Right now there are so many important and historic events happening in our country and our communities. The Black Lives Matter movement changing how blacks have been mistreated throughout history, COVID-19, record unemployment, home schooling, Zoom Meetings, and face to face isolation.
On February 24 2020 just before the public officially became aware of the novel coronavirus, a collection of artists of all genres gathered to create the Hillbarn Theatre’s 2020 Season Brochure. I need to rewind this story five years prior to that date. Tracy and I work with many theatres and performance venues in the Western United States. After having helped in creating season brochures and publicity collateral for theatres ranging from pre-Broadway houses to community theatres, August Laguio and I became restless with the look of theatre publicity imagery. August is one of the most accomplished graphic designers I have ever worked with and was responsible for so much of the marketing collateral our clients used.
We spoke to the marketing staff of all the theatres who were clients, “Hey we would like to try a new approach to how theatre presents itself to the public, a photo centric approach, not heavy with graphics and not using traditional show graphics titling.” Well what has always been done is a very difficult mindset to overcome, especially when theatres feel their income may suffer. Or they feel their season subscriber base would not take a liking to something new.
In 2006 before ever dreaming of becoming a commercial photographer I had the opportunity to spend time with Annie Leibovitz. She was on a tour for her book A Photographer’s Life and a friend arranged time for me to meet with her. “Annie, how can I learn to shoot like you?” Her reply “Mark, don’t attempt to shoot like me, strive to shoot like Mark. And one day I will look at your work and wonder why I didn’t ask you the very same question.” What she taught me in the time we spent together was not about camera gear. It was about concepts, storytelling and feeling.
So in late 2019 Tracy and I were looking through some of Annie’s work and the delicious nature of a wider shot that enveloped the entire scene of what goes into creating an image struck us both. “Let’s talk to Dan about doing it this way for Hillbarn’s 80th season, their 2020 Season Brochure!” In reality once Tracy and I are both on the same page about an idea, poor Dan didn’t really have a chance. With his typical askance look and a raised eyebrow he simply said “Uh OK I guess we can do that. Yeah it sounds good.” So we were off to the races. Of course Dano had to tell us the season so we could begin formulating a plan.
One of the most delicious elements in Annie’s style of pulled back imagery are the drops. Hand painted canvas background drops. The texture of painted drops is just delicious on film if they’re done correctly. So as Tracy often does, she began her investigation and found out that to purchase a 12’x12’ hand painted drop, averages 1800.00 per drop. Gulp! “We need to raise our prices babe!” was my response. We both agreed that we would need at least four different drops for the session. So what did she do? She researched how hand painted drops are made, what materials are used, where to find them and how they’re painted. Kelly Tighe was instrumental in helping her understand the process of selecting the correct canvas, the paints and the process. He was the first in our epic collaboration to create something very special.
So off to Musson Theatrical we went to buy the canvas, then to a paint shop in Belmont and then to the hardware store for brushes. But where do we paint these? The canvas can either be stretched over a wooden frame we would have to build or….
Stapled to a wooden floor. HEY Hillbarn’s greenroom has a wooden floor! So as luck would have it that area was clear during the times we’d need to occupy the space. So for days and nights Tracy painted, sprayed and rolled the canvases. Of course I was there for moral support as I napped in one of the prop chairs left in the room.
Dan informed us of Hillbarn’s 80th Season lineup:
- The Sound of Music
- A Chorus Line
- Shakespeare In Love
- The Producers
Now came the task of how to light each of the shows. Although I review gear on this blog I tend to not discuss gear too much outside of this site. Concepts are the most difficult aspect in my imagery development process. But the fact that I have been using battery operated Flashpoint strobes for the past six years makes my job easier. No more asking clients where power is located at on location venues. It’s all battery powered now, no cords, just freedom. And why is that important? Because NO ONE likes Mark’s cussing scale of one to ten. I’m a real bitch about just a few things; authentic expressions, donuts and light. Not many people know this because I don’t say, but with light and imagery I smell and taste when the shot is the right one; delicious, LITERALLY. For those who have worked with me they are accustomed to when I say I got the shot and I never even look at my camera. Sure all of the images go to my iPad, but it’s because I can taste when the shot is right that I know I got the shot. Weirdo? Yep, but it works for me.
Dan Demers the Artistic Director of Hillbarn Theatre had these thoughts:
“It’s always a challenge to think beyond the last brochure you create. Creatively you have to stretch yourself; you have to push beyond the uncomfortable beyond the safe looks. The honest reason I’m able to do that more easily now is because of the partnerships, friendships and trust I have with Mark and Tracy. So when both of them came to me with this idea I knew it was going to be powerful and I could see it in my mind instantly.
But how could I make this shoot rise to the idea of it. I knew I had to reach out to some amazing creative people and ask them for help. Together I shared the concept with them and they quickly starting to see if for themselves. But I was missing something…
You see every year Mark, Tracy and I sit down and talk about the emotion or feeling behind the shoots or brochure, and it is one of my favorite days. It usually starts with an idea that has been stirring in me, then when we sit down and talk about it, Mark takes it an begins to cook up ideas or images, and usually ends with a ‘damn you, now I can’t stop thinking about it.’ This time the tables were turned. It was me who was constantly thinking about the concept. I knew we had to do more, so with this amazing group of creative people we started to craft actual scenes for each show. Pulling props, period costumes, small set pieces and using the full theater space. This creation would only enhance the beauty of the concept and idea of our 80th Anniversary season brochure. I could not wait to see the pictures, the models, and the scenes we had all created to evoke the emotion of each show.”
