New Directions–Gear to Fit

Let’s face it – most of us in this space a gear junkies to a certain degree.  I probably have way more cameras than I could possibly use let alone things like studio gear, flashes and accessories.  BUT, in saying that, in order to shift with direction changes or addressing some new markets to ply my “trade”, one needs to ramp up too.  I’ll explain a bit.

In my “real life”, I’m an unemployed Sr. Business Analyst in IT.   For a while now, I’ve been looking at photography as an alternate area.  Yeah yeah – I know – this could be a tough haul.  I know that, but at the same time…..  Indicators are there with the research I’m doing.  There are opportunities out there.

From the camera and lens side of things, I’m at a point where I “think” I’m in good shape to tackle everything upcoming.  Lighting or getting more of it is where I’ve been targeting my efforts recently.

When I’m doing close up work (flowers, plants mostly), I use flash where necessary.  Everything from fill flash to High Speed Sync to multiple units including continuous lighting.  For portraits, I use strobes.  Event work is mostly with flash and my LIghtSphere.  My primary flash is the Nikon SB700, with a Yongnuo as my backup.  For the most part, this works fine.  For a lot of my work in stills, I do use either a remote release whether it be Nikon’s infrared one or their cable release.  I also will use a radio trigger release depending on mobility requirements.  And then… I recently some stuff where the SB700 simply didn’t have the “oomph” I needed to light things up the way I wanted.  Sooo…. the hunt began.  My first thought was the Nikon SB900.  This would allow me to stay inside Nikon’s Creative Lighting System.  That was the first thought Smile  BUT… when I started to look at it closer, I thought there might be other options.  That option ended up being a StrobePro X360 Bare Bulb Unit tied in with a set of radio triggers capable of High Speed Sync. This was a bit of a tough call in it’s own right.

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Ok – this unit puts out at 300 Watt Seconds for starters. That’s strobe territory!!!  It does have a battery pack.  It’s got a lot of pieces, though keeping it partially assembled gets around that.  This is also quite a big unit.  Think SB910 but with a battery pack attacked.  The battery pack will allow me to go over 900 shots on a charge).  Now in thinking about that, I won’t be using it anywhere close to that in real life, but what I was after was power AND mobility.  What this now allows me to do, is increase WHAT I can do.  The tough call part…….

For  a little bit more, I could have got the new StrobePro LED strobe that just came out – it’s a battery powered LED strobe/600 WS  and in reality, easier to set up.  The deal breaker for me was two fold.  I didn’t want another strobe at this point and more important – I would literally have to haul more gear with me.  It’s not that I won’t get it – I can see needing one at some point.  Just not now.  Also for what I wanted to do, I would still need to add the HSS radio triggers anyway.  The X360 plus triggers actually cost less than the base strobe. More important – portability.  I can attach this to my D7200 (though I do have a bracket as well) if I need to.  If I used a strobe, that mobility would be lost.  THAT was real deal breaker.  At this point anyway, I wanted the most flexibility for the price.  Horsepower, mobility and High Speed Synch.  Set up time was a compromise I would have to sacrifice.

Now about bare bulb units.  These aren’t for everyone.  Not cheap by any stretch but if one needs sheer horsepower in a smaller unit – these are definitely a consideration.  Sure there were others out there that were smaller and single unit, but nothing close performance wise.  The X360 comes with a reflector and diffuser.  My initial tests were done with the diffuser and to me, it’s amazing!!!  Even with the diffuser on it, this thing puts out!!!  My most powerful studio strobe is 250 W/S and for most things I do with portraits, I’ve got these dialled down.   From the mobility part  – a battery powered strobe would ALWAYS require a stand.  The flash wouldn’t – I could attach it to my camera or even a bracket if needed that way.  Ideally, I wanted to be able to use this on a stand.  Did I need more accessories around this?  Yes.  A couple of things.

As I mentioned before, I added some radio triggers.  Go figure – I already have radio triggers for my strobes, but they don’t support High Speed Synch.  That’s OK – my strobes aren’t set up for that anyway Smile  When I started to experiment with High Speed Synch, I was working inside Nikon’s Creative Lighting System (CLS).  In reality, this is a REALLY neat thing if you can incorporate into your photography.  I do Smile  When I was looking to get the bare bulb unit, HSS was definitely a consideration.  With the extra power that the bare bulb unit has, it’ll increase my capability to do other things in this space.  I have ideas……. Smile  This was also a consideration when it came down to choosing a higher powered flash – an SB910 or the StrobePro X360. 

Before I continue on…. a comment about power in lighting units.  It’s interesting how your perspective changes over time.  For instance, with my strobes and existing flash units, what I had currently is more than adequate for everything I was doing at the time.  THEN, I started to work in a few new spaces – product displays and still life work. It was then I decided to start changing things up a bit.  The thinking went along these lines….

When you are taking photos for yourself or even for competition, things like setup time takes a back seat.  By that, I mean, we are striving for “that shot”, and so we’ll go literally go to extremes to get the setup correct.   As we become more and more advanced, lighting becomes a little more complex depending on the session involved.  I like to work on the principle of keeping things as simple as possible.  That doesn’t mean I won’t go to a more complex configuration, I will, but then again, I’m constantly striving for a certain look to my photos – part of my “brand” if you want to call it that.  Part of the close up work I do (a lot with plants), involved experimenting with different lighting configurations.  My most sophisticated one for close ups was on a plant, an Amaryllis, where I used window light, a couple of LED lights and electronic flash to create the shot I wanted.  Over the last few months, I had been incorporating more and more continuous lighting into my close up photos.  Again, this was in specific instances.  At the same time, I was also watching what was happening in LED technology.  It was advancing and I started to work with more and more with LED studio lighting.   I had acquired a StrobePro L308 and a Neewer one for “testing” purposes and then, I had to do a larger type of shoot.  I was able to get by with strobes, but I had to take more than a few shots to get the lighting how I wanted it.  I decided that I wanted to get a little more efficient in doing this sort of things, seeing as this was an area I would be spending more time in.  That prompted a hunt that resulted in a StrobePro L1500, a 1500 watt LED studio light.    I went to StrobePro to check it out and play with it and then decided to buy it.  This is actually my first “pro level” light and WOW is all I can say.  That totally changed how I look at product work!!! 

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In the big picture, my existing camera bodies and lenses are more than adequate for what I’m planning to do.  The big puzzle now is the future adventures as I book more gigs.   Onward.

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About gkamitomo
IT Busines Analyst

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