Wednesday, 23 April 2014

1420 VAL Spigot - Practical Applications

Applications for my 1420 VAL Spigot go beyond purely being fixed to the end of a painters extension. Here I show how the 1420 VAL Spigot may be used when out in woodland using trees instead of light stands.

Lighting, travelling lightweight

With the aid of nothing more than a webbing load strap you can attach your 1420 VAL Spigot to a tree simply by passing the strap through the transverse holes and securing the strap around the tree trunk and pulling VERY tight.
I favour metal cam lock buckles as you can really pull the web strap tight.

It's amazing how many people stop and take an interest when they see the Village Idiot with a flash attached to a tree. Andy and his partner were intrigued so it would have been rude of me not to do a quick snap for them using the set-up in the image above.

The MacGuyver Tree Boom

The painters pole isn't exactly compact, but it is lightweight and if you're working with a VAL (Voice Activated Light stand) or assistant, then frankly, it's their problem to schlep it around;)

This is a simple solution which will avoid VALs over exerting themselves, all you need are 3 x 3ft lengths of good quality paracord a camera bag or other suitable weight. Here I had the Quadra controller and battery adding some weight, but a log or rock would suffice.

Crappy iPhone snap, but you get the idea!

Take one loop of paracord, loop it around tree and insert painters pole as illustrated.

Twist paracord using pole until very tight. Friction will prevent slipping as will the rough surface of the tree bark. This also works with street light columns etc when is a less wooded urban environment.

Take one length or paracord and secure to the other with a Prusik knot. This is a friction based hitch used in many outdoor activities which when a load is applied locks tight. But when the load is released the knot moves smoothly.

Attach the loop to which you've attached the Prusik knot to the handle end of your painters pole (black cord above). A slip loop is sufficient for this. The end of the Prusik knot cord (orange cord above) should be attached to the weight of your choice.

Once this done attach your light to the 1420 VAL Spigot on the thread end of the painters pole. The height/angle/position of the pole is adjusted by sliding the orange cord along the black cord. You can also do this in the studio with a light stand and sand bag. Use the sand bag as a weight for the light stand & as the counter balance for the boom by way of the paracord. With the conventional set-up of counter weight attached to the boom you need to adjust the weight on the boom according to the weight on the business end. With this method, if you decide to change the light or modifier, there is no need to remove the weight from the boom in order to do so. All that happens is the paracord goes slack. As soon as you add a light, tension is regained.

The Bar Clamp

Many bar clamps available in DIY and hardware stores have a ¾" bar which is a perfect fit to the 1420 VAL Spigot. These clamps are actually very strong and I'm happy attaching a Speedlite with a 60cm Lastolite Ezybox to one.

As one would expect, if you can use a Speedlite, there's no reason why a lightweight portable flash such as an Elinchrom Ranger Quadra head can't be used.

And do not forget that the 1420 VAL Spigot is designed to fit both in line and at 90º!

Elinchrom flash is available from The Flash Centre. Email Simon Burfoot or call Brian Collier at the Birmingham branch

The 1420 VAL Spigot is available from selected retailers in the UK and direct from me for US or UK customers.

If you're serious about your photographic lighting then maybe The LIGHT Side Facebook group will interest you. It's about all things to do with light and lighting. TLS is a closed group so someone will need to add you or you'll need to send a request to be added. It's a friendly group, with a degree of humour and some great photographers willing to share and contribute.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Off Camera Flash - Get Your Flash on a Pole

About 3 or 4 years ago I had a local metal worker turn an adaptor for me in order to convert a painters extension pole into a lighting boom which would take standard ⅝" 16mm lighting accessories.

Prototype VAL Spigot in use at a lighting demo for Brighton Photographers Group in 2011
with Ben Potter, one of the best VALs in the business

I did look at other products in the market but found that they weren't suited to me for a number of reasons, including some variation between manufacturing tolerances on painters pole threads.

