You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2009.

For me, I found it to be easier to choose a home and buy it, than it has been to try to choose decent, long-lasting studio/location monolights for photography!

How on Earth is one to make a decision?

I really had to walk away from the computer and stop looking at all the variables, and information and comments out there on this subject. It’s a very, very personal subject for many photographers. After all, it is the paintbrush one uses in photography. I know I like to have the best watercolor brushes I can afford to create my watercolor paintings.

I have been so busy for the last four days, yes—four days, researching studio lighting. Lighting that isn’t too much light, or too little for my needs. What do I need them for you ask? To shoot my watercolor paintings, so I can make giclées, to create unique fine art photographs, to shoot product, and stock photos, with the occasional studio style portrait, one or two people, head and shoulders, or outdoors with pets. The lights need to be portable. I’m not ready to get batteries to take them to the beach, but down the road I want that to be a possibility.

I’m looking at purchasing two monolights, total 1000ws or less for now. I want something I can grow into, rather than out of. That said, I talked to a few photographer friends, got their opinions and I headed off to check out what I could learn but doing research on the web. Good idea, and huge mistake. I am now, totally undecided.

By the way, I have only looked at opinions from buyers in comment sections at retailer sites, or at reputable photography forums and the like. I also watched a lot of the lighting demo video on the web made by some real pros, that helped me see many of the products in action. I checked my pro photo mags reviews and such too.

I have narrowed my choices down to Elinchrom, Photogenic and Calumet monolights, and the kits offered. There are many more great lights out there, but for me, these work. I did manage that much after reading as much info as I could absorb in my four days of research. Let me say first off, the kits that include the lights, umbrellas, stands and all, according to the comments and reviews I’ve read, leave people wanting more. They don’t seem totally satisfied with their purchases. Some portion of the kit is sub par in almost every case, and will need to be replaced. I also didn’t really want the umbrellas that most of the kits offered, I would replace them with octagonal and rectangular softboxes anyway.

So that leaves one to go out there and look for the best lights here, and the best softboxes there, and the best studio stands and backgrounds from over there. Now that’s all good too, but can you do it for a price close to that of the kits? Not really, but you can get close. Being a member of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) helps a lot here too. $99 a year, gets you a great informative magazine and access to product discounts, tutorials and way more. Info from Scott Kelby’s blog helped me a whole lot in this decision-making process too.

After about a good 30 to 40 hours of research, here’s what I’ve decided. I want something that has consistent color output, something that will last a long time, is durable, not too heavy, something that offers enough power, but not too much power for my space, and I want a decent modeling lamp, I read that 100 watts just doesn’t cut it. I do not want to be one of those that realizes about a month into the purchase that I should have spent that extra $500 bucks on what I really wanted, rather than settling for “affordable”. Nothing is a deal if you want to replace it six months after you buy it.

That decided, I went on to read about radio slave systems for the lighting, now I’m real interested. No cords for “Gracie” to trip over, that’s me, of course, ten years of ballet lessons and I’m still a klutz. It’s a good thing that all three of the manufacturers I looked at offer radio control of some kind.

One manufacturer offers a unit mounted on the hot shoe of your camera that apparently has too high a profile and it sticks up in your line of view. Remember now, this is according to consumer comments I came across. Range is another issue, I don’t need to shoot from 1500 feet away, or the next town over, so I think I’ll be good without that. So now I want to find the biggest bang for the buck in a quality, well-designed,  built in radio control unit, without having to buy more transmitters and transceivers, and adapter cords and so on. So, in my humble opinion, and for my needs, the EL-Skyport from Elinchrom wins for ease, design, and dollars. Although I do think the LiteLink radio option with the Calumet Travelite lighting is to be considered as well. It plays well with the PocketWizard too. Decisions, decisions.

I went on to look at the flash variability specs on these brands because it’s important to me to be able to have the widest range I can get because I plan to use these lights in lots of different scenarios. It seems to me that the Photogenic Solair wins in this category with the widest range. 8 f-stops. I really wish there were more comments and reviews from users out there about the Solair lights.

