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Friday, March 25, 2011

Lumiquest saves the day!

I went out last Saturday night to photograph the band Sweet Teen Killing Machine at The Globe. It is a fair sized venue that is equal parts restaurant, bar, and lounge. The place has a great vibe, and I was looking forward to the show.

When I got there I noticed an all too familiar phenomenon at smaller venues: the absence of stage lighting. The place itself has fantastic ambiance, however the stage has next to none. I looked around to see if there were any lighting options, but I found none. As I sat there thinking about cranking up my cameras ISO to 3200 and seeing what I could get from it, I had an idea. I went to the band and asked if they had any problems with me adding a bit of light into their show. The told me that I could have at it, so I did.

I was very happy that I brought my full kit with three flashes and my new Lumiquest FX and FXtra gels packs. This was going to be fun. I have had these for a few days and I was looking for the perfect place to give them a run.. This was definitely it. The Fx is a gel holder for your flash. It comes with five colored gels that you simply slid into the holder when it is placed onto your flash.

The Fxtra is a smaller version of the FX, and it comes with a few more color correcting gels. Both of these products are small and can easily fit into any kit along with a couple UltrStraps to mount them onto your flashes.

I set up two of my flashes on stage flanking the drummers kick drum, facing up and out at a 45 degree angle from the stage. I could get some serious silhouettes from the band this way. One flash was a Nikon sb900 that I had the FX on with a green gel, and the other was a Nikon sb600 with the FXtra on it with a blue gel. I then set up one of my favorite new stands, the Linco 8308 Compact Light Stand. I mounted a Nikon sb600 with an omni bounce on top and put the stand to its full 8' height without any gel.

Now came the hard part: controlling the flashes from a balcony above and to the right of the stage. It was a great location to get shots from, but it made it tricky for changing the output of the flashes. I turned to the Nikon su800 for triggering and control, and I am so happy that I did. There were a few times that the IR signal could not bounce around the walls with enough power to still make it to the flashes. This would have been the perfect place for some Radiopoppers. In the end, the Nikon su800 and the Lumiquest FX and FXtra along with their Ultra Straps work together fantastically.

The Lumiquest FX, FXtra and the UltraStrap have found permanent homes in my camera bag. If you have not checked them out you really should.

Monday, March 14, 2011

My weekend of music, mayhem, and murder

Just like the title says, I had a great weekend filled with music, mayhem, and murder. It started out with me shooing the In Repose concert down at the Tiger bar in northwest Portland on Saturday night. Great show! If you missed them you can catch them playing at the Ash St. Saloon on April 2nd. Head on down and see a great live show.

On Sunday it was pretty much a day shoot for the band Sweet Teen Killing Machine. The band is
Scott Chapin - Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Keys Paul Becker - Guitar Cheo Larcombe - Drums Kevin Ellis – Keyboards. Sweet Teen Killing Machine is a recording project dedicated to rock and horror 

I am making a short film, of sorts, to play behind the band at their music video release on Saturday, March 19 · 8:00pm – 11:00pm at The Globe, 2045 Southeast Belmont Street

Release of their new cd and the premiere of the video "City of the Shrieking Dead" Video Premieres @ 9pm accompanied by a "making of"montage and @ 9:30 is the debut performance of Sweet Teen Killing Machine

So, where does one shoot a mini horror movie in Lake Oswego? Why, in the creepiest crawl space I have ever lived above, of course. Our condo is built on the side of a hill, (a volcano, technically) and the crawl space under it goes from about ten feet deep to close to twenty. Just a little bit of light fights its way in through the foundation vents, but that is no where near enough to see by.

Paul from STKM comes by the house, as does Brett from In Repose. Brett makes a fabulous villain on the screen, so I asked him to come over and play crazy man. We were initially going to head out into some wooded areas nearby to get some chase footage first, but just before Brett arrived a huge rain storm hit with super wind and we lost power.

With that much rain it didn't make sense to shoot outdoors. We decided to try and wait it out. Power-less, we headed down into the freaky crawl space to get the horror footage first. What could possible go wrong? There was water streaming into the area from the storm, and lots of cobwebs, but it went great. We had to create enough light to get my cameras to focus in the dark, so thanks to a few Lazer-Brite lights, we got some crazy stuff.

After a healthy dose of Flying Pie Pizza, the power returned and the rain settled. We headed outside to get the last part of the chase scenes, and shot into the night. Now comes the fun part: editing it all down into a twenty plus minute nail biter.

I love my job!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Flora continuous lighting system

The Flora continuous light system is the newest lighting kit from Linco Inc. It offers 2040 watts of 5500k daylight balanced power from a single unit, and can be easily used for both video and still capture.

The Flora has a convenient compact size head that is made of flame retardant nylon. Its off set tilt mound helps keep the over all size of the unit small, and with the large handle on the back of the unit you will have no problems making adjustments.

The light is very simple to set up, with the only time consuming part being screwing in the 6 large 85 watt compact florescent bulbs into the head after installing the soft box. The hexagon shaped soft box is incredibly easy to set up and install. It is built much like an umbrella where all you have to do is pull back on the rear cord and the box opens up and locks into place. Then place it onto the Flora head, tighten down the holding screw, and you are set. There is also an internal mount for an umbrella to add more versatility to the system.

On the back of the Flora you will find two power switches. Each of the switches controls three of the lights so you can cut your power output by half if needed through an on/off/on combination.

The only downside to this unit is the bulbs and transporting them. I ended up keeping the original shipping boxes and using them to pack up and transport the bulbs to the studio, and then to another location. It would be fantastic to have a bulb carrier to go along with these lights with some kind of foam in bag. I don't think that it would be to difficult to put something together, either, if you find yourself needing to travel with them more frequently. If you're going to be keeping them in a studio the majority of the time, then this will not be an issue at all.

As I mentioned before, these lights are also very good for video work. We took them over to a commercial shoot and used one of the Flora units for lighting an interior. Another option to help dial in your light is to remove some of the bulbs if they are giving too much light output. All in all, there are many lighting options from these units.

One thing I must point out is the stands that came with these lights. The 8308 compact light stand retails for $39.99 from Linco and they are one of the best stands I have ever used. They have a tight foot print when collapsed down, and can extend up to 8'. They have a holding weight of 19.8lbs., and weigh only 4.4lbs each. These stands are are tough and take up less space in your bag than many others.

The Flora lights themselves have the versatility to take care of your lighting needs especially when using modern hybrid cameras that are used for both still and motion capture. I think that these lights will find a very comfortable place living in studio. I might not take these lights out to locations on a regular basis, but these would be my first go to system for all of my video work with out a doubt. I recommend them to anyone who is looking for a light system for both still and motion capture.