Jump to content


Photo

Are glass photo tanks really that much better for the average Joe?


  • Please log in to reply
17 replies to this topic

#1 mattknepley

mattknepley
  • NANFA Member
  • Smack-dab between the Savannah and the Saluda.

Posted 22 May 2014 - 09:09 PM

Till now I have used cheapie plastic critter carriers and betta tanks for my phototanks. Most of you know my results; not exactly poor enough to shame the NANFA name, but not exactly the sharpest images either. I have used three different digital cameras, but none of them seem to outperform the others. Odd, considering the different amounts of pixels they pack.

Today found me working in Ware Shoals, SC, a town blessed with a park on a wonderful, shoaly stretch of the Saluda River. Whipped at the end of the day, I took me down to the river for a soak and half-hearted fin-chasing. I wasn't really concentrating and only turned up a couple adult fish, seagreen darters. The only thing I had for a phototank in the car was a 2.5 gallon glass aquarium. The still-in-the-bag lid was used as a paddle. I snapped a couple shots of the darters; usually I take a couple hundred.

Expected cruddy pictures, but they were actually quite good.

Attached File  SAM_1889.JPG   417.25KB   3 downloads
Attached File  SAM_1890.JPG   418.52KB   3 downloads
Attached File  SAM_1891.JPG   417.97KB   3 downloads



With the convention coming up, I'd like to take a lot of quite good photos. Is thin glass really that much better than thin plastic for pictures, or is this likely a fluke? Is the paddle that big a part of the results? I'll baby this 2.5 around the mountains if the results are going to be this improved for me. I'd consider it a worthwhile effort most times, until I can procure a bombproof, Uland special! :)
Matt Knepley
"No thanks, a third of a gopher would merely arouse my appetite..."

#2 Guest_Skipjack_*

Guest_Skipjack_*
  • Guests

Posted 22 May 2014 - 09:35 PM

That is a good phototank. What makes Uland's tanks great is the durability, the perfect sizing of the paddle, and at least one more, no silicone in the corners. Now the tank is great, but it does not take the pictures. He now uses an external backdrop, and may take (guessing) 50 or more photos of each fish to get the one he wants. I am going to shut up now, and hopefully he chimes in.

#3 Guest_Dustin_*

Guest_Dustin_*
  • Guests

Posted 23 May 2014 - 08:22 AM

The paddle is the key along with a flat container front. Without a paddle, it is impossible to get all of the fish in focus. It's very difficult even with a paddle.

Now you just need to master the use of a small stick or skewer to position the fish just so. Oh, and the bump and shoot method that "encourages" the fish to flare their fins. Good luck.

One of my favorite activities at the fishy meetings is to sit and watch those that have mastered this, ie. Uland, Blake, Lance, Dave and Todd. I pick up something different each time. Now I am beginning to be limited by my equipment and nausea when I consider upgrading said equipment.

#4 Michael Wolfe

Michael Wolfe
  • Board of Directors
  • North Georgia, Oconee River Drainage

Posted 23 May 2014 - 09:28 AM

Is thin glass really that much better than thin plastic for pictures, or is this likely a fluke? Is the paddle that big a part of the results?


No, it is not the plastic vs the glass that is making the difference... it is the flatness... the critter keeper has a curved surface the glass is flat (and Ulands acrylic tanks are flat also of course). Flat is what is giving you a clear, non istorted picture. Yes, the paddle is incredibley important. Having on that fits and is also flat helps. And like Dustin says, being able to poke and prod the fish a little to get him just so.

What makes Uland's tanks great is the durability, the perfect sizing of the paddle, and at least one more, no silicone in the corners.


Agree, except that I am still afraid of scratching the acrylic (and so that is probably just me). I really enjoy the durability of a thick piece of glass. My one tank has now lasted I think three years in a back pack and allows me to pretty much carryit down the stream and take pictures where ever I am.
Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. - Benjamin Franklin

#5 Guest_Uland_*

Guest_Uland_*
  • Guests

Posted 23 May 2014 - 02:03 PM

Acrylic does scratch quite easily but I get between 150,000 and 250,000 photos before I retire them. I gave up on glass after having to sort glass to get the pieces without waves, bubbles etc. In all the years and all the tanks I've made, only one piece of acrylic was "bad".

