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Category : Latest News

28 Mar 2020

My COVID-19 RinseKit+ – Updated April 4 2020

Update April 4 2020

I wanted to update this post to cover why experts continue to place hand washing with soap and water AS THE MOST EFFECTIVE way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Like toilet paper (and who TF knows why people hoard that shit) hand sanitizer and wipes are hard to find because people hoard those too. I will continue to recommend and tell my friends and family that hand washing is the best possible thing to do.

“Soap doesn’t really fail easily,” Thordarson says. It doesn’t really matter the formulation of soap, either. You don’t need “antibacterial soap” — which the Food and Drug Administration advises to skip altogether due to a lack of evidence of its usefulness. And you don’t need a super-harsh detergent like you’d put in your dishwasher or laundry machine. Simple soap works fine. “As long as you give it a little bit of time, it will do its job.”

“Lastly, echoing health officials, McCallum says the best thing you can do to prevent the spread is by washing your hands thoroughly and consistently.”

And instead of buying liquid soap I use this recipe to make my own. I have saved those irritating little bits of bar soap for a long time. (my parents grew up during the Great Depression) But you can simply use a new full bar too.

Stay healthy. Stay mindful. Stay kind. Be considerate.

I made these so that I never forget this tragedy for the rest of my life….and to always wash my hands to say FU COVID-19!!!

Update April 2 2020

The company RinseKit recently placed my post on their Media page. I really hope this helps others.

In the fall of 2019 my home water heater malfunctioned. I have personally replaced and installed more water heaters than I care to remember. But in this case it was under warranty. So since the part had to be ordered and would take 10 days I had no home hot water. I have a camping hot water heater that is basically a large metal sprayer which is heated with a one pound propane tank. Fine for camping and I used it to take a hot shower at home while I waited for the repair. 

So I decided to start researching alternatives to my camping water heater and found the RinseKit  that was invented by a surfer. Like all surfers who take off their wetsuits and want to rinse off their bodies he invented something better than a one gallon jug to hold over your head. His site can tell you all about how it works.

Being a Boy Scout I decided to purchase his medium size unit along with accessories like the electric heater, air pump and other various bits that came with the accessory kit. Of course the most important one to me was the heating rod. And I will say it does not work that well. It takes forever to heat cold water, but works well if I fill my unit with warm water and use it to just keep the water warm.

With the current COVID-19 pandemic I had developed an inexpensive and, according to the CDC and WHO a more effective method of keeping viruses off of my hands other than wipes and sprays. Which are tough to find as well as expensive due to hoarding.

So I decided to replace my homemade hand washing kit in our primary car with my RinseKit outfitted with soap, a small spray bottle of isopropyl alcohol, two micro fiber towels, two pairs of nitrite gloves and two hospital vomit bags. The whole kit is kept in the trunk of the car.

So here’s my protocol:

  1. After I go shopping for food I open the back of the car
  2. I then place my groceries in the trunk
  3. Open the RinseKit
  4. Take out the squeeze bottle of soap and alcohol spray
  5. Use the sprayer to wet my hands
  6. Squeeze soap into my hands and wash them per the CDC guidelines
  7. Rinse off my hands with the RinseKit
  8. Dry them with a microfiber towel
  9. Use the little sprayer with alcohol to spray the RinseKit spray handle, the latch and the soap squeeze bottle and the car’s rear latch
  10. Place the used towel into one of the vomit bags

My COVID-19 hand washing kit. The blue plastic thing in the lower left are the hospital vomit bags.

The small alcohol sprayer and the squeeze bottle for hand soap.

The RinseKit automatically pressurizes itself when you fill it from a hose or house faucet and it is supposed to maintain its pressure for about a month. The RinseKit+ I bought came with a hand pump (as well as other accessories) that replaces one of the plugs (Like the one on the right) with a pump. This way if for some reason the unit loses pressure I can simply pump it up.

My feeling is now when I open my car door, use the buttons, the steering wheel, etc. I’m not transferring potential viruses to those surfaces. Plus I am now using my RinseKit more often than before. Believe me though I’m looking forward to the day I can hug my friends without worrying or using the kit.

Stay healthy and I hope this helps others who may own one.

14 Mar 2020

Coronavirus 0 – Community 1

The news about the new coronavirus or COVID-19 constantly surrounds us, permeates our thoughts and constantly and insidiously encourages us to fear.  Fear human contact, fear human interaction, fear our normal lives.

Because I photograph the arts – theatre, dance and music, my entire world along with those who I know and cherish has been disrupted like no other time in my memory. The 1963 Kennedy assassination, the AIDS discovery in 1983, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake or September 11 2001 attack.

Businesses were disrupted during those times and rightfully so. But what makes the current climate so different is the fear proliferating in society. Social media as we know it today did not exist in those times. Hoarding of toilet paper or other non-essential items illustrates to me an aspect of humanity for which I’m ashamed. Certainly with any new and unknown virus governments are wise to use an abundance of caution to ensure society is safe. But not to instill fear. Human nature fears all that is unknown.

When society allows fear to supersede all other factors, events like what happened to my own parents and relatives occurs. Place all Japanese American citizens into prison camps (what they termed ‘internment camps’ a bullshit whitewashed name) because of the fear we were all spies and plotting against the United States. FEAR

Today it’s about people avoiding and in some instances being outright hostile to Asians simply because the epidemic began in Wuhan China. FEAR, FEAR and more FEAR can make a nation not only fearful and in the case of COVID-19 isolated. Unlike the prior crises where humans could gather to support, or entertain and soften the blow of a tragedy, the coronavirus and resulting laws prevent those important healing events to occur. Today the answer to ‘stay safe’ is doing all things electronically, something I believe we did too much of even before coronavirus with our “I love me” cell phones.

I believe that precautions should be taken – hand washing (good grief your mother should have taught you that anyway!), sanitation of public places observed, as well as not going to work if you’re ill or suspect you are. But unlike the AIDS epidemic in 1983 which almost certainly meant an ugly and painful death, COVID-19 does not mean the same.  Not even close as outlined by a 42 year old woman who got and recovered from the coronavirus.

So as all theatres were ordered to close their doors due to government regulations – Dan, my local client and close friend who is the Artistic Director for the theatre in my hometown let me know that his current show, “Laughter on the 23rd Floor” was closing before opening night, the night we had planned on attending the show. As he spoke his voice began to crack and his sadness was palpable through the phone.

The comedic timing of this cast is impeccable. The direction by Jeffery Lo is amazing.

After ending the call my partner Tracy said “I’d like to do something for Dan. I can’t donate money to the theatre (we are out of work as a result of all theatres closing), but we can do something else. Let’s film the performance. That way the cast can have all they’ve worked for on film.” So we got in contact with Dan and presented the idea. At first he was unsure of attempting to put on the performance since he had just notified the cast and crew that Opening Night was cancelled as well as the entire run of the show.

Tracy set up and ready to film the performance.

After contacting everyone he let us know that it was a go for Opening Night filming. Tracy then mentioned that we would need an audience to have authenticity in the film with laughter and applause. So Dan then contacted friends and family being careful to keep within the limits of what the government set about limiting public gatherings to 100 or less. As people gathered into the theatre and the cast and crew began their performance I had an epiphany.  I have and still work with many levels of theatres. Some are professional pre-Broadway shops and some community theatres. As tends to be human nature some pre-Broadway company staff members tend to be a bit snooty when referring to other theatres as ‘a community theatre’ the insinuation being a lower level of performance and professionalism. Lower budgets, less skilled talent, blah blah blah. Lower budgets yes, less skilled is like saying all Japanese fellas are quiet and docile….then you have not met me in person!

An Opening Night party which is one I shall always remember. It was the most special one I’ve experienced to date.

My epiphany was realizing that my hometown community theatre put aside fear and allowed us to interact as humans, as common souls. Unlike 9/11, the 89 Quake, the recent Camp Fires where humans support one another by gathering, sharing feelings with eye to eye contact and yes EVEN HUGS, the fear of coronavirus has prevented it. NO ONE at the theatre showed any reticence in exchanging hugs with one another. As a matter of fact, even though theatre folks hug all the time, the ones I gave and received last night were more tight and embraces seemed longer than usual as if we all know that we must band together to endure this crisis. I was never more proud of my community theatre and what it represents in my own life as well as the lives of so many others.

Because it was such a special evening I asked if the audience could be part of the Cast and Crew photo. This is the wonderful result.

I’m NOT naïve enough to think that a small gathering is going to solve everything. Almost everyone in the theatre last night is out of work. Meaning OUT OF WORK, no paid time off, no paid by employer health benefits, etc. That includes me and my partner. The coronavirus crisis has affected everyone, domestically and internationally. But what I learned last night and will forever cherish is this: Human contact, human face to face interaction conquers fear, the true virus of humanity.

10 Mar 2020

Instagram Ads – Cell Phone Holster

Berry Hoo Cell Phone Wallet

Photo in their Instagram ad

I am sometimes (often) reeled in by Instagram ads. Shame on me. To be fair though I have had great luck with many and about a handful where I was disappointed. This is a case of the latter. I had ordered the cell phone holster and never heard a thing for about a month. Then I left a message on their Instagram account and guess what?! Immediate response. I filed a complaint with PayPal over the issue. Granted 31.00 is not a ton of money, but it was the principle of the matter.

The ‘owner’ then wrote to me, his email name is Juli Chic from Berry Hoo. He was very pleasant in his email to me and explained that my holster was shipped and requested I be patient about its arrival. I wrote back to state that unless the item was delivered by the time PayPal allowed me to escalate the case I would take the matter further with them.

On March 9, 2020 I received the leather holster in the mail. The leather is of a nice quality as is the stitching. But the design of the holster is such that if I cinch my belt down enough to hold my pants up (the purpose of a belt right?) it’s impossible to remove or insert my Samsung S10+ into the holster.

