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Category : Site News

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.

23 Oct 2019

Flashpoint R2 Pro Mark II C – Misfire Testing Update October 23 2019

Update October 23 2019

I have been using the R2 Pro Mark II C when using my Canon 1DX Mark II and my partner has been using the R2 Pro C. When we go to a job I use the Scan feature and we pick which channels to use. I have had less than 2% of misfires. She has experienced the same, but has had full pop flashes when her units have not been set to full power. This is still an issue that Godox and Flashpoint must address.

NOTE: I have recently been using the Flashpoint R2 Mark II TTL Transmitter (X2T-P). That post can be found here.

Update September 19 2019

OK so I needed to actually TEST my Flashpoint triggers to ascertain what is the best trigger for me to use. I had become (and still am) very concerned about the misfires I have been experiencing. So here are the triggers I tested:

Left to right: R2 Pro Mark II C, R2 Pro C, R2 SPT Single Firing Pin Transceiver, Flashpoint FT16 433 Mhz

I used the very same strobe for all of the tests. A Godox AD600 set to 1/16th power 10 feet from my camera. The camera was a Canon 1DX set to 1/250th of a second shutter speed, f3.2, ISO 100. My intervalometer was set to fire at one second intervals. The strobe began to overheat at approximately 400 frames so I measured my test at 400 frames. I allowed the strobe 30 minutes between trigger testing so that it could cool down.

Here are the results:

 

So after running this test I am still concerned. In this test all triggers failed, but under 1% out of 400 shots. It’s curious that the single pin unit is the only one that failed to fire prior to the end of the test. With all of the others I ‘may assume’ that the failure at 399/400 was due to the overheating of the strobe. In a normal real world session the power of my strobe settings varies greatly. Anywhere from 1:1 full power all the way down to 1/256th power for fill or rim lights. There are times when I am firing much less than once a second and I’m always aware if I have strobes set at full power to listen for the recycle tone before pressing my shutter again. It’s part of my protocol.

My most critical time for zero misfires is during studio dance sessions. Invariably misfires will happen when the money shot is taken when a strobe or strobes misfire. The dancer has executed their move in an exquisite way and the shot is useless due to the failure to fire. Sure they can do it over again, but my view is why? My equipment should be dependable. And if that means switching to a brand that is not as modular, but is much more dependable on site then that’s what I will do, change.

I will say that prior to running this test I used the Channel Scanner on the R2 Pro Mark II C to find the best available channels for my home…today. I say today because I feel that even in the same venue, it’s important to scan the environment for the best channel. So at this point I am awaiting a new Flashpoint R2 Mark II TTL Transmitter for Pentax Cameras (X2T-P) to test. I am hoping it performs well. Currently Adorama does not offer a R2 Pro Mark II transmitter for Pentax, nor do they offer a firmware update for the R2 Pro for the Pentax. My 645Z is my defacto studio camera so it’s one of the reasons I’ve purchased the X2T-P. It has a channel scan feature. Sure I can carry my Canon Pro Mark II to scan channels, but why? If Godox/Flashpoint want working pros to use these strobes, then give us function and dependable engineering. You’ve nailed the ecosystem but misfires just won’t cut it in my world.

I have a publicity session this weekend and hope that by scanning the channels it will yield this percentage of misfires which is much less than what I’ve found on actual location shoots.

Stay tuned…

Update September 18 2019

In preparation for an upcoming client session I needed to practice a lighting technique we conceived for the shoot. I had left my R2 Pro Mark II C transmitter on channel 12 along with the strobe from my recent client shoot this past weekend. I did NOT use the scan feature to see what were the most clear channels in my garage. I was horrified to find a 14% misfire ratio during my test set up! I was literally 8 feet away from the strobe with the transmitter set to the 0-30 meter range while using a Flashpoint Pro 600. I had never had issues like this with my 433Mhz triggers or USB receivers. I really love the innovation of the Godox/Flashpoint line of strobes and the ecosystem they have developed. But the misfire issue may result in my switching to a different brand of strobes. I need to figure this out quickly. Until I do I will religiously scan the channels and/or use my single pin transmitter. I cannot afford to miss any shots ESPECIALLY in dance.

