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Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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9 May 2020 10:41AM   Views : 363 Unique : 247


Definition: a stencil that goes in the optical path of a light (sometimes said to be an acronym for ‘goes between optics’) to produce a pattern in the lighting of an object. So it’s an appropriate topic for Shadow Saturday… The lead image is of Geoff Amos at Solo Studio.

I own some: they are made of thin steel, and go in a Bowens focussing spot flash, which is, in turn, powered by a separate generator that seems to be made of solid lead, and packs a punch most Monobloc flashguns simply can’t match It’s a beast…


The one I’ve used most casts a nigh-time Los Angeles skyline that works beautifully as a background for a moody private eye or a femme fatale: but there are others.

If you wanted to, you could make your own, but plastic and card possibly aren’t the materials of choice: the QH modelling lamp makes the housing hot, despite the cooling fan.


Having a look round suggests that ‘proper’ gobos are a bit like hens’ teeth, and very much a specialist thing: but I suspect that the term is often applied a bit more loosely to anything that involves casting a shadow with a light for effect.

Something a little like a gobo was popular when I was first trying studio work – wire mesh in front of a reasonably directional light to provide a pattern on the background behind a model. All you need is a reasonably direct beam of light, and something big enough to put in front of it, far enough away to produce a reasonably-defined shadow. My Bowens gobos are small, because the light they work with gives a really tightly-constrained beam of light, just like a spotlight in the theatre.

Do you feel you’ve never seen a gobo in action? Well, anyone of my generation, at least, will have seen Adam West as Batman in the TV series. The Bat Signal, the shadow bat projected onto the clouds above Gotham City, is a focussing spotlight with a gobo.


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mistere Avatar
mistere Plus
10 36 8 England
9 May 2020 12:17PM
Fun to experiment with. I had a play with a speedlight shot through a Pringles tube with a stencil in front.
It worked reasonably well. Not up to reproducing the Bat signal though. Smile
GGAB Avatar
GGAB 7 31 1 United States
9 May 2020 12:23PM
Holy Bat Shadows John!
Learning something new every day.
PaulCox Avatar
9 May 2020 12:29PM
Something else learned today, keep up the Blogs. Paul.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
9 May 2020 3:07PM
Thanks, all!

I felt a little guilty as I posted this (in response to a suggestion a couple of days ago - thanks, Dave!), because I felt I'd written about rather purist gobos, and not done anything practical to shed more light on things (with interesting shadows, of course!)

I own an IKEA focussing spotlight, around £18, around 20 years ago - but, sadly, they don't make them any more. It came complete with a few gobos and textured glass: the only cheap implementation of 'genuine' gobos that I've seen...

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