The adaptor I designed uses a thumb screw to secure the accessories to the end of the pole, not an internal thread which can and will work loose unless secured with some sort of retro fit screw. 

Enter the 1420 VAL Spigot adaptor

Why VAL some ask? Voice Activated Light stand aka assistant or anyone willing to hold the pole where instructed for short periods of time.

The 1420 VAL Spigot
To quote Rick Friedman, Board of Directors, Boston Press Photographers Association
"I have a 1420 VAL Spigot in my bag, just in case.
If it gets me out of a fix it's well worth the price!"

This accessory is machined from aluminium by a small family business close our base here in Sunny Sussex. It benefits from ¼" 20 UNC thread on the tip, ⅝" 16mm spigot, both film, TV & still photography standards for lightweight lighting grip accessories. It also gives the option of fitting inline or at 90º which may be of use to some.

The 1420 VAL Spigot will fit the majority of painters extension poles with a threaded metal tip - we do not suggest or recommend using cheap poles with plastic threaded tips as they are prone to breaking.

In my experience painters extension poles are built to take daily use in the building and decorating business and cost substantially less than boom poles from a photographic manufacturer. At April 2014 prices expect to pay less than £40.00 (40 GB Pounds) for a 1420 VAL Spigot and quality painters pole which will extend up to 3 metres.

Get your flash on a pole

The 1420 VAL Spigot is a compact, light weight, versatile photography lighting accessory

The 1420 VAL Spigot not only fits the tip of many painters extension poles, but any number of rods, bars or tubes between 13 & 19mm diameter providing you think they'll take the load - we'll not make any recommendations here only suggestions!

Variable jaw bar clamp accessory created with a 1420 VAL Spigot

Another application we've found for the 1420 VAL Spigot is as a lighting clamp when fitted to a bar clamp used by wood workers. Many of these clamps have a ¾" bar which is a perfect fit into the holes on the 1420 VAL Spigot, meaning you can fit lights to door tops, door frames, pillars, shelves, and tables.

Very soon the 1420 VAL Spigot will also be available with a cold shoe adaptor so all you need is painters pole and you have a ready made lighting boom or stand.

Painters extension poles are available from many hardware or DIY stores and specialist painting and decorating suppliers. In the UK our favourite brand is Harris and in the US we're reliably informed that Shur Line pole are one of the best.

The 1420 Spigot is available from selected retailers in the UK or direct from or via 

1420 VAL Spigot - the accessory to get you out of a fix!


Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Sunlight in the studio without daylight

I see many product photographs where they have been lit flat and against a white background as that's what many photographers think their clients want. Every now and again why not shoot something a little different and show your client more creative and thought out images?

These images were shot for a client who has yet to publish, but has agreed to my sharing a few with you.

I wanted to move away from the aforementioned white background pack shot and create something with a brighter summery feel.

The background is an old Welsh slate roof tile recovered from a rubbish/garbage skip, with permission of the owner.

My key light an Elinchrom Maxi Spot 40cm bright polished deep reflector with a BRX500 head. Without modification this gives a hard directional or collimated beam of light, around 29º. Light at 11 o'clock feather a couple of degrees camera right, 7' distant, 4' above set. Exposure +/-0 as I tend not to worry about aperture stops when working like this. If it looks right, it is right. Shutter would have been 1/160th second so no ambient crept in.

I wanted to add a touch of warmth so a 20"x24" sheet of Rosco #3443 ½ CTS (Colour Temperature Straw) was clipped in front of the light together with a sheet of Rosco #3007 Light Tough Spun which softens the shadow edges giving the authentic sunlit look, without turning the shadows milky like solid diffusion sheets. CTS is less red that the more popular CTO (Colour Temperature Orange), though the subtlety doesn't always show when reproduced via the Internet and/or on uncalibrated displays!

Both Rosco & Lee Filters offer a wide range of sheet correction filters from 10"x12" to 20"x24" and wider rolls for more ambitious projects.