Update September 17 2019

I had a two day dance session this weekend after updating all of my AD200s/600s and my R2Pro Mark IIC transmitter. Once I conducted a scan of the area in which I was working one of the channels the transmitter recommended was 12, so I switched everything to that channel. With the new firmware the results are much improved over my prior experience. Of course I would like a 0% failure to fire rate as I had with my PCB Einstein/CyberCommander setup. I will continue to update this post about the misfire issue.

My gut tells me that even in the same space I will need to rescan with the ProII to ascertain if the same channels are free on different days even in the same space. I have asked Adorama if I can use the channel scanner on the Pro Mark II to determine the best channel for my Flashpoint R2 Pro Pentax trigger. Once I hear back I will post my findings here. As usual stay tuned…

August 2019

I have been negligent in updating my firmware for both the transmitters and strobes be they Flashpoint or Godox. I completely switched from PCB Einsteins over to the Godox/Flashpoint strobes after the passing of Paul Buff and the innovation at PCB declined after his death. His CyberCommander transmitter was tough to learn but BULLETPROOF in terms of misfires.

I won’t go into all of the gripes I had about the Flashpoint misfires simply because I had not updated my firmware. Total user laziness and error. So I decided to run some tests before and after updating my strobes and transmitters. I used the installation programs and firmware found on Adorama’s Flashpoint Firmware Download page

Even though they have improved the software interface, it’s still no walk in the park. You should know I am a PC user, not a Mac user. The steps I found necessary to begin the process in Windows 10, their new version is:

Disable UEFI Secure Boot in Windows 10

Disable Signed Driver Enforcement (bottom of page)

Then you must select the product you are updating which then indicates which installer to download and use. There are three:

Once the installer is downloaded and installed, you select the product you wish to update with the firmware:

OK so once all was done I tried to update the firmware in my transmitter. Since the Pro II uses a USB-C cable I had no issues. But once I tried to update my non pro strobes which use USB Micro connectors I got these messages:

I THEN realized that the USB Micro cables I was using DID NOT TRANSMIT DATA but were only for charging! SHEEEET!!!! As soon as I figured out that bonehead mistake I used a proper cable and got a connection. BUT it was not without further issues….. On my first two f/w updates all went fine. But after that I would get a program hang:

It only happened after the f/w was deleted and then updated. So I simply unplugged the cable and tried my strobes, also checking their firmware version. All was fine. So after this frustration I went on to test my strobes. 600s, both non TTL and TTL along with a Pro and several AD200s…

Here was my setup for testing:

I set my intervalometer to take a shot every second. My tests were done at 1/8th and 1/16th power for all strobes. As you can see I’m only about 15 feet from the strobes. I have a router booster here along with normal consumer electronics. Since I’ve had issues on location where there’s a ton more signals this is not an acid test of if the firmware will make a difference in misfires. But it was my start of testing. On my pre firmware update testing I had NOT updated the firmware for the strobes or the triggers.

I numbered each strobe. I also numbered my 200s but have not included photos of them here. My main concern were for my 600s since they are my primary strobes for work.

Pre Firmware Update Testing

In my first test strobe 2 was the one that consistently misfired. And like a fool I forgot to check the f/w version before starting the test…..but it is one of my older strobes.

At a higher power setting more misfires occurred. And as the strobes began to heat, I had many more misfires.

At the end of the first test, all strobes showed the heat indicator warning icon.

After Firmware Updates

 Next I decided to nix the 200s since I have never had a misfire with them even before updating the firmware on the triggers or the strobes…interesting. So for this test I just did a 1/16th power level. When I have time or more importantly after I use my gear on actual shoots I will report back on any improvement in misfires. But at this level I’m really please with the results.

I’m concerned that Flashpoint has not released a newer firmware version for Pentax. Since that is the camera I primarily use for client publicity sessions I’m hoping that f/w version is forthcoming. I’m currently running 1.0 which is the only one available at this time.

As you can see, no f/w update is available for Pentax.

 

I’m really quite pleased of the lack of misfires for my Pentax. It only started to misfire as the strobe heated.

Although I don’t fire my camera for 200 frames at one second intervals I am a bit concerned that as the strobes heat misfires will occur. Anyway after using my strobes on actual upcoming client work I will report back here on any improvements in misfires.

13 Aug 2019

Flashpoint R2 Single Pin Transceiver

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:

  • Canon
  • Pentax
  • Fuji
  • Sony

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.

