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Category : using modifiers

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….

18 Nov 2019

K5600 Big Eye Fresnel – Update November 18 2019

November 18 2019

I have utilized my K5600 Big Eye Fresnel during a recent studio dance session. I have never used a large Fresnel as my key light for dance. But based on my prior testing I decided that the light produced by this instrument was worth the try. Thankfully the AD agreed and so I used it for dance for the very first time. I will say that unlike other modifiers, focusing rods, soft boxes, etc. a Fresnel instrument is unforgiving with moving subjects. But for the right mood, I find it to be worth the effort. No it won’t be for all of my dance sessions, but for the ones I want this delicious type light, I won’t hesitate to use it.

October 13 2019

The pre owned K5600 Big Eye which I found through Kaylites.

After having converted a Mole Richardson 412 Fresnel spotlight to accept a strobe my local client base began to fall in love with the lighting style of a large Fresnel. Since spotlights were used in the 1930-40s for portraiture there is a very romantic look and feel to the imagery. My issue with the converted 412 is it is almost impossible to transport via airline. Plus I’ve invested loads of time and effort so if it were to be damaged or lost I’d be pissed! My remote clients wanted to know ‘When we get that kind of light Mark!’

I looked at a Bron Flooter, but for around 4.5k and the same transport issue I did not consider it viable for my needs. I then found the K5600 Big Eye Fresnel and for 2.2k it fit within my budget, but more importantly I could break it down for airline transport. So at first I tried to rent one, but then decided to purchase the unit. This is where my troubles began. I found that the unit is no longer manufactured by K5600 to purchase, but can be rented at several different rental houses. My preference is to purchase my equipment since I often find rental units to be poorly cared for with either missing or non functional parts. I was lucky enough to locate a used one through an exceptional retailer.

The Big Eye Fresnel was made for K5600 Joker HMI constant lights, but I ‘hoped and figured’ I could adapt it to my strobes which are the Flashpoint 600 and 200 line of lights. The Big Eye comes with three different length 5/8” spigots to accommodate their 200, 600 and 800 HMIs which vary in height. By using a few standard 5/8” adapters I found the right ones for both the 200 and 600s both using remote heads on the various length spigots supplied with the Big Eye.

My next task was to follow my normal protocol of testing the quality of light for any modifier before putting it into my normal workflow. I was fortunate to find a theatre set and a beautiful actress where I could not only test the quality of light, but the focusing characteristics of the large 24” Fresnel lens. Long story short, I could not be happier with the instrument and its conversion to strobes.

As shown in the two following images I am able to use both the AD200 and 600 strobes with their remote heads in the Big Eye.

The AD200 remote head and bulb reflector. I believe that this configuration will be my most often used set up. In a following photo I show how I rigged a modeling light to use with the 200 remote head.

The Flashpoint 600 remote head can be used both vertically and horizontally in the Big Eye. I have found no appreciable difference in the quality or pattern of light in my testing. Using it in the vertical position allows the bulb to be very far from or very close to the lens.

In order to have some sort of modeling light when I use the 200s I purchased a Lume Cube Air and simply mounted it to a steel bracket I made which affixes to the AD200 remote 1/4 20 threaded hole. The Lume Cube Air comes with an embedded magnet on one side of its case. Although it’s not exactly centered when mounted on the lighting fixture, who cares! And I can control the Lume Cube from my phone via Bluetooth. Perfect for my needs.

The modeling light works really well to get a general idea of the light’s focus and placement. And since it’s attached to the actual light fixture it moves in and out with the light source for focusing.

I am able to use the AD600 remote head as well. It can be used both in the normal bulb horizontal position or in this case the vertical position. I made a little DIY reflector when I want to use it in the vertical position out of a biscuit cutter….. I just cut it in half.

I just use Nano tape to affix the biscuit cutter reflector to the remote head.

“Honey look I bought you two new biscuit cutters!” (I used the largest one to make the reflector)

I cut the biscuit cutter just in front of the handle and folded the edge over to prevent cuts to my hand. It also adds additional strength to the ‘reflector’ as well. And if you’re wondering the actual OEM Joker reflector that comes with the Big Eye is not as stout as this little biscuit cutter! LOL

To me the little biscuit reflector looks OEM! Hahahahaha

I was fortunate enough to be allowed to use this set to test my Big Eye between show performances.

The scene with the stage work lights on.

My setup to test both the Big Eye and my new Aputure Spotlight I used with a window gobo.

Please note that all of the imagery of Catherine was shot using the AD200 set between 1/32 and 1/4 power levels. There was no need for me to use my 600. All stage work lights remained on throughout the session. My Pentax 645Z was never set to HSS. All images shot at 1/125th shutter speed.

I first balanced the Aputure window gobo light….

And then the Big Eye as my key light….

First to shoot lovely Catherine with just the Big Eye….

And then using both the Big Eye and the Aputure. I wanted to determine how much focus was needed in the Big Eye so as to not overpower the gobo light from the Aputure instrument.

We then moved to the bedroom set to determine just how finely the Big Eye could be focused.

Again adding the Aputure instrument for the window with the Big Eye fully focused as my key light.

And one more of the Big Eye in mid focused position.

Finally a more traditional use of a Fresnel on the chaise lounge. Three quarters flooded.

I will simply say that I am thrilled at not only the quality of light produced by the Big Eye, but it’s construction and design. I’m actually shocked that K5600 has discontinued its production, but happy that rental houses still offer them as rentals. If you are ever in the need to rent a fantastic Fresnel, don’t hesitate to rent a K5600 Big Eye Fresnel.

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.

05 Oct 2019

Incredible Customer Service

I recently posted a review of my testing of the K5600 Big Eye Fresnel. That blog post can be found here.

The photo sent to me by the owner of the K-5600 Big Eye Fresnel for sale. 

I recently decided to buy a K-5600 Big Eye Fresnel after having fallen in love with the delicious light produced by a large Fresnel lens. I had converted a vintage 1965 Mole Richardson 412 Hollywood spotlight into a strobe, which I used for my local clients. After viewing the results I was attaining with the Mole my remote clients said “Uh Mark we want that same light for some of OUR shots. How can you make that happen?” Due to its sheer size/weight and all of the effort it took to convert it I could not transport it to my remote clients via airline.

So I began to investigate portable options which led me to the Big Eye. It’s not inexpensive listed at $2250.00 so at first I thought I would rent one. Due to the multiple hassles involved with that idea I just decided to bite the bullet and purchase one. I ordered one through Adorama and in two days received a notice that my order had been cancelled. I contacted their customer service department and they informed me that K-5600, the maker of the Big Eye no longer manufactures them. I decided to contact K-5600 and they explained that the unit was released in 2010 and met with tepid sales. So they decided to discontinue production.

I’ve rented modifiers before, Bron Para 133s, etc. But my personal preference is to own my equipment. It’s always available and I take care of my gear, something I find is not necessarily so with rentals. I began a search for a retailer or rental house on the off chance they had one in stock. Or because they were not popular enough for K-5600 to continue production, they had one they wished to sell. Peter Bradshaw of K-5600 did his best to help me find one, but to no avail. I had contacted Kayelites via their web form like I had with the other retailers who indicated they had some in stock. But like the others they did not have one on hand and would have to special order one from K-5600.

