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Dave Honl Goes Soft on Us

Long known for the hard, restricted light of his snoots and grids, Dave has just introduced an 8", circular soft box for speedlights.

It's small, collapsible and is best suited for close-in people shots. More details and an example of how to use it, inside.

I shot classical guitarist Mark Edwards earlier this month for the Howard County Arts Council. During that shoot, I played a little bit with Honl's new diffuser, high speed sync and … TTL flash.

There, I said it.

Actually, I have nothing against TTL flash. I just don't use it very often. As in, hardly ever.

And shooting in tight (with flesh tones filling much of the frame) is exactly the kind of photo that TTL flash likes to figure out. So this was a good opportunity to step over to the Dark Side for a moment, kill my depth of field and try out the new mod.

Provided you have the capability, the easiest way to bleed some depth of field in a daylight portrait is to shoot with high-speed FP sync. This allows you to go way above your normal 250th of a second limit on the shutter speed, and gets you a correspondingly wide-open aperture. Bye-bye background.

I was in manual mode at a 2000th of a second and f/2.0, to blow out the focus on my background. This exposure also left Mark underexposed with a little ambient coming in from back camera right -- a good platform on which to light a headshot.

I used two flashes, both SB-800s. I played around with the on-axis flash (a hot shoe-mounted SB-800 in a Ray Flash ring adapter) and set it around 2 stops under in TTL mode. This would fill anywhere the key light did not hit. The key is another SB-800 (with a 1/2 CTO gel) in a Honl traveller8.

Here is the setup, with the key light at or near straight TTL in terms of compensation. I say 'at or near' because I tweaked them around a lot. I am not used to the on-the-fly variability of TTL (one reason I do not normally use it) so the camera and I were both trying to drive the car.

Note how close the soft box is. An 8" light source can be hard or soft depending on how close you place it to the subject. And I like to get it right next to people for head shots, for a couple of reasons.

One, you get decent softness in close, as you can see by the nose shadow.

Two, it really allows you to control where the beam hits and where it falls off. This closeness gives the light very little traveling power, which in turn gives me nice tones on the white shirt.

Deja Vu?

This is the same technique I used on the portrait of Ben for the LumiQuest ad. And they are, in fact, very similar light sources.

The Lumiquest Soft Box III is rectangular: 8x9", or 72 square inches. The Honl Photo traveller8 is an 8" circle, to figure out the area of which I think you need to eat a piece of pie or something. (~50 square inches.)

They are both ideally suited for close-in people, and fold flat in your bag.

Differences are:

Lumy SBIII is rectangular, which means you can vary the quality of the light with the orientation. It also has a double-diffused center, to control the hot spot.

Honl traveller8 is circular, which creates a different kind of light (think beauty dish vs. soft box) with circular eye highlights if you are into that kind of thing.

While we are speaking of hot spots, you can get a more even light out of either by using a dome on your flash inside of the boxes. And if you slap a piece of black gaff on the front of the dome, you get an even more even light source -- all bounced off of the internal surfaces before it is diffused. Since these things tend to be used in very close, efficiency not really an issue.

They both fold flat for easy packing. The Honl model can also be rolled up, if that helps you.

It's a pick 'em, based on what is more important to you. Or you can always play with both, given neither will break the bank. At $69.95, the Honl version is a little more expensive, but comes comes with the full speed strap required for mounting. That strap can is the same one on which his other mods are based.

Used in close, either can give you a very polished look in a jiffy when shooting close-up portraits. Check a bigger version (open in a new window) to see what I mean. And controlling the shadow depth with an on-axis fill (or your ambient exposure) gives you an extra layer of control.

Both David Honl and LumiQuest's Quest Couch are going at it, in terms of designing competitive mods for small flashes. And I doubt the traveller8 will be the last shot fired, either.

Which is way cool for small flash photographers.

:: HonlPhoto traveller8 Product Page ::


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