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Category Archives: lighting

With the continued increase in popularity of motion capture, more and more photographic lighting companies are expanding their lines and offering continuous lighting products.  Profoto is one of a handful of respected lighting manufacturers known for their flash units to not only offer a line of tungsten continuous lights, but also HMI lights as well.  Continuous lighting tools are not new for Profoto, as they marketed both a HMI and a tungsten unit, several years ago:  But the new products, the ProDaylight 800 Air and the ProTungsten Air, are not a simple retooling, but represent a major rethinking and development.  For the photographer who is shooting both stills and motion, particularly in a studio location or on a set, these lights expand the possibilities of modifying continuous light with the broad range of Profoto light shapers that they have been using with flash; both units are compatible with Profoto’s zoom reflector system, which gives one the ability customize the light shaping effect. 

To read the entire entry, click here!

Recently, I came across two interesting products while at Foto Care (41 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10010) that caught my eye:  The 12 inch and the 18 inch Daylight-balanced fluorescent Ring Lights from Stellar Lighting Systems
   To read the entire article click here.

With the growing demand for still and motion capture from clients, interest in continuous lighting options grow as do the number of products available to meet this need.  I have wanted to explore the use of continuous lighting in a studio setting for a while, and thanks to K5600 Lighting and Calumet Photographic NYC, I recently got the chance to work with a Joker-Bug 800 watt HMI.  The experience is best summed up as “illuminating!”

To read and see more, click here.

While the average camera enthusiast may not be familiar with the name Frezzi, those in the world of electronic news gathering (ENG) and broadcasting most certainly are.  Frezzi lighting products are often spotted atop professional video cameras and their daylight balance HMI products are among the more popular sun gun fixtures available in the market. 

Copyright Byron Atkinson

 With the growth in HDSLRs among broadcasters, Frezzi has taken an integrated approach and offers platforms to its customers that address the need for lighting, power and stabilization.  This integrated approach is not new for Frezzi:  It is consistent with their product offerings for traditional video cameras.  But they are one of the few companies offering this kind of integration solution for HDSLR users, and in doing so, may undoubtedly find their product have appeal to a far broader market.

Kevin Crawford of the New Jersey-based company provides us with an interesting look at the company and its latest products.

Q:  Frezzi is probably best known for its lighting products.  What sets Frezzi apart from the other lighting companies?

KC:  Frezzi has been innovating and designing portable lighting and power packs for television news since the beginnings of terrestrial broadcasting.  My grandfather, James Frezzolini, founded the company while working as the Chief News Reel Cameraman at WPIX Channel 11 here in New York City.  As a skilled machinist and inventor, he developed the world’s first portable lights for use with 16mm Bell and Howell Film cameras used for news at that time.   It all started there and continued for the TV news industry with a broad range industry firsts, including lighting, power packs and Frezzolini 16mm film cameras.

We offer photographers and videographers their choice of lighting products; tungsten, HMIs, and LED replacement lamps.   Frezzi is the only company offering a line of highly portable and lightweight HMIs, from our 15W Micro Sun Gun to the 400W HMI Super Sun Gun.  They all can be DC battery-powered, making them great field lights.  Additionally, Frezzi lighting products are made and serviced here in the USA. 

Q:  What made Frezzi decide to enter the market with HDSLR compatible products?

KC:  It was an easy decision for us.  We have been providing Frezzi Mini-Fill lights as continuous light sources to the still photography market for years.  We actually saw a growing number of still photographers using tungsten fill lighting rather than flash units for some of their glamour and wedding work.  This eliminated harsh flash shock while utilizing continuous lighting for highlighting and accenting. Also, you cannot replicate the warmth and full color spectrum of a good tungsten lamp source. 

Given the fact that our products are designed to be portable, support and improve the handheld camcorder shooting experience, expanding the Frezzi product line to include HDSLRs was a natural.  Since some of the products we offer for HDSLRs are adaptations of products originally used for and proven to work with professional broadcast cameras.

Q;  How important is the lighting component of the HDSLR rig or system?  What advantage does the Frezzi approach offer?

KC:  The lighting is extremely important even though the HDSLR can shoot at low light.  We’ve seen some good available light video, but when a subject properly lit [with a Frezzi,] you’ll see a dramatic improvement in image quality.  The image will be more vivid and the colors will really “pop” as the light will help to separate the subject from the background.  You’ll see that “sparkle in the eyes” and bring your subject to life.  Being low light sensitive is good with the HDSLR because you can gently wash your subject with accent lighting by adjusting the dimmer control just enough to bring up the warm, golden skin tones and fully saturated colors while having the camera’s sensor working in the “sweet spot” for an ideal image.  Our rig has the advantage of the light being powered by a Frezzi battery on the back of the shoulder support which also serves as a counterbalance as well as a power source for those using a monitor and/or other accessories.

Q:  You have two types of rigs available: one which is hand held and the other which is shoulder mounted. Can you tell us about them?

KC:  Customers soon find out HDSLRs are heavy and cumbersome to shoot video, creating painful wrist and arm fatigue over time.  This makes it difficult to acquire smooth, professional-looking video when shooting for extended periods of time.  

