Saturday, July 7, 2012

Ringflash Event Coverage

One piece of gear that I've been lusting after for years is a ringflash. They're mainly used in macro and fashion photography. They have a tendency to create very flat light unless used *just* right. I've used one in the past here.

I bought one from Paul C Buff and it looks kinda (exactly) like this. 

However, instead of using it for fashion (which I don't do much of), my primary purpose for this particular light was photographing the monthly Electric Kingdom shenanigans. Most people use speedlights when photographing this event. Ever since mine fell 60 feet and exploded into a zillion pieces, I've been unable to do that.

The ringflash as an extremely overpowered solution to this problem.

Average speedlights will pull about 60 watt/seconds at full power. We don't like using them at full power because the recycle is so long, so Taylor and I generally shoot at around 1/4 power; 15 watt/seconds. The AB Ringflash unit is a 320 watt/second light at full power.
10 times the power means 10 times the crazy.
It also means that controlling that much power is a challenge. Luckily for me, the ringflash offers me the ability to control the power from 320w/s down to 10. The difference is, that 10w/s is right in front of the subject, on axis, and has a much larger surface area.

Generally, Taylor does roaming photos at 1/8 second, F/8, 800 ISO.

I ended up at 3 seconds, F/8, 400 ISO.
The insanely long shutter drag is partially because I was feeling chaotic, and partially because anything less than that left me with practically no ambient - which is how you convey the feeling of fun and dancing and movement in an event like this.

To power such a big light, I wore the Vagabond Mini on a strap and kept the power cable coiled in a carabiner. I got 500 frames and still had half a charge on the battery. That little thing continues to surprise me, and it's a year old now!

Of course, having that kind of power meant that I could crank it up and light the entire crowd, standing on stage. Nice to be versatile. 

Yours truly. That really is a face-full of light.

Overall, it wasn't bad. The mounting hardware supplied by PaulCBuff Inc. is definitely NOT designed for this kind of hand-held usage. The mounting bracket the camera sits on continually loosened itself, so I had to bust out my new leatherman every 30 minutes or so to tighten things up.  It's also a fairly heavy rig. 2.5 pounds on top of the camera and lens. Requires two hands to hold it, most of the time. Aside from that, it went OK. Pictures turned out decent, considering it was a completely experimental first time using the gear. I'm not quite happy with them yet - but I expect next month will give me the opportunity to try a few more experiments.