I’ve been luckily associated with the folks at the Lastolite Company for a while now. I have learned a lot from Gary Astill, their chief designer and mad genius in residence. He can take a napkin, a piece of wire and some black gaffer tape and make the light from small flash guns sing and dance. Over time, we have collaborated on a number of light shapers that have been well received.
I get asked a lot, “What always goes with you?” “What is your go-to travel kit, apart from lenses and cameras?” Or, the line of questioning is a tad more blunt. “How many goddam Speedlights do you really travel with, dude?”
Variations on a theme, to be sure. So, here goes. Speedlights, generally, three to five. Battery packs. Gels. Tape. Maha battery chargers, and Powerex batteries. (The Maha quick chargers can go zero to sixty in like 10-12 minutes. You get a fresh group of eight batteries pronto with these things.)
Then, what do your run the lights through? It’d be pretty idiotic of me to have designed light shapers I don’t use. So, below is a listing of light shapers I use consistently to relentlessly.
Handy, collapsible, nice, soft but punchy quality of light. Drop a velcro egg crate over it and it is very controllable, without a lot of spill. Translates well from location to studio.
Light and easy to transport, as all umbrellas are, it gives several variations in terms of approaching the subject. (Shoot through, reflected with white, reflected with silver and shoot through with square mask.) My favorite iteration is to use as a shoot through and put a Tri-flash with three Speedlights into it. Big, soft, easy light. With a little low fill, it transforms into a bit of glamour light.
Just shot the above on our wonderful Scotland workshop, organized by my dear friend and tidal wave of organizational prowess, Liza Politi. She and Ari (who shot the below on a smart phone) form Fancy Girl Street Boy Productions, and together we have done Prague & Vienna, and most recently, Scotland. Stay tuned. More to come.
The below was shot in China. The stuff travels well.
Used alone, at an angle, though, it can become a character light, with a deeper set of shadows. The light here is more to the side, and farther away from the subject.
Speaking of low fill…if you want to really formalize and directionalize it….the Uplite.
I use it on occasion when the set is static, and there’s some control being applied, in the sense we are not moving fast and shifting positions and locations. It’s a great low fill source that you can configure as a direct light, and as a bounce that is diffused.
Just enough of a low tweak to get under the cowboy hat, for instance. My subject here is the wondrous Nancy DeSantis.
Ezybox Speedlite Box. White interior. Small, light and fast. Move it close, and it’s a nice light. Never gonna be a 74″ Octa, but then a 74″ Octa doesn’t fit into your shoulder bag the way this does. A move-around light, perched on the end of a paint pole or hand held, it gives you a nice bit of control in an impromptu situation. Below are examples shot on the fly in front of an audience, working TTL, and moving fast.
The colors in the backgrounds of these are just raw Speedlights with gels.
You can use the speedlite box as a main if you want to carve out a singular area of light and leave areas of darkness to play with other lights. There are several lights in the pic below, Profoto big flash even, but the main is that little speedlite box-a-doodle.
Skylite Rapid with Masks. I call it the 3×3, but that is a misnomer. It is actually about a 40″ square of light. Collapsible frame. Nice light and you can control it well with the masks. Again, a source I often use with a Tri-flash and multiple Speedlights.
Whole surface below….
Mixed into a number of the above pix is the background, hopefully subtle, use of fill light, which is often coming from a Tri-Grip diffuser/bounce surface. They come in kits and can diffuse or reflect off a variety of surfaces. And, they can be used as a main light, such as below.
Most of the pictures published here were done very quickly, sometimes with just hand held poles and lights. Others required more work, but the basic mantra of the shapers I use is small, light and fast.
Gear questions, as always, shout out the big guy….firstname.lastname@example.org