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Category : Latest News

20 Oct 2017

Why I Love What I Do

For about 38 years I was a ‘suit.’ A pure corporate guy whose career started at the bottom and worked its way to COO of a Fortune 100 company. But now having been a small business owner running a full time commercial photography firm I can safely say that even if I had the chance, I’d never go back. I say that I photograph just to meet people and it’s true. My camera is just a convenient excuse to meet and befriend other artists.

One of my clients is a symphony in Dallas, TX. And over the years I have become friends with many of the musicians in the orchestra along with people in Marketing, Development and many other departments. Just recently I was tasked by the VP of Marketing to create an image of 90 of the musicians in the lighting style of the Dutch Masters paintings.

While doing so the two co concertmasters, Alex and Nathan began fooling around during a toast by intertwining their glasses and arms like newlyweds! Of course the whole orchestra HOWLED with laughter and no photographer would pass up that decisive moment to capture it on film. Ah the blackmail leverage I now possess!

Then during the creation of another part of the marketing collateral I was asked to do a portrait of several of the senior members of the orchestra.

But during that time two of the video team from Genius House Media were there filming their version of James Cordin’s “Carpool Karaoke” by having Alex, Nathan, Erin, Lydia and Kara ride through Dallas playing their instruments. So often there’s friction between photographers and videographers, but in the case of Adam and Darren from Genius House, they feel more like just collaborative creatives. I so enjoy working along side them when our work intersects I just had to create a photo of them goofing around.

My whole point to this post is this; what good is life without the camaraderie and companionship of other creatives? Like I said, my camera is simply an excuse.

19 Oct 2017

Using xPLOR600s and the right modifiers

One of my clients had a concept for their upcoming publicity campaign. He wanted the shots to all resemble the Dutch Master’s style of lighting. Not too difficult EXCEPT it involved 90 musicians with their instruments along with props that include table settings, flowers, wine…you get the picture, no pun intended.

Even though I’ve shot there many times from both the house and from the backstage vom it was always done under normal house/stage lighting. He felt that the Center’s lighting designer could recreate the lighting needed for the shot. When he sent me a photo of the lighting I thought “Oh gosh that’s not going to work well. I know his stage lighting person did his best, but he doesn’t really have the right instruments to obtain the light they’re looking for.”

And photos never come with a back story. So if the light is not right no one is ever going to think “Gosh Mark must have been dealing with someone else’s lighting, that’s why the shot looks that way…” LOL yeah right it’s up to me to make sure the light looks right! After all it’s my shot!

So I decided to take four xPLOR600s, rent stands locally and fly the modifiers in checked baggage I felt I would need to do the job. Since I’d have to side light all of the musicians and keep the lights out of frame I knew I would need two modifiers that would evenly spread light, one that could throw light a long distance with pinpoint accuracy and one that would throw light a long distance, yet provide an even spread of light.

The two PCB Omni reflectors would do the job for an even light spread for the musicians closest to the strobes. One Bowens 12.5″ High Performance Reflector with Parabolic Design would throw the light over the Omnis and not bleed more light where I didn’t want it. And finally the PCB Retro Laser (sadly no longer available…) which can be focused, would throw light the furthest distance from where the strobes were placed applying light on the musicians on the right hand side of the stage with pinpoint accuracy. (Stage left/House right in stage terms) Be aware that with the exception of the Bowens reflector I have modified all PCB modifiers to Bowens mounts.

I had 45 minutes to set up the lights, determine which elevation and distance was the best and balance the lights. My partner and I communicated via cell phones/Bluetooth headsets so she could do the fine placement adjustments as I took test shots before the talent was led onto the stage. The Marketing VP was communicating with his stage manager to tell her if people needed to move slightly to avoid being in another person’s shadow or the shadow of a prop.

I was using a Medium Format Camera for this shot which was placed about 250 feet from the stage. I controlled the xPLOR600s using an XT-32C controller mounted on my Pentax 645Z. I had zero issues with transmission from the controller to any of the strobes. I was shooting tethered and the client was sitting next to me as I shot to review the images in real time. Their new CEO was also next to me and I asked her to press the shutter so she could say ‘she took the cover shot’ LOL!!!!

Using battery powered xPLOR600s was a pure godsend. The power they produced overpowered the stage lighting as I knew they would. The ability to move the lights around without concern for a power plug is epic! And even though I used the lights all day they never even came close to running out of power. But my camera went through two….

Most people don’t realize just how powerful strobes are compared to constant light. The Marketing VP commented that he could not believe I was overpowering their 5000 watt stage lights. LOL, a simple method to help him understand was to divide 5000 by 125, my shutter speed which yields 40 watt seconds of light. I was shooting the strobes at 1/8th to ¼ power which is much more bright than the stage lighting.

PCB Retro Laser (discontinued)

PCB Omni Reflector

Bowens reflector

Stage lit with stage/theatre lighting. You can see my two strobes on stage using two Omni reflectors with xPLOR600s. On the left hand side on the second tier you can barely see my Bowens long throw and Retro Laser modifiers that shoot across the orchestra to illuminate the far right musicians.

Balancing the light before the talent arrives.

Shot as it looks out of camera. (not the actual shot they will use)

Shot with post processing applied to make it look more ‘painterly’ (not the actual shot they will use)

10 Oct 2017

Cheetahstand Quick Lantern and Quick Strip Box review

UPDATE October 20 2017

My client has incorporated some of my publicity imagery into their marketing campaign.

Original Post

I HATE putting together softboxes, always have. And the worst are strip boxes! Wrestling with those damn rods drives me crazy. So when I heard about Edward’s “Quick” softboxes I thought “Oh sure, just another cheap gimmick from someone….” And boy was I wrong! When I received two of his Cheetah 12″x55″ Quick StripBoxes I was blown away at the design of how they go together. By literally pushing down on a central collar the box is all done! And using Velcro to attach the inner baffle is genius rather than those silly little baby snaps! I leave two of the Velcro tabs attached to the inner baffle and simply fold up the strip box once I’m done. It’s as easy as an umbrella. Oh and the quality of light it produces is excellent. And unlike so many other manufacturers he supplies a quality grid with his units. What’s not to like?

Then there’s his Cheetah 26″ Quick Lantern. I have always used an overhead light for almost all of my dance/portrait imagery. But I was never quite pleased using a strip box, a Fresnel or an umbrella. I often have limited ceiling space so the modifiers I was formerly using made my space too low for dancer’s jumping or they didn’t produce the quality of light I desired. When I first received the lantern I loved the way it assembled and the quality of light it produces. I believe his intent when producing this modifier is to allow even light to be thrown out across a room. It’s great for that, but I wanted to be able to control the light from spilling when that’s the effect I was after. After researching what film people use for overhead lights I found the Chimera Pancake Lantern Softbox with Skirt. So my solution was to cut an old PCB umbrella and make it into the ‘skirt’ for my strobe lantern. I control how the spill flows using old fashion wooden clothespins  to roll up the side of the skirt I want to be exposed. It works great! He produced his own video which shows how the lantern is assembled. 

For my most recent dance sessions my clients wanted to shoot against black seamless. Black seamless is much less forgiving than shooting against other colors. Separating the talent from the background means how one uses light will determine how much separation occurs. So for this session, an overhead and rim lights were absolutely necessary in addition to a key light. The form of dancers is the most important so losing any parts of their body due to poor, insufficient or uneven lighting would be completely unacceptable by me or my client.

My four lighting instruments for this dance session. In the background is the Cheetahstand lantern with my PCB DIY ‘skirt’ to control spill. Then two of his Quick Stripboxes and my trusty CononMark 120cm focusing octa. The lights are all AD/xPLOR600s and the eVOLV200s in a Flashpoint eVOLV Dual Power Twin Head on a boom. The Flashpoint Junior Steel Wheeled Stand which holds the boom and the lantern is INVALUABLE. See how large the footprint is on that sucker!? I would not use anything less for a boom. Plus it goes up to 12 feet!

Lantern and skirt above Azzaza and out of frame are the two stripboxes. Camera left out of frame is the Cononmark. The lantern is the key light in this shot.

Final cropped and edited image.

Lighting test before beginning.

Lantern as key light above, Strip boxes as rim lights

CononMark as key light camera left fully focused at a high elevation, lantern as overhead and strip boxes as rim lights

CononMark as key light camera left partially focused, lantern as overhead and strip boxes as rim lights

CononMark as key light camera left partially focused, lantern as overhead and strip boxes as rim lights

CononMark as key light camera right fully focused, strip boxes as rim lights

CononMark as key light camera left fully focused, lantern as overhead and strip boxes as rim lights

Lantern as key light above, Strip boxes as rim lights

I’m happy with the quality of light produced by his modifiers. The assembly design of these two products is excellent. Edward produces fine products and I never hesitate to use them when they are the right tool for the right job.

