I’ve got a long history of lighting things for national magazines. Be it rock islands in Palau or reclusive explorers in Peru. One of my strengths has always been an ability to pack lights up, get them where they need to go and make them work on location.I’ve got a new assignment with new lighting challenges. That means new equipment! Here is a roundup of what I’ll be taking to Paris next month.
Lighter is ALWAYS better. And one of my favorite devices in the world is my Canon 580EX II ($420 from Amazon). It has a boatload of power for a shoe mounted flash. I use it both on manual or E-TTL, on the latter mode the flash is usually dialed down 2 stops to better match ambient light. An an essential accessory is either the OC-E3 flash cord or the STE2 Transmitter ($220 Amazon) to get the flash off the camera (below). In dynamic situations ETTL has saved my bacon more than once.
There are extensive lines of battery packs for these lights, but I find that lithium aa batteries are more than enough. I'll take 3 of these with me.
Now I know that lots of people out there like to do the Strobist/Joe McNally thing. I have always lived by the old photo rule that one shoe mounted flash is lightweight, simple and inexpensive. More than one? not so much. When I need more power I bring bigger lights.
The next step up is Quantum T5D-R ($1040 w/battery from BH). These lights require an external Quantum battery and kick out a true 150 watt seconds, more than twice what a camera mounted flash does. It can be a shocking amount of light. The rock island below is lit with a single Quantum fired off of a radio slave.
Another advantage of the Q-flash is they can use very standard Chimera light modifiers and they have a manual power adjustment in 1/4 stop increments. There are all kinds of automatic settings that I've never tried to use. They are about twice the size of an on camera flash and with a battery cost more than twice as much. I will say that these lights are tough. I've beat them up all over the world and they perform like champs. I'll take 2 sets to Paris with spare bulbs.
I'll need more than 150 watt seconds for some of the things I want to shoot in Paris so I just bought 2 sets of Elinchrom Ranger Quadra ($1560 1 head 1 pack from Amazon) lights. The Quadra is a 400 watt second light. So lots of power but also lots of control. Each Quadra power pack has 2 outlets. My lights are Asymmetric so with one head in the 'A' outlet all the power goes to 'A'. WIth 2 heads plugged in 2/3 of the power goes to 'A' and 1/3 to the 'B'. There is a symmetric version that splits power 50-50. You can adjust the overall output of the pack in 1/10 stop increments via a LED readout. The pack has automatic power off, a built in slave, and built in Elinchrom Skyport radio receiver. This is a dramatically larger system than the Q-flash but not nearly the size (or price) of the Profoto Acute 600.
The lights are fast, a full powered flash recharges in 1.9 seconds. More importantly using an adaptor ring ($100 BH) they will take Elinchrom's excellent line of light shaping tools. I find the light out of even a silver chimera soft box to be too flat for my taste. The Elinchrom boxes are soft but still have enough snap to keep things interesting. The image below was lit with their 1 meter octabox. Another advantage of the Elinchroms is they look very professional. Often it doesn't matter how funky my lighting set ups are, but it is Paris, I want to look classy.
2 complete Ranger Quadra sets are going with me.
All the lights in the world are useless if you don't have a way to set them all off at the same time. For years I've been relying on Pocket Wizard PLUS II ($169 Amazon) radio slaves. Plenty of range without lots of complex set up. Impact makes a fine cord to attach them to a shoe mounted flash (be warned though the canon flashes will go to sleep on you!) My general rule with radio slaves is to take more of them than I need and also put fresh batteries in them every day. I've not tried the Elichrom skyport radios, but they are well reviewed and somewhat less expensive than the Pocket Wizard.
I'll be taking 6 Pocket Wizards with me.
The great thing about all this light is that it fits into a Pelican 1600 case. Just barely, but it does fit. That isn't how I will carry things around every day, but just getting the lights to the location is often half the battle.