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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mobile Lighting Solutions

Build the location lighting setup that suits your style

This Article Features Photo Zoom

I own a Photogenic Eclipse, which hides the spokes behind fabric, for cleaner catchlight in the eyes. But you also can get umbrellas with a diffusion baffle, for a slightly different feel to the light. However, there’s the potential for overheating with certain flash units when enclosed in such devices. As an alternative, you can use a shoot-through umbrella (albeit not with quite the same effect).

You can affix the shoe-mount to a tripod in a pinch, but light stands are easier to carry and, to all outward appearances, are less intrusive than a full-sized tripod, especially where two or three are involved. More importantly, a light stand can be raised to more advantageous levels, and those with a boom give you added flexibility in positioning the light. When shooting outdoors in windy conditions, sandbags might be needed to weigh the legs down and stabilize the stand.

Finally, we’ll need to power these shoe-mounts by other means than AA cells. An external battery pack is arguably the best option, providing countless more pops on one pack than internal batteries, with better recycling times. The battery pack charges the capacitors, thereby reducing the load on the cells inside the flash, which continue to power the electronics. Select packs support two flash units. The connecting cables often are optional and must be ordered to match the strobes in question. Battery packs for shoe-mounts and handle-mounts are available from Dynalite (Jackrabbitpack II), Lumedyne (HV Cycler) and Quantum Instruments (Turbo).

Compact Powerhouses
The true powerhouses in the battle to remain mobile may output as much light as a popular monolight but appear to be a modified shoe-mount or little more than a strobe head—either of which is attached to a compact battery pack. These “bracket-mounted” strobes include the Lumedynes (www.lumedyne.com), Quantums (www.quantuminstruments.com), Norman 200/400 (www.normanlights.com), Elinchrom Quadra (www.elinchrom.us), Metz 76 Series (www.metz.us) and Comet LB-400 (www.dynalite.com). The Quantums and Lumedynes find popularity with wedding/event photographers, and serve as the key light source. The others may be found at commercial shoots, on a stand, serving as fill or accent lighting.

Battery-Driven Monolight Photo Shoot
The advantage to the monolight (monobloc) is that it’s self-contained, housing the capacitors, controls and flash head all in one unit, and plugging directly into a power source. You pack that up and you’re almost ready to go. The flash tube and reflector (dish) are usually, but not always, interchangeable components, as with typical flash heads.

Selected Resources: The Shoe-Mount Location-Lighting Kit
While geared primarily toward lifestyle and portraiture, this kit should easily handle diverse needs.
• Shoe-mounts or handle-mounts (2 strobes—for key light and choice of backlight or hair light; 3 for key, background, and hair) • External battery pack for each shoemount/handle-mount used (select packs support two flashes) + replacement battery (where applicable)
• Cables to connect lights to battery pack (one for each flash)
• Chargers for above packs
• Light stands + umbrella/shoe-mount adapters (as many as needed)
• Umbrellas, as follows: white, silver and/or zebra-pattern; optionally a shoot-through
• 2x2-foot softbox
• Barn door set
• Collapsible reflector: double-sided or multisurfaced
• Color-calibration target, for example, X-Rite ColorChecker Passport (www.xrite.com), Datacolor SpyderCube (www.datacolor.com) or PhotoVision Digital Calibration Target (www.photovisionvideo.com)
• Wedding option: flash bracket—the kind that puts the light where needed, not simply alongside the camera, for example, Custom Brackets (www.custombrackets.com) and Stroboframe (www.tiffen.com)
• Wedding option: fishing pole—to support a light above people’s heads
• Outdoor option: sandbags—recommended on windy days to prevent light stands and carbon-fiber tripods from toppling over For additional options, see “The Advanced Location Lighting Kit.”


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