04 Oct 2017

Fathom Entertainment

My partner Tracy Martin completed and the client has released the film she created for their upcoming fall production of Holiday Inn. The film is a behind the scenes look into the making of the production which includes my publicity photo shoot for the show. This film will be shown nationwide through Fathom Entertainment in movie theaters. In the film you will catch short glimpses of the gear I used which includes xPLOR600, eVOLV200s, Parabolix 35D, Cheetahstand’s Quick Lantern among other items.

02 Oct 2017

Dance lighting setup

UPDATE October 12 2017

In my review of Cheetahstand’s Quick Stripbox and Lantern I have shown my lighting setups for a different dance troupe. You can view that post here.

Original Post

I was recently hired to do an annual studio dance session by one of my long time clients. I’m posting this to show how I use xPLOR, eVOLV, Cheetahstand, CononMark, etc lights and modifiers in a session. This was an all-day session lasting approximately 6.5 hours of nonstop shooting. I had charged both the Xplor and eVOLV lights to full the day before. I never even ran close to running out of battery power on any of the strobes. All of the strobes showed half full at the end of the day. My Canon 1DXII showed 25% battery life left at the end of the day to give you some reference. I was using the WFT-E6A wireless transmitting dongle on my camera to wirelessly tether my rig to my iPad so the client could view the images as they happened. Using the transmitter uses more battery life than without.

There seems to be quite a bit of ‘talk’ that certain brands of modifiers/lights/etc. must be used in order to ‘be a pro.’ Nonsense. How one uses gear, how one engages with the talent and how one uses their imagination are the most important part of imagery to my clients. So I post this in hopes that it will help other shooters who are interested in multi light set ups, but not hung up on brand names or scientific theories about what makes a true parabola or other talking points. When people ask me what is the one thing I would have for gear over everything else, I always say your imagination. Years ago I was blessed to be able to spend time with Annie Leibovitz and I asked her “How do I shoot more like you?” Her response? “Don’t shoot like me Mark, shoot like you. It’s the only way to develop your own style.”

I used a four light setup most of the day. My key light was the CononMark 120cm inverted octa using an xPLOR600 with a remote head. I opted to not use my Parabolix D35 because the size I needed for the day required a larger modifier. And I’ve been very happy with the quality of light from the Cononmark. My two rim lights are Cheetahstand Quick Strip lights using xPLOR600s and the top overhead light is an eVOLV200 mounted into an AD-B2 housing. The modifier is a Fresnel adjustable head. For dance I always use a 140″ wide seamless. In this case I’m using black to give a grittier look to the imagery.

I use children’s ABC flash cards to help me know what light is in what group.

The great thing about battery powered strobes is I can roll the key lights or others wherever they’re needed when I want a different look for light

I had to be creative in sandwiching my eVOLV200 against the ceiling!

Some of my final images.

  

29 Sep 2017

Flashpoint Silicone Skin for eVOLV 200

UPDATE September 29 2017

In response to a question left below this post I am updating it to show how the eVOLV 200s fit nicely onto the AD-B2 Twin Head Bracket with the Skins attached. I’ve also included how I pack my Pelican 1510 Case With Padded Dividers (one of many I own!) to travel when using one xPLOR600 and three eVOLV 200s. BTW this size of Pelican is carry on legal for domestic travel in the US.

Side view of the Twin Head with two eVOLVs attached in their Skins.

As you can see there’s plenty of room for two dressed in the Skins

Pelican 1510. I carry the AD-B2 Twin Heads in a separate case. Those cool bulb covers are CL-200X Bare Bulb Flash Tube with Cap by Cheetahstand and I love ’em! Because I use the Twin Heads now I simply store the bulbs in his covers to transport. Just wrap the bulbs in a plastic bag and shove them into the tubes and you’re all set!

Original Post

Really well done! All of the holes line up perfectly on the 200. And it fits well. The black gaff tape on the blue one is what I use to use to ensure the power switch would not get turned on by accident in my bag. But now there’s no need to use that because the switch is recessed by the skin.

Like all things there are items that make tons of sense to some people and seem frivolous to others. It’s that way with everything. During my on course motorcycle road racing days I laughed when others would have fancy rear sets, carbon fiber this and that added to their race bikes. I found more functional items better. Like all things, to each his own. Such is the case with the Flashpoint Silicone Skins for eVOLV 200s. I laughed when I read on a blog “A fool is easily parted from his money” in the discussions about the skins.

I must admit that when I first was made aware of the skins I thought to myself “Uh those seem a bit silly, but they sure are colorful!” And then I wondered if the cutouts were accurate. I had a terrible experience with LPA, better known as Pocket Wizard when they released their FlexTTL line of triggers for the Canon 580 line of speed lights. The range was poor and their answer was a cluster fuck of comedy. First they sent us a ‘sock’ that we were to wrap around the speed lights to increase the range. This was until they produced a hard shell ‘case’ for the 580s to ‘shield’ the receivers from the errant RF signals produced by the flash unit. But when they produced the hard cover you could not fit an external battery connector into the speed light. Worse yet they then manufactured a workaround plug and CHARGED YOU FOR ONE. That customer service fiasco put the nail in the coffin for me and I’ve never even looked at LPA gear since. For me customer service is as important as the gear.

So the first skin I got was an orange one. I was very pleased to find that it fit the eVOLV perfectly. All cutouts are accurate and the fit is, well like a glove. I love the material since it adds grip to the unit. You see I’m a grip tape addict. I’ve put grip tape on EVERY SINGLE strobe I’ve ever owned. I had to send two Einsteins in for repair and Lori their stellar customer service person sent me a note asking if I had stock in 3M because of the amount of grip tape I had on my Steins! In the heat of setting up and striking, myself, my assistants, my partner are all furiously working. Dropping a light BEFORE the shoot would be horrible. Most lights are a bit slippery so grip tape is a godsend. It may look ugly, but my clients could care less how much I tape my gear. (My Fuji X100T has more grip tape than I care to admit)

You can only see on strip of grip tape in this photo. Trust me, there’s an ugly amount more….

Yeah I’ve made the poor girl look pretty damn ugly, but I love her to death! Beyond being ‘nonslippy’ it makes her look so bad that nobody ever wants to steal her. I once left her on a restaurant seat and the waitress followed me out yelling “Sir, you forgot your old camera!” as she chased me! LOL. When I use my Fuji for some client shoots they lovingly refer to it as “Mark’s magic little Instamatic.”

The second and unforeseen benefit of the colors is being able to tell what group I’ve set each light to. I can certainly see that this would mean very little to those who use one or two lights. But I seldom if ever use less that four lights during a session….and my memory sucks. I currently use Kids’ ABC Flash cards hung from my light stands to identify which light is in which group. But when I’m using the eVOLVs now I have a Post It on my controller that says “Orange A, White B, Blue C….etc.”

Even I can’t miss the color!

Will they protect the units if they’re dropped? Donno….maybe? I’ve only ever dropped one strobe, an Einstein from waist height onto concrete. Bulb broke, modeling light broke. Had an xPLOR600 fall over on location. Fell onto dirt from about 7 feet up, impact was on the modifier, a PCB Omni reflector. Reflector took a nice beating, but nothing happened to the strobe.

My homemade fiber washer on my umbrella swivel.

Pretty cool that a real side benefit that the skins keep these strobes from rotating….one of my pet peeves is put to rest.

A third benefit I also did not anticipate is not having to use homemade fiber or rubber washers on my grip gear now. Because the skins are silicone they grip really well when tightened down onto a small surface like an umbrella swivel. Never thought of that, but it’s great. Do I like them? Yeah I do and I didn’t think I would. But then again, to each his/her own!

27 Sep 2017

Adorama’s Flashpoint Studio 400 Monolight

These are my initial impressions of the Adorama’s FP Studio 400. SERIOUSLY, $119.95 for this studio strobe? Seriously? When I was starting out 14 years ago I was excited to buy the PCB Einsteins at the ‘pre release’ price of $429.00. Sure it has 640ws of power, great t:1 performance and customer service second to none in the industry. But back then I was just starting out and counting pennies or maxing out my credit cards was the order of the day. I had a day job as a suit, but two kids to put through college. Plus I needed to purchase his plug in Cybersync receivers to control the Steins remotely.

So when I received the FP Studio 400 I didn’t have very high expectations. First off it’s a corded strobe and I’ve moved almost completely to cordless self-powered units. Because I almost always shoot with multiple strobes, on booms, in high positions, on location, blah blah blah so the freedom of being cordless is what I want most often. BUT in studio I do miss a bright modeling light whenever I’m using my gobo modifier with steel gobos. Those suck up light like no body’s business and an LED modeling light does very little to show me if the gobo is in focus or where the pattern is landing.

The unit is made out of plastic with the LED panel and controls at the back. Although I prefer to have the readout and controls on the side, it really makes little difference since everything you want to know is on a R2/X1 readout on the transmitter. The one thing I was very interested in determining is if the Bowens mount fit all of my modifiers. It does and in a tight manner. As a matter of fact one of my favorite modifiers, my Fresnel head fits onto the unit very well. I was a bit concerned that the length of the modeling light would not allow me to use the Fresnel head in its widest focus which is pushed all the way in. It does so without an issue. And my gobo modifier is very happy when I use this strobe since the modeling light works well.

