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.
The Glow Grand Para 70 is a REMARKABLE modifier. It has taken me six full months to begin to understand how to effectively use this beast. Unlike other focusing rod modifiers its most compelling use is not for the faint of heart, just like the Bron 133 Para line. BUT once I began to understand the nuances of its characteristics it has become my go to modifiers for many, many sessions. In its fully flooded focusing rod position it easily covered the entire group of 9 people. And unlike normal diffused soft or octa boxes, the color punch and contrast is delicious. My client base has been convinced of focusing rod modifier results.
With a group this large and arranged in the way the client wanted, a very large fill/rim light was needed. This is where I used my Elinchrom 69” with my focusing rod fully flooded. For directional fill I used the Glow EZ with the inner disk/diffusion panel and the grid to direct the fill to where it was needed.
The ability to focus or flood the Glow Grand Para and the Elinchrom 69” is wonderful. Focusing rods replace my need to haul and lug many different sizes and types of modifiers to obtain the characteristics and feeling I am trying to achieve in light. And as I’ve stated earlier, the light they produced when used properly is just exquisite.
As just an example:
This shot of Steve was created with the Glow Grand with the rod in its fully focused position. His ‘scream’ needed to have a spotlight affect the client desired. So instead of having to change the modifier to a ‘spot’ type or apply a grid I just adjust the position of the strobe in the modifier.
In using the Eli 69” as a fill I was able to either fully flood the modifier or use more of a spotlight fill in the situation where I wanted more of a pinpoint for fill. With a group this large that is a godsend. I also used my Mole Richardson as a subtle hair light in those instances where I wanted a glow on the person or persons hair.
The Saberstrip v2.0 which uses an AD200 rather than a speed light is just as remarkable as either a key light, rim light or both. I’m still not sure where Scott is in offering these to the general public, but if and when he does BUY some! LOL I cannot speak highly enough about these unique and incredible modifiers paired with an AD200.
I often find that using gobos to project light patterns on a wall, ceiling, floor or drapes adds more texture and mood to a shot. In this case I asked the client to pick the window gobo she wanted for this mood.
I used a light amount of cold haze to soften the light and the complexion of the talent. Subtle haze is something often used in film and I love how it affects the mood of a shot as well. It adds a very cinematic feel to the shot. I use a cold hazer rather than one that heats the fluid. I find the particulate much more fine than heated haze fluid.
I utilized the Grand Para in combination with other modifiers for a publicity session. You can view that blog post here.
Updated April 14 2019
I have been remiss in updating my findings utilizing this remarkable modifier. Most of the imagery I cannot share right now, but do have one which can be shown. This particular image is one of the publicity shots for Momma Mia. I used it pointed directly at the talent about 7 feet in the air. Two Saberstrips were also used, one camera left to illuminate the talent’s face as she was in complete profile looking up as she lifted the microphone to her face.
These images illustrate how the lighting was generally arranged.
Updated September 6 2018
I have an upcoming publicity session so it was important for me to test the Grand prior to deciding on using it for this project. I asked Sammi, a local actress to be my model for the shoot. I have decided to not use any other lights or modifiers when I test new gear to see how they stand on their own. I normally shoot with at least three lights and modifiers during a session. In this case I only used the Grand 70 using a Flashpoint 600 with the remote head. I did not use the Grand with anything other than the focusing arm, no diffusion panels at all. Here are my observations:
My first test was against seamless to ascertain the glamour capabilities of the Grand 70″
I wanted to see how the modifier handles full body shots. In each of the following images I stood directly in front of the Grand which was 10 feet from the model. I also wanted to see how the light quality would be effected by different outfits, some shiny some mat.
In the image below you can see in her eyes the light pattern which I had fully flooded to create a ring light affect. I’m standing directly in front of the modifier.
My next test was to move away from seamless to see just how angling the modifier can create a completely different look.
In both of the instances above the light was feathered to one side of the Grand in order to give dimension to the shot. Both were shot with the light in mid focused position to add contrast and drama.
I will continue to try other methods with this Grand that I was never able to do when I rented the Bron Para line of modifiers due to time constraints. At this point I will simply say that the Glow Grand Para line, at least this 70, truly competes with the Para 177 at a third of the cost. I find the light quality as good for glamour imagery and am thrilled that Adorama has started to carry a line of modifiers like this. I recently purchased and am awaiting the remote head for the 600Pro which I am anxious to try with this Grand. I also plan to use the outer diffusion panel with the focusing rod to experiment with the light characteristics with that combination. Stay tuned, but for now I highly recommend the Grand line if you are looking for a viable alternative to the Bron Para line of modifiers.
Updated August 27 2018
In just over a week I will be testing this modifier on actual talent. I am anticipating a very good result. So much so that I had a client meeting this morning for an upcoming publicity shoot on location in front of a grand staircase at a Fairmont Hotel. Because I anticipate using the Grand Para 70 for that shoot I had to determine if it would fit into my SKB hard sided golf bag! IT JUST FITS thank gawd! LOL
My trusty SKB golf bag. I use this for all of my away games!
Original Post 8-22-18
These are my initial impressions of the Glow Grand 70 and the Zoom-In Bounce Rod. I won’t be able to test the modifier on talent until early September. So for right now I will go over some of the facets of the modifier and bounce rod, AKA focusing rod. It’s the first 24 rod octa I’ve owned, although not the first I’ve used. The Broncolor 177 ($4300 USD) is the closest in size to the Grand 70” ($1150 USD plus $490 for Bounce Rod = $1640 USD). The Bron Para 177 measures 77” across its face, 7 inches larger than the Grand 70. Both utilize 24 rods in this configuration. The Grand 70 comes with a choice of strobe mounts; mine arrived with a Bowens ring although I won’t ever use it without the Glow Grand ParaBox Zoom-In Bounce Rod.