My S10+ between my current holster and the Berry Hoo one

The leather is a nice quality but very thin which may be the issue that causes the problem.

Seems fine when the phone is NOT on my belt.

I’m happy to report that the item arrived. I’m sorry that it took filing a claim with PayPal and bitching on Instagram about it. More sorry that the design prevents its usage. Lesson learned.

Here are the two website which seem to sell the same items:

And here is their current Instagram Ad

 

03 Mar 2020

Randomly Wonderful!

If you are at all familiar with my photography blog you know that I have stated I primarily use my camera NOT for photography, but to meet people. I know many of you are thinking “Uh right Mark, I’m calling bullshit” and I wouldn’t blame you. LOL But it’s really true and this story is a prime example.

During a preseason publicity shoot for one of my clients, I met Ciera who was one of their most important BTS employees. But she was perfect for publicity shots as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. So I shot her for that publicity session and over time we became friends.

I OFTEN get this reaction from women….hum….

Then a few years later she called to ask me if I along with my partner would consider photographing her wedding. Now mind you I hate shooting weddings and often refuse, but a number of theatre and dance people I’ve worked with had asked, or rather convinced me to shoot their nuptials. In this case we agreed.

At Ciera’s wedding I got to meet her husband Nick. And just like me he’s a Japanese American! Imagine another JA hooked up to a white woman! LOL!!!! White fellas with Asian women are common, but the other way around not so much! I got to meet Nick’s family and his father who jokingly said “Mark you’re not the typical JA!” Hahahahaha. No I’m not….

And I also got to meet Ciera’s brother Roger who just earned his wings in the US Navy as an aviator! He and I chatted some about the intersection in life we share. My uncle Harvey Kitaoka was the very first Japanese American Naval Aviator. He flew in the Korean War and had over 100 aircraft carrier landings and became part of the elite Century Club. In addition to that he was highly decorated as a USN Aviator.

Many years later my cousin and I have been assembling our family’s history in photographs and stories. He sent me some of my uncle’s naval memorabilia including his patches and certificates. I decided to send photos of them to Roger to ask him some questions we had that he might know the answers to.

And guess what! He knew all about the history of my uncle’s squadron and that squadron is literally right across from his own! Sure it’s information we could have researched, but having someone who is actually a current Naval Aviator is just so cool! Thanks so much Roger!

Roger’s Squadron VFA-151

So yes I photograph to meet people. It’s just a side benefit that I can pay my bills by doing so!

02 Mar 2020

More than just gear

Hi, if you’ve stopped by to read about my latest blog post regarding a specific piece of gear, it’s best to keep moving along. Nope, this post is about all that went into a recent publicity shoot I just completed. A big part of the job is developing the look and feel for a campaign. After viewing some of Annie Leibovitz’s work, my partner and I felt using painted drops for a number of the sessions would create the feeling we wanted. After investigating the cost of hand painted drops she discovered that good ones range anywhere between $1000 to $1800 dollars for a 12×12 foot size. So..

We went to our local theatrical supply store where she purchased the fabric and then it was onto the paint store. In total, two 12x12s, three 8×6 foot drops including the paint and tools came to just over 500 bucks. She plans to use the smaller drops for her headshot business too.

12 oz canvas stapled to the floor and primer applied.

First coat of color.

All done waiting to dry.

We spoke to our client about the concepts and he generously allowed us to use the theatre’s Green Room to paint the drops. We needed space, but just as important a wood floor where the canvases could be stapled to the floor. His Green Room had both. Once done we showed him the mood board we assembled for the concept and it was at that point all of us became very excited. Since it is the theatre’s 80th anniversary season, he wanted something special. So we presented the following concepts for the imagery:

  1. Elegance
  2. Beauty
  3. Emotion

We also presented the idea of including behind the scenes shots of the sessions. EVERYONE including myself loves BTS imagery and film. I still get goosebumps thinking about Game of Thrones BTS film of Beyond the Wall. The client immediately approved the concept so we were off to the races. Logistics is one of the most tedious aspects of any shoot. Scheduling talent, securing the venue, preparing wardrobe, makeup, props is just part of a shoot. I’m consulted on the type of wardrobe, colors, etc. which has nothing to do with the camera or lighting gear I’m using…but…

The type of lighting instruments I plan to use really does depend on the mood, the costumes and the setting for each session. I know so many forum  trolls like to pretend they are skilled in light when they argue about if a modifier is a true parabola or not. Go right ahead and argue about it, but for me and most importantly my clients, how something looks and feels is what matters. And will the imagery evoke enough emotion to initiate a sale, that’s the REAL question.

Overhead light is my Cheetahstand Lantern with a cheap umbrella I cut up for its fabric as a drape. Foreground is my Aputure Spotlight with a window gobo. Phottix Softlighter is on the right as my key light.

Balancing the key light with the gobo light to remove the window pane pattern from her face without overpowering the shadows was tricky….but accomplished.

My Parabolix 35D is my key light here. The Fresnel light on the left was used to remove floor shadows from the Mole Richardson Fresnel spotlight on the right.

All of my publicity imagery is shot with my Pentax 645Z medium format. I do this for two reasons; first there is a feeling of medium format that I just cannot recreate with 35mm. Second clients often use the files for billboards, bus banner, etc. so file size can be a concern. In addition all strobes are Flashpoint 600s or 200s. Modifiers….well that’s a different story.

Sure I use focusing rod modifiers most of the time, but when those are not the right tools for the job at hand I often improvise. Like using a Cheetahstand Lantern with a cut up cheap umbrella fabric as a drape held with wooden clothespins to control spill. Or a 1965 Mole Richardson 412 Fresnel spotlight converted into a strobe.  Some of my gear is used like the OEM intended yet with other modifier instruments; well I’ve just adapted them to my needs.

The client looks over my shots in real time on my iPad so he knows when we’ve achieved the shot and can move on.

My whole point of this post is to highlight creativity, planning and imagination in developing imagery. Do what is right for you or for you and your client. Don’t be afraid to try things that work for you. Stay away from the naysayers, how many times have you seen their body of work beyond shitty ‘test shots’ anyway? Crickets? Exactly my point!

15 Feb 2020

Flashpoint FV150 – Hybrid LED/Flash Combo – 2-15-20

February 15 2020

My photography partner and I have been creating hand painted backdrops for ourselves. So it was a perfect time to use the incredibly bright constant LED light and then do a quick test of the strobe feature to see how the backdrop looks in an actual photo.

The lighting in the room where the backdrops were painted is awful! So having the FV150 turned up to 100% and modified through a lantern softbox was perfect!

Nighttime with the FV150 LED at 100% through a lantern modifier. As a reference the backdrops are 10’x9′ in size.

This is the scene before using the FV150 during the daytime with the door and windows open.

Nighttime with the FV150 LED at 100% through a lantern modifier. Just before doing some test shots in strobe mode.

Here are some quick test shots of actors and the director who just happened to be working in the theatre that day. So during a break I grabbed them for some quick shots using the strobe feature of the FV150. The modifier I used was a Glow 41″ EZ Lock Deep Umbrella. I just grabbed what was convenient before heading over to do the job. Pentax 645Z with my 45-85mm f4.5 lens.

1/80th f5.6 ISO 400. FV150 at 1/2 power

1/80th f5.6 ISO 400. FV150 at 1/2 power

1/80th f5.6 ISO 400. FV150 at 1/2 power

Again the FV150’s strobe feature does not rival a normal bulb strobe. BUT the possibilities of its uses are endless and I have yet to even scratch the surface of what I can do creatively with this light. Stay tuned.

January 27 2020

Today I was able to test the FV150 on a human! LOL

Jenn was here for a headshot and I talked her into indulging me with a test of the FV in both LED and strobe mode. I used the CLAR Slim 10″ Round Bi-Color LED as a hair rim light. Key light modifier was my Parabolix 35D with the FV150 in mid focused position. Modifier was camera right 4 feet from Jenn pointed completely away from her face. This is my normal configuration when using that modifier. Camera is my Pentax 645Z.

Here you can see the FV150 in mid focused position in the Parabolix 35D

So this was a two light shot test of constant lights. I’m NOT accustomed to using constant lights and for a time it felt a bit like well, cheating. WYSIWYG 

Shot #1 ISO 160 1/80th shutter speed, f2.8 Constant Light LED mode, 70% power

Shot #2 ISO 160 1/80th shutter speed, f2.8 Constant Light LED mode, 70% power

Shot #3 ISO 100 1/80th shutter speed, f2.8 Strobe mode, 50% power

I’m just about ready to put the FV150 into production after one more test. It’s a remarkable tool for the right job.

January 21 2020

I wanted to test several more aspects of this light. First if I can effectively use it in my focusing rod modifiers. Second to test the use of my Aputure Spotlight for gobos with the flash feature and then with the constant light feature.

Here is my initial setup. I am using the Chopstick Reflective Focusing System MKII. I have found this to be the best general focusing rod for my use. Versatile, well made and very sturdy. At 160.00 USD a very good value. For all of the  following images I used one of my favorite modifiers, an Elinchrom 39″ Rotalux Deep Octabox which I use with and without the focusing rod.

Camera is the Pentax 645Z using a 45-85mm f4.5 lens.

This first shot is when the FV150 is full flooded in the modifier

Very impressive that the Cheetahstand focusing rod does NOT bow under the weight of 7.2 pounds even when extended.

1/125th shutter speed, f4.5 ISO 200 FV150 at full power

Fully flooded 1/125th f4.5 ISO 200 full power strobe.

Setup for my fully focused test shot.

Fully focused 1/125th f4.5 ISO 200 full power strobe.

The FV150 in strobe mode projects the same quality of light characteristic as my bulb strobes with a focusing rod.

