Lastolite Ezybox II Switch and Cactus and Magmod

I have been using Cactus flashes and their remotes with my Fuji system for a couple of years now. They have been quite reliable and their portability make them my go to lighting system. As I get older, smaller and lighter gear becomes a necessity. I am a location photographer and I don’t have an assistant to help lug everything around. Hence the speed light flash system being used the majority of the time.

Now there is no denying the quality of light that one can get from a much larger studio light is gorgeous. I just can’t be lugging that crap around all of the time. I have tried multiple flash brackets, multiple types of modifiers and other various doohickies to help make my small lights act bigger to various degrees of success but never really matching studio lighting. That is until now!

I feel like I am going to be giving up my secret sauce recipe here but here goes. Keep in mind I want the big light feel with the portability of small lights. I don’t want to be like Joe McNally and hauling twenty of these small lights around, but then again, he has an assistant to do that for him. Last year I came across the Magmod system. In of itself it is a great system for photographers on the move. It does give a decent quality of light that for a lot of instances would be just fine. The magnet attachment is superb and once you have used it you become addicted to the system. No more velcro or tape etc. Terrific! But it doesn’t give that big soft light feel that a large light with modifier can give.

Now one problem with using speed lights like the Cactus lights or any other light is the fresnel front doesn’t offer the spread of say a bare bulb studio light. Yes you can buy some that do now, such as the Godox AD200 but for now I wanted to stick with what is working for me and what I already have remotes for.  Now Cactus lights aren’t small as far as speed lights are concerned. One has a pretty good amount of power and two has a really nice punch of power. I have used them doubled up through a Photek Softlighter and it does make for a really nice light. But for a guy that is on the move all of the time, the Softlighter is a bit on the fragile side and hard to carry on a train with stands etc. What to do what to do?

Enter Lastolite. I use their reflectors and sometimes one of their original soft boxes. In fact that is how I came up with this recipe. I love how their equipment folds up small which makes it easy to transport. The original Ezybox is ok but never thrilled me. Neither did it’s original bracket. Well now they have come out with the EzyboxII system and a new two light bracket. I ordered up the EzyboxII Switch soft box and the two light bracket. The Switch soft box can be modified to be a strip light or a large soft box all from the same unit. Very cool! I got the big one and it is a large modifier but thankfully not too deep. All materials are of high quality and the new two light bracket is much nicer and sturdier than the original one light bracket. Yes it is plastic but that means less weight for me to carry so I am good with that. It is a very robust plastic so no real worries there.

Yeah yeah so what is the recipe you ask? Well you take two Cactus RF60 flashes, put them in the Lastolite two light mount. Attach the EzyboxII to the bracket and add the final seasoning which is…two Magmod magspheres and two maggels to the flashes. The magspheres make the Cactus units more like bare bulb flashes by spreading the light around inside the modifier. The other beauty of the spheres is they don’t cost you in light power…at least not much. The gels are just 1/4 cto gels to warm the light a little. The soft box has a double diffuser system so all of this combined creates one really nice soft light setup that is portable.

That attached photos won’t win any prizes. Teenage boys never smile for photos especially when it’s your kid and you twist their arm to be a light tester. But they do show that quality of light that came out of this setup. I was on 1/35th power at ISO 200 @f2. Yes F2 is wide open but I had lots of power left if I wanted to narrow the aperture for more depth of field. I will continue to play with this setup and try to update this post at a later time. Until then, try the secret sauce, you might like it!

Seeing through large format!

Life is too short! It’s as simple as that! This last year my family has been dealing with the loss of loved ones. Most recently I lost my father to ALS, a terrible disease that robbed him of everything at a very rapid speed. This loss gets one to thinking about all those things that you have put off doing or trying. I am now in the mental mode of not waiting for later down the road if you can possibly do it now. Especially since you don’t know how long your road is going to be. So with that in mind I was able to purchase a proper large format camera.