NOTE: “Normally” batteries are inserted positive up on one side and negative up on the other. It’s how I inserted them and got frustrated thinking I got a bad unit! LOL Total User Error! As you can see on these units it’s different.

More to come….

 

04 Mar 2019

Combining Tools

I know there are a ton of online sites that show specific lights/cameras/etc. along with their specs and such. I wanted to write this post about combining all of the tools we all have at our disposal to create an image. FIRST AND FOREMOST the paramount factor in my shooting is NOT the gear, but the concept. Of course the right gear makes my job easier, but without a solid concept and how to execute that concept, no amount of cool gear matters in my world. My clients come to me looking for several solid concepts to create for a final image. Most have ‘some‘ ideas, but they are depending on me to flesh out their ideas. The two most valuable assets I can provide to them are the final concepts and the talent’s expressions. Authentic expressions can’t be created in post processing.

Testing all six strobes prior to the actual shoot along with the smoke machine. Smoke is great, but just like all things organic, you CANNOT control where the wind blows! LOL

I wanted to share the video my partner created as I was shooting the promotional materials for a small theatre company’s production of “Heathers.” This video shows in detail how the shoot was created for the client. BTW I always shoot wirelessly tethered to my iPad using the Canon WFT-E6A (replaced by the WFT-E8A) through Shuttersnitch. Both the client and I then know when the shot has been achieved and we can then move onto the next shot. Much more efficient for me than taking a break to show the talent and client things on the back of my camera. I still do that when needed, but it is much more the exception rather than the rule.

In the video the constant key light modifier was a Glow EZ Lock Quick Octa powered by a Westcott SKYLUX 1000 Watt LED Light.

Here are the items I used AFTER scouting a location for the shoot and conveying my concepts to the client:

Using battery powered equipment is key to my on location shoots. Wireless everything has been a godsend in the last 12 years. No more cords which were replaced with remote triggers, remote control over strobes…wow. The only reason I used a generator was to power the smoke machine. In those instances where gas generators are not allowed I use a Goal Zero Yeti 1000 solar generator for my smoke machine when called for in a shoot.

I selected the Ego Power leaf blower because it has variable power, not stepped power. During those times when I need to have a wind machine I need the ability for my assistants to either subtlely or forcefully use wind. As of this posting I cannot show the actual publicity shots the client will use, but can display shots they have opted not to use for the promotion.

What will be of interest is the video my partner Tracy Martin created for the client which has been released. My point of this post is to help others in displaying how combining all of the tools now available to photographers is only limited by your imagination.

Four strobes in various positions including to illuminate the smoke. Key light using the PCB Omni reflector. It’s great in wind and produces the quality of light I wanted.

Six strobe shot.

Six strobe shot.

If you can’t have fun in an on location shoot, what fun is that?!

22 Jul 2018

Teaching High School Kids About Photography

Jamie Smith, a man who I met in 2010 while attending a week long class by Greg Gorman has remained in contact and become my friend. Jamie worked with the famous Jay Maisel for over 10 years in NYC and now runs Social Fabric Collective“Social Fabric Collective is a non-profit organization that provides professional photography equipment, education and inspiration to high school students who are as diverse as they are dynamic.”

Earlier in 2018 Jamie asked if I would be interested in speaking to his class of young high school students about my view of photography. Prior to becoming a full time pro I was in the field of training at the corporate level. Even back then I HATED/LOATHED/WAS DISGUSTED by PowerPoint or rather how people attempt  to utilize PP. So I opted to do my hour long lesson old school, with paper that students read and actual photographs they could hold and view. As a training professional I know that a self paced lesson lends itself to much more retention. I know that so many people today like video because ‘it’s easy’ meaning it’s passive. And it’s NOT self paced, especially in a classroom environment.

So I thought I would post what I presented in the event it helps others pick and choose parts of my syllabus to teach others. The first part was handing out a printed form of this:

“July 17 2018 – Palo Alto CA

Hi my name is Mark and I’m a full time professional photographer. Prior to this life I was a trainer for Sony Playstation, a 3D animator and back then some of my clients included Johns Hopkins University, Estee Lauder, Nike, Bausch and Lomb, and DHL.