So on the day of the shoot, Tracy is filming and I’m shooting. My primary job is to keep the energy HIGH throughout the day. What does that mean? It means that when each of the talent arrives and begins to go through makeup, hair, wardrobe, etc. when they get to me I need to show them my energy. I’ve never been the kind of shooter that just snaps my shutter. Nope I like to tell the talent a story of what I’m looking to create. In a way, I’m a director. And if I bore or lose that momentum then I have not done a good job. Smiles need to be genuine; tension needs to be authentic, even in a studio environment. Actors are professionals, but they need direction and that’s what I try to convey. I have concepts in my mind whenever I begin any session, but it’s the organic collaboration that happens during the sessions that creates the true magic.
Being collaborative, directing and encouraging organic development of ideas on set is what makes a shoot successful, memorable and authentic. I’ve always said that a pretty photo without emotion is just a pretty photo. We all strive together to make imagery and our memories of that day magic.
Behind the scenes images in the creation of:
It becomes very evident that our sessions are very serious and boring….LOL!!!
The Sound of Music (not accomplished due to COVID19)
A Chorus Line
Shakespeare In Love
And the final choices for the brochure by show
The Sound of Music – NA
A Chorus Line
Shakespeare In Love
I asked all of the people involved to add any comments if they wished to do so:
“Any smiles shown in the picture were real and not staged, just pure happiness being around amazing people in a warm and welcoming theatre family!!!” – Kylie Abucay, actress
“Thank you for sharing these with us, and we’re honored to have taken part of this experience, despite the current circumstances. Just imagine how strong and amped up we’ll all be when this all subsides! Much love and healthy wishes to you both and your families.” – Christine M. Shulman, actress
“It was almost surreal for me to be included in this photo shoot. As long as I have been Sofia’s mom I have sat in the audience. Enjoying all you very talented thespians from the seats in the second row. I never thought I’d be part of the gang. And then Tracy and Mark thought of me as the perfect Ms Scarlett. Be still my heart. It was amazing to be included.
Growing up in an Irish Catholic school most girls had blonde hair, freckles and blue eyes. I had a ton of dark hair, a unibrow among other unwanted hair, and pretty ethnic. I didn’t feel very pretty. Moments like this, where the way I look is appreciated and never gets old. Thank you Mark and Tracy for liking my look enough to include me as Ms Scarlett! You two and Dan are amazing! We miss you all very much.” – Vicky Costantini
“Walking into the theatre yesterday was like uncovering a time capsule—from before shelter-in-place, before face masks and government mandates to stay six feet apart. Caught in the moment before everything changed, the place feels frozen. The set for Laughter on the 23rd Floor is still in place; the props are pre-set and costumes hang on racks in the green room ready to be returned to storage.
We walked out on March 16 and other than visits for mail pick up, a place that is usually filled with people and projects has been abandoned. Only weeks before we jumped ship we had spent an incredibly creative and collaborative day as part of a collective hive-brain at an 80th Hillbarn Theatre Season brochure photoshoot.
With an understanding of the show characters, limited access to stock costumes and no actor measurements, co-costumer, Melissa and I had preselected outfits. With fingers crossed we hoped the Artistic Director approved ensembles would fit and tell the story.
Over the course of several weeks we’d watched videographer Tracey Martin paint the ombré backdrops; each gradient background is arguably a work of art in itself! It was against these grey’s and sages that the actors would express character with costumes and props aiding in setting time, place and character.
Photoshoot day was one of the best ever. The process was organically synergistic and well beyond the control of any participating individual. The “process” was humming as each member of the creative crew added their layer to the storyline. Editing was rich. No one said no. Creatives love to hear yes and… not yes but. The room reverberated.” – Pam Lampkin, costumer
Hillbarn’s 80th season may not have transpired on stage as planned. But the magic and collaboration of what we all created together is something that deserves sharing. Especially in the times of COVID19, the importance of Black Lives Matter and the changes necessary to make our world what it should have become long ago.
For any of you who follow my blog it should be very apparent how impressed I have been with the Saberstrip v2.0 which uses the Godox/Flashpoint 200ws strobe instead of a speed light like their SS v1.0. A few years ago I was very fortunate to test their new prototype and gave them some feedback about the unit. It was very minor and I anxiously awaited the final release. And waited, and waited, and….well you get the picture.
I used the v2.0s during many different sessions, but I found they worked so well for my studio dance imagery they became my defacto lights for dance. You can read about my impressions and experiences in my post about the Saberstrip v2.0.
Recently a visitor to my site made me aware of a similar light modifier by Strobius, their StrobiStrip 100. I also found another modifier the FOTOCREAT 3″×20″(8×50cm) Strip Flash Diffuser Softbox on Amazon. So I purchased one of each to see how they compared to the SSv2.0. Both of those units are designed to be used with speed lights, but since the 200 is close in shape and size to the end of a speed light I figured they’d fit the 200. And they do indeed.
Both the Strobistrip and the Fotocreat are very similar in materials and design. Both use a rip stop translucent fabric as diffusion material, ballistic nylon for the body and silver fabric to reflect light on the interiors. Velcro attaches the tube together as well. The Strobistrip differs as it uses a semi rigid piece of clear plastic to keep the shape of the tube consistent and I imagine more evenly reflects light throughout the tube. Because it breaks down it’s a very clever design.
I’m a firm believer that you never get something for nothing. The SSv2.0 is a remarkable modifier but it is bulky to carry since it is a solid tube. The other two are much smaller when packed down. About the size of a man’s travel bag for his toothbrush, shaving kit, etc. So trading portability for size, I assumed that the light output would not be the same. So I tested all of them.
My Testing Chart of all three Modifiers
As you can see the SSv2.0 has the most consistent and efficient use of the light. The StrobiStrip 100 was less consistent and efficient than the SSv2.0. The FOTOCREAT was all over the place in terms of its light output along the length of the tube. I returned the FOTOCREAT as it is too small for my work and the inconsistent light output along its length made it unattractive for my taste.
In examining the interior of the SSv2.0 he follows the same design as his v1.0 unit. A very cleverly placed piece of ramped reflecting material at the opposite end of the strobe’s socket must increase the light furthest from the source to make it so even.
