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!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Orbis Ring Flash - On a Boom Arm

Orbis Ring Flash fixed to a lighting stand with a Gaffer Grip

My preference when working alone with my Orbis Ring Flash is to mount it on a boom and lighting stand which allows me to position it precisely where I want to it.

The set-up is based around existing lighting grip gear from my collection.

The Orbis Ring Flash is clamped in a Gaffer Grip, in this case an ancient Strand device. The Gaffer Grip has a standard 16mm 5/8th" spigot which is inserted into a Manfrotto MN026 Lite Tite Swivel and Umbrella Adaptor, which in to is fixed to a length of metal 16mm 5/8th" tube or rod. The carry strap supplied with the Orbis is used as safety cord secured to the Gaffer Grip.

This is fixed to the lighting stand with an Avenger D200 grip head. This allows the metal tube to be extended and swivelled for precise positioning of the Orbis.

 With this set-up you can easily drop the flash lower if desired. I strongly recommend placing the boom arm over one of the lighting stand legs for added stability. With care you can get away without using a sand bag on the base of the stand, but for added stability I'd opt for a sand bag. If travelling light you can always carry an empty sand bag and fill it when you get to you location. In the studio our sand bags are actually filled with shingle or small pebbles which don't produce dust like dry sand does!

You can also extend the arm higher without fiddling with the knobs on the lighting stand.

This is an alternative to the ubiquitous C-Stand which are generally heavier and more expensive.

Gear List

Monday, 15 July 2013

What is in my GO BAG?

I have one camera bag which I class as my GO BAG - this is the bag I can pick up ready to go knowing I have a basic and versatile outfit suited to a variety of assignments. Along with the plethora of camera bodies, lenses and other photographic accessories I carry in my bag there are a few which I class as "must have" that are versatile, compact, lightweight and in most cases inexpensive.

My current Go Bag of choice is a Lowepro Pro Runner 300 AW back pack, which is relatively lightweight and comfortable to carry. And if you don't over stuff it compatible with even the most miserly airline carry-on sizes!

  1. microGAFFER tape roll.
  2. Rogue Flash Bender, large.
  3. Rosco 3030 Grid Cloth in 10" x 12" & 20" x 24". The smaller sheet is used to adapt the Rogue Flash Bender as a small soft box.
  4. Rosco Pak G - 56" x 48" gold/silver reflector sheet.
  5. Compact acrylic shaving/make-up mirror.
  6. AA NiMh 2500mAh rechargeable batteries in clearly labelled pouches.
  7. Large translucent plastic bag(s) which double as equipment protective covers or ground sheets.

This is an indispensible accessory - pro quality gaffer tape on a roll small enough to fit in your bag, pocket or even key ring. Great for keeping cables tidy and the 1001 other uses. For more information visit Visual Departures

microGAFFER is available in a variety of colours, fluorescents and the normal, black, white & grey.

Compared to a standard 50 yard roll of 2" gaffer tape with a 4" core, microGAFFER is compact - 1" wide by 8 yards long! The cord is there so I can attach it to my belt or hang from a lighting stand. In the US microGAFFER is available from Adorama and B & H Photo. In the UK Creative Video

Rogue Flash Bender
My favourite Speedlite modifier because of its' ability to mould and in turn shape light. It can be used as a soft light, a snoot or with the addition of a sheet of Rosco 3030 Grid Cloth a substitue for a small soft box giving very flattering light for portraits. For more information visit Expo Imaging. Used to great effect at weddings by my friend Rob Jones at Pure Creations and photo-journalist Rick Friedman

Rosco 3030 Grid Cloth
Originally designed for use for creating soft diffuse lighting for film makers and the television industry. Grid cloth is a durable pure white textile that when used with a Speedlite or other light source will not create a colour shift, thus rendering colours, especially skin tones accurately. Grid cloth is available as 10" x 12" and 20" x 24" cut sheets. There are also other densities and colour correction, CTS & CTB available, which I carry with my lighting kits. A great product as a 6' x 4' sheet will fold down to 6" x 4" x 1/2", so no excuse not to carry some with you! You can see 3030 Grid Cloth in use diffusing the light from a large Rogue Flash Bender elsewhere on my blog

The larger sheets of 3030 can be used as reflectors or even to create a large soft light source when placed 2 or 3 feet in front of a Speedlite. On a sunny day 3030 also makes great diffuser for unflattering direct sun light!

