May 23rd, 2016

Ultimate Mobility, Power, and Control with the Siros L (Sponsored)

(by Erik Valind)

As a location photographer, there’s few things in life that I enjoy more then shooting at an amazing location, and then facing the unpredictable conditions that come with it. Due to the unpredictability of working outdoors, I’ve become a big lighting guy mostly out of necessity. Whether I’m dealing with scrims and reflectors, small flash, or large strobes, I’m always looking for ways to control the quality and direction of the light to flatter my subjects, and to enhance an image. When I first got my hands on the new Broncolor Siros L, I immediately recognized the possibilities that this new flash would open for me. Some of the most important qualities I look for in a strobe is mobility, power and control. To put the Siros L to the test I partnered up with Sierra – an incredible model and athlete with Wilhelmina Fitness in NYC, and we took off for Central Park to create some killer images!

Lights and Mobility

With the blossoming bright trees in the distant background, we had found our first location on a sun-lit patch of grass. I started with the sun as my key light, letting it doing most of the work to illuminate both the model and the background. With the sun doing the heavy lifting, a single strobe would be sufficient to perfect this initial setup. To further sculpt the model and to make her look more 3-Dimensional, I added a rim light behind her.

Before and After
The battery-powered monolight is VERY mobile. I attached a Broncolor 30 x 120 cm Stripbox to a single Siros L 800 unit, and my assistant was able to hand-hold it the entire time. With one hand on the unit, and the other hand firmly on the built in handle, my assistant was able to track the model’s movement from pose to pose. Being able to work this quickly on location is invaluable, and at the same time can save you from having to pull expensive shooting permits in some major cities.

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Lights and Power

One obvious reason for shooting outdoors vs. inside in the studio is the sun! The sun did a great job front-lighting the previous images, but what I really enjoy is the sun flare aesthetic. To achieve that backlit glowing light and streaming sun flare in your camera lens, you need to specifically place the sun behind the model, and just out of the frame. Unfortunately the resulting placement usually leaves your subject in the dark or as a partial silhouette.

To illuminate the model and achieve the look I wanted, I needed to fill in those shadows with some light. Here is where I put the power of the Siros L to the test. Two units were used for this setup. I chose the Siros 800 L again because it has a maximum 800ws, which is plenty of power to compete with the bright afternoon sun.

To modify the Siros, I used a Broncolor 75 cm Octabox on the models face, then I used a Broncolor 30 x 120 cm Stripbox to enhance the backlight wrapping around the model’s side. With the available power in this monolight, I didn’t have to turn the flash power up to maximum, which gave me fast recycle times for quick shooting. The extra power and fast recycling times allowed me to get more shots than usual, and this allowed the model to work quickly while not tiring herself out while holding difficult poses.

Lights and Control

The sun began to set, and we decided to try for one last setup before dark. With no more direct sunlight to utilize, I brought out the third Siros L in my kit for a total of three flash units. With this many flashes combined, the ability to precisely modify and control each of them becomes paramount. I started out with a rim light placed behind the model on either side. These were each modified with a Broncolor 30 x 120 cm Stripbox to soften and control the direction of the light. The design of the Siros L with its exposed flash tube is amazing in how it is designed for use with every existing Broncolor lighting modifier.

160401_ESV0753-Edit160401_ESV0731-Edit160401_ESV0747-EditTo save myself the hassle of running back and forth between all of the lights to get the exposure dialed in, I just turned on the Wi-Fi function on each Siros. This allowed me to easily control them from my shooting position while using the BronControl app on my iPhone. This saved me time and energy as we were racing the clock against the sun. Once the rim lights were correct I added the final Siros L with the super portable Broncolor Beauty Box for a punch of even contrasty light on the front of the model’s body.