The Frezzi Hand Held Rig is a multi-purpose stabilizer and camera support arm.  It mounts the HDSLR to the support arm, on the opposite side; it has a handle with battery mount.  This configuration is well-balanced and easy to handle because the weight of the camera, lens and other accessories is distributed along the support arm.  The Power Block battery on the handle

 

Image courtesy of Frezzi

acts as a counter-balance and power source for the Frezzi light or any other 12V accessory.  As you know, having a balanced rig helps keep the camera steady when doing handheld and roving shots. 

The Stable-Cam Shoulder Rig is a full HDSLR platform for camera, battery, and light with multiple cold shoe mounts for additional accessories like monitors, wireless mics and audio recorders.  One big design concern for us was to create the Stable-Cam as a “tool-less” assembly and also have the ability to fold up small enough to fit in a carry-on.  When deployed, the Stable-Cam is fully adjustable to different body types and every joint articulates.  One of the

 

Image courtesy of Frezzi

advantages the Stable-Cam offers is a lower waist boom which provides an additional point of contact for stabilization and relieves the weight from handholding.  You can easily adjust focus and camera settings using the Stable-Cam as 100% of the weight is balanced on your shoulder and waist.  Many users refer to it as a “Human Tripod” since it offers the ability to shoot for hours without any wrist or arm fatigue while holding the shot smooth and steady.  Again, our high capacity batteries which can power the Frezzi light, monitor or any other 12V accessory are integral to the system. 

Using one of the Frezzi HDSLR Stabilizer rigs results in the camera and accessories being both  balanced and more manageable which makes for smooth and professional looking images and video clips. 

We offer both stabilizers in “kit” configurations which include the Stabilizer, a MINI-Fill and a battery. There are different kit configurations available with MSRPs between $1150 and $1950.

Q:  Your mini “sun gun” can utilize a tungsten or LED bulb.  What factored into your decision to offer both? 

KC:  The Frezzi Mini-Fill Dimmer is an industry standard video light used by tens of thousands of professional broadcasters around the world.  It accepts any standard MR-16 lamp, with a GX5.3 socket base, up to a 100 Watts.  With the wide proliferation and availability of LED MR-16 type replacement lamps, LEDs are a logical choice when lower power consumption and long run time are considerations.  LED MR-16 lamps are “direct” lamp plug-in replacements, suitable for any MR-16 fixture. So it’s a simple evolution of technology that has made this possible.  Being able to switch back and forth between Tungsten and LED has its advantages based on shooting and lighting conditions as well as the photographer’s intent. 

Q:  What kind of run times are you estimating with the batteries that come with the systems?

KC:  Run times depend on the wattage of lamp and accessories being powered, but in general when using our Hand Held Rig and Power Block battery, the Frezzi Mini-Fill Dimmer with 35W Tungsten lamp will run for almost two hours continuously; with an 8W LED replacement lamp, the run time jumps to over eight hours of continuous light at 5500 degrees daylight color temperature.

On our Stable-Cam powered rig which uses a more robust battery, the 35W Tungsten Mini-Fill Dimmer will run almost 2.8 hours With an 8W LED replacement lamp will run for over 12 hours.

But keep in mind, with the addition of a LCD monitor and other accessories that require power, the battery run time will decrease.  

Q:  Can your HMI units be fitted on the HDSLR rigs, and if so are there any advantages to using them over tungsten and LEDs?

Frezzi HMIs can be fitted to the HDSLR rigs with ease.  Frezzi lighting has standardized shoe mounting and power connectors making substitution simple.  The advantage of HMI is their high output at daylight color temperature 5600K.  When shooting outdoors in direct sunlight or when the subject is back lit, HMIs are unequaled among continuous lighting products in their ability to light a subject effectively to eliminate shadows.  Tungsten lamps need to be color-corrected from 3200K to 5600K which will reduce their light by approximately one f-stop.  Most LED sources at this time do not have enough throw and fall off very rapidly to be effective outdoors in direct daylight.

Some of our customers are using our 15W HMIs on HDSLR rigs as a fill-in light, and our 24W HMI stand mounted, as key and back lighting.  Being all battery-powered, small and extremely portable makes them great as HDSLR portable light kits.  While these customers are using the lights as portable lightings kits with “HDSLR for News” crews, documentary work and ENG crews, we believe they will be attractive alternatives for other segments of the HDSLR market.

Frezzi HDSLR support and light products are available now.  For more information on these and other Frezzi products visit: http://www.frezzi.com or call (800) 345-1030.

Thanks to Kevin and James Crawford of Frezzi. 

Disclosure: No consideration has been received in connection with this blog entry, nor has any manufacturer and/or retailer offered any consideration

 All images in this entry and in this blog are copyrighted and used with permission.

What’s in our Sister blogs:

 HDSLRS-n-motion:  HDSLR Cameras: Products to Watch For

Byron Says:  Story Telling

 

Mention beauty dishes choices around a group of photographers– working or enthusiast– and invariably Mola Softlights will play a prominent role in the discussion.  One of the reasons that the Mola brand may be synonymous with beauty dishes is that they are the sole product the company manufactures.  Unlike most manufacturers who offer the “familiar” 16-22 inch product, Mola offers four sizes, from the 22” Demi to the 43.5” Mantti.  The unique stepped or undulated interior that is a signature of the Mola line makes their products easily identifiable.  Mola has expanded the current interior finish options beyond “white” to include silver finishes.  While there are lots of things to like about Mola products, one of the most attractive features is that Mola products can be adapted, via speed rings, to accommodate many different brands of strobes, and continuous lighting products.  If you change your lighting brand, and own a Mola product, all you have to do is change the mount. 