I also feel that the StrobiStrip’s use of clear plastic to help hold the tube’s shape also adds to the interior’s reflective value helps with its light efficiency and consistency.
One of the most ingenuous design elements of the SSv2.0 is how it mounts the AD200 to the tube. He has developed what I refer to as the ‘tractor tire’ with a 3/8” peg that will fit into any standard light stand socket. The tube rotates around the tractor tire giving me the ability to easily adjust the direction of the diffusion fabric. I’m not talking about your normal x/y adjustment, but the z axis without disturbing the other two axis’s.
I have come to depend on that wonderful design feature. So when I tried to use the Flashpoint eVOLV 200 Round Flash Head attachment on my eVOLV 200 with the StrobiStrip in hopes that it would allow it to smoothly rotate around the strobe I was thrilled! There is enough Velcro to still securely attach the modifier to the strobe, but with the round head, it allows a smooth rotation around the strobe! The OEM Fresnel head does work as well, but the round head is much better to use in rotating the modifier.
In the following two images you can see that I can rotate the modifier around the strobe which is one of the features of the SSv2.0 I fell in love with.
I wanted to determine if the StrobiStrip 100 holds up to high wind as well as my SSv2.0s. Yep they do just fine. The modifier is around 5-11 up in the air on a light stand.
I will keep an eye on the StrobiStrip fabric which is wrinkled when assembled. I doubt it will pose issues in the quality of light. If so I will report back here.
I have used my SSv2.0s so much that one of the tubes has started to split, so I just used gaff tape to repair it. The other one’s diffusion fabric started to fray so I used some superglue on it. IF Saberstrip ever decides to manufacture them I will be first in line. But until or IF they do and I need more tube modifiers I’m glad to have been made aware of the StrobiStrip 100s. I keep mine built and will break them down once COVID19 is over and I have to travel for work again.
If you want to try tube modifiers with an AD200 they are the ones I recommend.
Update May 7 2020
For my work I have found the optimum strobe for my Parabolix 35D. The XPLOR (or Godox) 300 Pro.
UPDATE December 9 2019
The Parabolix 35D’s quality of light combined with its focusing ability is just superb. I use the optional grid system when I want to control the light spread when using another gobo instrument.
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.
Hi, if you’ve stopped by to read about my latest blog post regarding a specific piece of gear, it’s best to keep moving along. Nope, this post is about all that went into a recent publicity shoot I just completed. A big part of the job is developing the look and feel for a campaign. After viewing some of Annie Leibovitz’s work, my partner and I felt using painted drops for a number of the sessions would create the feeling we wanted. After investigating the cost of hand painted drops she discovered that good ones range anywhere between $1000 to $1800 dollars for a 12×12 foot size. So..
We went to our local theatrical supply store where she purchased the fabric and then it was onto the paint store. In total, two 12x12s, three 8×6 foot drops including the paint and tools came to just over 500 bucks. She plans to use the smaller drops for her headshot business too.
We spoke to our client about the concepts and he generously allowed us to use the theatre’s Green Room to paint the drops. We needed space, but just as important a wood floor where the canvases could be stapled to the floor. His Green Room had both. Once done we showed him the mood board we assembled for the concept and it was at that point all of us became very excited. Since it is the theatre’s 80th anniversary season, he wanted something special. So we presented the following concepts for the imagery:
We also presented the idea of including behind the scenes shots of the sessions. EVERYONE including myself loves BTS imagery and film. I still get goosebumps thinking about Game of Thrones BTS film of Beyond the Wall. The client immediately approved the concept so we were off to the races. Logistics is one of the most tedious aspects of any shoot. Scheduling talent, securing the venue, preparing wardrobe, makeup, props is just part of a shoot. I’m consulted on the type of wardrobe, colors, etc. which has nothing to do with the camera or lighting gear I’m using…but…
The type of lighting instruments I plan to use really does depend on the mood, the costumes and the setting for each session. I know so many forum trolls like to pretend they are skilled in light when they argue about if a modifier is a true parabola or not. Go right ahead and argue about it, but for me and most importantly my clients, how something looks and feels is what matters. And will the imagery evoke enough emotion to initiate a sale, that’s the REAL question.
All of my publicity imagery is shot with my Pentax 645Z medium format. I do this for two reasons; first there is a feeling of medium format that I just cannot recreate with 35mm. Second clients often use the files for billboards, bus banner, etc. so file size can be a concern. In addition all strobes are Flashpoint 600s or 200s. Modifiers….well that’s a different story.
Sure I use focusing rod modifiers most of the time, but when those are not the right tools for the job at hand I often improvise. Like using a Cheetahstand Lantern with a cut up cheap umbrella fabric as a drape held with wooden clothespins to control spill. Or a 1965 Mole Richardson 412 Fresnel spotlight converted into a strobe. Some of my gear is used like the OEM intended yet with other modifier instruments; well I’ve just adapted them to my needs.
My whole point of this post is to highlight creativity, planning and imagination in developing imagery. Do what is right for you or for you and your client. Don’t be afraid to try things that work for you. Stay away from the naysayers, how many times have you seen their body of work beyond shitty ‘test shots’ anyway? Crickets? Exactly my point!
February 15 2020
My photography partner and I have been creating hand painted backdrops for ourselves. So it was a perfect time to use the incredibly bright constant LED light and then do a quick test of the strobe feature to see how the backdrop looks in an actual photo.
The lighting in the room where the backdrops were painted is awful! So having the FV150 turned up to 100% and modified through a lantern softbox was perfect!
This is the scene before using the FV150 during the daytime with the door and windows open.
Here are some quick test shots of actors and the director who just happened to be working in the theatre that day. So during a break I grabbed them for some quick shots using the strobe feature of the FV150. The modifier I used was a Glow 41″ EZ Lock Deep Umbrella. I just grabbed what was convenient before heading over to do the job. Pentax 645Z with my 45-85mm f4.5 lens.
