Todays Tech Tuesday is all about lighting.

Let me start by saying that there are some travel photographers that won’t go near artificial lighting – I am not one of those.  I’m not discriminating between those who use artificial light and those who don’t.  I don’t really draw a strong distinction between the two, other than to say I love natural light just as much as I love lighting setups in many ways – it just happens to be the lighting setups that get my blood rushing and make me excited about being a photographer.  If you are one of the strictly natural light guys, no worries – unfortunately you might not get much out of this post other than maybe some information you can store away for when you do pick up a strobe,.

Moving on…

Over the last month I’ve been asked several times about what lighting setups I use while I’m on the field.

Here is my typical field setup.

Just a quick list of what you see above

  1. 2x Westcott 43″ convertible umbrellas (here)
  2. 2x multiclamps w/ shoe mounts (here)
  3. 2x Nikon sb-24’s (here)
  4. 2x Manfrotto Nano Portable light stands (here)
  5. 1x Paul C. Buff CyberSync Trigger Controller (here)
  6. 2x Paul C. Buff CyberSync Trigger Receiver (here)
  7. 1/8th gridspot (here)
  8. Lightsphere, rechargeable batteries, red bungie things, tape

The real beauty of this setup is in the fact that it takes up very little space in my bag and it was super cheap compared to most setups.  I’ve taken this exact setup all over SE Asia without thinking twice.  If you’re setup is too big or you have the mental conversation about “should I take it or not” , you probably wont take it, and in my opinion, the setup is too big for you to easily get out, set up, and capture a killer shot if the situation arises.  Food for thought:  It took me less than 3 minutes to get this shot from having nothing setup – here’s what I got. The setup can be seen here.

A closer look after the break…

1. 2x Westcott 43″ convertible umbrellas

First, this is no octabank, softbox, or even a large light modifier.  You aren’t going to get that super super soft and flattering light from these little guys, but hey, we are going for transportability and the 43″ seems to be the middle road between quality and size – and honestly, the qualities really not that bad.  These pack down very small and will fit in any decent sized camera bag and will even fit into some satchels.  One thing about the convertibles – you will noticed I’ve gotten rid of the cover that makes it into a bounce umbrella.  Why?  I lost them on the field.  I prefer the shoot through because it’s one less thing to put on, forget, or break – remember, the ability to get this thing setup asap is going to play a lot into being able to pull of these kinds of shots on the field.

2.  2x multiclamps w/ shoe mounts

You just have to have these.  This is actually maybe the most awkward part of the setup as far as packing goes.  The reason for that lies in the fact that these material used on these is small but because of the levers it actually ends up taking a bit of space and being just bulky.  Nonetheless, you have to have these unless you plan on taping the light to the stand – which is not advised.

3. 2x Nikon sb-24’s – The actual flashes

I already know what a few of you are thinking – “Why is he using those old flashes?!”  Lot’s of reasons.  Firstly, I paid $80 USD for these killer flashes just over a year ago.  They get awesome reviews.  They are cheap, strong as a rock, easy to rebuild, have easily accessible pc sync port(s) and are incredibly easy to use.  Plus, they have been around forever  The full manual controls force someone who is just starting off to learn their flash rules rather than just relying on iTTL right out of the gate – which is important.  Plus my buddy Zack would kill me.  Most of all, if I break both of them in one day, I’m out $200 USD rather than breaking one sb0-900 that would cost me over twice as much.  Simplicity is key here. **the sb-24’s are actually difficult to find now, thanks to The Strobist blog review – your best bet is second hand through Adorama or B&H

4. 2x Manfrotto Nano Portable light stands

I can’t give these stands enough praise.  They are light and tough as nails.  I’ve had these stepped on, trampled by yaks, and consistently thrown around and they have taken the beating w/o any problems at all.  A drawback is that these will definitely have to be held up in any sort of wind and their max height is about 1.9 meters.  I can get it to around 2.2 meters, but it’s pretty unstable at that point.  Nonetheless, these things are amazing for what they do and how easy they are to transport and setup.  Manfrotto knows what’s going on and they made an incredible light stand for travelling photographers.

5.  Paul C. Buff CyberSync Triggers and Controllers

I’m going to cover the Paul C. Buff products together.  Let me start on this one by saying that there are just about a billion triggers and controller systems out there – I’m not saying these are the best by any stretch of the imagination.  However, I knowingly chose the CyberSyncs for a few reasons.  Anyone familiar with Paul C. Buff products can vouch for their exceptional customer service.  In short, I needed a company that wouldn’t give me fits about replacing something (most of the time for free) and shipping it overseas.  In addition, these things are cheap, small, and incredibly reliable.  For the price of one Pocket Wizard item (receiver or transmitter) you could buy an entire remote setup from good ol’ Paul C.  Granted Pocket Wizards are truly awesome, it would be hard to justify taking them where I go and replacing them would put a serious dent in my budget.

6.  1/8th gridspot

This product is a nice little gridspot with velcro that you can attach to the head of your strobe.  Small, light, made of plastic so it won’t break.  Great to have in the bag and one that goes with me just about everywhere.  If you aren’t familiar with why you should have a gridspot, check out these links:

7.  Fong Dong, tape, rechargeable batteries, bungies, etc

  • Gary Fong Light Sphere – Everyone is probably familiar with the Fong Dong – creates beautiful soft light from an on camera flash (here)
  • Tape – Always gotta have it.  That’s all.
  • Batteries – I take tons of Chinese batteries along with me, but these seem to actually last longer.  Pretty generic.
  • Bungee cords – These rock.  I use them to attach just about everything to just about everything else (here)

I hope that helps answer some of the questions that have been coming in lately.  I took just a few reference shots for you guys – they are all listed below.  Basically all my lit work is with a similar setup, so you can see the versatility that comes with it – not all of these are “travel photog” shots – but you get the point.  The great thing about this is that it’s light, fast, and cheap.