For Sale: Studio flash stuff

I'm selling my studio flash setup.  I've gotten good use out of it and it's all good stuff but I just don't use it much anymore and I need the space back.   I've done wedding photo booths, product shots, and corporate headshots with all of this stuff - this is a full setup that can handle a lot of different types of "studio" shots, either in your studio or taken to a client site.

Basic portrait setup:

This is everything you need to head out to a client site and take corporate portraits, other than a backdrop.  Or to a wedding for a photobooth-type setup. 

  • Alien Bees flashes - 3.   Two AB 400 and one AB 800.  They work great and show minimal wear.  With hard travel covers, aluminum reflectors, and soft cases for each.  (zippers on cases are broken)
  • Light stands - Two regular and one shorty for a backdrop light behind a sitting person.  They aren't really heavy-weight but they get the job done.
  • Umbrellas - Two TRI-FOLDING Westcott 45" white/black convertible reflector/shoot-through umbrellas.  These are the good ones that fold very small.  They fit right in to the AB flashes.
  • Bag of Cables and Stuff - sync cables, some clamps, some gaffing tape, etc.  The stuff you need to connect it all together and make it work.
  • Power cables for each flash.  No batteries here!  These puppies will put out full power all day long because they plug in to the wall.
  • Pelican 1650 case - everything listed above fits in this case.  Case is pretty bulletproof - you can stand on it, sit on it, and it's waterproof.   The case shows wear outside and does NOT have the wheels or extendible handle it once had.  It still has three normal handles though.   It's moveable by one person when full of all that stuff, but it's heavy.  You should put it on a dolly if you're going to carry it far.
  • I probably have some 45" wide rolls of seamless paper for backdrops too.  White, grey, black, etc.

Super Backdrop Setup

Take your portraits to the next level with this collection of goodies!

Extendible backdrop setup

Extendible backdrop setup

This group includes things to do nice backdrops:

  • Two more lightstands - they go to 10 feet
  • Telescoping Manfrotto backdrop pole - expands to about 11 feet, or whatever's long enough for the long rolls of seamless backdrop paper.   This thing is made to do exactly this job.
  • Sandbags (5) - You want these so the drunks at your wedding don't trip on the stand and bring it down on the ring bearer kid and you get sued for a million dollars.  There are enough so you can have one on each backdrop stand and one on each flash stand.
  • A few clamps for holding the fabric or seamless backdrop to the bar.
  • Cloth backdrops - One bright white and one light black (home dyed, so not perfectly black) about 9 foot by 18 foot or so.
  • Carrying bin for the cloth backdrops.
  • Botero tri-folding collapsible black/grey/white backdrop - good for headshots, shoulder-length portraits, but probably not full height stuff.

Advanced Modifiers Stuff

This is a collection of fun stuff once you have mastered the basics:

  • Manfrotto tilting boom light stand - You use this to hang a hairlight over your portrait subject.  This thing is large and you will need sandbags for it.  I can't find a model number for this on it but it's Manfrotto.
  • Large Alien Bees softboxes - One 30" x 60" rectangular and one 47" octabox.   These are large and you'll need some ceiling height to use them well.
  • Speedring for softboxes - Only one!  
  • honeycombs - set of 4 (10, 20, 30, 40 degrees)   For aiming your light.  They fit right in to the AB reflectors.  Use one of these for your hair light and one for your hidden backdrop light.
  • Full size umbrellas - Westcott 45" basic umbrellas.
  • Small AB gold/silver reversible umbrella.   The gold side really warms up the light.

Other Stuff

I've got other stuff that does't fit here - like Manfrotto Superclamps (black or silver), random grip gear, etc.  There's an Easton baseball bat duffel that works for carrying the lighting stuff if you don't want the beefy Pelican case.

Pricing coming soon...

