Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tripod, Light Stands, and Modifiers

On the outside of the pack, I carried my tripod, light stands, and light modifiers. I didn't try to take these on board with me when I was flying- they went in my checked bags then. But, whenever I went out shooting, they were with me.

I don't use a tripod all the time- in fact, I use one for fewer than half the photographs I make. I generally like to stay quick and agile and move around a lot to find the perfect vantage point for whatever I'm shooting. I always have one with me, however. I don't like to be caught unprepared for any situation I might run into. For my European trip, I brought the Gitzo #1541 Series One tripod with the #GH1781QR Series One quick release ball head. I've owned other tripods in the past, but when I made the switch to Gitzo, I was shocked and amazed at what a difference it made. The sections always open and close quickly and smoothly. The legs open flat to allow a low vantage point. The ball head operates exactly the way I prefer. And they last forever. I actually own the larger 3531 to use when I'm not traveling. It's beefier and can hold big cameras with long lenses in the wind and stay steady. But the 1541 was the perfect blend of light weight, small size, and adequate sturdiness to be the right tool for the job I needed when I was carrying it on my back.

The light stands I chose were two Manfrotto 5001B's. Like the tripod and some of the other items in the pack, these were chosen because of their size and weight. They're not as heavy duty as the stands I carry in my usual shooting kit, but they raise to over six feet, they hold what I need them to, they are very small when folded, and they weigh about two pounds each.

I most often use portable softboxes when shooting portraits. Depending on the size, they provide a stunning quality of light. But they can be a little bit of a pain to set up and with the quick rings necessary, they're bulky and little heavy. Umbrellas solve the problems of set up time, bulk, and weight, but they just don't provide the control because their design allows light to bounce all over the place. (By the way, I carry both softboxes and umbrellas in my standard kit.)

The Elincrom Varistar was the perfect compromise. It essentially is a shoot through umbrella that has a black skirt on the back that keeps light from bouncing back and all around. It allows for almost as much control as a softbox, but it sets up as quickly as an umbrella- and there's no quick ring to carry. It's a great design and I carried two in the 33 inch size in my Studio in a Backpack.

In the next post I'll talk about my reflector/scrim set and the hardware I use with it.

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