Does it perform HSS? Yep it sure does! Tested using an R2 transmitter on my Canon 1DXII it worked all the way up to 1/8000th without any banding. No TTL, but I’m not a TTL guy anyway. I still cannot get over that this strobe costs what I would spend if I bought lunch at 5 bucks five days a week for a month and a few cups of coffee on the weekend! So for anyone who is starting out shooting in studio or people who need an ‘extra’ strobe, this is the one I would choose. The value/cost/features of the light is incredible!

This thing is LIGHT! (no pun intended) at 4 pounds 13 ounces that’s damn light.

I’ve read some people have complained that the modeling light bulb is long so it requires a long cover. That’s true but I’m buying a different bulb off of Amazon to cure that.

Very happy that my Fresnel head fits on the strobe even in it’s fully flooded (wide) position.

In the lower right hand corner you see 75%. That’s for the modeling light. It can be adjusted from Off to Full to Proportional (based on how much power you select for the flash) or a percentage you select. In this case I just selected 75%

Here you can see that the modeling light is set to Proportional.

If you notice in the upper left hand corner the Group I have it set to right now is “2” Unlike the xPLOR600S and the eVOLV200S, these can be set to groups A-E or 0-9! Now I have to figure out how to use those extra groups on my transmitters. I believe the only ones that can be set to numeric groups are the older Godox XT-16 transmitters….hum….

So this weekend I will be able to test this light’s stopping performance during a dance session. Stay tuned…

11 Sep 2017

Using the Godox System

UPDATE October 2 2017

I have written a post about a dance session I conducted that uses these items. You can view that post here.

Original Post

I recently created a dance session using a wide range of the Godox strobe system:

My goal was to create the illusion of a stage, a grand hall using light, shadow and atmosphere. This was the very first time I used every single Godox light I have including a speed light. What is wonderful is how seamlessly all of the lights integrate into a system. I could not be happier with this line of strobes.

All shot with a Canon 1DXII, EF24-70 II. Most images shot at 1/500th at various f stops, ISO 100. I have quite a few reviews of the gear I sighted above. The purpose of this post is to simply show how I use the gear rather than update each review. I find actual usage much more helpful for me and hope this helps you as well.

The warehouse where I ran this session. The chandelier was borrowed from a theatre company. It is lit with an xPLOR 600 using a PCB Retro Laser modifier (no longer made) which is out of frame. The light to the left is to illuminate the talent using a 1200ws head and a Fresnel modifier.

Four xPLOR 600s, two powering the 1200ws head, one placed into a Parabolix 35D and one in the PCB Retro Laser modifier.

Cheetahstand Lantern as top light using two eVOLV200s in an AD-B2, Parabolix 35D camera right. Speed light rigged into the umbrella.

You can see how I rigged the speed light into the umbrella. I fabricated the handle since this is just a cheap photographic umbrella.

My fantasy composite of combining her image and a shot I captured along the Oregon Coast. When I created her umbrella image I had planned on working it into a composite, so I knew how I wanted the light/shadows to match the scene.

Two Fresnel heads. Parabolix camera right, low and fully focused.

Two Fresnel heads. Parabolix camera right and fully focused.

Two Fresnel heads. Parabolix camera right and fully focused.

Two Fresnel heads. Parabolix camera right and fully focused.

Oops, forgot to turn off the smoke machine again!!!!

 

 

25 Aug 2017

Traveling with STUFF

About 50% of my work takes me out of state for client work. I believe many people view that as ‘cool’ and in many ways it is. BUT hauling gear to and fro on airlines is NOT so COOL. Because of the number of miles I travel each year I have top status on several airlines which is a godsend. I’m allowed 3 bags free as is my partner so between us we can haul 6 fifty pound bags without being charged. And thank goodness! This does not include gear we rent on site either! 

Waiting for our hire car to pick us up at the end of a very long two days. Ah the glamorous life of living in an alley!

Yep a Parabolix Deep 35 using two eVOLV200s mounted into a Flashpoint AD-B2. One with a silicon cover. The two old USB receivers are so I can do HSS with my Pentax 645Z.

Pres eetup for a three light shot. 1 PCB 86″ umbrella, one Parabolix 35D and one Phottix Luna folding beauty dish with an eVOLV200 mounted into a Flashpoint AD-B2.

This was my first commercial shoot using Cheetahstand’s lantern. In this shot I’ve modified the lantern by cutting out an old umbrella so I can control spill when needed. I use wooden clothes pins to roll up the ‘curtain’ to my needs. I’ll be doing a full review later.

The most important thing on this table is my water bottle. I love ice water on set!!!!

  

Won’t be able to share any of the images from this shoot for about two months…NDAs….

21 Aug 2017

1 1/3 more stops of light for $12 bucks!

The other day I got a little bitty reflector for my Flashpoint eVOLV 200s called the eVOLV 200 Mini Reflector. I thought to myself “How cute, I wonder what I’d use this for?” You see I have TONS of small reflectors that must have come with other stuff I’ve purchased over time. I seldom use any of the mini ones, but have tried to figure out how to use them ‘in some way.’ I recently did a test of the new AD-B2 mounts for my eVOLV 200s and discovered that they produce more light than the S Brackets I’ve been using. Most likely it’s due to light not escaping through the back of the bracket and the more reflective surface of the AD-B2 over the S Bracket. So after watching the solar eclipse this morning I thought I’d do a little test with the new cute reflector. I placed one eVLOV200 into one of my many S Brackets using the 7″ cone that came with one of my xPLOR600 strobes. Next I did the same thing but added the little reflector I received to the cone. Here are my results:

All shot at 1:1 with the eVOLV200. The bare bulb in the S Bracket was pushed so that the collar of the bare bulb bracket was flush with the base of the cone. Light pointed directly at my Sekonic L358 set to a shutter speed of 1/100th, ISO 100 from 10 feet away.

  • S Bracket with 7″ cone: f18
  • S Bracket with 7: cone AND the mini cone: f29

The reflector in the foreground is the eVOLV 200 Mini Reflector. The others, I cannot recall where I got them from….

That little eVOLV 200 Mini Reflector fits perfectly inside!

My current collection of little reflectors. The eVOLV 200 Mini Reflector is in the middle.

And yes it will work inside a softbox too, you will need to push the reflector onto the bulb once the softbox is installed into the S Bracket.

So if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to increase the light output of your 200, this is a pretty inexpensive way other than some DIY options. Just posted this as an FYI.

17 Aug 2017

Parabolix 35D

UPDATE September 10 2017

I recently posted an article on my use of all Godox units in one session. The article includes the use of this product. You can view that post here.

UPDATED September 8 2017

My client, the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, WA released the images created using the Parabolix 35D six weeks early. You can see some of these and other shots from this day in Broadway World. I used four lights using the Parabolix as key for most of the images below:

Shot against 140″ Savage White Seamless. In this BTS shot I didn’t have the Cheetahstand Lantern set up yet. The 86″ soft silver PCB umbrella was stacked behind the Parabolix. I used the 35D in mid focused position to bring out the faces of the talent. The Phottix folding white BD was used as fill when needed.

Please note that for all of the images below I have NOT done any post processing other than bringing the files into Lightroom to adjust color balance, lens correction. If you look closely you can see the gaff tape marks on the seamless which have not yet been removed for final press images.

All of the images were shot with a Pentax 645Z/Cactus v6II, xPLOR 600s using HSS 1/400th to control any ambient bleeding from the overhead lights which I could not turn off.

In this image you can see the Cheetahstand 26″ Quick Lantern which I control with an old PCB umbrella I cut to make it a drape. I use wooden clothespins to roll the curtain up when I want to direct the light to certain areas. I find this a much better method of overhead lighting than my former methods.

The following images were shot with three lights. The client wanted an old school “Hollywood Glamour” look for these shots in BW. High contrast was achieved by using the 35D in its fully focused mode. The drapes were lit using eVOLV 200s using a Fresnel head.

UPDATED September 3 2017

You can view my recent dance session where I used the 35D for many of the shots to produce dramatic shadows and light.

UPDATED August 20 2017

Yesterday I conducted a test of the Parabolix 35D with focusing arm. I asked Cheyenne to be the talent since she’s so darn lovely to work with! Now if you are looking for a ‘side by side’ comparison with other modifiers using split screens, etc. quit reading and save yourself  some time. I am NOT a review site. I don’t value pseudo scientific or theoretical physics. Photography is not an exact science it’s all subjective. Those who never post any actual images or a body of work have zero credibility to me. And if they do have a body of work I get to judge for myself if the quality of that work is high. If so then their opinion is of value to me. So for you photography trolls who never post shit other than H8R comments, save yourself the having to be right mentality and bail now. 