Hurricane Season: A test of Ham Radio's Relevance

Just before hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria formed in the Atlantic, I started thinking more about our earthquake preparedness kit.  Ham radio is a small part of my preparedness kit since I might be able to hit the local repeaters used by ARES and RACES for...   For what exactly - I'm not sure.  Something useful I'm sure. 

One of the mantras of ham radio is that this is all going to come in handy in a natural disaster or other crazy situation.  The gear, the training, the time spend hanging out with geeky old guys with belt-packs and suspenders - all of it is going to pay off when us hams swing into action and save the day.  In the meantime we have fun at events like Wildflower and Field Day to play with all our toys and keep in practice.

So the hurricanes blaze across the Caribbean wiping out infrastructure left and right and leaving communication networks and power infrastructure destroyed.  Puerto Rico is going to be out of power for a month or more.  Barbuda is leveled.  The Virgin Islands are hit hard.  Cell phone towers are out of action, and infrastructure is so poorly damaged that generators will be running out of gas before they can be refueled.

This is Ham Radio's time to shine.  In the story Hams tell themselves, there will be amateurs deployed to hospitals, police stations, airports, etc. to keep things running smoothly in the absence of normal communications.  

Messages will be relayed, recovery efforts will be coordinated, we'll get to use our leatherman tools and our reflective vests and we'll be the most popular people around.  Our prep for working off the grid with self-contained power and no reliance on fixed infrastructure or corporate control is perfectly suited for something like this. 

If Ham Radio doesn't show real value in September and October 2017 then maybe it's time to re-assess our expectations of ham radio's place in massive disasters.

In the meantime, take a look at your own disaster prep kit, buy a couple more jugs of water, and talk to your family about what you're all going to do when the Big One comes.   Because it's going to be your turn at some point.

Cal Poly vs. San Jose State in the HEAT

I shot the Cal Poly/San Jose State football game on Saturday.  Cal Poly did really well, starting out with the first two scores and keeping it within 6 points into the 4th quarter, but eventually falling 34-13.

But the real story was the HEAT.  Saturday was right in the middle of a multi-day heatwave and the temperature at the 4:30 kickoff was about 107.  There was way more of a crowd than I expected and pretty good Cal Poly turnout.  They gave everyone in the stands wet towels which was a really nice gesture, and let all the fans move to the shady side of the stadium, instead of keeping the visitors and the students in the sun.

I got some good stuff, using the same pair of old Canon 1-d mk III bodies and the new-to-me-but-actually-old 300/2.8 and 70-200/2.8.  Lots of missed focus shots that make me want to upgrade to a 1-Dx, or at least re-read the camera manual on auto-focus settings.

I experimented with not using the monopod for the 300/2.8 body and instead just hung it off my BlackRapid strap and it worked out very well.  I was concerned that it would be too heavy to manage effectively or cause too much fatigue but it did very well.  Its probably worth doing it this way in the future to avoid the cumbersome monopod.

I've got a gallery here on this blog but you can see more on my flickr account.

The heat started to backoff during halftime

Historic Preservation and Photography

I've been thinking a lot recently about photography as it relates to historic preservation.  There's a long history of photography as a tool in historic preservation, using old photographs to tell us about structures we don't have anymore, and using photography to make records of structures that may be threatened in the future. I've recently learned all about HABS, HALS, and HAER photography which actually require 4x5", 5x7", or 8x10" large format photography, even here in 2016.  The issue isn't that digital photography lacks detail, but that it isn't known to be as "archivaly stable" as film negatives.

In order to experiment with this area of photography I've borrowed a 4x5" Shen Hao field camera and all the accessories.  I've bought some film and I'm ready to give it a try.  I'll let you know if get anything good.

