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Alien Bees system feedback
Old 12-26-2004, 01:22 PM   #1 (permalink)
Kurt_Gearheart
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After some review comparison, and especially after reading John Fisher's review here at GG, I've decided to go with the AB800: http://www.alienbees.com/b800.html

Other than the lighting unit itself, what other components are

A: absolutely necessary?
B: recommended?

Under A would be...
a stand to put it on? (intend to place softbox high above subjects head)
a softbox? (sizes?)
cords of some sort? or is that all with it?

Under B would be... what?
a remote unit?
light meter?
beauty dish?
etc...

And what the heck is a "speedring" anyway?

This is for use with a D70, studio only for right now, (cash for a portable power supply, later) for portraits, fashion, and beauty shots.

Bear in mind (and some of you are really really NOT good at this!) that I've never even seen a dang strobe used in real life, and have no clue what the various doodads that have to be a part of the system even are... assume you're giving a lecture to an intensely attentive but ignorant high school class...

I WILL be taking this to do (indoor AC accessible) location shooting away from home, and possibly dragging it all onto planes, so portability, compactness, and light weight are all very important for now.

Minimal system (but capable of pro results) to get started???????

Thanks in advance!
 
 
Re: Alien Bees system feedback
Old 12-26-2004, 01:43 PM   #2 (permalink)
J T Smith

 
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The 13 feet stands from them, for the money, are ideal for large soft box with one alien bee.

The soft boxes from them are to cold for my taste but tinting the white lining with a tea water solution or using bastard amber gels on the light will help warm them up.

If you like the beauty dish lighting then I would also recommend purchansing one of those while you are at it. It's reasonably priced.

The grids are easy to use so I also would encourage you to pick up a couple of different degrees. 20 degree for hair light, small rim or accent light for sure.

The speed ring is what attaches your soft box to the unit. I didn't realize but there are speed ring adapters for other name brand soft boxes such as photoflex to fit the alien bees but not the discontinued strip domes.

Quality Control.....you should always have a light meter!

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Re: Alien Bees system feedback
Old 12-26-2004, 01:47 PM   #3 (permalink)
Kurt_Gearheart
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Thanks JT!!! Mucho grande appreciado hombre! [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]
 
 
Re: Alien Bees system feedback
Old 12-26-2004, 02:39 PM   #4 (permalink)
hgphoto
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I used the Alien Bees for the first time a few days ago and I like them.
If you're going to be shooting people I recommend you get the Softboxes from Photoflex, they come with these accesory gold panels that you attach to inside with Velcro, they give a nice warm cast over your subject.

If you plan to travel with these units and transport them via commercial airlines, I'd suggesr to use a hardsided case like those from Pelican.
Otherwise....your Bees won't live long.

I have attached a few images here:
The first was shot uning a regular softbox with no panels.
The seconf was ahot with an Alien Bee 800 attached to a 7 ft. Octabank from Photoflex using the gold panels inside.

Good Luck

Howard






 
 
Re: Alien Bees system feedback
Old 12-26-2004, 02:59 PM   #5 (permalink)
Kurt_Gearheart
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Thank you very much for the feedback and info.

Since I'm somewhat allergic to the whole "orange/yellow/gold" thing, and like to shoot skin as it really is, the gold panels inside the softbox are less important.

I may try just lightly staining the fabric with tea, as two of my heros, JT Smith and Jerry Avenaim have both suggested that.

Again thank you, every additional bit of data helps!

[img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]
 
 
Re: Alien Bees system feedback
Old 12-26-2004, 06:52 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Kurt

Shooting digital you can always guess about the lighting and check the shot to see if it's right -- but I wouldn't do it that way. You can pick up a Sekonic 308bII or a Minolta Flashmeter IV for under $200 at B&H. These are older meters that work just fine - but without some of the nicer bells and whistles. Other than a meter you need a stand. That's it!

Under the recommended catagory you really need some kind of light modifier. However, an umbrella reflector usually comes with lights like this (I'm not an AB user) or if it doesn't it's cheap -- and a 42 inch umbrella for it is even cheaper. With an umbrella mount you can hang all kinds of other things to modify the light. A soft box is GREAT -- but they cost and the speedring (which connects the softbox to the flash unit) costs. And it's a single-purpose device -- it's a major light modifier best used for portrait or people lighting. Umbrellas can be more flexible -- although they're kind of "old fashioned." I also think that a wireless trigger is VERY nice -- but that's another $200. Check out the wireless set that Calumet sells under their name that's made by Bogen.

So - here's your list:

A:
light stand
meter

A/B: reflector w/umbrella mount and umbrella

B:
softbox & speedring
wireless trigger

Bob

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Re: Alien Bees system feedback
Old 12-26-2004, 08:57 PM   #7 (permalink)
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You dont have to have a softbox. Umbrellas are great to start out with.I am a newbie and bought stuff on a budget, so umbrellas were the way to go. But there is no way around not metering your lights.You cant skimp on the light meter. Been there done that...It doesnt work.

AB 800 & Silver Umbrella:


AB 800 & Shoot thru Umbrella:

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Another view ...
Old 12-26-2004, 10:33 PM   #8 (permalink)
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If shooting digital, you can actually get away with out a meter. I'm not saying a meter doesn't make life easier in some cases, but a good gray card and a digital camera with a histogram can always get you perfect exposure for any lighting layout. With a little experience you'll find that it takes only 2-3 test shots with the gray card to zero in on perfect exposure. If you happen to be shooting a difficult shot with a huge tonal range, then using a white/black/gray card and the histogram can help you zero in the proper exposure that will capture the whole range. You'll also learn a lot about photography by mastering a gray card.
Now with that sermon past, I'll admit that I use the Minolta Flashmeter IV my self and it works very nice. The way I use it, is to get the starting fstop for a lighting layout, and then fine tune with the gray card or more likely the white/black/gray card.