Mola founder Walter Melrose notes that each of the Mola offerings shapes the light in a unique way before it hits the subject, because they were each developed with a different use in mind.  “The 33.5 inch Euro was actually the first product we developed.  I designed it with versatility in mind:  It is a well-rounded, no pun intended reflector that can be used for beauty, fashion and product work; the Mantti on the other hand was designed to simulate window light.  The Demi is a smaller version of the Euro.”

Based on size and price and a well-established beauty dish market, I suspect that the 22” Demi is among, if not the most popular Mola product.  As a user of the Demi and the larger Setti, the Mola dishes have never disappointed.  While the interior of many beauty dishes including the Molas is characterized as being “white”, the interior finish of the Mola is a “softer white” than my Profoto beauty dish and the texture gives it a “pearl-like” appearance.  While the light wraps the subject in typical beauty dish style, I have always felt that the Mola stepped surface resulted in a larger surface area and increased the efficiency of the light.  The resulting light is slightly warmer, and in my opinion, it subtly enhances most skin tones.  I say “in my opinion,” because with lighting as with so many things there is always an element of subjectivity.  Some one is bound to be wondering how the Demi compares to the Profoto dish.  I really can’t tell you because other than both being classified as beauty dishes, a comparison would be apples to oranges.  The differences in size (22” verses  20”  or so in diameter) interior finish, and surface area are all going to impact optimal placement, amount of light and fall-off.

The 28” Setti is deeper than the Demi and more parabolic.  It produces a more focused light with greater contrast and more rapid fall-off.  While the Setti can be used close-in, in a similar manner as a traditional beauty dish, it is large enough to be used for full body applications.  If there is a downside to the larger Mola products, it is the fact that they do not collapse for transport.  You just have to be sure you factor that into your considerations when going on location.

Melrose also points out that while the silver finished dishes appear to be new, that Mola offered dishes with silver interior finishes 20 years ago. “The harder light was not as popular as the softer light, and we stopped offering the silver interior for a while.  We brought silver interiors back simply because the market asked for it.”  What sets the silver dishes apart from their white counterparts is a cooler light (color temperature wise) and a light with both greater directionality and contrast. 

So what’s new from Mola as we move into 2010?  Melrose says that they are now offering polycarbonate flex grids for the Demi and the Setti, which will give users another option for light control.  For the location photographer who uses, small flash heads from Lumedyne or Quantum, speedlights, and/or heads that do not generate a lot of heat as a result of modeling lights, an ABS version of the Demi is on the way.

As far as the Mola mystique is concerned, the products are analogous to the perfect storm:  that combination of shape, color, size, and interior finish that result in some amazing lighting.

For more information on the Mola line visit them on line by clicking here.

To see Mola products in use, visit their blog at: http://blog.mola-light.com/

Disclosure:  No consideration has been received in connection with this blog entry, nor has  any manufacturer and/or retailer offered any consideration. 

Whether you want to learn about new products, learn how to use your existing equipment, explore some aspect of photography, or be inspired by the works of others, there are wonderful opportunities to do so this month and every month here in New York, and it won’t cost you a king’s ransom.  Two of the premier photo specialty retailers here in New York, Foto Care and  B&H Photo Video Pro-Audio, offer some incredible opportunities for photographers to build our skill sets and expand our knowledge base, through a series of manufacturer sponsored and store sponsored events, and inspirational lectures and discussions.  I wanted to share with you a few of my event picks for July, all of which are free.

 

Foto Care 

41 West 22nd Street  New York, NY  212-741-2990

July 13:           

12pm – 5pm:  Preview of the Leica S2. 

An up close and personal look at the 37mp, medium format dslr with a 30x45mm sensor.  Reservation Required

 

1pm:  The Shape of Light by Broncolor

The seminar covers using the Broncolor light shapers as well as techniques for using various modifiers including the Para umbrella, Mini Satellite, Lightbars, lightstick and ringflash C and P.  Limited seating:  Reservation Required

 

4:30pm – 5:30pm:  Rinze Van Brugg, photographer and graphic artist on imaging with the Leica M8.  Limited seating:  Reservation Required

July 14:

2pm:  Splash by Brian Bryns and Broncolor:

The seminar focuses on techniques for lighting and capturing liquids.  Limited seating:  Reservation Required

 

6pm:  Airborne:  An evening with Lois Greenfield  Limited seating:  Reservation Required

 

July 15:

 1pm:  Location lighting with Broncolor  Limited seating:  Reservation Required

 

 6pm:  No Guts, No Glory an evening with Sarah Silver  Limited seating:  Reservation Required

 

For a complete listing of seminars and events at Foto Care including details on “Hasselblad Week” which begins July 20,and/or to reserve your space click here , or call 212-741-2990

 

B&H – Event Space

420 9th Avenue (@34th Street  New York, NY  212-444-6615

 

July 9

1pm-5pm:  Lighting for Portraiture: a Special Extended Workshop presented by Westcott.  This is a 4 hour seminar that mixes theory and discussion on lighting options and control with practical application.

