Why Create Such a Thing?
I was faced with a lighting dilemma, how to photograph people on the street to include in my Celebrity Charity Music Portrait Project Six Beats Of Separation, and do so with the least amount of help from an assistant. And with lighting that would flatter any subject. I'd initially set out with my assistant Brian to do some tests. We took with us a typical setup...a Profoto Acute B2, one head on a Manfroto pole, and a gridded and socked beauty dish.
The light such a setup affords is beautiful, but it leaves a few things to be desired. It's limited in what it can do, (Yes I can pull the diffuser and sock, and even change angles...but that's about the extent of it.) More importantly....I wanted to free up whoever is assisting me to do other things, Record audio...capture BTS footage, handle model releases...etc. Limiting their usefulness by inundating them with the chore of being a human light-stand seemed less than efficient.
When Profoto came out with their new B2 Off Camera Flash Lighting System, I immediately thought of the handiwork of Pro Media Gear. Pro Media Gear makes flash brackets unlike any other available. They afford the ability to rig not one but two lights to one camera, making for a powerful and versatile system.
Their Boomerang Flash Brackets combined with the light weight and high power of the new Profoto B2 would allow for a set up that till now literally has never been possible.
This setup would give me the soft yet directional light of the previous setup with the beauty dish, at a 1/10 the weight and bulk.
Not only that..but it affords me the ability to fill in shadows that the other rig left unattended. And options... oh the options!
The Profoto B2 has had lot's of coverage lately and I'd like to add to that by saying the following.... The system is rock solid, the lighting consistent and utterly beautiful, the design a wonderful marriage of form and function.
The System Used Here, is the Profoto B2 Location Kit. It Consists Of:
- 1 x B2 250 AirTTL (Fast, powerful and easy to use battery pack. Compact and lightweight enough to be carried on your belt or shoulder.)
- 2 x B2 Head (Small and light enough to put on a stand, a monopod or even on a bracket on your camera.) <----Yes... I Know!
- 2 x Li-Ion Battery (This powerful and exchangeable battery provides 220-50,000 flashes in a single charge depending on flash output.)
- 1 x Carrying Bag (A handy little bag that houses the B2 battery pack. Carry it on your belt, shoulder or hang it on a stand.)
- 1 x B2 Location Bag (Bag with adjustable compartments.)
- 1 x Battery Charger 2.8 A (Recharges the Li-Ion Battery in one hour.)
We supplemented the kit with the inclusion of the Profoto Air TTL unit. And 2 OCF Softbox 2' Octas (60x60 cm) Product Number: 101211
We also rocked a OCF Barndoor, and a 5 degree grid got some camera time too.
Mounting two of these lights to one's camera gives you a studio you can take with you. Some of the lighting options are as follows:
Run two OCF Octabox softboxes angled towards one another for beautiful glamorous clamshell lighting. Change the ratios to get the shadow balance you desire...or dial them in equally and get a wonderfully soft yet equally three dimensional near ring-light quality. I say near ring-light as it is truly more of a refined ring-light look, not as in your face...and much more flattering.
Run one light up top with a grid, a snoot or barn-doors and get beautiful sharp butterfly lighting. Dial in your bottom box for fill as desired.
Pop the top light off in an instant, attach the optional extension cable, and take the light to an angle on axis with yoru subject for beautiful directional light. Run the bottom light as a fill light...and again...dial it in as desired to 1/10 of a stop accuracy.
Now....if that wasn't enough.... run the system in TTL mode, and you can sustain rock solid results even as your subject distance changes. And lastly, a feature that frankly gets far too much hype for one use, and not nearly enough mention for another, High Speed Sync. Most times you hear it mentioned, it's in regards to 'controlling the sun' And while that's fine, I feel it also can fall into the danger zone of doing what's trending...and trends are like the special of the day.. they eventually get stale...
Having the control is important though, and I think that where this option truly shines is INSIDE! I'll explain. Let's say you have a portrait shoot in an environment with limited space...and not much control over the already bright ambient light. Which for many assignment shooters can be every other assignment, am I right? Well..what better situation to shoot with a wide aperture to take control of an otherwise uninteresting background? High Speed Sync to the rescue...suddenly you can shoot in a manner that makes such a scenario bend to your will, without having ambient light overpower your shot. Priceless.
With the help of my friends at Foto Care Rentals in NYC and Profoto's own Cliff Hausner who happened to be on site, and who pitched in to ensure all went together smoothly, we put together this system to run it through it's paces, and see if what I envisioned in my mind would be feasible for all day shooting, shooting handheld, and doing so with little to no help.
