January 3rd, 2013

What's in your bag of lights? Is it a heart? A brain? Kansas?

Clickenzee to Embiggen!

So, tonight I was off on a Top Sekret photo shoot for the Philadelphia Weekly newspaper. Someone on the Twitters or the Facebooks asked "what's in your bag?" and it's a good question, so I thought I'd dump everything out and inventory it before I put everything away.

The over-arching thing is "What I think I'll need, and then a backup of every one of those things."

1) Nikon d800 camera with a 24-120 "kit" lens. It's the most unimpressive lens that I own but the 24mm is often a useful focal length and when I plan on shooting with lights and only bring one lens, this is usually it.

2) Panasonic GX1 and 20mm f1.7 lens. This is the backup camera body. I know I can take a magazine cover-worthy shot with it and it's small. The lens limits you, but if you have to, your work with that.

3) Nikon sb800 flash

4) Nikon sb80dx flash

5) YONGNUO YN-565EX flash

I just happen to have three different flashes, the sb80dx did ttl with my first digital Nikon, the d100 and the sb800 did ttl with the d300 (I think that's when I got them) but I only ever use them on manual, so it really doesn't matter much what I have, all the extra features are unused. I didn't know that I'd use three flashes on this shoot (as it turns out I actually did), but I brought three in case one croaked.

4) one grid for the sb800 or sb80dx

5) one floor stand for a flash -- useful for putting flash on the foor and aiming it at a wall or the back of someone's head.

6) flash sync cords fore each of the flashes and three spares -- just in case. Flash sync cables fail.

7) Two light stands.

8) Two umbrella heads for the light stands. THIS IS THE THING THAT I FORGET MOST OFTEN. At least three times I've shown up for photo shoots with nothing to attach the umbrella to the stand with. This turns into a giant pain in the ass because then you have to duct tape everything together which makes your flash sticky and it's not very easy to move the umbrella around. I've started leaving a spare of these in my light stand bag.

9) Four Pocket Wizard remote flash triggers. I have three that transmit and receive and one older one that only transmits (that's the one with the red tape on it). That's a trigger for the camera and one for each of the flashes.

10) One PhoTek Softlighter II, the medium sized one, which i think is 32 inches. It's my favorite light modifier, it's very versitile, you can use it as a reflective umbrella, a shoot through, or a baffled soft-box style modifier, and the center post is removeable so you can get 3 inches from your subject with the umbrella. Very Nice.

11) A double-fold shoot through umbrealla. This is super compact and it's just a backup to the softlighter -- it's easier to set up (because there's no bag or baffle) and it's what I ended up using at least once tonight because of that. I think I paid $10 for it.

12 One Nikon 10.5mm fisheye. It's small so I usually pack it, you never know when you might want it.

That's it. Very often I end up using one flash & one light stand with an umbrella, but the rest of the stuff means you can do more if you're suddenly in different circumstances and it means that something can break and you can still continue.

Photo from tonight's Top Sekret shoot will likely be on the cover of the Philly Weekly next week, I'll post it when it happens.

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A reader writes.....

A reader writes:

Hi Kyle! any fountain pen recommendations for a neophyte? linkage to previous LJ posts would be welcome too. Thank you!

Of course. There are lots of inexpensive fountain pens, a lot of them write like crap, there are lots of expensive ones that write like crap too.

There are two schools of thought here -- one is to just buy something new and well respected like a Lamy Safari which every fountain pen snob on Earth will not so much admit as rather gleefully tell you is a nice pen. Or you can find yourself a vintage pen that's been restored, or restore it yourself. You really can't go wrong with an Esterbrook -- it probably represents the very pinnacle of fountain pen technology. Esterbrook made millions of pens that were made to be writers -- today fancy companies like Montblanc make $5,000 pens that are meant to sit in a box and accrue value (to some extent, they also make pens they expect people to write with, but nobody writes a novel with a Montblanc, but lots of people wrote them with Esterbrooks) (Que someone emailing me to point out that they wrote their novel with a Montblanc -- find me five friends who did and we'll talk.) Mostly todays expensive fountain pens are used to sign contracts and jot down quick notes like "Ms. Bagpipe, do not ever transfer another call from that bozo."

I'd say get yourself a restored, vintage pen on ebay for $20 and enjoy the ink stains on your fingers. And go to your local fountain pen show when it rolls through town.

And here are some blog posts:

Erin Morgenstern writes about my fountain pens, her fountain pens and The Night Circus

In which I discuss my favorite fountain pens

Monteverde demonstrator (plus geeky rangefinder camera pr0n.)

trillian_stars' Fancy antique dip pen and mechanical pencil combo.

fountain pen photos a-plenty! plus journals and a portable ink well.

I gave away a Montblanc to a promising writer includes geeky pen photos.

my Delta Dolce Vita.

Last winter I gave away a whole bunch of fountain pens to promising writers (includes geeky photos).

I gave away most of my pens because I only use about four of them, photos of my favorite four pens and lots of writing about them, this, I must say, is a pretty good post about pens.

There's only one tiny shot of a pen in this post but it includes photos of Roswell.

Part something-or-other of the story of my Esterbook which does include pretty pixtures.

And some talking about journals.

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