And yes, I like a tight fit on the paddle width vs. glass because I try not to squeeze the fish so hard I distort it. That tight fit can help hold the fish in place. As Dustin mentioned, I use a bamboo skewer to position the fish while slightly compressed between the pieces of acrylic. Some fish cooperate and others do not. I often cuss at the uncooperative.

After a while, I listened to others and moved the background back a bit. It helped even background colors and get rid of shadows.

#6 Guest_gerald_*

Guest_gerald_*
  • Guests

Posted 23 May 2014 - 03:04 PM

Any difference in optical quality or performance with polycarbonate (Lexan) vs acrylic (Plexiglas) ?

BTW -- A few years ago I bought a piece of non-glare glass from a frame shop, thinking it would be great for a photo tank by reducing glass reflections. WRONG. Non-glare glass is good only for objects laid flat against it (art), but 3-D objects or anything more than a couple millimeters beyond the glass becomes blurry.

Michael posted a Very Clever Idea a year or so ago: He used "plastic lumber" for the bottom, back, and sides of a photo tank, and glass or acrylic only on the front. (As long as you dont mind the fish's shadow on the background).

#7 Guest_Skipjack_*

Guest_Skipjack_*
  • Guests

Posted 23 May 2014 - 03:23 PM

Yes, Michael's tank is made of a product that is more or less PVC wood. The most common brand name is Azek. Good product. It can be glued together with PVC glue and screwed together as well. For a phototank, I would surely do both. Then an appropriate sized piece of glass can be siliconed into place on the front. This makes a very durable photo tank for sure. As Gerald mentioned, since it has a solid back, you will have shadows, even of you use a clear paddle. It will however take photos that are plenty good, look at Michaels. The other guys, Uland, Lance, Dave, Blake, and Todd are shooting for pro quality photos, and use a bit more specialized gear. The Michael Wolfe tank is perfect for us average guys.

#8 Michael Wolfe

Michael Wolfe
  • Board of Directors
  • North Georgia, Oconee River Drainage

Posted 23 May 2014 - 06:14 PM

Well, now it looks like I am going to have to step up my game!
Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. - Benjamin Franklin

#9 Guest_Skipjack_*

Guest_Skipjack_*
  • Guests

Posted 23 May 2014 - 08:18 PM

Oh, I did not mean that that way Michael.

#10 Isaac Szabo

Isaac Szabo
  • NANFA Member
  • The Ozarks

Posted 23 May 2014 - 09:43 PM

Any difference in optical quality or performance with polycarbonate (Lexan) vs acrylic (Plexiglas) ?


Acrylic has better optical properties, and polycarbonate can even yellow over time with UV exposure. Polycarbonate is more resistant to breaking, but it scratches more easily. It is also more expensive. Acrylic seems like the better choice to me. Scratches in acrylic can be sanded/polished out (I have done it on a dome port).

I gave up on glass after having to sort glass to get the pieces without waves, bubbles etc.


If you want to be sure your glass is free from optical defects, you could order something like this: http://www.edmundopt...y-windows/43974

#11 mattknepley

mattknepley
  • NANFA Member
  • Smack-dab between the Savannah and the Saluda.

Posted 24 May 2014 - 02:58 PM

Thanks, everybody. Interesting reading. I'll be bringin' the 2.5, it looks like. Sounds like it'll be worth it. Oh, btw, these are the first seagreens I have found close to me, for those who have asked if I've found any and I said "no". Still have yet to find any right in my back yard...

Matt Knepley
"No thanks, a third of a gopher would merely arouse my appetite..."

#12 Guest_chrish_*

Guest_chrish_*
  • Guests

Posted 02 July 2014 - 01:12 AM

Interesting conversation. I am not a huge fish photographer, but I do photograph aquatic herps occasionally.

I use a 5 gallon glass aquarium or a homemade 1 gallon glass tank. For herps, the problem is that most species are going to sit on the bottom rather than in mid water and so you get a photo of the bottom of the tank.
I have tried solutions like putting cleanly rinsed gravel in the tank, like for this Valdina Farms Salamander (Eurycea troglodytes) -

Posted Image

but not all species live on hard bottoms like this. Obviously mud won't work for a bottom and then I came up with a reasonable solution for a muddy bottom - concrete with brown pigment in it.

So I took my 5 gallon, tilted it up at a about a 15 degree angle so the bottom would slope towards the front and put a few inches of "mud-brown" dyed concrete in there. After it dried, it makes a reasonable facsimile of a muddy bottom without the water fouling.

