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Help Build Portable Lighting Kit

RolfRolf Member
edited July 2012 in news & discussions
Looking for ideas on how to build the right kit for my needs...

Some gear:
Nikon User.
SB900 + Battery Pack

Shoot a lot of events; Award ceremonies, speaking engagements; Fund Raising events etc. Late Afternoons, evenings and nights. Indoors primarily; not the best walls. Sometimes mixed lighting. Move around a lot. Some of these rooms are large.

To date:
Move around a lot with On Camera BFT and Lumiquest modifier on SB900. Chimping and riding FEC. I think I have the moving around piece fairly well.

The Ask:
I would like to put together some gear for group shots. Have to get the handing out of awards, Group shots of Board Members, Committees members, or the Speaker with various dignitaries and attendees. Most events are quite formal.

If you had to build this from scratch, what would you do?

- Has to be cost effective
- Nikon configuration
- Has to be easy to lug around.
- Easy to setup and take down (may not have power sources)
- Has to produce "sweet" images consistently
- has to be somewhat versatile to shoot 1 person to groups of 10 -15 maximum
- If I don't use the gear for setting up a Group shot would still like to use some of the gear fo lighting up a large room. How would you tackle this?

2 light stands (and bits and pieces); Is this enough or would you suggest more? whose?
2 flashes; SB600 and SB900 more than adequete?
2 Umbrellas or softboxes? Whose, what size?
Remote triggers (I would like TTL flexibility). Flex TT5, TT1, AC3 or Phottix Odin or anything else?

Is there a kit you would strongly recommend? Brand?

Let me know what gear you use that works excessively well for you....



  • tumpaltumpal Member
    Sorry, but I don't really understand the "portable" part, from your explanation, I think you mean something more elaborate.

    I think you already have everything right here for portability:
    Rolf said: Move around a lot with On Camera BFT and Lumiquest modifier on SB900. Chimping and riding FEC. I think I have the moving around piece fairly well.
    Anyhow, this is my idea of portable kit for the kind of venue that you've mentioned: a flash (I'll take the SB 600, it's smaller) planted on the hot shoe then I'll do it like what you've been doing with BFT though not the lumiquest. If the lighting operators forbid me to use flash (happened once, and yes, I was the hired photographer, and yes I've set a couple of strobes by each side of the stage) I'll switch to normal prime and ditch the flash, more lightweight.

    I shoot RAW, but ya, sometimes the walls (and evrything else) are just terrible. I keep a set of radio trigger in my pocket, nothing fancy with with the ttl enabled, just to keep my slave options open (there were times when CLS put a cold sweat on my neck, I can work around it now, but it still hard for me to trust it). When situation dictates, I pull off the flash from the hot shoe, put on the triggers, or rely on optical slave, pull out the front diffuser of the flash for wider coverage and work with flash on one hand, as high and far as possible, and the camera on another. But it's exhausting sometimes.

    These days, this is what I believe: A sturdy light stand with lever type locks (2-3 second less time to spend on each lock than the screw type ones), 33 or 42 inches umbrellas (not because they are better than softboxes, but because it is faster for me to set them up), the coverage would depend on the distance and your settings, a strong holder head for umbrella+flash, this set I'll keep somewhere near and safe, in folded state, but without the flash on, for safety reason.

    When the time comes, I'll run to it, pull off the flash from my hot shoe, on to the light stand, and positioned it accordingly towards the group, for my usage, SB600 level should be enough if used carefully for 15 people (yeah, you might have to squeeze it), unless of course you want the flash to be the only source of light for large group and set aside the ambient light. I keep the 2nd flash in the bag as spare, less cumbersome, less thing to worry about (as long as the bag is safe that is).
    Rolf said: - Has to produce "sweet" images consistently
    I had the same idea, and it made my life a lot more complicated, to simplify things I think it's you who should made consistently sweet images. On Neil's facebook pages, we can see freakingly consistent images there, it's him, not his lightstands.
    Rolf said: - If I don't use the gear for setting up a Group shot would still like to use some of the gear fo lighting up a large room. How would you tackle this?
    I'd gell accordingly and bounce the flash (how many flashes are we talking about?), to light up a large room needs an elaborate set up, it depends on the room, and everything else within it (and the complete freedom to use them). Talk about portable and lightweight, I won't bother. I might use a second flash on a stand to light the background of some formal shots though.

