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Archive for the ‘Equipment’ Category

Nikon DF

Nov 5

In Equipment, In The Field at 8:03am

Anytime Nikon puts an “F” in the name of a camera, photographers who have been around for a while (and that would be me) take notice. My first motor driven camera was an F, which of course was a tank with a lens. I forget if it had treads. But the F was an undisputed classic of design and toughness. It was simple, as its name suggests. A rugged bunch of shutter speeds looking for a set of f-stops. The DF harks back to that simplicity. It’s a classic blend of old style film camera bundled with new fangled digitally fancy footwork.

Read the rest of this entry »

Amazing Manila…..

Mar 14

In Equipment, Lighting, On Location at 4:46am

When I went to the Philippines earlier this year, my friend and fellow shooter JoJo Mamangun contacted me. Would I like to work with his wife, Kris, a ballerina and Cirque du Soleil dancer? I think I simply wrote back something like, “En route.” As luck would have it, she was rehearsing for the role of Titania in Midsummer Night’s Dream for Ballet Philippines. Read the rest of this entry »

All new “What’s in the Bag?” Page is live!

Feb 25

In Equipment at 6:37am

Hey guys, Drew here, letting you know about a long-overdue update to the blog, that’s now live: The all new, “What’s in the Bag?” page.

Though it’s always been a great resource for just about every piece of gear we use on-location (and in the studio), it didn’t offer any visuals, or much else, aside from the links. Read the rest of this entry »

The Return of the Umbrella

Nov 19

In Equipment at 8:46am

At least for me. I mean, I’ve used ‘em for years, but sparingly, generally opting for the clarity and control of a soft box. Nothing wrong with umbrella light, it works quite well. But, given many situations I get thrown into, control of light often becomes paramount, and the inherent scatter and diffusion of a brolly tends to mean it gets left in the bag. They have good points, to be sure. Light, fast, cheap, collapsible. Cheap is a good thing to note, as they are hardly durable, and thus you find yourself replacing them on at least a semi-regular basis. Take them on the road for a bit, or put them up in a mild breeze, and their longevity drops precipitously.

But I did look around of late, and started to realize how many times I’ve resorted to an umbrella on recent jobs, and how that has coincided with the introduction of the 8 in 1 umbrella model from Lastolite. I had nothing to do with designing it (wish I did)  but the options it presents and the handy packing potential of it made trying it intriguing. And, very rapidly, it has become a light shaper that always goes with us.

When using a smallish soft box, which I do a lot, there is certainly clarity and direction to the light. But, at least occasionally, that type of soft box, due to its size, can produce a sharpness of shadow that often has to be managed, i.e., filled a bit, either with a bounce card or another light. What I’ve found (and this is intuitive field stuff going on in my head here, now, not a careful scientific experimentation with comparisons and controls) is that the rounder quality of light coming from the parabola shaped umbrella surface, has more forgiveness and a softer fall from highlight to shadow in the way it plays on the human face.

One of the go to things I’ve embraced about the 8 in 1 is the mode in which you can snuff a great deal of the edges of the shaper with its opaque black cover, and force the light through a small port in the middle, as below.

I’m using three small flashes here, mounted on a tri-flash, certainly not for power purposes (the shot this arrangement produced was made at f2) but for the purposes of volume of light. By increasing the size of the light at the source, with a small gaggle of speed lights, you definitely get an incrementally rounder, more voluptuous quality of overall light. This type of an arrangement to me, speaks to one of the strengths of CLS/TTL in that I can rack out to f2 at the camera, and the flashes (presumably) then follow me right there. Can you do this manually? Of course. Can you do it with one speed light? Sure. You just tax the unit a bit more, and there is, I would submit, a crisper edge to that line of demarcation between highlight and shadow. It’s really all up to your work flow, and the look you seek.

You might notice above I’ve got a big black surface pushed into the camera left side of the set. That is to kill blow black from the ass end of the umbrella. Always been an issue with brollies, as, especially in shoot through mode, you lose a lot of light traveling in the other direction. That light can then carom off the walls of the studio like a screaming banshee and fill shadows you don’t want filled. This loss of control can drive you mad. You stand there looking at a flat, filled picture and wonder how the hell it got like that. You stare at the front end of the light, puzzled at its behavior. But that’s like being cop, banging on the front door, warrant and cuffs at the ready, while the perp climbs out the rear window and down the fire escape. The 8 in 1 cures this by providing an opaque which will Velcro to the back end, and cut this notorious spillage, making the umbrella, effectively, a soft box. In that mode, for a situation like this, you would most likely go out of line of sight trigger mode into straight up radio trigger/manual slave operation, because the opaque cover will block line of sight transmission. But, here in the studio, we had access to a 6×6 black out, so we simply used that, and preserved line of sight.