I seldom if EVER use one single light. So I didn’t test the Parabolix 35D that way. Sure it may produce the thing you want to see, but again since I’m NOT a review site, but a working shooter I needed to see how it performs in my situations. In the tests I ran yesterday I want to see how the 35D compares to my CononMark 120, and my Westcott Zeppelin 59 which I use as inverted octas and have for the past year. Yep they’re all different sizes, the 35D is, well 35″, the CononMark 120 is 47″ and the Zep is 59″. I didn’t want to purchase an equivalent size to what I already have. (Yet I do have a Zep 47″….!)

I used my 59″ Zep with the inner diffusion panel only with an xPLOR600 powering their handheld remote head. As you can see in the image above I had it on a boom pointing straight down over Cheyenne. Keep in mind that the BTS shot of my BTS shoot was not necessarily where she was actually standing for the shots below. I took the shot above JUST TO GIVE YOU an idea of my configuration.

All images were shot with my Pentax 645Z. And if you look closely you will see the old USB receivers plugged into the xPLOR600s. Why? Because I just discovered how to achieve HSS with my Pentax whose native sync speed is only 1/125th of a second. Using a Cactus v6II trigger combined with the old FT-16 transmitter did the trick. If interested, I’ve written how to do it here. Most of the shots were at a shutter speed of either 1/200th or 1/250th.

Below each photograph I’ve said whether I used the Parabolix is its ‘flooded’ or ‘focused’ position. If you don’t know, flooded means the strobe head is pushed all the way out toward the front of the modifier. Focused means it’s pulled all the way into the modifier. Flooded gives you a much softer look, focused is way more contrasty. You should also know that no matter what modifier you use be it a Zeppelin, CononMark, Parabolix or other brand, you must adjust your power settings when you flood or focus the light.

The other aspect of the photos below is they have NOT been retouched, edited to final, blah blah blah. Why? Well for two reasons. Cheyenne is confident enough to allow images of her unretouched and second it is my preference to illustrate light tests. When I see ‘final test shots’ that have gone through loads of post processing I cannot actually tell how the light performs for my taste. I don’t want to see plastic skin, dodged and burnt images. I want to see how the shot came out of cam. So these were brought into Lightroom, adjusted for color and that’s it. No blemishes were removed (like she has any anyway!), no skin smoothing. None of that shit for my tests.

Fully focused.

2/3 flooded.

Half flooded, meaning the strobe head is about halfway into the modifier. On the Parabolix scale on the focusing rod that is at level 5 of 10.

Fully flooded.

Fully flooded

Fully flooded.

So my final impression of the Parabolix 35D? I like it. Do I plan to replace all of my other modifiers with them? Uh no, here’s why…

I love the construction of the unit, it’s high quality. The fabrics are spot on and the focusing rod is just as nice as the Bron Para I rented last year. Is it 2.6 times better than my CononMark 120? Not sure really. Will I keep it? Yes as I don’t have a 35″ inverse, but WILL test it against my favorite Elinchrom Rotalux Deep Octa later this month. Prior to using xPLOR/Godox strobes I was a very loyal user of Paul’s Einsteins. For me they presented the best value/performance of any brand of light. But I ended up switching ALL of my strobes over to the xPLOR/Godox brand. The amount of innovation and features they present sadly eclipsed Paul’s units after his passing. It’s no secret that I’ve always felt he was a genius and I sorely miss his innovation in lighting along with his quirky nature as a person.

But unlike my move from exclusively Einstein’s to exclusively xPLORs, I will most likely NOT make the move from CononMark/Zeppelins/Elinchroms to exclusively Parabolix. I know there are those who may feel/’prove’/argue/compare that the Parabolix is THAT MUCH BETTER and good for them. Time will tell me how much I like the modifier. I may change my mind after a year or so. Every person is different in what they look for. I tend to eat at hole in the wall places owned by families whose food is out of this world. But then again that’s just my opinion and taste. I will occasionally venture into a Michael Mina restaurant recommended by those who love the name and rave about the food. But that’s just not my thing. As long as my clients and I are thrilled with my work, that’s really all that matters to me. I’m certainly NOT dissing the Parabolix at all. It’s a fine modifier. It’s up to each person to decide for themselves. What I would recommend is to wait until a rental house has some to rent. Rent one, try it out and then decide if it’s right for yours/your client’s taste and budget.

Original Post

Today I received my Parabolix 35D ‘kit’ which means I purchased their package which includes their focusing arm and strobe cage. I will be testing the light this Saturday with a model to ascertain if I plan to add this to my toolbox of modifiers. I will initially say that the construction of the unit is excellent. The 16 rods are much like those in the CononMark and Elinchrom Rotalux Deep Octa that I own. The rods are captured in the speed ring and pivot and held in place with sprung collars.

The fabric of the exterior is similar to very heavy canvas, the type I was accustomed to handling while sailing. Heavy and well made. The interior texture is much like my Elinchrom which is a pebbled texture. Once I am able to actually use this modifier I will update this post.

The shape is very similar to the Broncolor Para 88 I rented last year to test.

Like the Cononmark the Parabolix has sixteen rods. The interior fabric is pebbled and if it performs like the Elinchrom Rotalux Oct it’s a winner. You can see the slight slit at the 6:00 position in the modifier. This is for the cord from the light to the exterior. It’s hook and loop fastener.

The two large handles ratchet and are smooth. The knob to the right is where you adjust the focusing of the light. It has a numeric scale from 1 to 10 on the rod itself, but I forgot to take a photo. I think that may be of value in replicating flooding or focusing light. We’ll see. I have it in the fully flooded position here.

The modifier mounts to its focusing arm with a Profoto like clamp. I will say that even though this is a well made unit, the Bron Para 88’s four folding arms makes assembly and disassembly much easier. Is it worth an extra $3K? That’s up to each shooter. My main focus Saturday is to see the quality of light.

One of the things I noticed right away is the light pattern of the modifier when the modeling light is on. Unlike my other modifiers which include Zeppelins, Elinchroms, CononMarks and Glowpops the Parabolix fills more evenly than the others. Now the real test of the light will happen this Saturday when in actual use, but this is interesting.

Fully focused light pattern.

Fully flooded light pattern. So even!

Focusing rod numeric gauge. I think this will prove valuable. The other thing is its smooth operation is wonderful.

The optional grid is 2×2 and nylon.

One of the small details I appreciate is the grid attaches via Velcro which is nothing new. BUT the width of the rim is twice the size of the Velcro thereby allowing an edge about 1″ wide to protrude beyond the modifier to ensure that light spill is reduced even more. So good! Little details make a difference.

The bag that is supplied with the modifier is made of the same sturdy fabric as the modifier itself. It seems very abrasion resistant which is something I appreciate given how much I transport gear on airlines. I was worried that I would not be able to fit the modifier, focusing rod and strobe cage into the bag, but they all fit. I can even fit the grid I received with the modifier into the bag as well. The bag includes an attached adjustable shoulder strap.

16 Aug 2017

Review – Flashpoint Junior Steel Wheeled Stand – 12′

UPDATE October 19 2017

I’ve had the opportunity to use this stand extensively over the past few months. I will simply say that whenever I need to ENSURE that my light/boom/whatever combination needs to be rock solid it is my go to light stand. I always use it when I’m using a boom arm for an overhead light. Or when I use my 59″ Zeppelin. Do I like lugging it to locations? Oh hell no!!! It’s damn heavy, but the trade off of stability and rock solid dependability to ensure the talent is never at risk of being injured is well worth it!

I have two, but my partner has hijacked one of them when she’s also using a boom. As you can see on the left side of this photo she’s kidnapped one for her sessions!!! GAH! And she’s also helped herself to my Elinchrom Rotolux!!!!

UPDATE August 16 2017

I am preparing for a fashion shoot and due to the way I will configure my 59″ Westcott Zeppelin on my boom I could not be happier with my  Flashpoint Junior Steel Wheeled 12′ Stands! Their huge footprint makes them so stable for things like this.

UPDATE July 17 2017

I recently wrote an article about using all of my Xplor/Godox lights in one shoot including the Junior Stands. You can view that post here.

UPDATE: February 18 2017

Today I ran an eight hour studio session for a client’s upcoming season brochure. I was able to use the Flashpoint Junior Steel Wheeled Stand – 12′ for an entire day. I should explain that this day involved shooting seven different scenes with different talent for each, so moving lights around was constant. I will simply say that the stand performed FLAWLESSLY and I will not hesitate to purchase another and another. The wheels are incredible and roll over extension cords with ease. Granted none of my strobes use cords, but my smoke/haze machines/wind machines do! These stands are highly recommended for its performance and value. Be forewarned these are not sissy stands, they’re heavy and beefy, use them in studio only!

That’s a 59″ Zeppelin to give you some perspective of the size of the stand. The footprint of the stand is great! Large and stable.

(more…)

14 Aug 2017

What’s truly important

I make my living as a commercial photographer, primarily in the arts. After working for over 38 years as “A Suit” in the corporate world I decided to Man Up and pursue my passion, photographing people. It’s my job to make people look their best, to tell a story in a single image using shadows, light, and authentic expressions to create a story. Like most endeavors being a full time pro shooter takes a combination of talent, luck, timing, tenacity and networking.

