As I am giving a brief chat at the next OCUPS meeting, what better time to write a small “how to” on building your own fiber optic snoot, with some accompanying samples and info of course.
In the simplest terms, snoots shape your light. They do so in a couple of ways, from restricting the beam angle, to channeling the light along flexible fiber optics or through glass lenses to achieve a desired shape or distribution of light. Snoots are tools to help capture a specific images, or improve your images certain conditions.
They are fun! Seriously, snoots are a good way to mix it up if you are ever getting bored.
After that wears off, you’ll find in some situations they are almost essential. If you ever find a subject that you can’t separate from its background, for example a white cuttlefish against a white sponge, a snoot can help! Animals that look just like their surroundings are prime candidates to use a snoot on too.
The other HUGE benefit for me diving locally, a snoot restricts the cone of light so I have less back scatter! This is a big problem for me shore diving where I have to deal with surge or just lots of stuff in the water. Octopus hiding back in a hole are otherwise impossible to shoot without getting really creative and or lucky.
The “How much”
With minimal tools or effort, you can absolutely fashion something that is both cheap, and also quite capable. Which of the following shots was shot with a $30 DIY snoot and which was shot with a $200 or $300 snoot? (hint: there are 3 diff snoots used in these)
Personally, I find the fiber optic snoot easier to use for the simple fact, I can put the tip of the fiber optics into my field of view, line up the shot, and then pull it up just out of the frame. There is absolutely a steeper learning curve to snoots, the first dives will be a little frustrating but you’ll soon see what new opportunities there are with an added tool at your disposal.
The “How to”
Building a DIY snoot similar to what I did should put you in the $20-30 range. If you are at all curious, or serious about your photography, try a snoot! Cost cannot be a factor.
The flexible tubing is 12 inches of 1/2 inch Loc-Line (check ebay): $8
Lastly, epoxy to glue the loc-line onto the base: $5 (I had some around the house already)
Pretty simple, I mis-used a drill with some sort of grinding bit to carve out the holes for the loc-line, stripped and stuffed the fiber optic cable into the arm and then glued that in place. Since it wasn’t a perfect fit, I glued some strips of foam I had lying around (purchased to test for buoyancy on my rig ) to help get tension to keep it on my strobe and lastly, a rope and clip to attach it to my bcd or to my rig when in use.
You’ll want the hole in the pvc pipe to align with the flash tube on your strobe. It’s also super helpful if your focus light can illuminate the fiber optic as well, as that helps you see the tip of the snoot for aiming!
In terms of using the snoot, get out and practice! Night dives are definitely easier. Start with a shorter lens such as a 60 mm macro, pull the snoot down into view (typically top down, but not always) at a distance that gives you the magnification you want, pull it up out of view and then don’t adjust your lens auto focus. By using focus lock, you’ll be able to swim around and line up shots on anything and everything and snap away and the snoot will be aimed right where you need it.
Ok, enough words – more snooted pics!