Again the FV150’s strobe feature does not rival a normal bulb strobe. BUT the possibilities of its uses are endless and I have yet to even scratch the surface of what I can do creatively with this light. Stay tuned.
January 27 2020
Today I was able to test the FV150 on a human! LOL
Jenn was here for a headshot and I talked her into indulging me with a test of the FV in both LED and strobe mode. I used the CLAR Slim 10″ Round Bi-Color LED as a hair rim light. Key light modifier was my Parabolix 35D with the FV150 in mid focused position. Modifier was camera right 4 feet from Jenn pointed completely away from her face. This is my normal configuration when using that modifier. Camera is my Pentax 645Z.
So this was a two light shot test of constant lights. I’m NOT accustomed to using constant lights and for a time it felt a bit like well, cheating. WYSIWYG
I’m just about ready to put the FV150 into production after one more test. It’s a remarkable tool for the right job.
January 21 2020
I wanted to test several more aspects of this light. First if I can effectively use it in my focusing rod modifiers. Second to test the use of my Aputure Spotlight for gobos with the flash feature and then with the constant light feature.
Here is my initial setup. I am using the Chopstick Reflective Focusing System MKII. I have found this to be the best general focusing rod for my use. Versatile, well made and very sturdy. At 160.00 USD a very good value. For all of the following images I used one of my favorite modifiers, an Elinchrom 39″ Rotalux Deep Octabox which I use with and without the focusing rod.
Camera is the Pentax 645Z using a 45-85mm f4.5 lens.
This first shot is when the FV150 is full flooded in the modifier
The FV150 in strobe mode projects the same quality of light characteristic as my bulb strobes with a focusing rod.
Next was using my Aputure Spotlight with the FV150 alone without my Saberstrip v2.0 turned on for fill.
Set up for the strip of light shot.
Testing various gobos with the Aputure Spotlight and the FV150 set to full power in strobe mode.
Next I wanted to test using the FV150 as a strobe and compare it to using the LED constant light mode through a gobo and the Aputure.
So as I go about this and more testing I’m finding that like all things you don’t get something for nothing. I have been using battery powered and remote head conversion strobes for the past three years. Moving back to an AC only plug in system seems to be a bit of a pain. BUT the versatility of combining a powerful constant light AND a usable strobe in one light takes the sting out of an AC only light. I’d only tend to use this in studio, not because of the AC only aspect since I can use a generator or inverter out in the field. Nope it’s because the strobe is not strong enough to overpower the sun. At least in my view at this point even though I have not tested it in full sun.
One of my lighting mentors has been using constant LED lights outdoors so I will try this as well. One thing is so apparent to me right now; LED lights are the future of lighting, at least to me.
January 17 2020
Seriously?! OK so I just had to test HSS with my Canon 1DXII shooting 14 frames per second just to see the performance in HSS…..
No matter how long I kept the shutter depressed, NOT ONE MISFIRE OR SKIP in the flash mode! Holy crap. More testing needs to be done of course, but so far my mind is exploding with the new possibilities of this light. A constant LED AND strobe with this kind of performance? Holy shit man!
January 13 2020
I recently received and am testing what I consider to be a very exciting light the Flashpoint FV150 Hybrid R2 Continuous LED Light and HSS Flash (Godox FV150). Please note that this post is only my initial examination and testing of this light. Because I am in the height of my shooting season I have little time to fully test this light until later in the month. BUT I was SO INTRIGUED by its possibilities I sandwiched my initial evaluation between client sessions. For me this new instrument’s possibilities are mind bending!
Right off the bat a huge plus for this unit is its ability to natively attach to my Aputure Spotlight without my DIY adapter. For anyone who has tried to mount an AD600/400/etc. to the Aputure, you know that the bulb fouls against the inner lens of the Aputure unit. Not so with the FV150 since it is a flat LED light. SCORE! Plus I can now use the Aputure/FV150 combination in video with gobos. Excellent!
So here are my power test results:
I have several Westcott Skylux LED lights so I tested the FV150 against them. As you can see the FV150 is twice the brightness of the Skylux. For the strobe test I compared the FV150 to the Flashpoint XPLOR 600 HSS TTL Battery-Powered Monolight. It’s safe to say that the FV150 is about 25% the power of the 600. So in my testing I’d place it in the 150WS category.
There are a TON of features in this light I have not even examined. I will just say that my mind is exploding with concepts that I may be able to accomplish with this light that would have been much more difficult in the past to perform. For those that are thinking “Gosh isn’t this just a low powered, plug in strobe with a fancy modeling light?” I’d suggest you move along…..
For those who may see new possibilities, stay tuned – MUCH more to follow!
I am constantly searching for new ways to use light and shadow. Much of my work revolves around dance and although I’ve been happy with most of my work, I’m always thinking my next shot will be my best shot. I study lots of dance photographers, Lois Greenfield is just one of my favorites. Her creations for movement are delicious. After spending time in nature and watching movies I’ve become inspired to try to recreate some of the concepts I see in my dance imagery. So for my first concept I wanted to create a wall of light and a ceiling and floor of light. I determined that the most effective way for me to accomplish this task was to use my Aputure Spotlight and the Leko follow spot I converted into a strobe. Both use blades to shape and focus the light with or without a gobo. If you’re not familiar with blades in follow spots, just do some Google searching.
Prior to attempting my wall/floor/ceiling concept I wanted to try using the blades on the spotlight for more static poses dancers often perform. The next two images were created using the instruments above. The dancers I asked to help me understood that the shoot this time was not about them. Not about the desire for perfect feet, hands, etc. but about the light. I was blessed that they understood the intent for this shoot.
I then filled the room with haze so the light rays would be visible.
Test shots for walls and then floor ceiling of light.