         

July 12:

7:30pm-9:30pm:  Manhattanenge.  Flickr personality Jennifer Diamond leads a group of photographers to capture images of  the twice yearly phenomena known as “Manhattanenge” where the setting sun is perfectly aligned with the Manhattan street grid.  The group will be meeting at 5th Ave and 34th Street between 7:30 and 7:45 pm.

July 26:

1pm-3pm:  Media Empowerment & the Developing World presented by Barefoot Workshops.  The bicoastal not for profit Barefoot Workshops offers short, intensive workshops around the world in narrative and documentary filmmaking.  Led by Chandler Griffin, this seminar sheds light on the media tools and formats that Barefoot uses to motivate people and bring about change in communities in need.

 

July 27:

2pm-5pm:  FACEBOOK VS. FACE TO FACE: Using Social Media and SEO to Drive More Business to your Door. presented by liveBooks.  J Sandifer and Lou Manna draw from their personal experiences with social media and viral marketing. Lou will discuss how he uses Facebook as his international business hub by promoting his work and driving traffic to his site. J, who has used social media and viral marketing to grow his photography business in Portland, ME, will cover the best social media available to photographers and how to utilize their benefits.

 

July 28:

11am-1pm and 3pm-5pmNikon Wireless Flash Hands-on Workshop with Shooting Stations.  Navigate the Nikon flash system with Nikon training specialist Paul Van Allen.  After an introduction to button, menus and functionalities, participants will have the opportunity to apply what they have learned at shooting stations.  There are two session

 

For a complete list of B&H Event Space events and seminars as well as for more information and on-line registration, visit the Event Space page on the B&H website.  Please note that even if the seminar or event is shown as being booked to capacity, there is a good chance you can still get a seat if you show up as there are often quite a few “no shows.”

 

In closing this entry, I do want to underscore one point:  If you register for a free event and something comes up which precludes you from participating, let the organizers know as soon as possible so that someone else may have the opportunity to fill that seat.

briese-focus77-image-2 

 Last month, Hamburg based Briese Lichttechnik established Briese NY, its first U.S. division office.  I recently sat down with Gerd Bayer, who heads the office to talk about Briese, and to get an up close and personal look at some of their products.It doesn’t take a whole lot to figure out what makes the Briese light different – and that’s before you even plug it in.  You may see deflectors, pencil or stick type lamps and large parabolic reflectors among other companies’ products, but none put them together the way that Briese does.  The result is a unique way of distributing and controlling light.  Briese was the company at the forefront of the large, umbrella style parabolic movement.  With seven sizes available today, no one comes close to matching the range of focusable parabolics offered by Briese.  The other thing which makes the Briese Focus unique is that it is essentially an exoskeleton with a reflective surface underneath.  The beauty of this arrangement is that since the structure is on the exterior there are no ribs or spreader assembly compromising the interior.

 briese-focus77-image1

 Gerd already had a Focus77 set up when I arrived at the Briese NY office on West 27th Street.  As I watched him move the flash head utilizing the focus tube or wand from the flood to the spot position and back (near the outer edge of the umbrella inward and out) the change in the position of the light on a subject is very much like watching a Fresnel being opened up or closed down. 

briese-focus77-image-3     briese-focus77-image4

  The linear flash tube which the Briese Focus uses seems to produce a  directed, even and efficient light.  I’m going to address one thing right now as a user of the wonderful Elinchrom Deep Throat Octa which is a little larger  than the Focus77 because someone is bound to ask:  Inspite of being similarly shaped, the differences in the shape of the flash tubes, the interiors, as well as the ability to move the Briese flash tube, nets differences in  lighting patterns and characteristics.  With the addition of diffusion materials on both however and depending on where the Briese flash  is positioned, I believe the differences may be narrowed.   The Focus100, which was not available, and the Deep Octa are essentially the same size.

 The components of the Focus system excluding the power pack and a light stand include:  The Focus umbrella, the flash tube, shield and deflector: the focus tube/wand, the flash/lamp base, the mounting assembly, the set up assist/storage post, a breakdown ring and a transport bag.  Gerd cautioned me that one of the most important things to remember in handling the Focus is not to pull on the ribs.  He says that the most common repair he sees is exterior rib breakage, and usually because of someone trying to open or close the Focus improperly.  If you place the collapsed umbrella on its end, insert the set-up post into the ring opening and apply a little pressure, the Focus takes shape.  The breakdown process while different is just as simple:  You place the breakdown ring on top of the exterior rim of the Focus, insert the set up post, apply some pressure and the umbrella collapses. Perhaps because I am a bit of a “gadgeteer,” I did not find the set up/breakdown process at all intimidating, but I do think that I would  have felt differently if a Focus220 or 330 had been in front of me; where some things are concerned, size really does matter!  I can certainly understand how some people might find the set up/breakdown process different enough to be a little too involved or worrisome.

 The Briese Focus comes in one finish: hard  silver.  If you want to alter the characteristics of the resulting light, diffusion panels can be secured to the tips of the Focus.  A soft grid can also be attached to the tips for another level of spread control.  I pressed Gerd, as to what type of material is used on the interior surface of the Focus.  I had heard that it was Kevlar;  he smiled and indicated Briese does not disclose that, but went on to say that the material is special because the Focus range is also compatible with the Briese line of tungsten and HMI products and has to be able to withstand substantial heat.  All in all, I was impressed with how well made the Focus components are, and how seamlessly they fit together.