Stephen the owner of Kayelites called me and told me that in 2010 he had sold two to his customers. It was at that point he looked them up and called one of them while I waited on the line. He came back on to tell me he left a voicemail and would contact me if or when his call was returned. Two days later I received a call from Stephen that one of his customers planned to retire soon and was interested in selling his Big Eye! Holy smokes really?!! Stephen then asked the owner to send photos of the unit and forwarded them to me. He brokered the deal with a very modest handling fee and I received the unit directly from the owner. In every step of the way Stephen followed up with not only great service but a level of communication that I was accustomed to 30 years ago.

I am now the very fortunate owner of a K-5600 Big Eye Fresnel that no one, not even the manufacturer could locate for me and at approximately 700.00 less than new! My plan is to use it with both as a constant light as well as with a strobe depending on the need of the client.

Adapting the Big Eye to various strobes.

Kayelites, specifically Stephen Kaye has a customer for life. Thank you Stephen and thank you for your kindness and tenacity. It’s so appreciated.

27 Aug 2019

Glow EZ Lock Parabolic and ARC in combination

If you’ve read my review of the Glow EZ Lock Deep Parabolic you already know I find it to be a remarkable value in modifiers. I’ve also done a preliminary review of the Glow EZ Lock ARC strip box. So for this post I wanted to show how I combined both of those modifiers in two of my recent client sessions. I was asked by one client to create portraits of 21 individuals and then an overall group shot of the entire team of talent. For the portraits I used both the ARC and a 48″ Deep Parabolic. The Parabolic was the key light and the ARC was the rim/hair light.

My configuration for the portraits. AD600s were used for both modifiers. The Glow 48″ has the inner diffusion disk and inner baffle only along with the grid that comes with the modifier. The ARC has the inner diffusion disk inserted along with the outer diffusion panel.

I’m very pleased with the quality of light from both modifiers. The wrap and contrast on faces is just delicious.

Due to the curvature of the ARC it acts as both a subtle hair and rim light. Because of its curve I really love how close I can move the ARC strip light to the talent for subtle light.

The subtle wrap of these when used in combination is really flattering for portrait work. For the group shot below I simply used a single Glow EZ Lock Deep Parabolic 48″ with both diffusion panels inserted, but without the diffusion disk. A 600 was my light source. Wonderful coverage and quality of light.

Next up was my dance session for a long time client…I used two Glow ARC modifiers, one Glow Deep Parabolic 48 and one Saberstrip v2.0. All three Glows used 600 lights. Prior to this configuration I utilized three Saberstrip 2.0s, but since they are not available I wanted to see how the ARCs would fair in my use. I had tested the quality of light prior to the session and was pleased with the results. My client commented, “Man you bring new toys every time you come here!” LOL 

My lighting configuration for the dance session. The light on the right is a gobo projector where I use an AD200.

Glow Deep Parabolic with grid was used to focus on Alison’s face. Two ARCs as lateral rim lights and one Saberstrip v2.0 as the top rim light.

Two ARCs as lateral rim lights and one Saberstrip v2.0 as the god light were my configuration for this shot of Sky.

Gobo light modifier using a single AD200 as the key light and one ARC strip modifier was used as fill for this shot.

Two ARCs as lateral rim lights and one Saberstrip v2.0 as the top god/rim light.

When used in combination I cannot stress enough how elegantly these modifiers produce in terms of quality of light. When I consider the ease of set up and strike along with their inexpensive price points there’s not anything to bitch or argue about! Incredible combination I’ll use when it’s the right tool for the job.

26 Aug 2019

Glow EZ Lock Deep Parabolic 48″ Quick Softbox Update 8-26-19

Update August 26 2019

I have written a post where I use this modifier in combination with another Glow EZ product. You can find that post here.

Update: July 28 2019

I have recently used this remarkable modifier in combination with others. It may be one of the best values I’ve encountered.

UPDATE February 20 2019

I continue to be incredibly impressed with this modifier. So much so that I utilized it for an important on location shoot in Los Angeles, CA for a professional Argentine Tango session. The client had hired me to create publicity imagery for their 2019-20 season. The space I chose was Monk Space located in DTLA. It has an incredible variety of rooms all with a different look and feel. In addition to the Deep Parabolic 48″ I used an Elinchrom 39″ Deep Octa, the new Glow Wing Like Parabolic, several cones, and a gobo focusing modifier.

Since everything had to be flown down in checked luggage (including my smoke machine) space was at a premium. Since the Deep 48 comes with a grid, two diffusion panels and a deflector ring it was the right tool for this job. Even though it is NOT my preferred focusing rod modifier, its quality of light and versatility is remarkable.

Light test for the group shot. Only the Glow 48″ and Elinchrom as a rim light for this test.

48″ Glow parabolic and the Wing Like 64″ modifiers were the key lights for this group shot. The Elinchrom was the subtle rim light.

Back light is a 5″ cone. Key light is the 48″ Glow.

Haze filled room. Back light is a coned and gobo’d strobe. Key light is the 48″ Glow.

Same light configuration as the image above.

Same light configuration as the image above.

Gobo light is the rear rim light with haze in the air. Key light is the 48″ parabolic with grid.

Back light is a 5″ cone. Key light is the 48″ Glow.

An authentic smile is everything.

And in some cases the best modifier is no modifier at all. Sometimes I like to just use a bare bulb. While trolls will get an erection arguing over whether the shape is a ‘true parabola’ others of us will judge its quality by the light produced. I for one love this modifier. An incredible value that gives up very very little in light quality compared to other much more expensive modifiers.

My client was thrilled….

Celina and Hugo are such great souls! Oh and yes this was lit with the Glow 48! LOL

UPDATE 11-28-18

My client has released the press publicity imagery for Rock of Ages so I can now share them which were lit with the Glow EZ 48″

Diana Huey stars as Sherrie in Rock of Ages at The 5th Avenue Theatre. Key light strobe is the 600Pro

Yeah she’s a funny gal that’s for sure.

“Mark you’re not gonna post that one are you?!”

Diana Huey as Sherrie and Galen Disston as Drew star in Rock of Ages at The 5th Avenue Theatre. Key light strobe is the 600Pro

Tough to light this one, but it worked out.

UPDATE 11-9-18

I will simply say having used this modifier for three months that it may be the best value in the business. I have found that it rivals my much more expensive focusing arm modifiers in terms of light quality when used with the disk at the maximum distance allowable on the short rod combined with the inner diffusion panel. Of course it does not have the versatility of a focusing arm, but the light quality is delicious. 

The quality of light is both punchy and soft, much like a focusing rod modifier. Incredible value considering it comes with a grid as well. The ease of set up and striking is incredible. I use a short length of PVC pipe to push the locking mechanism down since my reach to the lock is tight. I’m sure smaller versions of this modifier are easier to reach.

I have also used it for a recent (this week) on location publicity shoot, but cannot share the actual photos at this time. Having used it for one of my longest standing large clients will attest to my confidence in the Glow 48. Remarkable. I can share the light test shot I did of the Marketing team for my client before the actual talent arrived from hair and makeup. In the actual shot there are eight people, but for the purposes of my lighting test I only had seven individuals.

Anyone who has created group portraits knows the difficulty. The ceiling in this club is only 8 feet tall. Due to the shape of the Glow 48 it was perfect for this job. Narrow enough to get the elevation I needed, yet wide enough to illuminate most everyone. This was a five light set up. One key light, three gelled ambient lights and one light shot through a Fresnel to illuminate the person in the very back.

Below are all shot with the Glow 48 as the key light camera left with a Saberstrip v2 as the fill light camera right behind the talent. Pentax 645Z with the newly released R2Pro.