Next was using my Aputure Spotlight with the FV150 alone without my Saberstrip v2.0 turned on for fill.

1/400th which is HSS for a Pentax 645Z (1/125th is normal sync speed) f4.5, FV150 strobe set to full power ISO 200

Set up for the strip of light shot.

1/400th which is HSS for a Pentax 645Z (1/125th is normal sync speed) f4.5, FV150 strobe set to full power ISO 200. With the Saberstrip for fill set to 1/128th power

Testing various gobos with the Aputure Spotlight and the FV150 set to full power in strobe mode.

1/400th which is HSS for a Pentax 645Z (1/125th is normal sync speed) f4.5, FV150 strobe set to full power ISO 200

1/400th which is HSS for a Pentax 645Z (1/125th is normal sync speed) f4.5, FV150 strobe set to full power ISO 200

1/400th which is HSS for a Pentax 645Z (1/125th is normal sync speed) f4.5, FV150 strobe set to full power ISO 200

Next I wanted to test using the FV150 as a strobe and compare it to using the LED constant light mode through a gobo and the Aputure.

1/400th f4.5, FV150 strobe set to full power constant light ISO 200

1/400th f4.5, FV150 strobe set to full power strobe mode ISO 200

So as I go about this and more testing I’m finding that like all things you don’t get something for nothing. I have been using battery powered and remote head conversion strobes for the past three years. Moving back to an AC only plug in system seems to be a bit of a pain. BUT the versatility of combining a powerful constant light AND a usable strobe in one light takes the sting out of an AC only light. I’d only tend to use this in studio, not because of the AC only aspect since I can use a generator or inverter out in the field. Nope it’s because the strobe is not strong enough to overpower the sun. At least in my view at this point even though I have not tested it in full sun.

One of my lighting mentors has been using constant LED lights outdoors so I will try this as well. One thing is so apparent to me right now; LED lights are the future of lighting, at least to me.

January 17 2020

Seriously?! OK so I just had to test HSS with my Canon 1DXII shooting 14 frames per second just to see the performance in HSS…..

How I set up Bob for the test. Glow octa with both diffusion panels installed.

FV150 set at 1/4 power, ISO 800 f2.8 1/320th shutter speed.

FV150 set to full power 1:1 ISO 500 1/400th shutter speed.

No matter how long I kept the shutter depressed, NOT ONE MISFIRE OR SKIP in the flash mode! Holy crap. More testing needs to be done of course, but so far my mind is exploding with the new possibilities of this light. A constant LED AND strobe with this kind of performance? Holy shit man!

January 13 2020

I recently received and am testing what I consider to be a very exciting light the Flashpoint FV150 Hybrid R2 Continuous LED Light and HSS Flash (Godox FV150). Please note that this post is only my initial examination and testing of this light. Because I am in the height of my shooting season I have little time to fully test this light until later in the month. BUT I was SO INTRIGUED by its possibilities I sandwiched my initial evaluation between client sessions. For me this new instrument’s possibilities are mind bending!

Right off the bat a huge plus for this unit is its ability to natively attach to my Aputure Spotlight without my DIY adapter. For anyone who has tried to mount an AD600/400/etc. to the Aputure, you know that the bulb fouls against the inner lens of the Aputure unit. Not so with the FV150 since it is a flat LED light. SCORE! Plus I can now use the Aputure/FV150 combination in video with gobos. Excellent!

Yup the FV150 attaches natively to the Aputure Spotlight, no adapter needed. And man is it bright in LED mode too!

The LED unit with the supplied 7″ cone which I used in my power testing.

The rear of the unit in LED constant light mode. It’s supplied with a remote control to change the settings while in constant light mode.

The light in ‘strobe’ mode. The lowest setting for the strobe is 1/8th power.

So here are my power test results:

I have several Westcott Skylux LED lights so I tested the FV150 against them. As you can see the FV150 is twice the brightness of the Skylux. For the strobe test I compared the FV150 to the Flashpoint XPLOR 600 HSS TTL Battery-Powered Monolight. It’s safe to say that the FV150 is about 25% the power of the 600. So in my testing I’d place it in the 150WS category.

There are a TON of features in this light I have not even examined. I will just say that my mind is exploding with concepts that I may be able to accomplish with this light that would have been much more difficult in the past to perform. For those that are thinking “Gosh isn’t this just a low powered, plug in strobe with a fancy modeling light?” I’d suggest you move along…..

For those who may see new possibilities, stay tuned – MUCH more to follow!

11 Feb 2020

Fabricating a Fresnel w/gobo for a strobe – UPDATE February 11 2020

UPDATE February 11 2020

I wanted to update this post to link to the Photogenic Pattern Maker which is the very same unit that I have which was discontinued. Brooke, a visitor to my site, mentioned in a comment that HE recently purchased the item. Thanks Brooke!

UPDATE April 22 2018

I recently used this unit during a session with a Fresnel. It can be found here.

UPDATE April 18 2018

I recently tested the Flashpoint xPLOR600 Pro on location using my gobo device for an upcoming session. Because of the Pro’s excellent modeling light I was able to see exactly where the pattern falls even in bright daylight. Plus the LED modeling light does not generate enough heat to affect the plastic Fresnel lenses in the unit.

Light pattern was created with a Rosco gobo titled “Construction.”

UPDATE March 25 2018

I decided to update this post even though the two gobo modifiers I use are sadly no longer available. The first unit I’m talking about is the SP Image Projector. It uses Rosco size B metal gobos. When it was available it was very inexpensive as well as very effective. I’m updating this post to say that I’ve adapted it to accept any Bowens strobe since I’ve switched from PCB Einsteins to Godox/xPLOR600 units. I also needed to have the ability to rotate the gobo holder so that I can angle the unit to suit my needs. When I was using the PCB strobes Paul’s mounting system allowed me to rotate the unit when attached to an Einstein. Not so with a Bowens mount so I simply used an older Bowens speed ring which allows me to rotate the SP Image Projector. 

My DIY mount to allow the use of Bowens strobe units. The thumbscrew allows me to rotate the gobo unit.

Rosco Size B window gobo. The heat from a theatrical follow spot caused the discoloration. I bought my gobos used.

I can rotate the SP unit at will to suit the mood or scene.

Keeping the gobo level in this test shot.

The SP Image Projector which sadly is no longer available.

I have used the SP Image Projector along with an appropriate gobo in many a commercial shoot. This was to portray Lee Harvey Oswald in the play “Assassins”

I used the SP Image Projector along with a jailhouse door gobo in a commercial shoot. This was to portray a convicted felon in prison in the play “Assassins”

The Bowens Universal Spot Attachment is yet another gobo strobe modifier that is no longer available. It uses the smaller Rosco M size gobos. What was so nice about this unit is that there is no fabricating to use it on a Bowens mount strobe.

For my project “Tango in the Mohave” I used the Bowens Spot Attachment with a cathedral window gobo paired with the Flashpoint Portable 1200ws Extension Head. Remarkable combination. Funny back story, when Eva, the dancer in this photo saw it on my iPad during the session she asked “Mark, where is the window? I didn’t see it when you were taking this photo.” LOL so cute!!!

Apparently both of these gobo modifiers were not popular enough for each manufacturer to continue producing them. Sad. I know that there are companies who make gobo projectors for speedlights so all is not lost if you want to use one. Before I found any of these unit I converted a Leko 1000w tungsten theatrical follow spot into a strobe gobo modifier. I wrote a post about this crazy idea and will be converting it to accept a Bowens mount. Yeah it’s damn heavy, but produces the best light to date for gobo use paired with my 1200ws head. Just kinda impossible to take on an airplane! LOL!

Yeah it’s crazy as shit, but when you’re motivated and you want something, well….

UPDATE: August 4 2015

_PEN7955-Edit

One of the great advantages of having a portable gobo/strobe combination is the ability to use patterns of light outside of a studio environment. Recently I wanted to create the illusion of a window on a painted concrete wall located in a parking structure. I loved the texture the wall provided so I simply took my gobo device, one Einstein strobe hooked to a Vagabond Mini Lithium battery. An incredible little combination for on location light pattern needs.

Original Article

For years I have hauled around a full size stage follow spot just so I could use gobos in special photo shoot sessions. For anyone who knows me I seldom complain, it’s just how I was raised. But I will say that on a CONSISTENT basis my primary bitch is lugging gear. I hate it, I literally hate lifting, hauling and dragging gear to and from the airport, onto the car rental shuttle, into the rental counter, into the car, into the hotel, back out of the hotel into the car and then into the client’s venue. And then all of that in reverse. Get the picture? Assistants? Sure, but not on every assignment….

My SP unit with a multi circle Rosco B gobo as an accent light shot with an Einstein strobe with haze in the air. Key light is an Einstein camera left shot through a PCB Extreme silver PLM.

(more…)

27 Jan 2020

CLAR Slim 10″ Round Bi-Color LED Studio Light – Update January 27 2020

Update January 27 2020

I recently used the CLAR as a hair/rim light in my review of the Flashpoint FV150

November 21 2019    

It’s amazing how technology has impacted the design and pricing of LED lighting. The CLAR Slim is no exception. I work primarily with strobes, but have had the chance to use this constant light with my partner who is a filmmaker. Although I cannot show the final product I can give some initial impressions prior to releasing the video. First off the light is very light in terms of weight. And the output is both even and easily adjustable.

Although I do not own a color temperature meter I will say that the ability to adjust the Kelvin temp of the light is a godsend. Rather than using gels the ability to adjust from daylight to tungsten is extremely convenient. I happen to own several NP F-type batteries and at 50% power levels they last approximately 50 minutes. At 100% they only last approximately 15 minutes. Keep in mind the batteries I tested are only 2200mah units.