 The Focus77 was attached to an 800w/s multi-voltage, Briese Yellow Cube Pack.  The 800i weighs about 17 pounds and when the lid is on —  you guessed it — is a yellow cube with a carrying strap.  This obviously is a real departure from the typical black or grey box one usually sees in the studio.  The air cushioned sliders on the bottom of the pack are both a thoughtful and utilitarian touch.  The pack has outlets for 2 heads.  Interestingly while I wasn’t intimidated by the Focus77, the 800i was a different story.  There are a lot of pressure pads for flash and modeling light control.  I’m confident that if I spent time with the pack, that its operation would become second nature, but my initial reaction was “Oh my God!”

 briese-800i-top-view

With the Briese pack, the shortest flash duration is achieved at maximum power.  A four-stop range is the price one pays for the multi-voltage capability of the “i”series packs.  The “e” series packs which are designed for use in Europe and are 220-240v have a seven-stop range.  While the lack of familiarity with the pack controls can be overcome, for some photographers, the four-stop range of the ‘i” packs may be regarded as too limited.  Hopefully this power adjustment range issue will be addressed in future products and/or updates.  Given that the “i” series power adjustment range is not as robust as other premium brand generators, it was interesting to watch how making power and focus adjustments can work hand in hand in with respect to light output.  The Briese generators start at 400w/s and go up to 6400w/s.

 Among the new products which Briese has introduced is the “Focus Help” (FH,) a remote controlled unit which will tilt the Focus umbrella as well as move the focus tube in and out.  For users of the larger Focus models, the FH will allow precise adjustment and fine tuning of the lights after they have been positioned.  This device is clearly an assistant’s dream.  While the Focus may be the product that people most readily associate with the Briese name, Gerd made it clear that there are several other stellar modifiers including a line of strip boxes.  Like the Focus, the Strip is essentially an exoskeleton lined with reflective material.  There are no ribs or wands inside the reflective surface area.  The interior appears to be softer silver than that found in the Focus.  The Strip comes in a few different sizes and there are louver and  baffle options available to provide additional control.

briese-strip briese-focus,-800i-pack-and-collapsed-strip

Briese products are available at a couple of studio here in New York for in-studio and location use:  Among them is Milk Studios.  I was told by one of the equipment gurus that “We [at Milk] like the product and the client demand is definitely there.”

 While I did not press Gerd about future product development, we did talk about growth.  He indicated that “Continuous lighting and HMI specifically is definitely a growth area.”  I was not surprised by his comment:  As motion and still applications continue to converge and offer visual continuity across formats, clients may be able to realize significant economies of scale in being able to handle both of these needs on one set, at the same time.  As of now his sense is that the Briese flash products are used more in New York for still work as opposed to Los Angeles, where the  use of Briese continuous light products is driven by motion work.

 Ken Allen of Monster Lighting, a professional film and video lighting house in Los Angeles has handled Briese products for approximately a year now, and says of the system, “It’s just a great product.”  Ken confirmed that the light weight of the Briese continuous lamp fixture is an advantage in using and placing them on sets.

 The one topic that I have held off mentioning until now is price.  There are a couple of reasons for this:  I wanted the focus of this entry to be on the Briese products which personally, I find intriguing.  The target audience for these products is not the casual shooter, or the guys going at it on Internet forums as to which brand of lighting is better or trying to define what constitutes “professional lighting.”  Let’s call it like it is:  The market for Briese products includes high end commercial applications and photographers who have the client base and budget to justify or warrant the expense.   They must feel that the Briese product will perform on the set as they demand and give the image the look they want and need.  In my opinion, products like the Profoto 8Air, the new Profoto Giants, the Broncolor Scoro packs and Paras are aimed at the same markets and photographers make similar decision about there use based on their  performance needs and desired look..  The only point here is that Briese is not alone in this regard.  Let’s also acknowledge that many photographers rent this type of  equipment when they need it, as opposed to buying it outright.  You don’t find the Briese product in the popular virtual or brick and mortor  stores, but they are found in a growing number of studios and specialty rental houses.  I also did not want the discussion of expense to drive this entry because many times discussions  on expense and value,  just as discussions about “quality of light,” tend to be both subjective and relative. 

But for those who are curious about the cost of ownership of the Briese kit that Gerd had set up in the office, here are some familiar products or services for which the price range, in U.S dollars, is comparable:  One (1) 2009 Toyota Yaris; or a brand new Phase One 645 camera with a P30+ back and 80mm lens kit; or six (6) 17 inch 2.8GHz Mac Book Pros; or two (2) Nikon D3x camera bodies; or one (1) Canon 5d MarkII and the seven (7) fastest L prime lenses from 14mm through 200mm; or a face lift and tummy tuck.

 For more information on Briese, their products, and availability,  or about Milk Studios and Monster Lighting, click on the embedded links in this entry.

One of the more popular trends in photography today is the use of parabolic reflectors.  Now we are not talking about small metal reflectors but rather large and in several cases significantly larger umbrella shaped reflectors; at one end of the spectrum are the 5 to 10 foot tools like the Broncolor Paras, and the Profoto Giants, and at the other end the Mola Setti  and the  Elinchrom Deep Octa,  are examples that come to mind.  The quality of light that these shapers produce is truly wonderful, and is owed in part to a combination of their size, shape, depth, surface finish, and in some cases the ability to focus the light source.  With the exception of the Elinchrom, few of these light shapers are extremely portable, and none lend themselves for use with speedlights.