A very close friend of mine who I’ve known for over 40 years recently asked if I would help a friend of hers. The two of them are physicians , doctors who not only treat patients in the USA, but also work in Botswana half of the year treating people who would otherwise NOT have access to modern medicine. Noble people indeed. I am always humbled by the socially redeeming value of the people I know and many times I’m reminded how small my contributions are to the world by comparison. Her friend wanted to investigate pursuing photography as a full time career and asked if I would assist her with any advice I may have. Constantly having to fund work like she does in foreign lands can become cumbersome and tiring. I know two former pro shooters who because of the way things now work in editorial photography, no longer make a living doing so.

I cannot think of any photo work more important than stories about humanity. Those are the kind that stay in our memories and move us deeply, but unfortunately are not the images that bring photographers a steady income. And perhaps that’s the way it should be. I KNOW that the most important photographs I’ve ever created were not for money, but tell a story about humanity. I can count on one hand the number of images that mean the world to me since they represent the stories that I will remember for the rest of my life. Lit and often poorly executed photos of scantily clad young women perched atop cars/motorcycle/beds in the end mean very little to me when I see them. Yet they tend to garner the most “Likes” or “Shares” in the world of social media. For me it says much about our new society, one I’m very happy to have not been raised in during my youth.

So in just a few years when I no longer create imagery for advertising; I will devote what I’ve learned to document the best of humanity, the humanity I know and cherish. The meaningful moments that are truly important to me.

The woman in this photo had Alzheimer’s and had not spoken for six months. As I seated her in the chair I held her hands in mine. Her eyes brightened and she said to me in a very soft voice “Oh your hands are SO WARM!” Once her husband heard her speak he and the rest of their family were elated! I immediately moved out of his way so he could hug and interact with his wife. Since that time they have both passed away.

I photographed this actor and when he looked at the images he began to weep. I was concerned that I had offended him in some way. When I asked if he was OK and if I had offended him he said “Mark NO ONE has ever seen me in the way you do and I’m beside myself with pride. I’m sorry for getting so emotional, as I seldom do.” I raised my camera and took this image.

My friend’s mother recently passed away suddenly. During her memorial celebration she had a slideshow of Pam’s life playing on the front screen. Her grandson lifted himself up by his arms so he could be as close as he could be to his beloved Granny to watch her images pass by.

I wanted to do this self portrait of me casting my Mom’s ashes into the Mohave Desert as she requested before she died.

11 Aug 2017

Flashpoint AD-B2 Review

UPDATE October 2 2017

I have written a post about a dance session I conducted that uses these items. You can view that post here.

UPDATE September 10 2017

I recently posted an article on my use of all Godox units in one session. The article includes the use of this product. You can view that post here.

UPDATE August 25 2017

Although this is not specifically about the Flashpoint AD-B2 you can see how I’ve used one with a Parabolix 35D for a recent commercial shoot. And although I won’t be able to share any images for about two months it worked fantastically! 

UPDATE August 21 2017

I did a little test getting 1.3 more stops of light out of an S Bracket.

UPDATE August 20 2017

So yesterday I did something I have a tendency to do… over reach. Using different lighting configurations, new/different modifiers I wanted to test them all in one night! What an idiot and no I did not test them all!

I am booked for a shoot next week where I will be filmed in a BTS segment that is part of something else (can’t say). I’m told it will be shown in movie theaters nationally to promote one of my clients. My partner has admonished me to NOT dress like the homeless as is my normal couture style! So I plan to take two of my AD-B2s to do an executive’s head shot and needed to test my ‘theory’ if they would work. My partner who is the film maker must haul all kinds of gear up with her as well as my own so our combined weight/space limits will be at a premium for our flight.

I’ve always loved what I call ‘clam shell portraits’ which may be a term only I utilize. I’d venture to say that if you Google that term it may result in images of clams… My definition is using two modifiers stacked one on top of the other while shooting through the gap between them. In the ‘old days’ I would use a reflector on the bottom to bounce light up toward the talent. I know many pros who love doing it that way. But now I only occasionally use reflectors because the control I have over modern strobes makes using a reflector seem a bit old fashion. Anyway the other thing I wanted to test was to determine if my little clam shell configuration and the AD-B2s with eVOLV200s were strong enough to do full body portraits. Oh and if you’re concerned about the catch light in the talent’s eyes, using a lower reflector produces the same double catch light…..

So what do I think? I love the AD-B2s! Here’s why:

Is it worth the $39.05 price difference between the S Mount bracket? For me it is. Compared to an S Bracket I get more light out of it, can combine two eVOLV20os if I so desire AND I get a modeling light! Now if I used my AD360s more often I ‘may’ rethink my stance, but I’ve found I rarely use them now and only when I need them as extra lights. And even then I don’t get a modeling light, but since they’re rarely key lights it doesn’t matter. The convenience of having a modeling light for me is key. Sure getting a bit more light out of the AD-B2 is nice as well, but functionally for me the one thing that was lacking with the S Bracket was a modeling light when using the eVOLV’s bare bulb attachment. I depend on that to obtain focus more than to see what my light will look like.

So here’s how I used them for the test:

The top modifier is a Glow ParaPop 38″ Portable Softbox for Bowens mounts. I love how fast this thing sets up and the light it produces is creamy. I am using both the inner and outer diffuser in it. The bottom modifier is the Phottix 27.5″ Luna Folding Beauty Dish, White with the diffusion panel attached. If you’re wondering why I’m using the older USB triggers on the flashes, it’s because they allow me to use HSS with my Pentax 645Z. Also only one bulb was used in each of the AD-B2’s.

Please don’t mistake Cheyenne’s distance from the modifiers as the way she was when I photographed her. These images are my secondary thing to snap, as they were JUST for you guys. I had forgotten to take several shots and said to her “Oh shit, I forgot to take the BTS shot of the BTS! Can you just stand there for a minute?” My main purpose was to test my theories.

When I read/see other reviews I’m always a bit put off by seeing the ‘final polished’ shot that has gone through post processing/retouching/etc. I understand why most do that, the model’s desire to only have shots of them posted that way. Or photographers who only want to show their final work. But for me I find that an unretouched image really shows me what I’m looking for with light. OH and I know that most shooters like the expression of their models to be ‘serious or sultry‘ which is fine. But when that’s all I see I find it becomes myopic. So for this test along with my others for the Parabolix I asked Cheyenne to be herself. It’s just one of the reasons that makes her so damn beautiful.

I used a black backdrop for two primary reasons. First I am a big user of rim lights and wanted to see how using my clam shell method would help separate the talent from the background. I specifically chose Cheyenne due to her dark brown hair which can easily get lost against black. I love the look a traditional rim light gives the talent, but other times I want the separation to have a different less obvious look. For some work I prefer this look over a traditional rim light. The second reason I used black is in another review of the Parabolix modifier.

UPDATE August 19 2017

Later this evening I will be testing many different modifiers along with the eVOLV ADB2. But until that shoot I wanted to share some things other may find useful. First and foremost one of the little irritating aspects of the Godox S Mount bracket and the new eVOLV ADb2 is its ratcheting handle. CLICK CLICK CLICK Dammit why is it so hard to move?! I think I understand why it was designed that way, but it was an irritation to me. Instead of bitching about anything I was taught to come up with a solution. So long ago I tried many things, replacing one of the toothed washers with a smooth plastic one, fabricating my own rubber or fabric washers, but none worked well enough. Sure I could move the pivot easily, but with anything heavy it would gradually ‘creep’ downward no matter how much I tightened down the handle.

And then I thought back to my Dad’s (who was an engineer) never coddling words, “Boy, when you try to design anything, use the most simple design. Don’t be so stupid!” So what I decided to try was to take one of the toothed washers on each side and file them down halfway. And guess what? Dad was fucking rightAGAIN. Leaving 50% of the teeth on the washers allows them to still ‘bite’ into their corresponding toothed counterpart, but makes rotating the light stand swivel SO MUCH EASIER! No I cannot adjust it in my OCD micrometers like I like to do with brackets without teeth, but it’s way better!

When you disassemble to bracket you will notice that each removable washer has teeth on one side and molded channels on the other. Those channels keep the washer from rotating so be sure to align them when you reinstall the handle.

You can see how much material I removed from the OEM version. I used my vice and a flat file, but you can always just use a piece of sandpaper laying on a flat surface. Be careful not to sand off your fingertips! You need those to pick your noses! Hahahahaha

The other thing I like to do with both my new ADB2s as well as my Portable 600ws Extension FlashHeads are to cover them for transport. I always remove the bulbs from all units before shipping my lights. I learned my lesson after having two break when airline luggage handling monsters must have thrown my Pelican cases 1,000 yards! LOL. So I use  JTL Protective Flash Tube Covers for all of my xPLOR and extension heads. I originally purchased those covers to save space on my Rovelights, which I returned long ago. But that is another story that was resolved….

