Whenever I am hired by a client to create imagery my first question is always “What is the mood you’d like me to create for this session?” Sometimes they have a mood board established, sometimes not. The reason I tend to shy away from mood boards, meaning photographs; it is human nature to get a specific shot stuck in our heads. Much like those crazy M.C. Escher drawings where there are two distinct images, but once you see one, you have a hell of a time seeing the other. And since the client wants their marketing to stand out from what has been done in the past, photocopy photography (my term) just isn’t something I’m hired to do, nor do I want to do that type of shooting.
So the stage play “Nine” is based on the 2009 movie of the same name. The client wanted a Vanity Fair look and feel to the images which would all be in black and white….my favorite color btw! Since this is a new client for publicity I did not ask questions like, “How do you want the imagery to smell, taste and sound?” Crazy imagery questions right? But imagery, much like music is just the catalyst to begin a sensory process that takes the viewer into feelings, dreams and memories of their own. It is the reason why I judge imagery by how I feel when I gaze upon the vision. A pretty picture without feeling is just a pretty picture for me.
Although I would be creating imagery of each individual character, the money shots would be of the group together, nine people in total. For anyone who has shot groups, you know very well the challenges it produces. My situation was no different. Sculpting light for a group of people takes finesse and planning.
So here are the items I chose for this session:
- Key light: Glow Grand ParaBox Pro Softbox (70″) using the Glow Grand ParaBox Zoom-In Bounce Rod
- Rim and fill lights: Saberstrip v2.0 and the Elinchrom 69″ Rotalux Octabox which I modified to use a focusing rod. Glow EZ Lock Deep Parabolic Quick Softbox (48″) with diffusion disk and inner baffle only.
- Prop and rim light: Mole Richardson 10” Fresnel Hollywood spotlight I have converted into a modern strobe.
- Bowens Universal Spot Attachment for Gobos
- All strobes used are Flashpoint 200s and 600s – a combination of pro and non pro I do not use TTL on any of them.
The Glow Grand Para 70 is a REMARKABLE modifier. It has taken me six full months to begin to understand how to effectively use this beast. Unlike other focusing rod modifiers its most compelling use is not for the faint of heart, just like the Bron 133 Para line. BUT once I began to understand the nuances of its characteristics it has become my go to modifiers for many, many sessions. In its fully flooded focusing rod position it easily covered the entire group of 9 people. And unlike normal diffused soft or octa boxes, the color punch and contrast is delicious. My client base has been convinced of focusing rod modifier results.
With a group this large and arranged in the way the client wanted, a very large fill/rim light was needed. This is where I used my Elinchrom 69” with my focusing rod fully flooded. For directional fill I used the Glow EZ with the inner disk/diffusion panel and the grid to direct the fill to where it was needed.
The ability to focus or flood the Glow Grand Para and the Elinchrom 69” is wonderful. Focusing rods replace my need to haul and lug many different sizes and types of modifiers to obtain the characteristics and feeling I am trying to achieve in light. And as I’ve stated earlier, the light they produced when used properly is just exquisite.
As just an example:
This shot of Steve was created with the Glow Grand with the rod in its fully focused position. His ‘scream’ needed to have a spotlight affect the client desired. So instead of having to change the modifier to a ‘spot’ type or apply a grid I just adjust the position of the strobe in the modifier.
In using the Eli 69” as a fill I was able to either fully flood the modifier or use more of a spotlight fill in the situation where I wanted more of a pinpoint for fill. With a group this large that is a godsend. I also used my Mole Richardson as a subtle hair light in those instances where I wanted a glow on the person or persons hair.
The Saberstrip v2.0 which uses an AD200 rather than a speed light is just as remarkable as either a key light, rim light or both. I’m still not sure where Scott is in offering these to the general public, but if and when he does BUY some! LOL I cannot speak highly enough about these unique and incredible modifiers paired with an AD200.
I often find that using gobos to project light patterns on a wall, ceiling, floor or drapes adds more texture and mood to a shot. In this case I asked the client to pick the window gobo she wanted for this mood.