Photography tends to be a solitary activity and although I have no idea why you decided to enter this course I will assume that you have in interest in creating imagery. The type of imagery everyone wants to create is as varied as the number of people in the world. Today, everyone is a photographer, whether we’re talking about the ever present ‘selfies’ (ugh) or taking photos with whatever you have at the time. Photography is a satisfying pursuit, and I have found it is my lifelong endeavor. My preference is photographing people – dancers, actors and musicians. In reality I use a camera just to meet people.

It’s kind of easy to get into the ‘tech trap’ wondering what is the best camera, the best lens, the best light, the best camera bag. You get the picture. My personal view is to not allow myself to get hung up on that aspect of this life. It’s easy to see if you peruse photography forums, heck forums of any kind. There are always haters, boasters, see ME! types. Always discussing gear, what is the BEST, blah blah blah. But what is so apparent are the haters seldom if EVER post photos they’ve created other than silly test shots. Buying expensive things does not make an expert or an artist.

It’s also easy (and in most cases necessary) to focus solely on the technical aspects of photography. F stops, depth of field, shutter speed, sync speed, ISO noise, blah blah blah blah blah. But there are literally TONS of sites and Google searches we can do to find that info. And yes those elements are important but what I want to try to pass on to all of you today is what took me a long time to learn for myself….the art of seeing.

My epiphany happened when I was watching an Argentine Tango performance and became captivated by the light, the movement and the shadow. Those elements didn’t need a camera to be appreciated and were not the elements that made me a photographer. Nope, it was all about looking at the world in a way I had not encountered before. Instead of just looking – I would view a scene, a person, an object as a story. As I looked upon a sunset, a sunrise, a beautiful scene, an interesting or beautiful face, a tragedy, an object of any kind, my mind would begin to formulate a story about what I was viewing. I’d identify the feeling I’d emote while looking at the person, object or scene. I’d notice the light, how it fell upon the scene/person/object and how the light made me feel, how the shadows played against the light. The EMOTIONS I was feeling as I focused my gaze.

It went even further. I began to associate imagery with senses not normally associated with a picture. The smell of a sunset, the taste of a rock, the music I would hear in an expression. It was then that I began to notice that my photographs turned into much more than just a ‘pretty picture.’ Without a story, without feeling, a nice photograph is just a pretty picture. Some of my favorite imagery by artists I admire are underexposed, overexposed or blurry. But it’s the FEELING and STORY of the image that moves it from nice to fantastic to memorable.

Immerse yourself in the moment. I found that looking at the back of my camera while I’m out and about often meant that the truly GREAT shot was missed because I was paying attention to the wrong thing, the past, not the moment. There’s plenty of time to appreciate or loathe the image you shot…..later.

All art is about FEELING and STORY. Focus on the elements that don’t depend upon a camera so that when you have one in your hand, you will create something incredible. Be patient and watch. Observe, listen, smell, taste and touch. It will make your work rich beyond what you could have imagined.

Welcome to a different world. Welcome to Seeing

When you’re done reading this, but more importantly understand what I’m saying, raise your hand.”

Once each student was done reading the handout, I gave them an envelop with 10 photos and 10 index cards with these instructions:

Instructions

In this pack are ten images along with ten index cards. The images have a number written on the back of them. On the index card I would like you to

  1. Write the image number you are viewing on the index card
  2. Write a title for the image
  3. Write the Feeling you get when viewing the image
  4. Turn the card over
  5. Write your story of the image

Do this for each image, so in the end you should have ten index cards with a Title, Story and Feeling

When you are done, raise your hand

Here are the ten images that were contained in the envelop:

I then had all ten of the images posted at the front of the class with the corresponding numbers on envelops below each image. I asked each student to place their corresponding index card into those envelops. I asked each student to read all of the other cards to see how people view images differently. Unless you go to galleries with others or those who have also attended it’s tough to hear what others think of the very same image. What that does is it allows people to understand that everyone brings their own bias or experience in viewing any image or painting. It ‘opens your eyes’ to the view of others.

I also asked each student to text me their favorite photo. It didn’t need to be taken with their phones, but they must select one favorite image. I printed out each of the photos and made a lanyard so they could hang their favorite image around their neck….backwards. Each student sat in front of the class facing the whiteboard while the other students voiced how they each felt about the photo and what the story was for the image. The student who took the photo just listened, no feedback was allowed be it verbal or physical in nature. This allows each student to hear other people’s impression of their work. It gives them a window into how people perceive what they’ve created. That is an important part of learning in the creative arts. For the two students who didn’t send a photo I believe they missed an opportunity not often offered.

