Saturday, May 28, 2011

Rogue Grid Review!

ExpoImaging has come out with a cool new modifier for speedlights called the Rogue 3-in-1 Grid.  These are the same guys that brought us the Rogue Flash Benders for speedlights which are essentially snoots, gobos, bounce cards and flags all rolled in to one customizable shaped modifier.  For photographers who like to pack light, you can't beat the small size and portability of this latest series of flash modifiers.

The Rogue Grid is a really nice system because it has three different grid sizes in one small package.  These grids come in 45 degrees, 25 degrees and 16 degrees spreads that have a somewhat soft-ish fall off to the edges, unlike using a snoot.  This system comes with the two grids (stacking them makes the third grid), the grid holder and a cool little bag to carry the system in.

These guys are made of a very hard composite plastic that seem very durable and can probably take a good beating ...or at least a lot wear and tear.  These grids are attached to speedlights with the included grid holder.  You simply take the grid holder and strap it around the head of your speedlight.  It has a pretty unique system in that it will stretch and can be velcroed in to place which makes a pretty secure connection.  You don't need anything like a speed strap or extra velcro to attach these to your speed lights and by design, the grid holder can be adjusted for different size speedlights.

Once you have the grid holder fastened to the flash, simply choose which degree grid you want to use, and fit it into the end of the grid holder.  This is the only part of this system that I'm not exactly wild about because the grid takes a little work to slip in to the holder and then its only held by the tension of the holder itself.  So far I haven't had any problems with this, but I do use an extra speed strap wrapped around it to make sure it stays secure.  This is really just more of an annoyance than an actual ding on the system.

The internal grid pattern is slightly hexagonal but you can see in the photo below that it produces a circular style spread of light.  Another cool feature about these grids is the really tight 16 degrees pattern you get.  As far as I know, this is the smallest light spread by a grid for speedlights that you can get.  To get the 16 degrees grid, you simply stack the 45 degrees and 25 degrees on top of each other and place in the grid holder.  These go together quite easily as well because each of the grids are notched so that there is only one way you can stack these together.  The 16 degrees grid makes a really small spread of light, especially when used in close.

The photo below shows the various light size spreads of the three different grids.  The flash head is approximately three feet away from the wall, and I have an X and Y axis graph diagram in inches taped to the wall so that you can see the approximate sizes.  Keep in mind these sizes will vary based on your flash to subject distance.

I have enjoyed using the Rogue Grids thoroughly and can without a doubt recommend them to anyone who uses speedlights.  They do the job nicely and are compact.  These are definitely worth the money in my book!  You can pick up the Rogue Grid at Outdoor Photo Gear along with all the other cool products by ExpoImaging.

A quick word to the wise... when you first buy these and take them out of the box, it would appear that there is only one grid in the box.  That is because they come stacked together. :)  I figured this out only a few minutes after a little frustration.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New Soft Boxes by Lastolite for Speedlights!

Just wanted to take a quick second to let everyone know that Lastolite has come out with some new, very cool softboxes for speedlights!

If you're unfamiliar with Lastolite, they make awesome products for speedlights (and other photography related gear too) such as the Lastolite Ezybox Hotshoe and the very popular Tri-Grip Reflectors and Diffusers.  I have the Lastolite Ezybox Hotshoe softbox and one of the Tri-Grips and can definitely say that they are top quality and get the job done excellently well.

Continuing on with their successful line of products for speedlight users, Lastolite has come out with two cool new products called the Hotrod Strip Softbox and the Hotrod Octa Softboxes.  I've been waiting for a while for a manufacturer to come up with a good octabox and strip box for speedlights so I will definitely be planning on purchasing one or both of these some time in the near future.

I don't own either of these so I can't honestly attest to the quality and capability, but if they're anything like the Ezybox or their Tri-Grip reflectors, I'm sure they are top notch.  I will seriously be looking forward to getting to try these out and wanted to share the info with everyone.

For a little more in depth info, check out this video on how to use and set up the Hotrod Strip Softbox.

If anybody has one, or picks up one, please leave a comment to let us know what you think!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Flash Bus Portrait

Rudy and the Flash Bus

One of the reasons I like using flash and/or strobe is because of the contrast and control it gives me.  Sometimes I will shoot using ambient light only, but most of the time I find I can make the image much more interesting by adding light and balancing with the available ambient light.

A few friends and I attended the Flash Bus Tour in Nashville back in April and a couple of us wanted our portraits taken in front of the Flash Bus.  So after we located it and tried to find the best angle to photograph from, I took a quick ambient light only shot first, thinking who knows, maybe it will turn out nice (I wasn't really thinking that).  This is the shot below...

Pretty blah and boring huh?  Well, except of course for my model with his extraordinarily good looks.  However for the overall exposure, I thought we could do better.

So I dropped the ambient exposure by a stop or two, simply by speeding up my shutter speed.  I kept the aperture and ISO the same as the previous image because I didn't want the depth of field to change or the overall quality of the image.

After dropping the ambient a stop or two, it was time to light my buddy.  I took out a trusty Nikon SB-800 and put a Lumiquest SBIII on it so that it would be a little diffused and simply left it in TTL.  I decided that since we were attending the Flash Bus Tour that I would have to use flash (actually I just didn't want McNally or Hobby jumping off the bus and attacking us) and that I would leave the flash power in TTL a-la-McNally just to see how it went.  I was hand holding this light and directing it as best I could while I tried to keep the composition where I wanted it.

You can see in the photo below, that the sky looks much better and my buddy is lit sufficiently, but now the bus is dark and you can't really make out what it says.

No worries though, as I was packing not one, but two Nikon SB-800s!  So I took the other one out of the bag, zoomed the head to around 50 mm and placed it on the ground behind my subject, pointing up at the center of the bus.  I tried to be cautious in my placement of this light because I didn't want it to show in the photo and wanted to make sure that it lit the bus well enough to see the logo and design.  I also left this flash's power in TTL but put it in a different group, just in case I needed a different power level than my key light.  Both of these strobes were triggered with the pop-up flash on my D300 using Nikon's CLS system.

As luck would have it, my Nikon's built in metering/TTL system did a nice job determining flash output and no compensation was needed on either light.  So this portrait was a straight TTL solution with my aperture, shutter speed and ISO dialed in manually...

I actually cropped in on this a little bit as I thought it made a better composition.  This portrait is the same as the one at the top of the page, I placed it down here so you wouldn't have to scroll back up for reference.

I realize that this portrait is not Pulitzer material, but for a quick setup and shoot (took about 5-10 mins total) I feel this shot turned out much better than the ambient light only version, and its definitely better than an on camera flash snapshot imo ...of course I probably should've Photoshopped out the electrical tower and power lines, but it was just a quick portrait anyways. :)