The fill light was a Elinchrom Portalite 56cm Octa, Ranger Quadra head etc with the white front diffuser in place, to camera left around 7 o'clock, 2' distant and 2'6" above the set, metered at -1 stop under key light just to fill the shadows. Both lights were metered individually with the white disk pointing to the light from the main point of the set. No overall meter reading was used.

CLS of the set-up
Members of The LIGHT Side 
will understand the acronym

Key to diagram:
  1. Elinchrom Maxi Spot 40cm bright polished deep reflector with a BRX500 head.
  2. Rosco #3443 ½ CTS (Colour Temperature Straw).
  3. Rosco #3007 Light Tough Spun.
  4. Reclaimed Welsh Slate roof tile.
  5. Beads and voil bag.
  6. Elinchrom Portalite 56cm Octa, Ranger Quadra head etc.
  7. Canon 100mm ƒ/2.8 EF macro on 5DII.
Elinchrom flash are available from The Flash Centre. Contact Simon Burfoot and don't forget to mention this blog and The LIGHT Side Facebook group.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Off Camera Flash Gear - Ianiro Kupo Grip

There is a load of gear on the market for photographers who shoot with Speedlites and small hot shoe flashes. The good people at Ianiro UK have created a off camera flash essentials kit providing you with durable and sturdy kit which will give many years of service.

The items when bought together represent a saving of between £10 and £13.40. Were you to buy similar items from another big name manufacturer the same kit would cost between £118.00 & £161.00

It’s been said before, buy cheap, buy twice. Whilst Kupo Grip & Support is less expensive than other brands it is not inferior in any way. I started using Kupo gear about a year ago after experiencing difficulty obtaining Manfrotto gear. In my experience Kupo Grip is solid, well made with an excellent finish.

What's in the kit?

Handy Stand, also known as the Nano stand. Compact when folded (49cm), weighs 1.1kg and extends to 2.27m

Umbrella Swivel Bracket allows you to use brollies with a shaft diameter up to 8mm. The large friction lock will allow use of larger brollies.

Hot shoe adaptor fits directly to the thread on the end of the 055 Handy Stand or to the Umbrella Swivel Bracket with the aid of a Universal ⅝” Stud.

Camera Flash Clamp allows you to position you flash when and where it’s inconvenient with a lighting stand. I use these on the end of a lightweight ⅝” boom or even with the help of my 1420 VAL Spigot on the end of a painters extension pole.

Universal ⅝” Stud - you can never have too many of these which is why there are two included in this deal!

The kits

Off camera Flash Essentials Kit 1           
1 x 055 Handy Stand
1 x KS-101 Umbrella Bracket
1 x KS-039 Hot Shoe Adaptor     
1 x KCP-390 Camera Flash Clamp
2 x KS-003 5/8” Snap in Pin or KS-017 Universal 5/8” Stud

Total Price £88.20

Off Camera Flash Essentials Kit 2           
2 x 055 Handy Stand
1 x KS-101 Umbrella Bracket
1 x KS-039 Hot Shoe Adaptor     
1 x KCP-390 Camera Flash Clamp
2 x KS-003 5/8” Snap in Pin or KS-017 Universal 5/8” Stud

Total Price £120.60

All prices are ex VAT, Shipping per package for next day delivery (except Sat and Sun) £9.00

To place your order either contact the Ianiro office to order by phone or email and someone will call you back. Payment can be made by debit or credit cards (except Am Ex) or Ianiro can provide bank details for BACS transfers.

When ordering be sure to mention OFFER CODE TLS/01

Offer posted Wednesday 02 April 2014. My thanks to the guys at Ianiro UK for providing the images.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Still Life with Orbis Ring Flash & Rogue Modifiers

This is something I shot on wet English Sunday afternoon, when really I should have been doing other things!