And here are three of my light test shots.
So I will continue to chase new light, sometimes it works, sometimes it does not….at least not initially. But experimenting is the only way I’ve found to break out of my norm.
Whether or not you use scrims/flags/etc. in your work is a topic for a completely different post. I use scrims and flags extensively in my work. My issue has always been transporting scrim or flag FRAMES via airline travel. For local shoots it’s not too bad although some scrim/flag frames are not that easy to break down and transport. Even though they are two dimensional in size (yes they have depth too, but barely….) they can be cumbersome.
So when I was made aware and got a set of the Glow Portable Frame Scrim Kit in its own flat small carry case I was intrigued. Inside of the pouch are five frames which fold extremely small in size. And as I discovered after assembling them the scrims/flags can stay ON the frames even when folded! Halleluyah to this invention! Not only are they small enough for me to carry in my trusty SKB hard sized golf case with my other modifiers, but they are so easy to assemble and strike on location!
So for a recent out of town publicity session I opted to take one of the negative (fully black) reflectors and one net to cut light. I cannot display the images since they are not to be released at this point. But I will say that the flag and net worked very well. As well as my regular devices that do not collapse.
My only complaint about these is Adorama does not currently sell nets/flags/scrims for this unit separately. There are times I need two, three even four of the same flag/net/scrim. And with this set up only one of each is offered. For those who need multiples of the same flag/scrim/net I would not recommend this kit until Adorama offers fabrics separately. But once they do I’d highly recommend this kit.
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.
If you’ve read my review of the Glow EZ Lock Deep Parabolic you already know I find it to be a remarkable value in modifiers. I’ve also done a preliminary review of the Glow EZ Lock ARC strip box. So for this post I wanted to show how I combined both of those modifiers in two of my recent client sessions. I was asked by one client to create portraits of 21 individuals and then an overall group shot of the entire team of talent. For the portraits I used both the ARC and a 48″ Deep Parabolic. The Parabolic was the key light and the ARC was the rim/hair light.
The subtle wrap of these when used in combination is really flattering for portrait work. For the group shot below I simply used a single Glow EZ Lock Deep Parabolic 48″ with both diffusion panels inserted, but without the diffusion disk. A 600 was my light source. Wonderful coverage and quality of light.
Next up was my dance session for a long time client…I used two Glow ARC modifiers, one Glow Deep Parabolic 48 and one Saberstrip v2.0. All three Glows used 600 lights. Prior to this configuration I utilized three Saberstrip 2.0s, but since they are not available I wanted to see how the ARCs would fair in my use. I had tested the quality of light prior to the session and was pleased with the results. My client commented, “Man you bring new toys every time you come here!” LOL
When used in combination I cannot stress enough how elegantly these modifiers produce in terms of quality of light. When I consider the ease of set up and strike along with their inexpensive price points there’s not anything to bitch or argue about! Incredible combination I’ll use when it’s the right tool for the job.
Update August 26 2019
I have written a post where I use this modifier in combination with another Glow EZ product. You can find that post here.
Update: July 28 2019
I have recently used this remarkable modifier in combination with others. It may be one of the best values I’ve encountered.
UPDATE February 20 2019
I continue to be incredibly impressed with this modifier. So much so that I utilized it for an important on location shoot in Los Angeles, CA for a professional Argentine Tango session. The client had hired me to create publicity imagery for their 2019-20 season. The space I chose was Monk Space located in DTLA. It has an incredible variety of rooms all with a different look and feel. In addition to the Deep Parabolic 48″ I used an Elinchrom 39″ Deep Octa, the new Glow Wing Like Parabolic, several cones, and a gobo focusing modifier.
Since everything had to be flown down in checked luggage (including my smoke machine) space was at a premium. Since the Deep 48 comes with a grid, two diffusion panels and a deflector ring it was the right tool for this job. Even though it is NOT my preferred focusing rod modifier, its quality of light and versatility is remarkable.
And in some cases the best modifier is no modifier at all. Sometimes I like to just use a bare bulb. While trolls will get an erection arguing over whether the shape is a ‘true parabola’ others of us will judge its quality by the light produced. I for one love this modifier. An incredible value that gives up very very little in light quality compared to other much more expensive modifiers.
My client was thrilled….
My client has released the press publicity imagery for Rock of Ages so I can now share them which were lit with the Glow EZ 48″
I will simply say having used this modifier for three months that it may be the best value in the business. I have found that it rivals my much more expensive focusing arm modifiers in terms of light quality when used with the disk at the maximum distance allowable on the short rod combined with the inner diffusion panel. Of course it does not have the versatility of a focusing arm, but the light quality is delicious.
The quality of light is both punchy and soft, much like a focusing rod modifier. Incredible value considering it comes with a grid as well. The ease of set up and striking is incredible. I use a short length of PVC pipe to push the locking mechanism down since my reach to the lock is tight. I’m sure smaller versions of this modifier are easier to reach.
I have also used it for a recent (this week) on location publicity shoot, but cannot share the actual photos at this time. Having used it for one of my longest standing large clients will attest to my confidence in the Glow 48. Remarkable. I can share the light test shot I did of the Marketing team for my client before the actual talent arrived from hair and makeup. In the actual shot there are eight people, but for the purposes of my lighting test I only had seven individuals.
Below are all shot with the Glow 48 as the key light camera left with a Saberstrip v2 as the fill light camera right behind the talent. Pentax 645Z with the newly released R2Pro.
Publicity imagery for A Christmas Carol. The only adjustments to these images were done in Lightroom for white balance, lens correction and contrast. Strobes were: key light through the Glow 48 was a Flashpoint 600Pro and an AD200 in the v2 Saberstrip.
Our client Hillbarn Theatre just released one of their publicity posters for the upcoming production of West Side Story. This image was shot using a Flashpoint XPLOR 600PRO and the Glow EZ Lock Deep Parabolic 48″ with disk and inner diffusion panel as the key light. Rim light was a Saberstrip v2 using an eVOLV200.