Publicity imagery for A Christmas Carol. The only adjustments to these images were done in Lightroom for white balance, lens correction and contrast. Strobes were: key light through the Glow 48 was a Flashpoint 600Pro and an AD200 in the v2 Saberstrip.

UPDATE 8-14-18

Our client Hillbarn Theatre just released one of their publicity posters for the upcoming production of West Side Story. This image was shot using a Flashpoint XPLOR 600PRO and the Glow EZ Lock Deep Parabolic 48″ with disk and inner diffusion panel as the key light. Rim light was a Saberstrip v2 using an eVOLV200

UPDATE 8-1-18

I did a re-shoot for a client’s West Side Story publicity imagery since they have actually cast the roles. I decided to use the Glow 48 with the metal disk and inner diffusion panel installed instead of my focusing arm modifiers for this session. I wanted a slightly softer yet still punchy look for the mood the client wanted created. I continue to be amazed and happy with the light quality and the ease of set up with this modifier. My only niggle is that it can be tough to push it open because of the size of the modifier. I have to stand to one side and really push down to get it to click. Ah first world problems eh? LOL.

Glow 48 camera left slightly behind the talent and feathered. Saberstrip v2 as the very slight rim light camera right.

Glow 48 camera right as feathered key light pointing away from the talent to just skim them. Saberstrip v2 camera left as rim/fill light.

UPDATE 7-3-18

I continue to be impressed with the EZ 48, so much so that it was only one of four modifiers I took for a personal editorial project down to El Segundo to shoot Luna Cycle. (I have an upcoming article on that trip along with photos of course….) The other two modifiers were my Fresnel and two the soon to be released SaberStrip v2.0 which comes out later this month. This project was editorial in nature over ‘beauty‘ in the traditional sense. (I find beauty in loads of things that may not seem obvious.) I know a good many of you (including myself) like to ‘learn’ about modifiers and how they apply to shooting beauty or product. But for me the real test of a modifier is just how versatile it can be in a variety of situations.

The light quality is always my first concern and the EZ has that down pat. The ease of assembly and if it is the right tool for the right job is my second consideration. For the two images below it fit both all three of those criteria perfectly.

Light test. This is when I knew I needed to add a light to illuminate the sign behind the chair for the talent.

In this photo of Ashley and her ‘puppy’ the EZ was the key light camera left sandwiched between the couch and some other boxes. I only used the disk reflector and the inner diffusion panel since I wanted a more specular light for these shots. The Luna Command Center sign was lit with one SaberStrip v2.0

How the scene appears without the use of strobes.

You can see the EZ reflected in Kyle’s sunglasses, a rookie mistake on my part, but that’s OK too. A SaberStrip v2.0 was used camera left as a very soft fill. Again the EZ used with the metal disk and inner diffusion panel only.

I have found that the value and quality of light presented by the EZ is remarkable.

UPDATE 5-25-18

I had a client reschedule one of my sessions, so I decided to do a quality of light test today with this modifier against my SMDV 110 using a focusing rod and my Parabolix 35D modifier. Since the Glow comes with this little metal disk I wanted to find out if it could produce a similar quality of light to my actual focusing rod light modifiers. Spoiler Alert: Yes it can! With one major limitation…..

The comparison group. Left to right, SMDV 110, Glow EZ 48″, Parabolix 35D

I was actually away at how good this 95.00 modifier’s quality of light is in real life. The major difference between it and my other focusing rod modifiers is its inability to feather light while using the disk. I almost always feather light using any modifier. I know that many people generally point a modifier directly at the talent, but my taste prefers having the light bounce away from the talent. It produces a delicious wrap that a direct shot just doesn’t accomplish. Because the light source on the Glow is pointing DIRECTLY TOWARD the talent, but is deflected back toward the modifier by the disk (much like a beauty dish), any angle not pointing directly toward your talent exposes the strobe bulb. This creates a severe hot spot and ruins the effects of the modifier. True focusing rod modifiers point the strobe bulb AWAY from the talent toward the modifier. That greatly increases the angle at which the modifier can be turned without exposing the bulb. In addition the housing of focusing rods which hold the strobes have a flange that also shields the bulb from direct line of sight.

One of the “potential issues” I had read somewhere is that the Glow 48 is passing light ‘through‘ the spokes of the housing skeleton. I’m always fascinated how people concern themselves with things like that. In my experience it does NOT affect the quality of light in this modifier.

Light pattern of the Glow with the disk in it’s fully extended position which I call Mid flood.

For the purposes of this test I shot all three modifiers directly at Jenni, no feathering. In the focusing rod comparison, no diffusion material was used on any of the modifiers. The reason I prefer focusing rods is the extra contrast, smoothness and punch they produce in the quality of light. They’re certainly not for everyone, but my clients now insist on this type of light for most of their publicity work. There are exceptions, but it’s what we both prefer. The ability to focus or flood the very same modifier to give different lighting moods/looks is wonderful.

For the SMDV and the Parabolix I had the focusing arm in their mid-flooded position (both used the Parabolix focusing arm and an xPLOR 600 with remote head), meaning halfway out from the apex of the modifier. I did this because the disk on the Glow would only go about halfway from the apex of its modifier. I did notice a color difference between the modifiers as well. I’ve decided to post the images without identifying which modifier was which…until the end. After all we each decide for ourselves what we prefer and I don’t want to influence your view of this modifier. So here we go….

The setup. The reflector is a Glow Reflector Panel and Sun Scrim Kit 39″ x 62″ which I will review later. The light used in the Glow 48″ is a Flashpoint 600 Pro.

Shot A

Shot B

Shot C

I also wanted to do a quality of light test using both diffusion panels which is the way most of the people will use the Glow 48. I did NOT use the diffusion disk in addition to the two diffusion panels. The inner diffusion panel has a 2 stop circular panel which effectively reduces any potential hot spots. My gold standard in a two diffusion panel configuration has been my beloved Elinchrom 39” Rotalux Deep Octa. I found the Glow achieves 90% of the light I love in the Eli. And considering the Eli is 290.00 PLUS an additional 55.00 for a Bowens speedring AND 86.00 for a hooded diffusion panel (no grid is made for the Eli Rotalux line) that’s a whopping 431.00 compared to 95 bucks. Is that 10% difference worth the extra three and change Benjamins? That’s totally up to how your client feels about the lighting. And if you’re not shooting client work, how you feel about the light quality.

Glow 48″ with both diffusion panels installed, 600 Pro Strobe, feathered light. Hair/rim light is a Saberstrip Light.

So let’s do a little math:

  • Glow 95.00 (46”)
  • SMDV 110 (44”) 325.00 (not including a focusing rod)
  • Parabolix 35D (89cm) Package 838.00 (including focusing arm)

In order of ease of assembly and breakdown as I used them today (without diffusion panels):

  1. Glow 48*
  2. SMDV 110**
  3. Parabolix 35D

* The Glow is the easiest to assemble and strike IF you don’t use the inner and outer diffusion panels. They must be removed and installed each time you use this modifier.

** The SMDV is hands down the fastest and easiest modifier to assemble and break down if the diffusion panels are installed. You don’t have to remove them when breaking down the modifier. They can remain on the modifier.

Shot Modifiers:

  • Shot A: Parabolix 35D
  • Shot B: Glow 48″
  • Shot C SMDV 110cm

I will simply say that the light quality and value of the Glow Deep 48” Quick is REMARKABLE. Add to that fact its cost and it’s a no brainer. It is going into my workflow immediately and I’ll not hesitate to use it when it’s the right tool for the right job. A side note, Jenni the young woman I asked to be my test subject is also a photographer. She was so impressed she plans on purchasing a Glow 48. Hell who can blame her?!

