Rock 'n Roll: Jaleel King

Anything worth accomplishing is going to include hurdles and barriers to overcome. You can treat them as the reasons you can't do something, or you can simply refuse to acknowledge that the barriers exist and plow through them.

This is Jaleel King, and this is how he rolls.

I was introduced to Jaleel by Mike Allebach's video feature on him. If you haven't seen it yet, here it is:

So after watching the video a half-dozen times, I reached out to Jaleel to learn more about him as well as his wheeled approach to lighting. As you can imagine, it was not a piece of cake for him to pull this off. Especially while working on a budget.

He cites Joey L and Jeremy Cowart as two of his lighting compass points, and he is always trying to refine his mobile lighting rig to find looks of his own. Currently, he is using an AB800 and Vagabond Mini-Lithium pack. He has an Einstein on his wish list, but that'll have to come later.

After a bout with a (not surprisingly) problematic wired-sync setup, he moved to the PocketWizard Flex platform, with its ability to remotely control power levels on the AB800. That remote control ability has been a lifesaver.

But still, there's the sheer precariousness of his rig. Says Jaleel:

A major issue is the stability of the rig once I start moving, as well as weight shifting. I'm a manual wheelchair user so having the stability is a must, considering the many obstacles I face like hills, broken or bad sidewalks, etc.

No kidding.

He uses a combo of multiple Super Clamps and a Magic Arm to bolt the lightning rod mobile boom to his wheelchair:

Yeah, I am thinking that thing would need some strength and ballast down below. That much weight up top is gonna be unsteady no matter how much you have in the chair.

Oh, and it's not like he's trying, either. The first words on his "About Jaleel" page say, and I quote: "I am in a committed relationship with chocolate cheesecake…"

My kinda guy.

He's swapping to a new wheelchair soon and will be starting the lighting support design process all over again. So I'm putting myself in Jaleel's shoes and thinking what options are available to him in terms of lighting style, mount, etc.

Being more lighting-minded than a machinist, here's my first thought: Definitely kill some height from that rig. Maybe augment his approach to lighting and buy him some stability at the same time.

Being a wedding/portrait shooter, I would suggest a mobile beauty light setup as an option. One soft source from right behind (and just above) the lens.

As a wedding/portrait shooter, the look is sorta "on-camera-flash-goes-glam". Kinda like this:

So, you collapse your existing vertical mount. It should thus marry to the chair much more firmly, too—and not top-heavy. You'd need an inexpensive, soft, contained light mod. I'd recommend a Photek Softlighter II, 43" -- under $100.

It gives gorgeous light. And the removable shaft extension makes it particularly suitable in this instance.

The AB-800 would fire backwards from right behind you (actually leaving you direct access to the power slider right by your head w/o the need for wireless). The light is reflected into the umbrella then further softened by the diffuser.

You could even mount it to one side of the back of your chair and shoot at the angle to keep it directly behind you for max mounting stability. And given the light is right over your shoulder, if you mount the stand collapsed, you could alter the light's height pretty easily using just your upper body mobility.

Certainly we have some engineers, machinists and hackers amongst the site's already photo-oriented readership. Heck, there might be other wheeled photogs who have already found some cool solutions for all I know.

I'd love to point your collective brains at crowdsourcing some ideas. Jaleel's on Twitter, there are contact forms on his site and we always have the comments below. (But FYI, I am going to be away from internet a lot this week except at night. So please be patient with comment moderation.)

Jaleel King, I salute you. I can't remember the last time I was inspired to this level by another photographer. You rock, man.


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