I did a re-shoot for a client’s West Side Story publicity imagery since they have actually cast the roles. I decided to use the Glow 48 with the metal disk and inner diffusion panel installed instead of my focusing arm modifiers for this session. I wanted a slightly softer yet still punchy look for the mood the client wanted created. I continue to be amazed and happy with the light quality and the ease of set up with this modifier. My only niggle is that it can be tough to push it open because of the size of the modifier. I have to stand to one side and really push down to get it to click. Ah first world problems eh? LOL.
I continue to be impressed with the EZ 48, so much so that it was only one of four modifiers I took for a personal editorial project down to El Segundo to shoot Luna Cycle. (I have an upcoming article on that trip along with photos of course….) The other two modifiers were my Fresnel and two the soon to be released SaberStrip v2.0 which comes out later this month. This project was editorial in nature over ‘beauty‘ in the traditional sense. (I find beauty in loads of things that may not seem obvious.) I know a good many of you (including myself) like to ‘learn’ about modifiers and how they apply to shooting beauty or product. But for me the real test of a modifier is just how versatile it can be in a variety of situations.
The light quality is always my first concern and the EZ has that down pat. The ease of assembly and if it is the right tool for the right job is my second consideration. For the two images below it fit both all three of those criteria perfectly.
I have found that the value and quality of light presented by the EZ is remarkable.
I had a client reschedule one of my sessions, so I decided to do a quality of light test today with this modifier against my SMDV 110 using a focusing rod and my Parabolix 35D modifier. Since the Glow comes with this little metal disk I wanted to find out if it could produce a similar quality of light to my actual focusing rod light modifiers. Spoiler Alert: Yes it can! With one major limitation…..
I was actually away at how good this 95.00 modifier’s quality of light is in real life. The major difference between it and my other focusing rod modifiers is its inability to feather light while using the disk. I almost always feather light using any modifier. I know that many people generally point a modifier directly at the talent, but my taste prefers having the light bounce away from the talent. It produces a delicious wrap that a direct shot just doesn’t accomplish. Because the light source on the Glow is pointing DIRECTLY TOWARD the talent, but is deflected back toward the modifier by the disk (much like a beauty dish), any angle not pointing directly toward your talent exposes the strobe bulb. This creates a severe hot spot and ruins the effects of the modifier. True focusing rod modifiers point the strobe bulb AWAY from the talent toward the modifier. That greatly increases the angle at which the modifier can be turned without exposing the bulb. In addition the housing of focusing rods which hold the strobes have a flange that also shields the bulb from direct line of sight.
One of the “potential issues” I had read somewhere is that the Glow 48 is passing light ‘through‘ the spokes of the housing skeleton. I’m always fascinated how people concern themselves with things like that. In my experience it does NOT affect the quality of light in this modifier.
For the purposes of this test I shot all three modifiers directly at Jenni, no feathering. In the focusing rod comparison, no diffusion material was used on any of the modifiers. The reason I prefer focusing rods is the extra contrast, smoothness and punch they produce in the quality of light. They’re certainly not for everyone, but my clients now insist on this type of light for most of their publicity work. There are exceptions, but it’s what we both prefer. The ability to focus or flood the very same modifier to give different lighting moods/looks is wonderful.
For the SMDV and the Parabolix I had the focusing arm in their mid-flooded position (both used the Parabolix focusing arm and an xPLOR 600 with remote head), meaning halfway out from the apex of the modifier. I did this because the disk on the Glow would only go about halfway from the apex of its modifier. I did notice a color difference between the modifiers as well. I’ve decided to post the images without identifying which modifier was which…until the end. After all we each decide for ourselves what we prefer and I don’t want to influence your view of this modifier. So here we go….
I also wanted to do a quality of light test using both diffusion panels which is the way most of the people will use the Glow 48. I did NOT use the diffusion disk in addition to the two diffusion panels. The inner diffusion panel has a 2 stop circular panel which effectively reduces any potential hot spots. My gold standard in a two diffusion panel configuration has been my beloved Elinchrom 39” Rotalux Deep Octa. I found the Glow achieves 90% of the light I love in the Eli. And considering the Eli is 290.00 PLUS an additional 55.00 for a Bowens speedring AND 86.00 for a hooded diffusion panel (no grid is made for the Eli Rotalux line) that’s a whopping 431.00 compared to 95 bucks. Is that 10% difference worth the extra three and change Benjamins? That’s totally up to how your client feels about the lighting. And if you’re not shooting client work, how you feel about the light quality.
So let’s do a little math:
- Glow 95.00 (46”)
- SMDV 110 (44”) 325.00 (not including a focusing rod)
- Parabolix 35D (89cm) Package 838.00 (including focusing arm)
In order of ease of assembly and breakdown as I used them today (without diffusion panels):
- Glow 48*
- SMDV 110**
- Parabolix 35D
* The Glow is the easiest to assemble and strike IF you don’t use the inner and outer diffusion panels. They must be removed and installed each time you use this modifier.
** The SMDV is hands down the fastest and easiest modifier to assemble and break down if the diffusion panels are installed. You don’t have to remove them when breaking down the modifier. They can remain on the modifier.
- Shot A: Parabolix 35D
- Shot B: Glow 48″
- Shot C SMDV 110cm
I will simply say that the light quality and value of the Glow Deep 48” Quick is REMARKABLE. Add to that fact its cost and it’s a no brainer. It is going into my workflow immediately and I’ll not hesitate to use it when it’s the right tool for the right job. A side note, Jenni the young woman I asked to be my test subject is also a photographer. She was so impressed she plans on purchasing a Glow 48. Hell who can blame her?!
