I've always liked the idea of photographing myself through a lens. However, lenses are designed to project an image flipped and upside down. As such, shooting a portrait looking through the lens leaves you with either an upside down subject or otherwise everything else topsy turvy. True, I could simply correct the flipped and upside-down portrait in post-processing, but I just didn't like that idea (I prefer in-camera solutions if possible).
Another thing I didn't like about the self-portraits taken through a lens that I had come across before is that they usually had a distinct selfie vibe to them. That's because the subject was typically holding the lens in front of the camera thereby mimicking the outstretched phone in hand capture. When creating my version of the the self-portrait, I wanted it to be different. But until recently I never figured out how to execute an image that avoided those traits.
However, while putting the lens caps on my Kenko Teleplus PRO 300 DGX 1.4x AF Teleconverter
yesterday, I realized something – the teleconverter doesn't flip the image. Of course, that makes perfect sense as it's only supposed to magnify the projected image circle of the lens in front of it, not transform it in any other way. The teleconverter may not be a traditional lens, per se, but it was the answer I had been looking for.
So yesterday I attempted to take a self-portrait looking through the 1.4x teleconverter. It was a little challenging to get it right, but I finally got what I wanted.
Capturing the self-portrait meant overcoming a few challenges. The first thing I needed to do was figure out a surface on which I could set up the teleconverter. I originally planned on standing for the self-portrait, so I needed a table that that was relatively high. Not surprisingly, I didn't have a table that stood 4 1/2' off the ground. I ended up mounting a video slider onto one of my tripods to allow for an adjustable surface for the teleconverter to rest upon. I leveled the slider so that I could lay something across it (in this case, a clipboard for rigidity and a white 2-pocket folder on top). However, when trying to balance the teleconverter on its edge, I noticed that it was a little front heavy and tended to fall forward. I actually adjusted the ballhead so that the slider was tilted away from the camera just a bit so that the teleconverter was properly balanced. This adjustment meant that my standing portrait became a sitting portrait instead (not a problem, as only a small part of me would be seen anyway).
I set up my Canon EOS 5D Mark III
+ EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro
on a second tripod and pointed it at the teleconverter.
Framing and focus were the next big challenges to overcome. The solution to both problems came in the form of DSLR Controller and a battery-powered wireless router
. With the battery-powered wireless router attached to my camera (via USB) and my Samsung Galaxy S4 loaded with the DSLR Controller app
, I was able to see what the camera was seeing (Live View). This allowed me to adjust my position in the frame so that the teleconverter [almost] completely obscured my position behind it aside from my portrait in the projected image circle. DSLR Controller also allowed me to manually adjust focus using 5x and 10x magnification making obtaining focus fast and easy.
The final challenge was lighting. I tried several different setups before finding one that I really liked. The main light is a radio triggered Canon Speedlite 580EX (precursor to the 600EX-RT
), camera left (facing subject) diffused by a Glow 24" Collapsible Softbox
with a grid
in place. The rest of the light in the scene is provided by a radio triggered Canon Speedlite 580EX placed just to the right of the camera's position which was bounced off the ceiling. I flagged this flash with a Rogue FlashBender (Large)
to keep direct (harsh) light from hitting the subject area. Without the flag in place, a more distinct shadow would have been cast on the wall in front of my face.
With everything set up I tried several iterations of the self-portrait before ultimately settling on the one above. It had everything I wanted – decent pose, good lighting, and a right-side up portrait, foreground and background. It was a fun and rewarding exercise – the image was even featured on Flickr Explore
last night (click on the image above for a larger version).
But more importantly, I figured out a solution to an image that's been rattling around in my head for quite a long time – the experience of problem solving is worth more than the image itself as it will [hopefully] lead to even better images in the future.