The controls on the rear of the unit function well and are very easily adjusted. I have not yet tested the remote features of the CLAR which will be in a subsequent addition to this post. For 149.00 and the ability to use it with battery power it’s a bargain in my book. Stay tuned….

Used as a fill and rim light for this situation.

22 Jan 2020

Aputure Fresnel Lens Updated January 22 2020

Updated January 22 2020

Two factors motivated me to update this post. First on June 22 2018, a visitor to this page, “Moreno” stated the following:

“Have you tried the fresnel with a single AD200 in the dual bracket? You might find the following interesting. I measured the output at full zoom with both the AD200 and AD600 Pro, with each set to full power. Based on the power of each flash, you’d expect the AD600 Pro to measure about 1.5 stops more output than the AD200. That wasn’t the case, the AD200 was actually a full stop brighter than the AD600 Pro. And the AD200 light pattern was clean, without the horseshoe pattern of the AD600 Pro.”

Secondly someone had written to me privately to ask if the V2.0 Aputure Fresnel fits against an AD600. Since I don’t own a V2.0 version I could not answer based on my own experience. I never answer private emails simply because I get repetitive questions which do not happen if questions are posted on my blog.

So here are my own test results using one of the Aputure v1.0 units I own and are reviewed below this update:

 

I can only surmise that since Fresnel lenses were originally designed for a bare bulb with a reflector, the frosted front blub on the 600 Pro glass suffers in terms of power from the bulb design. Also in my tests I did NOT find that the AD200 to be more powerful than the Flashpoint 600, yet like Moreno’s findings more powerful than the 600 Pro, but only in the fully focused position. In the fully flooded position my findings were the 600 Pro to be more powerful then the AD200 using the bare bulb. The AD200 with the round head attachment proved to be more powerful in both focused and flooded positions than the 600 Pro. I did not nor do I plan to test the AD200 with the OEM Fresnel head.

The use of the AD200’s optional Roundhead is impressive. I can only assume that it is a result of all the light thrown forward rather than scattered inside the modifier. I feel that the round head configuration mimics a classic Fresnel light source, a bare bulb with a reflector behind it. In testing of my K5600 Big Eye Fresnel I found that a shiny reflector placed behind the bare bulb of either my AD200 or AD600 improved the power of the light which is the classic configuration of lighthouses as well as K5600’s line of Joker constant lights.

UPDATE August 6 2019

I have continued to utilize these modifiers in many different situations. They are very versatile especially in wind. In the past I had relied on PCB Omni reflectors, but find that these modifiers work better for my needs. The ability to focus or flood the modifier is very convenient. This unit is no longer made and has been replaced by the 2X version. I have not tried that one. I’ve been helping a British retailer engage women in the new EV motorcycle space so I asked a friend who is also a racer to ride my bike to take some photos. Most if not all photos of women in/near/on a motorcycle cater to men. Bikinis, tight jeans, mini skirts, you name it. I wanted to create imagery that appeals to women….

These were all shot later in the day using a Flashpoint 600 strobe. Pentax 645Z at 1/1000th with varying f stops. My goal was to have the shots not appear lit, but still have high production value. Most of these shots were with the Aputure fully flooded. The exception is the last shot where I focused the Fresnel on Kathy’s face.

UPDATE April 19 2018

Recently I have favored Fresnel lighting for my on location outdoor sessions. The flexibility of the Fresnel’s ability to focus its beam, it’s matching light quality to sunlight and the stability of the modifier in high wind makes it a winner for my work. The other aspect of my work I’ve been trying to improve is the ability to make a lit scene not look lit. It takes much more finesse to light any scene as if it is just natural light, but with a high production look. Still much more to learn, but the Aputure Fresnel is a remarkable tool. My strobe of choice for this session was the Flashpoint xPLOR600 Pro.

This is how the location looks in natural light.

Just using enough fill from the Fresnel so as not to cast a strobe shadow takes practice. 1/320th f4.5

By far the most difficult lighting balance on that day was this shot. To not overpower the ambient light, cast any strobe shadows and yet fill in the talent took some effort. 1/250th f3.5

1/250 f3.5

1/500th f2.8

UPDATE February 25 2018

I’ve written an on location post where I’ve utilized an Aputure head.

UPDATE January 26 2018

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.

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.

12 Jan 2020

Aputure Spotlight Mount Set – Updated January 13 2020

Update January 13 2020

I am now testing a LED/Strobe combination that attaches natively to the Aputure Spotlight without an DIY adapter.

Update December 8 2019

I was able to use the Aputure instrument during a publicity image session for Little Shop of Horrors adding a green gel to the light. 

Updated November 18 2019

Unless I come across a different way to use this instrument other than what I’ve posted to date this will be my last entry. I will simply say that it is a remarkable device especially considering its price point. The ability to change lenses is really useful for my work.

Again, mine uses the 36 degree lens. Once Aputure releases a 50 degree I’ll purchase that one as well.

Updated October 22 2019

I wanted to update this post to say how pleased I have been with the Spotlight. In most cases I am shooting in confined spaces where a narrow beam makes the use of a gobo light impractical. I recently shot a dance session and due to the 36 degree lens on the Spotlight I was easily able to use the lighting instrument. The funny part is the dancers and teacher wanted to know“What Mark is going to do with that bazooka thing?!” LOL it does kinda look like a bazooka! But once they saw the images appear on the tethered iPad everyone wanted to be lit with the device.

In the images that follow the key light was the Aputure Spotlight with an industrial window gobo. But I also added an overhead light, my beloved Saberstrip v2.0 to add fill light to the shadows. Without the fill areas in the dark portion of the gobo were almost completely black.

The Aputure Spotlight’s construction, switchable lenses and lack of fringing make this instrument extremely valuable for my work.

Updated October 12 2019

I have had the opportunity to test this instrument before placing it into my workflow. It performed flawlessly and with the 36 degree lens I am able to keep the device in close proximity to the area I am illuminating with a gobo. This is especially valuable for me since I seldom have a large distance between where I need the light to appear and where I can place the device. Well worth the money for this type of quality and versatility. 

The Spotlight was positioned in front of the bed approximately 9 feet from the wall. Its position in this photo is just staged and is not the actual position for the shot on the bed.

The Spotlight is used as the key light in this shot.

The Spotlight is used only as a gobo light in this image. My K5600 Big Eye Fresnel was the key light.

Original Post September 26 2019

This initial post is about my findings of the physical characteristics of the unit, not its actual use at this point in time. For anyone who has followed my blog it’s pretty apparent that I like to use gobos to create shots when it’s the right tool for the right job.

I’ve gone through all sorts of iterations to fabricate, modify, adapt modifier tools that aren’t really meant for still strobe photography. The Aputure Spotlight Mount Set is really no exception. I was very excited about purchasing the unit for these reasons:

  • Native Bowens mount
  • A choice of three lenses of different focal lengths
  • It uses B sized gobos
  • An optional adjustable iris
  • A nice padded case
  1. The unit is made for the Aputure LED constant light film industry, but I ‘thought’ it would be a plug and play affair since it uses the Bowens attachment system. More on that later. I’ve used my converted Leko spotlight enough to know that in cramped spaces a wider lens would be optimum. So I ordered the 36 degree lens and if I need tighter focal lengths they are available for around 259.00.
  2. B sized gobos are the standard in most theatres. So I can borrow some if needed. My other now discontinued Bowens projector uses smaller M sized gobos.
  3. Aputure makes a very cool optional adjustable iris for the unit which I purchased. I plan to use this for upcoming sessions. I’ve never had an adjustable iris option on a spot projector.
  4. Although the case that comes with the unit is not ATA rated, it is well done and protective.

And last but certainly not least is the Leko stage follow spot I converted cannot be replaced. So if it’s stolen or more likely lost during airline transport I’d be sunk. 

OK so let’s start off with why the unit is NOT plug and play for my Flashpoint or Godox strobes. I could not see in any of the online photos or specifications the distance between the Bowens mount and the first lens in the unit. (there are two) Using any of my Flashpoint or Godox strobes inserted into the unit cause the bulb to foul against the first lens…no bueno! So I had to fabricate (what else is new in my world LOL) a female to male Bowens adapter. Now any of my lights, the 600s the 600 Pro, the 200s the 200s with the circular head all fit! YAY!!!

The Spotlight is made for LED constant lights so the distance from mount to lens is too short for strobe bulbs.

My DIY Bowens mount extender resolved this issue. IF my Spotlight is lost I only have to make another mount, so I’m no longer worried.

Sorry for the shitty photo (bad photographer!) but I wanted to illustrate that the baby pin connector allows for a shorter or longer spigot. Very cool. Just be sure to mount the thumb turn into the upper hole when placing the unit back into the carry case. The foam is cut for the thumb screw to be in the upper hole or it won’t properly fit.

WTF is with my blurry shots! Oh well

I found a much easier way to fabricate a Bowens male/female extender. Here is what I use:

I cut the Protection cover about 1/75 inches from the Bowens male flange. (Cutting off the top of the cover) I then slide the open end into the Nicefoto mount and screw it down. All done for $18.00 USD!

Unit with my extender attached to the unit. The distance between the top blade and the gobo slot is closer than any spotlight I’ve seen. What this means is the focal point of the two will allow the gobo and blades to interact with very little fringing. The ONLY downside I see it it’s tough to remove the gobo holder because the top blade is so close. That’s complete princess bitching though!

Below I am showing how versatile the unit is in using ANY of my Godox/Flashpoint strobes:

600 with the remote head.

A single 200 with the round head attachment using an S bracket mount.

The 200 round head attachment and the Pro 600 modeling lights produce the most accurate gobo modeling lights in my tests.

Flashpoint eVOLV Dual Power Twin Head with Bowens Mount. Two 200s with two bulbs.