I used a light amount of cold haze to soften the light and the complexion of the talent. Subtle haze is something often used in film and I love how it affects the mood of a shot as well. It adds a very cinematic feel to the shot. I use a cold hazer rather than one that heats the fluid. I find the particulate much more fine than heated haze fluid.
I have been testing the Flashpoint R2 Single Pin Transceiver to determine if it compatible with the variety of cameras both myself and my partner use on client shoots:
In my testing this little piece of kit works on all of them. In the past I’ve attempted to use single pin transmitters of various brands and in some cases the single pin just didn’t align well enough to fit all of these cameras. I’m happy to report that no such issue exists with this unit. Now keep in mind this is not intended for TTL, HSS, SCS. I have had heart stopping situations where the transmitter I was using during a client session fail or break from drops! So I started to carry extra transmitters which can get expensive because each transmitter is made for each individual brand of camera. After distance and radio interference testing with the Flashpoint R2 Single Pin, I plan to carry this with me on EVERY shoot. A single transmitter is a godsend for me as a backup. Twenty five bucks is cheap insurance!
These also work as receivers, but I do not plan on using them for that purpose. I ‘may’ test them to see how they work in that configuration. One of the downsides I see it there’s not way to set how long the LED screen remains illuminated or setting the amount of time until the unit ‘sleeps.’ But for 25 bucks what can I really expect? Sound and modeling lamps are controllable from the unit.
More to come….
Update November 17 2018
On a recent on location session in Seattle WA I encountered a situation where the R2Pro would NOT fire my strobes. I was in a club called The Triple Door to shoot publicity for my client’s upcoming performance for Rock of Ages. I had the room filled with haze for the session and the client wanted some shots with two of the stars in a booth. As I looked over I was blown away at the rays of light coming through the windows! The issue in obtaining the light rays just using natural light was the club is below street level and it was a cloudy day (Seattle! LOL) the sunlight was intermittently blocked by both pedestrians, vehicles and clouds. It was also late in the day so the angle of the rays of light would move quite a bit.
I had my partner go outside with both a 600Pro and an AD200, both with cones attached. My thought was that using a strobe through the windows would produce the same light I was experiencing with the natural sunlight, but not blocked by clouds or people passing by. Yet even in complete line of sight for test shots the strobes would NOT fire. I can only surmise that the combination of concrete, brick, the wiring in the club and my lower elevation to the strobes prevented the radio signals from reaching the strobes. And yes I tried both the 0-30 and 0-100 distance choices on the R2Pro. The distance from where I was to the strobes was about 35 feet and 15 feet below.
I always test my gear before putting it into workflow and did so with the R2 for the Pentax. But in this particular situation the radio signals would not reach the lights. Keep my experience in mind for your own sessions. I am NOT not recommending the R2 transmitters. Both my Canon and Pentax R2s have performed well. It’s just in this situation the R2 Pentax did not make a connection in this specific situation…..strange.
FINALLY! I was thrilled when the R2 Pro for the Pentax was announced! As some of you who follow my blog know, I’ve done a workaround for the 1/125th max sync speed for my Pentax 645Z which can be found here. The short version is I was using a Cactus v6II trigger combined with older Godox USB plug in receivers. It worked fine, but like all workarounds it had limitations. That’s all over now with the R2 Pro for the Pentax! Yay!
So I just did some testing to determine if the trigger works with the 645Z and just as important if any banding occurs with the trigger. You see, I had originally purchased a MBX1000 Priolite when the Z was first released. At that time it was the ONLY strobe that would perform HYPERSYNC with the Z rather than HSS. I found that in addition to being quite expensive, the Priolite produced a gradient in the image similar to using a graduated neutral density filter which I found to be unacceptable for such an expensive strobe. Sure it could be corrected in post, but why should I have to do that with an expensive strobe?
All that is over now and here are my test shots I conducted with the R2 Pro for the Pentax:
I could NOT use an eVOLV200 inside of the Saberstrip v2.0 because the USB port was covered when inserted into the SS. But since I no longer need a USB receiver I can now use my Pentax with these remarkable modifiers. I have not tested the trigger with the other xPLOR600s and 600Pros I own, but I have no doubt it will work well. If I find there are issues, then I will post them here in this short review. I have an upcoming client session on location where I now plan to use the Pentax and the new trigger.
