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 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.
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!
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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….
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.
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.
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
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!!!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For five years I have photographed 5th Avenue Theatre’s High School Musical Awards. Teens from all over are invited to this event and the sheer volume of thousands of teenagers in one building rivals a SpaceX takeoff! Most of the workers wear earplugs…and I’m not joking. My partner is assigned to photograph the event from inside of the house, while I’m assigned the backstage area….my favorite.
Before becoming a full time pro shooter I got into this whole thing to chronicle my daughter’s work as a stage crew member in high school. I had little money while raising two kids, so I went onto eBay and bought myself a Casio point and shoot. As I wandered around the backstage area I came to appreciate the work and passion the ‘crew’ has for putting together a production. Those jobs are far from the glamor of the footlights and follow spots. So because of that I have a real soft spot for the crew and those who make it possible for the talent in front of the curtain to pursue their passions.
The energy and excitement behind the scenes is infectious. I’ve been honored and blessed to be able to move around freely backstage. So many of the people who work BTS I now know having worked with each of them on different shows. One of the most moving things that happened to me that night was when David said to me in such a sincere and warm way “Mark, thank you so much for doing this for us.” I simply said “You’re welcome” but thought to myself that I should be thanking him for being instrumental in my ability to know all of these folks.
So here are some of my favorite photos from backstage during the 2017 HSMA’s. The two shots, one of the group and one of the young man who played in the Music Man were portraits I just had to create backstage. I had brought my one strobe to use prior to the event and at the end of the event. I just HAD to use it to light these kids for a portrait. I know all of the kids who attend the 5th’s HSMA will carry these wonderful memories for the rest of their lives. I know I will too.
For both of these portraits I told the kids “No smiling! Give me ATTITUDE like you give your folks! LOL! And you can tell them when they see the shots the photographer told you to do that.”
My shots often appear in print, but today was special and unusual. On the front page of the Seattle Times, my publicity image for Village Theatre’s 2017-18 Season Brochure appears above the fold. Then two of my publicity shots for 5th Avenue Theatre’s world premier of Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion – the Musical appears in the entertainment section. Fun!
For the past five years I have had the privilege to photograph OSA’s Dance Emphasis. The high school young people under the leadership of Reginald Ray-Savage and Alison Hurley are incredible. The images in this gallery are from their May 26 2017 dance concert. Once or twice a year I conduct in studio dance photography sessions, but these images were all taken from their latest production.
I ride my Haibike Sduro Fullnine RC almost every day. I don’t have a ‘daily commute’ so I ride for pleasure or for errands. That includes fire roads with steep hills, paved paths and street riding to do errands. Sometimes I need navigation to assist me so I use Google Maps which has a bicycle feature which takes me on routes I’ve never done in a car. Well Duh Mark of course since I’m on a bike. I searched long and hard for just the ‘right’ mounting unit for my cell phone (a Galaxy S7 Edge) to mount to my bike’s handlebar stem. You see I want my unit in the landscape position and most of the cell phone mounting solutions are for your handlebar and in the vertical position. I’m not using my phone for anything other than navigation on my bike. Here’s what I found is the best for my needs, a Sahara Sailor Phone Bike Mount. It fits perfectly on a head stem and holds a phone very securely. I highly recommend this unit.
I never mean to be an early adopter, but tend to be so with new strobes. Lighting is developing much more rapidly than cameras or lenses. But this is about a new passion of mine, riding my ebike, a Haibike Sduro Fullnine RC. Ebikes are new to the US and relatively unknown, yet are popular in Europe where using any type of bicycle for transportation is mainstream. I began my interest two years ago when I noticed a Kickstarter campaign for an eMTB called the Flx bike. At 1399.00 USD it was ‘affordable’ enough to interest me, yet since I had been burned by two crowd funding campaigns I was not excited enough to commit 1400 bucks with the chance I would not get shit. You should know that they have delivered on their product and many of their owners are thrilled with the product.
In the Fall of 2016 I was vacationing in one of my favorite locations, Avila Beach, CA. Across from my hotel is Pedego Avila Beach which is an electric bike dealership. Upon entering the store Glenn, the owner asked if I had ever ridden an ebike. When I replied “No” he said “Well we’re gonna change all of that..” and immediately put me on a Haibike hard tail mountain bike. Just outside of his storefront are two hills just like those in San Francisco. As soon as I began peddling up the hills I WAS SOLD. A mid drive, centrally mounted battery made the Haibike feel just like a normal bike, but with power that made me feel like Lance Armstrong with blood doping to the max! So I told myself that I would buy one right away.
Upon returning home to the Bay Area I found a local dealer, Motostrano in Redwood City. So I purchased my bike from Joe at Motostrano since he was running a killer sale in December. In March of 2017 I had saved enough money by quitting smoking that it paid for my Haibike Fullnine RC!