You can also see 3030 compared to other diffusion materials here 

Rosco Pak G
This is an ancient accessory bought back in early 1980s (not 1890s) which is basically a large sheet of highly reflective gold backed with silver stipple effect polyester film. It's large enough to be useful as a floor fill or even bounce a flash or daylight into shot, and folds into a 6" x 4" pouch. i normally end up taping it to conveniently placed, walls, doors or even as a blackout for windows. Rosco still produce this material 3812 Featherflex S/G but no longer in a convenient package.

I also use this clamped to a Sunbounce reflector if I need light that is more specular with more edge. The gold side is also very good for creating pseudo sunset light for portraits.

Compact Acrylic Shaving/Make-up Mirror
Ideal for reflecting hard light into tight spots or even creating a catch light in someone's eyes. Takes up little space as less than 1/8" thick. Available from most camping and outdoor stores.

AA Rechargeable & Alkaline Batteries
I use a Maplin branded AA & AAA rechargeable cells. I've tried more expensive brands but these Maplin cells are inexpensive and seem more tolerent of my 15 minute charger than more expensive brands. Fast charging batteries does cook the chemicals inside and reduce recharge/discharge cycle by up to half. But life's too short to trickle charge!

Translucent Heavy Gauge Polythene Rubbish/Trash/Garbage Bags
Whilst specially made foul weather covers from the likes of Think Tank Photo and Kata have their place in my kit, they don't fit into my GO BAG due to their pack-size! These bags are useful if you need to put your bag down in the dirt as a ground sheet or in rain, snow or sand storms as a protective cover; you can cut a slit to the size of your lens hood diameter and seal it from the elements with microGAFFER tape!

Along with the items mentioned above there will also be a 4 head screwdriver, marker pen, fold back clips (great for attaching 3030 to the Rogue Flash Bender) paracord and a Rosco 12" x 6" LED Litepad & battery pack which is very useful where space is tight and as a light for DSLR video. I avoid carrying a Leatherman Multitool or Swiss Army knife just in case I get searched in these security conscious days!

That's just a taste of some of the extras I carry in my GO BAG based on over 30 years shooting on location in a variety of locations and situations. There is more, but that's for another time.


Sunday, 2 June 2013

Focus on Imaging 2013

There will be some who will miss this!

Well, it looks as if we have come the end of a 24 year era. Focus on Imaging 2013 is the be the last show. Mary Walker said the show will not be sold, but is coming to an end.

Click here for the official press release.

Mary has dedicated her life to the photography business in Britain for over 24 years, for those of you old enough to remember, Mary was involved in the original Photography at Work show (PAW).

Thank you Mary Walker for all you have done for photographers and the business of photography, both you and Focus on Imaging will be missed by many.

You will no longer be able try glorious glass with no intention of buying it!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Manfrotto 055C Tripod

This tripod is a fine example of a well-built, sturdy and long lived piece of photography gear. I have owned and still own a number of tripods of varying age and materials, including three modern carbon fibre models and an original 2.5m extended Gitzo Geant; no lightweight but sturdy and built to last.

Quality photographic gear should be looked upon as an investment, not a cost. A decent carbon fibre tripod may initially cost £400 or more, but you know that you have a reliable device that will not let you down at a critical time. And buying from an established manufacturer you will be assured quality support both in practical and customer service terms!

I would recommend the Manfrotto 055 in the current iteration to anyone considering a first tripod. The range is varied with something to suit most photographers and applications.

In the near future I will be leading a workshop on supporting your camera. We will cover a number of techniques and show numerous ways to use your tripod safely and securely steady your camera. Contrary to popular belief tripods are not just for low-light and night-time photography.


Monday, 20 May 2013

Rosco CTS & Tough Spun Portrait

Today is a typical English Spring day, heavy grey overcast cloud, flat dull light and none too warm! I turned up at my clients location knowing I need a portrait of Rod the stone mason as part of the content I'm creating for their new website.

I went prepared with an Elinchrom Ranger Quadra kit in the car along with sheets of Rosco #3006 Tough Spun diffusion material and #3442 1/2 CTS (Colour Temperature Straw) which has less red content than CTO.