Once my lights were in place and the lighting ratio perfect I began shooting. As I changed my aperture for creative control of my Depth of Field throughout the shoot I needed to adjust the power of all of the flashes accordingly. This was made even easier with the Broncolor RFS Transmitter on top of my camera, which gave me the ability to control all three lights as a group – maintaining the lighting ratio – while powering them up and down very precisely in 1/10th stop increments.

It was incredible how quickly we got everything setup, fine tuned and adjusted on the fly using the intuitive control of the BronControl App and RFS Transmitter.

That was a wrap on my first shoot with the Siros L! As we piled into the cab on the way back to the studio, I replayed in my mind all the many lighting setups we had just run through. I’m happy to say that the Siros L has passed all my tests, leaving me with a glowing first impression. The Siros L is an amazing kit for any photographer who enjoys shooting on location as much as I do! For more information on the Siros L, click here…

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(All photos (c) Erik Valind)

May 6th, 2016

Sponsored: Kickstarter Deadline is Near! New SoftPanels LED Lights that Offer a Color Meter Built into Every Light

Hollywood, California – May 6th, 2016  – Time is running short for backing SoftPanels innovative new LED lights with a color meter built into every light. Their highly successful Kickstarter campaign, which is offering their breakthrough lights at a fraction of the price of traditional LED lights, will end at 1pm PST on Sunday, May 8.

SoftPanels™ are a completely new approach to LED lighting utilizing a built-in color meter and intelligent color management technology in every light, thereby providing unprecedented color precision and control over the emitted light. By utilizing the built-in integrated color meter along with proprietary Autocolor technology, these new innovative fixtures instantly read the current ambient color conditions, and then exactly color-balance their LED color output to match the scene’s ambient conditions.

SoftPanels

Following an award-garnering public debut of these breakthrough professional lighting fixtures at the recent National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention in Las Vegas, SoftPanels became the most successful professional lighting Kickstarter crowdsourcing ever. With an initial goal of $30,000, as of midday Friday May 6th, SoftPanels was already over a quarter of a million dollars pledged, with 150 individual backers.

At NAB, “Best of Show” awards were given to the Softpanels LED lights.  The judges were impressed with the innovative inclusion of a built-in color meter and intelligent color management technology in every light. This provides unprecedented color precision and smart control over the emitted light. These Softpanels fixtures can instantly read the current ambient color conditions and exactly color-balance their LED color output to match that of the scene’s ambient conditions.

SoftPanels units come in three familiar soft box sizes: 3x4ft (90x120cm), 2x3ft (60x90cm) and 1x2ft (30x60cm). They have a ultra-thin slimline 5 in. (130mm) form-factor, allowing them to fit easily on a set as well as in storage. All SoftPanels panels come with a honeycomb grid, gel frame, and soft case, and can be mounted either vertically or horizontally.

For more information, visit Softpanels’ Kickstarter campaign at www.Innovation-Kickstarter.com or videolights.com

December 10th, 2015

Peter Hurley on Helping a “Human of New York” and the Importance of a Go-To Lighting Kit

Sponsored by FJ Westcott

Peter Hurley has a talent for capturing faces. The model-turned-photographer is known by many for his headshot work and popular YouTube headshot tutorials. But Hurley also has a knack for putting smiles on faces, too, as evidenced by a recent headshot session with New York City-based actor Richard Ryker.

Hurley first heard of Ryker and his recent struggle to find work via Humans of New York, the popular website and Facebook page founded by photographer Brandon Stanton, which features street portraits and interviews collected on the streets of New York City. Hurley was drawn to his story and reached out to him to offer new headshots. With Ryker on board, Hurley invited him in for a studio session.

Hurley says he immediately noticed Ryker’s striking facial features, and set up his signature lighting to best capture them. The setup has even become its own official kit: Westcott’s Peter Hurley 4-Light Flex Kit. The kit includes four of Westcott’s innovative Flex LED mats, four modular Scrim Jim Cine Frames, extension cables, diffusion, mounting hardware, studs and a durable travel case to package it all up.

