Thursday, April 02, 2009

A Walk Around the Monobloc, Pt. 2


Last time, we took a look at the control panel of a typical monobloc flash. And while they may have looked intimidating to some of you, in the end they really weren't that different from speedlights. This time we'll concentrate on the business end, where extra power is only one of the important differences between the two.
__________


Bigger, in More Ways Than One

Granted, the monos are more powerful than speedlights. Bigger capacitors, more juice --and exact same principle.

But more important than that for light quality is the difference in their physical size, which is easy to see in the comparison above. (Click the pic for bigger in a new window.)

The monobloc and the speedlight are both shown in a typical configuration -- flash tube inside a standard reflector. You really can't see the flash tube in the speedlight, but it is in there. It is the tiny center in a relatively big reflector. And by moving that tune/reflector assembly closer or further away from the fresnel lens in front, you can "zoom" the flash's beam, too.

But no matter how much you zoom it, you have a total of about three square inches of lighting area. That's gonna give you a hard light unless you modify it, which in turn is gonna cost you some f/stops in light output.

Looking at the monobloc, with its standard, 7-inch reflector, my pie-are-square math days tell me I have over 38 effective square inches of light source, or at least ten times that of the speedlight.

From a distance, they are both hard lights. But up close, the speedlight stays hard and the monobloc starts to take the hardness edge off a little bit. Now that I think about it, that is one reason I love the LumiQuest SB-III in close.

In surface area the SB-III starts to approximate the size of a standard reflector on a big light. And any lost power is not an issue, because you are typically in close. It's a way to make a speedlight not have that signature hard speedlight look.

So, in addition to being more powerful, the monos are physically bigger light sources, which can really come into play when you are in tight. And that difference carries over to any light mods which do not increase the size of the source, such as grids.

A gridded speedlight and a gridded mono are basically the same tightened beam, but look very different due to the relative sizes of the sources.



Now, lets remove that reflector and look at the business end nekkid. Removing a reflector is very easy to do with most monos, and part of their system-oriented flexibility. So, what do we have now?

We have a bare-bulb flash, in this case with the tube being hidden from view (but not effectiveness) behind that translucent honker of a modeling light. And all of the light's power is intact.


Bare Bulb on a Speedlight

You can approximate this look with a Stofen, a plastic bowl or a (*cough*) $100 piece of Tupperware (must... restrain... self...) and they all do the same thing -- get that light going in all directions at once.

They don't make the light softer or magical, no matter what kind of "merry song" is sung to you to get you to buy the $100 Tupperware. The softness happens because that light can go out in all directions and bounce/fill off of walls and ceilings. Which means that anyone using said premium Tupperware outside had better have some low altitude clouds to get any benefit.

I'm just sayin'.

The beauty of bare bulb is in its full angular coverage. There is no magic, unless you count the part where your wallet can disappear if you are not careful and spend $100 on Tupperware.

But with a speedlight if you stick your StoFen (or hot-n-sour soup container or rubbing alcohol bottle or insanely overpriced Tupperware bowl) on the flash to diffuse and disperse that light into all directions, it costs you some serious f/stops. Not so much with the already more powerful monobloc, as that bare-bulb architecture is built right in.

But I can zoom my speedlights, right? Yes! Speedlights for the win!

Yeah, well, you can buy telescopic reflectors for your monos, too. These are usually highly polished and can get very expensive. But the capability is there and you can really amp already powerful monos with a polished tele reflector.

In the end, monos will offer you power, flexibility a fast shoot/recycle times. You will be able to back them up a good distance and still have them be very useful. You can overpower the sun. You can light large objects in decent ambient light levels without fear.


So, What's Not to Like?

What they cost you is money, space, pounds and an attachment to AC power if you want to get full use of the modeling lights. So they are no more of a no brainer than are speedlights -- just a different solution to a different set of problems.

But if you are speedlight-based, you may well consider picking up a mono as a "big gun" to work along with your speedlights. When you need more light, it tends to be needed in one place. Think sun-overpowering key, or a whole-room bounce fill.

I currently am re-evaluating my monobloc system and potentially pulling out the wallet to do some damage. I will be working through that later, but wanted to make sure there was a basic familiarity with monoblocs in general before we got into that.