I had planned to create a portrait of Rod on two levels, 1. The safe shot with just #3006 Tough Spun on the highly polished deep bowl reflector. The #3006 Tough Spun produces diffusion gives a feathering effect to the light beam with minimal beam spread. See a comparison here.

To achieve the defocussed background I shot on a Canon 100 - 400 mm f/4.5/5.6 L Series zoom lens at the long end aperture f/8, supported on a tripod. The light was about 10-20 feet from Rod at roughly 8 o'clock and 9 feet off the ground.

As you can see in the above frame, the ambient light was a little top heavy putting Rod's eyes into shadow.

To make the image pop I decided to under expose the background by by 1.5 stops under the TTL Aperture Value reading and shooting in manual mode. Remember, aperture regulates flash exposure, shutter speed ambient light exposure. So knowing I wanted to maintain an aperture of f/8 I adjusted the shutter speed accordingly.

As you can see, the location is a crowded stone yard full of background distractions, hence the desire for controlled DoF (Depth of Field). I needed to keep the light away from Rod otherwise I would have optically fried him; polished silver deep bowl reflectors are great for simulating sunlight effects, even when difused with #3006 Tough Spun. You will also notice the spill from this reflector, especially on the green gloss painted building in the distance. The spill could be controlled with Black WrapPhoto or CineFoil or even barn doors.

Once I had the safe shot in the can, I opted to create images with a cooler background. To achieve this I needed to warm up the flash with orange colour correction gel. I then made sure the camera was set to record RAW images in order that I could correct the warm cast in post-production. Normally when cross balancing I would shoot a white card as a reference for post-production. In this case it was not necessary as CTS has a know Kelvin correction value of 5500 °K to 2900°K.

This is my first frame with two cuts of #3442 Half CTS in place giving me the equivalent of #3441 Full Straw, as I do not appear to have any full CTS. Exposure compensation was simple, about a one stop loss for the CTS, so I increased the Quadra power output accordingly.

Without any further correction, you could use this set-up to simulate warm late afternoon/early evening direct sunlight to good effect.

You don not need fancy accessories to hold gels and diffusers in place; here I used small fold-back clips attached to the reflector lip. You can also use wooden clothes pins/pegs or even crocodile clips. Had there been barn doors in place I would have attached the gel and diffuser to the front of the barn doors, hence the apparent mess here as I used standard 20" x 24" sheets!

This is the first frame from post-production with 2900 °K dialled in. OK, the background is cooler blue but Rod's skin tone is also a bit on the cool side. The shadows to camera right are filled by the local ambient light, hence the blue colour remember that to correct for the orange light, blue has to be added to create a more neutral effect. Blue is opposite orange on the colour wheel.

This version of the image has 3400 °K dialled in giving a more pleasing effect. The #3006 Tough Spun has produced light suited to Rod's rugged good looks.

With the exception of my usual post-processing tweeks, all of the above images are effectively straight out of camera with no vignetting, dodging, burning or other manipulation.

Don't be affraid to deviate from brollies and soft boxes, experiment and see what you can achieve with standard reflectors on your studio or location battery portable flash and Speedlites.

Happy snapping:)

Sunday, 5 May 2013

How to avoid the disaster & heartache of bad wedding photographs

If having a set of photographs to cherish from your wedding is important to you, then this could be the most important article you ever read!

With the advent of affordable, professional standard digital cameras, just about anyone can call themselves a professional photographer. It may come as a surprise to you but the law does not require a professional photographer to have any qualifications, training or experience! It is all too easy to get a website, some business cards, and an impressive looking camera and start calling yourself a wedding photographer, even if you have never been to a wedding.

Wedding photography is something that most people only ever buy once, and because of this, brides seldom know the potential pitfalls or what relevant questions to ask to sort the good from the bad. Remember, there are cowboys in every industry!

To help you choose the right wedding photographer for you and avoid the heartache of bad wedding photographs here are a few tips and questions to ask any potential wedding photographers:

Ask friends, work colleagues and family for recommendations.

If they did a good job for your workmate, chances are they’ll do a good job for you.

How many weddings has the person photographed alone?

Do you want someone who’s still learning their trade or someone who has mastered it?