Normally I'd shoot something like this with Elinchrom studio flash, but decided to opt for 3 Canon Speedlites fired with Yong Nuo RF 602 radio triggers. Before anyone asks, I didn't keep a record of the flash settings but can tell you all were set to manual and I doubt if the highest power setting exceeded 1/8th.

This was created as a specific step-by-step studio lighting exercise with Speedlites and modifiers "how to".

I've broken the image down light by light so you can see how the lighting design builds. At the end there will be a BTS (Behind The Scenes) shot showing everything in place.

Background light

I built the lighting for this image in stages lighting the mid-grey paper backdrop with a combination of Red & Orange gels from the Rosco Strobist Collection held in place with a Gel Clip and the light controlled with the aid of a Rogue Flash Bender Small Positionable Reflector. I wanted to ensure there was minimal spill from the background light onto the wire chicken. I suspect in the final image I increased the flash power by a stop or so.

Back light

I needed to emphasise the shape of the wire chicken so decided to use my Orbis Ring Flash as a controlled soft back 3/4 light. To add some warmth I placed two layers of one of my favourite warming gels Rosco 302 Pale Bastard Amber held in place with a large plastic A clamp, which also retained a 12" Photoflex black light disk acting as a flag to control any light spill pollution onto the background.

Our friend and The LIGHT Side member Rick Friedman used the Orbis Ring Flash to photograph Della Maylan recently after the SWWP Convention in London. Bookmark The Light Side, there's a rumour Rick may contribute soon!

Key light 1

Although this key light may be acceptable, if you look to camera right there is light spill which will degrade the saturation of the background colour.

Key light 2

I decided to move the key light higher to eliminate the spill onto the mid-grey background paper. It's a little bright on the fence rail (seasoned wooden plank), but it looks good on the bird! The over light on the wood was burnt-in during post-production.

Behind The Scenes (BTS)
The whole set-up

  1. Wire chicken, the object of this exercise.
  2. Mid grey (ish) Colorama background paper roll.
  3. Canon 550 EX Speedlite. Still going strong since the EOS 3 film camera era (c.1998 - 2007).
  4. Rogue Flash Benders Small Positionable Reflector.
  5. Rosco Strobist Collection Roscolux #23 Orange & Roscolux #26 Light Red split roughly by half across a Gel Clip gel adaptor.
  6. Orbis Ring Flash.
  7. 2 x layers Rosco 302 Pale Bastard Amber gel for subtle warmth. 
  8. Canon 580 EXII Speedlite.
  9. Rogue 45º Grid to give beam and direction to the Speedlite, zoomed to 105mm.
  10. 1 x layer Rosco 302 Pale Bastard Amber gel to maintain warm theme.
  11. Avenger D200 Grip Head with 16mm or 5/8th inch ali tube (metric or Imperial dependant on your side of The Pond!). Also look at KUPO KCP-200P equivalent! Speedlite as atatched with a Manfrotto 275 Spring Clamp aka the Justin Clamp.
  12. 3" x 2" rough wooden plank held in place by an early version (think 25 years ago) of the Gaffer Grip.
  13. Manfrotto 026 Baby female Swivelling multi-Adapter.
  14. Attached to a Manfrotto Floor Stand.

In the final image above, I used a piece of crinkled/screwed-up aluminium foil to add a highlight to the tail.

It should be noted that all of my Speedlites are ONLY attached to the various bits of lighting grip gear by the proven and trusted Frio Cold Shoe Adaptor, from Enlight Photo who also supply the awesome Orbis Ring Flash.

In addition to this list, I used 4 x Manfrotto Autopoles, background paper holder, background paper hooks, which fit into Super Clamps - the must-have for any serious lighting photographer and extension arms which also fit into the Super Clamps etc. 

Once you get serious with your lighting, you'll realise that there's much kit which is essential in order to position your lights accurately!