Cheers,
rfs
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Umbrellas are great ...
Old 12-26-2004, 10:40 PM   #9 (permalink)
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The reason that umbrellas are great is that they are more forgiving than the softbox. With the softbox you have to be more precise in your setup than with the umbrella. But that means you actually have greater control with the softbox especially if you use a grid on it). I tend to only use the square umbrellas as they tend to be a bit easier to control than the rounder umbrellas. If you stack one square umbrellas on top of the other (with a strobe on each), you can get the old Gowland wall of light which really makes for a nice light (about 3x6 feet). But a softbox of equal size is ever so much more precise in how you can control where the light goes.


Shot with the "Gowland wall of light".


Shot with a large soft box.

Cheers,
rfs
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My feedback... (several images included)..
Old 12-27-2004, 10:48 PM   #10 (permalink)
JohnPaul
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After some review comparison, and especially after reading John Fisher's review here at GG, I've decided to go with the AB800: http://www.alienbees.com/b800.html
Other than the lighting unit itself, what other components are
A: absolutely necessary?

...the "light modifyer frame".. get one per light.., Eclips "ribless" umbrellas..made by Photogenic... so the reflection of the umbrella ribs is reduced in the catch lights.. I have several..that range in size.. I use those for groups of people mostly but if you are just starting out,... try using them for people too..


B: recommended?
Under A would be...
a stand to put it on? (intend to place softbox high above subjects head)

...an 8ft stand should be good to start with.. if you plan on getting additional lights, you may want to use a backlight stand,.. with the center post.. or if you want a more sturdy stand, or one that you can place some sand bags on, you may want to get the "Avenger" catalog.. I could suggest several kinds of stands... I like useing one that features a "lazy leg" which extends so you can plact the light stand on a hill..or on stairs..and manage to keep the light level.. (and safe from falling)..


a softbox? (sizes?)

...hmm... a 16x20 is a nice small box,...I still use mine all the time.. I also would suggest perhaps a 36x48" box... and I would strongly suggest buying ones with a recesed front.. ...like the kind that look like it has sort of a barn-door effect...because that is what it does.. it controls the light better.. I like Chimera boxes ... I have a Photoflex but I don't like the way it was built.. Oh, ask O*M*P #97 what brand he uses... he brought some really nifty soft boxes with him to a shoot out recently...tell him that I said "hi!" [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

cords of some sort? or is that all with it?

...the light comes with a sync cord and a power cord.. I believe they are both 15ft'ers.. Just buy an extension cord...if you don't have one already..and one of those peanut slave thingies I showed you a week or so ago..that are made by Wein.. those are more sensitive than the slaves on the back of the lights if you plan on useing a strobe to fire your strobes..

Under B would be... what?
a remote unit?

.....I never use it.. Perhaps if you have a "set" set.....like every light is in the exact place where you wantit to be and you just want to change the power output a tad without having to go to your lights and futz with them... I bought one of those remote units ten years ago.. I used it once since then.. I didn't have to either..

light meter?

....Yes, I use a Minolta Autometer..that records both flash and ambient light... get to know your meter!


beauty dish?

.....later on maybe..

etc...

.....Gels to colour the lights...grids...(10º, 20º, 30º & 40º) to project the light to a certain area,....barndoors..to keep the light from spilling over an entire area but allows you to use light to cover a large area.. a snoot / spot.. which are nice for hair lights..or a very specific area of the shot where you want light to appear..

...Buy a piece of foamcore... if they have it in black, it will save you the trouble of painting it.. and then, cut abstract shapes into it all over the surface of the board..and then use that to provide back light in a large area so that the light is broken up between shadow and lighted areas in a background.... we commercial guys call it a "cookie sheet".. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

And what the heck is a "speedring" anyway?

....you place a speedring in your softbox ...(that is dedicated to fit your light...not some other light)....and you can mount your strobe to it..... it is a must have with a softbox..

This is for use with a D70, studio only for right now, (cash for a portable power supply, later) for portraits, fashion, and beauty shots.


... I've done a lot with just one light....and you can too.. Oh, buy a sync cord adaprot... Nikon makes a nice unit..it costs about $25.00 but it can protect your camera from a power surge from the light ...I have heard of that happening before.. I'd rather blow 25 bucks than repairs to the motherboard to your D70..


Bear in mind (and some of you are really really NOT good at this!) that I've never even seen a dang strobe used in real life, and have no clue what the various doodads that have to be a part of the system even are... assume you're giving a lecture to an intensely attentive but ignorant high school class...
I WILL be taking this to do (indoor AC accessible) location shooting away from home, and possibly dragging it all onto planes, so portability, compactness, and light weight are all very important for now.

....cool... I've done "show and tell" seminars in high school photography classes before.. it's a lot of fun getting kids turned on to photography..

If you have any questions, I'd be happy to help...just PM me..


Minimal system (but capable of pro results) to get started???????
Thanks in advance!

With what I mentioned above.,...and the knowledge of how to use it,..I'll bet you that with your digital camera, you will learn fast!

JP

Here are a few of the "action shots"..





 
 
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