Zarli, a visitor recently asked me two questions, one of which didn’t take long to research and I’m assuming others will have this same question so I’m adding it here. He wants to know the diameter of the changeable speed ring in the unit. The measurement is 144mm or 5 2/3rds of an inch. If the light quality is as I expect I will change the Bowens speed ring to a Cheetahstand low profile ring. I’ve done this for all of my Bowens modifiers when using them without a focusing rod. The reason is the Cheetahstand Low Profile rings allow my Flashpoint strobe bulbs to penetrate further into a modifier giving me a percentage increase in light output. It’s a very easy change and well worth the extra 25 bucks.
Although I have not had time to evaluate the actual light quality of this modifier, I wanted to give my impressions of the Glow EZ Lock Deep Parabolic’s physical build quality of the unit. As is my workflow, until I can test any modifier I won’t be using it on commercial shoots. Since this is my hectic time of year I’m not sure when that will occur. But once it does I will post my impressions here. And I’m not going to get into the fucking bullshit back and forth about whether this is a true parabola. If you’re one of those best of luck and start babbling about geometric facts somewhere else. My world is about creating compelling and excellent imagery, not having to be fucking right. Plenty of other troll places you can go online for that.
At this point it’s way too early to give my impressions of the light quality, simply because I haven’t tried it! But from a construction standpoint I feel that for 95.00 USD it presents a great value. Is it ‘better’ than this brand or that brand? I can’t say, but will say that IF the light quality is great to excellent I will add this to my workflow when it’s the right tool for the right job. More to come…..later.
Update August 26 2019
I have written a post where I use this modifier in combination with another Glow EZ product. You can find that post here.
Updated August 21 2019
A visitor stopped by and asked me if these modifiers will accept an PCB speed ring. So I took the time to measure it for him and others. I was formerly a devout Einstein user so I have some of those speed rings hanging around. Here’s what I found:
The following three images shows the PCB speed ring compared to the OEM Glow Bowens speed ring….
All is not lost. If it ‘were me’ I would use InstaMorph to create some shims to take up the slack. But that’s just me….up to you. The important point is now you know the Glow’s diameter of the speed ring so if you want to change to another ring, just make sure it is the correct measurement. Hope this helps.
Updated August 5 2019
I had mentioned that I would be testing the quality of light before using these in my upcoming dance sessions. I wanted to try a different application by using these to replicate the shadowless glamour light a ring light produces. I’ve been doing this with my Saberstrip v2.0s for some time. But after testing the consistency of these modifiers across their face I thought that I’d try them stacked. I’ve always wanted to do a shadowless light shoot of multiple people all at once. Due to the size, shape and consistency of this light modifier I will be able to do so. I’m convinced that these will be a regular part of my on location and studio workflow.
I use strip boxes quite a bit for my work. I recently received the Adorama GLOW EZ LOCK ARC Curved Strip Softbox. I have historically used two different strip light modifiers, first the Cheetah 12″x55″ Quick StripBox and the yet to be released SaberStrip v2.0 which uses the Flashpoint 200s rather than a speedlight. I have found that strip light modifiers are especially valuable for me during studio dance sessions.
Below is an example of how I use strip boxes to light dancers (this was NOT shot using the Glow ARC):
One of the advantages Adorama states on their site of this curved configuration is: “Covers the subject with an even light.” Flashhavoc also mentions “The curved surface surface of the EZ Lock ARC’s front diffuser panel is designed to provide something of a more even light across the full length of the stripbox.” Since I use strip boxes quite a bit I thought I’d actually run my own test to see if both claims are true….
Before getting to that test I just want to say that one of the most remarkable modifiers I own and use when not using focusing rod modifiers is the Glow EZ Lock deep parabolic. The quality of light, it’s complete ease to assemble and the price seems almost impossible! But yet it’s NOT. So I have high hopes for the Glow ARCs as well.
The construction of the ARC is very similar to the EZ Parabolics. Like an umbrella it uses a rod and securely locks into place.
I always use the diffusion disk with my Glow Deep parabolic. I especially like the way it distributes the light into the modifier. So I was pleased to see that it is also included with the ARC. It’s interesting that in their instructions, no mention of the disk is included or illustrated……hum.
It ‘may‘ be due to the fact that inserting the disk under the locking mechanism takes some finesse to do. There is a fine line between collapsing the modifier and inserting the disk. The good news is once it’s there I leave mine inserted because it can easily fold with the disk attached. So it’s just a first time kinda thing. The disk does place some tension on the expansion rods that is not present when the disk is not attached. Just FYI.
OK to compare the alleged even spread of the light to another comparable strip light I used my Cheetahstand 12×55″ Quick Stripbox. Prior to the Glow EZ line being released I loved how Cheetahstand made their Quick softboxes. Low and behold now they both use the very same mechanism which is fantastic. Why? Well because they’re so damn easy to set up and strike! Duh!
For the detail weenies out there, no these are not EXACTLY the same dimensions, but close enough for my little test.
The Cheetahstand uses a much longer interior rod compared to the Glow ARC.
For my light test I used the interior diffusion panel on the Cheetahstand strip box since I used the diffusion disk on the Glow ARC.
How I tested:
- Strobe: AD600 at full power 1:1
- Light Meter: Sekonic L-358 with light dome both extended and retracted (same results both ways)
- 1/100th shutter speed, ISO 100 set on the Sekonic
- Measured 4 feet from the face of each modifier
- Center/Top/Bottom measurements for each modifier
- Strobe fired six times for each position to ensure consistency
- Center f16
- Top f14
- Bottom f14
- Center f16
- Top f16
- Bottom f16
It’s true! The Glow ARC measured consistently even in my test! I have an upcoming dance session this month and I plan to test the modifier before using it live. Another thing to note is the interior silver material of the Glow ARC is an interesting fabric. Not shiny, not pebbled unlike any other Glow modifier I own. I plan to test the style of light using the Glow ARC with and without the outer diffusion panel. More to come…..
