When it comes to light shaping, I have always gravitated towards the control and direction of soft boxes. Less spill, more definition. The umbrella, with its parabola construction, has always had its place, such as for groups, or as a last chance, desperate reach for a big drape of light to hide my ineptitude on any given disaster of a location day. But lately, out in the world, I’ve used an umbrella a lot.
I’ve found that a threesome gaggle of Speedlights into a big umbrella has real promise. I use the umbrella in shoot thru mode, and work it as close to my subjects as I can. Out in the street, or field, the excess umbrella light that typically goes sideways, bouncing off the studio or office wall and bestowing upon your photo an unwanted flatness (always a vexation in a confined space) simply disappears over the hill. The remaining lovely wash of light wraps the subject(s) up in very forgiving fashion. For just plain folks, it’s real nice light. Given the movie star quality of Natalie and Cali, above, it’s damn near rapturous.
Works up close, and retains its essential “niceness” even when you pull back. The source below is pretty far away from the high flying Natalie.
It doesn’t take up much room in the kit bag, and affixed to a pole, it is quite mobile. The three Speedlight arrangement gives you enough punch to go high speed sync without breaking too much of a sweat, and now, with radio TTL nature of the SB-5000, there are no line of sight issues. It’s light, fast and damn handy. The rig consists of a Lastolite 4 in 1 umbrella, which is 51″ across, and has four distinct ways of using it, coupled with a ratcheting Tri-flash. The ratchet feature, along with the swivel heads of the Speedlights, enables you to “weight” the shaper with more or less light by clicking the flashes up or down or side to side, pushing more or less light into a quadrant of the umbrella. Pop the whole thing onto a boom pole extender, and you’ve got a very mobile, very beautiful light source. Works terrific with a Profoto B-2 as well. Great for moving fast and lighting well.
Both pics above shot on a D5 and my go to lens, the 24-70. All shot in Tuscany! Many thanks to all our participants, and to the wondrous pairing of Liza Politi and photog Ari Espay, who between the two of them run the aptly named Fancy Girl, Street Boy Productions. They did the heavy lifting of making sure we had great opportunities for pictures out there in the beautiful environs of Italy.