The Double Jay Six Beats Rig answer to all three questions was a resounding yes! And over the course of two days I spent with this system I can say this...while it looks like a behemoth....it is resoundingly nimble and a pleasure to wield. I credit this to it being so wonderfully well balanced, and to the ability to both shoulder and assist in carrying it, that's afforded by the Peak Design System. And the ability to easily secure or release it to and from a tripod or monopod, thanks to the built in Arca-Swiss plate that is the backbone for the Pro Media Gear Boomerang Flash Brackets.
It stopped every photographer who came through the doors in their tracks, solicited a lot of questions, and a lot of smiles. Everyone was invited to handle it, and the verdict was in...this setup is a winner. "Looks like way more to handle than it actually is"...."...deceptively ergonomic" and "...actually very comfortable," were just some of the comments it received. It was even referred to as "genius" on more than a few occasions. One photographer (Whose assisted both Helmut Newton and Herb Ritts) commented..."The ability to hold the bottom flash bracket while shooting in portrait mode actually gives one an incredible sense of stability and makes it quite comfortable!"
Now How Does One Carry Such a Thing?
Add to the mix a camera strap 'System' from the brilliant folks at Peak Design, and this oddly shaped rig became easily totable.
Due in fact to the unique rigging options the Peak Design gear allows for. I knew headed into this that if this rig was to be carried it would need options for how the strap system was connected, otherwise the rig would jut out in the way more so than need be and potentially make this very difficult to move about with. My experience with the Peak Design System though ensured me if this were ever to work this would be my best shot. I couldn't have been more right. Their anchor link attachment points were exactly what we needed. They gave us the ability to try multiple points to see which best balanced the rig for carrying. After a little trial and error we landed at an option that slung the Double Jay Six Beats Rig across my back like a guitar across a cowboys back. Click the mobile snapshots to get more details as to exactly how we attached everything.
While all this backstory is great, what matters is the final product. The images. We just scratched the surface here. What was most important was that I test to see how the rig would handle, if it would keep up, if it was balanced and if it would make for a system I could use for a project that will have me photographing celebrities whose time is too valuable for me to miss a beat. The lightning options, the light quality, and the ability to make changes quickly and to lock in and have the exposure stay consistent is something that I am not willing to part with. This is the light it makes now the official setup I will be using for all Six Beats Of Separation photo-shoots.
I'm glad you asked...A few things I didn't get time yet to test. The ability to shoot video with modeling lights....While I'm rather certain that this would be possible in only a limited fashion, I'm more interested in at least knowing in what conditions if any this is feasible with good results. Most certainly something to investigate. (I'm surprised no one has covered this yet....) I'm also interested in testing the strip soft boxes in this rig. As they would allow for a very wide lens. And may make for some very interesting catch lights in the eyes. Though I really prefer the look of a round catch-light.
We shot down to a 50mm lens and at that point we had to slightly tilt the Octas outwards ever so slightly. (Sort of a reverse clamshell?) The results were still fine. The thinner softboxes would allow for a wider lens. I can think of a few situations where this might be helpful. None Id use regularly though.
Also before using this setup for Six Beats I have to test it in the same conditions, and photograph a subject from a variety of distances over the course of roughly 5 mins, with TTL and see if it will keep up. I have every confidence it will. But I still need to put it through its paces before someone like Simon Cowell comes and sits for a session....
Everything you'll need in photos:
Now, I have to say while I've done nothing but raved about this entire system, and rightfully so...it truly is a dream to work with and is going to afford me the ability to remain focused intently on my subjects and the deeply personal things they are sharing with me to share with the public for all of history. And to do so without concern for my gear. To me.. that's priceless. Also the peopel involved and responsible for all of this gear are really wonderful people, who genuinely care not only about their products and how they are used but about the people who are using them and how they can improve the experiences they sustain. Again... priceless.
But there were a few little things Id like to see changed. I'm not ready to comment on them yet till I speak to the folks responsible, and from the discussion I've already had... I was told ..."...anythings possible, and yes.. we probably will." So I am confident that things can only get better. Can you imagine!? I can!
Thanks for being here with me.. and I do hope you'll stick around for the ride.
If you have any questions feel free to drop a comment below.
Thank You to Those Who Made This Possible
A big thank you to everyone at Foto Care, Fred Blake, Brian, Aaron, Johnny, Bart and the rest of the gang.
Also thank you to Cliff Hausner, from Profoto.
Tom from Pro Media Design, who is brilliant and inspired.
Peter, Adam and Annie at Peak Design, people who truly are as inspiring as the products they design and represent.
To Lori Cheek, Shannon Hamm and Pauline Herveaux because you all are as rock solid as your smiles are contagious!
And lastly to my photographer pal Peter Frey whose undying passion to create and help others create is rare and beautiful!
Thank you all!