A final note. Formerly while using my Canon R2 Pro attached to the 645Z (when not using HSS), pressing the shutter did not reactivate the R2 Pro after it went into sleep mode like it does on my Canon gear. I had to manually press a button on the R2ProC to wake it from sleep mode. Of course there were times I forgot to do so and missed a shot. Not so with the new Pentax R2 Pro. Now when I press the shutter it wakes the transmitter from sleep mode.
Thank you thank you thank you for producing a HSS trigger for Pentax!!!!
Update October 30 2018
No need to do this workaround anymore. Flashpoint has released their new Flashpoint R2 Pro 2.4GHz Transmitter for Pentax. You can read my findings here.
Update September 26 2018
I am preparing for a publicity shoot where I want to use my 645Z, so I had to remind myself how to shoot HSS with the method I explain below. A spider had built a cool web in my backyard so I had this crazy notion to use my eVOLV200 with the Pentax. BTW Flashpoint will be releasing the Flashpoint R2 Pro 2.4GHz Transmitter for Pentax (XPro-P) which will allow HSS without all the shenanigans I went through to make it happen. I sent this shot to a friend of mine who hate spiders. Now she’s not talking to me….LOL!!!!
UPDATE February 16 2018
I have confirmed that the new Flashpoint/Godox AD600 Pro works in HSS with the Pentax 645Z as explained below.
UPDATE September 8 2017
In my post about the Parabolix 35D I have some of my recent client work which was just released. All of those images were shot using HSS with my 645Z.
UPDATE August 31 2017
A visitor recently asked if the older AD360 line of strobes achieve HSS with a Pentax 645Z based on the method I describe below in my original article. The answer is YES it does. Rather than just ‘say yes’ under an ‘assumption’ that it would I decided to actually test it. I’m preparing for a dance session in two days and my partner who is making the move to all xPLOR/eVOLV units herself asked if she could borrow my old AD360s for the shoot. As a gift I had purchased an xPLOR TTL 600 for her so she wants to combine that with my old AD360s using my XTR-16 receivers. So a quick test before charging all of the units for her proves that the AD360 line works!
UPDATE August 20 2017
I ran a test yesterday of various modifiers along with the new AD-B2 mount and discovered that when you are using the USB receivers in the eVOLV200s the only level of modeling light that can be activated on the AD-B2 is the lowest level from the FT-16 controller.
UPDATE: July 29 2017
I have just completed testing HSS with the eVOLV200 strobes with my Pentax 645Z. I have included my test shots with “Bob” and all Flashpoint USB triggers and Cactus v6II settings are the same as the Xplor/Godox 600 lights. But I have outlined how I set the eVOLV200 lights below.
A few people contacted me to let me know they have been able to use HSS with a Pentax 645Z using other brands of lights with the Cactus v6II which I very much appreciated. But even though they have had HSS/645Z success with Profoto’s B1’s, Speedotrons, Photogenic Studio Max, etc. I wanted to make this work with the Flashpoint/Godox line of lights. Why? Well because for my work they fit my workflow with incredible innovation and the largest eco system of strobes. Using an xPLOR600 as either a monolight or pack/head system is just one reason. Combining two of them to make a single 1200 ws head when I need that power, creating their upcoming eVOLV200 twin head all combine to make it the line I love to use. I’ve had my fill of purchasing other strobes just for my 645Z, namely Priolites to achieve HSS. Now I no longer have to use separate brands of lights to do my commercial work no matter what brand of camera I’m using for the job at hand. And that’s great since I use three different brands of cameras!
Thank you to Cactus for developing a tool that is both remarkable and functional. It’s been a godsend for my work.