Just a test shot. It’s great how the 36 degree lens can be so close. Rumor has it Aputure is producing at 50 degree lens too.

Gobo holder and adjustable iris. The case has a little slot for the iris.

The gel holder is included. The design is very slick since the button on the top releases the tab that secures the gel holder in place. Well done.

There are two slots for gel holders. (you’d have to purchase a second gel holder btw) Forward thinking on Aputure’s part.

This is the case and NO it does not come with all of those Fragile stickers! My plan is to use a strap around the case during transport since the two latches can come undone.

Interior cutouts are well placed.

So far I am VERY impressed with the build quality and optics of the system. I have no doubt it will work very well in my work. As I use it I will continue to update this post. Aputure if you’re reading this, making a strobe adapter will make us still photo guys very happy and my increase your market too!

03 Jan 2020

Goal Zero Yeti 200X

I’ve owned a Goal Zero Yeti 1000 since June of 2018. You can read about my thoughts on that unit here. I purchased the Yeti 1000 from Costco back then for $999.00 and have never regretted my purchase. Since I found GZ products so well done when I noticed they had made a much smaller version, the Goal Zero Yeti 200X I decided to purchase one for a trip I was taking during the 2019 Christmas week to Joshua Tree National Forest. I wanted to use it to charge my electronic devices which included my cell phone, my camera batteries, my instant hot water heater and my CPAP machine.

Because this trip was during the winter and in addition was a very unusual December for JT with both snow and higher than normal rain, I opted to take my gas generator rather than my solar panels.

Goal Zero Yeti 200X being test charged from my solar array at home as it sits atop my Yeti 1000

The unit was released in the Fall of 2019 so as of this writing there are not many hands on reviews. You can read all about the GZ200x on the GZ site for specs.

Each day I charged the unit to 100% before beginning to use it on my devices. They included:

ResMed AirMini CPAP

Costway Tankless Water Heater

After running all of these devices during the day and charging or using them during the evening the 200x would have between 26 to 31 percent charge left in the morning. Keep in mind that I use my CPAP during the evening between 7 to 9 hours. The 200x performed flawlessly and I’m currently in the process of testing recharging it using a Jackery 100W solar panel and will post my findings later here on this blog.

I am just a bit confused that GZ has conflicting information posted on their site and user manual. Their site lists the controller as a MPPT, but the User Guide list it as a PWM controller. If you are interested in the difference between MPPT and PWM you can read about it here. I’m really hoping it’s MPPT as advertised on their site and wrote to GZ to ask, but have not heard back. Once I do I will update this post.

GZ’s website specifications for the 200x

User’s Guide for the 200x

The Costway Water Heater only uses a 12v connection to pump water from the 5 gallon bucket I use through the heating unit to the shower head. The water is heated by propane, not electricity so there is very little wattage draw from the water heater.

The only other ‘issue‘ I found is there are many sites on the web that state the 200x will charge in only two hours from dead using the USB C input as long as it uses a 45W charging source. I call BS on that since I tested it and it did NOT charge in 2 hours from fully dead. I even purchased a 87W USB C Charger Power Adapter which charged the unit in 3.25 hours NOT two hours as stated. With the included AC adapter the 200x charged in 4 hours from fully dead, as advertised in their literature.

From the GZ website.

So the question is would I buy this 300 buck battery with inverter again? Oh yes, no question. The fact that is so compact and only five pounds, powers so many of my devices while camping is wonderful. Will I have to carry a gas generator to keep this thing topped off? Only time will tell after I actually test my 100W solar panel in good sun. More to come so stay tuned….

Hey I’m a photographer so I thought I’d post some of the shots I took in Joshua Tree. For me nature shooting is my form of ‘fishing’ meaning complete relaxation!

Infrared shots

Night Shooting under the stars. (The ONLY night that it was not overcast.)

20 Dec 2019

Glow GRIPLITE X S-Type Bracket

The old and the new. The new Glow GRIPLITE X S-Type Bracket Pro on the left and the older Glow S-type Bowens Mount Bracket on the right. The physical differences are obvious. The improvements are not only welcome, but functional as well.

The trusty Bowens S Bracket. I’ve used them for ages. Bullet proof and reliable. My only gripes had been the terrible ratchet system which feels like dinosaur teeth grinding against bone. Having to cut the little rubber bumper on the top of the screw down mount to get an AD200 to fit. And the fact the pivot handle often fouls the modifier I’m using. Ugh. But other than those minor bitch points, it’s a nice device.

So when I received the Glow Griplite X S Type Bracket I didn’t really expect much for an additional three bucks. But I immediately noticed the much larger opening of the unit and the longer handle. You see in the past I had fabricated a handle for my tried and true S Bracket so that either I or an assistant could hold the thing with a strobe and modifier attached. In its OEM form the small light stand bracket was much too small to hold effectively. But the new handle on the Glow X is well made and just the right size. And the finger grips are a very welcome addition.

And as I examined it more one of the most welcomed changes is the smoothness of the pivot ratchet! It is SO MUCH MORE SMOOTH than the original. Fine adjustments can be made easily. So below I have outlined the subtle but oh so welcome changes to the new bracket.

In the following images you can see just how much larger the opening and shape of the strobe holder is compared to the older model.

Older model.

New model.

I am now able to leave the Flashpoint Silicone Skin and Bumper attached to the strobe when inserting them into the new X Bracket. (Skin review coming soon.)

No way to fit it with the skin attached to the older bracket. (I’ve tried….)

In the past I’ve had to cut a portion of the older S Bracket’s upper rubber bumper mount so that it would extend just a tad to allow me to fit an AD200 into the unit.

Although the Bowens release lever on the older unit worked well, I prefer the new version. Easier on the fingers too.

The new X version has a very effective textured rubber pad on the top. Much nicer than the older model.

And here is something that in my view is a huge improvement. Because the handle on the older version was large, when I had a wide modifier on the unit the handle would foul on the modifier. Not so with the new unit. And yes I can crank it down to assure that the modifier does not move. Plus it seems to take less tension to hold in place.

So am I going to replace all of my older S Brackets….well yes, yes I am. The improvements to the new unit may ‘seem‘ small, but in my world the cost savings in time and cussing level is well worth the three buck difference. But hey everyone is different! Thanks for improving on what was already a bullet proof tool. Now it’s just even better.

09 Dec 2019

Parabolix 35D – UPDATE December 9 2019

UPDATE December 9 2019

The Parabolix 35D’s quality of light combined with its focusing ability is just superb. I use the optional grid system when I want to control the light spread when using another gobo instrument.

For the shot of the three actresses the Parabolix was the key light.

The talent waiting for me to get ready.

Five light shot with the Parabolix as the key light camera left. Mid focused.

Parabolix fully focused with grid in place.

Haze to create atmosphere, back lit, Parabolix fully focused with grid camera right.

L to R: Saberstrip, Aputure Spotlight (gobo) Parabolix 35D, Glow curved ARC softbox.

UPDATE September 20 2019

I recently utilized this very capable modifier during a dance session along with an impromptu portrait. As I’ve mentioned before the modifier is well built and most important produces excellent quality of light. I tend to not use it as much as before simply because I have fabricated my own focusing rod that accepts any Bowens modifier. And btw for those who wish to spend time arguing about whether this or that modifier is ‘truly a parabola’ be my guest. My test of light is how it performs for me in actual shoots, not in theory.

But like all of my tools, when the Parabolix is the right tool for the right job I never hesitate to utilize it.

Parabolix as the key light, camera right. Two Saberstrip v2.0s were used as an overhead and rim light

Parabolix as the key light, camera right. Two Saberstrip v2.0s were used as an overhead and rim light

My converted Leko stage follow spot is the key light here. The Parabolix is my fill light camera right.

UPDATE January 10 2018

I recently used the 35D during a publicity shoot for a symphony. The amount of control focusing rod modifiers offer is incredible. Not to mention the goddess light it produces.

35D as the key light fully flooded. Cheetahstand Ricebowl 90 with inner diffusion panel only and grid as rim light.

Side view fully flooded. xPLOR600 with remote head is the strobe.

Image of the harpist.

UPDATE December 24 2017

How one of my clients used a publicity image created while using a 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.

27 Nov 2019

Saberstrip – An extinct modifier – Update November 27 2019

November 27 2019

I am very sad to report that I can no longer recommend the SaberStrip v2.0. I have attempted to contact Scott the owner of SaberStrip to no avail. Not even a peep. My feeling is ignoring an email or Instagram message is not acceptable or polite. A visitor to this site had written to me since he had ordered a v1.0 SS and never heard back…until he asked for a refund. That was promptly answered.

Sad since it’s a great modifier, but when something cannot be purchased it becomes vaporware. When I find an alternative I will post it to my blog.

January 13 2019

I continue to be absolutely amazed at the flexibility and versatility of the v2.0 Saberstrips. As of this writing I do know that Scott has not yet offered these for sale to the general public. The reason I continue to post my findings here is in hopes of motivating some of you to contact him to ‘hurry him along‘ in the sale of these modifiers. In addition to dance, their form factor and quality of light make them invaluable in my tool kit. Seriously – combined with the AD200 strobes I feel they are a revolution in modifiers. Here are just a few of the in studio dance imagery created using these lights.

An AD200 is the strobe.

My general configuration of the v2.0 Saberstrips for this session. The converted Fresnel and the 69″ Elinchrom I have converted to a focusing rod modifier are actually used for FILL, not as key lights for this dance session.

  

Update November 19 2018

I continue to be so impressed how using two v2.0 Saberstrips can produce the light I so love which could only be created with a ring light. But the huge difference is since the lights are NOT attached to the camera, I can use a long lens, yet keep the lighting near the talent. This was taken with a Canon EF 85mm f1.2 lens. The versatility of these modifiers is incredible.

Not to mention my use of them in dance imagery creation.