How long have they been photographing weddings for payment?

A statement such as “I photographed my first wedding in 2005” can be very misleading. This could have been their best friends wedding and they only started earning money from wedding photography last month.

If they have not photographed many weddings, what training has the person received or have they worked with another photographer as an assistant or second photographer?

We all have to start somewhere and every industry needs new blood. If you are on a very tight budget and can not afford to hire a professional, make sure any newcomer you consider hiring has taken their training and education seriously.

Is the person a qualified member of a professional organisation such as the BIPP (British Institute of Professional Photography), MPA (Master Photographers Association), Guild of Photographers, SWPP (Socirty of Wedding & Portrait Photographers), NPS (National Photographic Society), RPS (Royal Photographic Society)?

Industry recognised qualifications are shown as letters after the photographers name such as LBIPP or ABIPP. Having a degree in photography does not mean the person is a fit wedding photographer, as there is much more to wedding photography than just taking pictures.

Does the person carry both Public Liability and Professional Indemnity insurances?
No one can guarantee that everything will go perfectly on your wedding day. Planning for the best is great, but a reputable business person will also prepare for the worst by having the appropriate insurance in place. Public liability protects you & your guests in the event of an accident. Professional indemnity insurance will pay out in the event of the photographer not delivering the promised results, loss of images or memory card failure etc. Because of the lack of professional indemnity insurance, many of the couples who have recently been awarded compensation by the courts, have still yet to receive any money from their photographer.

Are they familiar with the health and safety requirements of the venue(s)?
Most wedding venues have strict requirements for sub contractors using their premises. This will very often include PAT certified mains powered equipment, completing a risk assessment and having the appropriate insurance to indemnify the venue owners from the increased risk.

Do they have back up equipment?
If a photographer only has one camera, what do you think will happen if it develops a fault during your wedding?

Is their address and landline phone number on their stationary and website?
If they do not, or only offer a PO Box number or mobile phone number, ask where they live before booking? If something should go wrong, how do you contact them after the event? A non-contract mobile phone number can very often be untraceable, even by the police.

Do they have a comprehensive booking form with clear terms and conditions?
Some people can be wary of signing contracts, but a written contract is as much in your interest as the photographers. Read all the terms and conditions prior to signing and make sure everything that you have agreed on is included.

Is the person you are speaking to the person who will photograph your wedding day?
If not, ask to meet the photographer and see examples of their work before making a booking or entering into a contract. You will spend a big part of your wedding day with your photographer, its important to book someone you like.

Are the photos they show you original images created by them and of real weddings?
If you are not shown photographs of at least one complete wedding, beware!
If you are being shown sample albums with no photos in, beware!
If you are being shown album catalogues rather than actual albums, beware!

Some people will attend one of the many “portfolio builder workshops” available to novices, where for a fee a professional photographer will set up a number of shots of models in wedding attire and allow people to take the photo as if they took it at a real wedding. A tell- tale sign of this is the photos are only of the bride and groom. Some people will assist professional photographers and take photos of their weddings, or just take photos of a family wedding. A tell-tale sign of this is the subjects never looking at the camera.

Ask to see images from a whole wedding; preferably more than one wedding. Photographers will show you what they consider their best images. If they only show you a sample that contains one or two photographs from many different weddings, beware! A good photographer will have lots of images from a single wedding. Only showing a couple of images from each wedding could indicate they only took two decent pictures all day.

Some photographers will tell you that they only work by available light as flash or supplementary lighting will spoil the atmosphere of your wedding. In all probability that person has no experience of working with other light sources. So what they are really telling you is that they have limited skills and unless the natural light is perfect on your wedding day, they won’t know what to do.

Many photographers advertise themselves as photo-reportage or “fly-on-the-wall” unobtrusive photographers.
Some photographers are brilliant at this as they trained and worked as freelance photo- journalists or for newspapers, some are just naturals. Expect to pay hefty fees for a good photo-journalist as they are in great demand. Other people are merely “snappers” and shoot like this because they do not have an eye for what makes a good image, are not able to “create” a good image and/or are not comfortable dealing with groups of people. Chances are they will only give you a collection of random images, often no better quality than what your guests take.
You get what you pay for.

