My home town, Boise, Idaho puts on the holiday spirit by decorating the botanical gardens and the historic old Boise Penitentiary by festooning them with thousands and thousands of colorful lights. The Atlanta Botanical Garden does too. This Summer it’s featuring another display of lights among the gardens for the enjoyment of all during the balmy Southern evenings. Anytime holiday lights come out in numbers is a great time to make unique photographs. While is seems a bit premature to talk about “Christmas” lights at the beginning of summer, this post is timely for those who have been wanting an excuse to hook themselves up with one of my favorite albeit obscure and pricey (totally worth it) products from Really Right Stuff the Camera Rotation Device.

Fast DSLR orientation change

This camera tool from the “all things for camera support” company Really Right Stuff is something that at first glance looks frivolous. A gizmo that rotates the camera on the lens axis is hardly a “must have” right? Wrong. Here’s why. According to Joe Johnson, Jr. a fashion photographer approached the company asking for something that would speed up changing from horizontal to vertical orientations of his camera. His complaint? It took too long. The time it took to change cost a lot of money considering the cost of a set full of expensive fashion models. The Camera Rotation Device was born. Play the thirteen second video to see it in action.

[vimeo 129155088 w=640 ]

Full circle

OK. I’ve got an idea that you’re thinking, “So what?” Here’s “what.” The rotation isn’t just from horizontal to vertical. It works in a full circle. There are detents every 45 or eight equally spaced intervals. This photograph shows a gas fireplace made with my Canon 1Ds Mark II and a 17-40mm f/4.0 L series lens mounted in the device. The shutter was open for 25 seconds. I counted four seconds before rotating the camera to the next detent.

This "fire circle" was made with the camera rotation device stopping every 45º.
This “fire circle” was made with the camera rotation device stopping every 45.

Festival of lights…

A walk with my camera, tripod and C.R.D. in tow through the holiday lights celebration this last winter in the Atlanta Botanical Garden netted several fun, unique photos. This series of images starts with the actual scene followed by the one with a “twist” or twelve. (There’s no law that says the camera has to stop at the detents!)

Rotating two thirds of the way than back again. Repeat.
Rotating two thirds of the way than back again. Repeat.
The still photograph and the rotated version. Vary the numbers of rotations for more streaks.
The still photograph and the rotated version. A long pause with the camera upside down plants the mirrored tree.

No Photoshop

In camera effects are fun, quick, and offering lots of variations to explore… The number of rotations, pauses, back and forth moves are the basics. Pile them on for even crazier results. So, it’s summer. There are lights everywhere waiting for their chance in front of your lens as it spins them into glorious abstraction. Yeah, at almost $800.00 the Really Right Stuff camera rotation device is expensive. I use it to speed up editorial and studio fashion shoots. I love it for the art it helps me create by slowing time.