Hopefully, now there is. If there are still Q's in your mind, hit us in the comments and we will do out best to answer them.


__________

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74 Comments:

Blogger captaindash said...

I'd love it if you could talk a little bit about monobock power ratings vs each other and speedlights so we can compare light output apples to light output apples. Also, power rating vs light output for monoblocs vs pack/head cuz I hear one gives more light off than the other for a given amount of w/s. Thanks for keeping my homepage exciting and informative.

April 02, 2009 3:14 PM  
Blogger Andy M said...

Another terrific piece, I really like your pragmatic approach (with full details) when comparing flashes to monolights usage and pointing out the loss of f-stops in trying to compensate the area covered and the quality of light when using flashes with modifiers.

And the icing on the cake: you just made one certain wedding photog look very foolish. :)

April 02, 2009 3:18 PM  
Blogger Archilles said...

Are you going to wait for the announcement of the Einstein ( http://www.paulcbuff.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=6164 ) before making any purchasing decisions?

They sound really interesting.

April 02, 2009 3:43 PM  
Blogger jimm said...

Thanks David, I have been eating beans and rice trying to save for a used WL on ebay, now the prices are thru the roof, could you do a strobist article on my stocks and retirement account? If only I would have taken the before and after shots of my weight loss I could have sold them to Jenny.
Could you follow up with a tutorial on overpowing the sun and freezing action like you did in 101?
Thanks
Jim

April 02, 2009 3:49 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 02, 2009 3:56 PM  
Blogger Mark Howells-Mead said...

$100 Tupperware? If you have Ikea stores in the States, you can pick up a close equivalent for less than $10 for a set of 3, with the largest being 12" across...

April 02, 2009 4:00 PM  
Blogger Louise and Nate said...

Hey David,

can you recommend a good mid-range monobloc system? I was looking at the Alienbee Ab800.

April 02, 2009 4:01 PM  
Anonymous David Sr. said...

I am interested to follow your thought process on your "reevaluating" mono's, and what you buy and why.

You know that comment will get a ton of vendors knocking at your door! smart! :)

April 02, 2009 4:10 PM  
Blogger JS said...

David, may I personally congratulate you on your Herculean restraint... both on (cough) Tupperware and on somehow resisting the temptation to out-do last year's April Fools gag.

(Can't be done, by the way.)

April 02, 2009 4:13 PM  
Blogger O'Leary said...

Another bug limiter is the sync speed(no hi-speed), correct?

April 02, 2009 4:22 PM  
Blogger David said...

David Sr.-

Actually, I hope not. I am not angling for free gear at all. And furthermore, I could not accept something like that and have any hope of writing honestly about whatever decisions I would make WRT new monos.

-DH

April 02, 2009 4:23 PM  
Blogger junyo said...

"I'd love it if you could talk a little bit about monobock power ratings vs each other and speedlights so we can compare light output apples to light output apples."

What he said. I just popped for a Adorama Flashpoint II 320 to play with, over the AB400. It might be junk, but it's actually pretty much the same price as a 285HV, so what the heck, as oppsed to twice the money for the AB with not much better paper specs. The much loved AB400's actually only put out something like 160WS, only slightly more than the Flashpoints @ 150WS. Yet Ab is claiming 400 effective watt seconds. Really? C'mon, really? 2x the power and change? And every time you ask for a comparative value, people basically say "well you can't really compare WS to WS and you can't reallyconvert GN to WS". Well that just makes ws a darn near useless measure, doesn't it?

April 02, 2009 5:18 PM  
Blogger bill said...

I was wondering if there is a Strobist like site or blog for video/motion stuff?
thanks for the help.

April 02, 2009 5:25 PM  
Anonymous BiologistSteve said...

I love my taking my big strobes out into the "wild." Alienbees rock!!! I use a portable jump-start type of battery pack to power a pure sine wave inverter to power the strobes. So, technically, I'm not tied to an outlet...just to twenty pounds of portable power. It's worth it!

April 02, 2009 5:29 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

@Mark Howells-Mead

Yes, we have Ikea over here. David's reference to $100 Tupperware is about obscenely overpriced bits of plastic marketed by a guy whose name rhymes with Gary Wrong, and similar products from other sources.