 

I have had a long standing love affair with these larger parabolics, as I like the directional properties of light they produce.  They play a prominent role in my photographic lighting.  I found myself looking for a smaller version that I could easily carry and have the option of using with speedlights.  Hensel must have seen me coming, because their 32 inch (80cm) Master White Parabolic Umbrella is just what I was looking for.

tripanel-web

 

Now I am not a big user of ‘traditional’ photographic umbrellas.  I have four of them:  Three came in lighting kits, and the fourth, a 60” silver model I purchased after using a 5 foot Profoto Giant, hoping I might get similar results for a fraction of the cost.  Not even close!  The distinctive deep profile of the Hensel was too hard to resist.  Vinnie at Foto Care, placed an order with Hensel USA and within a few days the umbrella which I have dubbed “Paralite” arrived.

 

The umbrella which is extremely well made comes in its own carry bag.  The setup and take down couldn’t be easier; if you have ever used an umbrella, photographic or rain, you know exactly what to do.  Get a light stand, the flash of your choice and you are ready to go.  The light from this umbrella is smooth as opposed to brilliant, which is no surprise as the interior is white.  Because of its shape, the angle of spread is narrower than a conventional umbrella of the same size.  The results are a directional but diffused light, with more defined shadow and contrast.  While you may be able adjust the position of some lights along the umbrella shaft, I would not characterize the Hensel as “focusable” in the same way that the Broncolor, Profoto, and Mola products are, as the shaft is relatively short.

 

For the portrait, wedding and/or location shooter looking to travel light, this umbrella is just different enough to be compelling.  It’s portable, easy to set up, and offers diffuse yet very efficient light.  If you are using a speedlight, consider using the widest setting for the best light distribution.  Hensel USA tells me that contrary to conflicting information on some retail sites,  the umbrella comes with a two year warranty. 

In my opinion,  the “Paralite” is a real winner.

we're off to see the wizard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When LPA Design announced the new Pocket Wizard MiniTT1 transmitter and FlexTT5 transceiver earlier this year, there was a tremendous amount of buzz and excitement.  The makers of the best known and probably most widely used flash triggering devices, was coming to market with products capable of communicating Canon’s E-TTL-II and Nikon’s I-TTL protocols wirelessly via radio signals.  While Leap Devices with their Radio Poppers line and Quantum Industries with their Trio line brought radio TTL products to market before LPA, neither of these brands have the user base that PocketWizards has.  The good news was and is that users of Canon and Nikon flash systems now have 3 wireless radio system alternatives, all of which work differently, to the Nikon and Canon “line of sight” wireless solutions.

 

As reports surfaced over range limitations with respect to several Canon Speedlites including the flagship, 580EX II, and some initial operational incompatibility with the very popular 5D Mark II camera, some of the excitement gave way to disappointment.  Add to that product shortages at release, and the new generation of PocketWizard products was off to a less that auspicious start here in the USA.

 

To its credit, LPA Design was quick to acknowledge and address issues.  While the radio interference issues with certain Canon flashes will be addressed by a soon to be announced “supplemental” product, many of the performance related issues and bugs have been addressed via firmware updates.  They have also demonstrated the ability to enhance performance via firmware.  I have been impressed with the firmware updates which LPA has made, as well as by the customer service and technical assistance which both the MAC Group (the U.S distributor of PocketWizards) and LPA Design have rendered.

 

My interest in the new generation of PocketWizard products was fueled by several factors:

  • I wanted to carry a light weight lighting kit that would afford me reliable wireless triggering without having to rely on line of sight.
  • I liked the idea of having a small transmitter atop the camera as opposed to a flash acting as transmitter, or the MultiMax.
  • I wanted one wireless triggering system that could be used with my studio strobes, light meter and Speedlites.
  • I wanted E-TTL II functionality

 

The new PocketWizard products appeared to address all of my desires.  I was less concerned about being able to trigger an E-TTL II controlled flash 800 to 900 feet away as my outdoor shooting on the streets of New York City would preclude that anyway.  When I thought about it further, I decided that I needed some context as to how long 900 feet really is.  Thanks to Google, I now know that 900 feet is the length of the USS Intrepid, three times the length of a football field and a tad under 2/3 the height of the Empire State Building.

 

Now I have to admit, that I did feel a bit like Dorothy, the Lion, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow on the way to “OZ” as the journey down this wireless road was fraught with obstacles:  For starters, only one of the two Flex units I ordered came in.  While waiting for the second Flex to arrive I discovered that with the 580EX II/Flex combination mounted on my 1DS Mark III  there were extreme fluctuations in  shutter speed.  At this point I was questioning my heart, my brain and my courage and wondering could the “Wizard” deliver!  There was a little voice screaming “send the Flex back!”  Had it not been for the excellent technical support and assurances that the issues were noted and would be addressed, coupled with my longstanding experience and satisfaction with PocketWizard products, I probably would have sent it back.   My decision was made, I would press on.  So what’s a guy to do with one FlexTT5?  In my case it was read and re-read the manual, as there is a lot there to digest, and then learn how to integrate using my one Flex into my existing PocketWizard/MultiMax workflow. 