Food for thought and Happy Snapping :)


Monday, 27 January 2014

USA Landscape Photographer of the Year Competition 2014

LEE Filters is a proud sponsor of the USA Landscape Photographer of the Year Competition.

In this video, landscape photographer and organiser of the contest, Charlie Waite, discusses the details of this year’s competition, open to any photographer in the world, to photograph the beauty of America’s landscapes.

For more information, contest rules, and your chance to enter, visit

Competition closes on April 17th. Good luck!

Tuesday, 7 January 2014


I've recently been given the opportunity to test a new LED light in the studio. It's a beast of a light both in terms of output and weight (8.9kg). The SGM P5-TW is primarily intended for architectural, TV & stage use as a wash light, one used to illuminate large areas of walls or backgrounds. I'm going to stick my neck and say that it also has the potential to be a very useful stills and video photography light.

Meet 'arry. Don't ask where his arms are, it's a long story.
SGM P5-TW a very nice light indeed.
Note the jaggy shadows as a result of the 44 surface mount multiple LEDs in the light, not an issue with diffusion.

For those of you interested, camera settings based on an incident meter reading directed at the light and not the camera: f/8, 1/30th, ISO 160 with the light 1700mm (63 inches) from 'arry.

Jaggy shadows are not the end of the world, the addition of some 3032 Light Grid Cloth softens the shadows nicely!

There are 2 features which attract me to this light, the MASSIVE output 30,000 Lumens (yes, this is not a typo) which can be dimmed to a gnats whisker above zero, the colour can be tuned to taste from 2200K to 5600K - basically candle light to daylight in one package and without colour correction gels! Giving you the chance to add some warmth to your key light.

Warmth may be dialled into taste, just like seasoning your food. Here I've added around 40% 3200K to 100% 5600K.

As the P5-TW is designed for architecture, TV & theatre, control is not as simple as a couple of knobs. It uses the DMX standard for remote control meaning we had to connect it to a PC to run it as we don't own a DMX control console! There is a 4 way arrow controlled menu on the unit which in practice when you're tired or in a hurry is just plain cumbersome.

One thing the P5-TW can do is flash just light a studio flash, in this case at 30,000 Lumens when on full power - so I guess there's a possibility that with some modification/reprogramming the P5-TW could be a very desirable colour tunable continuous and discontinuous light source all in one unit!

In the current form this light is designed for static use not mobility. Mounting to a heavy duty studio light stand required a whole load of Super Clamps and spigots.

Thank you to Matt Wiseman of SGM for bringing this not so little beauty to my attention.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Lee Filters

Seven Sisters From Birling Gap
South Downs National Park, Sussex, England

In my quest to replace my existing resin camera lens filters I came across this offer whilst searching for #leefilters.

Robert White in Poole are offering 5% off all Lee Filters products until midnight on Sunday 1st December 2013.

I’m assured they have a good stock of the majority of Lee Filters.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Photo Live 2013

To prove that The LIGHT Side is more than just a Facebook group a few of us decided to meet at the Photo Live event in London. I have read mixed reviews about the event but should say we enjoyed meeting at the event, talking lighting and socialising at the local Wagamama restaurant later in the day.

It's our intention that members of The LIGHT Side meet when able and discuss, share and practice their lighting techniques and experiences. A bit like a group of Monty Python fans who meet and recite the Parrot Sketch!

One thing was discovered, when Calvin Chinthaka compared his Westcott Ice Light to my Rosco 12" x 3" Litepad Axiom the Litepad was the brighter light. And the Litepad benefits from an egg crate and coloured filters. OK, I may have been cheating as I ran the Litepad from a 12VDC auto jump start pack, but I wouldn't run it from anything delivering less juice now! It's just a shame we omitted to take any snaps of the comparison.

As with anything to do with The LIGHT Side we undertook a lighting exercise during lunch. Lee WizardSleeve Gorecki set up his camera and one of the restaurant staff temporarily became a photographer - he could have been for all we knew from the way he held the camera!