(It's not my blog, I don't have to behave myself quite as much.)

April 02, 2009 5:41 PM  
Blogger Arne G said...

Calumet has a nice white label brand of monoblocks called Genisis (elinchrome is the actual manufacturer)

April 02, 2009 5:45 PM  
Anonymous Bill Giles said...

I would like to see a hybrid of the speedlight and the monolight. When using off camera flash, the hot shoe loses meaning and the floppy joint on the speedlight that is necessary on camera is a weak point. I would like to see a battery powered monolight with a zoom head and remote control capabilities similar to the CLS system.

April 02, 2009 6:04 PM  
Anonymous James said...

Hi David,

Are you planning to do a post on portable power for monoblocs?
Personally I'm particularly interested in powering my Bowens 400d's in the field.

April 02, 2009 6:04 PM  
Anonymous Jon Haverstick said...

If I understand correctly, don't speedlights also have a potentially shorter flash duration than monos for more action stoppage?

Jon

April 02, 2009 6:09 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Hmmmm this doesn't really look like tupperware to me.

Or does it? ;)

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/587660-REG/Harbor_Digital_Design_DD_A36_Ultimate_Light_Box_Diffuser.html

April 02, 2009 6:25 PM  
Blogger t0d said...

Mr, hobby, you said:

Actually, I hope not. I am not angling for free gear at all. And furthermore, I could not accept something like that and have any hope of writing honestly about whatever decisions I would make WRT new monos.

-DH

And, while I realize that that comment was not intended for me, might I suggest that if several manufacturers were to loan you lights, to, you know, evaluate...?
You might be able to do your readers a service by fairly evaluating aforementioned several mfgrs. Not that you owe us anything, I've learned exponentially thanks to you (and some readers, too.)
I'm just sayin' ...

April 02, 2009 6:45 PM  
Blogger Dane Doerflinger said...

My name is Dane and I'm a $100 tupperware user. Ok, I said it, now I can move on, (kinda). To my defense I bought this just before finding your site and reading all the DIY ideas. Almost all my light modifiers are now DIY. I still use the $100 plastic bowl as it does do what it's supposed to do and dang it I'm going to get my money worth out of it. I have a cheap set of monoblocs I bought as a kit on ebay a long time ago and have had one of them die. They also are not that powerful, not very durable, and only have a half and full setting. Save up a little more money and DON'T go this route.

April 02, 2009 7:08 PM  
Anonymous Ozine said...

Hey David,

Great post as usual. When I think of a non strobe kind of light thing I think of Neil Turner's Lumedyne. Can you please explain the different ways to modify the light? What's that plastic thing in the middle for example?

Ozine

April 02, 2009 7:35 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

I have a pair of alien bees and haven't had a good chance to use them but I'm going to play with them soon.

One heads up- their light stands are rebranded and marked up.

Westcott/Photobasics.net sells the same thing for $10 less each.

April 02, 2009 7:47 PM  
Anonymous Matt said...

No, but what do you really think about the tupperware?? Owww, what a Zing to Mr Tupperware Inc.

April 02, 2009 8:10 PM  
Blogger i814u2 said...

OT:
I just found these advertised on a buy/sell forum (POTN):
http://www.kaceyenterprises.com/?page_id=447

It's an adapter to use a paint roller extension pole with flash (via the same adapter you'd use for a normal light stand). Pretty interesting, and would be handy for those voice activated light stands we sometimes use.

Also, they are available at home depot, lowes, etc., so use that as an(other) excuse to go there ;)

-Josh

April 02, 2009 8:47 PM  
Blogger Kevin Halliburton said...

There are times I think you are following me around trying to figure out what I'm researching. It seems like every time I'm in the market for a major lighting purchase you are right on top of the info I need at the moment. Ah-pree-shate-cha!

I'm looking for best bang for the buck for outdoor, battery pack or outlet optional, 3 light, small group, frequently changing locations, durable, easy self maintenance kit in the $250/head or less range. You know, the Vivitar 285HV of the studio light variety - A Strobist kit on steroids kind of thing.

Is that something you are going to try and put your finger on or is that a bit too much to ask? :)

April 02, 2009 9:03 PM  
Anonymous Philipp said...

O´Leary: Yes, that is a Problem. I know 2 possible workarounds, though these aren´t suited for everyone and everything.