    Sorry for the long rant, hope this helps.
  • RolfRolf Member
    Tumpal, thanks!
    I'm with you on all of this. Done more research and these items seem to come up a fair bit.....Have ended up purchasing and am eagerly waiting to receive them soon. All purchased through Amazon

    - 2 light stands
    Giottos LC325 10.7' 4-Section Air-cushioned Light Stand
    - 2 umbrella adapters
    Manfrotto 026 Swivel Lite-Tite Umbrella Adapter
    - 2 umbrellas
    Westcott Compact 43" White Satin Umbrella with Removable Black Cover - Collapsible
    - 2 Cold shoe mounts:
    Frio ENLFRC1A Cold Shoe Mount for Tripods (am hoping the SB900 will work on these as the SB900 is a little weird - and does not seem to work on on mounts..

    Am leaning heavily towards the Phottix Odin's for Nikon...can't seem to find anyone who has actually run them on Nikons- albeit, they have just been released! Am still holding out on these...but as soon as some results start to pour through - I'll likely make the jump.

    I just recently did a CLS shoot - and all worked well - except I could not get continuous shots. So If I needed to fire off 3 shots quickly - could not do it. Further research indicates this is a limitation of CLS! So only single shots allowed - yuck!

    For now this gear should give me enuf versatility. Down the road perhaps an octobox. This gives me the portability I need - primarily location shooting. So not a lot of studio work - although, on location, group, pair and solo shots are becoming quite common for what I do. Net, net, I need to lug gear around - the less the better, yet alnost have to provide studion on site capability.

    Lighting up a venue.
    I have typically been in large halls. In some cases 200-330 feet. Some quite dark. Tough to get ambient light. Am shooting typically 1600 ISO and the background can bleed off quite quickly. Shots tend to look darker - as expected.
    Nothing to really bounce off . Ceilings are high, walls are far way. Windows sometimes few. Am looking for ideas/books/ experience etc for light layouts for this kind of setup. Open to feedback...

    Again, Thanks
  • tumpaltumpal Member
    edited August 2012
    Well, last I heard about Phottix Odin was that it only came for Canon, with Nikon version on the horizon, guess the horizon is here now. I read about it, and I think it's a great idea to have it. http://photo.net/equipment/phottix/odin/ttl-flash-trigger-review/

    :D CLS... yeah I too realize that it's not a panacea for every situation, I think we can safely limit it's usage for straightforward off camera ttl shots. The Pottix Odin seems to be the work around for cls, at least in terms of line of sight and therefore range.

    Yup, nice list you've got there. And about the large dark halls, especially with not so friendly walls and circumstance (sometimes understandably) I guess some of us would have those blank moments. Sometimes I would just think "whatever" slap on the primes on the bodies and shoot ISO 3200 (certainly a no-no for certain kind of shots), the post processing is killing though.

    Much obliged Rolf, I don't think I've helped you much, more like sharing perspective, and I took some from it too.. so I thank you as well.
  • My portable unit:
    Alien Bees B800 x1
    Alien Bees Light Stand x1
    Alien Bees White/Silver 46" Umbrella x1
    Quantum Power Pack x1 (attached to stand)
    Spare, charged Quantum battery

    Done. Everything fits on one stand. Synch cord to my camera, or I can slave the flash. Whatever I am in the mood for.

    I am ALL about keeping it simple.

    Joshua Westbrook
    Pixelus Photography
  • Thanks Joshua for the list .

    I'll provide a quick update on the gear I received and have started using.
    Love the Odin's and picked up a second receiver.
    Giotto stands: fantastic but when folded still long and bulky to carry. I'll likely get or have a bag made to carry them. Anyone has any ideas - please post.

    Umbrellas are solid and I'm not so sure I needed the Frio's.

    And now on the lookout for another flash (SB900 or 910) - ahhh - does it ever stop??

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