We all love getting a deal and saving money, but a cheap starting price nearly always means low quality. Very often it can also mean hidden charges. If you buy cheap shoes and the sole falls off the first time you wear them, you can take them back. If you buy a cheap diamond ring which turns out to be a fake, you can take it back. If you hire a cheap plumber and they flood your house, you can get the house fixed up as good as new. In all these instances, if things go wrong they can be put right
But your wedding day is a one shot deal so the photographer has one chance to get it right. If they don’t there is no coming back next week for another go, and even if you do, you will know the pictures are not of your wedding day, but of the day you staged to make up for your wedding photos being ruined by someone claiming to be a wedding photographer, who turned out to be nothing of the sort. By all means shop around for a good deal, but don’t decide based on price alone.

Trusting a family member to photograph your wedding.
In the majority of cases, if you have a friend or relative with a good camera and ask them to photograph your wedding to save money they may say yes, but you have none of the comeback when something goes wrong. The photographer needs to have professional detachment in order to get the best images. A professional wedding photographer makes it look easy because she is a professional and has a vast wealth of experience to draw upon.

Do they have a plan in place for if they can’t attend your wedding?
They can tell you they have never missed a wedding yet, but there is always the first time. Accidents happen, usually when you least expect them. Reputable photographers will usually have links with other photographers and they cover for each other should the worst happen. Can they provide a named photographer who will shoot the same style to take their place?

Do they only provide a disk of unprocessed images straight from the camera? 
If so, it is doubtful if they have any post-production or image processing skills. It could also be an indication that they have no arrangements with the suppliers used by the professionals.

Don't believe that it can be fixed in Photoshop. 
Image retouching and manipulation is a skill that has to be learnt over many years. There are no quick fixes. People new to photography do not realise this. Much of the time images need to be created with post-production or Photoshop in mind.

A Final Thought
Your photographer is charged with the task of recording your wedding day for you. They will be creating the only material thing that survives past the honeymoon. They will have to interact with the Vicar/Priest or registrar, the reception venue staff, your wedding planner (if you have one), the car drivers, the DJ/Band, the toastmaster (if you have one) and all of your guests. You will be spending a good proportion of your day with your photographer. They will have one eye on you all day, watching for the special moments that make great pictures.

This means your photographer is more than just a service supplier. To get the full return on your investment you will need to work with them before, during and after your wedding. So book someone you can get along with, someone who can work around and within your plans.

Good luck for your wedding day and for your future together.

This article was written by Ian Pack in collaboration with Paul Spiers of the NPS. You may use article in the whole unedited form on the condition that the authors are both clearly acknowledged.

Ian Pack is an established commercial photographer and film maker with over 500 weddings to his credit. He has been featured in national photography magazines and trains emerging and experienced photographers in lighting techniques.

Paul Spiers is a wedding photographer and also trains wedding photographers. He is a regional officer for the NPS and on their panel of experts. Paul has been featured in British Journal of Photography, Photo Pro Magazine, Image Maker Magazine & Advanced Photographer Magazine.

This article has been bought up to date and republished as it has been bough to my attention that there are wedding photographers publishing this content on their websites as if it were their own and without attribution.

Lowepro Pro Roller x200 Off-Road Modification

Oversize pneumatic wheels retro fitted to a Lowepro Pro Roller x 200 camera case

Rolling camera bags in my opinion are the must have accessory for any photographer on the move. The manufacturers have done a great job with their designs so long as you work in an urban enviroment.

I am sure that I am not alone in needing a rolling camera bag with larger wheels to cope with the rougher terrain encountered in much of my work. As there does not seem to be a product suited to my needs I have modified my Lowepro Pro Roller x200, featured here in my blog during 2012.

Fortunately, the wheels on modern rolling camera cases are designed to be replaced and are removed with a standard metric allen hex tool.

The modification was quite simple as I had most of the parts laying around my studio, with the exception of left-hand thread studding and nuts, which with a quick search via Google yielded a few options. As you look at the bag from the side that opens, the right wheel bolt has a right-hand thread and the left a left-hand thread. This ensures that the axle bolts do not work loose in operation.

The wheels are from a trolley I use to move heavy equipment cases, which have a larger axle diameter than the axle bolts on the bag. To reduce the diameter I cut lengths of smaller diamter metal tube to create not only an axle but a sleeve bearing lubricated with grease, but if you don't have grease you can always use petroleum jelly aka Vaseline.