1) get a Pocketwizard Mini TT1 and adjust the hypersync to your monoblocs. That should push the whole thing by at least one stop, depending on your camera even more.
2) some packs/heads support FP-Sync or so-called strobo. Depending on how it works on the specific flash model, "hi-speed flash" will work to a certain degree. But of course with the usually less powerful output.

But what I would do, is to use the packs´ bigger power. Dont freeze things with the shutter, but with the flash duration. Electricity(or power) is like water: pouring it through a pinhole in the bucket will always take longer than to just turn the whole bucket overhead. The bigger the pack (I work with Bron grafit 6400´s in those rare cases) and the lower the power is set, the shorter the flash will fire. Sometimes even down to 1/16.000th (!) of a second or shorter. Balance that with your ISO/shutter/aperture and ambient and bob´s your uncle, waaaay before sunset. :D

"Flashy" regards from ´ol Europe,
Philipp

April 02, 2009 9:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pie are squared?
Everybody knows, pie are round...cornbread are square.

April 02, 2009 9:19 PM  
Blogger Kevin Halliburton said...

One issue I would really like to see you tackle is the pros and cons of the Radio Popper method of high speed synching a studio strobe. http://radiopopper.com/blog/?p=69

I'm not sure how this works but I'm guessing you are limited to shutter speeds equal to or greater than the discharge rate of your flash at full power. (?) If so, wouldn't this be a case where it's actually advantageous to have the slower discharge rate of some of the cheaper strobes?

April 02, 2009 9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One Thing to consider is the AlienBee's Units, lightweight, powerful, and great bang for buck. The only draw back I've found in my kit is that they aren't too quick in terms of flash duration... the T1 - T5 fall off can be hard in some photos, but they do me well!

April 02, 2009 9:41 PM  
Blogger Zach Gillit said...

What's up with all the hate on Tupperware? lol

April 02, 2009 10:02 PM  
Blogger Jorge said...

Oh My! Very excited to read this. Just decided a few weeks ago to go with a studio strobe kit. My needs are for large spaces and fast action where I often want to completely overpower ambiance with sharpness and deep DOF too! (Aerialist and other circus performers...) And much the same in the studio. Have been working with my hotshoes too and will mix them up for product shots. When I saw this article was happy and holding my breath for two days until payday. Anticipating the buying rush...

My questions are around mix use (setting a hotshoe into product) and used gelled for sculpting...

Thanks So Much For Your Effort!

April 02, 2009 10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this why I'm starting to see so many (flash trees) around now. You can hook up 3 or 4 speedlites and still be able to have the portability and compete with the power of a monobloc?

April 02, 2009 10:50 PM  
Blogger FJG said...

Great intro, thanks David!

Would love to see some basics on portable power for the monos, maybe in segment 3?

April 02, 2009 10:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing I notice that I like about using speedlights vs. the larger "strobes" is that the strobes usually are ironically too powerful when I want to incorporate ambient light (i.e. inside a office or even when I need to do a portrait in a hotel room and I want to use the lamps as ambient.) I am not sure about the packs here, but I am referring to Dynalites. sometimes I just need a little light and the speedlights allow less output. Do you have any experience or suggestions relating to this topic? Thanks!

April 02, 2009 11:47 PM  
Blogger Adrian Henson Photgraphy, Inc. said...

Here's something you need to try before you get too far ahead of yourself. test a vivitar 283 next to an Alien Bee 800 (with reflector), both at full power. Set both the same distance from a wall 10 feet or so apart, and take a pic. Once you get you exposure nailed down I think you might be surprised. The light pattern is a little different but the output is about the same. Don't take my word for thought, just try it.

April 03, 2009 1:49 AM  
Blogger Nathan said...

Yup - some more comments on

"when you try to power the mono's with batteries. More on that later."

would be great. We have the value option of Alien Bee's and the Vagabond II - and then - what other options?

April 03, 2009 2:35 AM  
Anonymous Joe Miller said...

So Adrian,

I set up test with an AB800, an AB1600, a Vivitar 285HV and a Canon 580ExII.

They were each set to full power, and they were 6 feet away from my Sekonic flash meter. Both AB's had the 7 inch reflector.