You don’t HAVE to protect the face of either, but in my mind I’d rather spend 6 bucks a cover as insurance to protect the socket holes and LED lights on each unit. It does make space savings a bit more challenging, but for me it’s worth it. For the extension heads I often insert the pronged end into the flash head, as it then protects both, but it’s tough on packing space.

So of course the bulbs wouldn’t fit when leaving them in an ADB2s with the cover I mentioned. I remove the bulbs whenever I’m shipping or packing them. So here I found that good old Edward at Cheetahstand makes these nifty Protection Caps for Cheetah Light for the 200 bulbs! So that’s what I use and they’re great. To my knowledge he’s the only one who makes or offers them.

So the bulb protector comes in that little zip lock plastic bag. On a video he has somewhere he shows how he uses a plastic bag as ‘padding’ when inserting a bulb into his little protector. Basically you place the bulb in the bag leaving space on both ends. You twist the bag so one tip looks like the head of an UNUSED condom (!) and then slide the bulb and plastic bag into the tube. The twist at the end is the padding that keeps the front of the bulb safe. Very nifty!

All tidy and ready to pack. 

I don’t know about you, but I cannot even count the number of bags I’ve amassed over the years. And my GF is CONSTANTLY telling me to ‘give some away dammit!’ but of course I never do. So this little camera bag from LowePro I bought ten years ago works PERFECTLY to hold three eVOLV 200s, two ADB2s with covers and three bulbs in their little silver nests. Perfect for heading to a local shoot…. like tonight!

Original Post

The back of the AD-B2. The slot on the left is “slot 1” and the one on the right is “slot 2”

It’s no secret that I admire the innovation of Godox’s line of strobes. The Xplor line of lights along with the eVOLV 200s are wonderful for my work. The flexibility of combining lights into a single more powerful head shows such innovation. When Godox announced that they were producing the AD-B2 bracket I was thrilled. The one thing I missed when using a bare bulb head with the eVOLV200s was a modeling light. I seldom use modeling lights to view how my modifier/angle of light/etc. is going to look. Instead I depend on modeling lights to obtain focus, as I often work in very dark places during studio sessions. And I tend to use the bare bulb attachment more than the Fresnel head which does have a built in modeling light.

I have not had the opportunity to actually ‘use‘ the light bracket yet, but plan to do so on two upcoming commercial shoots. But I needed to test the unit to see how it performs which I always do prior to using any gear on the job. I tested the bracket using an eVOLV200 with the bare bulb attachment, first with an S Bracket and then compared to the xPLOR600 using two bulbs/eVOLVs in the AD-B2. For all of the testing I used a Bowens Maxilite 65 degree General Purpose Reflector, my favorite general purpose hard reflector. The one disadvantage of the Maxlite is the depth of the mounting collar. It’s about 3/4 of an inch deeper than some other generic reflectors so it tends to sap a bit of power by having the bulb more recessed into the cone.

To compare power I used each light with the Maxlite cone attached and fired it against a white wall and then measured the f stop at the opposing wall which is about 11 feet away. I do that because I’ve found it replicates the amount of power loss I get when using modifiers. This is NOT a scientific test, so if you’re looking for EXACT measurements you’d be better served looking elsewhere or doing it yourself.  I used a Sekonic L-358 meter set at 1/100th shutter speed ISO 100. Here are my findings:

1 eVOLV200 using a single bulb

  • S Bracket (bulb is pushed into the cone at the same distance of the AD-B2’s bulb) f11
  • AD-B2 f13

Next I used the AD-B2 with two eVOVLs and 2 bulbs

  • xPLOR600 f18
  • AD-B2 with two bulbs f18

So it appears that light leaking out of the back of the S bracket may cause a small loss of power. It also may be an advantage that the AD-B2 has a more reflective surface than an S Bracket which has none. More interesting is the 600’s results compared to the AD-B2 with two bulbs! I can only surmise that it may be due to the 600’s bulb being more recessed into the cone than the AD-B2’s…..

When only using one eVOLV200 you can either place the bulb in the center or in the top socket.

It “appears” to me that the three step modeling light is brighter than my xPLOR600. But it may just be wishful thinking….

My trusty Bowens Maxlite reflector.

One unit in slot 1

You can see that the xPLOR600’s bulb sits more recessed into the Maxlite by about 3/4 of an inch.

The bulb(s) of the AD-B2 sit further into my Maxlite which ‘may’ explain the added power compared to the xPLOR

Here you can see that the Bowns Maxlite has a collar that is deeper than other reflectors.

In the images below you can see the weight difference for yourself.

You should note that the AD-B2’s swivel adjustment handle does NOT pull out like the S bracket or the xPLOR600 handles. I don’t think it will be an issue, but won’t know that until I actually use it in the field.

I will say that I plan to purchase two more of the AD-B2 units. They are very reasonable in price and the advantage of having a modeling light(s) and the ability to use two unit when needed is wonderful. I will update this post once I utilize the unit(s) on the job.

05 Aug 2017

To Studio or Not to Studio?

My partner and I went back and forth for quite some time about whether or not we wanted to invest in a long or short term lease on a studio. In the Bay Area real estate is very pricey, much more so than other areas of the country. But that is not the primary reason we opted to NOT put our money into a studio. I think there are photographers who can easily justify a studio which includes much more than just the rent. Sure it would be so much more convenient for me to have a studio instead of lugging gear and assistants to and from locations. But, and this is a BIG BUT for me, I would get bored, completely and utterly in about 2 shoots. Why? I bore easily and shooting against seamless or bringing in props, constantly building sets, etc. would drive me to the point that I may decide to return to a corporate job! (No way really…)

For me the world is the best studio, the absolute best for my work. But sometimes for a variety of reasons my clients cannot arrange to shoot on location so I shoot in rented studios or spaces which are convenient to the client. Flying the talent in, housing them, using Union makeup/hair/wig/prop you name it staff is expensive. Transporting them to a studio far away is inconvenient to many clients. You’d be shocked at how some of the ‘studios’ I work in are crazy cramped or awful from a shooter’s standpoint. But a big part of being a pro is working with what you got.

But there are times when a client wants ‘more’ than just seamless but doesn’t have the budget to house or transport all of the talent to the perfect location. So a rented studio for the day or week, or better yet a warehouse is what I use. This is where light/atmosphere and theatrical type modifiers like gobos can make a scene more effective. Whenever people ask how I create different looks in studio I just say, “Watch movies, look at the light/environment and figure out how to make the scene you’re watching. Imagination is insanely more powerful than any new camera gear. And simply having an idea is not good enough. You need to actually make it happen.”

Using the Mohave Desert for a backdrop. Yes it’s lit with strobes and I used my smoke machine.

Driftwood structure built on the beach. Strobes and smoke used.

Publicity shot for Les Miserable shot on location in a rock quarry. It was daytime using three strobes.

One of several ballet shots done in Dallas TX using smoke and strobes. On location in front of an art sculpture.

Publicity for the play Assassins shot in an alley.

Using the wings of a stage as the environment for a publicity shot for Cabaret.

Recently a client ‘wanted’ to do their publicity shoot on location, but since scheduling of the talent and the availability of the venue didn’t jibe we shot in studio, a rented warehouse. By using atmosphere and special light modifiers the client was pleased.

Preparing for the shoot as wardrobe and makeup is applied.

The whole point of this posting is to help you decide if a studio is something you ‘have to have.’ In my case it is not simply because the type of work I do constantly demands new looks and feelings for my client base. Every shooter has different needs and there are no ‘right or wrong’ answers.

02 Aug 2017

Using a Cheetahstand Chop Stick

UPDATE August 14 2014

My client just released our video of his 2017-18 Season which includes some BTS footage which shows how I used my 59″ Zeppelin with the Cheetahstand Chop Stick.

Light fully focused in the 59″ Zeppelin using a Cheetahstand Chop Stick for The Elephant Man publicity shot.

UPDATE: August 3 2017

Today I used the Cheetahstand Chopstick with my Westcott Zeppelin 59 in combination with my Flashpoint Xplor 600 using the remote head. In all but two cases the Zeppelin was my key light. Some shots involved five lights, some only three. I was given permission to post three shots by my client even though their publicity for these images has not yet been released. (obviously since I just created them today!)

My only BTS shot since it was pretty hectic on set and my partner had to leave to film another client. You can see that for the shot I’m about to do the Zep is fully focused, meaning the light is only 8 inches from the rear of the modifier. I like using my Elinchrom Deep Octa as a rim light. The light just behind the Elinchrom is my gobo modifier.

Three light shot, Zeppelin as key light flagged and highly feathered on the talent. Gobo on Xplor600 is creating the rays of light pattern.

Four light shot. Zeppelin is the key light.

Four light shot. Zeppelin is the key light.

Three light shot. Fresnel attachment to my Xplor 600 is the key light.

