The View Up Here

Random scribblings about kites, photography, machining, and anything else

More Cowbell

Posted by Tom Benedict on 27/10/2014

“What this photo needs is… More cowbell!” More light, anyway…

A couple of weeks ago another hurricane rolled by. It didn’t roll through, mind you, just by. But even a couple hundred miles away, a hurricane can have a drastic effect on the local weather. We got lots of rain and a surprising lack of wind. Our normal wind speeds didn’t even show up for two days, and by the third day we were back in the doldrums. Just perfect for flying kites and doing KAP? NO! I spent the hurricane weekend indoors.

Which is a great segue into something I’ve wanted to do for ages, and finally went off and started: strobe photography.

Having come from the land of landscape photography, 99.99% of what I’ve done to date has used natural and ambient light. That last 0.01% has mostly used what’s traditionally called “hot lights” or constant light sources. (Mine use compact fluorescent bulbs, so I consider them warm-ish lights.) But except for a very brief period during my film days in which I did a lot of insect photography using a tiny off-camera flash, I’ve never really done anything with strobes. We’ve now had two hurricanes in three months, and weather in-between that has kept me housebound. Time to make a change.

When my birthday came around and my family asked what I might be interested in, I asked for a basic one-light setup. To be more truthful, I filled out an Amazon shopping cart and said, “Hey, that’s a basic one-light setup! Can I? PuhLEEEEZE?” It went a little over our normal birthday budget, so I kicked in my last royalty check from Getty to seal the deal. In the end I wound up with a 9′ Impact light stand, a 44″ silver umbrella, a flash bracket, and a Yongnuo YN-560 III manual speedlite with a wireless transceiver. I spent last weekend working on a couple of projects at home (more in my next post) and reading as much as I could about single light setups while I waited for the weather to clear.

The packages started to arrive a few days later. I’m really impressed with the light stand from Impact. It’s as solid as one of my Bogen tripods, and will raise a light 9′ off the floor. The Yongnuo flash is also impressive if you keep in mind that it’s a manual flash and not a TTL or E-TTL. I have concerns about using the umbrella outdoors in our typical wind, but indoors it should work fine. The flash bracket is the least impressive part of the kit. It’s almost all plastic and feels flimsy. But metal flash brackets aren’t that expensive, so I can easily replace it if and when it finally fails.

It’s at this point in these kinds of posts that I like to say, “How’d it all turn out? You be the judge!” followed by a picture that at least indicates I’m not completely lost. Unfortunately I am completely lost, so I don’t have anything to share. I’m on the vertical end of yet another steep learning curve. At least that part of it is familiar territory. But pictures will eventually come.

Meanwhile I had yet another weekend packed with questionable weather. The tradewinds are back with a vengeance, and my KAP gear stayed in my bag the whole time. Even with the allure of cool new photography toys, this weather is starting to chap my hide.

– Tom

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