Several of you have written to me asking when Scott will release these modifiers. I highly suggest you write to him on his website to ask. I continue to encourage him to release these modifiers.

Update October 14 2018

I recently conducted a studio dance session using three Saberstrip v2.0s combined with a Mole Richardson Fresnel spotlight I have converted to a strobe. I continue to be so amazed and impressed by the versatility and light quality of the second generation Saberstrips. As I’ve stated before I’m just scratching the surface of what can be accomplished with these remarkable lighting tools.

My general placement of the SS’s for the dance session. I am able to control on/off levels using my R2 controller. The ability to place the hair/rim light so close to the ceiling is remarkable.

Here you can see my general placement of the Fresnel spotlight which has been converted to a strobe which uses a Flashpoint 1200ws head.

Each of these images were created using a combination of Fresnel/Saberstrip light modifiers. 

Update September 17 2018

Yesterday I conducted an all day dance session. I found that utilizing three v2.0 Saberstrips with 3 Flashpoint AD200s produced remarkable light for studio dance. Rim lights, using two Saberstrips and one overhead light produced the exact mood I was trying to achieve. Seriously this combination is incredible for my dance work.

How I configured the Saberstrips for the dance session.

The results…

Update August 1 2018

I recently used the v2 Saberstrips in on location sessions in Seattle. Man I could not have done it without them! You can read about it here.

I have also completed a publicity shoot using two Saberstrips for a West Side Story publicity image as shown below.

Two v2 Saberstrips in parallel to the ground. I just love the look of this light configuration.

Original Post

Like most other folks and way before I began shooting as a full time pro, I had a day job. It was during this time I discovered a very unique light modifier called the SaberStrip. What was so intriguing to me is its shape and the quality of light it produces. I was a bit suspicious when I first received my Strip because it seemed like ‘just a high quality shipping tube’ with some rip stop nylon as the modifier’s cover. Also this was back in the day when I was almost exclusively using speed lights, but had two PCB Einsteins for my ‘studio work.’ And this was well before the advent of built in radio receivers in speed lights, so I had to use a pigtail cable connected to my speed light inside the tube to attach it to the Phottix Transmission receiver I was using at the time. A bit of a hassle, but it was the only thing that existed at the time, which was ‘high tech’ for that era.

Although I loved the quality of light it produced, for me the power or rather lack of power of the speed light relegated the Strip to my closet. I tried to fabricate my own ‘Strip’ for my Einsteins, but found out it was not as easy as I thought. So I basically gave up and moved on to other things.

In 2013 I decided to create a series of images about the hands of artists which included both performing as well as creating artists. Since I wanted to shoot the talent in their natural environments I found that all of my ‘normal’ modifiers would not work well due to space. In some cases I had literally 10 inches or less to place a light and modifier to light the talent! So as I was rummaging through my gear closet I happened upon my Strip that I had doomed to its lonely existence in the back of my modifier closet. Eureka! That’s the perfect tool for this job and since most of the venues I was shooting in were very small I would not need a ton of light power so my speed light would do just fine.

By happenstance the Director of the Peninsula Museum of Art saw one of my images and asked to see the rest. She then asked if I’d consider having a solo exhibit at the museum the following year. I politely told her no and when she inquired as to the reason for my decision I simply replied “I don’t think my work is good enough for a museum and I think it would be very narcissist to do that.” She simply smiled and said OK. Later one of the artist I know mentioned that he had heard I was offered a solo museum exhibit but turned it down. Werner asked me if I ever go to museum exhibits to which I responded “Why yes, I love going, why?” His response was typical Werner, direct and to the point; “Well quit being so fucking selfish and let others enjoy and be inspired by what you’ve created Mark!” I’m seldom if ever at a loss for words but I had nothing to say. So I contacted the Director and agreed to display my work which I titled “29 Hands, 15 Artists.” With the exception of one of the images, all were lit with my Strip and a speed light.

Fast forward to today, 2018 and I was made aware of SaberStrip’s v2.0 version of the Strip which accepts an eVOLV200! In March 2018 I was shipped two advanced copies of the modifiers to test to see if I could offer any feedback. Here’s what I’ve found so far:

The 200 is inserted into the bottom of the modifier through what I call the “Tractor Tire” the designer fabricated it to attach the 200. I believe his design is to offer strength to the mount. I simply like to think he liked Tonka Trucks as a kid! The knurled knob on the left in this photo is the turning knob that screws the 200 in place. The other nice design feature is you can eject the battery of the 200 without removing it from the modifier, a very thoughtful design element.

Sorry for the shitty camera phone blurry image. The red thing you see at the top of this shot indicates that the screw is NOT attached to the 200 which is a very nice feature. One of the things that I found to be a design issue, it’s very easy to over tighten the screw. There’s no need to do so because it makes it VERY difficult to unscrew the unit from the mount. I learned the hard way and had to use a screwdriver and hammer to loosen the screw.

It’s also not possible to let the eVOLV slide down into the tube because there are ribs on the interior which keeps the strobe from sliding too far into the unit. I believe he may have other plan since those interior ribs seem to be reinforcements for four exterior metal nipples. Barn door or grid accessories for the future? Perhaps.

I painted a directional arrow on the housing to indicate which direction to loosen the mounting screw.

What the interior looks like in the v2.0 Strip. You can see the reinforcing supports which prevent the eVOLV from sliding too far into the tube.

Although most people will not have to do this, I ground down the mounting peg that is cast into the housing. This allows me to easily insert the peg into female mounts I use to place the modifier in either a vertical or horizontal position. Although the v2.0 Strip works extremely well in stands which offer the mounting peg to be in a vertical or horizontal position, not all light stands offer that option. When I travel to other cities I often have to rent stands and not all rental houses have adjustable spigot locations on their stands.

This is why I needed to shave down the diameter of the molded peg. It would not fit as cast. I find these female spigots invaluable in my gear bag.

I plan to use these to mimic a ‘ring light’ because I can now leave the modifier and strobe very close to the talent and back away to shoot with a long lens. Not possible with traditional ring lights. Also since the eVOLVS have modeling lights in the Fresnel head I now have a modeling light in this configuration. Sure, not brightest modeling light, but way better than none.

My first test was with Bob outdoors for a ring light style lighting test.

Canon 1DXII EF135 lens ISO 100 both AD200s set at 1/8 power. 1/5000th f2.0

Canon 1DXII EF135 lens ISO 100 both AD200s set at 1/8 power. 1/8000th f2.0

In those instances where I want to place the v2.0 Strip close to the ground I will simply use a Godox S bracket as a base. This configuration will be perfect for dance shoots as fill lights or anytime you wish to place the units very low onto a flat surface.

Comparison

  SaberStrip v1.0 SaberStrip v2.0 w/2 eVOLVS and SS
Light Flashpoint Zoom R2 Evolv200  
Flash weight 17 oz 31 oz  
Power level Full Full  
Distance to Sekonic 5 feet 5 feet  
Shutter Speed 1/100th 1/100th  
Aperture f5.6 f11 f13
Time to Recycle 6.8 sec 1.57 sec  
Length of fabric 29″ 29″  
Width of fabric 2.25″ 2.25″  
Length of modifier 38.5″ 34.75″  
Diameter of modifier 3.5″ 3.5″  
Saberstrip Weight 19 oz 27 oz  

For me the most significant stats are the recycle time and power. It’s the very reason I stopped using my original speed light Strip, it just lacked power. And in my work a one second delay feels like 12 years. Human expressions change in a nanosecond and invariably it’s the money shot I wanted, but missed because the strobe was recycling. Two full stops and five seconds faster in recycle time makes this modifier an incredible tool.

The ‘tube’ freely rotates around the mount so it can easily and conveniently turn the fabric to any position needed. There’s also a very small 1/4 inch 20 screw hole in the ‘tractor tire’ housing. I’m not sure why the guy put one there but it’s damn convenient. I plan to place a female mounting stud in there so I can either mount the Strip with the built in male stud or a female one. It should be noted that if you place a long ¼ 20 screw into that hole it will stop the free rotation of the tube. So IF you are the anal type and want to lock down the tube’s rotation you can do that with this screw hole.

This coming weekend I have three personal project shoots and I plan to test the light quality and applications in those sessions. I’m not sure how many times the Strip v2.0 will be my key light, but now that the recycle times and the power available through this meets my needs I’m sure it will always be in my bag.

Having a stand, a strobe and a modifier all in one easy to transport package is great for run and gun shooting, especially outside in moderate to high wind. My preferred stand for these is the Neewer Light Stand, 114 inches/290 centimeters Stainless Steel Heavy Duty with 1/4-inch to 3/8-inch Universal Adapter. It has a removable spigot that can be configured for either a vertical or horizontal female mount which is perfect for the new Strips. They are well made, strong and inexpensive.

The number of ways to mount the Strip seems endless. My current favorite grip mount for the Strip is the Matthews Mini Grip Head. I modified it by drilling out one of the holes to 9/16th of an inch which fits the Strip’s 5/8th inch stud.

What I like:

  • High quality Construction
  • Built in male mounting stud
  • Ability to rotate the modifier around two axis
  • Accepts the Evolv200
  • Well balanced, having the strobe at the mounting end of the modifier
  • Very wind resistant
  • Will fit into very tight spaces

Improvements

  • Male stud needs to be the 5/8th inch size standard of all spigots
  • Wheel that attaches the strobe needs to have directional arrows.
  • Wheel needs to prevent over tightening

During the weekend of April 21st 2018 I had my first opportunity to use the v2 Sabers in studio. I wanted to determine if paring them in a horizontal way would give me the ring light type of affect. I’ve always loved the look of a ring light shot, but have been frustrated that the distance of the light to the talent is limited by the focal length of my lens. Using my ring light further away to compress the talent’s face meant that the light is also further away, causing a harsher look. But using two Strips horizontal to the ground with the ability to adjust the distance between them allows me to leave the light source close to the talent, yet move further back to use a longer focal length. Having my cake and eating it too is wonderful!