I had always dreamed of getting one of those pretty wooden ones but a deal came up on eBay for an all metal Toyo 45a, 4×5 camera with three lenses and other assorted goodies for a very reasonable price. I jumped on it and anxiously waited for it’s arrival. It was like Christmas morning when it arrived and I rapidly dug through all of the packaging to see what all was in the box of magic! There she was, a real beauty…a heavy beauty but a real looker! Everything looked good and seemed to work as it should so off I went with some loaded film holders.

Unfortunately I found out the bellows leaked badly, apparently from too much time in storage. I purchased one of those eBay bellows and installed it myself. It was actually a very nice bellows but a little tricky to install. That as they say was it and it was off to the races. I have been putting both color and black and white film through it and refining my film metering techniques. I have had more successes than failures and I love the whole process of using this very slow method of photography. This camera will be a keeper until I can’t lug it around anymore and I hope that is way down my road of life.

Happy wanderings!Image a1241 Image 1 4 8 3 2 2 1 Image 1 4 8 3 2 2 3 Image 1 4 8 3 2 2 2 2 1 Image 1 2 1 Image 1 2 2 Image 1 2 2 Image 1 2 2 3

Mamiya RB67 Portraits

You have seen from some of my previous posts that I do a lot of portrait work. It can range from family to corporate types of portraiture. A frequent request has been the corporate headshot for people’s Linkedin page. A friend of mine who has been forced into a freelance type of life, like so many of us, needed some professional headshots done. I was more than happy to help with one condition, I get to shoot a roll of film with him and his wife as my subjects.

So the photos you see here are the results of that roll of film. All shot on a Mamiya RB67 Pro S camera with the 137mm lens, on Ilford HP5 film. All lighting is provided by diffused window light. I almost discarded the shot where the dog moved but I liked the expressions going on it so I kept it. It ended up being my friend’s wife’s favorite.

Enjoy and happy wanderings!

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Making the light

In my last post I talked about chasing the light. Well great light can be an elusive thing so sometimes you have to make the light. There is your standard in-studio lighting which is very much needed sometimes, but when you are a location photographer like myself, you have to mix your light with the available light on location. This is where lighting becomes like cooking, you season to taste. Do you want your light to act as the main ingredient or do you want it to compliment what is already there and to mix in so well that it looks like it belongs and already exists naturally. I do all of the above but some of my favorite images have come from doing the latter.

One of the images shown here is of my father-in-law sitting in his favorite chair. He is always in it. It’s almost part of his persona. So I wanted to capture Jack in his chair, in his natural environment and I didn’t want you to know that it was lit. You see, Jack’s living room is always dark, very dark. The sun never comes through the windows like you see here but I wanted it to look like it did. I wanted you the viewer to believe that this is how Jack’s living room looks in the afternoon light. To accomplish this I put a gelled flash on his front porch and aimed it down and through the window camera right. Then I bounced a flash off of the living room interior wall behind me to open up the shadows a small bit. You don’t notice it’s there but you would miss it if it wasn’t.  I made sunshine.

In all of the photos shown here the light was made because it didn’t exist at that particular time in that particular location. All of the lighting was created using a combination of speedlights with various remote controls. I have a bag with about a half dozen old speedlight flashes of various makes in it. I call it my “sunshine in a bag” kit. I keep my remotes and various colored gels in the same bag. This way when I go on location I can create light, make sunshine if you will, where ever it’s needed. As a professional photographer you can’t always rely on the ambient light to be beautiful so you need to know how to make beautiful light, whether it’s to counter act a high noon sun such as the photo of the family on the park bench, or to take a gloomy weather day and turn it sunny, such as the photo of the family in the fall woods. Not delivering quality photographs is an option. So dig out your flashes and start experimenting. It is what will separate you from the  Uncle Billys and soccer moms with the fancy cameras…well partly anyway.

Happy wanderings!