Here it is being used by a friend to shoot some amphibian eggs next to the road in Florida.-

Posted Image

And here's a not-very-good photo (caught the back edge/corner of the tank) of a Yellow Mud Turtle (Kinosternon flavescens) on the "mud" bottom. It isn't exactly "mud-like", but it is better than plain glass, sand or gravel.

Posted Image

For backgrounds, I just use a piece of black velvet. If I want a touch of color in there, I will put a plant behind the aquarium so it is out of focus but just enough green to give it character. In the turtle photo, it was a philodendron in a pot that just happened to be near the table I was photographing on. If I need a way to keep the animal at the front of the aquarium, I used a piece of clear glass as a paddle to position it there.

Edited by chrish, 02 July 2014 - 01:19 AM.


#13 Guest_don212_*

Guest_don212_*
  • Guests

Posted 02 July 2014 - 08:17 AM

just back from convention, bought a 2.5 gal aquarium, a piece of glass for a paddle. taped and sealed the edges of the glass for safety and put on a couple of small handles, now I need a background, and a lot of practice.

#14 Guest_daveneely_*

Guest_daveneely_*
  • Guests

Posted 02 July 2014 - 08:48 AM

practice is everything.


well, almost everything.

My first fish photo mentor used a homemade glass tank and paddle that he carried around in a Pelican case. It made it through some trips out of country where it rattled around in Russian jeeps and Peruvian dugout canoes. I was impressed, until the first time I tried to take a glass tank out of country and arrived in southwestern China with a cracked and leaky glass phototank (Thanks, Dragon Air!). This was in a fully padded Pelican case, mind you. I cut myself pretty good unpacking it, and then the glass that I managed to buy locally had a bluish tint and was full of distortions and bubbles. I subsequently broke a glass phototank in a remote part of Mexico. To me, the extra bit of scratch resistance isn't worth the possibility of being stuck somewhere that's taken a lot of time, effort, and money to get to -- and find yourself without a working tank. I'd MUCH rather have to work around or photoshop out a scratch than deal with a busted tank.

I often use a small tank about 1/2 the size of the smallest tank that Uland uses (here referred to as "Medium"; it fits snugly in a small Pelican case and I can buy the acrylic locally cut and nearly ready to weld up for <$20. I've appended my standard 1/4" acrylic tank panel sizes for reference. I don't like the handles, and use clothespins to hold the pinning paddle in position instead.

Medium: (2x) 13.5" x 6.5", (1x) 13.5" x 3.5", (2x) 6.5" x 3", (1x) 12.75" x 7"
Small: (2x) 7.25" x 4.25", (1x) 7.25" x 2.5", (2x) 4.25" x 2", (1x) 6.5" x 4.5"

#15 Michael Wolfe

Michael Wolfe
  • Board of Directors
  • North Georgia, Oconee River Drainage

Posted 02 July 2014 - 11:22 AM

Hey Dave, just curious, were those all glass photo tanks that you had problems with breaking? I have not had mine in any Russian jeeps... mine is an American Jeep... and mostly my canoe experiences have been aluminum... sorry, just joking around. Seriously though, I wonder if there is something to the five pieces of glass vs my glass front only version. Or maybe it was a thickness thing?
Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. - Benjamin Franklin

#16 Guest_Stickbow_*

Guest_Stickbow_*
  • Guests

Posted 02 July 2014 - 11:56 AM

Have any of you looked at Bryce Hallock's design for a portable photo tank on Microfishing.com?

http://microfishing..../fish-tank1.pdf (linked from http://microfishing....-micro-fishing/)

It's not a studio setup -- seems best suited to field work, but allows ambient light vs. flash (a plus with my older/cheaper waterproof camera). I guess you could use a neutral gray background if you wanted, but that would reduce the light.

#17 Guest_daveneely_*

Guest_daveneely_*
  • Guests

Posted 02 July 2014 - 12:22 PM

I used small glass tanks like that from about 1996 until ~2005 to get photos of fish for color notes, and I know a couple folks that still use them for IDs; allows you to keep fish in water rather than in your hand. If they worked well for publication-quality fish photos, I might still be using them.

#18 Michael Wolfe

Michael Wolfe
  • Board of Directors
  • North Georgia, Oconee River Drainage

Posted 02 July 2014 - 03:08 PM

Yea stick, I have seen those. But having a separate backing and having the front being flat to the camera was just too nice a combo for me to pass up.
Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. - Benjamin Franklin




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users