The images below show how this worked on Jessica and I’m very happy with the results. Shot with a 135mm prime lens.

The flexibility of being able to angle the pitch of the Strips and distance between them is wonderful. More control than a ring light. As a fill/rim light I have not experienced a better modifier. Reflectors make great fill or rim light modifiers, but I have always preferred strobes for that task. It allows me finer control of my fill light.

By changing the angle of the top Strip in the image of Jess with her arm above her head I am able to cast a bit of a shadow on her eyes while filling in under her eyes to prevent shadows. That flexibility allows me to create nuance shadow/highlights with the Strips.

Here I am using the Strips as a fill and rim light. All of these images are three light shots. My 10” Fresnel is the key light, a gobo modifier is used on a light to create pattern on the background and the Strip is used as a fill/rim light.

The control of the Strip as a fill light is quite lovely and can be used as subtle or as bold as you wish. Here are two more images I created using two SS’s in parallel as a ‘ring light’ but in my view with a much better result.

Erica is 50+ and just the use of a shallow DOF and the two SS lights produced this image WITHOUT the use of Photoshop.

Two SaberStrips v2.0

Three SaberStrips v2.0

Oh and large groups in moderate to strong wind? I was recently at a client to cover the high school musical awards and prior to the event kids assemble outside. It’s often a fun place to get group shots before the show. The issue is always crowded sidewalks and of course crazy high school kids. I shot this image with ONE SS and one eVOLV200 at HALF POWER. 

1/100th f5.0 ISO100, SS v2 is the modifier and the strobe is the AD200 set to half power. Can you say incredible? It’s crazy.

I recently visited Luna Cycle in El Segundo to do some documentary photography of the staff. In the vast majority of cases the SS were used due to their flexibility and light quality. As in my 29 Hands Exhibit I was able to use the SS to light the talent in places where it would be almost impossible to fit a modifier in the space I had available and achieve a quality of light I wanted. Below is an example of one of the shots.

This is the ‘natural light’ scene where I was to photograph one of the young ladies who performs logistics for Luna Cycle.

Removing some of the boxes and shooting the light through the bookcase produced the image and quality of light I was after.

My apologies as I know you won’t be able to ‘unsee’ the image that follows, but to date it illustrates the rim lighting capabilities of the Strip. During this session I was to shoot two Drag Queens. The fella on the left is 6-1 without heels and with his 4” heels it makes him 6-5! I used the Strip as a rim light and if you notice the illumination from head to toe it’s quite remarkable. Could this be accomplished with a gridded light? Of course it could. But due to the very slim shape of the Strip it allowed me to get as close to the back drape as possible keeping spill to a minimum and certainly much less than a softbox without a grid.

Outdoors with the Strip is quite good. It is ‘almost’ impervious to wind, high wind. It is more wind resistant than my go to outdoor modifier, the PCB Omni. The disadvantage is since the Strip uses the AD200 it is a full stop less powerful than the AD600 I use with the Omni or my Aputure Fresnel head. But to circumvent that disadvantage I often use two Strips as a key light when outdoors. And in those instances where I want a very large light source I use three Strips configured in a Y shape. I find it’s the equivalent to a 45” octa with 600ws of power. Ever use something that size out in moderate or high wind? And I use all three on a single stand.

My partner recently conducted a head shot session using two of the Strips. She used one as the key and the other as a rim light. It was very windy under the concrete bridge where she was shooting and the Strips barely wobbled. The light quality is excellent and easily replicated her preferred modifier, a Glow 36” Octa. But in that kind of wind, especially the gusts that occurred an octa would have been quite the handful. She does prefer the catch light of the octa, a personal preference to which many people may agree. I happen to feel that round catch lights are the default, yet in natural light a catch light is anything but round…..

As you can see the quality of light produced by the Strip is excellent. Two lights, both Strips. One as the key light the other as a rim light.

Is it the perfect modifier? Nope, but as of right now there is no perfect modifier. Just like there’s not a perfect camera, lens or person. Is it the most versatile modifier I currently own or use? YES! For me the v2 Saber Strips are revolutionary and I have not even scratched the surface of how they can be used. Thank goodness for the AD200 lights and Scott’s development to incorporate them into the Saber Strips! Scott has mentioned that the v2 versions which use the eVOLV200s will be available in late July 2018.

20 Nov 2019

CLAR Fresnel lens Mount Pro – Update November 20 2019

Update November 20 2019

This modifier has become my go to sub 12″ Fresnel replacement! I never thought I’d say that. The quality of light and its ability to increase the light intensity is incredible. In a recent cover band publicity shoot I did not use it as a key light since the spread would not have been sufficient. But I did use it as a rim light to illuminate the trees in the grove where we were shooting. Combining the quality of light with its ability to be used in high wind is amazing.

In the images that follow a single Flashpoint 600 (non pro) using the CLAR in its fully flooded position was responsible for the rim lighting of the trees.

Natural ambient light shot.

Update October 22 2019

I wanted to update this post to say that I have been so impressed with the quality of light and the focusing ability of the lenticular lens on the CLAR that I only plan to purchase and use these over my other small Fresnel modifiers. The falloff of the lens is incredible. It exhibits the very same characteristics of a Fresnel yet seems more efficient. I have NOT run a side by side test but during a recent on location publicity session I could not have been more pleased with the results.

Fully flooded camera right behind me for this shot. About 10 feet from the talent.

Spotlight 3/4 focused camera right approximately 8 feet from the talent as he ran through the smoke. A coned 600 was behind the smoke to illuminate it for the shot.

Update September 15 2019

I was able to test this modifier on a dancer outdoors during very bright daylight hours. I will simply say that this modifier is as capable as any small Fresnel I own. I really love the quality of light it produces along with its focusing ability. Instead of having to carry several modifiers, I can just carry one. I have no fear of cracking the lens as I do with my glass Fresnel modifiers. I will now put this into my protocol when it’s the right tool for the right job. It’s a pure joy in high wind allowing me to focus or flood the beam of light.

My goal in this test was to determine if the modifier could be controlled to appear as my shots were not lit, but simply a natural light shot. I’m very pleased with the results of this modifier.

Canon 1DX 1/8000th f2.8 ISO 100

Canon 1DX 1/8000th f2.8 ISO 100

Canon 1DX 1/8000th f2.8 ISO 100. The CLAR is placed 45 degrees from Olivia about 8 feet, camera right.

It should be very apparent in the images above based on Olivia’s thick and naturally curly hair that the wind speed that day was approximately 12-15 MPH. The ability to use this modifier in moderate to high wind replaces my former beauty dish for high wind. It’s much more flexible with the ability to focus or flood the light.

Original Post September 9 2019

In the fully flooded position, 40 degrees

I was very intrigued when I received the CLAR Fresnel Lens Mount Pro unit. During my initial unboxing I ‘thought’ that this adjustable light modifier had a built in grid. But upon closer examination I discovered that the lens of the unit was unlike any lens modifier I own or have used. It is a lenticular lens and has 3200 tiny little dimples on the lens. I looked up the properties of a lenticular lens to better understand how it affects light.

The outer surface of the lens.

Looking from the inside out.

So as is my normal protocol I brought out poor Bob to test the light properties to determine how a lenticular light modifier compares to my tried and true Fresnel modifiers of about the same size. I found that they are very similar in light properties. The CLAR adjusts just like my other Fresnel modifiers from flood to spot light patterns.

CLAR in the fully flooded position.

CLAR in the fully focused position.

The quality of the CLAR’s construction is well done. The adjustment rotates easily and smoothly. The lens is molded plastic and I estimate around 0.25” in thickness. It is 5.5” in diameter.

Markings are well done.

Unit in fully focused position, 12 degrees.

Focus marking from 12 to 40 degrees.

The images which follow illustrate the physical differences between the other focusing Fresnel modifiers I use and own with the exception of my Mole Richardson Hollywood spotlight I’ve converted into a strobe.

My 7″ cone grids fit into the CLAR.

 

I will be testing this modifier on an upcoming practice dance session, but for now I’m very excited at the possibilities this new lens offers to my lighting arsenal. Stay tuned….

19 Nov 2019

REVIEW: PCB’s Omni 18″ Reflector – Update 11-19-19

November 19 2019

Obviously I have been very remiss in updating my post about this wonderful modifier. For many years it has been my go to modifier for on location sessions especially when high wind is involved. I was recently scheduled to do a cover band publicity session when the winds were 28 MPH sustained with 40 MPH gusts. Although the grove of trees where I shot the session was somewhat protected, using soft modifiers would have been out of the question. Anyway I used the Omni bare and with the included single layer diffusion fabric. I have modified the Omni to accept a Bowens mount since I no longer use Einsteins.

If you’ve never considered the PCB Omni I highly recommend it for its quality of light and versatility. 

“Not to worry Tim, Mark’s camera is 8k not including the lens. Just don’t drop it!”

The scene as it appears not lit.

 

Omni without any diffusion panel. HSS using a Pentax 645Z

Omni with the single layer diffusion panel.

Natural ambient light.

Omni as the key light.

September 18 2015

I am constantly on the search for new light modifiers, those that fill a specific need. Since I tend to shoot quite a few of my assignments on location I have long searched for an alternative to the beauty dish. Why a beauty dish? In light to moderate wind an umbrella acts much like an America’s Cup sail catching wind like there’s no tomorrow. Their shape is just conducive to collecting wind and as a result often topples a strobe and light stand. Sure sand bags or a voice activated light stand (human) can go a long way to preventing the ensuing damage, but there are times when I want or have to work alone. Even softboxes or octabanks can catch enough wind to pose a problem.