UPDATE 5-19-18

Zarli, a visitor recently asked me two questions, one of which didn’t take long to research and I’m assuming others will have this same question so I’m adding it here. He wants to know the diameter of the changeable speed ring in the unit. The measurement is 144mm or 5 2/3rds of an inch. If the light quality is as I expect I will change the Bowens speed ring to a Cheetahstand low profile ring. I’ve done this for all of my Bowens modifiers when using them without a focusing rod. The reason is the Cheetahstand Low Profile rings allow my Flashpoint strobe bulbs to penetrate further into a modifier giving me a percentage increase in light output. It’s a very easy change and well worth the extra 25 bucks.

The low profile speed rings I use.

You only need to remove one of the #2 Phillips head screws along with the thumb screw and loosen the other two to remove the speed ring.

Here it is with the speed ring removed. As you can see I didn’t have to remove all of the screws.

Figures a photographer would have a shitty photo of the ruler!

Just to show I can replace the Bowens mount with a Profoto mount. I have these Profoto speed rings to replace them when I’m using my Parabolix focusing arm which is the exact diameter of Profoto’s speed rings. Obviously I won’t be able to do that with this Glow modifier due to the rods. BUT the movable disk is intriguing me…..

Original Post

Although I have not had time to evaluate the actual light quality of this modifier, I wanted to give my impressions of the Glow EZ Lock Deep Parabolic’s physical build quality of the unit. As is my workflow, until I can test any modifier I won’t be using it on commercial shoots. Since this is my hectic time of year I’m not sure when that will occur. But once it does I will post my impressions here. And I’m not going to get into the fucking bullshit back and forth about whether this is a true parabola. If you’re one of those best of luck and start babbling about geometric facts somewhere else. My world is about creating compelling and excellent imagery, not having to be fucking right. Plenty of other troll places you can go online for that.

Ok…

Even though it’s marketed as a 48″ modifier, my measurements show it’s 46″ at the widest portion. Not a big deal, but if you’re looking for 48″ I didn’t find that to be the size of the opening. The outer fabric is a high quality rip stop nylon. I had read on some site that an individual didn’t like the yellow stripes and that their clients may disapprove. To each their own, but my clients could care less what my gear looks like, what I wear, what wine I drink, the brand of toilet I use ….blah blah blah. What they DO care about is my imagination, putting it into an executable and relevant concept along the quality of my imagery. 

I love it when retailers include a grid. Especially a high quality one like this. The squares are 1.5 inches and the grid fits very well in the rim of the modifier. No slop.

Just the other side, but I wanted to note that my 600 Pro holds this thing snugly and securely.

I always appreciate when the modifier fabric easily covers the speed ring. Not all do, but this one does. More about that zipper below….

I’m not sure why they’ve included a small zipper. Because of the rod that remains in the center of the modifier I cannot use a focusing rod where I would run a remote strobe head cable out of this opening. Perhaps it’s to make expanding the unit easier when opening. Because it’s DAMN TIGHT to open which is a good thing to keep the fabric nice and tightly stretched. Cussing level (4 of 7) to push the thing open.

I like to remove the rod ends from a modifier’s pocket to see the quality of the end caps. These are great and the pockets are deep enough so the rod ends don’t fall out unless you pull them out like I did to examine one. Also the width of the Velcro is nice and wide, about 2″. Even when I don’t use a grid, feathering light is much easier when a modifier has a wide dark edge.

The fabric is a shiny smooth silver made of a high quality rip stop nylon. I tend to prefer pebbled silver, but until I actually test the light quality I cannot say how it will perform to my taste.

In addition to the grid you get an inner and outer diffusion panel. As you can see they use a 2 stop circular piece of fabric on the inner panel to prevent hot spots.

A personal pet peeve of mine is when makers use those blasted infant clothing snaps on diffusion panels. Sure they’re fine to snap together, but a real bitch to take apart. I was pleasantly surprised that these are both easy to snap together AND APART. Cussing level 0 of 7!

This is the interior of the unit when expanded. The lock is very secure and almost identical to the Cheetahstand quick strip boxes I use. Very secure.

So Adorama includes this little disk which slides onto the rod using friction applied by a rubber ring. I “think” this “may” have a similar affect as my focusing rod modifiers. The marketing material states that the disk can be used this way or inverted to spread the light in a different manner in the modifier. I will test this when I have the chance.

I “believe” that the disk this close to the strobe “may” yield a more specular look to the light like my focusing rod modifiers. When I have my focusing rod strobes close to the center of the modifier I call it ‘focused’ which is much like this configuration.

At this point it’s way too early to give my impressions of the light quality, simply because I haven’t tried it! But from a construction standpoint I feel that for 95.00 USD it presents a great value. Is it ‘better’ than this brand or that brand? I can’t say, but will say that IF the light quality is great to excellent I will add this to my workflow when it’s the right tool for the right job. More to come…..later.

26 Aug 2019

GLOW EZ LOCK ARC Curved Strip Softbox – Update August 26 2019

Update August 26 2019

I have written a post where I use this modifier in combination with another Glow EZ product. You can find that post here.

Updated August 21 2019

A visitor stopped by and asked me if these modifiers will accept an PCB speed ring. So I took the time to measure it for him and others. I was formerly a devout Einstein user so I have some of those speed rings hanging around. Here’s what I found:

Like my other Glow modifiers the speed rings are easy to change. Remove the thumb screw and one other phillips head screw, loosen the other two and slide the speed ring out from the housing.

The diameter of the OEM Bowens speed ring is 5 15/16th of an inch or 150.8mm

A PCB speed ring is smaller than the OEM’s mount size.

The following three images shows the PCB speed ring compared to the OEM Glow Bowens speed ring….

All is not lost. If it ‘were me’ I would use InstaMorph to create some shims to take up the slack. But that’s just me….up to you. The important point is now you know the Glow’s diameter of the speed ring so if you want to change to another ring, just make sure it is the correct measurement. Hope this helps.

Updated August 5 2019

I had mentioned that I would be testing the quality of light before using these in my upcoming dance sessions. I wanted to try a different application by using these to replicate the shadowless glamour light a ring light produces. I’ve been doing this with my Saberstrip v2.0s for some time. But after testing the consistency of these modifiers across their face I thought that I’d try them stacked. I’ve always wanted to do a shadowless light shoot of multiple people all at once. Due to the size, shape and consistency of this light modifier I will be able to do so. I’m convinced that these will be a regular part of my on location and studio workflow.

This configuration is how I replicate a ring light glamour light. I really love what this has produced.

How it looks from my side. I opened my garage door. Doing so and taking a shot with my camera phone would blow out the entire image, so I left it closed. It is damn bright outside today. But the bokeh pattern is something I wanted rather than just a seamless shot.

Garage door opened. Pentax 645Z 1/1600th shutter speed, f3.5 ISO 160. 150mm lens

Garage door opened. Pentax 645Z 1/1600th shutter speed, f3.5 ISO 160. 150mm lens

Original Post

I use strip boxes quite a bit for my work. I recently received the Adorama GLOW EZ LOCK ARC Curved Strip Softbox. I have historically used two different strip light modifiers, first the Cheetah 12″x55″ Quick StripBox and the yet to be released SaberStrip v2.0 which uses the Flashpoint 200s rather than a speedlight. I have found that strip light modifiers are especially valuable for me during studio dance sessions.