 

The MiniTT1 and the additional FlexTT5 arrived between the two firmware updates.  The Wicked Witch of the West clearly had put a hex on the Mini! With the Mini mounted to either of my cameras, any button I touched on the camera resulted in the triggering of the remote mounted flashes. A call to tech support resulted in a preliminary diagnosis of a contact problem with the Mini.  The next morning I took the Mini back to Foto Care where they exchanged it for another unit. No random firing with the new Mini.  There were noticeable performance improvements with the first firmware update, but with the second update, the Mini and Flex became a joy to use:  No more erratic behavior, reliable triggering and perfect execution of E-TTL II.  

Indoors I have shot with the both the 580EX II and 430EX II flashes mounted to the Flex units behind me, in two different rooms lighting a hallway, in dimly lit rooms at relatively slow shutter speeds and in sun dappled bright environments with fast shutter speeds and the units have fired without any issues.  Outdoors with either a Flex or the Mini on camera, I have gotten the 580EX II mounted on a Flex to fire at a distance of 80 feet away from the camera.  I stopped testing at 80 feet simply because I realized that this distance is substantially in excess of where I would typically place my flashes.  To put some context to it, 80 feet is a tad under a 1/3 of the length of a North -South block in Manhattan.  I do not want to minimize the concern that some have over range.  Based on venue, subject matter and location, as well as focal length of lens, there are those shooters for whom greater range latitude is critical.  There is information and suggestions for increasing the range of affected flashes when used in combination with the FlexTT5 on the Pocket Wizard site which may prove helpful.  For some photographers however, the necessity of having to take some of these  extra steps in order to get the performance they need, significantly reduces the attractiveness of the system.

 

Given the feedback of people getting more or less range with the same model of flash, there may be some credence to the anecdotal accounts that the degree of radio interference attributable to the 580 II may vary by production run.  It is not uncommon during the lifecycle of a product for components to be substituted based on changes in availability for example.  In most instances these changes are not apparent to end users as the overall performance as the manufacturer originally specified remains the same.  While production changes could be a possibility which helps to explain some of the range differentials 580EX II users are reporting, there is no evidence that indicates this is the case.  For those who have criticized Canon with respect to the radio frequency and shielding issue, it should be remembered that few to none of us would be having this discussion about radio frequency interference if we were talking about using the wireless protocol as designed by Canon for use with Canon products.

 

If there is anything that I’m not wild about with the Mini and the Flex it is the fact that the with the latest firmware update, in order to enjoy the new 5D Mark II functionalities, one needs to specify the camera model in the PocketWizard Utility.  This can be a problem for people like me who shoot with multiple Canon models.  Prior to the update I had the model selection set to auto and used the units with either camera.

 

The other area of concern has to do with changing the Mini and Flex settings in the field:  If you have a PocketWizard product such as a Multi-Max or one of the Plus models, you can at least use the learn process to change the channels on the Mini and the Flex should it be necessary.  Without a MultiMax or Plus, or access to the PocketWizard Utility, the only option you have if you need to change settings is a reset to the defaults.  For me this is less of an issue as I rarely am shooting in an area with other photographers, but for those shooting in venues with other photographers or who discover while on location the need to adjust the offset, disable Control TL, change to a channel other than the defaults or make other changes, this may indeed be an issue.

 

Now, I have decided to take a slow and deliberate approach in unlocking the full power of the new PocketWizards.  The first steps included getting my arms around E-TTL functionality as well as getting the new units to function in a more “traditional” PocketWizard role in the studio.  There is a lot of capability packed in these units and a lot of complexity with regards to the settings, and performance.  There are things that can be done with one flash that cannot be done with another, so it is imperative that you read the manual very carefully.  The truth is that there is more capability in these new PocketWizard products than I will probably ever need or use. 

 

My benchmark for evaluating the Mini and Flex was how they stacked up against the “line of sight” Canon system as I have used and would use it.  For my shooting and lighting needs and desires, the Mini and Flex work extremely well.  In real world usage, I have not experienced the same reliability issues and frustrations that I have had from time to time with the camera mounted St-e2 controlling flash activity and I have certainly not gotten the range  and versatility from the St-e2 as master that I am seeing with the Mini or Flex. 

 

While one would hope for a seamless and smooth product launch, the Mini and Flex introduction for use with Canon products was not; it is unfortunate because a lot of the focus as to what these tool can do has taken a back seat to what they can’t do at this time.  It is clear from talking with the folks at LPA that they are committed to addressing both current issues as well as those that may surface, and refining and enhancing performance. 

 

The newest generation of PocketWizards for me is a reminder that much of the technology that we purchase and use today, are works in progress.  Our computer software, printers and digital media devices are routinely updated though patches and firmware which fix bugs, address problems and enhance operations.  And this is how I have come to regard the new PocketWizards-“Functional Works in Progress” that will evolve as we use them and just keep getting better.

 

And as far as this trip to “see the Wizard” is concerned, it looks like the USB cable gets the coveted role of the ruby red slippers!

 

Note:  I have been told that an official update on the availability of the Nikon compatible products will be released soon. Check the news on the PocketWizard Site.

