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The Right Stuff!
Old 06-13-2006, 10:19 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Generally when photographers go on about their equipment we talk about our camera(s) or occasionally lighting equipment. Not me, I wanna talk about some new stuff I bought recently thanks to a heads up from a couple of good friends.

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When I go on location (which is virtually every day here since who comes to Miami to shoot in a studio?) there is often a fair amount of stuff which goes with me. In the past I have often left things behind just because of the problem of carrying all my stuff, a lot of which is just unhandy just to hold on to. Sooo....., the first thing I did was to buy a couple of travel cases, relatively light bags that are well made, but can hold a lot of odd shaped stuff. One problem is my big scrim (which is almost a necessity if you want to shoot outside in the mid day sun) and my Scrim Jim frame reflector. Both are an awkward collection of poles, connectors and cloth covers, in the past would I normally take one (the Scrim Jim reflector) and leave the big scrim behind, but now? No problem thanks to B&H and their used equipment department.

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The first bag I bought was a $25 bag which was originally designed to carry the Savage portable backdrop pole system. I suspect that B&H had several of these bags because they rent this equipment (backdrop poles) and the bags became, well, excess baggage. The bag was exactly the size I needed, well made, and holds both the big scrim and the frame reflector as well as their fabric covers. I've looked for a bag like this in the past, but they were either too short (gotta be 45" long), too big (I don't want a big case just for two sets of poles), poorly made (thin nylon) or too expensive (cheap is good, free is best. Thus spake Fish.). I was looking at bags in the used department on the B&H website and this Savage bag looked interesting ($25 always gets my attention). When I checked the Savage Paper site and got the dimensions of the bag, I realized I had a winner!

Now I had a bag for the scrims I decided I wanted one bag that would hold my light poles, softboxes, tripod (who knows, if I have it with me I might use it!) and...........the bag with the scrims in it! I was shooting an advertorial over on Washington Avenue a couple of months ago when a good friend who was visiting from Detroit, Bill Barnard, had exactly such a bag to carry all of those loose and unwieldy collection of pipes. I found one which looked promising in an old catalog for Photoflex which I had picked up years ago at a Photo-Expo in Orlando. I went to the website, the bag was $70, but seemed perfect so I parted with 70 extremely precious dollars. (I pinch a nickle tighter than anyone I know!) Ta da, it is perfect!

<CENTER>
<B>All the surrounding items fit in the big Photoflex Transpac Outbound Bag</B></CENTER>

Okay, now I have about 60 pounds of stuff to carry.......oops! But once again Bill Barnard had the answer, he had a Porter Case hard case for his camera gear. I've seen hard cases before and wasn't too impressed, even with wheels they are really no big whoop. But the Porter Case is different, pull a couple of levers and the case separates from the handle and converts into a two wheel dolly! Not only that, but in that configuration it is rated to carry 200 pounds!

<CENTER>
<B>Carlos, one of the young fellows who works here at Southgate, offered to be the model!</B></CENTER>

Okay, seems silly but the case really works. I use it even when I'm headed to the Beach although you do have to pick it up when you get to the sand.

<CENTER></CENTER>

Now, I have had a problem on location when shooting catalog work where the model needed to change clothing rapidly. When you are shooting editorial or a test, the model might change clothing four or five times. No big deal to take a few minutes to find someplace to change, but when you are shooting catalog work where you might have fifty or more sets of clothing, finding a place to change can be a real hassle. You can wind up getting tied to one location because there is a handy bathroom. The answer? The portable changing room! This one (which was provided to me by that other model place) also doubles as a set of four reflectors. Pretty cool, but the truth is the simple portable changing room (which does not double as a set of reflectors) is a lot cheaper, and since most of us have a couple of folding reflectors which would fit in the same carry bag, the reflector feature is more puff than necessity.

<CENTER>
<B>The lovely Catalina White (and she really is special) shooting for In Gear</B></CENTER>

Anyway, here is a shot of all the stuff that goes in those bags (or almost all the stuff). Pretty impressive, but typical of the equipment we use when shooting catalog work outside here in Miami.

<CENTER>
<B>All of this is in the bags stacked on the Porter Case in the first shot in this post.</B></CENTER>

Finally (everything ends, even my posts), I want to mention one other real deal that Dan O'Brian (Dano to those in the Washington, DC area) put me on to several weeks ago. He mentioned that he had gotten several sets of rechargable batteries for his flash (he shoots a lot of convention work and is inside using an oncamera flash almost all the time). I have never been a fan of NiCads, but these are new and the real deal. You can buy a set of four 2500mAh NiMH AA batteries with a charger that re-charges the batteries in fifteen minutes(!) for about $30 at Walmart. My experience with these batteries is they outlast four sets of regular Energizers on one charge, and the nature of these batteries is that they recycle the flash as fast on the last shot as they do on the first one! Not your father's NiCads any more! Worth every penny if you use an on-camera flash on a regular basis (I use one for fill quite a bit when shooting outside). I could not recommend getting a set or two of these new rechargables more highly. Do look, they come in different power levels and you want the 2500's if you can find them. The fast rechargers normally come with 2200's but a set of four 2500mAh batteries sold separately without the charger cost only about $10 at Walmart. Get 'um, just do it!