AB800 read f/16 +8
AB1600 read f/22 +4
285 (at wide) read f/8 +4
285 (at tele) read f/11 +6
580II (at 24mm) read f/8 +7
580II (at 105mm) read f/16 +3

Perhaps tomorrow I'll aim them all at some white seamless, and see what the beam spread looks like at the measured apertures, and at a fixed, say f/22. I'm going to guess up front that the AB's will have a much larger spread for any given aperture reading.

April 03, 2009 3:05 AM  
Blogger Michael Zelbel said...

Hahaha, yes, I fell for the $100 tupperware. However, I still use it every now and then and it fit's perfectly onto my speedlight.

As for the monoblock, I still believe in times where ISO400 is no issue for any serious camera, the big advantage of the studio strobes is the modelling light - not the power.

Cheers, Michael

April 03, 2009 3:57 AM  
Anonymous Jerry said...

maybe it's the country I live in :P but is there an actual difference between a monobloc and a studio light/strobe?

April 03, 2009 4:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the other anon a couple posts up, there are a few ways to go about solving your "too much power" situation. The first is to remember the ambient lights are continuous, so you can just adjust your shutter speed to try and compensate. Or, physically move your strobes away.

Failing that, and I'm assuming that means you can't dial down the power enough, just add a diffuser onto the light. If you have a local camera store, standard gel packs (the full sheet ones, not the sample packs) generally contain at least one frosted diffuser, and generally you can find packages with different varieties to fit what you need the most. Or, as I'm assuming the lights are incandescent, you'll need to color balance your strobe anyways, so adding a CTO gel should cut down the output quite a bit anyways. Hope that helps.

April 03, 2009 4:36 AM  
Blogger Wesley Hort said...

For a quick & portable light setup I use a speedlight on a stand with brolly etc. For when I need that extra juice, I use the lumedyne kit. Still very portable, battery powered and fits into a large'ish camera bag.

The quality of light is superb and you can run two head's off one power pack, so I may bounce one around for fill and use the other with reflective brolly or softbox for a key light.

April 03, 2009 5:59 AM  
Blogger mhakola said...

Thanks for mentioning the tupperware-outside-thing. That's always been one of my biggest pet-peeves. And yes, I've shot with many a photoJ who does it too. (Mostly 'cause they've got the damn thing gaffered on!)

April 03, 2009 8:34 AM  
Blogger BrownTone said...

Where I find monoblocs and pack + head combos pull ahead of portable flash is when it comes to using light modifiers. I'm talking about more than just an umbrella or a snoot. I mean large softboxes, grid spots, beauty dishes and the like. Even though it's possible to jury-rig an approximation of these for portable flash, the integrity of the connection between flash and modifier is often shaky. And because there's still no modeling light, you just don't get the same degree of control and finesse with portable flash that you would with an AC-powered unit.

Keep in mind: I'm not arguing that one type of flash is "better" than another, only that there are good reasons for using one type over another.

April 03, 2009 9:16 AM  
Anonymous Russ M. said...

Mr. Hobby,

My wife is in the PR industry, so I hear a lot about how it all works. It is standard for companies to loan items to folks to evaluate w/o expectation of a good or bad review. An honest review on a blog like yours is worth more than they will spend in advertising. They would be happy to loan equipment free of strings on the chance you will give an honest review. We all benefit from your review of many models, and you return all the gear so no conflict of interest--you receive no compensation (real or implied).

Russ M.

April 03, 2009 10:14 AM  
Blogger Matthew G. Monroe said...

Tupperware? Heck, I just use barf bags. They work great...

Really.

A picture of my barf light can be seen here.

BTW -- David -- Thanks for the great article(s) on monoblocs. Myself, I'm not using the big lights a whole lot these days, though it's always good to have a reminder that they are out they and that they have certain advantages/disadvantages over the smaller lighting set-ups.

Matt

April 03, 2009 10:15 AM  
Blogger David said...

Russ-

Yeah, I hear you, but I am not wanting to become a review site. There are already, like, five gazillion photo gear review sites on the net, and I would rather be about a lighting conversation that reviewing every new piece of gear.

