Between January 2000 and June 2008 I posted a large number of technique examples taken from my daily work to show how I used light in an era where digital cameras were pretty poor at ISOs over 800 or even 400 in the case of the venerable Kodak DCS520. These days flash is a creative choice rather than a technical necessity but the techniques still stand up.

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I go through periods in my work where I prefer using umbrellas for their ease and speed of use and their adaptability. At other times I prefer soft boxes because the quality of the light is marginally better and because they just look more modern to the people you are photographing. I have seen these hybrids before, but I have never managed to get my hands on one for a proper test. The Lastolite Umbrella Box comes in a variety of sizes, but I have the 90cm one with a slim shaft and I spent most of 200 October shooting with it. The spread of the light is surprisingly good (as shown by the right hand image) and the quality of the light that it puts out is excellent. The overall effect is very similar to a shoot through umbrella, but without the loss of light that using one often entails.

I have been very pleased with a lot of things about this box.

  • The weight of the box is taken by the stand, which is very useful when you use relatively small flash heads.
  • It's usually quick to set up.
  • It looks different to most umbrellas that my subjects are used to seeing.
  • It has a very low light loss which means that I can either use higher apertures or keep the pack turned right down and get faster recycling.
  • The price is very competitive, about 10% more than an umbrella and a lot less than half the price of a softbox.

There are a few downsides though:

  • The umbrella ribs became slightly buckled in high winds
  • The points where the umbrella frame attaches to the box itself keep coming apart, slowing down the use of the box.
  • The whole thing is relatively bulky in it's case.

I like the quality of the light, and I love the speed at which I can set it up. I spoke to the distributors about the buckled frame and they have shown themselves to be a professional outfit by offering to supply spare parts quickly and very reasonably.

I have to admit that I get bored with equipment. Not just for the sake of getting new stuff but so that I can try new things and evolve my style as a photographer. Whilst waiting for the latest version of the EOS1D to arrive, I decided to create my own "custom" version of the Lumedyne head.

Before I went over to battery power, I was a lover of the Elinchrom flash system. The equipment was always well built and easy to use and the various light modifiers fitted onto it really well. I found an old Chimera softbox with an Elinchrom speed ring attached to it and so I hit on the idea of adapting an old Lumedyne "classic" head to take Elinchrom accessories.

The first step was to "acquire" an old Elinchrom mono bloc flash head and so I went to The Flash Centre to see what I could buy. They had a couple of dead units that were beyond repair and so I ended up buying the casing from an old Elinchrom 50 head. These casings are a lot longer than I needed so I went out into the garage and cut it down to the shortest length possible.

The top view shows the side of the new unit with a "spill kill" reflector fitted. The casing is about half of it's original length, having been shortened as far it could be. The next step was to find a way of fitting the Lumedyne Classic head inside the casing and I went for the simplest route of using a couple of the screws from the Lumedyne to hold it behind the the back of the Elinchrom reflector that I had filed out by a few millimeters. This was to allow the Lumedyne flash tube through the hole designed for the Elinchrom modeling lamp.

With all of this done, and the casing reassembled it was time to test my new Frankenstein flash. I have been using it almost every day since and several of the images on the portraits slideshow aswell as most of the later technique samples were shot using this new head with the 24" x 36" Chimera soft box. I think that it works well, and I'm planning a second head as soon as somebody's Elinchrom gives up and I can get another casing!

The bottom picture shows a three quarter view without the spill kill reflector and with the Lumedyne flash tube sticking through the front of the casing.

 


 
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