I then looked into how well each of the brands were for color consistency as one reduces the output of the light, according to the comments out there, even though I found a lot of people very happy with the Photogenic lights, many more were really happy with their Elinchrom Style 600RX lights. Again, I did find it hard to find a lot of comments and reviews about the Photogenic Solair lights. I don’t know why that is, but they do seem to be a contender. The “constant color” sounds so nice to me as I have spent hours with color correction people when working for clothing catalogs and doing color correction myself, and I know how long that process takes. I’d rather have my original shot consistently “right there” from the start, rather than having to spend hours in Photoshop “fixing the color”.

One more thing, the Photogenic Solair lights at 500ws weigh a little less than the Elinchrom Digital Style 600RX lights. Both are just under 6 lbs.

After vacillating back and forth, I’ve decided, I think, to buy the Elinchrom Digital Style Combo 600RX two monolight kit that includes only the lights, and EL-Skyport system.

Now on to the stands. There are millions, really just way too many! I like those rolling light stands, Avenger makes one called the “Baby Roller”.  Now this looks like one that ole “Gracie” might not be able to trip over. With the radio controlled lights, there will only be one wire, the plug. Yes! I chose the Avenger Century C stand for the other light. The C stand is another to keep “Gracie” out of trouble.

On to light control. I read that the Elinchrom Rotalux Octa softbox rocks, I also read that some don’t like it. It’s not too expensive so I think I’m going to get the Mini Octa softbox, which is a 39″ model. I also like the 14″ x 35″ Rotalux Mini Recta softbox from Elinchrom. I did learn that Chimera makes some fabulous light banks and when I’m able, monetarily, I’ll look into those too.

Reflectors are a necessary accessory too. I haven’t put any time in on researching them, that’s next. For now I will make due with white foam core and black cardboard.

Last decision….a good light meter. I really like the Sekonic L-358. Lots, and lots, and lots, of good comments out there about it. They say it’s accurate and reliable and well made. I’m sold. For fans of the PocketWizard, compatibility is easy. You can add an accessory that will let you fire your lights without removing your transmitter from the hot shoe of your camera each time you want to meter your lighting. The Sekonic looks like it’s fairly straight forward and intuitive to work with to me, and many buyers say the same. Now, when : ) I have an unlimited budget, I will go for the Sekonic L-758C Cine Light Meter, that’s really hot!

Oh and backgrounds, I think I’m going to go to Calumet for these, they have a good looking heavy duty stand for paper. I don’t have a space to use a wall mount or I would go for that. I did find stronger seeming background stands, but for my needs the stands Calumet offers should do just fine. Or maybe I’ll do a bit more research. I’m over it, but obsessed. For now, I think I’ve made my decisions, or I hope I have, until I run into a devastating comment regarding one of my choices, and the indecision will start again.

I just thought I should throw this out there for anyone else that might be suffering the anxiety associated with the purchase of a decent, quality lighting system and the necessary accessories. I really hope the time I put in can help others too!

And if any of you out there has anything to tell us all about this, go for it, we’re listening. Knowledge is Power!

Now back to doing what I love, enough research. I’ll let it all marinate for a few days.

Take care all!

The osprey after one of his dives into the water.

The osprey after one of his dives into the water.

My friend Norah and I took a walk along the beach this evening. The sun hadn’t set yet but it was getting ready to. It was still so very hot out, not much of a breeze either. We’re hoping things will cool off down here in South Florida soon, real soon. I know, no sympathy from those freezing up north.

Of course I brought my camera along, just in case I saw something that intrigued me. We weren’t too far into our walk when I noticed an osprey fishing with wild abandon up ahead of us. This guy was throwing himself into the water time and time again. He just could not catch a fish, but it sure wasn’t for his lack of trying.

Male osprey flying high above the beach looking for fish.

Male osprey flying high above the beach looking for fish.

I was hoping to catch the osprey in a dive. I’ve seen one dive, but I’ve yet to photograph one successfully, and tonight was no different. I got some great shots while he was flying and starting the dive, but the final descent is so fast, and the bird reverses and hits the water and pulls himself out so fast that every image I shot during this time is totally out of focus. I was shooting at 1/1000, that was clearly way too slow a shutter speed. I can see this is a challenge I will have to overcome.