-DH

April 03, 2009 10:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another thing to remember: Strobes are normally 5500K and (at least the Canon flashes) are ca. 6500K (not mentioned in the manual). So you'll need 1/4 CTO to balnace the colours.
(My post to that)
http://www.flickr.com/groups/strobist/discuss/72157614852536285/

April 03, 2009 12:18 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Don't be afraid to write something new or show pictures.

April 03, 2009 12:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But will they run on the new iTLL Pocket Wizards? If you keep writhing like this Nikon and Cannon might come up with some big boy [or girl] portable big gun speedlight flashes. For the price of a few SB900 your almost entering the same price range. But it's not something you could take on vacation.

April 03, 2009 1:32 PM  
Blogger Mick O said...

Still confused about the basic parts of a monobloc system and what "monobloc" entails.

As an example, I see right now in Craigslist an ad for this setup for $300.

"3-hs-2000 440w/s
3-170mm Reflector 2-24/24 soft box
3-Flash Tube
3-Modeling Lamp
3-Synchcord "


Now, do those plug right into the wall? Does there need to be one of those power-controller-boxes? I'm not asking of that's a good deal, I just am not sure what a flashtube is vs the hs-2000 440w/s. I'm looking for a basic overview for the required parts of any generic studio strobe setup.

April 03, 2009 2:24 PM  
Anonymous joscar said...

What, no april fools this year? :/

April 03, 2009 2:44 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Hey David,

Just a small detail which I wasn't aware of, flash duration increases as intensity decreases, kinda back-asswards from speedlights and pack/heads.

Cheers!

April 03, 2009 4:10 PM  
Blogger Addison Geary Photography said...

My Dyna Lite packs & heads are my first choice but almost every setup includes a small strobe somewhere. Usually as an edge light.

I envy your household light bulb modeling lamp as every time I blow a bulb it costs me $30, ouch!

April 03, 2009 5:00 PM  
Anonymous Jim said...

I would be interested in hearing more about using both at the same time,..I haveny had much luck syncing the two with any success ( use the speedlight as the active strobe and my AB's optical triggers,..just doesnt seem to mesh up correctly

April 03, 2009 11:40 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Would this be the type of light you might set up in the corner, aimed at the ceiling, at a wedding reception? Any other ideas for something to work better in this situation?

April 04, 2009 1:53 PM  
Anonymous A Photojournalist Who Blogs said...

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PhotojournalistsWhoBlog.com

April 04, 2009 6:55 PM  
Anonymous Russ M. said...

Mr. Hobby,

Photo review site vs. product review...That makes sense to me...in fact, that is why I stopped getting a lot of photo magazines. They were all photo gear review and very little discussion on photography. I think you are right...keep this focused on lighting conversation. BTW, again I followed you advice, Hotshoe Diaries is very good!

Russ M.

April 04, 2009 6:55 PM  
Anonymous Milton Volwitzer said...

I know you're a busy man, but I feel as if I have been ripped off by this last 2-part post...

...could you at least tell me the sequence so I can hack my 800w/s mono so it blasts a 1600w/s (or more) flash?

:)

I noticed you took the 1st "off" this year...

Thanks again for what you do
-Milton

April 04, 2009 8:54 PM  
Anonymous scott (nigelstwin) said...

Mister Hobby, what I wanna know about is how to power these monoblocs on location. I wanna know how to judge what source I should get.

This was super helpful, by the way. Thanks!

April 04, 2009 9:55 PM  
Blogger xelex said...

So I am confused here. As I understand Strobist blog advocates portable flash vs studio/big, heavy setups.

April 04, 2009 10:25 PM  
Blogger xelex said...

Also $100 Tupperware? All these accessories cost more than a flash itself. Recycling old cartons works better for environment and cost almost nothing (a few minutes of time).

April 04, 2009 11:31 PM  
Anonymous Daily Tv Guide said...

you got a nice entry here.. keep up the good work

April 05, 2009 4:49 AM  
Blogger Eileen said...

I was particularly struck by your comments about using larger flashes in close. I take a lot of flower/still life pics and have recently bought a lightcube, hoping it would be helpful for occasions when I want a very soft wraparound light with few reflections. I have been struggling to get even light using smaller flashes. If I move the strobes further away there isn't enough power, and if I move them closer I get hotspots. Some of this is undoubtedy down to poor technique on my part and I will keep at it. But I have begun to think that maybe a larger flash head (that could be dialled down to an appropriate level) might not be a better option. What do you think?

