Cheap, low-wattage studio lighting (part 1)

Update on the photo studio project: I still need a flag and pole (any ideas?) but some advice from a friend and additional research has yielded a great inexpensive lighting option.


The Smith-Victor KT-500U Photoflood Tungsten Light Kit with Umbrellas (B&H # SMKT500 Mfr # 401430) looks like a decent and affordable kit, about 50% of which can be found at any hardware store sans brands. But 250W is a lot of energy to waste on heat, and the Tungsten 3200ºK has a 20 hour life span, which is very short. While the daylight bulb only has a four-hour lifespan!

It has been a while since I researched studio lighting, but with developments in CFLs and LEDs you can now get high lumen, always-on lights, that don’t waste energy and create so much heat that it makes it uncomfortable to work with them.

So instead of the incandescent bulbs, I found these CFLs. They are daylight-balanced (6500ºK), 105W (400W incandescent equivalent), and have a 8000 hour life span, all for less than $30 each. Photo geeks and indoor growers also agree that the spectrum good.

So for less than $200 I’m looking at a decent set of lights that doesn’t require a light meter (I have a grey card) and doesn’t get hot. It’s quite bright, but I can move it back or bounce it off or through the umbrella.

Photography (Basic) NAVEDTRA 12700


I’m working on a new project to recreate a military portrait studio encountered during my previous life as a Navy photographer. In June 2010 I will install it in a solo exhibition at Holzhauer Gallery, Northwest Florida State College in Niceville, Florida, nestled neatly at the edge of Eglin Air Force Base, the “largest air base in the free world.” (quoted from a display at the nearby Air Force Armament Museum)

The project is inspired by rediscovering the Navy photo manual that was issued to me in April 1993 when I entered A-school at the Defense Photography School in Pensacola, FL. The inspiration for this project comes from chapter 7. There are also a lot of great illustrations and photographs including:

  • Page 5-2 has drawings of “photo techniques.”
  • Page 4-30 has an image (from a 4×5 view camera) of the school I went to.
  • Page 6-12 has an example of the old “grip and grin” ceremony.

More updates on the project will follow soon.



Lost in place: iPhone screenshots of grid system



Two screenshots from my phone depicting the grid underneath the Google Map graphics which are tiled to create the map interface. Clearly, the “virtual GPS” technology on my first-generation iPhone has often been helpful in finding my way. But what happens when it fails and you are literally lost in space? The social landscape, politics, climate, language(s), culture are what we analyze to understand “where” we are. Without these points of reference how can we create an idea of place? In this case, the simple query, “Tallahassee,” can be enough for any individual slightly immersed in Southern culture to create a perception of this place.

My retina, photographed at Ars Electronica in Linz

Below is the image and text from the email response to an interactive exhibit at Ars Electronica in Linz where you can photograph your retina.


This retina photo was taken in the BrainLab of the Ars Electronica Center Linz, Austria.
We would like to welcome you at the Museum of the Future! More information at:

Best regards,
Your Ars Electronica Team

Notes on MIT Media Lab _res_ summer 2009

This summer I worked at the MIT Media Lab on my Automata project, an internet bot and online application that makes visible hidden relationships of power.

Some photos and notes from time at MIT Media Lab with Chris Csikszentmihályi.


New edition to Media Lab




Boston Contemporary


MIT Sailing, free for students.


Chris Csikszentmihályi


Me on the Mystic River


Chris’ robot kayak.