The osprey beginning his dive toward the water.

The osprey beginning his dive toward the water.

Further down the beach we came across a crab that was quite busy by the shoreline. When we approached he turned right around and came after us, both claws raised. He meant business…..don’t come any closer ladies, I predict pain! I imagine having the two of us and a great big lens staring at him was pretty scary from his perspective. I did notice that crabs have eyelashes. Yup, little hairs growing out above those crazy tubular eyes. Check them out.

This crab has eyelashes, he does! Take a look.

This crab has eyelashes, he does! Take a look.

Well that’s it for today. Until next time I will be trying to catch that elusive osprey diving into the surf photo.

My friend Janet and I went to the water’s edge, wine glasses in hand, Sunday evening around 7pm to wait for the moon to rise. As I set up my photo equipment, the sky was just starting to turn that really great cobalt blue color that it gets right before dark sets in.

The moon was due to rise at 7:07 and we didn’t see anything until our friend Marlene called us over to a spot where you could see through the Australian pines, and there it was….big, beautiful and amazing. It was already 7:21 by then.

Check out the cool shot of the American flag and the moon. Janet worked hard to try to get that flag to fly and it did.

It was so nice to slow down and enjoy all that nature had on display for us Sunday evening.

For those that might be interested;

I was using a Canon 100-400 mm f4.5-5.6L series lens on my Canon 5D Mark II body, I had it mounted on a tripod and had to use manual focus, auto focus only worked for the super close ups.

Most of the shots were hit or miss. I tried different exposures until I got the ones I wanted. Even though, it was impossible to get detail in the moon and get the reflection of the moon on the clouds. I had to overexpose to get the clouds, which ends up blurring  the moon somewhat, and underexpose to get detail in the moon. I decided to combine a properly exposed shot of the moon with a good exposure of the overall shot. That worked.

The early shots, with the dark blue sky were shot at 1/40 f5.6 -1EV. The night shots were 0.5 sec at f7.1 and 0.8 sec at f5.6.

Moonrise-IMG_9224-v2

The Full Moon on October 4th.

The full moon rising and losing it's yellow orange color.

The full moon rising and losing it's yellow orange color.

The full moon behind the American Flag.

The full moon behind the American Flag.

Photo of the moon as it rises higher in the sky and reflects on the intracoastal. Great clouds.

Photo of the moon as it rises higher in the sky and reflects on the intracoastal. Great clouds.

In this photograph the moon has risen above the clouds.

In this photograph the moon has risen above the clouds.

I just had to share this with you.

I needed a break from working on the computer, so I walked down to our little slice of unspoiled nature along the Intracoastal Waterway with my camera and telephoto lens. Within minutes I saw so much, I just stood there and shot photograph after photograph while the parade went by, it was like watching a Mutual of Omaha Wildlife Show. :  ) It was about 4:30 in the afternoon, so it was getting close to supper time in the bird world.

Look at what I got. I shot a common tern, several pelicans, a male osprey (he looked young, I wonder if he was migrating???), and a female osprey coming in for a landing.

The (young??) male osprey that flew overhead really upset our local female osprey, Koko. Her alarm call was going full blast. My next mission is to use my camera to shoot some video of her. She’s got a great voice. It must be shared.

Here are my flying bird photos, they were shot at 1/800 with f5.6 to f6.3 using a Canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6L series lens on a Canon 5D Mark II body. I’m happy with the results I get with this lens camera combo, it’s the best yet. These photos have been cropped so you can see the details better. I hope you like them.

Photo of pelicans flying overhead.

Photo of pelicans flying overhead.

A close shot of one of the pelicans.

A close shot of one of the pelicans.

This is the male osprey that flew by

This is the male osprey that flew by

Another shot of the "young" male that flew over.

Another shot of the "young" male that flew over.

The female osprey, I call her Koko, comes in for a landing.

The female osprey, I call her Koko, comes in for a landing.

Another in a series of shots of Koko coming in for a landing on her perch.

Another in a series of shots of Koko coming in for a landing on her perch.

A common tern flew overhead.

A common tern flew overhead.