 

And finally I had a Q/A session where each of the students could ask me questions about photography.

And of course, a lit class photo.

30 May 2018

DJI Mavic Pro Updated 5-30-18

UPDATE 5-30-18

Earlier this month while was using my Mavic to both film and photograph for a client, I was flying sideways and ended up crashing into a tree! Total user error and thankfully it was at the very end of the sessions! LUCKILY I had purchased DJI Care Refresh (Mavic Pro) when I bought the drone. They allow you to purchase the coverage within the first 48 hours of purchase. For 99.00 on a 1k item it’s a great value. But just like all insurance the REAL TEST comes when you make a claim. Any company will gladly take your premiums, but filing a claim is a different story. So I got onto the site, filled out the form and guess what? They emailed me a FedEx label! That’s right, they pay for shipping to and from! Incredible. The cost for my ‘repair’ was 79.00. And IF I crash again it will be 129.00! Now this does not cover things like theft, losing your drone, etc. Makes perfect sense. But in my case I could not be happier and DJI has a loyal customer for life.

A brand new Mavic arrived at my home to replace my crashed unit. Total time: 8 days. And no the more quiet props were not included. BUT they DID include a set of regular props even though I didn’t send in any.

UPDATE November 11 2017

Still practicing and boy to get cinematic film ain’t easy. But hey if it was everyone could do it! It sure is fun to learn though. Using ND filters really helps.

It’s also nice to know that the Mavic can take RAW stills in the form of the DNG format. Granted not as high res as my MF camera, but still good! What I did learn though is when I set my shutter speed at a low number, usually around 1/125th or lower when I take stills that have motion I get motion blur. Makes perfect sense, I’m just not accustomed to switching from film to stills. Learnings…..

Original Post

Yep, it was time. Time to try something new, to feel uncomfortable and out of my comfort zone. Film, stills, creativity from a new perspective. How does anyone expect to grow simply by being ‘safe?’ FAA certification is on tap. Using light and motion….

….stay tuned.

10 Apr 2018

OneEyeLand 2018 B/W Awards

I’m proud to have been named as a Finalist in the 2018 OneEyeland B/W awards under Nudes. I’m especially thrilled since Howard Schatz was one of the judges. I’ve LONG admired his work so I’m honored! My submission was one of the images I created for my “Tango in the Mohave” series with Eva and Patricio.

Tango in the Mohave

 

15 Feb 2018

One Eyeland 2017 Photography Award

I am proud to have been awarded Finalist status in the Professional Fine Arts Nude category of the 2017 One Eyeland Photography Awards for my “Tango in Water” submission. Five images make up my series of tango images. Shot in Seattle in studio using water to accentuate the delicious movement of Argentine Tango.

Professional Fine Art Nudes Finalist list

Winning Fine Arts Nude image series for 2017

05 Jan 2018

Necessity is the mother of invention – UPDATE January 5 2018

UPDATE February 22 2018

During a client session they allowed me to experiment using my Elinchrom 69″ with focusing arm. Here are the results

Key light camera left in fully flooded position. Wonderful soft yet punchy light.

Pre shoot shot.

UPDATE January 5 2018

This month I have several sessions where I will use the focusing arm with my Elinchrom 69″ Rotalux Octabox. Elinchrom sells their Elinchrom 75″ Indirect Litemotiv Octa Softbox which is an inverted modifier. But unlike using a focusing arm the strobe is confined to a set distance from the modifier. Oh and not to mention it’s about $1100.00 USD more expensive than my 69’r! 

The Eli 69″ with my focusing rod.

Fully flooded the light distribution is incredibly even! The real test will be during my first shoot, but I am convinced at how incredible the light quality will be.

Fully focused.

Left: Elinchrom Rotalux 69″ Right PCB 86″ Soft Silver (v1.0) umbrella.

UPDATE December 31, 2017

Over the past two weeks I have been giving my new virtual friend Ulysses my experience using focusing rod modifiers. We’ve gone back and forth over FB Messenger as I answered some of his questions and concerns. It was during this time I realized that some people may not have any idea how a focusing arm paired with a parabolic or other modifier would benefit them. So instead of answering another email I decided to post this (My last post of 2017 btw) to benefit anyone who may have questions about focusing arm modifiers, their benefits and downsides. But are put off by their prices.

