Archive for the ‘Equipment’ Category
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 »
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 »
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, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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….
In Computer Technology, Equipment, Field Test, Videos at 7:19am
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…
Back in January, I did some dance photography for Kelby Online Training, and was really happy with a couple of frames. (Those classes are working their way through the editing system as we speak.)
I’ve shown this on the blog before, a modern dancer, painted with tempura paint, and perched in a bird’s nest of tulle. It was lit with just one TTL flash, camera right, just out of frame. I used a Lastolite Ezybox hot shoe soft box (say that fast a few times) with a white interior, which is a wrinkle on their long existing design of soft boxes with silver clad interiors. It produces, predictably, a softer, more rounded light than the one with the snappy, contrast producing silver box.
Over the years, I’ve offered numerous photo manufacturers some suggestions, some complaints designed as suggestions, notes from the field, and a few WTFs. Most of the time (most of the time) in response to those suggestions, I’ve gotten a polite pat on the head, or potentially a bemused, bewildered smile, followed by a nod and a note that effectively says, “Thanks for playing, we’ll get back to you.” I’m sure all shooters have experienced this when they’ve offered an idea to a magazine, or publisher, or any of the array of powers that be that we routinely appeal to. It’s a bit like dropping a rock down a well. There’s a long period of silence, followed by a distant splash, as the idea makes its way to sleeping with da fishes. (In reality, that’s an appropriate resting ground for some of my nuttier notions.)
But the Lastolite folks, who make an array of light shapers I’ve become fond of, actually took action. I suggested the white interior box some years ago, and their peerless designer, Gary Astill actually made one for me, and then came out on location with me to see the light it produced relative to existing model. His verdict was to start producing the white version. Cool. It was a fun moment, actually. Kind of like being a long time golfer on the pro tour and then getting asked to design a course. (On a much smaller scale:-)
While in Vancouver, I took a day to just mess with light shapers, all of which I had either outright suggested, or had a hand in tweaking, and hopefully, making better. (I’ll write about the others presently.)
I took the white box, (Got my name on the side of it!) and dropped a fabric egg crate into it. The egg crate allows the light to remain softly directional, but it also corrals it, seriously cutting the spill and spread of it onto the set. I needed the light to stick with the model at the front edge of the set, and not drift to the background, which I wanted to remain dark-ish.
Reason being, I was going to try lighting the background with another lighting tool called the Tri-flash. This, too, had been on the market as an effective, small bracket onto which you can affix three hot shoe flashes in a coherent, singular direction. It eliminated the need for multiple sticks, clamps, zip ties, and other jury rig stuff myself and lots of shooters had been messing with to gaggle together multiple speed lights.
But, the cold shoe receptacles were fixed. In other words, for a unit like the SB900, which has light sensor panels only on one side, it automatically made it a tough throw for the commander flash signal to reach them all, especially if you had the three flash rig radically off to the side of the camera POV.
So, I suggested a ratchet. Make the cold shoes spin around 360, and thus enable a better, more unified directionality for the receptacles. They liked the idea, and made it.
For this shot, I did have the Tri-flash way to the side of camera, using it in a somewhat unusual way. Generally I put up a Tri-flash arrangement when I think I’m going to stress just one flash too much, and I want to get faster recycle, spread out the work load among multiple units, and just increase the volume, or surface area of the light. Here, I just pointed them through a couple of cucoloris boards that were hanging around David Cooper’s studio in Vancouver. Here’s the high tech setup.
Uh, bad model, but you get the idea. One light makes one shadow. Three sources of light, all slightly off axis to one another, gives a fuzzy, multiple edge to the shadows it creates. Flying it through the cookie and spraying it on the background gave out a sun dapple kind of effect, albeit not a crisp one, more like one where the leaves are swaying a bit in the breeze. (Actually, given the way the model is dressed and made up, maybe make that moon dapple.)
I ordinarily go for one light, one shadow, so this was in the realm of an experiment, and I’d thought I’d share it. At the end of the day, the light shaper for the background is a couple pieces of cardboard with some irregular holes cut into it, and the Tri-flash based speed lights, all zoomed to the max (200mm) just sprays across them, throwing unpredictable patterns and shapes on the wall. The model does her thing, and she is illuminated solely with the egg crated soft box. Commander flash on the hot shoe, at camera.
The makeup here was done by the wondrous Tamar Ouziel, and we used long time friend David Cooper’s photo studio for the shoot. Thanks go out to them, and Syx Langemann, who helped out on the set. Also thanks to the Lastolite folks, who listened, about these and a couple others I’ll talk about, and went to bat and made them. Even more fair and square, much like a book, I actually get a royalty on these puppies, which is cool. They still haven’t sprung for my idea for the hydraulically powered 22 Speed Lite Lifter, complete with tank treads and a turret, but I’ll work on them.