Feb 28, 2011

Ah-ha moments, Vol. 1


Once, after doing amateur stand-up, I was approached by a good friend who said, "Oh man. It takes real guts to go up there and do that." I smiled and said something like, "You get used to it. It's actually pretty fun."

It occurred to me much later that this is not something you would say to a comedian who, you know, killed. It's like someone looking at your portfolio and saying, "Wow. It must be scary at times, knowing that you're living hand-to-mouth on your photography."

Feb 23, 2011

Poor-man's Octa?


Like all part-time photogs, I secretly pine for an Octabank. I understand it's a common ailment; especially for those who are prone to gear-envy.

But cheap, they ain't. As Zack Arias put it, "It takes octa-hundred dollars out of your bank."

But, that's what the pros use, so buying one makes you a pro... so long as you have an 85mm f/1.4 and a khaki photo vest.

Truth is, I just wanted something big and efficient, that would give me huge wrapping light up close, and a reasonably consistent source for shooting small groups. I also wanted portable and cheapish, without hauling a gallon of Behr Ultra Pure 1050 everywhere I go.

So here's what I tried last night... a collapsible background as a light source.


4 out of 5 wives prefer available light.

Nothing ground-breaking... not terribly novel. Just a big, white 4'x5' source, without resorting to bedsheets. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Plus, I already own it.

Most confusing catch-light of the year.

So... a couple of light-stands, a couple of SB's, and you basically have a 20 square-foot softbox—which beats my next biggest softbox by a factor of 5; limited in power only by the number of flashes you can clamp up there.

Is it an Octa? Ah, no. But it's portable, versatile and already in my kit. The set-up shown above needs some fine-tuning—check out those hot spots!—but it seems to be a nice option for location shooting... especially if you aren't privy to white walls, bounce-goats or a Bravia's worth of hard cash.

Verdict: even if I didn't use the collapsible all the time (mostly the gray side) I would probably be tempted to buy one just as a simple reflector.  

Caveat: I'm pretty sure you could kiss this thing goodbye if you used it outside. You'd need $800 in sand bags just to save the light-stand.