Below is an example of how I use strip boxes to light dancers (this was NOT shot using the Glow ARC):

Strip boxes were used to light this shot. Three, one above on a boom and two to each side. All three I consider to be key lights.

One of the advantages Adorama states on their site of this curved configuration is: “Covers the subject with an even light.” Flashhavoc also mentions “The curved surface surface of the EZ Lock ARC’s front diffuser panel is designed to provide something of a more even light across the full length of the stripbox.” Since I use strip boxes quite a bit I thought I’d actually run my own test to see if both claims are true….

Before getting to that test I just want to say that one of the most remarkable modifiers I own and use  when not using focusing rod modifiers is the Glow EZ Lock deep parabolic. The quality of light, it’s complete ease to assemble and the price seems almost impossible!  But yet it’s NOT. So I have high hopes for the Glow ARCs as well.

The construction of the ARC is very similar to the EZ Parabolics. Like an umbrella it uses a rod and securely locks into place.

A VERY SHORT rod is used for the ARC

I always use the diffusion disk with my Glow Deep parabolic. I especially like the way it distributes the light into the modifier. So I was pleased to see that it is also included with the ARC. It’s interesting that in their instructions, no mention of the disk is included or illustrated……hum.

The diffusion disk attaches UNDER the locking mechanism.

It ‘may‘ be due to the fact that inserting the disk under the locking mechanism takes some finesse to do. There is a fine line between collapsing the modifier and inserting the disk. The good news is once it’s there I leave mine inserted because it can easily fold with the disk attached. So it’s just a first time kinda thing. The disk does place some tension on the expansion rods that is not present when the disk is not attached. Just FYI.

OK to compare the alleged even spread of the light to another comparable strip light I used my Cheetahstand 12×55″ Quick Stripbox. Prior to the Glow EZ line being released I loved how Cheetahstand made their Quick softboxes. Low and behold now they both use the very same mechanism which is fantastic. Why? Well because they’re so damn easy to set up and strike! Duh!

For the detail weenies out there, no these are not EXACTLY the same dimensions, but close enough for my little test.

Something to note, the outer diffusion panel of the Glow ARC has the same kind of Velcro on both sides of the attachment strip. Perhaps a grid is coming…? The Cheetahstand strip boxes include a grid.

The Cheetahstand uses a much longer interior rod compared to the Glow ARC.

For my light test I used the interior diffusion panel on the Cheetahstand strip box since I used the diffusion disk on the Glow ARC.

How I tested:

  • Strobe: AD600 at full power 1:1
  • Light Meter: Sekonic L-358 with light dome both extended and retracted (same results both ways)
  • 1/100th shutter speed, ISO 100 set on the Sekonic
  • Measured 4 feet from the face of each modifier
  • Center/Top/Bottom measurements for each modifier
  • Strobe fired six times for each position to ensure consistency 

Results:

Cheetahstand

  • Center f16
  • Top f14
  • Bottom f14

Glow ARC

  • Center f16
  • Top f16
  • Bottom f16

So…..

It’s true! The Glow ARC measured consistently even in my test! I have an upcoming dance session this month and I plan to test the modifier before using it live. Another thing to note is the interior silver material of the Glow ARC is an interesting fabric. Not shiny, not pebbled unlike any other Glow modifier I own. I plan to test the style of light using the Glow ARC with and without the outer diffusion panel. More to come…..

25 Aug 2019

Anatomy of a publicity session

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.

My beloved Mole Richardson Fresnel that I converted into a strobe is one of my most treasured light modifiers.

I almost always assemble all of my modifiers prior to placing them. Space as you can see was tight on this space.

We let the MUA borrow one of our LED lights and modifiers so she could apply makeup in the temperature of the light we were using.

General blocking of a shot is time consuming.

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.

Poster for Nine the 2009 Movie

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:

Light modifiers

Strobes

  • All strobes used are Flashpoint 200s and 600s – a combination of pro and non pro I do not use TTL on any of them.

Camera

Atmospheric

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.

19 Aug 2019

Creating a Concept – Updated 8-19-2019

Update August 19 2019

I was literally shocked when I read this article on ThePhotoblogger.com. “What I’m going to propose in this article may sound absurd to some photographers, especially if you’re new to the art form….“How can I make my image look like theirs?” But they only want advice on how to do it in post-production. Here’s a controversial idea: do it in camera.”

And just one of the author’s suggestions to his audience:

  • “Why not have a creative vision to begin with, and then execute it as well as possible within the camera?”

Wow just wow…incredible that this ‘may be a new concept to create things IN CAMERA TO SOME!’ WOW

Original Post March 26 2019

One of my favorite things to do is to imagine a concept and then execute it. This post is about concepts, mood and light rather than gear. Oh sure it takes gear to have my concepts go from only in my head to fruition, but if you’re looking for a gear review, it’s best to keep moving along.

I wanted to photograph Jeannette, a dear friend’s daughter who was studying ballet in two different concepts. I gave her a general idea of them; one would be as if she was dancing in a grand ballroom. The other was to appear as if I was on stage BEHIND the ballerina shooting downstage toward the audience. And finally I wanted to see if I could configure a lighting protocol where while under an umbrella I could light the ballerina’s face.

So once the concept was developed finding a venue and prop was necessary. A large warehouse along with a non-lit chandelier was needed for my grand ballroom concept. I would light the chandelier using a strobe and long throw reflector. Combining incandescent light, like a tungsten lit chandelier would be very difficult to balance with my strobes. They would overpower incandescent light no matter how low I powered down my strobes. It could be done, but why when I can light it and balance it with a strobe?

The warehouse setup. Just out of frame camera left is my strobe used to illuminate the chandelier using a PCB Retro Laser modifier. Sadly no longer made.

Getting a sense of the correct height for the chandelier. “Close your eyes while I test the light!”

This octa modifier was used to simulate light coming down from the chandelier which appears to illuminate her. I moved it so that a shadow would be cast down from her tutu.

My ballroom shot. Two key lights stacked. A Fresnel and the octa. One produces a hard light/shadow, the other a softer filling light. Stacking modifiers is one of my favorite techniques.

Chandelier lowered and smoke added for atmosphere to give a different mood.

The next concept was a tad more difficult, making it appear as if I am actually on stage shooting toward the audience. Using two Fresnel heads on my strobes to appear as spotlights to create drama and spotlight shadows ‘on the stage’ was in order. And then to balance a fill light for her back was delicate to do. I also knew I wanted to add atmosphere to the shot which would add a mystic mood to the image.

Balancing the lights.

OOPS! Mark that’s a tad too much smoke! LOL

The ‘spotlight’ shadows are spot on here.

And finally how can I light someone’s face under an umbrella? Ah using a simple speed light and a homemade rig to hold it under the umbrella was the answer!

Not nearly as attractive as Jeannette, her father graciously helps me test my contraption!

And it worked just as I had hoped it would.

What was this all for anyway? Practice! My belief is practicing the execution of concepts keeps me sharp and improves what I can offer clients and myself in creating imagery. For me it’s not about what gear I own. It’s how I use it.

14 Aug 2019

CononMark 120cm – Glow EZ Lock Deep and Mole Richardson 412 on location

I was recently hired to create some publicity imagery for the stage performance of “Anything Goes.” Since the location of that play takes place in the 1930s aboard a luxury vessel the client wanted the mood to reflect that time and space. So we chose a local theatre’s upper balcony to shoot some of the scenes along with the doors leading into the lobby. The windows are round like portholes so they’d give the correct mood and story to the shots.

