Regular followers of my blog and various forms of social media already know I travel a LOT for shoots. We are talking over 100k miles and thousands spent in baggage fees a year! Thus, a streamlined effective travel kit loaded with gear that doesn’t waste space or weight is crucial for me. I’ve been spending the last month replacing old gear, cases, stands, lights, etc. A lot of my kit had become worn out, bent, and no longer worked properly due to hard use. During a recent trip to B&H in New York City, I discovered the most beautiful travel light stand kit I have ever seen: The Manfrotto 1004BAC stackable light stand kit.
Why do I love these stands so much?
They are light weight at only 6.6 lbs each and extend to 12 feet high and close down to 42.1″
They don’t flex and bend like a lot of other travel stands and have a max load weight of 20lbs, which is plenty for my Profoto D1 1000 heads with a huge light modifier.
The 3 stands in the kit literally stack and lock together for easy transport.
They have this cool “double braced” wide leg stance for more stability, especially when raising your lights really high. I’ve tested them and I am impressed how they don’t flex and feel like they want to topple over as much as other lights. This is great because I cannot always travel with sand bags so being able to walk off of a plane and head to a portrait session and not worry about a light with a softbox mounted onto it toppling over onto a portrait subject due to a weak stand.
My fellow photographer buddy Clint Davis was on set and saw these stands and we immediately lusted over these stands, which are honestly a steal for $329 for all 3 stands. Kinda funny considering all of the gear porn we had on set (Tether Tools, Phase One, Profoto). You can check out the stands on B&H’s website with free shipping here: LINK
Keep an eye on my blog the coming weeks. I have replaced a majority of the lighting, travel gear, and cases I was using earlier this year in hopes of streamlining a better travel kit with the most effective gear of the best value. This includes a new strobe case, camera bag configuration, light stand case and layout, and tether table.
I recently started upgrading my Paul C Buff White Lightning flash heads with the Profoto D1 Air mono-flash heads. Being an on-location portrait photographer, easy power sources are very important to me. Sometimes I will land in a city and will need to go right to right to set and picking up a generator isn’t an option. Profoto has their own battery pack system, but I already have a few Vagabonds that can fit in my carry-ons very easily and someone once told me that you can run the D1’s off of a vagabond mini battery pack.
As you can see from the video, it does power up a D1 500 and fire. Power recycling is noticeably slower and the strobe sounds a tad strained, but it does work. Helps having the audible sound when the capacitor is recharged. Oh, and make sure the modeling light is turned off or that drains the battery very quickly!
I should try and field test on a couple of D1’s and Vagabond Minis. I’ll let you know when I do!
You can also put the D1’s in a “battery mode” which make them perform better when plugged into a battery pack. One of my readers M.D. Welch suggested this:
Plug in the unit, but leave the power off. Hold down the Model button, wait about 10 seconds while you hold it down, then on the LED indicator it will say “bt”. You are now in battery mode. The last thing you need to do is pull the power cable from the unit, wait a couple of seconds, and plug it back in. Now you can use the light. If you want to go back to wall power, you need to repeat these steps, but the LED indicator will say “- – “. If you don’t do this, you can blow the D1. These steps are in the D1 manual, under using the BatPack.
I had a quick shoot in New York City last week with the young star from the UK. He debuted his album in America just a few days ago. This setup was pretty simple. The backdrop is real and not a drop-in. Only had a total of 15 minutes or so for a 3 setups, but I am used to moving fast Believe it or not, the shot above does not have a lot of post production on it at all.
I ended up using 4 flashes and a single reflector for fill light. Shot this with my Phase One 645DF+ IQ140 camera. See the lighting diagram below.
Shoot a lot of natural light photos but want to know how to effectively shoot with off-camera flashes like the big dogs without breaking the bank? I’ll show you that you do not need a lot of expensive gear to create some of the most dynamic photos you have ever captured.
Above is an image from another personal shoot I did just for my portfolio. It is merely a single shot image. No drop-ins or composite here! My subject is a Parkour athlete that essentially did a backflip off the wall. Not an easy feat in dress shoes!!
The lighting was simple as you well see in the diagram below. I had a single large softbox for a fill light and a second White Lighting x3200 flash with 7″ silver reflector that I used as an edge light on the subject and also to create the shadow on the brick wall. By using a more directional un-diffused light (meaning no softbox) you can create a harder-edged shadow, which I really wanted. I also used 2 Paul C Buff Vagabond mini battery packs to power the strobes on location.
Shutter speed maxed out at 1/200. Anything faster and you would definitely notice dark bands from exceeding the camera’s flash sync speed too much. This shoot would have really succeeded if it was shot with a medium format digital, which has a much higher flash sync speed based on its shutter design. For now, though, it seemed to work out, but I want to do this again with the medium format.
The image was converted from color to black and white using Nik Software’s Photoshop plug-ins Viveza and Silver Efex Pro. I used the burn tool in photoshop CS6 to darken the shadow and give it a more moody appearance.
This is another example of how you can do even a magazine cover shoot with only two lights! I did this with one gridded beauty dish main light (had a 30 degree grid) and a strobe with 7″ reflector and 40 degree grid hitting the wall behind my subject. I had to do this shoot in the subject’s home, so I chose one of her walls which had this rich burgundy color and essentially created my own little studio in her home.
You can see in the light better in the snapshot below. You can see the shadow of the subject due to the high-placed main light angled down and the nice fall-off of shadow on the background due to a gridded light modifier. Hope this gives you guys some ideas!