With Deidre in forest, I just let the umbrella play in its entirety, which always produces a predictable, soft, splashy quality of light. Nerissa, my dear, vertically challenged friend, is ably holding a Shur Line paint pole with a Kacey pole adapter affixed.

Again, here, I’m using a tri-flash, but more for battery longevity and recycle time than quality of light. We had spare batteries with us, but we were a long walk from the car, so I tried to push the lights as conservatively as possible. I used the same paint pole, shoot through arrangement for the below, but again, corralled the light with the velcro blackout fabric, and made the light source smaller. That way, it has good punch for the model’s dramatically beautiful face, and the light collects up top, near the flow of the dress and her shoulders. It doesn’t spread all over the place.

There’s all sorts of new umbrellas out there now, some of which provide a lot of surface (they are damn big) in return for not too much investment, dollar-wise. Lastolite, Westcott and Photek come to mind as providing a variety of these kinds of sizable shapers. Below, quite unreasonably, I am in a swamp with one of them.

Another nice option when using an umbrella with multiple speed lights, is that you can click the speed light heads and directionalize them into whatever quadrant of the umbrella you feel you need an extra push of light from. In other words, if you want more light in the lower half of the shaper, then take the right and left flashes and click them so they point downwards, even straight down, so that what actually translates through the fabric of the umbrella is more on the order of the sideways splash of the light, and not the direct, frontal push of it. In short, you can feather these speed lights in multiple directions even before they hit the light shaper. This can produce very small but noticeable changes in the light quality.

On the Kelby “One Light, Two Light” tour, I use the 8 in 1 on a regular basis, and quickly go from a reflected umbrella style, using the whole shaper, to closing it down and using just the port in the center, for a shoot through approach that has more character and direction. The fuller, more rounded light of the overall umbrella works for the portrait subject below, who was a lovely lady sitting in the front row. The closed down, punchier approach works perhaps better for a portrait with a bit of an edge. This type of approach also gives you more control over your background, obviously. (There are background lights and a sidelight in the below portraits, as well, but the main shaper is the umbrella in question, the 8 in 1.

Jeff Snyder, aka, The Big Guy, from Adorama, has been out with me on virtually all of the Kelby Tours, and has seen the rapid way we can move this light around to produce different looks. If you want to ask about specifics, he could be a good reference or source, jsnyder@adorama.com.

As the end of the year and the holidays approach, I’m going to periodically drop a blog about things we are currently using, or have found useful. Hard to believe another year is looking for the exit sign. More tk….

Field Test- The ioSafe Rugged Portable Hard Drive

Sep 20

In Computer Technology, Equipment, Field Test, Videos at 7:19am

Hey guys, Drew here.  ioSafe recently approached us about testing out a a couple of their Ultra-Rugged Portrable Hard Drives, so we thought we’d give them a bit of a workout…

These guys boast some pretty impressive stats (see their site for the full scoop):

  • crush resistant to 2,500/5,000 lbs. (depending on model)
  • fully suspended to withstand drops of 10 ft.
  • waterproof to 10 ft., in fresh or salt water, for up to 3 days

If you search around a bit, you’ll find videos of people showering with them, handing a drive and a hammer to a toddler, and even shooting one with a shotgun…all of which it survived.

We can only hope that our drives won’t ever have to deal with that, but we definitely run our drives through the mill more than most.  Already this year, we’ve logged about 150,000 miles on Delta alone, and between Joe and I, we usually have about 6TB of drives with us.

For several years, we were using a bunch of LaCie Rugged’s, but found that the firewire ports were prone to burnout, and we’ve had several crash on us over time (as can and will likely happen with any drive).  The thought of them being “rugged” was appealing, but they didn’t really live up to their name, and felt like we always had to baby them.

Enter the “Ultra” Rugged drives from ioSafe.  We’ve been trekking around the world with six of these guys (1TB units), and after 5 months of abuse, I think we can give them a solid thumbs up.  We’ve happily ditched our LaCie’s, made these ioSafe drives our primary on-the-road storage, and so far, it’s been smooth sailing.

Here’s what we like about them:

- Right out of the box, they come with one year of data recovery service (up to $5,000), which starts as soon as you enter an activation code on their site.  You also have the opportunity to upgrade that to three or five years.  That’s some peace of mind, before you even take the drive into the field.

- The build is impressive.  They’re definitely heavier than our old drives, but the all-metal construction is solid, and we don’t feel the need to be extremely delicate with them, as we do with other drives (as clearly seen in the video up top).

Note from Joe….. Drew and Cali had a great time messing with this drive. I kept coming up with cheeseball blog titles like “Taking a Drive for a Drive,”or other nonsense, but they wisely overruled me. And, at the end of the video, that’s not me screaming. It’s my crazy uncle who does our archiving. More tk…