Past Meetup

Indoor shoot: Refractographs, session 1

This Meetup is past

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This meetup is part of our indoor winter program and will be offered in two sessions due to the interest and the fact that we need to limit the attendance to 10 each. If you attended last year's event, please let others sign up first. Then select the session that works better for you.

We will be creating refractographs, a very unique and colorful way of creating intricate light abstracts.

Please make sure to read the entire description in a regular browser, not the mobile app, which doesn't show the images.

This event is for paid members only. No guests! You are allowed to sign up for only one of the sessions.

Refractographs, as the name suggests, are abstract patterns created by white light breaking on a transparent surface. In some cases, the white light is also diffracted and breaks into its individual colors through the glassy object. What works really well is simply using the bottom of a wine glass, but shiny surfaces such as CDs, Mylar, glass rods and prisms will work, too. This is all about experimenting and you are guaranteed to walk away with some unique creations.

This is an indoor photo shoot to combat the cold outside, no need to dress too warmly.

Here is what you need to bring:

• Your camera body with a body cap. No need for a lens, you will be shooting without a lens, so there is no f-stop. Only ISO and exposure time.

• At least one flashlight (charge the battery or bring spares!). Does not have to be overly bright.

• Gaffers tape, if you have it. Clips may work, too. Don't use duct tape, it leaves residues.

• At least two, better three tripods, if you have them. One with ball head holding your camera, another one holding the flashlight, but that can be any cheap kind of stand, even home-made. They can all be very small and the gorilla pod, if you have one, is great to hold your flashlight. This is also a great "tripod" for photo shoots on observation platforms (, such as the Empire State Building (which does not allow regular tall tripods). You will need to add a ball head to this, I recommend the affordable SunwayFoto pan ball head, a good compromise between load, quality and cost ( Also great to keep a second tripod for your second camera on expensive trips.

• Instead of a third tripod, this flexible arm (Plamp II PP-200) ( is a great and affordable solution to hold the refracting object in front of the camera, this is what you need to move most often, after your camera.

• Some sort of refracting object. Bring a cheap, sturdy wine glass (the stem is easier to clamp than a water glass, and the stem may act refracting, too). Prisms, specialty glass or shiny surfaces, a CD (preferably blank). Keep it small, 2-3 inches tops.

• Color gels to color your refractographs. This swatch book here has several hundred different gels ( it with information on the density and color and you can use these also for flash coloring or for coloring your flashlights for our light painting events.

• If you need it, a flashlight, such as those we use for astro-landscape photography. We will be operating in a dark room, but there will be some light from the pin-hole flashlights. Any bright light will ruin everyone else's shot! These two solutions are my favorites and they will last a long time and can be used on all our night photo shoots. The Celestron dimmable astronomers light ( and the much smaller LRI FMR Photon Freedom LED Keychain Micro-Light (, my personal favorite.

What we will have onsite:

• Tables all ready for to set up your own station:

• Pin-hole covers for your flashlight (they will be taped to your light).

• Some tape, but it helps if you bring some, too.

• Some refracting objects (not enough for everyone).

• Some color gels

• A few additional stands, but please try to bring your own.

Here is an instructional video on how to do refractograms. Please make sure to watch this before you come to this event!

And here is another page with information (

This is the recommended setup:

Tripod with camera, no lens. Tripod set to low for the camera, another tripod or stand for the flashlight and a clamp or 3rd stand for the refracting object. If you have tall tripods and a clamp, you can also set up on the floor with one leg on the table.

Clamp (or second tripod) which holds the refracting object (a wine glass here). A Third tripod, here a gorilla pod, to hold the flashlight (taped on it). If you use a tripod to hold the glass, a ballhead is strongly recommended. Other contraptions may be used to replace tripods, but we will mostly set up on tables.

This is how it looks when the light hits the glass, you can see how the light is reflected into the camera opening.

This is how we will operate: in the dark with only a small light shining around. The entire room needs to be kept dark to do this. Anyone who needs a bathroom break needs to let others know and wait until exposures are done.

The first image at the top shows a plain refractograph from the bottom of a wine glass, only minor color is visible.

The second image was created by using a CD as the reflective surface and the colors are created by the CD

The third image below is similar to the first, but I was using two colors gels, a blue and a red to color the pattern.