You can read all about ebikes online by searching along with all of the haters calling ebikes “Cheaters.” But just like all things such as ATM cards, snowboarding, digital cameras, chairlifts (yes there was a time when you had to WALK UP THE HILL to ski), ABS braking, etc. humans always resist what is ‘new’ and out of the ordinary. It’s really all about fear, fear of change fear of the unknown, fear of something new. So often it’s negative talk from those who feel they are the ‘purists’ like skiers who didn’t want to share the hill with new snowboarders, film photographers who felt and still feel digital photography lacks ‘soul’ or now mountain bikers who feel eMTBs are ‘cheaters’ and ‘bad for the trails.’ Hell I remember when Brownie Instamatic film cameras were shunned by ‘real photographers’ because the new little film cameras did everything for you including exposure! Hahahahaha. Fuck haters. They usually want to ‘keep’ their domain all to themselves and elite.
I love riding my ebike simply because it’s so much fun. I’ve raced motorcycles both on and off road all of my life. No my ebike does not have a throttle nor do I want it to have one. I have to pedal and I love that. So much so that I find excuses to ‘go somewhere’ or run an errand just to get on my ebike. Yes I’ve had a traditional mountain bike before, but rode it much less often than I do my eMTB.
I’ve given up trying to explain to people how it feels. In my crude manner I compare it to trying to explain to someone what a fantastic orgasm feels like. Go ahead; try to explain that, the FEELING of one. It’s the same about an ebike; the feeling is something that makes me smile every single time I ride. When I first got a digital camera off eBay I rediscovered the Bay Area by going to places with new eyes. On my ebike I ride to places I’ve been many times, but with a new outlook. I do Costco runs with my bike, I pack a dinner and go for a dinner ride with my girlfriend. I run errands like going to the bank, the hardware store, the donut shop on my ebike. It’s a complete joke and when my doctor asks “How often do you exercise?” and I have to remind myself that I do so every single day. I don’t think about riding 12-20 miles a day as exercise because like having a great orgasm it’s such a great feeling! (Not to worry, an orgasm is still better, but you get the point about having to feel something to KNOW)
Picking the right ebike is up to each individual. Renting one or several in your area or attending an ebike convention where you get to ride various models is the key. There are plenty of “Meet Ups” where people who love/own/are curious about ebikes gather just like photography meet ups. I’ve never been a ‘meet up’ kinda guy, but they are damn valuable for many people. I can simply say that I’ve never had anything in my life that is so much fun and enjoyable that I can do WHENEVER AND WHEREEVER I WANT TO DO SO. Not having to load my race bike on a truck or trailer, driving to the track, get fuel, etc. Sure those days were a complete blast, but the quiet joy of riding through neighborhoods, up in the hills, around town is so simple and sweet. One of the things I’ve missed about racing motorcycles is the ‘wrenching’ and although it’s on a MUCH more simple level with my ebike, it brings back some of that fun.
I don’t have a ‘commute’ per se since my job has odd hours and I often am on an airplane. But if I did have to commute and it was 10-20 miles each way I’d definitely use my ebike to go to and fro. Not showing up to work sweating because I’ve bucked a headwind or up hills to work is epic. More importantly, it’s just fun.
The questions I’m most often asked:
- Do you have to plug it in? – Yes to recharge the battery
- How far will a full charge allow you to go? – It depends, on High, into high wind or up steep hills maybe 20-30 miles. In Eco mode on flat ground probably 70 miles
- Does peddling recharge the battery? – No
- Do you need a license? – No
- Does it have a throttle? – No, not this one, but some ebikes do have a throttle.
- How long does it take to charge? – I’ve never drained mine completely so I cannot say. When my battery has been down to 30% it has taken about 1.2 hours to fully recharge.
- Where is the engine? – It’s attached to the crank on this model.
- Can you recharge the bike on solar power? – No
- Does the bike come with a headlight and taillight? – No I installed those myself.
I recently changed the mounting of my M99 Pure. Why? Well because I wanted to bring the headlight closer into the bike in the event of a crash. Also I wanted a longer stem to bring my riding position a bit more forward. So in searching online I found that none other than Supernova offers two stems that extend the reach of my arms to the handlebars but also offers an elegant mounting solution for the M99 headlights! The Promax 90 is the one I purchased. Installation is a snap and I could not be more pleased with the mounting solution for the M99 headlight as well.
Someone had asked me on a bike forum if I could compare the Supernova lights to others on the market. I thought a better comparison is how they compare to car headlights/taillights. So here is a side by side comparison made during dusk.
I wanted to update my post regarding Supernova products. After installing their M99 Pure on my Haibike Sduro Fullnine RC I decided to purchase one of their E3 Taillights. Since none of the US retailers had the blue color I opted to buy directly from Supernova in Germany. I was fully prepared to wait a while for shipping/customs/etc but to my pleasant amazement the items were delivered in four days from Germany to the Bay Area in California via UPS’s international service!
I’m old school and like to work on things myself for two reasons. First there is a satisfaction I get installing or working on my gear and second I know the job will be done to my satisfaction. (most of the time…LOL) Like so many others I had chosen to purchase aftermarket battery powered lights for my bike, both the headlight and tail lights. Since my girlfriend’s Haibike Trekking came with a headlight and taillight installed so she could simply use the light keypad on the Sduro line I was envious. It was then I decided I was tired of recharging different lights on my ebike (with its own friggin battery!) and took the plunge. Installing the M99 Pure on my ebike was straightforward. But installing the tail light was different.