I found what I view as one of the most informative lessons on some of the benefits of a focusing rod on a YouTube channel. Karl Taylor and Urs Recher, two pro fashion shooters do an excellent job explaining the benefits of focusing arm modifiers. You can view that video here

If you begin to watch the video and think or say to yourself “Oh sure if I had the money to buy a $7,000 Broncolor Para 222 Mark I could do anything!” STOP READING NOW and go about your usual business.

I’ve posted elsewhere why I have switched to focusing arms modifiers and this post is about how you can do it with relatively simple ease. And just as important for a fraction of the cost of Broncolor, Briese or Parabolix. Of course the shape of the modifier you use will have a bearing on your results, but unlike people alleging you ‘have to have’ a pure parabolic shape I disagree based on my own actual usage. I love my Parabolix 35D, my Cononmark 120cm and my Westcott Zeppelins which I use with a focusing arm.

The best thing to do is to buy a Parabolix focusing arm from their site. They use a standard Profoto attachment to mount their modifiers to the focusing arm. The arm is excellent and well made. To attach the arm to any Bowens modifier you simply purchase a Haoge Profoto to Bowens Mount Speedring Ring Adapter

Viola! You now have a focusing arm that will work with any Bowens modifier! And you don’t have to go through the crazy fabrications like I did when I built my first one. (I just like doing that kinda stuff tho….)

Prior to figuring out that method I fabricated all kinds of things! My other solution was to purchase a Cheetahstand Chop Stick and modify it to accept a Bowens modifier. It took some doing and it works well. Someone mentioned that Edward at Cheetahstand stated that his Chop Stick will work with most Bowens mount modifiers and that’s true….to a point.

The ring on the top is the Cheetahstand Rice Bowl Bracket. The one on the bottom is the Westcott Zeppelin bracket. As you can see Cheetahstand’s bracket uses a proprietary size for the rod tips which are much smaller than the tips from other manufacturers. This makes using his ring impossible with other brand’s modifiers.

Sure his bracket fits a Bowens mount, but how do you attach it to a lightstand? So TECHNICALLY it’s true that his Chop Stick fits Bowens modifiers, BUT there’s no way to mount the stick to a light stand unless you’re using one of his modifiers and mounting bracket.

Left, Cheetahstand’s Birdcage 13 oz, right is the Parabolix 23 oz. They are interchangeable in function. The Chop Stick Birdcage is a third of the price too.

Back of the Chopstick’s arm mount. The knob at the top controls the tension of the device on the arm. The knob at 4:00 releases it from the Bowens mount. This is the heaviest part of the Chop Stick’s configuration.

Mounting side.

The arms of both the Chop Stick and Parabolix are about the same length.

My fabricated Chop Stick holder after modifying the Cheetahstand mount to accept a Bowens connector.

The modified Cheetahstand mount with the Bowens attachment.

The Chop Stick has a nice eyelet on the back of the actual stick for counterbalancing. But I find it much more convenient to use a SuperClamp and 90 degree arm to hold my AD600 when using the light weight head. Raising and lowering the modifier with the weight of a counterweight is often a pain in the ass. I mount the holder BELOW the first section of the risers. Great leverage here. This method works very well. Just FYI

For travel it’s a toss up. My DIY Cheetahstand Chop Stick with mount weighs a total of 4 pounds 13 ounces including the rod. The Parabolix weighs 3 pounds 15 ounces. For space the Chop Stick comes apart thereby having the ability to save space when packing. Not so with the Parabolix arm. Weight or space? It’s up to your needs. The Bird Cages which hold the lights are not included in these weights, but I have described their weight above.

So there you have it. This will be my last post about how to develop your own focusing rod. I have sessions to cover and don’t really have the motivation to talk more about this subject. I post this in case you want to do it as well.

Original Post

As I was growing up my father was always in the garage tinkering. During his lifetime he was a professional auto mechanic who was in a partnership in a Mobil Gas station. I’d work there in the summertime when full service was the norm. Later he became a civil engineer. He and I shared lots of good times in our home garage building things which were usually motors or crazy inventions. One of the aspects of life he taught me early on was “Boy there are people who will bitch that someone hasn’t invented or built this or that. Or they’ll bitch about how something is designed. Basically they’ll bitch about anything instead of trying to figure out how to fix it or inventing something themselves. Don’t listen to those assholes, if you need something that ain’t around, figure out how to build it and build it. I’m not raising no bitch, so just remember that!”