In the meantime, let's all make sure we don't end up like this guy, who went out to take a cool nighttime photo with an old building and ended up burning down a nationally registered structure:


Mounting and framing large prints

Although I haven't been able to get out and take many new pictures this year, I've been spending quite a bit of time printing and hanging some large prints of photos I took years ago.  I've talked to some potential clients about some large prints for large spaces but I haven't had many large pieces to show them, to give them a sense of how things would look in their space. In the last couple months I've mounted and hung a 2' x 4' (24" x 48") print in a frame I built, and now a 30" x 60" print "floating."  If you're interested in filling a larger wall, now I have some samples to show you.

30" x 60" floating print after hanging

There are lots of extra challenges when working with large prints that you don't have with smaller prints.  Anything up to about 16" x 20" you can just print (in-home, online, or at a print house), buy a frame off-the-shelf, throw it in, and hang it on the wall.

With larger prints there are all sorts of extra concerns, like how to you get a 5 foot print to your house without damaging it?  Unless it's rolled up, you better have a minivan because it just won't fit in your car without getting damaged. The weight of the paper itself makes the print vulnerable to creases when you handle it in any way.


Then there's the question of how you're going to display it.  Frames this size aren't very common and they're probably expensive.  I chose to "float mount" it which means you don't need a frame but you still have to mount it on something rigid - a board or some foam core or something.

Heck - even if you want to frame it you need to mount it (glue it) to some sort of board anyway because large prints don't lay completely flat when you frame them - they have ripples that get distracting.

For both these prints I decided to spray-mount them (sometimes called "cold mounting") to a piece of 1/8" thick expanded PVC board as a first step.   This involved a can of spray adhesive like Scotch Photo Mount, a large flat surface, and a roller.   Cold mounting is pretty nerve-racking because you have to get it right the first time when you're working with spray adhesive.  The print itself costs between $50 and $200 so if you screw it up and end up with a messy pile of sticky paper, you're out some decent money right off the bat.

Spray-mounting half the print.  The other half is clamped in place at the other end.

For the 2' x 4' print I decided to frame it because I wanted it to look a little larger on the wall than it already was.  Instead of getting a custom frame made I decided to buy some wood moulding and make a frame myself.  I'm pretty handy with a miter saw and it worked out pretty well.  I spent far more in time than I would have spent in money.

For the 5' print (30" x 60") I decided to just float-mount it.  First, because it's was the easiest option.  Second, because the print is already pretty large and a frame around it would only make it larger.  (and heavier)  The primary purpose of this print is to take to potential clients' locations to give them a sense of size so keeping it something that can easily fit in a minivan and be carried by one person is important.

The way this print is mounted it could framed later, so I haven't given p any flexibility.

The 1/8" PVC board feels rigid when you pick up a small piece but it's pretty flimsy at this size, so it needs bracing.  I decided to glue 4 pieces of 1/2" x 3/4" aluminum C-channel to the back, which both give it rigidity and give me something to drill holes into for hanging.

The aluminum frame on the back adds rigidity and gives me something to attach wires to.

We have picture rail in our house so our photos are hung with picture wire and picture hooks - no drilling holes in the wall.   I like picture rail because it gives us a lot of flexibility to move things around without damaging the walls at all.  Nudging something to the left or right a few inches is easy.

You can't really tell from the picture above but there's one continuous wire running through a variety of holes which give one loop of picture wire on each side, to make hanging easier.  The wire can be slid through the holes to even out the lengths one each side, which makes leveling the hanging photo easy.

Detail of the rail on the back, held on with Gorilla Glue.   I drilled holes for the picture wire, which I attached with ferrules with crimped ends.

The finished product is at the top of this post.   I'm pretty happy with it.  It fits in the minivan well so if you're interested in a large print for your space, let me know and we can talk about what works for you and possibly bring this one over for a "test fitting."


Thanks go out to Charles Cramer for helping make the 5 foot print a reality.  After editing this image off and on for about 6 years I thought I had it all ready for him to print out but he helped me make it even better.   Charles runs workshops about editing and printing landscape photos both here in Santa Clara and up in Yosemite.  I took his class many years ago and I've been happy to keep in touch since then.