I had installed a Thule Pack and Pedal rack on the back of my eMTB so that I can carry different items. I had to fabricate a mount for the tail light and ascertain how to route the wires from the motor through the frame and then integrate it into the rack.
Original Article on the M99 Pure
Why is Mark posting an article about a flippin ‘ebike light’ when his site is about photography!!???? Well because life isn’t just about photography and after all this is my blog and I can write about whatever I want! LOL. In truth I tend to be an early adopter of ‘things’ having to do with light. Photographic strobes in particular and now ebike lights. I had researched ebikes for a year and a half before ever riding one. They intrigued me since I’ve raced motorcycles all of my life, first motocross and then closed course racetracks. But alas age caught up with me and rather than endangering the lives of my fellow racers I decided to hang up my leathers and knee sliders….sigh.
Once I actually rode an ebike at Pedego Avila Beach I was SOLD. And not the throttle kind but the power assisted pedal type. (you must pedal) I ended up purchasing my bike locally at Motostrano in Redwood City, CA. Joe, the owner along with his primary mechanic Luis are good fellas. Of course after getting my bike I wanted to add some things like a rear rack for a full suspension bike (not easy) and some lights since I like to ride off road at night. (and on the street too)
Apparently there are two schools of thought on lights for bikes; those who use a light primarily to be seen and those who use lights to SEE at night. I am from the latter school although I also want to be seen too. For a headlight several items were MUST haves for me:
- The ability of the headlight to use my ebike’s battery as its source of power. I didn’t want to have to charge another light for my bike
- Being able to use the light button on the Sduro’s existing control pad to turn the light on and off
- The ability to bolt the light onto my bike rather than having a rubber or silicon band holding the unit to the handlebars
- Most important, a wide and bright beam pattern of light. Not a pinpoint light.
Searching online through Amazon and other sources produced a wide selection of bike lights. Some 1600 lumen, but all of those used an external battery pack. Some had separate diffusion lenses to spread the light. What I found that matched my needs/wants was the Supernova M99 line of lights built in Germany specifically for ebikes. Being light greedy I first purchased a M99 Pro from Joe which puts out 1600 lumens using its high beam. But I failed to read the fine print to determine the voltage the Sduro line of bikes output for lights from the built in wiring. The Pro must have 24v minimum to work. I called Yamaha America to find out what voltage their Sduro line of bikes output is and they didn’t even know Yamaha USA has a electric bike motor! Since Haibike is produced in Germany but USES Yamaha motors (along with Bosch) Yamaha USA has no information. So I ran my own voltage test on the Sduro’s light line output controlled by the built in switch; the output is 6v DC. So I exchanged the Pro version of the M99 for the Pure version which is rated at 6v. (BTW Supernova responded to me that none of the current Sduro line will work with the M99 Pro)
The Supernova M99 Pure works FLAWLESSLY on my Haibike Sduro! The light pattern is just what I wanted, bright and wide much like my former street motorcycles on low beam. The correct way to mount to unit is parallel to the ground since Supernova’s design points the main beam of light downward as to not blind oncoming viewers. It automatically changes from daytime running lights (ala Audi’s LED running lights) to regular headlight when going through a tunnel or when it becomes dark. If you’re worried that the headlight doesn’t activate until it’s too dark, not to worry, it’s engineered to come on well before it gets too dark. I’ve only had it installed for two days and the power drain on my battery is null. And the best part is the illumination and beam pattern. Nice and wide.
I write this because ebikes are relatively rare in the USA right now and reviews of the Supernova line are even more scarce. And yes they’re expensive…..but that’s OK for a headlight that ticks all of my requirements.
I’m proud to have been chosen as a Finalist in the 2016 One Eyeland Awards for my series Moments of Passion. A series of tango photographs in the Mohave Desert I created in November of 2016 with professional Argentine Tango dancers Patricio Touceda and Eva Lucero.
Click here for the entire listing of winners.
In December 2016 I was searching for a portable printer and discovered on Amazon a small printer called the PickIt. What attracted me beyond its size was that it used dye sublimation rather than ink jets to produce the image. In my former life I used dye sub to print marketing materials so I was impressed that such a small unit used the same technology.
On December 2, 2016 tragedy struck not only the Bay Area, but my family when the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland claimed the life of 36 young adults. One of them was Jenny Morris who just turned 21 and was the former girlfriend of my son. Jenny and my son dated for about 18 months, but had ended their relationship almost a year prior to the tragic fire. In many ways I feel blessed that my son did not perish in that fire. Had he and Jenny still been a couple I’m positive he would have been at the event and perished along with the other young adults.
I have decided to add a small travel review section to my blog. I travel extensively for client work and sometimes find hidden nuggets on my journeys. I should say that when I was ‘a suit’ in the corporate world I was able to travel well, first class air travel (prior to 9/11 and when airlines served real food), hotels like The Plaza in NYC, the Hay Adams in Washington DC, the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, Hotel Utah in Salt Lake City, the list goes on and on. I listed some of the places I’ve stayed not to brag, but to give some reference to my point of reference. Staying on an expense account is very different than paying on my own dime.