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Archive for the ‘Lighting’ Category

New Lastolite Shapers

Apr 7

In Gear, Lighting at 8:05am

The folks at Lastolite are pretty cool, especially their chief designer, Gary Astill. Cool, in the sense they are receptive to ideas, which is a somewhat tough quality to find in a manufacturer in the photo industry. Listen to a photographer??!! Whaddaya crazy? They’re all a buncha wackjobs!

Point taken. We do dream up some hairbrained schemes now and then, passionate, reckless creatures that we are. But, when you work in the field for a long time, experience all sorts of adversity, attempt to use malfunctioning gizmos that were supposed to work and make life easier, and try reading bad manuals for DOA technology that does not live up to billing, well, you acquire a certain wry, rudimentary sense of what’s a good idea and what’s not. We conduct our lives with Murphy lurking in the camera bag, just ready to leap out, like a wrestler launched from the ring ropes, an airborne freight train of disappointment, body slamming our photographic ambitions for the day into the canvas of despair. This ever present possibility, out their on location with us at all times, makes us seek simple things that work.

Like a white interior for a soft box. The EzyBox Hot shoe soft box with a white interior has been out for quite some time now, and proved to be popular. So we transferred that notion to the already popular Lastolite Speed Lite box. It now comes as a Joe McNally version :-) , called the Ezybox Speedlite Plus, with a white interior and three drop in diffusers, so you can control light temperature and level of diffusion. Incremental changes, but significant in terms of the quality of light. Hit this link to take a look.

You can also punch in jsnyder@adorama.com, he’s got a handle on them. And, quick update, Adorama just updated their webpages to include the new products…..here’s the direct link.

I used it recently in Cuba, the only light shaper I took with me, and made a quick demo snap with it of a lovely dancer.

I left it in Cuba, with wonderful shooter, Arien Chang.  It will be perfect for his style of street shooting. It’s versatile, fits in your camera bag, and gives you a punchy, but soft light in a tiny package that weighs nothing. Below is another version with the gentleman in the set back into the leaves.

It’s a good, soft light, that, unfilled, has some drama, but can also be filled a bit with a bounce surface, like a tri-grip, and softened.  It can be hand held, or put on a stand. There’s a video at this link as well.


More tk…..




Some Flashes and a Cup of Water

Mar 24

In Lighting at 9:49am

So, what do you do when your location proves to be a stretch of pitted tarmac baked into desert? You stand there of course, in the blasted sun, with squinted eyes and a certain compressed, rueful expression on your face, realizing you had said yes to the location and now would have to make it work. The sun above is a freight train, baking your skull and barreling noisily through anything you might try to construe as a thought process. The only sources of open shade are wasted pieces of stubborn shrubbery, and none of them are higher than your kneecap, so to access any measure of open shade you would have to revert to macro photography. You are standing in what is known as the Dubai Velodrome. Let’s say the word velodrome has been loosely interpreted.

But, there are positive things. Power lines crackle overhead, and in the dusty distance, a real life blend of Oz and Gotham, glitters the skyline of Dubai, punctuated by the silvery slice of the Khalifa tower. You have lenses and lights. Best thing to be done, and the best lesson a location like this can teach you, is to be patient and carve out the pieces of this initially bleak vista into something that might work as a picture. Luckily, we had Miguel, an excellent triathlete, not to mention a bunch of speed lights. I was teaching a class called Fast Flash, Bodies in Flight at what has come to be a revered slot on the photo calendar, the estimable gathering of photogs and instructors known as GPP.

First thing, as always, was to find the field of frame, or, your point of view. Strip out the unappealing elements of the location. Keep it simple. We lined up the bike parallel to the skyline. Cali positioned himself at the rear wheel to stabilize Miguel, which meant he was about to get wet. Which wasn’t a big deal, as the giant sponge of the Middle Eastern sun dried him out instantly. He actually had the best job in the bunch of us.