The interior of the theatre as it is normally lit. You can see the strobe pointing up I used to illuminate the ceiling for my shot in the upper balcony area.

Upper balcony area where we found the best mood feeling.

Both my client and I wanted an old school Hollywood glamour look to the images and using a large Fresnel would produce just that sort of light. I chose to use my Mole Richardson 10” Fresnel spotlight I have converted into a strobe as the key light for the indoor shots.

Mole Richardson 412 with barndoors is my keylight. Above it is the Bowens gobo projector. Just below is my CononMark 120cm used as my focusing fill light.

The upper balcony of the theatre’s lobby does not have any windows, so I used my Bowens Universal Spot Attachment for Gobos to give the illusion of a grand framed window on the wall. I used my CononMark 120 as the fill light since a focusing rod modifier can be subtlety focused to highlight the area I want filled.

In this light test show you can see no ‘window’ appears.

Two of the final upstairs shots.

On the walls of the theatre balcony are very elegant sconces and I did NOT want to overpower their illumination with my strobes, so using barn doors on the Mole Richardson Fresnel was necessary to prevent spill. I also used a 20 degree gridded Aputure Fresnel to illuminate the chandelier closest to the talent and finally an 8” coned strobe on the lower level to illuminate the ceiling. All strobes are Flashpoint 600s. Once those shots were created and the client was pleased after viewing them in real time on my iPad we moved to the outdoor area with the circular windows in the doors.

I chose to use three bare bulbs to throw light out through the windows toward my lens to create a very Hollywood look and feel to the images. The tiled patterned floor of the entry way is old school in an elegant style from the era we were trying to replicate.

In this instance my key light was my Glow EZ Lock Deep Parabolic Quick Softbox (48″). I only used the inner disk and baffle as diffusion. I find that for my work and client’s taste that configuration works best 80% of the time. In my personal view that modifier is a wickedly good value and produces excellent quality of light. And man is it ever easy to setup and strike! A little tip, I carry a short piece of ½ PVC in the bag about two feet long. I simply place it over the shaft of the octa and push down until the thing locks in place. SO convenient, no trying to maneuver myself as I am trying to push the dang center shaft locking collar down. BOOM, done! LOL

Key light was the Glow EZ Lock Deep Parabolic 48″

The client hired my partner to create a promotional film of the show and some of the processes I’ve described above are included. That film can be found here.

It really pleases me when my client is very happy with one of the executed concepts!

 

 

03 Aug 2019

The Wonder of Water

Someone recently requested that I post some behind the scenes shots of my water shoots. These are NOT underwater sessions. To date I am not skilled enough in the nuances of underwater shooting. Lighting and its color are very different, radio transmissions don’t work underwater, the equipment needed is different. But I have done quite a few sessions involving water, just not UNDER water….

I really love the organic nature of water and the story and drama it can add to the right project. So this first example involved quite a bit of engineering to set up the mood of rain. First off the restrictions were as follows:

  • The talent could only be at a specific location at a specific day and time. This prevented me from scheduling the session at a time when the sun would be in the optimum position so I was not fighting its influence.
  • The location where I was able to shoot must be at the client’s venue. So I could NOT rent a studio that allowed me to use water.

I scouted the client’s building area two weeks prior to the scheduled shoot and determined the best place to conduct the shoot would be the enclosed area where they keep their dumpsters! On one side was a chain link gate, the right and back wall were part of the building and the left wall was 20 feet high. The entire area had no ceiling. Shooting inside of their building would be impossible due to the water damage that would occur. Pushing the dumpsters out of the area and washing the concrete was first. The next thing to do was to rig up a sprinkler system to shoot water up and in front of my black drape. I rigged two garden sprinkler heads onto the top of the background crossbar and ran garden hoses to the outdoor spigot. Figuring out how to prevent the sprinkler heads from rotating in the Super Clamps once the water was turned on was another challenge. They naturally wanted to rotate back away from the forward direction I needed the water. If they did that while the strobes were firing the bulbs would explode from the temperature difference.

Then of course there is the issue of power and I needed to wrap my strobes in plastic so no one would be electrocuted including me! In order for water to show up in a photograph the way I wanted it to, it must be lit. In this case backlighting of the water was necessary.

I along with my clients prefer to NOT create elements in post processing, but in camera. First of all doing so adds so much authenticity and also excites the talent which then adds even more real emotion to the shot. My work IS NOWHERE NEAR THE LEVEL OF GoT’s not even close but, David Benioff’s comment about shooting on location versus graphic treatment is so spot on (at 2:19 mark in the video).

You can see the two garden sprinkler heads at the top of my backdrop crossbar. I had to consider the weight of the water as it runs up through the hoses. This is a test of fabric, the water and lighting. Two strobes were required to illuminate the water.

Testing the water pattern and illumination of the water. It was necessary to have a wind protected area to keep the water droplets from becoming uncontrollable due to wind. ALL OF THAT MUST BE CONSIDERED WHEN WORKING WITH WATER.

Another test of lighting and fabric flow.

A final light test with water raining down along with the key light and ground reflections.

One of the final shots for these costumes.

This next example was to shoot dancers with water trails. These are high school dancers so the restrictions were:

  • Photograph them immediately after school, two hours maximum time
  • The session MUST be held on school grounds

So I selected a wall that runs around the perimeter of their school’s pool area. Because the sun was high in the sky it was very difficult to find and area that I could shade just a bit. So I extended my background stand as high as it would go, about 12 feet. I then asked the student’s dance teacher to ‘douse’ the dancers with a bucket of water from the pool! As SOON as the students were wet they MUST perform their dance routine otherwise the water would dry and not be sufficient to leave water trails.

Again all strobes were covered in plastic.

Some fun antics after the shoot was over was called for!

This final example took one year of planning. YEP one full year. I’ve worked with these two Argentine Tango dancers for a number of years. They are the only tango dancers to have ever appeared in Cirque du Soleil, they are that skilled and beautiful. One of the main barriers was to pick a surface that would afford them traction in water and contain the water, so plastic was eliminated. It was very difficult but I finally figured out what to use, textured rubber. The other aspect that I didn’t anticipate is the timing of the shot. I am very accustomed at photographing dancers at the apex of their movement. But what I discovered is once they reach that apex, water trails are gone!

The momentum necessary to carry the water in an arc stops when a dancer reaches their apex. So I had to retime my shots, which took a bit of effort, but I was able to time my shutter press appropriately. 

The room was VERY small!

Getting the water into the area was accomplished using a garden hose from the building’s restroom located 75 feet away!

The couple practicing their dance moves.

Once we finished the clothed shots we moved onto the nudes. Keep in mind that this was shot during winter in Seattle. Because the water was cold and the room has one heater near the ceiling we pumped up the temp to 95 degrees! I wanted to be nude! Oh and ask me how we got the water OUT of the room! Can you say towels and buckets! Yep, we had to soak up the water, wring them out into a bucket, carry those buckets to the restroom and do it over and over and over….UGH! I kept reminding myself that the shots we got were worth the effort!

Whenever people ask me about what camera I use, what modifiers, what this or that I tend to ignore those questions. Why? Well because those are NOT the elements most important in what I do. Sure the right tool for the right job helps, but CONCEPTS ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT and EXECUTING those concepts well are key. I sometimes think that people believe they can buy their way out of poor imagery creation by purchasing expensive gear. A crappy photo can be created by a 50k camera as easily as it can be with a phone camera. And the inverse to that is also true.