The Motley LIGHT Side Crew
L - R Pete Williams, Ian Pack, Will Delves, Calvin Chinthaka & Lee WizardSleeve Gorecki

And in what has become a true LIGHT Side expectation/tradition, here's the lighting sketch for the image, complete with dodgy retro spot colour!

Guess who ended up sketching the lighting diagram? The final sketch was photographed with my iPhone and lit with the torches from other iPhones, hence the uneven lighting.

Like the author, the drawing is a bit rough around the edges, but it gives you an idea of positions of all the light sources which contributed to lighting the scene. Below are images of said light sources, which one goes where on the drawing? No prizes for guessing, what we're trying to do is get people to continually see the light wherever they are and the opportunities that light presents.

The LIGHT Side is a democratic bunch so me being in the minority was subjected to torture by light, that from iPhones and below is the image created by Lee. Necessity is the mother of invention, or adapt and improvise. Just typical, not one one of us has a spare Speedlite in their pocket. Not a pretty sight, but then as it's at the end this blog you only need to take a brief look;)

Remember that The LIGHT Side was created for the benefit of all members to contribute, comment and develop light and lighting skills in a friendly environment. The group now numbers over 1,100 members since formation on 10th June 2013. There are active members (including a few big names) with experience across many photography genre. There are members who share images in the group as they know they will be safe from negative comment and destructive criticism. There are also members whose confidence has been boosted as a result of being part of The LIGHT Side who have used the knowledge gained and shared the resultant images created with the group.

Come in from the dark and join The LIGHT Side soon, you have nothing to loose and much to gain

Our thanks to Lee WizardSleeve Gorecki of Pixel Trap Photography for providing the images. Nice one Lee:)

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Down on the beach at sunset

There are days when events conspire against you and days when everything just comes together and smells of roses, yesterday was one of those days.

For some time now I've wanted to create images in the style of artist Jack Vettriano and with the help of the wonderful Emma & assisted by Les we're getting there. We set out with the goal of creating two totally different scenes but as the light changed decided to roll with it, achieving some excellent results.

The whole shoot was done with the most basic gear. Shot on a Canon 5D Mk2 with 24 - 105 mm L Series zoom lens, a single Elinchrom Quadra A head with a standard 18cm dish reflector, a couple of double clips, a Lee 775 Soft Amber Key 2 cosmetic lighting filter and a California Sunbounce Pro 6' x 4' white/silver reflector which served as a flag to block the sun!

The Quadra head was mounted onto a 36" boom arm attached to lighting stand with an Avenger D200 Grip Head and positioned just out of frame. The flash was metered with a Sekonic flash meter as I wasn't too sure where the exposure would go with an unknown gel. The background I've dropped by about 1 2/3 stops to add to the mood with the gel mimicking the setting sun.

A degree of planning with Emma went into these images in order to select appropriate wardrobe and props.

The above image sans flash, just ambient.
You'll see from this I burned in the foreground of the final image to draw the viewers eye more toward Emma.

For the following two images Les was put to work positioning the big boy Sunbounce to block the setting sun from Emma. We moved position by about 30 or so metres and 180° from our original position.

The sun was still just above the horizon giving us a beautiful pastel sky.

No adjustment to the camera exposure for this one, just the sun dropping lower in the sky bringing wonderful orange/magenta hues to the image.

And finally, once the sun dropped below the horizon . . .

. . . We carried on shooting!

There you have it, one light, a lighting filter which not only enhances a scene with warmth, but also softens the shadow edges because of built-in frosting. A great team and some magical light really made for some stunning images. Thank you Emma & Les for being such a great team:)

For those of you wanting to improve and extend your photography lighting skills visit The LIGHT Side on Facebook where photographers at all levels contribute and constructively comment

Elinchrom flash are available from The Flash Centre. Contact Simon Burfoot and don't forget to mention this blog!