Update –  July 13:  PocketWizard has released a firmware update for the Mini and Flex.  For details,  follow the link below:  http://www.pocketwizard.com/news_events/news/firmware_v4.300_press_release/

 

 

handheld-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whether you are an enthusiast, emerging or working photographer, wherever you reside or are planning to shoot, it is prudent to find out what the regulations are with respect to photography and photographic equipment.  I can think of very few places where this is truer than in New York City.

 

I thought I would start with a quiz on taking photographs on the sidewalks of New York City.  Answer each question True, False or Depends:

 

1.     I am using a tripod/monopod on the street:  I do not need a permit.      

2.     I will be using an apple box as a prop: I do not need a permit.

3.     A permit gives me exclusive right to use the designated sidewalk.

4.     I am shooting with off camera strobes: I need a permit.

5.     I need a permit if I put my tripod on a dolly.

6.     I’m working with just a reflector and no flash:  I do not need a permit.

7.     I need insurance to get a permit.

8.     The Permit is free.

9.     I am planning on shooting in Central Park and will be using a couple of light stands and props:  I need permission from the Park management before I can get a permit.

10. All parks in New York City are subject to the same regulations with respect to permits and fees.

 

 

The answers:

1-True, 2-False, 3-False, 4-Depends, 5-True, 6-Depends, 7-True, 8-False (see update) , 9-True, 10-False

 

There is a very easy way to determine whether or not you need a permit to photograph on the streets of New York City:  If your camera equipment is handheld, you do not need a permit.  Tripods, monopods, and shoulder stabilizers like the Bushhawk 320 are all considered handheld.  Place anything down on the ground — an apple box, a prop such as a chair, a light stand with either a flash head or reflector attached, a battery pack, any wires, or mount your tripod to a dolly base, and you need a permit. If your light, power source and all wires, or reflector, are being held by an assistant as opposed to being placed on a stand, you do not need a permit as the equipment is considered handheld.  Even with a permit, the photographer does not have exclusive rights to use or block the sidewalk.  You must leave adequate space for people to use the sidewalk, as well as having ingress and egress to residences and businesses. 

 

The regulations for still photography on the streets of New York City fall under the purview of The Mayors Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting (MOFTB).  The Regulations as they relate to whether you need a permit or not are clearly meant to separate the casual shooter, enthusiast and tourist from working photographers.  The MOFTB production coordinators are knowledgeable, helpful and efficient with respect to answering questions, directing you to appropriate parties when permission is required prior to permitting, as well as processing permits.  It should be noted that if you need a permit for still photography, you actually will be filing out and submitting the Motion Picture-Television Permit form. The process and documentation required to be filed is outlined and available online.

 

Update:7/12/10 Effective July 11, 2010 there is a $300 fee for processing the aplication for a Permit. Read the most current information here

 

If you are not utilizing equipment which requires a permit, you may want to apply for what is called an Optional Permit.  While you need to know the date, time and specific location where you will be shooting, there is no insurance requirement.  An Optional Permit offers some evidence to property owners, security or law enforcement personnel, who may not be familiar with the subtleties and nuances of the regulations for photography on City owned property and question your right to photograph at a location, that you have the “right and permission” to use the sidewalk for your activities.

 

If there is one area where the permission and permitting process may appear difficult to navigate, it is where the Parks are concerned.  The handheld rule applies to most New York City Parks (including Central Park).  If you are using equipment that requires a permit, you must get permission from the Department of Parks and Recreation manager for that park or in the case of Central Park, the Film Office of the Central Park Conservancy, before applying for the permit through MOFTB.  There are, however, three public parks in Manhattan — Bryant Park, Battery Park City and the Hudson River Park— for which permission to shoot and permitting are administered through dedicated Conservancies, which results in very different application processes and cost, permit fees and regulations.  While the permitting process for these parks is aimed at photographers shooting for commercial use, if you are shooting for a non-commercial use and are planning on using any equipment (tripod included) in addition to your camera, it is best to check with the appropriate Conservancy in advance because their definition of “handheld” is much narrower than that used by MOFTB.  In checking with the Battery Park City Authority, for example, I was told that use of a tripod would require a permit. 

 

Many people do not realize that the park property extends to the adjacent sidewalks.  So in the case of Gramercy Park, for example, which is a privately owned park located on Manhattan’s Eastside between 20th and 21st Streets, while you can get a permit from MOFTB to shoot on the sidewalks across the street from the Park, the permit will explicitly exclude photographing on the sidewalk which runs around the Park because while it is open to pedestrian traffic, it is viewed as an extension of the Park property.

 

A lot of the process of shooting stills in New York or any city involves using common sense:

 

·        Whether you have a permit or not, you are expected to comply with any request that law enforcement officials may make.  So if you are asked to move…

·        If you have equipment, keep it as contained as possible. Have adequate assistance to help setup and dismantle your equipment.  Make sure your equipment is not left unattended and/or does not become a safety hazard.

·        Be respectful of people living and doing business in the location.

·        Be mindful of pedestrian and vehicular traffic and do not block the sidewalks, buildings or streets in a way which is disruptive.

·        Remember that you are expected to comply with all posted City regulations and rules-including parking and those governing park admissions.

 

Now go take some pictures!

 

Here are links to some additional resources that were not embedded in the above text:

 

Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting

Bryant Park

Battery Park City

Central Park Conservancy

Hudson River Park