Original Article

Recently I have had a number of people contact me about using Cheetahstand’s Chop Stick in modifiers other than their Rice Bowls. I have used the Chopstick quite a bit with Westcott Zeppelins, both the 47 and 59 inch models. Edward of Cheetahstand has manufactured a well made device made up of his own proprietary mount/speed ring and a collar that fits on any Bowens mount. The focusing arm he developed is well done and includes an eyelet on the end to hold a counterweight should you need one. I find Edward a nice fella who genuinely likes offering devices that makes a photographer’s life better.

But what many people ask is “Do I need to buy a mount/bracket from Westcott if I’m going to use the Chopstick with the Zeppelin, or can I save money by not having to buy the mount?” The short answer is you must buy the Westcott mount with a Bowens speed ring if you want to use the Cheetahstand Chop Stick. The Westcott Mount/Speedring is more robust in build than the Cheetahstand one although I have no issues with the one from Cheetahstand. As a matter of fact I like the fact that it’s lighter and has a nifty quick release on the light stand spigot. Very handy! 

BUT and this is a big BUT, the Westcott speedring’s holes are larger than the Cheetahstand speedring. Westcott Zeppelin rods will NOT fit into a Cheetahstand mount. But in reverse Cheetahstand’s Rice Bowls will fit into a Westcott Zeppelin mount. There are other difference that are worth noting too….

Cheetahstand speedring rod holes are 6mm.

Westcott’s Zeppelin speedring rod holes are 8mm.

Westcott’s distance from the center of the mount pivot to the center of the rod hole is 77mm. This allows the Zeppelins to tilt further downward than the Cheetahstand Rice Bowls. This is a key factor to consider for your use.

Cheetahstand’s distance from the center of the mount pivot to the center of the rod hole is 36mm which is half as long as Westcott’s. It prevents the Ricebowl from any significant downward tilting. I fabricated my own mount because of this limitation.

Bowens mount at the back of the Westcott Zeppelin speed ring.

The Chopstick adapter plate mounted on the Bowens ring. The knob at the top controls the forward/aft tension of the stick to lock it into place. The knob at 4:00 pulls out to allow the plate to be secured to the Bowens mount.

The ‘stick’ of the Chopstick mounted into the bracket. The total distance the stick can extend is 2 feet 3/4 of an inch. The knob on top of the mount allows the larger diameter portion of the rod to be moved fore/aft and the other knurled grip allows the smaller diameter pole to slide in and out of the housing. Very well designed and well made.

Tomorrow I have a shoot and plan to use the Zeppelins with the Chop Stick along with my Cononmark reflector. If I have time I will do some BTS shots of them and update this post. I’m a bit disappointed that my Parabolix Deep 35 won’t arrive in time for tomorrow’s session. Sigh…. But stay tuned for a full review of that modifier later this year.

26 Jul 2017

Xplor/Godox600, eVOLV200 and Pentax 645Z, HSS!!!

UPDATE September 8 2017

In my post about the Parabolix 35D I have some of my recent client work which was just released. All of those images were shot using HSS with my 645Z.

UPDATE August 31 2017

A visitor recently asked if the older AD360 line of strobes achieve HSS with a Pentax 645Z based on the method I describe below in my original article. The answer is YES it does. Rather than just ‘say yes’ under an ‘assumption’ that it would I decided to actually test it. I’m preparing for a dance session in two days and my partner who is making the move to all xPLOR/eVOLV units herself asked if she could borrow my old AD360s for the shoot. As a gift I had purchased an xPLOR TTL 600 for her so she wants to combine that with my old AD360s using my XTR-16 receivers. So a quick test before charging all of the units for her proves that the AD360 line works!

Pentax 645Z 1/1000th, f5.0, ISO 100. When using an older AD360 you need to manually set the strobe to HSS on the light itself. And if you’re going to ask me why I didn’t shoot this against a pure white seamless, I just did this as a courtesy to a reader. There’s no banding and if you want to see FOR YOURSELF, test it yourself.

UPDATE August 20 2017

I ran a test yesterday of various modifiers along with the new AD-B2 mount and discovered that when you are using the USB receivers in the eVOLV200s the only level of modeling light that can be activated on the AD-B2 is the lowest level from the FT-16 controller.

UPDATE: July 29 2017

I have just completed testing HSS with the eVOLV200 strobes with my Pentax 645Z. I have included my test shots with “Bob” and all Flashpoint USB triggers and Cactus v6II settings are the same as the Xplor/Godox 600 lights. But I have outlined how I set the eVOLV200 lights below.

All test shots with the eVOLV200 were shot at 1/2 power using the bare bulb head through a Fresnel modifer. It is necessary to disable all built in wireless receivers in the eVOLV200. The USB plug in receivers are necessary to make this work. You must also engage HSS using the button rather than depending on shutter speed on the remote to automatically engage HSS.

I’m using the ‘old’ 433mhz USB receivers along with the FT-16 transmitter. (see full setup in my Original test below)

Reference shot using only ambient light. The modifier I like to use is a Fresnel lens. It effectively replicates the look of sunlight.

1/500th f4.5 ISO 100 Pentax 645Z eVOLV200 at 1/2 power, bare bulb attachment.

1/1000th f4.5 ISO 100 Pentax 645Z eVOLV200 at 1/2 power, bare bulb attachment.

1/1600th f4.5 ISO 100 Pentax 645Z eVOLV200 at 1/2 power, bare bulb attachment.

1/2500th f4.5 ISO 100 Pentax 645Z eVOLV200 at 1/2 power, bare bulb attachment.

1/3200th f4.5 ISO 100 Pentax 645Z eVOLV200 at 1/2 power, bare bulb attachment.

1/4000th f4.5 ISO 100 Pentax 645Z eVOLV200 at 1/2 power, bare bulb attachment.

A few people contacted me to let me know they have been able to use HSS with a Pentax 645Z using other brands of lights with the Cactus v6II which I very much appreciated. But even though they have had HSS/645Z success with Profoto’s B1’s, Speedotrons, Photogenic Studio Max, etc. I wanted to make this work with the Flashpoint/Godox line of lights. Why? Well because for my work they fit my workflow with incredible innovation and the largest eco system of strobes. Using an xPLOR600 as either a monolight or pack/head system is just one reason. Combining two of them to make a single 1200 ws head when I need that power, creating their upcoming eVOLV200 twin head all combine to make it the line I love to use. I’ve had my fill of purchasing other strobes just for my 645Z, namely Priolites to achieve HSS. Now I no longer have to use separate brands of lights to do my commercial work no matter what brand of camera I’m using for the job at hand. And that’s great since I use three different brands of cameras!

Thank you to Cactus for developing a tool that is both remarkable and functional. It’s been a godsend for my work.

Original Test Review

Flashpoint R1 Flashpoint Commander Transmitter

To put it simply HALLELUJAH!!!! Oh my gosh for the past four years I have wanted with all of my want to have an option for HSS and my Pentax 645Z other than my MBX1000 Hotsync Priolites. Priolites do NOT use HSS, but rather hypersync and as the shutter speed increases the slight shading of banding increases as well. I’m not talking about black bars, but what looks like a graduated neutral density filter was applied to the image. Sure I could remove it in those instances where it’s obvious, but in my mind for $2600.00 per light it should NOT be something I have to do. Anyway there are several other issues that bothered me, but as ‘the only game in town’ for shutter speeds over 1/125th of a second when using strobes, I like other shooters was stuck. Ricoh never manufactured modern leaf shutter lenses for the 645 and based on their current financial situation and market share I seriously doubt they will. Plus leaf shutter lenses are expensive and limited to whatever focal length is produced. It’s one of the limits that smug shooters of Phase One or Hassy bring up when talking about the 645Z. I just laugh and now I snicker…

So here’s how I figured it out. I now use a Flashpoint R1 Flashpoint Commander Transmitter with older 433mgh USB receivers in my Xplor/Godox 600 strobes. The FT16 is placed on top of a Cactus v6II transceiver. And as you can see by the shots I’ve displayed below it’s a godsend. Will I miss 1000ws from my Priolite? Oh hell no, not when I can simply combine two Xplor600s and hook them to my 1200ws head. HSS using my beloved Xplor600 with my Pentax 645Z means Christmas came in July 2017 for me this year! Hallelujah!!!

How the scene looked in mid day Bay Area sunlight. That’s my buddy “Bob” who fills in for my tests.

One of my trusty USB receivers plugged into my Xplor 600

All radio signals turned off and HSS enabled. You MUST physically enable HSS on the strobe to make this work. The quarter power is just what I selected for the test. And yes you can use any power level you want.

On the Cactus v6II set the Camera System to Pentax.

On the Cactus v6II set the Flash System to Manual Flash.

The Flashpoint R1 Flashpoint Commander Transmitter goes on top of the Cactus.

1/500th f4.5, ISO100 Xplor600 at 1/4 power.

1/1000th f4.5, ISO100 Xplor600 at 1/4 power.

1/1600th f4.5, ISO100 Xplor600 at 1/4 power.

1/2500th f4.5, ISO100 Xplor600 at 1/4 power.

1/3200th f4.5, ISO100 Xplor600 at 1/4 power.