© Peter Hurley

Actor Richard Ryker / © Peter Hurley

This water-resistant, lightweight lighting kit was developed by Westcott and Hurley as an easy-to-use, complete solution for high-quality headshots. “When I’m working with a face like [Ryker’s], I love to be able to fine-tune my lights to give me the precise highlights, as well as the shadow density that I’m looking for,” Hurley says. “Complete control with the Flex Kit is what it’s all about.” The Flex LED mat’s 140-degree light output provides a wide angle of light spread, and the dimmer allows him to adjust the light output from 5 to 100 percent. In addition, 16-foot extension cables are included with the kit, giving Hurley complete flexibility. It’s this flexibility that allows him to focus on working with his subject. “As I nail the lighting, I’m also simultaneously digging into my subject to pull out interesting expressions,” he explains.

Another aspect of the Flex Kit that Hurley benefits from when shooting are the high-quality LED lights that line the surface of the Flex mat. These LEDs offer between 1,700 to 10,500 lux at one meter (depending on the mat size), while boasting a high color purity: With the daylight version boasting a CRI of 95, and the Tungsten/Bi-Color version coming in at 98, these LEDs portray precise shades and skin tones for faster post-production editing. With this kit, Hurley says that shaping light on Ryker’s face was “incredible.” Hurley believes that the headshots should help open some doors for the actor.

© Peter Hurley

© Peter Hurley

Hurley refers to his Flex Kit as his “gopher” light, a light that you “go for” when you have a big shoot on your hands. Having a kit that’s easy to set up ahead of time affords more time to handle all of the other little things that arise. “There are enough variables coming into the fray on a big job, and [light] is one that you don’t want to mess with the day of the shoot,” he says.

The Westcott Peter Hurley 4-Light Flex Kit is available for purchase now. Westcott also has bi-color units available, as well as smaller units that can be operated using a battery. Visit fjwestcott.com for more details.

© Peter Hurley

Peter Hurley with the Peter Hurley 4-Light Flex Kit / © Peter Hurley

What’s in the Kit?

December 8th, 2015

Mastering the Moment with Erik Valind

Sponsored by Broncolor

Walt Whitman coined the phrase “Every moment of light and dark is a miracle.” In photography, you often have to make your own miracles, constructing the moments of darkness and light to deliver a perfect exposure.

New York City-based portrait and active-lifestyle photographer Erik Valind is no stranger to constructing these moments. His approach to lighting is straightforward: “I’m not trying to over-light the scene—I want to get as much use out of natural light as I can first,” he says. After leveraging all the natural light sources in a given environment, Valind will then turn to his new go-to lights: the Siros from Broncolor. He uses one as a key light to highlight his subject(s) and the second as a rim light to illuminate edges.

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A simple setup with the Broncolor Siros. Photo © Erik Valind

Location determines his choice of light modifiers. When shooting indoors, Valind employs a square softbox to mimic the look of window lighting, which could be visible as a catch light in the eyes of a subject. Outdoors, he’ll opt for either a 2.5-foot or 5-foot octabank. “They’re my go-to [lights] outdoors,” he says. “I jokingly referred to as a “cheater light”, because you can’t take a bad portrait with a 5-foot octa.” He chooses circular modifiers outdoors so catch lights have a sun-like appearance in his subjects’ eyes. The smaller, 2.5-inch modifier is used when he wants a “punchier” light source with more contrast and a harder edge. The 5-foot modifier is called on when he requires greater diffusion and a softer wrapping glow.

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Before (natural light) / Photo © Erik Valind

For Valind, the fact that the Siros strobes come out of the box with an exposed flash tube has meant a world of difference when light shaping. Whereas some rival strobes take a speed light-like approach to flash tubes by recessing them to provide for a longer reach, the Siros’ exposed flash tube and frosted dome front cover are designed to more evenly fill a modifier. The difference is immediately visible in soft boxes, Valind says. The Siros won’t produce a “hot spot” or visible concentration of light in the modifier, whereas strobes with recessed tubes will produce a bright center light and then tail off more dramatically toward the edge of the modifier.