To this day I’m not sure if I never wanted to be ‘a bitch’ or I just plain enjoy figuring out how to do things. It’s one of the main reasons I HAVE TO HAVE a garage. Not to store shit people never use, but to fabricate things. I find it relaxing. And I must admit that my former racing motorcycle which is now the world’s most expensive towel rack does sit in my “Man Cave.” I just can’t bring myself to sell “Ashley.” 

Anyway I’ve written elsewhere on this blog that I adore focusing arm modifiers. I won’t go into all of the reasons, but one of the most frustrating things is every single manufacturer of focusing arm modifiers makes it so that their arm only works with their modifiers. Broncolor, Parabolix, Briese, Cheetahstand, Westcott, you name it, they can’t be used with other modifiers. I did find out that the Parabolix line of focusing arms will work with any Profoto mount. Their focusing arm uses the same attachment as Profoto so if one purchases a Parabolix focusing arm it will fit any modifier that uses a Profoto mount.

But many of my modifiers are now Bowens mounts. It’s my preferred modifier mount since I exclusively use Flashpoint/Godox strobes/heads now. As I examined Cheetahstand’s Chop Stick I discovered that I could modify his focusing arm so that it will allow me to attach ANY Bowens mount modifier to the focusing arm! It took quite a bit of modification and a bit of cussing, but now I have a focusing arm that will accept any Bowens modifier INCLUDING HARD MODIFIERS. What? WTF you may be thinking, hard modifiers Mark? Well I’m gonna try them and will report back later. Why not?!

I’m sure some people will ask questions like “Will it support the full weight of X or Y strobe?” What about if the modifier is not a true parabola?” To the first question, I’m not sure and I don’t really care because I’m not a manufacturer of this for retail. I made it to solve a problem. I plan to always use the remote head for the AD600. As for the second question, who cares?

Yep that’s a 7″ cone on the end just to illustrate that a hard modifier will fit on the focusing arm. I plan to use a PCB 18″ Omni to see how the quality of light changes with a hard modifier.

The Cheetahstand Bowens light holder.

LOL crazy!

I think Edward’s Rice Bowl present an excellent value, but I already have a 47 and 59″ Zeppelin so I’d rather use them with a focusing arm than purchase more modifiers that are similar in shape.

How it looks from inside the Zep.

29 Oct 2017

Exhibition – Pacific Art League

I will be part of a group photographic exhibition at the Pacific Art League from November 3 – 23 2017. Artist reception is Friday November 3 from 5:30 to 8:00 pm.

My image “Connections” is part of this exhibition. 24×36 inches on metallic gelatin paper. Adrian Blue, deaf actor/director making the ASL sign for ‘connection.’

28 Jul 2017

Baby Hummingbird

Every morning I go out to my patio to turn on the water feature because the hummingbirds like it. They drink and bathe in it very often. On the ground I see a small “something” and just then a hummingbird flies around the ‘thing‘ and I see that it’s a baby male! My gf comes out, picks him up and warms him with her hands. And just after I take a few ‘portraits’ of him, he flies away. Making a normal morning something very special!

24 Jul 2014

Review – SaberStrip

The-SaberStrip

Sometimes in my infinite idiotic wisdom I purchase something because I can’t afford something else. I use that item for a while and then it sits on the shelf for a bit. This has been my buying using pattern for quite some time, like I said I can be an idiot.

Such was the case when I purchased a Saberstrip light modifier. I had rented a Westcott IceLight and had a great experience with it, but at $499.00 it seemed a bit too steep in price for a constant light source I would only use occasionally. (I ended up buying two of them later, but that’s for another post.) Like everyone else I began searching the web for alternatives to the IceLight and found the Saberstrip. Unlike the IceLight the Saberstrip uses a handheld flash as its light source.

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15 Jul 2014

Review Fuji TCL X100 Teleconverter

01DX4036

My X100S and the TCL X100 (yes I made the little Fuji look crummy on purpose!)

