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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cool Lights

HMIs, LEDs and fluorescents are energy-efficient alternatives to hot lights for digital stills and HD video

This Article Features Photo Zoom

In conclusion, we have to address applications. Kevin Baxter, chief technology officer, Litepanels, notes that HMI is "good for bulk raw light or in a daylight, open sky environment." LED, he adds, is useful under "all conditions except broad daylight."

And many agree that fluorescent banks serve well where a soft light is needed in close proximity to the subject. However, there are select LED fixtures that work just as well under similar conditions.

For a broader-based perspective on which light sources work best under what conditions, Don Bachmeier, lighting applications specialist, Lowel-Light Manufacturing, has this comment: "While it's tempting to try and match a fixture with a certain need, most people's needs and situations vary widely, as do personal preferences and the stylistic look of the times. Like many things in image-making, there's rarely a simple 'this-or-that' choice."

There's one point we've overlooked so far—the actual volume of light needed for a photo shoot as it ties into one key ingredient, ISO, as reflected in the latest crop of DSLRs.

As Dan Cuny, Profoto Technical Sales Manager, MAC Group, keenly observes, "With the advent of using higher ISO values, less light is needed."

Which essentially says, less is more, and that, in essence, goes a long way toward helping us keep our cool.

Taking A First Step: Cooler Modeling Lights

In this day and age, we're all going "green," and these cool light sources are a step in that direction (if, for the moment, we overlook such environmental concerns as the use of mercury in metal-halide and fluorescent lamps). But as still photographers who use studio strobes and their halogen modeling lamps, we also have to ask ourselves, are these filament bulbs long for this world? After all, 100W household incandescent bulbs are already on the road to extinction. What will follow?

Exploring these options wasn't my original intent here, but given that modeling lights often find associated uses, it seemed prudent to make at least a cursory investigation. So I asked a number of strobe manufacturers if there was a possibility for AC-driven studio strobes to be retrofitted with LEDs or CFLs.

I received a wide range of responses, which effectively said the following:
1) You've given us something to think about; 2) Not very likely, considering that LEDs require heat sinks and you'd need a bunch of them together to equal a conventional halogen; 3) The throw of light from LEDs would be limited with diffusers in front; 4) Cost involving LEDs; and 5) Consider the shape and structure of any alternative modeling light as it affects strobe output.

But there's hope on the horizon for one genre of flash lighting: battery-driven studio strobe. The Elinchrom Ranger Quadra RX is one example, with a choice of RQ A or RQ S heads, each featuring a 20W LED modeling light. Broncolor more recently introduced the Mobil A2L 1200 watt-seconds lithium pack with the MobiLED head, which employs a 5500K 30W LED modeling lamp. Trend or fad? Hard to say, but it's promising.


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