A big part of my job is to figure out how to create unique and emotive moods and stories for my client’s imagery. A pretty picture without emotion or a story is just a pretty picture. One of the most challenging part of the job is to come up with a COMPELLING concept and then determining how to execute that concept with the restrictions I know I must face. In truth my client base could care less what gear I use. What they care about is if the product I produce for them evokes emotion, is unique and contains a story which will help sell their product. Can I CONSISTENTLY produce compelling imagery and does the talent enjoy working and collaborating with me? Can I overcome impediments to a shoot on the fly and quickly? If not I can expect a one in a row job from that client. Not to mention my reputation would suffer in this very close knit community.

Imagination and working around restrictions is the most challenging part of my job. And I would not have it any other way.

25 Jul 2019

Converting a Mole Junior 412 Fresnel – UPDATED July 28 2019

Update: July 28 2019

I have recently used this modifier in combination with others. All of the effort it took to convert this Hollywood spotlight into a strobe has been well worth the time and effort.

Update October 25 2018

I recently conducted a studio session using my Mole Richardson Fresnel. I continue to be impressed with the quality of light it produces along with the versatility of focusing.

The Fresnel in it’s fully flooded position.

Fully flooded as the key light camera right. Gobo behind the talent with haze in the air. Not done in post but in studio.

Using it as a prop in one of the sessions.

Update October 14 2018

I was able to use my Mole Richardson Fresnel during a client dance session. I have been excited about using the Fresnel for dance since the light it throws is just delicious. I combined the Fresnel light with some Saberstrip v2.0 lights which use the Flashpoint eVOLV200s. In this case I just used a single xPLOR600 even though I have a 1200ws head in the Fresnel. I didn’t need the power of 1200ws for this job.

This is how I had set up for the dance sessions. I toggled lights on and off from my R2Pro trigger.

A portrait I created of Savage and Alison who are the teachers of the dancers. Fresnel is key light camera right. Saberstrip is my hair light.

I realize that many people chase ‘soft light’ but I have found that the light thrown by a Fresnel is more acceptable to my client base for quite a few types of sessions. For my blog post about the Saberstrip v2.0’s which I consider a revolutionary modifier I used in conjunction with the Mole Richardson, you can click here.

UPDATE May 14 2018

I recently conducted a client publicity session using my converted Mole Richardson 412.

Works well for close in head shots. Strobe in fully focused position.

Full body shot, strobe in fully flooded position.

UPDATE 4-21-18

I was finally able to run a session with both the converted Mole Richardson and my gobo light modifier where I use Rosco size B gobos. The Mole Richardson performed brilliantly. Since I was in studio I did not use both AD600s, but rather a single one. Barn doors were used along with a light modifier I am not allowed to display or mention. I used it as a fill for these shots.

Canon 1DXII ISO 100 1/250th f4.0

Canon 1DXII ISO 100 1/250th f4.0

Canon 1DXII ISO 100 1/250th f4.0

UPDATE 3-31-18

The final tweaks have been made to my now converted Mole Richardson Junior 412 2000w tungsten spotlight into a strobe. I have installed a Flashpoint 1200ws strobe head into the unit along with a 9″ reflector as well a diffusion bulb cover. I love the look large Fresnel lenses offer for light and plan to use this not only for portraits, but for dance. The modifications I’ve made allow me to convert the Fresnel BACK INTO a tungsten light. The design of the light is genius. By simply removing four machine screws the entire guts of the light simply drop out.

Simply removing the tungsten bulb, reflector mirror and power supply is all I had to do. Then I fabricated a mount and limiting arm to mount the 1200ws strobe head. The hole in the upper right allows me to push the connector through the box.

I covered the hole by using a garbage disposal rubber cover.

The Flashpoint 1200ws head. If I don’t need 1200ws I simply hook up one xPLOR600 strobe body. The 9″ reflector fits perfectly in the housing.

You can see the dual elements in the 1200ws bulb here. I have the head in the “Spot” or focused position in this shot.

To ensure the light is as smooth as possible I’ve installed a frosted glass cover over the 1200ws bulb.

On the front and back of the Fresnel are mechanical levers which allow me to move the light from Flood to spot. Here it is n the Flood position.

As you can see the light is now in the Spot position.

Here I wanted to see how sharp the shadows are produced by a Fresnel.

Testing the Mole Fresnel as the key light with a gobo for background pattern of light and an Aputure Fresnel for fill.

Bob without any fill light.

Bob with fill light from the Aputure Fresnel mated to an eVOLV200.

All done and ready for my first shoot. Total cost: 327.52 USD for a 10″ Fresnel that accepts a modern strobe.

UPDATE 3-29-18

I wanted to try the converted unit outdoors using the barn doors and HSS. Still more refinements, but I believe this will make a valuable tool in my lighting kit. Both images shot at 1/2500th f2.8 ISO160

600ws head being used.

Barn doors configured as a vertical slit. Fully flooded zoom position on the modifier.

Barn doors open wide as to not affect the light. Mid focused Fresnel. Love the ultra sharp shadows Fresnel lenses produce.

Original Post March 27 2018

I’ve been in love with the light a Fresnel throws. As a young man I marveled at Hollywood glamour portraits produces by film and Fresnel spotlights. I purchased and have used two Aputure 4.5″ Bowens mount Fresnel modifiers with much success. But I longed for a larger version of a Fresnel. So I researched models over 8″ in diameter. The only ones I could find were the Elinchrom FS30 and the Broncolor Flooter. 3k and 4.5k respectively in price. There are some new LED Fresnel lights that are great, but I wanted a strobe. So….

I purchased a used Mole-Richardson Junior 2K Fresnel Tungsten Light, 10″ Lens – 412 off of Craigslist and am converting it to accept a strobe. It’s going well and when the project is finished I’ll be posting how I did my conversion as well as some test shots. I’m excited to say the least as it’s going way better than I expected. I wanted to have the ability to switch from my 600ws head to my 1200ws head when needed. I love choices. One of the great design elements of this classic unit is the ability to switch it back to its native tungsten configuration. AND Mole Richardson sells a LED conversion kit that only takes four screws to install. The unit is designed so well. No wonder so many film studios used these things!

My total cost to convert it to accept a strobe including the cost of the unit? 315.00 including the barn doors! 

Focused

Flooded

29 Jun 2019

TurtleRig Bulb Extension

I was recently made aware of the TurtleRig Bulb Extension through Flashhavoc. An intriguing piece of kit and for $20.95 through Amazon I decided to try one. I wanted to test its capabilities for two specific reasons:

  • Does adding more resistance to the bulb reduce the amount of power the light delivers?
  • How much more light can be obtained by moving the bulb further into a modifier?

Prior to the TurtleRig being introduced I have been using the Cheetahstand low profile Bowens speedring to move my Flashpoint bulbs closer into the modifiers.

 

For the testing I conducted, all tests were performed at full power of a Flashpoint 600 strobe 1:1. The meter I used is a Sekonic L358, my tried and true light meter. The meter was set at ISO 100 1/60th shutter speed and the flash intensity was measured in f Stops.

My first test was to determine if the modeling light would be affected by moving the bulb further away from the LED of the Flashpoint 600.

And yes it is effected:

  • Without the TurtleRig measured 18″ from the LED f6.3
  • With the TurtleRig installed measured 18″ from the LED f4.5

Both were measured using the brightest modeling light setting.

Next was my bare bulb test to determine if the TurtleRig’s added resistance reduces the power of the light:

  • Without the TurtleRig measured 18″ from the bulb f57
  • With the TurtleRig installed measured 18″ from the bulb f51

The next test was very interesting. I used one of my favorite modifiers, the Elinchrom 39″ Rotalux Deep Octabox with only the inner diffusion panel inserted. I use the configuration most often when using this modifier. I like the added specularity of the light by not using both the inner and outer diffusion panels.

Here’s where things got very interesting….

  • Without the TurtleRig measured 18″ from the end of the modifier’s edge f40
  • With the TurtleRig installed measured 18″ from the end of the modifier’s edge f40!

The SAME! I tested it over and over and over and it was always the same!

So I decided to move my meter twice as far away from the edge, 36″ or three feet:

  • Without the TurtleRig measured 18″ from the end of the modifier’s edge f25
  • With the TurtleRig installed measured 18″ from the end of the modifier’s edge f29

AH, so what I can surmise is that by having the bulb extend further into my modifier the difference can be seen the further the talent is away from the modifier. Makes sense since the bulb has the ability to fill the modifier more efficiently than if it is not extended into the modifier.

I will continue to test this device with larger modifiers like my Elinchrom 69″ Rotalux Octabox. The quality of light will also be assessed.

Stay tuned….

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?!

19 Feb 2019

Flashpoint eVOLV 200 Round Flash Head

February 18 2019

I recently used the Flashpoint eVOLV 200 Round Flash Head attached to an AD200 during a professional tango shoot. I like the modeling lamp in the head and find it brighter than the stock Fresnel head in the AD200. I used the light with a ‘voice activated light stand’ (a human) in this instance. Because the Argentine Tango dancers were moving freely a normal light stand just would not be the best tool for the job. Plus the room was filled with haze and the rays of light coming through the doorway made balancing light a challenge. 

A haze filled room with rays of light coming through the open door was magical.

The quality of light produced by the Round Flash head is very very nice. I won’t ever hesitate to use it when it’s the right tool for the right job. And in this case it was.

11 Feb 2019

Dance lighting setup – UPDATE February 11 2019

UPDATE February 11 2019

I realized I had posted some of my lighting techniques under a different blog heading about the v2.0 Saberstrip modifiers, which I consider to be a revolutionary modifier, but had not updated this post. I do so because I find the v2.0 Saberstrips to be almost invaluable for me in creating dance imagery. In some cases I have used three of them to light dancers in studio. As an overhead light on a boom arm and two on each side of the dancers as rim lights. It creates a very dramatic sculpture of their forms as they move. I have also taken to using my 10″ Fresnel to light dancers. I love the light produced by a large lens Fresnel. A hard contrasty light that is unlike any other modifier.

In this image you can see the three v2.0 Saberstrips, my Fresnel (a Hollywood spotlight I converted to a strobe) and my 69″ Elinchrom I converted to a focusing rod modifier.

One of my v2.0 Saberstrips which uses a AD200 as the light.

The following images were all created with three v2.0 Saberstrips as shown in my photo above.

 

The following were shot with a backlight with a cone, three v2.0 Saberstrips and the Fresnel as a fill light.

And finally two v2.0 Saberstrips and the Fresnel as a key light.

For me experimenting with light is one of the most exciting parts of dance photography. Don’t be afraid to experiment, otherwise all of your images will begin to look the same. And what fun is that?

UPDATE October 12 2017

In my review of Cheetahstand’s Quick Stripbox and Lantern I have shown my lighting setups for a different dance troupe. You can view that post here.

Original Post

I was recently hired to do an annual studio dance session by one of my long time clients. I’m posting this to show how I use xPLOR, eVOLV, Cheetahstand, CononMark, etc lights and modifiers in a session. This was an all-day session lasting approximately 6.5 hours of nonstop shooting. I had charged both the Xplor and eVOLV lights to full the day before. I never even ran close to running out of battery power on any of the strobes. All of the strobes showed half full at the end of the day. My Canon 1DXII showed 25% battery life left at the end of the day to give you some reference. I was using the WFT-E6A wireless transmitting dongle on my camera to wirelessly tether my rig to my iPad so the client could view the images as they happened. Using the transmitter uses more battery life than without.

There seems to be quite a bit of ‘talk’ that certain brands of modifiers/lights/etc. must be used in order to ‘be a pro.’ Nonsense. How one uses gear, how one engages with the talent and how one uses their imagination are the most important part of imagery to my clients. So I post this in hopes that it will help other shooters who are interested in multi light set ups, but not hung up on brand names or scientific theories about what makes a true parabola or other talking points. When people ask me what is the one thing I would have for gear over everything else, I always say your imagination. Years ago I was blessed to be able to spend time with Annie Leibovitz and I asked her “How do I shoot more like you?” Her response? “Don’t shoot like me Mark, shoot like you. It’s the only way to develop your own style.”

I used a four light setup most of the day. My key light was the CononMark 120cm inverted octa using an xPLOR600 with a remote head. I opted to not use my Parabolix D35 because the size I needed for the day required a larger modifier. And I’ve been very happy with the quality of light from the Cononmark. My two rim lights are Cheetahstand Quick Strip lights using xPLOR600s and the top overhead light is an eVOLV200 mounted into an AD-B2 housing. The modifier is a Fresnel adjustable head. For dance I always use a 140″ wide seamless. In this case I’m using black to give a grittier look to the imagery.

I use children’s ABC flash cards to help me know what light is in what group.

The great thing about battery powered strobes is I can roll the key lights or others wherever they’re needed when I want a different look for light

I had to be creative in sandwiching my eVOLV200 against the ceiling!

Some of my final images.

  

13 Jan 2019

Glow EZ Lock Quick Softbox (25″) – Update January 13 2019

Update January 13 2019

I purchased the 36″ version of this modifier based on my experience with the 25″ model. I’m not sure if manufacturing has changed, but the 36″ model’s snaps which hold the inner diffusion panel are of less quality than my 25″ model. They are EXTREMELY difficult to remove once they are snapped into place on the modifier. So much so that removing them is very difficult and one of them pulled the mating snap off of the modifiers. I now use a binder clip to hold that part of the diffusion panel in place.

Be aware that the modifiers may be of a different manufacturing level when purchasing these.

Original Post November 26 2018

I was recently asked by a client to create a portrait of one of their executives that will appear in a magazine article. They let me know only one day before my flight. This was a surprise since my trip was originally scheduled to fly up for a production shoot. This meant I had no plans to haul any strobes or modifiers up on my airline trip. So in order to keep my luggage small I opted to take my Glow EZ Lock Octa Small Quick Softbox for Speedlite (25″) along with my Flashpoint eVOLV 200 Round Flash Head as my lighting gear.

I really like how small the EZ Octa folds down. It fit so well into my suitcase and hardly took any space at all. Because the modifier is relatively small, I knew I would have to place the light close to the talent. I rarely use modifiers smaller than 39″ as my key lights, but in this case opted to use the 25″ due to packing space. I used the metal disk in its concave placement along with the outer diffusion panel. Although the Adorama ad shows that the modifier comes with a grid, mine did not…..

So here are some of the shots:

The shot of the executive which will appear in a publication. Light is camera right about 4 feet from the individual.

Of course I created a portrait of the Director of the play.

Never miss a chance to hug a director!

My assessment of the modifier is it’s ‘good.’ The light quality is good for a modifier this small. Its pack ability is excellent and I will continue to use it as a rim or hair light. Or when I need to pack very small as a key light as well.