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After (with the Broncolor Siros and parabolic reflector) / Photo © Erik Valind

Parabolic reflectors show off the virtues of the exposed tube even more. “If you put the Siros in a parabolic, you get a perfectly defocused ring light with 24 points that you can use to dial in, like a spotlight, or cast it wider and softer. When you try that with other strobes with a recessed tube, it doesn’t work,” Valind says.

The paras are Valind’s go-to modifier when he wants to bring out contrast in a subject that would otherwise be matted down by a softbox. “Clothing and textiles really pop with the para,” he says.

For Valind, the Siros’ other core strength is its versatility. “It has excellent color accuracy, which is important if I’m shooting color critical work like a catalog. But at the same time, it can bottom out at 4 watt-seconds, so I can use it in a variety of settings when I just want to balance out dim ambient light.” When he needs to capture motion or overpower the sun, he can crank the Siros to higher watt settings, up to either 400W/s or 800W/s, depending on the model.

“I used to travel with two different lighting kits, one with my speedlights and one with my strobes,” Valind says. “Now I can get away with one kit.”

broncolor_siros1

Visit www.bron.ch to learn more about Broncolor lighting.

October 30th, 2014

PhotoPlus Expo 2014: Phottix Debuts Indra500 TTL

Phottix Indra
Phottix drew back the curtain on a new studio light at PhotoPlus Expo.

The Indra500 is a 500 Watt light capable of TTL metering for Canon and Nikon cameras thanks to its internal Odin TTL flash trigger. You’ll have the option of three firing modes—manual, TTL and stroboscopic—as well as a high-speed sync mode with shutter speeds up to 1/8000s.

In strobe mode, the flash can be set to a frequency between 1 and 100Hz for a total of up to 100 flashes. There’s also a second curtain sync for achieving a streaking light effect and you can adjust power output from 1/128 power to full power in 1/3 stops.

Thanks to its built-in Odin wireless controller, so you can shoot in manual or TTL mode, adjust flash exposure and use high speed or second curtain sync from the Phottix Odin or Mitros+ receivers. The Indra500 will also incorporate the company’s Strato II receiver for wireless triggering in manual mode.

Phottix will sell an external battery pack to power the Indra500 for up to 340 full-power shots. The battery pack offers two power ports so it can run a pair of Indra500s as well as a USB port for charging up mobile devices.

The Indra500 will retail $1,299 (including battery) and is available  now.

March 5th, 2014

New Pro Cameras and Lighting Gear Debut at WPPI Show in Las Vegas

Nikon-D4S-1I’ve been pounding the WPPI show floor in Las Vegas this week for our sister publication, Rangefinder magazine, covering what’s new in the world of photography gear. Here’s a rundown of some of the highlights from WPPI, which saw quite a few new pro cameras debut in the U.S. at the show.

Follow the links for the full posts on Rangefinder’s blog, Photoforward.

(more…)

November 5th, 2013

Profoto Announces Powerful but Portable B1, a Battery-Powered, Cordless Flash with TTL Functionality

Profoto-B1Profoto has just unveiled a very interesting new concept in portable lighting: a powerful, battery powered flash with TTL functionality.  Called the B1, the folks from Profoto described it to me as an “off-camera flash,” during an NDA meeting I had on the new product at PhotoPlus Expo. But that description doesn’t quite sum the B1 up, since it’s not a speedlight nor a monolight, but a new lighting product that combines some of the attributes of the two.

Along with its cordless portability, the B1 gives you TTL control thanks to a patent-pending invention from Profoto designed to integrate the flash with your camera. It works by attaching Profoto’s Air Remote TTL-C to the hotshoe of your camera. When you photograph your subject, the B1 will automatically adjust the blast of light to optimize exposure. If you want more control, you can switch to full manual control with the press of a button on the B1.

