...Or rather, in a backpack.
I don't quite know how I finagled this, but I was supposed to take a portrait of Jack MacDonough last weekend, and I ended up begging off (I've been sort of discombobulated lately with a chronic toothache)...and he ended up taking a portrait of me instead. The one you saw yesterday in the post about my new Chamonix.
Jack's a TOP reader who's local to me—he lives in the local lake country out west of where I live. He's a landscape and art photographer who's been very successful in business with the "corporate decor" market, I guess you'd call it, selling his photographs to corporations for their buildings and public spaces.
It began innocently enough. I brought the Single Use Device to lunch to show him...and he brought his "studio in a box," his new Elinchrom Ranger outfit, to show me.
Before you know it, we were imposing on the good nature of the most excellent staff at the Stone Bank Pub and Eatery in Oconomowoc, and had set up a studio right in the middle of their dining room! Fortunately we were there during non-peak hours so there were no other diners to discommode—as the people started arriving, we were finishing up.
I don't know how much I should say about this, because I do not want to be pegged as being at all "anti-Strobist." That would be an injustice. David Hobby is a great guy and I'm as big a fan as everybody else. Great site. But to be honest I've always suffered, all my life, from a most odious prejudice against those little hobbyist* gizmahicky "flashes"—what Nikon's always called "Speedlights"—that you clip to the hotshoe of a camera. Not that there's anything wrong with them, so please hold the cards and letters. It's just that I didn't train on them, didn't use them professionally, have never used 'em for my own work, and in fact don't know how to use them, for the most part—most of the infernal little things suffer from the same festering overcomplication as every other electronical device these days, if you ask Mr. Bah Humbug here (me, I mean).
To me, a small, portable flash is a monolight, and proper lights are "strobes"—the term is a misnomer but it was near-universal back in the day: pack-and-head systems. I used Speedotron Brown Line in school, Speedotron Black Line at the studios where I assisted and at the one I shared, my friends all had Novatrons, and the lustworthy names were Comet and Broncolor and Profoto and Elinchrom. Artificial light to me is a proper flash head that goes on a proper stand that you can put behind a proper umbrella or in a softbox, cabled to a capacitor box that provides the power and sets the ratios. Nice and simple, easy to use, straightforward. Flexible. Good, good, and good. Aside from this and that here and there, it's basically the only kind of artificial lighting I've ever used.
Jack's new Elinchrom Ranger Quadra is a whole two-light pack-and-head outfit that works like any other—except it's lower power (in the old days, you couldn't crank up the ISO of the film at will), and it's all been miniaturized to a remarkable extent. Note, in the picture of the restaurant above, the power pack sitting on the corner of the table! By comparison, the old 2400 w/s Black Line packs I was so familiar with were like small suitcases full of bricks. One of those not only would have tipped the table over, it might have crushed it. Okay, I exaggerate. But they were heavy and they were big.
And battery power—are you kidding me? That's great. One pro I used to work with used to take a laughable amount of extension cords with him on location shoots. I mean in the thousands of feet. Filled the floor of the truck. It wasn't just that you had to have access to power, although there was that—it was that you couldn't overload the amperage of the building's circuits, so sometimes to get all the lights going you had to go find a different circuit to tap into. (I know all you old pros out there are nodding and smiling and thinking of stories.)
Well, I'd better watch it—I could go on here. (I do go on.) Suffice it to say that Jack added a Think Tank Sling-O-Matic 20 backpack, a couple of Manfrotto Nano light stands and two small umbrellas, and he's literally good to go—as he amply demonstrated on Saturday when he turned the Stone Bank Pub into a studio in about four minutes.
A really slick lighting outfit. The portraits were taken with an S2. You can see a few more pictures at this page. And my thanks to Jack, of course, for the demo, and the photography.
Finally, back to the Single Use Device: does the whole plate film size remind you of anything? A hint:
(All photos except the Speedotron pack by Jack MacDonough)
*No pun intended.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Ken Bennett: "I like speedlights, the Canon kind, and I have a similar kit packed into a Pelican 1510 case, which is wheeled and meets carry-on size limits. I have four speedlights, three of the same small light stands, several clamps, a complete set of Honl light modifiers, and six of the Pocket Wizard TTL radio units. With the speedlights in my camera bag, I have a six-light location kit in a carry-on size case. Not bad compared to the old days (and I do remember carrying 600 feet of extension cords and 400+ pounds of lighting gear.)
"But man, I have been lusting after that little Ranger setup for months now. Compared to my old-skool Norman 400B units, which can't even be used at 400 w/s because I keep blowing the circuits, they are just too cool. Want. I'd get two packs to go with the two heads—I hate running head cables all over."
Featured Comment by Glenn Brown: "This is my headshot kit, in a Lowepro 300, tripod on the side and 17-inch Mac in front pouch:
Featured Comment by Michael Steinbach: "Lord knows we all have varying ideas of how to illuminate an image with artificial light but there are many of us that use those Nikon gizmahicky Speedlights as our bread and butter.
"I was stomping around your neck of Waukesha with a wedding party this weekend and they wanted to go to House of Guinness for a pint or two (or was it three). Now while it'd be nice to set up a Profoto flash it would be very difficult to hand hold and of course space would be a problem as well. The image of the bride and groom at the bar was shot using a single SB 900 mounted on a Really Right Stuff bracket and turned to camera left bouncing it off the back of an usher's white shirt (he was kind enough to take off his jacket for me and to be my reflector) to give the light direction. To me there is nothing worse than flat light.
"Simple, yes they are simple, and small is just the way I like it."
Featured Comment by Josh Hawkins: "When I used to be an assistant I would have to carry a dozen or more of those Speedo packs anywhere from a hundred feet to a block or two and potentially walk them up three floors, two at time. Great reliable packs, heavy as all get out, and survivable...when you're 20.
"Now I use the occasional monolight, regularly a few Speedlights (once you know how to set them manually they're great, until then less so) and usually just make available light work. Available is the most fun, and lightest, so I'll go with that."