Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Yesterday I was out on location testing for a shoot. You can read all about that on my previous post, here. The things I discovered on the pre-shoot prepared me for today's action, which, uh, is the reason I do the location test in the first place. :)

The first thing I knew I needed was more light. I only brought one flash with me during testing and because I had to kill so much ambient light first, with shutter speed (up to my max sync speed 1/200th) then with aperture, I maxed out a single Canon 580EX II pretty quick. I couldn't even add an umbrella because it killed too much of the flash power. For my testing, running a bare flash was OK but I wanted creamier light for the shoot. And, I also knew I would be lighting more of the subject so I needed to spread the light more as well. That meant using an umbrella, which in turn meant more flash power.

I started the day by picking up a 60 inch umbrella, my biggest yet. The next challenge was to add more flash power behind that massive umbrella. Initially I looked at picking up one of the Lasolite "tri-flash" units as they are fairly inexpensive and well regarded but my local store did not have the model I wanted on hand. So with plan "A" off the table I decided to improvise.

I didn't take more than a few minutes to figure out how to create a suitable tri-flash alternative. I started off with a typical umbrella/cold shoe mount on a stand. Next I added one Manfrotto Justin clamp, clamping it vertically along the stand. I added a second Justin clamp, covering the first and orienting it to point in the opposite direction. The final piece was to add a cheapie Canadian Tire clamp to... wait for it... clamp the clamp that was clamping the clamp. Phew. Here's a picture, you'll get the idea.

It worked pretty slick and held secure. The flash heads can be oriented as shown in the picture or extended straight to shrink the gap between them. One problem with the second configuration is that you cannot tilt the flash heads or add an umbrella to the structure. With the configuration shown in the picture, the flash heads can tilt and you can use an umbrella, which is why I chose it for my shoot. With my two problems solved I was fully prepared for the shoot.

With all the planning and preparation done the only worry was making good pictures. We banged away on location for about two hours and created some really great shots, including this one.

Keep planning and keep shooting.

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