Category Archives: Equipment

Focus On Imaging

Made the annual pilgrimage to the NEC last Sunday.  Very quiet:  there was no queue on he M42, no queue to get into the car park either, and room to actually walk between the stands.  Quite a few big names missing.  Jacobs of course, who went to the wall last year.  Some new faces including Hasselblad and many familiar faces.  Was good to see Garry Edwardes on the Lencarta stand and their amazing new SF300 and SF600 high-speed IGBT based lights (basically big mains powered speedlights) with mind boggling 0.8 second recycle times at full power, and 1/20,000th of a second flash duration at minimum power on the SF300.  I’ll be buying one of those as soon as they come into stock in the next few weeks.

Frank Doorhof was on The Flash Centre stand demonstrating his approach to lighting and getting some amazing pictures with Maisy.  Here he is, having just blown Maisy away with the new point-and-destroy feature on the Sony Alpha 99…..



It as great to talk to Frank after the show – I learnt the basics of how to light and meter from Frank’s videos on Kelby Training.

Did a bit of shopping:  bought a Lumiquest LTP softbox.  I like the Lumiquest design as it folds flat in seconds and fits in my camera bag.  I have also ordered a similar looking one from Hong Kong via eBay for £4.65 inc postage.  It’s rude not to at that price and I’m curious to see how they stack up as the Lumiquest one is £45.  Also bought a 1.2m Octobox from Bessel – with a difference.  I’ve already got a 1.2m Octa, however it takes a twenty minute wrestling match to put it up.  This new one, opens like an umbrella, and took me less than 2 minutes to construct, and 40 seconds to take down again, including attaching both diffusers and the grid.  Marvelous.  added to my clamp collection whilst at Bessel as well – can never have enough speedlight clamps, poles, and other light holding gear.

Nikon D800 – Devourer of storage…

I have now pressed the button on my D800E around 7500 times, and this is eating storage at an alarming rate.  Each NEF (raw) file with lossless compression (ie compression that does not lose any data as opposed to fractal compression algorithms like jpeg) weighs in at 40MB.  So every 25 shots is a Gigabyte.  The original 1TB drive inside my Dell XPS 8500 was fast filling up, and my old  500GB backup disk is now full.  I’ve also started using Photoshop more which means I save a .tiff file – at 600MB+ a time with layers intact, or 150MB flattened – more often than I used to. Continue reading

Hoops, poles and portable lights


I visited the opening party for Body Couture studios in Congleton last weekend.  It’s a fantastic Georgian building with a great gallery staircase, small studio rooms and some other rooms with attractive furniture, and big windows.  One of the studio rooms is equipped with 4 poles and a hoop.  The studio is owned and operated by Becky Hampson, a successful model, and pole fitness instructor.

I had no idea what to expect from this event other than to meet people.  At the last minute I threw a speedlight and a 24″ soft-box and stand into the car.

The event was packed with photographers, models, and makeup generating a great busy atmosphere.  Whilst the studio has some basic lights, and people were shooting, the outcomes were likely to be on the basic side.  Chris and I started shooting models on the hoop – using an SB-900, zoomed out to 17mm with the diffuser attached, and  inside the 24″ soft box.  The room is quite small, and there were a couple of other people in it so we struggled to get distance both for the light and the camera.  So I decided to stick to some tighter shots, minimising the background.

At 1/250th, ISO 100 and f/5.6  on the D800E the room was black and ready for light.  Chris was wielding the light handheld – the only way to go when your model is moving around, hanging upside down and rotating on a hoop suspended from a floor joist in the ceiling.  After a few shots we swapped roles and I played “chase the face” with the light for Chris as Belle, a dancer and part time model, moved from pose to pose.


Using iTTL to control the light from the camera was perfect for this ever changing shot – we could move the light, feather it, move it further away, closer in and iTTL sorted the exposure every time.  Later on, we worked with Stacey (left) and the one-

light in a soft-box (here to camera right, angled slightly downwards, and more or less side-on) worked well.  Chris varied the dtsiance of the light until we got a nice rotation from light to shadow.  I would have killed for a 2nd light to add some accent to Stacey’s hair, however we had just one light – and I like the simplicity of this shot.  The quality of the light was quite soft too, for a relatively small source compared to big studio octa-banks.

We also used the same technique to light some shots at the top of the stairs with Ellie.  Not the last word in lighting, however better than just the ambient which had the models in shadow against a lit background.

I had a fantastic time, met a load of talented people and even made a few simple images  The studio is a little on the small side however if you’re looking for something with a bit more atmosphere than seamless paper, Becky’s new studio venture is worth a look.










Forget the beauty dish – meet the Pie Dish


I was quite taken with those trick Elinchrom deep octaboxes with the swappable reflector dishes for producing a crisp but even light with the diffusers removed.  However all my lights have Bowens S fitments.  I could buy a converter and mount the deep octa on my S fit lights however I thought I’d try a DIY version first.  So behold the Pie Dish.  My 1.2 metre white octa with a take-away dish suspended on four pipe-cleaners in front of the flash bulb.  The pipe cleaners are inserted into four of the strut loops on the octabox.


My equipment journey

Digital dawn

First of all, before I get into why I have this or that bit of kit, note that none of this involves chemical film.  Negative print film still has bags more resolution than digital, and handles highlights better.  However, I would never have taken up photography if you still had to send away rolls of exposed chemical film.  By the time I’d have seen the results, I’d have forgotten what I was trying to achieve, or what I did to take the shot (and hence what I probably messed up).  The instant feedback of a digital camera allowed me to see very quickly the difference between several shots, all of the same scene, but done with different light, aperture, focus etc.  Yes I know some film cameras record a sort of EXIF equivalent that you could match up with each frame later, but even so.  Now I know a bit about how to expose and focus an image, I could put up with the wait, however, as this isn’t a full time occupation for me, and I don’t need bags of resolution (nobody does to be honest – you don’t look at an A0 print from 10 inches away) and time is more limited now than ever, I still can’t see me taking up a film camera any time soon.

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