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Thursday, September 1, 2005

Gadget Bag: Light Up Your Life

Flash accessories and lighting concepts to help enhance your photography

Direct flash can create harsh shadows and hot spots. By diffusing that light, you create a more gentle light with softer shadows that wraps around your subjects. The result is a more balanced and pleasing image.

Diffused light in the studio often is referred to as beauty light. This quality of light also can be advantageous to nature photography, as it spreads out over an area, balances contrast in close-up shots and fills shadows in a landscape scene with the feel of natural light.

LumiQuest’s Big Bounce softens harsh and unappealing highlights. With dimensions of 81⁄2x103⁄4 inches, the Big Bounce works like a mini-softbox to bounce and diffuse the light from your flash. Lightweight and small enough to fit in your pack, the accessory attaches to your flash head via the use of Velcro®. List Price: $38.95.

Adorama’s Strobo-Sock is a white piece of nylon material that integrates an elastic band in the design, enabling you to fit it over any size flash head to diffuse your light. Quick and convenient, the tool is ultra-lightweight and can be crumpled up and stuffed in your pocket. Eliminate ugly highlights or use two socks at the same time to cut down the power of your light, which can be ideal for close-up photography. List Price: $19.95 (a pair).

Bouncing light off of a white surface is a great way to soften light. This could prove to be useful if a ceiling or wall were available in the wilderness, but since they aren’t, you can replicate this effect using the Metz MZ5422 Bounce Screen. The 8x10-inch screen creates an even light over your image, and easily attaches to your flash via Velcro®. It conveniently folds down to slide into a pocket in your camera bag. List Price: $74.

Chimera’s Mini and Maxi Lightbanks are designed like a miniature studio softbox in sizes that work for field use—12x16 inches for the Mini and 16x22 inches for the Maxi. Both offer greater diffusion than most portable units, but fold down to fit a gadget bag. These lightbanks come with a choice of a white or silver interior. White interiors give a slightly softer light while silver is more efficient in its use of light. The accessories attach to your strobe or light stand via an adapter (not included). List Price: $80 (Mini); $99 (Maxi).

A basic flash unit simply throws out light over an area without any bias. If you want it to fall on something specific or illuminate a certain area in your shot, but not in another, however, then you have to focus the direction of its output. To do this, look at the shadow areas of your scene that you wish to illuminate, point your flash in that direction and use an accessory to sculpt the burst.

Accessories that focus the spread and intensity of a flash can help you highlight a detail in a landscape. In addition, telephoto photography can require a flash with a strong output so it can reach your subject at a long distance. The Project-A-Flash is designed with a Fresnel lens that concentrates the power of the light from a wide burst to a smaller but stronger one, making it stretch farther and reach your faraway subject. Made of a durable plastic, the Project-A-Flash fits snugly over the front of your flash head and is secured by a hook and loop, which is included in the cost. List Price: $34.95.

Weighing less than three ounces, Kirk Enterprises’ Flash X-Tender is a lightweight accessory that’s easy to take with you in the field. Whether you need a main light or fill, the flash extender increases the output from your flash by two full stops while reducing the spread of the flash, an asset when shooting with lenses 300mm or longer. This is a useful tool for photographing wildlife in trees or anything that’s difficult to approach closely. List Price: $42.95.

Sometimes you just want to isolate a specific subject in your photograph without having light spill over the entire scene, such as highlighting one flower among a group of blooms. Great for forming this dramatic light, the LumiQuest Snoot conveniently attaches to your flash with hook-and-loop tabs and limits the spread of light from your flash to approximately 10 degrees. The Snoot folds flat for convenient storage. List Price: $25.95.


Adorama — (800) 223-2500 • www.adorama.com

Chimera — (888) 444-1812 • www.chimeralighting.com

Kirk Enterprises — (800) 626-5074 • www.kirkphoto.com

LumiQuest — (830) 438-4646 • www.lumiquest.com

Metz (Bogen Imaging) — (201) 818-9500 • www.bogenimaging.us

Project-A-Flash (Tory Lepp Productions) — (805) 528-0701 • www.leppphoto.com/paf/

Sto-Fen — (800) 538-0730 • www.stofen.com

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