Similar wheels are also available from Ebay and are used as jockey wheels on trailers and the like.

Ground clearance has increased, just as well when you see the scuffs to the bag from uneven ground!

The original wheels where left in place to act as a spacer and also so I don't loose the things! An addition spacer is also required to prevent the bigger wheels from chaffing against the bag.

To lock the wheel to the axle I have used two nuts tightened against each other to form a lock nut. I could have used Nyloc nuts, but didn't have any laying about.

The stand is a standard Manfrotto Super Clamp with a length of 16 mm / 5/8th inch steel tube cushioned with rubber grommets. Ultimately these will be replaced with a rubber walking stick tip.

This modification can be removed in minutes returning the bag to urban configuation.

That's all folks and happy snapping;-)

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Rosco Litepads on Location

Interest in LED lights for still and video photography is growing as is the range of lights available. I recently visited the BVE show in London to check out what the broadcast video industry are producing and there are some interesting developments which will soon be viable supplements, but not replacements for flash in stills photography.

My lighting tool box contains a variety of lights including incandescent hot lights and now LEDs in the form of Rosco Litepads. I first used the Litepad range in 2010 and was impressed from the start; native soft light that mimics a flash soft box, 8 mm deep, daylight colour temperature, battery or mains powered, compact, light in weight and consequently portable. And most important, a continuous always on light source which may be dimmed from 0 - 100%.

The image above was created on location after sunset with 50 mm f/1.4 glass on my beloved Canon 50D, images were recorded RAW (with JPEG just in case), daylight white balance, 400 ISO, 1/30th second f/2.8.

This is good light powered from 8 x AA batteries in the provided battery pack, which delivers about 2A current - the 24 inch Litepad needs 4A to be fully effective so the image you see was effectively created with the light at half power! Now in the same situation I take along a 12Vdc car auxiliary power supply which delivers sufficient power for a multiple Litepad setup.

The photographer I mentored on this shoot now works for Urban Outfitters in the UK. The 24" x 24" Litepad is a beast and was supported on a painters extension pole fitted with a Gel Clip Extension Spigot allowing standard industry lighting grip gear to attach to the Litepad frame. At a guess, I'd say the that a Rosco Litepad emits light 2x the physical size of the unit.

Litepads will not overpower sun light but are great where ambient light levels are low. Rolando Gomez and Rick Friedman both use Rosco Litepads as part of their extensive lighting repertoire.

If you get the opportunity, give Rosco Litepads a try, I think you will be impressed.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Still Life with Available Light

I have always considered myself an available light photographer, any light that's available, literally. What follows is a quick still life I shot this morning using a combination of diffuse window light and tungsten light provided by the modelling lamp from a Elnchrom BX 500 Ri flash.

Times are hard and clients are finding innovative ways to compensate photographers;
some clients have fallen on such hard times that the peanuts paid are no longer roasted or shelled!

The image above is essentially as it came out of my camera with a few minor tweeks in Photoshop.

First shot, no modification. Available light from a 6' x 4' window with close net white drape/curtain softening the already soft cloudy sky. OK, not great, but useable. Area of bag closest to camera filled by a light in the studio I omitted to switch off.

I wanted the bag of peanuts to stand out more from the background so needed to make it darker. This was achieved by flagging the light from the window with a combination of Rosco textile Black Moulton on a custom made scrim frame - this textile is opaque so totally blocks light. The net drape was lifted in the centre to remove diffusion and increase intensity by a stop or so, whilst to camera right I used a piece of Rosco #3809 Roscscrim, a black/silver perforated material which holds back 2 stops of light. It was placed with the black side to the peanuts to reduce unwanted reflection.

As you can see from the above snap, the setup is simple, but effective. With a little modification the image works with and without the addition of the Elinchrom BX500Ri with Mini Spot Lite attachment. The gobo used was Rosco 77955 break up effect

As I was shooting a predominantly daylight source (the sky) my basic white balance was daylight, around the 5200K mark. The modelling light was much warmer at 3200K giving a localised warmth and mood.

Rosco and Elinchrom products are available in UK from The Flash Centre - contact Simon Burfoot for more information.