<CENTER>
<B>Energizers in a Duracell charger, a mixed marriage!.</B></CENTER>

Fish

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John Fisher
900 West Avenue, Suite 423
Miami Beach, Florida 33139
305 534-9322
http://www.johnfisher.com
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Re: The Right Stuff!
Old 06-13-2006, 10:29 PM   #2 (permalink)
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do all shooters in miami dress like engineers and/or insurance claims adjusters?
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Re: The Right Stuff!
Old 06-13-2006, 11:53 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Awesome info, I've been meaning to pop the question concerning location equipment for sometime. Do you take all this equipment for each shoot, or is there a bare minimum. What are the "must have" items that you can't work with out?

You must get a hell of a workout hauling in all that stuff too.

Thanks
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Re: The Right Stuff!
Old 06-14-2006, 07:21 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Very organized! Love it! Thanks for the insight.
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Re: The Right Stuff!
Old 06-14-2006, 08:03 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Fish...

Great info here... I had been looking for one of those popup portable changing rooms for awhile.. most of the online places I found them at.. were either out of stock... or way over priced.

However.. Recently I tried some of the outdoor outfitters.. and camping suppliers.. and they were either out of them as well or didnt carry them. One of the camping places had only the one you have to tie to a branch to suspend it.. and I didnt want to always have to bring a tree with me.

I found a small place here near me that not only has them.. but at a great price.. and a good supply of them.. I am going to be talking to the owner tomorrow.. and might be working a deal with him to get some at a lot lower price.. so that I can offer them to others... as I know a number of people who are interested in them.. I think I paid about 40 bucks for it. 7' tall just over 4' x 4' square at the bottom... and stands on it's own. It has tie downs for breezy conditions.. and not only a full zippered door, but two screened windows that have pull over covers to block the view. I dont have a scanned in picture.. but I will later today or tomorrow.

If anyone wants one, I can let you know price and what not.. by Thursday or Friday..
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Re: The Right Stuff!
Old 06-14-2006, 08:11 AM   #6 (permalink)
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The changing tent I have is from DiveInn. It was actually designed to be a portable changing tent for divers to use on beach dives. It standa just ove 6' tall and is not open at the top. It's 4 1/2' square on the bottom, has a zippered door, a window that can be closed, a pouch to hold stuff, and it makes a great shelter to get out of the sun. I think I paid around $100 at the time for it.

I like the kind Fish has though because it can be used as a reflector.
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Re: The Right Stuff!
Old 06-14-2006, 08:54 AM   #7 (permalink)
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No. . . solamente los peones.
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First, find a great model!
Old 06-14-2006, 09:04 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Okay, when I'm working outside I "must have" at least a flash to provide some fill. If I'm really cutting corners I will simply use an on camera flash, but a portable flash like the Alien Bee with the Vagabond power pack provides a much more attractive fill. Reflector(s) are great and they are with me , but they normally require at least one additional person to hold them. The Alien Bee mono light requires a power pack (for outside location work), a light stand to hold the light, and (for me) a radio slave to fire it (you can use a long sync cord, but these are really a pain particularly on location). This shot was lit with an on-camera flash which synced with another camera flash held by an assistant (master flash on camera - Canon EX 550, slave held by assistant - Canon EX 420).

<CENTER>
<B>Model: Mia Giacobbe, Assisted by: Dax Balladares</B></CENTER>

Modifying the light is the primary issue when shooting outside (or you are restricted to a couple of hours during the day, and a limited shooting angle with the sun behind you). So, along with the flashes and the reflectors, the next problem is providing "open shade" particularly during the mid day hours (from 9 AM to 5 PM this time of year). This is where a scrim (basically a translucent sheet) is very useful. The problem is that to use one effectively you normally need at least one and preferably two more assistants to hold the frame. Here is a picture where all this "stuff" came into play:

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<B>Model: Kaila Rainey, Makeup and Hair: Vicky (divastouch.com)</B></CENTER>

This shot was taken at 2 PM against a west facing wall. The sun was bright and almost directly overhead with no shade for the model. I "flew" the big 6' X 6' scrim over her head by resting one side of it on top of a light fixture above her head and supporting the other side with two light stands positioned on the outside corners of the square scrim. I lit her and the tiles behind her with a gold reflector held slightly to scene right, and filled her using the Alien Bee with a softbox. The makeup artist used a small mirror immediately to the model's left to bounce a hot beam on the "gem" which then kicked some "sparkle" from the gem onto the model's body. (Yes, I did use Photoshop to increase the number of "sparkles", but the shape and color of the sparkles came from that focused light!) There were six people with me including the model and the makeup artist, and we were shooting against this wall in the middle of a busy sidewalk on a Sunday afternoon. Welcome to South Beach!
Oh, and as Jimmy noted I dress like a claims adjuster. Clip on ties, the new cool.

Fish
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Re: The Right Stuff!
Old 06-14-2006, 09:06 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Valuable insights. Nicely expressed. "The Garrison Keillor of Glamour." Working on that book, eh? Keep me informed - I want a copy.
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Re: First, find a great model!
Old 06-14-2006, 09:08 AM   #10 (permalink)
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...what a gift for understatement....
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