A trombonist and his PR rep flew in from Nashville, TN to conduct two day photo sessions for his upcoming CD release in the Fall. We had spoken over the phone and via email about the theme for his shoot. I didn’t feel that a traditional musician with instrument would suit his personality. Nor did I believe it would show any creativity, so we agreed on two separate sessions. One on location and one in studio.
Day one was conducted on location at Ocean Beach in San Francisco just before sunset. During his trip it was the only day when rain was not forecast which meant IF the weather people were correct, the sky would have wonderful clouds, one of my favorite elements for outdoor sessions. As luck would have it, the sky and weather were perfect…whew!
BTS shot. Here I used one AD-B2 with two eVOLV200s shot through an adjustable Aputure Fresnel Lens as the key light. Another single eVOLV200 using its included Fresnel head was used to augment illumination of the fire/cello/violin fire.
For each shot on both days I used a total of six different modifiers, but only two different strobes. xPLOR600s, and eVOLV200s. Using AD-B2 and 600ws extension heads gives me flexibility like no other system. It’s one of the big reasons I have switched over to this system.
Two eVOLV200s mounted in a single AD-B2 shot through an Aputure Fresnel modifier was the key light. A single eVOLV200 using its native Fresnel head and barn doors with gel was used to augment illumination on the fire/cello/violin bonfire. Canon 1DX Mark II 1/400th.
Canon 1DX Mark II 1/400th using two eVOLV200s inside the AD-B2 shot though the Aputure Fersnel head.
Day two was shot in studio using four different modifiers on four xPLOR600s, two using remote heads. The modifiers were:
An Adorama GlowPop 38 with both inner and outer diffusion panels as a rim light
An Andoer Metal Conical Snoot on a boom to illuminate the martini glass with mini trombone
A Cheetahstand 40 inch (100cm) QS40 Silver Beauty Dish with diffusion panel installed as the model’s leg light
Although I use a wide variety of modifiers from many different manufacturers I only use Flashpoint/Godox strobes. Why? Well because their performance, value, quality and flexibility gives me options that I’ve not been able to find anywhere else. The battery life of either of those units is incredible. I have yet to exhaust the battery during an all day session.
I’ve recently written a post about my use of the xPLOR600/eVOLV200s with several different modifiers for a session. You can find that post here.
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
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)
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.
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!
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!!!!
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…..