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.
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.
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.
Update January 13 2019
I purchased the 36″ version of this modifier based on my experience with the 25″ model. I’m not sure if manufacturing has changed, but the 36″ model’s snaps which hold the inner diffusion panel are of less quality than my 25″ model. They are EXTREMELY difficult to remove once they are snapped into place on the modifier. So much so that removing them is very difficult and one of them pulled the mating snap off of the modifiers. I now use a binder clip to hold that part of the diffusion panel in place.
Be aware that the modifiers may be of a different manufacturing level when purchasing these.
Original Post November 26 2018
I was recently asked by a client to create a portrait of one of their executives that will appear in a magazine article. They let me know only one day before my flight. This was a surprise since my trip was originally scheduled to fly up for a production shoot. This meant I had no plans to haul any strobes or modifiers up on my airline trip. So in order to keep my luggage small I opted to take my Glow EZ Lock Octa Small Quick Softbox for Speedlite (25″) along with my Flashpoint eVOLV 200 Round Flash Head as my lighting gear.
I really like how small the EZ Octa folds down. It fit so well into my suitcase and hardly took any space at all. Because the modifier is relatively small, I knew I would have to place the light close to the talent. I rarely use modifiers smaller than 39″ as my key lights, but in this case opted to use the 25″ due to packing space. I used the metal disk in its concave placement along with the outer diffusion panel. Although the Adorama ad shows that the modifier comes with a grid, mine did not…..
So here are some of the shots:
My assessment of the modifier is it’s ‘good.’ The light quality is good for a modifier this small. Its pack ability is excellent and I will continue to use it as a rim or hair light. Or when I need to pack very small as a key light as well.
Occasionally my clients ask that I shoot in front of seamless. Most of the time it is because they have a graphic artist add treatments to the shot. In other cases they don’t have the time or budget to go on location. Shooting in front of seamless is my least favorite type of shooting, but sometimes it’s necessary. In a recent studio publicity session for Noises Off the client asked that I shoot in front of white seamless due to actor scheduling issues preventing an on location shoot. In addition he conveyed to me that no graphic treatments would be added to the final image. The Director of the play sent me a photograph created in NYC by another theatre company for the same play, Noises Off. They had shot their publicity image on location. It conveyed the mood of the shot to me very well.
So my challenge was to recreate that mood in front of seamless. No room, no textures of walls, just plain white paper is all that I had. So after giving it some thought, I decided to combine three different light sources to create the shot within the Artistic Director’s confines, but give the Director the mood and story he desired. I asked that some furniture be used to create levels between the seven (yep 7) different characters in the shot. It would also provide a much less sterile feeling of the seamless. A chair, a small table and I opted to bring a prop lamp I had purchased from a theatre company long ago.
So here’s what I used to create this final image:
Setting up the ‘room’ with the lights and props. The talent found this very entertaining to see me flashing the lamp and gobo strobes while all of this was going on! LOL
Key Light was a PCB legacy 86” Soft silver umbrella. I had intended to use my Glow Grand Para focusing rod modifier, but found that PCB worked much better for this shot. Camera left was its placement. I cannot vouch for the newer version of the PLM soft silver umbrella as I have not purchased or used one. The strobe I used for the key light was the Flashpoint 600.
The lamp was lit using a Flashpoint Zoon R2 Manual Flash with a Gary Fong Lightsphere placed inside the lamp shade. Because I was using strobes, any normal light bulb would have been completely overpowered so I needed to illuminate the lamp with a strobe. It just added the authenticity of light that I wanted for the shot.
The ‘window shadow’ I decided to add was created using a Flashpoint XP600 Pro attached to a Flashpoint XP600 Pro Portable 600ws Extension FlashHead using a now discontinued Bowens Universal Spotlite Attachment with a Rosco window gobo. I wanted some visual interest and a cue to the interior of a grand room to add mood.
Part of the story of the shot is the ‘butler’ dumping a tray of appetizers on one of the other characters. So in order to time the shot, I asked the ‘butler’ to nod when he was about to dump the tray. The tumbling of the items off of the tray was not done in post, but in camera. It’s just my workflow.
As professional shooters we are so often asked to create a mood and story out of nothing. It’s just the nature of the job. Using your imagination and different light sources/modifiers can do things that one can only imagine.
UPDATE November 8 2017
My client has used several of the publicity imagery in and around the greater Seattle area on billboards and bus banners.
My partner Tracy Martin completed and the client has released the film she created for their upcoming fall production of Holiday Inn. The film is a behind the scenes look into the making of the production which includes my publicity photo shoot for the show. This film will be shown nationwide through Fathom Entertainment in movie theaters. In the film you will catch short glimpses of the gear I used which includes xPLOR600, eVOLV200s, Parabolix 35D, Cheetahstand’s Quick Lantern among other items.
UPDATE October 2 2017
I have written a post about a dance session I conducted that uses these items. You can view that post here.
I recently created a dance session using a wide range of the Godox strobe system:
- Flashpoint XPLOR 600 HSS (4)
- Flashpoint Portable 600ws Extension FlashHead (3)
- Flashpoint eVOLV 200 (3)
- Flashpoint Zoom R2 Manual Flash (1)
- Flashpoint eVOLV Dual Power Twin Head (1)
- Flashpoint Portable 1200ws Extension Head (1)
My goal was to create the illusion of a stage, a grand hall using light, shadow and atmosphere. This was the very first time I used every single Godox light I have including a speed light. What is wonderful is how seamlessly all of the lights integrate into a system. I could not be happier with this line of strobes.
All shot with a Canon 1DXII, EF24-70 II. Most images shot at 1/500th at various f stops, ISO 100. I have quite a few reviews of the gear I sighted above. The purpose of this post is to simply show how I use the gear rather than update each review. I find actual usage much more helpful for me and hope this helps you as well.