Priolite MBX1000 Hotsync with PCB's Omni 18" Reflector attached. Pentax 645Z 1/2500th f4.5 ISO 100

Priolite MBX1000 Hotsync at full power with PCB’s Omni 18″ Reflector attached. Pentax 645Z 1/2500th f4.5 ISO 100

 

Omni with 3 stop diffuser sock installed. Note: the included diffusion sock is large enough to fit a 22" beauty dish.

Omni with triple layer diffuser sock installed. NOTE: the included diffusion sock is large enough to fit a 22″ beauty dish.

(more…)

16 Nov 2019

Death by a Thousand Cuts

November 16 2019

Last night, November 15 2019 was the service for Toby Weir. Like any memorial service it is never something to look forward to and this was no exception. It was a celebration of his life, but what struck me the most were his mother and father; Aly and Bix Weir. In the past during the tragic deaths of children I have never witnessed parents delivering eulogies like theirs. Heartfelt – completely and utterly honest, Aly’s accounts of her feelings took more courage than I could ever imagine from any human soul. Her words to other young people in the audience were honest, sincere and profound. We are all blessed to know souls like Aly and Bix. To have our lives intersect in this way is something I would never wish upon anyone. Yet to have our lives come together at all – I now view as a blessing to my own life.

They both changed how I view my life. Thank you.

November 7 2019

If you are looking for a photography review here, please move along. This post is about suicide.

All living things be they mammals, reptiles, aquatic, or fill in the blank, does all it can to avoid pain. It’s part of the natural survival instinct. Humans avoid pain through a litany of methods. Many are chemical, loads are through behavior. Pick your poison; drinking, drugs, sex, spending, working, who we hang with, what we focus on.

So when the choice of self-inflicted death is an option that is less painful than life – the tragedy rests on all of us as humans.

I have often felt that suicide is death by a thousand cuts. Small seemingly insignificant minor hurtful comments, being ignored, feeling invisible, not good enough are just some of the the lacerations that eventually end up making the decision to end one’s life.  It can be as simple as never having a text responded to by your own children or parent. Looking at the pretend lives plastered every day on social media about peers whose lives seem so perfect. Comparing ourselves to how we feel we should be, rather than how we are.

For the past several years I have photographed for the Oakland School for the Arts Dance Emphasis. As a freshman a young man named Toby appeared before my lens. Shy, skinny and unsure of his place in the dance world his improvement over the years was remarkable. As a senior he was asked to join the Savage Jazz Dance Company which is an elite group of dancers. After the last night of the troupe’s performance he committed suicide.

I often say to people “Shoulda Coulda Woulda” when they tell me that they ‘meant’ to do say or act on anything. My point is how many opportunities have been neglected by each of us to say a kind or complimentary word to another person – DIRECTLY? Sure it’s common to bitch about someone, but seldom do I hear people compliment a person to their face, at the moment they appreciated an act, a word, an intent they found kind or helpful. Or something they admire about the person at that moment.

“I know I must have told her/him how much I admire/loved/appreciated them. Didn’t I? Gosh I know I thought it but maybe I never said it, but they must have known.”

Often those individuals who appear accomplished, sure of themselves are the ones often overlooked for compliments. “Oh they MUST KNOW how good/skilled/honored/etc. they are!”  Then there are those who feel invisible, because they are treated that way. No eye contact, no smile finds its way to their eyes. No conversations initiated toward their ears.

We so often ask ourselves “Why” after someone we love, adore or know commits suicide. In some cases the person tells us why in their last note, but in others we will never know.  Tomorrow is promised to no one, but I pledge to not contribute to a death by a thousand cuts to my fellow humans. I will say with both kindness and affection how I feel toward someone NOW. Not tomorrow, not to someone else, but to them.

Rest in peace Toby. I miss you. I miss your smile when I told you how special you were.

October 18 2019

October 18 2019

 

13 Nov 2019

Glow Portable Frame Scrim Kit

Glow Portable Frame Scrim Kit Complete Studio Flag and Diffusion Set with Collapsible Frames (24 x 36″)

Whether or not you use scrims/flags/etc. in your work is a topic for a completely different post. I use scrims and flags extensively in my work. My issue has always been transporting scrim or flag FRAMES via airline travel. For local shoots it’s not too bad although some scrim/flag frames are not that easy to break down and transport. Even though they are two dimensional in size (yes they have depth too, but barely….) they can be cumbersome.

So when I was made aware and got a set of the Glow Portable Frame Scrim Kit in its own flat small carry case I was intrigued. Inside of the pouch are five frames which fold extremely small in size. And as I discovered after assembling them the scrims/flags can stay ON the frames even when folded! Halleluyah to this invention! Not only are they small enough for me to carry in my trusty SKB hard sized golf case with my other modifiers, but they are so easy to assemble and strike on location!

So for a recent out of town publicity session I opted to take one of the negative (fully black) reflectors and one net to cut light. I cannot display the images since they are not to be released at this point. But I will say that the flag and net worked very well. As well as my regular devices that do not collapse. 

My setup for this session.

My only complaint about these is Adorama does not currently sell nets/flags/scrims for this unit separately. There are times I need two, three even four of the same flag/net/scrim. And with this set up only one of each is offered. For those who need multiples of the same flag/scrim/net I would not recommend this kit until Adorama offers fabrics separately. But once they do I’d highly recommend this kit.

The carry case has two velcro slots to carry the frames. I found that I can leave the fabrics on the folding frames and they fit well into their slots.

The interior of the case has two frame slots and three clear pouches which hold the small circular and rectangular flags. I keep two small grips in the third pouch.

The flags and frames fit so nicely into my airline modifier case…an SKB hard sided golf case.  

25 Oct 2019

Cheetahstand Chopstick Reflective Focusing System MKII

Please note that Stuart Vu, a visitor here pointed out that Amazon has the exact same focusing rod as the one I purchased from Cheetahstand:

“FOTOCREAT Adjustable 38′ (97cm) Boom Holder for Light Stand with 50lb Bearing Capacity Portable Photographic Bowens Reflector Bracket for APUTURE GODOX LED Light,Flash and Other Photography Equipment”

Certainly a highly convoluted description! But it the same unit. And the price comparison:

  • Cheetahstand $158.88 – Amazon $119.99 = $38.89 less. 25% savings
  • Cheetahstand shipping from Texas to California $29.02 – Amazon Prime $0.00

So in total the Amazon unit would have saved me $67.91!!!

If I need another one of these I will be purchasing mine through Amazon. I found that the shipping of $29.02 to be a bit much from Cheetahstand.

I wanted to mount my 69″ Elinchrom Octa I often use with a focusing rod I fabricated. Here it’s using the new Mark II version of Cheetahstand’s focusing rod.

Anyone who follows my blog knows that I prefer to use focusing rod modifiers for my client base. I find the quality of light and the flexibility invaluable in my work. I’m not going to go through all of the advantages I find in focusing rods in this post. You can read about my experiences with focusing rods on other pages:

During a recent visit to the Cheetahstand site to find something unrelated to focusing rods, I happened upon Edward’s new Mark II system. Unlike his prior focusing rod (which I highly modified to use any Bowens mount modifier) which was specifically designed for his proprietary small diameter tension rod diameters, his new system now accepts any Bowens modifier. So I purchased one to find out if it would meet my needs without having to do any fabrication. 

His Mark II version uses a very standard swivel which is supplied with many instruments like a boom arm I use. Parabolix uses a very similar swivel system. It’s rock solid.

Very nice that the center puck is silver and not black.

This is the proprietary portion of the focusing rod Edward had designed. It simply slides onto the end of the actual rod and is held in place by three set screws. Be advised that my unit did not come with an Allen wrench and the Bowens collar was detached from the rod. Just as a FYI it uses a 3mm hex wrench to cinch down the setscrews.

The Bowens modifier mount can be placed at different places along the shaft of the focusing rod. I chose to mount mine at the very end of the unit to allow the most distance when I want to flood the light. I don’t plan to test the unit for ‘quality of light’ simply because I have no doubt it will perform well. I’m very happy that someone has manufactured a focusing rod this well done that accepts any Bowens modifier. For $158.88 I view it as a bargain. I was a bit taken back by Cheetahstand’s shipping charge for California via UPS ground. $29.02 seemed a bit excessive, but oh well.

24 Oct 2019

Flashpoint R2 Mark II TTL Transmitter (X2T-P)

Flashpoint R2 Mark II TTL Transmitter for Pentax Cameras (X2T-P)

I have tested and been using the Flashpoint R2 Mark II TTL Transmitter (X2T-P) for Pentax since mid September 2019 in my workflow. I have found that using the Scan feature included in the firmware with this trigger is critical to prevent misfires. Flashpoint has not released a Pro II version of their trigger for Pentax so this is the next best thing for my work. Sure it would be nice to have the same trigger configuration for all of my cameras that includes the Scan feature, but preventing misfires easily outweighs that convenience.

I should also note that I am using this trigger with AD600s, Flashpoint 600s and the Pro versions along with AD200s. All with the most current firmware. (As of Oct 2019)

I’m also a fan of the Godox Android app that mates with this Bluetooth enabled trigger. Unlike others I have NOT had issue with the app. Although I have used it sporadically in my workflow, I need to become more comfortable with its usage in a fast paced studio setting.

To date I have used the X2T-P in three client sessions. My misfire rate has been between 0.5 to 1.0% – a very welcome change from my previous experience with the R2 Pro for Pentax.

As of the date of this post the firmware version is 1.0 and I have not found any firmware update release later than 1.0 for Pentax on Adorama’s site. I will continue to update this post as I have more sessions with the R2 Mark II P and/or subsequent firmware updates.

As of 10-23-19 no firmware updates exists for the Pentax Camera.