 7.5mm

In Uncategorized by Greg / November 22, 2011 / 2 Comments
NEX-5 + Samyang 7.5mm by Greg Kemp
NEX-5 + Samyang 7.5mm, a photo by Greg Kemp on Flickr.

The Samyang 7.5mm is a fisheye designed for M4/3 format cameras and will yield a 180 degree full frame image on a 2x crop sensor. When modded for the NEX, this lens will yield slightly more than 180 degrees in a semicircular image. This here, as far as I know, is the smallest 360VR setup you can have. So far this Samyang lens has proven to be remarkably good (from others tests online). I have yet to do any shooting with it as I just got this all setup. You can see my trimming of the lens hood was a bit crude, and I realized I needed to trim just a bit more from the top petal.

To use this lens on the NEX bodies you need to do 3 things –
1. Get an MFT to NEX adapter (cheap on eBay)
2. Remove the ring from the rear (held on by 3 screws) – inside you will find three metal spaces, just take these out and then replace the ring. This allows the lens to achieve infinite focus on the NEX.
3. Remove the label ring from the front of the lens, its just glued on (do it carefully with a very small screw driver so you can replace it later) – once removed you will find 3 black screws holding the lens hood on. You need to completely trim off the smaller side petals, and the larger petals need 2-3mm removed so they do not show up in the image on the NEX.

You can also read more on others making this lens work on the NEX here:

01 Nov

Gregory Kemp Photography Logo

In Uncategorized by Greg / November 1, 2011 / 0 Comments

Via Flickr:

Here is its folks, the first GJK Photography Logo! Yea!! Woohoo! Its just my initials with a circle around it, but I think it makes a good logo. I was messing around in photoshop with some effects filters. I dont know if I will use the current look, or just use the "flat" version without any texture applied to it, or will maybe use different variations for different things. Who knows! I have been trying to think of a good way to do this for a while, this is nice and simple and I like it. What do you think?

23 Oct

The 2.8’s Part 1: The Sigma 50-150mm f2.8

In Reviews,Technical by Greg / October 23, 2011 / 2 Comments


The Sigma APO EX DC HSM II 50-150mm is one of the most difficult lenses to find right now in the Sony mount. This is because Sigma discontinued it in February 2011 and announced its replacement, the new optically stabilized version. The new version not only negates one of the big selling points of the earlier model (which I will get to in a moment), it also cannot be purchased anywhere yet. So for those who wanted a nice compact lens that gives a similar (actually longer) focal range than a 70-200/2.8 on a fullframe camera good luck finding this lens, but if you can find it – buy it, and if you have it – don’t sell it.

The 50-150 occupies a focal range that currently has not become popular among other manufacturers. Tokina did produce a 50-135/2.8 but it was never offered in the Sony mount. The 50-150 is designed to give APSC format cameras the same focal range that a 70-200 lens gives on a fullframe camera. In my opinion, this is something manufacturers need to continue expanding on, offering more fullframe equivalent focal ranges for popular lenses. The crop factor can be handy at times when you need that extra bit of reach, but at other times you need that original focus range and working distances that a 70-200 was intended to give you. I know many a time while shooting with the Tamron 70-200 I’ve needed to take a few steps back but if I’d had the Sigma 50-150 it would have been perfect for what I was trying to do.

So, what was the other big selling point I mentioned before? The size of the lens, the 50-150 is incredibly compact. It is about the same size as your average 70-300 kit zoom lens, or the Minolta 70-210 beercan. Optically the lens is nearly as good as you should expect – its plenty sharp at 2.8 and most focal lengths and it gives really nice subject isolation at 2.8 with a very acceptable bouquet. For more information on the performance characteristics on this lens, I highly recommend reading the review (see links below). Here is a comparison showing the size of the 50-150 to the beercan (left) and the Tamron 70-200 (right):


The new optically stabilized version of this lens is much larger, in fact it is over 2 inches longer making it almost as big as your average 70-200 f/2.8 lens. This makes the new version of the lens far less useful, and all it adds it optical stabilization – which in many cases is great to have, but for that much of an increase in size it is not worth it. Not to mention the fact that OS is useless for Sony users since the camera has built in stabilization. So that is my appeal to Sigma – please reconsider offering the non-OS version of this lens because the compact size is one thing that makes this lens really great.

For more infomation on this lens:
Review of the original version on
Lens specs and user reviews on Dyxum
Sigma 50-150 group on Flickr