Once Miguel’s position was defined, placed the lights. It being a workshop, we had a bunch of speed lights at our disposal, so I placed three and three at either end of the bike, just slightly behind Miguel’s profile. I call this position, for whatever reason, three quarter back light. That’s not an official, sanctioned term. Just my own convoluted sense of the language of location. The three apiece deal perched atop a pair of Manfrotto stacker stands via a Lastolite ratcheting tri-flash, which is a handy thing in an environment like this, as you can swing the sensors around to maximize their angle of reception for the commander pulse. We were working line of sight TTL, so these units proved handy.

Then, we simply blasted Miguel with light and got to 1/125th @ f22. Enter Jon and Ali, with multiple cups of water in hand. One, two three, splash! The pic above was the first frame of four I shot with water. I then turned the scene over to the class, and they happily proceeded to continue to drench our patient riders. The shutter speed/flash combo gave us a slight bit of motion to the water, and the depth achieved by f22 kept the city, which was far off, reasonably discernible.



Speaking of the tri-flash above, there’s a whole new group of additions to the Joe McNally range of Lastolite light shaping tools just coming on line now. I’ll be blogging about them over the course of the next few weeks, but if you want to take a look at some videos of them in operation, and what they can do, hit this link. It will take you right there and you can check out a couple of new ideas for light management that we conjured with Gary Astill, Lastolite’s resident genius designer, and mad scientist of the workings of light. Huge kudos to Gary and the crew at Manfrotto/Lastolite. They are good folks, and wonderful to work with.


More tk…..

Keeping It Simple in Vancouver….

Feb 15

In Lighting, Seminars & Workshops at 6:14pm

We continue to push ahead and have some fun up here at the Vancouver Photo Workshops, doing a whole week of experimenting with speed lights.

One speedlight, outside the window. Tri-grip diffuser held up against the glass. TTL signal from camera pulsed out the window to the flash in the street. Couple frames, soft light for Mary June, who is a lovely model. Tomorrow is a big group here at The Ironworks in Vancouver for an all day lighting demo. Then, for me, a red eye to Washington DC (if it every stops snowing). Back to Vancouver later next week.

More tk….


Oct 16

In In The Field, Lighting at 8:53am

The beauty dish is a fave of fashion photogs everywhere. I call it a “cheekbone light.” It is short, sharp and it clearly, definitively crisps out human facial architecture, especially architecture that’s been facialized, powdered, defined, beautified, and otherwise made to look all sorts of crackling super human…in other words, a thoroughly worked over fashion model’s face. Read the rest of this entry »

The Company of Photogs

Sep 18

In Lighting at 7:21am

I have always enjoyed the company of photographers, and last week, in a couple teaching stints, I was definitely in the mix with hundreds of funny, gregarious, passionate shooters. Some of whom, as you see below, helped me out by becoming extroverted, unabashed subjects for my camera.

These impromptu modeling sessions have become a staple when I teach, and my search of the audience for faces alternately produces groans, rueful smiles, outright enthusiasm, and sheer unadulterated dread. As a people photog, though, I enjoy the very haphazard search for faces. It has been a search I’ve conducted, literally, my whole career.

The lighting above is dead bang simple. The basic light shaper is a piece of xerox paper, taped to the computer screen. Done deal. You can control the sideways spill of it, if you wish, with a few strips of gaffer tape.

Background is a light on the floor, and the red hair light is a third SB unit, suspended overhead. You can send them signals to behave as TTL lights, or manual lights, and maneuver the exposure at camera to achieve a decently saturated look and feel. One of these days, I’ll take the time to craft a fancy spot light for the front of the computer, but when moving through demos, I don’t take that extra time. This is just a fun few minutes with gels, colors, simple light techniques, and some folks who obviously have some pretty good acting skills.

Have a few more teaching stints this year, mostly for the Kelby group down in Tampa. Here’s link for places and dates.  Also head to Mexico twice. First up, San Miguel, with the Santa Fe Workshops.  Then, in December, I return to Mexico for the PhotoXperience, in beautiful Guanajuato. 

Head to the UK today. Some vacation, and then, GPP PopUP.  All the best, to everyone! More tk….