Read more of this Profoto B1 news story and see another image of the product here.

October 3rd, 2013

New Profoto Speedlight Ring Expands Use of RFi Softboxes

RFi-Speedlight-Speedring-with-speedlightsProfoto just announced a new Speedring adapter, which allows photographers to use any brand of speedlight with the entire line of RFi softboxes. The RFi Speedlight Speedring features dual brackets to attach two speed lights, if needed, for use with larger softboxes, providing extra illumination or faster recycling time. For more precise and creative lighting, the new adapter provides several adjustment options. Speedlights can be angled, adjusted vertically and, to obtain the optimal light-to-subject distance, moved forward. Even when using speedlights, softboxes can still be tilted and rotated 360 degrees.

Mounting positions are color-coded to match those of RFi softbox rods, making it easy to figure out what goes where with each different type of light modifier. The Speedring comes with additional hotshoe mounts so users can attach Profoto Air units or any radio sync, regardless of brand.

The RFi Speedlight Speedring is available now for $175, including the bracket and 4 hotshoe mounts.

June 17th, 2013

Phase One and Profoto Announce Lighting Control Integration For Capture One Software

Profoto_CaptureOne_light-control_675pxPhase One and Profoto today announced that their collaboration has produced a new integration between Profoto’s studio lights and Phase One’s Capture One software. Now photographers can link their Profoto studio light to the aperture or ISO settings of their DSLR or medium-format camera system. While shooting tethered in Capture One Pro, any changes to the aperture on the camera will cause the light intensity of the studio light to automatically compensate an equivalent f-stop. For example, if the photographer switches from f/8 to f/5.6, the light will drop one f-stop, so that the image is not overexposed.

The solution lets photographers define which groups of lights should be included in the linking, making it a flexible work tool.

“Capture One Pro was designed to satisfy the needs of professional photographers,” said Henrik O. Håkonsson, CEO & President, Phase One. “Our collaboration with Profoto and the success of our capture and lighting integrations offer unprecedented lighting control during capture. This solution is especially great for portrait photographers who want to vary their depth of field; they can just turn the aperture dial and the light intensity will follow to ensure the right exposure.”

Capture One software is available from Phase One at http://www.phaseone.com/software. The Profoto Studio plugin download is available at http://www.profoto.com/capture-one.

June 5th, 2013

$99 Bare-Bulb Flash From Polaroid?

polaroid-bare-bulbWith no press release and seemingly out of nowhere, a $99 bare-bulb flash has appeared on Amazon: the Polaroid PL-135. This is a good $300 less than even the cheapest bare-bulb flash and $700 less than the most basic Quantum Qflash kit. But what do you get for $99? Essentially, you get a generic AA powered speedlight with a guide number of 52 that has been turned into a bare-bulb flash. You do get basic Canon or Nikon TTL, or so it is claimed. There is a “power receptacle for an available external power pack,” but no details are given about what kind of a connection it uses or what power pack they may be referring to. A reflector and diffuser are included, as are a bag to carry the whole kit in. You won’t find the Polaroid PL-135 on Polaroid’s website, so don’t even look. These days, Polaroid is a shell of its former self. The Polaroid PL-135 is just the brainchild of one of their licensees, very likely designed and built without Polaroid having anything to do with it.

Does it work? Initial reports from around the web seem to say “Yes.” The quality of light is said to be nice, just like you expect from a bare-bulb flash. But you will have to deal with the slow recycling time and low power of a speedlight and the mediocre quality of a $99 off-brand product.

So will working pros rush to fill a void in their toolkit with the Polaroid PL-135? Doubtful. But at such a low price, it might just work for a one-off production piece for a particular job.

Price: $99 (as of this writing)

www.amazon.com/Polaroid-PL-135-Bounce-Digital-Cameras/dp/B00CKT8VP0

Related article:
6 Top-Notch Camera Flashes