The assembly of this octa is very different than any other modifiers I have owned or rented. The new configuration consists of 24 levers that are spring loaded which must be ‘locked’ into adjoining bars on the modifier.
This is where I encountered the most difficult part of assembling the Grand Para. In order to put enough tension on each individual arm, I needed to stretch each arm out from the center of the modifier. Doing so alone without assistance, I found that I could not create enough leverage to push each rod away from the center of the modifier to get the lever to ‘click’ into its corresponding bar. This may be easier with the smaller modifiers. Right now this is one of the primary differences between the Bron Para 177 and the Glow Grand 70. The Bron’s rods are hinged in the middle and must be extended before using a crank to expand the modifier. Much easier to do and keeps the fabric taut. Because they’re hinged the Bron’s collapsed length is shorter than the Grand, but its collapsed diameter is larger. The Grand’s interior fabric is very similar if not the same as the Bron; a very shiny silver and very tight as well. The Bron’s outer fabric is thicker than the Grand, but I believe both are very durable.
This is the interior reflective fabric of the Grand. The eyelet is for the supplied inner diffusion material.
A close up view illustrates how each rod ‘snaps’ into place using a hooked tab which engages a bar on the latch.
In order to gain enough leverage to bend each rod to engage the bar, I found it best to use the Bounce Rod for leverage. I GENTLY pulled the rod toward me and then the rods would easily snap into place. The rods are fiberglass so they won’t permanently ‘bend’, but using caution is always the best practice when stressing any modifier rod be they fiberglass or a metal material.
The octa itself is very well made and much lighter than I expected. It has a ‘pass through’ slot which I had hoped would fit/accept my Flashpoint Portable 600ws Extension FlashHead. But unfortunately the opening is not large enough to allow the Extension socket to pass through. No matter since the cord is more than long enough to allow it to come through the front of the modifier to easily reach the strobe body.
The Bounce Rod attaches to the Grand 70 via four spring loaded/nylon shimmed Phillips head screws. I changed them to wing nut/turning knobs so I would not need to have a Phillips head screwdriver with me when I set this up.
The Grand Para will not fit into its supplied case with the bounce rod bracket attached. It WILL fit into the case by detaching the bracket, inverting it and inserting it into the ring hole which reduces its length to fit into the bag. The modifier comes supplied with an inner and outer diffusion panels (not shown) as well as a speed ring for your strobe connector of choice. Mine came with a Bowens mount (not shown). I doubt I’ll ever use it as a traditional octa bank. I prefer the look/flexibility of focusing arms. Adorama also supplies an empty sand bag (not shown) that can be used as a counterweight on either the Bounce Rod focusing arm or the leverage arm.
The focusing arm has an eyelet on the end for the sand bag.
The leverage arm also has an eyelet for the sand bag.
I did not find a need to use the sandbag to counterweight the modifier. It may be because I am using an extension head rather than the weight of an entire moonlight on the focusing arm. Although I believe the Bounce Rod would support the weight of a moonlight I would highly recommend NOT using that method.
One item that was NOT included with the Bounce Rod is a flash head bracket. I thought this was very strange since in order to use a focusing arm, one needs to have a strobe head holder. In the image above I am using a Cheetahstand BirdCage for Chopsticks for Bowens mount lights. Because I have a number of focusing rod modifiers, I have several extras. But if you order a Bounce Rod, be sure to obtain a light cage of some sort.
The construction of the Bounce Rod is excellent. The only part I will replace is the pivot swivel handle. It is made of plastic and does ratchet, however the ‘feeling’ of the lever does not instill confidence in me. That is NOT to say it will break, it just means my preference for a piece of hardware that provides this much torque should be metal.
The focusing rod is located on the top in this photo. The leverage rod is the bottom one. Both are removable from the bracket and easily store in the supplied carry bag. The plastic swivel handle is located in the U shaped bracket. The whole bracket is well constructed.
I’m all about options so I appreciate that the bracket has both a vertical and horizontal mounting hole. IF I’m ever inclined to mount this modifier facing down on a very sturdy light stand I have that ability.
The focusing rod has two sections, the first slides into the housing and is secured by the turning knob on the top of the main cylinder. It can be moved in and out as needed for distance. The second portion is adjusted using a friction knob. My preference for using the focusing rod is to slide the first section all the way into the cylinder and use the friction knob portion to move the light to the fully focused, flooded or anywhere in between position.
I prefer to adjust the focusing arm distance from the front of the modifier. The Grand allows me to do that due to its rod configuration. It’s smooth. I am able to see the effects of the position of the light while in front of the modifier rather than from behind.
One of the most attractive aspects of the large Bron Para line with focusing rod is its ability to replicate a ring light flash and sculpt the light by simply adjusting its angle. But unlike a ring light the ability to stand in front of the modifier while still creating a shadow less light on the talent is wonderful. And then the ability to sculpt the shadows simply by turning the angle of the para to remove or add light to one side or the other is another fantastic feature. Bron has created a well done video about the method to which I’m referring.
Light Pattern Test
To determine if the Grand can accomplish the light control of the Bron, I ran a preliminary test with my partner. Here are my results:
The light position in its fully flooded positon creates a ring light affect which is wonderful. As you can see in the photo the light is shadow less, much like a ring light. I was standing directly in front of the modifier and my partner is about 9 feet in front of me.
A close up of her eyes reveals the ring light affect.
All of this means very little if the light quality of the Grand is not excellent. BUT having said that and having had experience using quite a few modifiers I can say with 90% certainty that this will easily compete with the Bron’s quality of light. In early September I have scheduled a shoot with talent to actually test this modifier in a studio session. Of course I’ll be posting my thoughts and images here. I’m really excited about this modifier!