1/4000th f4.5, ISO100 Xplor600 at 1/4 power. That’s the 645Z’s max shutter speed.

A pulled back shot of the scene at 1/4000th f4.5, ISO100 Xplor600 at 1/4 power.

Will I like it if Cactus develops a firmware update for their triggers so that I don’t have to use the USB receivers? Sure! It would also mean I could use my eVOLV200s with my 645Z too. But for now I’m damn happy to have figured out how to use my 600s in HSS with my 645Z. No shaded banding whatsoever using my Xplor/Godox strobes.

I truly am one happy person!

16 Jul 2017

Xplor/Godox – How it has changed my workflow

UPDATE September 10 2017

I recently posted an article on my use of all Godox units in one session. The article includes the use of this product. You can view that post here.

UPDATE September 8 2017

In my post about the Parabolix 35D I have some of my recent client work and how I used the xPLOR/eVOLV units during the session.

UPDATE: July 29 2017

I have written an article about how I achieved using the Xplor/Godox 600 and 200 strobes in HSS with my Pentax 645Z. You can read that article here.

One of the Xplor/Godox 600 strobes using an 86″ PCB PLM modifier on top of a Flashpoint Junior Steel Wheeled Stand – 12′. Those stands were a lifesaver since I needed all 12 feet of height!

Prior to using the Xplor/Godox line of strobes I shot exclusively with PCB Einsteins. Paul’s t:1 performance combined with his Vagabond line of batteries, the Cybercommander controls were bulletproof. Combine that with his customer service and well….for me it was a winning combination. But with Paul’s unfortunate passing years back, PCB’s innovation has lagged behind other strobe/modifier manufacturers. I adored Paul and I was so fortunate to have him as a sponsor for a short time. In my mind he was a true genius and yes, a bit of an eccentric fella, but geniuses are so often an ‘acquired taste’ but thank gawd for them.

Paul’s Einstein line never included HSS so for my outdoor workflow I simply used ND filters of various brands and types when I wanted to reduce ambient light. Variable ND filters were convenient, but I found that the color shift took a bit of post processing to reduce. I did find nanotec’s ND filters to be the best for my needs, but by reducing the ambient it also reduced the power of my strobes.

So I was an early adopter of the Godox line of strobes starting with their 360 line, moving onto the Flashpoint Xplor600/AD600 line and finally to the eVOLV200 units I found my niche. Having all of the units that communicate from one trigger along with the flexibility of combining several strobe bodies to create higher WS output…..gosh what could be better? The innovation of Godox combined with the service in the US of Adorama or Cheetahstand is a wicked combination. There were two instances early on when I purchased Godox AD600s on eBay when I could not get any service. But when both Cheetahstand and Adorama started rebranding the Godox line under their own names, well customer service in the States changed for the better.

I certainly realize that every photographer’s needs are different and mine differ from job to job. Sometimes I may use only two lights, sometimes three and sometimes 7 or more. It always depends on what my clients want for the mood of the shot. By having the ability to combine two lights into one, or to change my Xplor strobes from a monoblock into a pack/head design is so innovative. I have read opinions that other shooter’s clients ‘insist’ on specifying brands of strobes/cameras/lenses, but I have never encountered that situation. My clients care primarily about these issues:

  • The concept of the shoot.
  • The quality of the image
  • Does the image convey the intended mood?
  • Will the image help sales?
  • Does my demeanor keep the talent engaged, thereby obtaining the expressions needed for the shot?
  • How easy am I to work with?

Not ONCE has a client asked me about what brand of gear I plan to use. Nor do they ask me about the brand/model of vehicle I own. Or the brand of clothing I wear. My client’s jokingly say “Oh Mark is using his little magic Instamatic..” whenever I decide it’s the right time to use my Fuji X100T. The reality is I find photographers seem more concerned about what other photographers feel/say about gear than how their clients feel about their product. In my business I’m only as good as my last session. And if my clients don’t like ALL ASPECTS of my work, then I’m not asked to return to shoot another session.

I had a client who I shot four years ago ask me to do another shoot for his cover band. I delayed answering simply because I felt they wanted a typical band shot, which I was not willing to do. As we talked he said “I want you to shoot whatever and however you want to do the shoot.” So we began. And in this case I knew I was going to use multiple lights of varying power, with multiple modifiers. And guess what? The Xplor/Godox line of lights could not have been a better combination. I literally used every Xplor/Godox light I own for this session. The smallest number of lights used at one time was four and the most was nine.

My whole point to this post is to say that the Xplor/Cheetahstand/Godox line of lights is the most valuable lighting system I’ve ever owned and used. In my mind innovation in lighting is moving much faster than camera bodies and I love that! Find what works best for your style of shooting.

For this job I needed to use both my Canon and Pentax. The XT32C on top of my 645Z is my favorite trigger.

My original Godox purchases,two 360s, yes the old original one that use their USB receivers plugged in. Like I said, for this session I needed all of the lights I own.

Shot with the 1200ws head that combines two 600s into one head. Shot through a gobo attachment using a window gobo.

Six light shot using Xplor 600s, eVOLV200S and 360s. Smoke was created using a smoke machine. Fans used to keep smoke off the faces of the talent.

Shooting groups is not easy and this one took seven lights to get right. Set needed to be illuminated without taking away from the focus of the talent.

Nine light shot. Thank god for those 12 foot stands! Finding the right set for this shoot was fun.

It’s all fun and games until one of the lead singer’s head starts smoking! LOL. Using smoke is great, but it CAN be a royal pain in the ass too…..

10 Jul 2017

2017-18 Season Brochures

My clients have released their season brochures so I can now share the final results along with a short BTS video of the Hillbarn session. All of the images were shot using the Flashpoint Xplor 600 and Evolv 200 line of strobes using various modifiers and gels. All shot with a Pentax 645Z utilizing a 45-85mm MF lens.

Hillbarn Theatre

Brochure Cover

One Xplor600 and one Evolv200 used in this shot.

Second curtain sync used with the Xplor 600. Two light shot.

Five light shot with various gels. Smoke machine used for atmosphere.

Village Theatre

 

06 Jul 2017

Aputure Fresnel Lens

UPDATE October 2 2017

I have written a post about a dance session I conducted that uses these items. You can view that post here.

UPDATE September 10 2017

I recently posted an article on my use of all Godox units in one session. The article includes the use of this product. You can view that post here.

My initial findings for the Aputure Fresnel Lens – July 6 2017

Because I work with so many theatrical stage lighting designers and bow to their artistry along with how COMPLEX their jobs become, I am very familiar with the Fresnel lens. It’s a staple of the constant light stage world and was very popular in the early Hollywood celebrity portrait days. Many shooters now love ‘soft light’ the softer the better in their minds. But the use of bare bulb lighting and Fresnel light is very powerful and effective to convey the right mood in a shot. So for a whopping $69.00 I decided to buy the Aputure Fresnel Lens off of Amazon.

An example of my use of bare bulb lighting.

The body of the modifier is made of fiberglass and is extremely sturdy. The Bowens mounts fit perfectly into all of my Bowens mount lights including Godox and Xplor units. The construction is very well executed. I appreciate the 7″ reflector around the lens which easily accepts the grids and barn doors I have for my other hard reflectors. If you don’t want the reflector it’s easy enough to unscrew from the housing.

A handy degree marking is built into the left side of the housing. Adjustment is easy and smooth by loosening a knob on the opposite side of the mount to slide the lens forward or backward. Extending the lens reduces the angle of light.

Looking ‘into’ the housing from the back of the unit.

The front view of the unit. Four hex screws hold the 7″ reflector to the unit.

One of the things I will find out in actual use is how much light bleed from the vents on the side of the housing cause. I believe that will depend on where/how the strobes are placed in relation to the subject. Since the unit is made to be used with all Bowens mount units the vents are placed to dissipate heat. I don’t imagine that the light bleed from the vents will affect my work unless I’m using the unit for an overhead light which may bleed onto any seamless I’m using. Time will tell and if that is the case I will simply use some Cinefoil to mask off any bleeding light. Stay tuned….

I wanted to determine how much light loss happens using this modifier compared to a bare bulb or 7″ cone. My little test was done outside in daylight. Using an Xplor 600 at maximum power (1:1), 20 feet from the wooden wall, measured with a Sekonic L-358 light meter, ISO 100, 100th of a second. My finding:

  • Bare Bulb: f9.0
  • 7 inch cone: f9.0
  • Aputure Fresnel: f8.0

The f8.0 was when the unit is set at the maximum spread of 42 degrees. Things change when I zoomed the Fresnel to the 15 degree mark which yields f9.0 at the same distance.

No strobe, shaded daylight illuminates the wooden wall as my control shot.

Fresnel set to 42 degrees, 20 feet from the wall.

Fresnel set to 15 degrees 20 feet from the wall.

Obviously I will be continuing to update this post when I use it on a commercial shoot. In September I have a dance session where I plan to use this unit along with a gobo strobe modifier. At this point I’m very pleased with the construction and operation of the unit. Stay tuned.