Wednesday, December 4, 2019

How I shot my 2nd Favorite Soviet Souvenir

I don't usually bring home souvenirs from my travels... in my mind my photos are the memory jog of the times we had.  (Besides, after awhile your house gets just too cluttered.)  But I made a small exception with my trip to the Soviet Union back in 1988, to document a cultural exchange between Soviet and American High Schools Students.  (You can see my work on that project here.)

This Russian Pepsi bottle is symbolic of that era - back then, the Soviet Union's Ruble was a closed currency; it couldn't be traded in the open market and therefore large Western companies couldn't sell their goods to this large market.  The mangers at Pepsi had a work-around for that - they would barter Pepsi Cola for Russian Vodka, and then sell it abroad.  Brilliant business practice.  I've kept that bottle all these years, and decided to memorialize it with a proper photo for the archives.

But photographing clear objects is hard.  You can't just take a picture of it with a flash and have it come out looking impressive.  You need to have the glass refract some light in order for the shape of the bottle to be visible, yet otherwise perfectly clear.

To make this shot I used one wireless flash, a white wall, and a black book.  It works because of a technique I described 11 years ago in my blog (have I been blogging for that long?)  You can read it here.

The unassuming setup looked like this:

One wireless flash, a white wall, and a black book.
Further proof that you don't necessarily need line-of-sight in order for optical Wireless Flash to work.
And here's the first shot straight from the camera:

I then cropped, straightened, and played with the curves to increase contrast.  The label was exposed separately and blended in Photoshop:
I also had to play around with the light placement to get the bottom of the bottle to show.  That was blended in via Photoshop as well.
Voila!  (Read on to learn what my 1st favorite Soviet souvenir was...)

Upcoming Seminars

The seminar schedule for 2020 is looking pretty full.  Here's where we'll be:

Indio, California Jan 11-12, 2020: Learn More and Sign Up!
Seattle / Tacoma, Washington – March 14-15, 2020 Learn More and Sign Up!
Portland, Oregon – March 21-22, 2020.  Learn More and Sign Up!
Kansas City, MO – May 23-24, 2020 Learn More and Sign Up!
St. Louis, MO  May 30-31, 2020: Learn More and Sign Up!
New Zealand  November 7-8, 2020  (Email me to be put on the waiting list)

2021 Seminars
Kiawah Island, South Carolina  Spring, 2021: (Email me to be put on the waiting list)
Nice, France  Fall, 2021  (Email me to be put on the waiting list)

A note for those considering the Kansas City seminar - for reasons I won't go into, it is being scheduled for Memorial Day weekend.  Some people use this weekend to travel.  Would this allow or deter people from attending?  I want to hear from YOU!  Email me at Gary at Friedman Archives dot com.

Can't make any of these?  For the month of December the "home study course" version of the seminar is now on sale!  Use coupon code secretsrevealed to get 10% off!  Makes a great gift.  Learn the secrets of great photography here!

Best of the Blog 3 - FREE with 1-year subscription to Cameracraft magazine!

(Cool cover shot, eh?)
The "Best of the Blog" series has proven popular with readers who tell me how much they enjoy the blog, and they like having all the best parts available to them without having to sift through 12 years of posts.  "Best of the Blog 3" will be ready shortly, and you can get your .pdf copy for FREE - just be a subscriber to CameraCraft Magazine, send me your receipt, and I'll send it to you when it's finished.

In the Pipeline

Sony A7R IV ebook - .epub and .azw3 versions are now available, as is the printed edition.
The Spanish edition of the A7R IV book is being translated now.

Sony RX-10 IV (the world's most underloved camera) update covering new features of Firmware v2

Fujifilm X-Pro3 by Tony Phillips is being worked on now.  Let me know if you'd like to be put on the waiting list.

Books on the Sony A9 II, A6600, and A6100 are all in the pipeline.  Email for waiting list.

Next Time in Cameracraft

I profile David Crewe, head contributor at and official photographer for many Comic-Cons throughout the U.S.

Parting Shot

Four years ago I took this composite image of the grandkids, and only now have I gotten (that's a word!) around to making an enlargement for the office.  This kind of silhouette portraiture makes for great family heirlooms, and I explain how you can do it too in this blog post.

Until next time,
Yours Truly, Gary Friedman

In case you're wondering, THIS is my #1 favorite souvenir from the Soviet Union.  The Zenit ET was state-of-the-art in 1988.  I was a bit smug back then, having the world's best camera (the Minolta Maxxum 9000) with me, but the Russians had the last laugh because their cameras would work in Siberia in the wintertime (whereas camera batteries and then the electronics stop working in low temperatures).


  1. Great blog post and photo. I love the insights you share and the way you share them.

  2. always enjoy your blogs and see that you're doing a book on the RX10IV. I agree it is the most underrated camera. I love it for travel and have configured it in many ways, bus still have not settled on a final setup because my needs always seem to change.

    1. Yeah, I know the feeling. Every day presents a different set of circumstances. :-)

  3. That's a great personal story and a very interesting history lesson! Moreover, thank you for the terrific tips.

  4. Great picture from the Zenit camera together with the Minolta.
    From Minolta I went to Sony, but the Zenith E was my first film camera, bought in Europe in the Early 70's! Lots of memories!

  5. Wonderful wonderful blog! You really really do make learning fun and thorough.
    Love from Buenos Aires.

  6. Interesting as always Gary. Love the silhouette image of the family members.

    Reference the PDF/Best of Three blog and being a Cameracraft subscriber... I do receive the mag BUT have no idea where my 'receipt' would be. I subscribed way back when it was available with the F2 mag.

    1. Send me an email so at least I will know your name. Then we can go from there. :-)

  7. I like the blog you just showed with the silhouette of your grand kids. Does this have to be in a totally dark room? Can it be done against a white wall or did you use a black background behind the kids?

    1. Did you read the original blog post (referenced above) which showed how I did it, step by step? No black background needed; indoors at 1/200th, f/8 and ISO 100 should get you the results you need.

  8. Seattle / Tacoma, Washington – March 14-15, 2021???
    Really Gary, do I have to wait for 2021 to attend your class?


Thank you for your comment! All comments must be approved by a moderator before they will appear.