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Archive for April, 2014

More Light Modifiers

Apr 28

In Lighting at 8:56am

To say I’ve collaborated with Lastolite on creating new light shapers is to give me too much credit. I have babbled and sketched a few things their way, but it is really Gary Astill, their chief designer, who has morphed muddled thoughts and a few notions about controlling light in fairly simple ways into real form and design.

The above was shot with a new version of the Lastolite Skylite Rapid. What’s new about it is that it has a set of velcro masks that can be arranged over the diffuser surface to give you an wide array of different size light sources.

What I did on this brief video shoot, was put three Nikon SB 910 speed lights into the Skylite Rapid (I tend just to call it a 3×3) and then sort of work my way backwards, masking off different areas of the light surface, making it skinny and long, filling it occasionally with a Tri-grip reflector, working TTL, and simply altering the path of the light, and its dispersion, to in turn alter the feel and mood of the photo.

If you remove the bounce fill from below, and really skinny out the light pattern, you get something a touch more dramatic, with a bit more cheekbone edge. Which suits my subject, who is a semi-pro footballer over in the UK, and an excellent athlete. In a number of these portraits, I’ve edged my camera (all pix shot with a D800E) into high speed sync mode, hovering here and there at about 1/500, maybe 1/800 of a second, with my longer lens, the Nikkor 70-200 zoom, wide open at f2.8.

You open up that edge, and the shadows, when you strip off the masks, and cover your subject with the full wash of a big diffuser surface.

Be careful of sun dapple! I mention this in the video below, as it can drive you mad, working on a day where the sun is playing dodge ’em with the clouds and the wind is moving the trees and leaves about. There’s a bit in the pic above, which I view now as a something of a happy accident, but it’s definitely something to watch for and control to your taste. The really nice, incremental control lighting like this gives you, when you combine a nice sized surface with the ratcheting Tri-flash, is that you can click the three flash heads into different vectors of the light shaper. This will, to a small degree, weight one area of the lighting surface with either more or less light, and enable you, for instance, to open up a shadow, or feather down a highlight as you see fit.

All in all, a very handy, portable light shaper that can adapt its size quite readily to the task at hand, and drop, collapsed, into a small duffel. You can email Jeff Snyder at, as he is responsible for quickly getting these new products up on the Adorama website in short order.

More tk….


Earth Days Past

Apr 25

In Stories, Thoughts at 6:29am


We celebrated Earth Day this past week. This observance has been around for a while now, and back in the 70’s I was occasionally assigned to cover some of the events. I shot the above for UPI one year, at an Earth Day observance at the UN. I recall it being the usual, uh, cluster….k, in NY press terminology, with all the papers, the wires, and the TV folks angling for angles and exclusives. I was working for the formidable drill instructor of editors, Larry DeSantis, or LD, as we called him, who told me in no uncertain terms to get the muckety-mucks. In color. Read the rest of this entry »

Prague and Vienna

Apr 23

In Seminars & Workshops, Travels at 4:59am

This past week on the Charles Bridge in Prague, I touched this image, below the statue of St. John Nepomuk. They say, if you touch this icon, you will return to Prague. I certainly hope so.

Read the rest of this entry »

New Lastolite Shapers

Apr 7

In Gear, Lighting at 8:05am

The folks at Lastolite are pretty cool, especially their chief designer, Gary Astill. Cool, in the sense they are receptive to ideas, which is a somewhat tough quality to find in a manufacturer in the photo industry. Listen to a photographer??!! Whaddaya crazy? They’re all a buncha wackjobs!

Point taken. We do dream up some hairbrained schemes now and then, passionate, reckless creatures that we are. But, when you work in the field for a long time, experience all sorts of adversity, attempt to use malfunctioning gizmos that were supposed to work and make life easier, and try reading bad manuals for DOA technology that does not live up to billing, well, you acquire a certain wry, rudimentary sense of what’s a good idea and what’s not. We conduct our lives with Murphy lurking in the camera bag, just ready to leap out, like a wrestler launched from the ring ropes, an airborne freight train of disappointment, body slamming our photographic ambitions for the day into the canvas of despair. This ever present possibility, out their on location with us at all times, makes us seek simple things that work.

Like a white interior for a soft box. The EzyBox Hot shoe soft box with a white interior has been out for quite some time now, and proved to be popular. So we transferred that notion to the already popular Lastolite Speed Lite box. It now comes as a Joe McNally version :-), called the Ezybox Speedlite Plus, with a white interior and three drop in diffusers, so you can control light temperature and level of diffusion. Incremental changes, but significant in terms of the quality of light. Hit this link to take a look.

You can also punch in, he’s got a handle on them. And, quick update, Adorama just updated their webpages to include the new products…’s the direct link.

I used it recently in Cuba, the only light shaper I took with me, and made a quick demo snap with it of a lovely dancer.

I left it in Cuba, with wonderful shooter, Arien Chang.  It will be perfect for his style of street shooting. It’s versatile, fits in your camera bag, and gives you a punchy, but soft light in a tiny package that weighs nothing. Below is another version with the gentleman in the set back into the leaves.

It’s a good, soft light, that, unfilled, has some drama, but can also be filled a bit with a bounce surface, like a tri-grip, and softened.  It can be hand held, or put on a stand. There’s a video at this link as well.


More tk…..




Cuban Windows

Apr 3

In Travels at 5:26am

Dancer by a window, Havana……

Nikon DF camera, 1/25th sec; f4; ISO 400; 24-120mm lens.

Cuban Cowboy, by a farmhouse window….Nikon DF camera; 1/50th sec; f3.5; ISO 100; 28mm f1.4 lens.