April 05, 2009 9:23 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

Hey David,

Thought you might be interested in this, more Orcs and small flashes...

http://www.alexbeckett.co.uk/blog/2009/04/05/portraits-of-an-orc-2-orc-airborne/#more-336

Cheers,
Alex

April 05, 2009 6:46 PM  
Anonymous Mark Bohrer said...

I have yet to encounter a situation where my 550EX and 430EX strobes are under-powered. I have an Alien Bees B800 that Kirk Tuck advised me to get many moons ago, and an older DynaLite 1000 power pack with a couple 2040 blower heads.

They put shooting apertures at f/11 or f/16 at ISO 200, and that's usually more depth of field than I'd like. I'm a wildlife and sports guy, so I'm coming from isolating the subject with shallow DOF. Shooting f/4 or 5.6 is usually where I'm at with the strobes.

Don't get me wrong, if you're shooting big scenes like Gary Gladstone, the big lights have their place. I'd rather use the little strobes and save my back.

Mark Bohrer
Active Light Photography
www.mountain-and-desert.com

April 06, 2009 1:54 PM  
Anonymous ms. maze said...

Loving the monobloc posts. I'm sure I wasn't the only one asking, but it kinda gives me the warm fuzzies to see posts regarding something I emailed about. As always, thanks!

April 06, 2009 5:05 PM  
Anonymous Ranger 9 said...

Thanks for introducing the strobist community to the world of AC-powered flash, and to the idea that sometimes it makes sense to use something that's designed for the job rather than trying to cleverly adapt something that isn't!

In fact, I hope it gets portable-flash users up in arms about one of my pet peeves: portable flash is versatile, but the fiddly way you have to mount accessories is ridiculous!

I just cobbled together a crude adapter that lets me attach Bowens-mount accessories (the kind I use at work) onto a DC-powered flash -- some pictures and info are at [http://ranger9.net/wp/?p=105] -- but I can't help wondering: Why doesn't some manufacturer make this type of mount so people can buy it off the shelf?

April 07, 2009 10:36 PM  
Blogger D. Randall said...

I have been a "Tupperware" enthusiast since he began selling the stuff. Granted, I'm sure I could duct tape up some kind of comparable device, but I like the look of said "tupperware" in my photos. Not getting any complaints from the customers either.

First time I've read your column, so I may be missing some long standing Asian feud or something, but I say if it works, embrace it. The chrome capped Tupperware can yield some dazzling portraits, while the warming caps can bring a very warm glow to the same portrait.

I wish you the best and continued success.

Randy Moore

April 08, 2009 8:06 AM  
Blogger Ken said...

Another suggestion for a future article:
Portable lightstands for monolights. You can't use those wimpy little stands you use for flashes that you recommended ;-)

p.s., for a medium range monolight an AB400 or AB800 is a no-brainer...inexpensive, durable, easy to repair, great customer service, remote controllable via radiopopper JrX Studio (whenever they get released). Some folks who bought white lightnings sold them to get AB's because the AB's are lighter for location work...

April 09, 2009 2:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Photojournalists often shoot extremely wide, say with a 16-35 lens. The Stofen might not soften the light, but it does send it in every direction, providing greater coverage for superwide lenses.

Blogger mhakola said...

Thanks for mentioning the tupperware-outside-thing. That's always been one of my biggest pet-peeves. And yes, I've shot with many a photoJ who does it too. (Mostly 'cause they've got the damn thing gaffered on!)

April 03, 2009 8:34 AM

April 29, 2009 12:54 PM  
Blogger QuintusPhoto.com said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 26, 2010 8:30 PM  
Blogger QuintusPhoto.com said...

I've recently started using the RadioPoppers JrX wireless triggers to fire BOTH my Bowens Strobes (monoblocs) and my Canon 580 EX II Speedlites together in the same shot. It's great to have the flexibility to use the "big" and "small" flashes together in one shot.

Also, I couldn't agree more that if you already understand off-camera flashes in manual mode, you pretty much know how to use the big Strobes: they're just flashes without the option of TTL :-)

March 26, 2010 10:00 PM  

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