Original Test Review
To put it simply HALLELUJAH!!!! Oh my gosh for the past four years I have wanted with all of my want to have an option for HSS and my Pentax 645Z other than my MBX1000 Hotsync Priolites. Priolites do NOT use HSS, but rather hypersync and as the shutter speed increases the slight shading of banding increases as well. I’m not talking about black bars, but what looks like a graduated neutral density filter was applied to the image. Sure I could remove it in those instances where it’s obvious, but in my mind for $2600.00 per light it should NOT be something I have to do. Anyway there are several other issues that bothered me, but as ‘the only game in town’ for shutter speeds over 1/125th of a second when using strobes, I like other shooters was stuck. Ricoh never manufactured modern leaf shutter lenses for the 645 and based on their current financial situation and market share I seriously doubt they will. Plus leaf shutter lenses are expensive and limited to whatever focal length is produced. It’s one of the limits that smug shooters of Phase One or Hassy bring up when talking about the 645Z. I just laugh and now I snicker…
So here’s how I figured it out. I now use a Flashpoint R1 Flashpoint Commander Transmitter with older 433mgh USB receivers in my Xplor/Godox 600 strobes. The FT16 is placed on top of a Cactus v6II transceiver. And as you can see by the shots I’ve displayed below it’s a godsend. Will I miss 1000ws from my Priolite? Oh hell no, not when I can simply combine two Xplor600s and hook them to my 1200ws head. HSS using my beloved Xplor600 with my Pentax 645Z means Christmas came in July 2017 for me this year! Hallelujah!!!
Will I like it if Cactus develops a firmware update for their triggers so that I don’t have to use the USB receivers? Sure! It would also mean I could use my eVOLV200s with my 645Z too. But for now I’m damn happy to have figured out how to use my 600s in HSS with my 645Z. No shaded banding whatsoever using my Xplor/Godox strobes.
I truly am one happy person!
About 50% of my work takes me out of state for client work. I believe many people view that as ‘cool’ and in many ways it is. BUT hauling gear to and fro on airlines is NOT so COOL. Because of the number of miles I travel each year I have top status on several airlines which is a godsend. I’m allowed 3 bags free as is my partner so between us we can haul 6 fifty pound bags without being charged. And thank goodness! This does not include gear we rent on site either!
Won’t be able to share any of the images from this shoot for about two months…NDAs….
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 September 10 2017
I recently posted an article on my use of all Godox units in one session. The article includes the use of this product. You can view that post here.
UPDATE September 8 2017
In my post about the Parabolix 35D I have some of my recent client work and how I used the xPLOR/eVOLV units during the session.
UPDATE: July 29 2017
I have written an article about how I achieved using the Xplor/Godox 600 and 200 strobes in HSS with my Pentax 645Z. You can read that article here.
Prior to using the Xplor/Godox line of strobes I shot exclusively with PCB Einsteins. Paul’s t:1 performance combined with his Vagabond line of batteries, the Cybercommander controls were bulletproof. Combine that with his customer service and well….for me it was a winning combination. But with Paul’s unfortunate passing years back, PCB’s innovation has lagged behind other strobe/modifier manufacturers. I adored Paul and I was so fortunate to have him as a sponsor for a short time. In my mind he was a true genius and yes, a bit of an eccentric fella, but geniuses are so often an ‘acquired taste’ but thank gawd for them.
Paul’s Einstein line never included HSS so for my outdoor workflow I simply used ND filters of various brands and types when I wanted to reduce ambient light. Variable ND filters were convenient, but I found that the color shift took a bit of post processing to reduce. I did find nanotec’s ND filters to be the best for my needs, but by reducing the ambient it also reduced the power of my strobes.
So I was an early adopter of the Godox line of strobes starting with their 360 line, moving onto the Flashpoint Xplor600/AD600 line and finally to the eVOLV200 units I found my niche. Having all of the units that communicate from one trigger along with the flexibility of combining several strobe bodies to create higher WS output…..gosh what could be better? The innovation of Godox combined with the service in the US of Adorama or Cheetahstand is a wicked combination. There were two instances early on when I purchased Godox AD600s on eBay when I could not get any service. But when both Cheetahstand and Adorama started rebranding the Godox line under their own names, well customer service in the States changed for the better.