I own a Fuji X100S and formerly owned their X100. For my commercial work it is a remarkable tool for the right situation. I use the X100S for personal use since it has so many features I enjoy. I normally don’t write reviews until I’ve had whatever I’m reviewing for a few months, but in this case I’m making an exception. I ordered and purchased my TCL-100 off Amazon through a third party retailer at the street price of 349.00. I had seen retailers from Japan selling the unit prior to its release, but was not willing to pay what they were asking. Although my X100S is silver I really didn’t care that the lens for sale was black. I’ve purposely made my little Fuji look crummy with gaff and grip tape. My clients laugh whenever I bring it out on a commercial shoot. They call it “Mark’s little beat up instamatic,” but after seeing the results never complain about its use for their work.

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05 Jun 2014

DeWitt Cheng’s review of “29 Hands – 15 Artists”

DeWitt Cheng for Regarding Arts reviews my 2014 exhibit “29 Hands – 15 Artists” at the Peninsula Museum of Art

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Artists’ hands: Captured as windows to personality
Photographer Mark Kitaoka displays decisive moments
in his exhibit, “29 Hands — 15 Artists”
 

When most of us attend Open Studios, we look at the art. When photographer Mark Kitaoka attended an Open Studio weekend at the Peninsula Museum of Art in Burlingame, which rents studio space to artists, he looked at the artists’ hands. And he thought of photographing the hands of the artists, at work.

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17 May 2014

The Daily News Interview

Interview with Paul Freeman for my exhibit “29 Hands – 15 Artists” at the Peninsula Museum of Art. Exhibit runs from May 18 through July 20 2014.

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11 May 2014

29 Hands – 15 Artists Opens May 18 2014

My exhibit, “29 Hands – 15 Artists” opens this Sunday May 18 2014 and runs through July 20 2014 at the Peninsula Museum of Art’s North Gallery in Burlingame, CA

Capture

22 Mar 2014

Music in the Mountains

In late January 2014 I was contacted by Cristine Kelly, the Marketing Director for Music in the Mountains, a symphonic company nestled in the gorgeous foothills of Nevada City, CA. Cristine, or more accurately her husband had found my work while searching the web for his Christmas present from Cristine, a Fuji X100S. I had written a short article about using the Fuji in some of my commercial work. He saw the imagery I had created for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and yelled down to Cristine, “Honey, you need to look at this. I think this is the guy you’ve been searching for to shoot your Company!”

Cristine wanted her new Season Brochure to reflect the beauty of the surrounding area, so we discussed an on location shoot with costumes for the various performances her Company had planned for their upcoming season. Orchestras around the country are discovering that the ‘tried and true’ (I refer to that style as “Tired and Yawning”) photography, be it stock or shot for their specific needs, requires change to remain relevant. Rather than performance photos of musician’s clad in tuxedos and evening gowns, publicity imagery for music should reflect the emotion it conveys rather than what musician’s look like when they play. For most patrons, they know what they will see once they arrive. What they go for is for what they’ll experience and FEEL. Transmitting the feeling of an aural piece into something visual was my job.

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17 Mar 2014

My Monthly Blog on SuperDigitalCity

I have been asked to write a monthly blog article on SuperDigitialCity’s website. My first article is posted on March 16 2014

06 Mar 2014

Village Theatre 2014-15 Season Brochure Imagery

In January 2014 I photographed publicity imagery for Village Theatre‘s 2014-15 Season Brochure marketing materials. Some was done against seamless, others done on location. We were able to collaborate with the Company’s principles on concepts and messaging prior to beginning the shoot which made a huge difference in consistent messaging and impact. This was a wonderful experience of complete collaboration.

02 Mar 2014

Vision and Collaboration

Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s 2014-15 Season Brochure

In order to put an entire marketing campaign together it first takes vision. The Marketing VP at Dallas Symphony Orchestra had a very specific vision for his 2014-15 Season Brochure. His concept was to carry a “Date Night” theme throughout his brochure, creating an experience which would attract new as well as existing patrons. He also wanted a theatrical and dream like quality to the individual performances, one that matched each symphonic piece.

Keep in mind that whenever you’re hired to create commercial imagery there is quite a bit at stake. Beyond your own reputation, there’s the talent, scheduling, venue logistics, graphics gurus, administrative help, travel, blah, blah blah. And although an Art Director may have a specific shot they have in their own minds, it’s up to the photographer to execute that vision, one that often only exists in the AD’s mind.

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