So, for this project I use whatever light happens to be coincidental with my location of the moment. The exception to that was the Fragments side-project. I will probably continue to do the same thing but I do make other stuff as well. Mostly stuff for other people but there has been more than one occasion I wish I had a light or two with me. In fact on one occasion I did have a speedlight, a stand, and one of those 3-way convertible umbrellas.
Too bad my frustration within sixty seconds caused me to ditch the whole mess. I am not a patient person. Maybe I'm spoiled from years of really nice studio gear, powerful lights, consistent color, good grip, modifiers that fit properly and were easy to position precisely, etc, etc. Of course when I worked on locations I had lots of help carrying shit around and a budget for extra baggage, etc.
Fast forward. After a ton of research, a tiny bit of playing around, and lots of conversations with people that actually use and travel with portable systems I settled on the Elinchrom ELB 400 and Quadra heads. Balancing your specific tolerances for travel-ability with features, power, modifiers you will likely take with now, and later, all of it is tricky business.
Why not speedlights?
I really do hate speedlights. Sure I can make them work but honestly I don't like the fiddly-ness of all of the associated grip, the 42 adaptors that all seem very rickety, etc. Oh, and they really are not that powerful and very prone to failure/breakage.
- Color, the color is all over the map depending on power. What a chore if you do color. I do and I rather have some sort of consistency even if it's not perfect. I tested the BLN400 with the Pro heads and it seems like it's within 100-150 Kelvin throughout the entire power range.
- Power, speedlights are puny and they blow thru AA batteries like nothing else with slow recycle times. The BLN is like 425 W/s and based on my tests with some large modifiers are night and day compared to speedlights.
- Everything just works. Even the triggers are nice and solid. I've already broken one Cactus V6 trigger. Complete crap. Speaking of crap. The corresponding Cactus speedlight with built-in receiver chews up batteries even when it's turned off. How special.
- Oh, and modelling lights. I love hard light or semi-hard light like beauty dishes and when using these kinds of things continuous modeling lights really help make every frame count. Looking at it the other way, you can SEE when to make the picture in even slightly dynamic setups.
I could go on and on and on. My tolerance level is very low when it comes to crappy equipment that's fiddly. Also one of the things that I really like is that I can run the packs while charging if there's power available. This is a big deal given how much indoor and outdoor and strange location stuff I do when I travel. A BIG DEAL.
Then there are the modifiers. I really like the Elinchrom boxes and other very cool features that setup easily and solidly. The boxes, all of them, are very light and very durable relatively speaking. When you fist pick them up they feel too light but that's great for grip and the ones I've had lasted longer than my Chimera stuff. Hell, I bought adaptors to use Elinchrom boxes on my really heavy Profoto stuff. There are very few of the Elinchrom boxes I would hesitate to bring with me on a train or a plane which is great when you are on a zero budget personal trip and are planning on doing location work.
Just as an aside let's talk about beauty dishes and the like. There's no way I'm traveling with a 22" dish. Not a chance in hell. Elinchrom has a very cool set of modifiers that require no whacky work-arounds to setup.
These things are what Elinchrom calls deflectors and can have a subtle to dramatic effect on every single other modifier that they make. They fit into the center of every Elinchrom light, including the Quadra heads and block the bare flash tube to varying degrees. Let's take just one example of how I am going to use them. As a travel friendly beauty dish. Just so happens they make a tiny little 22" Octa porta-lite that folds to about 6" square and flat. Weight is nothing.
What follows are a few pictures I just made of stupid crap using that 22" Octa about 3 feet away to camera right with the bottom placed level with the shirt.
Above is the semi-clear deflector. It's so subtly different than no deflector in the small box I won't bother showing no deflector as that can be seen above in the color illustration.
Above is the translucent white deflector.
Above is the completely opaque silver deflector. All of these are without the front Octa box diffusion panel. You can use these with or without that panel to fine tune the look even more. I'll probably end up using it like the above most of the time. Wow a 22" beauty dish that folds flat and is 6" x 6" very cool.
Made on the fly while testing out my new toys with the Fuji XT-1. Processing via Lightroom CC and some random preset of my own both for the color and black + white. Seriously though, shoot me an email if you want some like new speedlight gear. I'm done with it.