I certainly realize that every photographer’s needs are different and mine differ from job to job. Sometimes I may use only two lights, sometimes three and sometimes 7 or more. It always depends on what my clients want for the mood of the shot. By having the ability to combine two lights into one, or to change my Xplor strobes from a monoblock into a pack/head design is so innovative. I have read opinions that other shooter’s clients ‘insist’ on specifying brands of strobes/cameras/lenses, but I have never encountered that situation. My clients care primarily about these issues:
- The concept of the shoot.
- The quality of the image
- Does the image convey the intended mood?
- Will the image help sales?
- Does my demeanor keep the talent engaged, thereby obtaining the expressions needed for the shot?
- How easy am I to work with?
Not ONCE has a client asked me about what brand of gear I plan to use. Nor do they ask me about the brand/model of vehicle I own. Or the brand of clothing I wear. My client’s jokingly say “Oh Mark is using his little magic Instamatic..” whenever I decide it’s the right time to use my Fuji X100T. The reality is I find photographers seem more concerned about what other photographers feel/say about gear than how their clients feel about their product. In my business I’m only as good as my last session. And if my clients don’t like ALL ASPECTS of my work, then I’m not asked to return to shoot another session.
I had a client who I shot four years ago ask me to do another shoot for his cover band. I delayed answering simply because I felt they wanted a typical band shot, which I was not willing to do. As we talked he said “I want you to shoot whatever and however you want to do the shoot.” So we began. And in this case I knew I was going to use multiple lights of varying power, with multiple modifiers. And guess what? The Xplor/Godox line of lights could not have been a better combination. I literally used every Xplor/Godox light I own for this session. The smallest number of lights used at one time was four and the most was nine.
My whole point to this post is to say that the Xplor/Cheetahstand/Godox line of lights is the most valuable lighting system I’ve ever owned and used. In my mind innovation in lighting is moving much faster than camera bodies and I love that! Find what works best for your style of shooting.
My clients have released their season brochures so I can now share the final results along with a short BTS video of the Hillbarn session. All of the images were shot using the Flashpoint Xplor 600 and Evolv 200 line of strobes using various modifiers and gels. All shot with a Pentax 645Z utilizing a 45-85mm MF lens.
I was recently hired to do an on location session for a Seattle Theatre company which needed publicity photographs for “Assassins” which is a play about those who have attempted or succeeded in the assassinations of US Presidents. My primary questions whenever a client asks for imagery is always “What is the mood I’m to create?” In this case the client’s response was “gritty and dark.”
Today, Friday October 30 2015 is the day the last remaining gun store in San Francisco closes. My long time friend Steve Alcairo has been the store manager for the last six years. His staff has consisted primarily of former Armed Forces personnel and his client base is in large part members of the SFPD.
I created these portraits of his staff on the second to last day they were in operation to thank him for his friendship as well as his staff’s devotion to safe and legal sales in the area.
For years I have used Paul Buff’s Einsteins almost exclusively for my strobe work. I still use them exclusively for all of my studio work as they are remarkable units. Combined with his CyberCommander and plug in triggers for the Steins they offer me the ability to control all but frequency settings right from my camera.
I recently purchased several new lights primarily for on location work. In the past I used the Steins combined with Vagabond Minis, but shooting action in high ambient light was beyond the capabilities of my beloved Steins. Godox AD360s allow HSS as does my Priolite MBX1000 Hotsync. Both of those units utilize Bowen S mounts for modifiiers.
Paul makes some of the best modifiers I have used, especially his hard modifiers like the Retro Laser Reflector, his 22″ Silver or White Beauty dishes, 11″ Long Throw Reflector, and my recently acquired Omni 18″ Reflector.
So when I wanted to use any of those modifiers with my Bowens mount lights I had to modify those units to use with my bare bulb or Priolite units. But I didn’t want to alter the modifiers permanently so I could still use them with the Steins.
So here’s how I managed to have my cake and eat it too…except for Paul’s 11″ Long Throw Reflector. I could not figure out how to modify that unit and still have the ability to convert it back to fit the Steins. Heck I thought if I can convert a stage follow spot into a modifier that can accept an Einstein I should be able to do that! Nope… So I purchased a Bowens BW-1878 High Performance Reflector. Not quite as good as Paul’s 11″ Long Throw, but good enough.
So here’s what I’ve done: