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
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.
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.
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 was fortunate enough to be allowed to use this set to test my Big Eye between show performances.
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.
I have tested and been using the Flashpoint R2 Mark II TTL Transmitter (X2T-P) for Pentax since mid September 2019 in my workflow. I have found that using the Scan feature included in the firmware with this trigger is critical to prevent misfires. Flashpoint has not released a Pro II version of their trigger for Pentax so this is the next best thing for my work. Sure it would be nice to have the same trigger configuration for all of my cameras that includes the Scan feature, but preventing misfires easily outweighs that convenience.
I should also note that I am using this trigger with AD600s, Flashpoint 600s and the Pro versions along with AD200s. All with the most current firmware. (As of Oct 2019)
I’m also a fan of the Godox Android app that mates with this Bluetooth enabled trigger. Unlike others I have NOT had issue with the app. Although I have used it sporadically in my workflow, I need to become more comfortable with its usage in a fast paced studio setting.
To date I have used the X2T-P in three client sessions. My misfire rate has been between 0.5 to 1.0% – a very welcome change from my previous experience with the R2 Pro for Pentax.
As of the date of this post the firmware version is 1.0 and I have not found any firmware update release later than 1.0 for Pentax on Adorama’s site. I will continue to update this post as I have more sessions with the R2 Mark II P and/or subsequent firmware updates.
Update October 23 2019
I have been using the R2 Pro Mark II C when using my Canon 1DX Mark II and my partner has been using the R2 Pro C. When we go to a job I use the Scan feature and we pick which channels to use. I have had less than 2% of misfires. She has experienced the same, but has had full pop flashes when her units have not been set to full power. This is still an issue that Godox and Flashpoint must address.
NOTE: I have recently been using the Flashpoint R2 Mark II TTL Transmitter (X2T-P). That post can be found here.
Update September 19 2019
OK so I needed to actually TEST my Flashpoint triggers to ascertain what is the best trigger for me to use. I had become (and still am) very concerned about the misfires I have been experiencing. So here are the triggers I tested:
I used the very same strobe for all of the tests. A Godox AD600 set to 1/16th power 10 feet from my camera. The camera was a Canon 1DX set to 1/250th of a second shutter speed, f3.2, ISO 100. My intervalometer was set to fire at one second intervals. The strobe began to overheat at approximately 400 frames so I measured my test at 400 frames. I allowed the strobe 30 minutes between trigger testing so that it could cool down.
Here are the results:
So after running this test I am still concerned. In this test all triggers failed, but under 1% out of 400 shots. It’s curious that the single pin unit is the only one that failed to fire prior to the end of the test. With all of the others I ‘may assume’ that the failure at 399/400 was due to the overheating of the strobe. In a normal real world session the power of my strobe settings varies greatly. Anywhere from 1:1 full power all the way down to 1/256th power for fill or rim lights. There are times when I am firing much less than once a second and I’m always aware if I have strobes set at full power to listen for the recycle tone before pressing my shutter again. It’s part of my protocol.
My most critical time for zero misfires is during studio dance sessions. Invariably misfires will happen when the money shot is taken when a strobe or strobes misfire. The dancer has executed their move in an exquisite way and the shot is useless due to the failure to fire. Sure they can do it over again, but my view is why? My equipment should be dependable. And if that means switching to a brand that is not as modular, but is much more dependable on site then that’s what I will do, change.
I will say that prior to running this test I used the Channel Scanner on the R2 Pro Mark II C to find the best available channels for my home…today. I say today because I feel that even in the same venue, it’s important to scan the environment for the best channel. So at this point I am awaiting a new Flashpoint R2 Mark II TTL Transmitter for Pentax Cameras (X2T-P) to test. I am hoping it performs well. Currently Adorama does not offer a R2 Pro Mark II transmitter for Pentax, nor do they offer a firmware update for the R2 Pro for the Pentax. My 645Z is my defacto studio camera so it’s one of the reasons I’ve purchased the X2T-P. It has a channel scan feature. Sure I can carry my Canon Pro Mark II to scan channels, but why? If Godox/Flashpoint want working pros to use these strobes, then give us function and dependable engineering. You’ve nailed the ecosystem but misfires just won’t cut it in my world.
I have a publicity session this weekend and hope that by scanning the channels it will yield this percentage of misfires which is much less than what I’ve found on actual location shoots.
Update September 18 2019
In preparation for an upcoming client session I needed to practice a lighting technique we conceived for the shoot. I had left my R2 Pro Mark II C transmitter on channel 12 along with the strobe from my recent client shoot this past weekend. I did NOT use the scan feature to see what were the most clear channels in my garage. I was horrified to find a 14% misfire ratio during my test set up! I was literally 8 feet away from the strobe with the transmitter set to the 0-30 meter range while using a Flashpoint Pro 600. I had never had issues like this with my 433Mhz triggers or USB receivers. I really love the innovation of the Godox/Flashpoint line of strobes and the ecosystem they have developed. But the misfire issue may result in my switching to a different brand of strobes. I need to figure this out quickly. Until I do I will religiously scan the channels and/or use my single pin transmitter. I cannot afford to miss any shots ESPECIALLY in dance.
Update September 17 2019
I had a two day dance session this weekend after updating all of my AD200s/600s and my R2Pro Mark IIC transmitter. Once I conducted a scan of the area in which I was working one of the channels the transmitter recommended was 12, so I switched everything to that channel. With the new firmware the results are much improved over my prior experience. Of course I would like a 0% failure to fire rate as I had with my PCB Einstein/CyberCommander setup. I will continue to update this post about the misfire issue.
My gut tells me that even in the same space I will need to rescan with the ProII to ascertain if the same channels are free on different days even in the same space. I have asked Adorama if I can use the channel scanner on the Pro Mark II to determine the best channel for my Flashpoint R2 Pro Pentax trigger. Once I hear back I will post my findings here. As usual stay tuned…
I have been negligent in updating my firmware for both the transmitters and strobes be they Flashpoint or Godox. I completely switched from PCB Einsteins over to the Godox/Flashpoint strobes after the passing of Paul Buff and the innovation at PCB declined after his death. His CyberCommander transmitter was tough to learn but BULLETPROOF in terms of misfires.
I won’t go into all of the gripes I had about the Flashpoint misfires simply because I had not updated my firmware. Total user laziness and error. So I decided to run some tests before and after updating my strobes and transmitters. I used the installation programs and firmware found on Adorama’s Flashpoint Firmware Download page.
Even though they have improved the software interface, it’s still no walk in the park. You should know I am a PC user, not a Mac user. The steps I found necessary to begin the process in Windows 10, their new version is:
Disable Signed Driver Enforcement (bottom of page)
Then you must select the product you are updating which then indicates which installer to download and use. There are three:
Once the installer is downloaded and installed, you select the product you wish to update with the firmware:
OK so once all was done I tried to update the firmware in my transmitter. Since the Pro II uses a USB-C cable I had no issues. But once I tried to update my non pro strobes which use USB Micro connectors I got these messages:
I THEN realized that the USB Micro cables I was using DID NOT TRANSMIT DATA but were only for charging! SHEEEET!!!! As soon as I figured out that bonehead mistake I used a proper cable and got a connection. BUT it was not without further issues….. On my first two f/w updates all went fine. But after that I would get a program hang:
It only happened after the f/w was deleted and then updated. So I simply unplugged the cable and tried my strobes, also checking their firmware version. All was fine. So after this frustration I went on to test my strobes. 600s, both non TTL and TTL along with a Pro and several AD200s…
Here was my setup for testing:
I set my intervalometer to take a shot every second. My tests were done at 1/8th and 1/16th power for all strobes. As you can see I’m only about 15 feet from the strobes. I have a router booster here along with normal consumer electronics. Since I’ve had issues on location where there’s a ton more signals this is not an acid test of if the firmware will make a difference in misfires. But it was my start of testing. On my pre firmware update testing I had NOT updated the firmware for the strobes or the triggers.
Pre Firmware Update Testing
After Firmware Updates
Next I decided to nix the 200s since I have never had a misfire with them even before updating the firmware on the triggers or the strobes…interesting. So for this test I just did a 1/16th power level. When I have time or more importantly after I use my gear on actual shoots I will report back on any improvement in misfires. But at this level I’m really please with the results.
I’m concerned that Flashpoint has not released a newer firmware version for Pentax. Since that is the camera I primarily use for client publicity sessions I’m hoping that f/w version is forthcoming. I’m currently running 1.0 which is the only one available at this time.
I’m really quite pleased of the lack of misfires for my Pentax. It only started to misfire as the strobe heated.
Although I don’t fire my camera for 200 frames at one second intervals I am a bit concerned that as the strobes heat misfires will occur. Anyway after using my strobes on actual upcoming client work I will report back here on any improvements in misfires.
I recently posted a review of my testing of the K5600 Big Eye Fresnel. That blog post can be found here.
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.
Kayelites, specifically Stephen Kaye has a customer for life. Thank you Stephen and thank you for your kindness and tenacity. It’s so appreciated.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Whenever I am hired by a client to create imagery my first question is always “What is the mood you’d like me to create for this session?” Sometimes they have a mood board established, sometimes not. The reason I tend to shy away from mood boards, meaning photographs; it is human nature to get a specific shot stuck in our heads. Much like those crazy M.C. Escher drawings where there are two distinct images, but once you see one, you have a hell of a time seeing the other. And since the client wants their marketing to stand out from what has been done in the past, photocopy photography (my term) just isn’t something I’m hired to do, nor do I want to do that type of shooting.
So the stage play “Nine” is based on the 2009 movie of the same name. The client wanted a Vanity Fair look and feel to the images which would all be in black and white….my favorite color btw! Since this is a new client for publicity I did not ask questions like, “How do you want the imagery to smell, taste and sound?” Crazy imagery questions right? But imagery, much like music is just the catalyst to begin a sensory process that takes the viewer into feelings, dreams and memories of their own. It is the reason why I judge imagery by how I feel when I gaze upon the vision. A pretty picture without feeling is just a pretty picture for me.
Although I would be creating imagery of each individual character, the money shots would be of the group together, nine people in total. For anyone who has shot groups, you know very well the challenges it produces. My situation was no different. Sculpting light for a group of people takes finesse and planning.
So here are the items I chose for this session:
- Key light: Glow Grand ParaBox Pro Softbox (70″) using the Glow Grand ParaBox Zoom-In Bounce Rod
- Rim and fill lights: Saberstrip v2.0 and the Elinchrom 69″ Rotalux Octabox which I modified to use a focusing rod. Glow EZ Lock Deep Parabolic Quick Softbox (48″) with diffusion disk and inner baffle only.
- Prop and rim light: Mole Richardson 10” Fresnel Hollywood spotlight I have converted into a modern strobe.
- Bowens Universal Spot Attachment for Gobos
- All strobes used are Flashpoint 200s and 600s – a combination of pro and non pro I do not use TTL on any of them.
The Glow Grand Para 70 is a REMARKABLE modifier. It has taken me six full months to begin to understand how to effectively use this beast. Unlike other focusing rod modifiers its most compelling use is not for the faint of heart, just like the Bron 133 Para line. BUT once I began to understand the nuances of its characteristics it has become my go to modifiers for many, many sessions. In its fully flooded focusing rod position it easily covered the entire group of 9 people. And unlike normal diffused soft or octa boxes, the color punch and contrast is delicious. My client base has been convinced of focusing rod modifier results.
With a group this large and arranged in the way the client wanted, a very large fill/rim light was needed. This is where I used my Elinchrom 69” with my focusing rod fully flooded. For directional fill I used the Glow EZ with the inner disk/diffusion panel and the grid to direct the fill to where it was needed.
The ability to focus or flood the Glow Grand Para and the Elinchrom 69” is wonderful. Focusing rods replace my need to haul and lug many different sizes and types of modifiers to obtain the characteristics and feeling I am trying to achieve in light. And as I’ve stated earlier, the light they produced when used properly is just exquisite.
As just an example:
This shot of Steve was created with the Glow Grand with the rod in its fully focused position. His ‘scream’ needed to have a spotlight affect the client desired. So instead of having to change the modifier to a ‘spot’ type or apply a grid I just adjust the position of the strobe in the modifier.
In using the Eli 69” as a fill I was able to either fully flood the modifier or use more of a spotlight fill in the situation where I wanted more of a pinpoint for fill. With a group this large that is a godsend. I also used my Mole Richardson as a subtle hair light in those instances where I wanted a glow on the person or persons hair.
The Saberstrip v2.0 which uses an AD200 rather than a speed light is just as remarkable as either a key light, rim light or both. I’m still not sure where Scott is in offering these to the general public, but if and when he does BUY some! LOL I cannot speak highly enough about these unique and incredible modifiers paired with an AD200.
I often find that using gobos to project light patterns on a wall, ceiling, floor or drapes adds more texture and mood to a shot. In this case I asked the client to pick the window gobo she wanted for this mood.
I used a light amount of cold haze to soften the light and the complexion of the talent. Subtle haze is something often used in film and I love how it affects the mood of a shot as well. It adds a very cinematic feel to the shot. I use a cold hazer rather than one that heats the fluid. I find the particulate much more fine than heated haze fluid.
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 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.
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!
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.
Ok first off there are times I want something, but no one makes it. I tend to cuss a bit, but then figure out how to deal with the situation. Such was the case charging my AD200 batteries. You see I find I use these a lot. Accent lights, rim lights, key lights, you name it they get used in a multitude of various roles during my sessions. And I almost always travel with them to client sessions. Which means I HAVE TO REMEMBER TO BRING ALL OF THE CHARGERS. UGH!
Sure they’re small so packing them is not too big of a deal. But since I have five of these remarkable little strobes AND round heads AND barn doors, AND AND AND, I have a list JUST FOR the 200s! I have a drone I use for some jobs and although DJI is really cool by including this little hub that charges the batteries in succession, I needed one that would charge three batteries all at once along with my controller. So I ended up finding one.
I also got frustrated charging AA and AAA batteries. Sure I had the kind that charge four at a time. But some of them would only charge in pairs. And then I had to buy ones for AA versus AAA! UGH. But I found charging heaven with this unit:
16 slots for either AA or AAA or in combination or alone! YAY…. And then I wondered if ANYONE would produce something like this for the AD200 batteries…
So when I got my MB-6 I initially thought “This is too good to be true.” Rather than having five different chargers, five different power cords, now I only have ONE unit and ONE power cord to pack to charge all the batteries! And even one more spot for when I order another 200!
One thing I worried a bit about is if this charger would charge my batteries as fast as the individual OEM single charger. So I tested it. Four drained batteries, two in their OEM chargers and two in the MB-6. And guess what? It charges just as fast as the OEM! Now I have yet to try it with six batteries, but I’m pretty sure it will perform the same. And if not, I’ll post what I find here.
Here’s my protocol:
- Charge all of my strobe, camera, transmitter batteries the night before a shoot
- Pack all of my charging gear into one bag
- Pack all LiOn batteries and bulbs into my carry on luggage
- Once the first day’s session is complete, all batteries go into chargers
- Next morning all batteries go back into their respective units
What having the MB-6 now means is instead of having to use five plug outlets I only need ONE! And instead of having to remember to bring five chargers I only need….wait for it…ONE!
Some may be put off by having to spend 170.00 for a multiple battery charger. For the shooter using one or two of the AD200s only occasionally I believe it would be overkill. But for anyone who is actually making money (meaning profit) shooting, then the value of having gear that saves time and hassle is invaluable. I’m not a pro baker, but I purchased a KitchenAid mixer because it will last me a lifetime and makes my paltry baking much more enjoyable. Everyone needs to decide for themselves what they value.
As time goes on I’ll report more about my experience with this device.
I have been testing the Flashpoint R2 Single Pin Transceiver to determine if it compatible with the variety of cameras both myself and my partner use on client shoots:
In my testing this little piece of kit works on all of them. In the past I’ve attempted to use single pin transmitters of various brands and in some cases the single pin just didn’t align well enough to fit all of these cameras. I’m happy to report that no such issue exists with this unit. Now keep in mind this is not intended for TTL, HSS, SCS. I have had heart stopping situations where the transmitter I was using during a client session fail or break from drops! So I started to carry extra transmitters which can get expensive because each transmitter is made for each individual brand of camera. After distance and radio interference testing with the Flashpoint R2 Single Pin, I plan to carry this with me on EVERY shoot. A single transmitter is a godsend for me as a backup. Twenty five bucks is cheap insurance!
These also work as receivers, but I do not plan on using them for that purpose. I ‘may’ test them to see how they work in that configuration. One of the downsides I see it there’s not way to set how long the LED screen remains illuminated or setting the amount of time until the unit ‘sleeps.’ But for 25 bucks what can I really expect? Sound and modeling lamps are controllable from the unit.
More to come….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
Here are the items I used AFTER scouting a location for the shoot and conveying my concepts to the client:
- 6 Flashpoint XPLOR 600 HSS Battery-Powered Monolight (Non TTL)
- 4 7″ cone modifiers
- 1 PCB Omni reflector
- 1 Aputure Fresnel Lens Mount for COB 120 Series Light Storm
- 1 Yamaha EF2000iSv2 generator
- 1 Chauvet Smoke Machine
- 1 EGO Power+ leaf blower
- 1 Flashpoint R2 Pro 2.4GHz Transmitter for Canon
- 1 Glow Grand ParaBox Pro Softbox (70″) (for in studio publicity shots not shown here)
- 1 Glow Grand ParaBox Zoom-In Bounce Rod (for in studio publicity shots not shown here)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Some of my final images.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Canon 1DXII EF135 lens ISO 100 both AD200s set at 1/8 power. 1/5000th 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.
|SaberStrip v1.0||SaberStrip v2.0||w/2 eVOLVS and SS|
|Light||Flashpoint Zoom R2||Evolv200|
|Flash weight||17 oz||31 oz|
|Distance to Sekonic||5 feet||5 feet|
|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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
Update November 27 2018
Because I’m a small business I always try to support other small businesses first before larger companies. I know how tough running your own show can be even given all of the advantages. As I was told long ago “You don’t get something for nothing.” which applies to situations well beyond paying for things. I had originally purchased and assessed the Lightsaver bumpers back in June of this year. To summarize what’s in my original review: I found it better than the Flashpoint Skins sold by Adorama in terms of padding, but didn’t like that the battery compartment was covered.
I like to revisit sites of small businesses now and again to see if any improvements or new products are available. I was THRILLED to see that he has revised his bumpers to now include a battery compartment cut out!
For those who follow this blog you will notice that I use new v2.0 Saberstrip modifiers with my AD200s. (Let’s hope Scott releases them for sale sometime soon!) Although it’s not my exclusive use of those strobes, they reside in those magic little tubes of delight 85% of the time. Which means that the ends of the strobes stick out from the modifiers, exposed. So I purchased two more of his bumpers to install on my AD200s.
One of the side benefits of the bumpers is the ability to set the AD200 with the v2.0 Saberstrip flat on a hard surface. So often in dance sessions I use the SS’s as rim lights. The ability to just place them flat on the ground saves me hauling extra light stands too!
In the past I’ve used a Godox S bracket to hold my v2.0 SS’s flat on the ground with AD200s and to protect the fragile screen from damage.
Kudos to Lightsaver for taking the time to improve his design. I highly recommend his 20.00 solution to protect your AD200. Oh yeah, plus he’s a small biz like me!
Original Post June 6 2018
I purchased one of the LightSaver AD200 Flash Bumpers to determine if it offers more protection than the Flashpoint Silicone Skins which I have been using for the past year. I watched their demo video as they drop a protected AD200 from about five feet onto a carpeted floor. He was out of stock on all but his black units so I ordered the last one he had. It arrived on time and after installing the unit on my AD200 here are my observations:
I always appreciate when anyone develops a product that addresses a need. And in the case of LightSaver I believe he’s done that….to a degree. But by not having cut outs for one of the major access points I utilize often makes it a no go (meaning not purchasing another one) again. At 25.00 listed on his main page (but 20.00 on his buy page…?) versus 9.95 for a Silicon Skin I’ll opt for the latter. Again it’s all about personal preference. And as far as dropping ANY gear it’s a risk we all take. My main plan is to sometimes rest my modifier/AD200 combo on the AD200 when I set it down. And the Skins do a fine job of protecting the units under those instances.
Update November 17 2018
On a recent on location session in Seattle WA I encountered a situation where the R2Pro would NOT fire my strobes. I was in a club called The Triple Door to shoot publicity for my client’s upcoming performance for Rock of Ages. I had the room filled with haze for the session and the client wanted some shots with two of the stars in a booth. As I looked over I was blown away at the rays of light coming through the windows! The issue in obtaining the light rays just using natural light was the club is below street level and it was a cloudy day (Seattle! LOL) the sunlight was intermittently blocked by both pedestrians, vehicles and clouds. It was also late in the day so the angle of the rays of light would move quite a bit.
I had my partner go outside with both a 600Pro and an AD200, both with cones attached. My thought was that using a strobe through the windows would produce the same light I was experiencing with the natural sunlight, but not blocked by clouds or people passing by. Yet even in complete line of sight for test shots the strobes would NOT fire. I can only surmise that the combination of concrete, brick, the wiring in the club and my lower elevation to the strobes prevented the radio signals from reaching the strobes. And yes I tried both the 0-30 and 0-100 distance choices on the R2Pro. The distance from where I was to the strobes was about 35 feet and 15 feet below.
I always test my gear before putting it into workflow and did so with the R2 for the Pentax. But in this particular situation the radio signals would not reach the lights. Keep my experience in mind for your own sessions. I am NOT not recommending the R2 transmitters. Both my Canon and Pentax R2s have performed well. It’s just in this situation the R2 Pentax did not make a connection in this specific situation…..strange.
FINALLY! I was thrilled when the R2 Pro for the Pentax was announced! As some of you who follow my blog know, I’ve done a workaround for the 1/125th max sync speed for my Pentax 645Z which can be found here. The short version is I was using a Cactus v6II trigger combined with older Godox USB plug in receivers. It worked fine, but like all workarounds it had limitations. That’s all over now with the R2 Pro for the Pentax! Yay!
So I just did some testing to determine if the trigger works with the 645Z and just as important if any banding occurs with the trigger. You see, I had originally purchased a MBX1000 Priolite when the Z was first released. At that time it was the ONLY strobe that would perform HYPERSYNC with the Z rather than HSS. I found that in addition to being quite expensive, the Priolite produced a gradient in the image similar to using a graduated neutral density filter which I found to be unacceptable for such an expensive strobe. Sure it could be corrected in post, but why should I have to do that with an expensive strobe?
All that is over now and here are my test shots I conducted with the R2 Pro for the Pentax:
I could NOT use an eVOLV200 inside of the Saberstrip v2.0 because the USB port was covered when inserted into the SS. But since I no longer need a USB receiver I can now use my Pentax with these remarkable modifiers. I have not tested the trigger with the other xPLOR600s and 600Pros I own, but I have no doubt it will work well. If I find there are issues, then I will post them here in this short review. I have an upcoming client session on location where I now plan to use the Pentax and the new trigger.
A final note. Formerly while using my Canon R2 Pro attached to the 645Z (when not using HSS), pressing the shutter did not reactivate the R2 Pro after it went into sleep mode like it does on my Canon gear. I had to manually press a button on the R2ProC to wake it from sleep mode. Of course there were times I forgot to do so and missed a shot. Not so with the new Pentax R2 Pro. Now when I press the shutter it wakes the transmitter from sleep mode.
Thank you thank you thank you for producing a HSS trigger for Pentax!!!!
Update October 30 2018
No need to do this workaround anymore. Flashpoint has released their new Flashpoint R2 Pro 2.4GHz Transmitter for Pentax. You can read my findings here.
Update September 26 2018
I am preparing for a publicity shoot where I want to use my 645Z, so I had to remind myself how to shoot HSS with the method I explain below. A spider had built a cool web in my backyard so I had this crazy notion to use my eVOLV200 with the Pentax. BTW Flashpoint will be releasing the Flashpoint R2 Pro 2.4GHz Transmitter for Pentax (XPro-P) which will allow HSS without all the shenanigans I went through to make it happen. I sent this shot to a friend of mine who hate spiders. Now she’s not talking to me….LOL!!!!
UPDATE February 16 2018
I have confirmed that the new Flashpoint/Godox AD600 Pro works in HSS with the Pentax 645Z as explained below.
UPDATE September 8 2017
In my post about the Parabolix 35D I have some of my recent client work which was just released. All of those images were shot using HSS with my 645Z.
UPDATE August 31 2017
A visitor recently asked if the older AD360 line of strobes achieve HSS with a Pentax 645Z based on the method I describe below in my original article. The answer is YES it does. Rather than just ‘say yes’ under an ‘assumption’ that it would I decided to actually test it. I’m preparing for a dance session in two days and my partner who is making the move to all xPLOR/eVOLV units herself asked if she could borrow my old AD360s for the shoot. As a gift I had purchased an xPLOR TTL 600 for her so she wants to combine that with my old AD360s using my XTR-16 receivers. So a quick test before charging all of the units for her proves that the AD360 line works!
UPDATE August 20 2017
I ran a test yesterday of various modifiers along with the new AD-B2 mount and discovered that when you are using the USB receivers in the eVOLV200s the only level of modeling light that can be activated on the AD-B2 is the lowest level from the FT-16 controller.
UPDATE: July 29 2017
I have just completed testing HSS with the eVOLV200 strobes with my Pentax 645Z. I have included my test shots with “Bob” and all Flashpoint USB triggers and Cactus v6II settings are the same as the Xplor/Godox 600 lights. But I have outlined how I set the eVOLV200 lights below.
A few people contacted me to let me know they have been able to use HSS with a Pentax 645Z using other brands of lights with the Cactus v6II which I very much appreciated. But even though they have had HSS/645Z success with Profoto’s B1’s, Speedotrons, Photogenic Studio Max, etc. I wanted to make this work with the Flashpoint/Godox line of lights. Why? Well because for my work they fit my workflow with incredible innovation and the largest eco system of strobes. Using an xPLOR600 as either a monolight or pack/head system is just one reason. Combining two of them to make a single 1200 ws head when I need that power, creating their upcoming eVOLV200 twin head all combine to make it the line I love to use. I’ve had my fill of purchasing other strobes just for my 645Z, namely Priolites to achieve HSS. Now I no longer have to use separate brands of lights to do my commercial work no matter what brand of camera I’m using for the job at hand. And that’s great since I use three different brands of cameras!
Thank you to Cactus for developing a tool that is both remarkable and functional. It’s been a godsend for my work.
Original Test Review
To put it simply HALLELUJAH!!!! Oh my gosh for the past four years I have wanted with all of my want to have an option for HSS and my Pentax 645Z other than my MBX1000 Hotsync Priolites. Priolites do NOT use HSS, but rather hypersync and as the shutter speed increases the slight shading of banding increases as well. I’m not talking about black bars, but what looks like a graduated neutral density filter was applied to the image. Sure I could remove it in those instances where it’s obvious, but in my mind for $2600.00 per light it should NOT be something I have to do. Anyway there are several other issues that bothered me, but as ‘the only game in town’ for shutter speeds over 1/125th of a second when using strobes, I like other shooters was stuck. Ricoh never manufactured modern leaf shutter lenses for the 645 and based on their current financial situation and market share I seriously doubt they will. Plus leaf shutter lenses are expensive and limited to whatever focal length is produced. It’s one of the limits that smug shooters of Phase One or Hassy bring up when talking about the 645Z. I just laugh and now I snicker…
So here’s how I figured it out. I now use a Flashpoint R1 Flashpoint Commander Transmitter with older 433mgh USB receivers in my Xplor/Godox 600 strobes. The FT16 is placed on top of a Cactus v6II transceiver. And as you can see by the shots I’ve displayed below it’s a godsend. Will I miss 1000ws from my Priolite? Oh hell no, not when I can simply combine two Xplor600s and hook them to my 1200ws head. HSS using my beloved Xplor600 with my Pentax 645Z means Christmas came in July 2017 for me this year! Hallelujah!!!
Will I like it if Cactus develops a firmware update for their triggers so that I don’t have to use the USB receivers? Sure! It would also mean I could use my eVOLV200s with my 645Z too. But for now I’m damn happy to have figured out how to use my 600s in HSS with my 645Z. No shaded banding whatsoever using my Xplor/Godox strobes.
I truly am one happy person!