Green & Bikes & Avatars

I shot these images last weekend and what a warm, beautiful day it wa… ???… I just fell asleep again didnt’ I? Stupid valiums. Ok, I just wanted some green on the blog today. That’s all. Not white, not gray or brown, just frikin’green already. Partly because I still have to get dressed for the Iditarod every morning but also because we watched Avatar over the weekend; yes, THAT Avatar and yes, six years late. And btw: good god what an awful movie that is. I have no words. Like watching a really bad kids movie for three hours. Or a CGI demo reel. But… There WERE a lot of lush green landscapes—alien lush green landscapes but still. Gave me the blues for the real thing.

I bought a mountain bike last summer; nothing crazy, just your run of the mill bike on sale at Canadian Tire. I just wanted two wheels again, the wind on my face and the smell of pine. Man do I ever miss it right now. These are from last June, on my first outing. Then a few days later I took some shots in the studio just for kicks.

It’s hanging from the ceiling these days, my faithful steed; waiting for the sun to shine and the ice to melt.

Waiting for green grass and mud on the ground.


Shot with the X-T1 and XF 23mm f1.4 R (XF 60mm f2.4 R Macro on some studio shots)


Elinchrom Deep Octa and Matthews C Stand

Elinchrom Deep (Throat) Octa 39" (100 cm)

Boy am I late on this one... I hinted at a review back in January 2014. This was my very first purchase of that year and it's basically been my goto modifier since the day it was delivered. Let me try and explain why...

When we start to talk about quality of light it can get downright esoteric... It's hard to find a subject that's more subjective or bound to specific conditions. Light is light: it can be hard or soft or big or small. Modifiers aren't magical instruments. But they DO of course have an impact on the end results. I've always been more atracted to the hard light look than the often sought wispy and airy softness of very large diffusers. I sometimes deliberately use smaller softboxes because I prefer the falloff and harder edges. Sometimes it's just barn doors and bare bulb. What attracted me to the Deep Octa was its slightly schizoid personality and versatility: it has a very specific look to it, soft but very sculpted with a quick falloff. Like an edgy softness. I saw picture after picture from it while I was researching and it felt like the modifier I'd been looking for. I was right

THE KIT

The Deep Octa comes with two baffles (interior and exterior) and a deflector, resulting in a bunch of different possible configurations:

  1. Straight up: no baffles, no deflector, just the straight silver lining and deep dish effect.
  2. Deflector-only:  sort of like a big beauty dish, the deflector eliminating the hotspot.
  3. Inner Baffle: this is its typical look and the one I use most of the time. The inner baffle is recessed inside the softbox, so the light hits the baffle, gets diffused but also spreads across the silver lining. The natural vignette it creates gives it a very distinct personality.
  4. Outer Baffle: the baffle is at the outer edge turning the Deep Octa into a more conventional softbox by diffusing its entire surface.

Those are the basics. But of course you can also combine: both baffles means double diffusion for an even softer look; add the deflector and there's no hotspot to speak of; or deflector + inner baffle-only. And it's all very quick to change too: the deflector fits into the Elinchrom umbrella shaft, the inner baffle snaps into place with buttons and the outer one uses velcro.

Bonus tip: that deflector fits into the Elinchrom head itself... Which means it can be used with ANYTHING, from the bare speedlight to any reflector, other softboxes etc. Poor man's beauty dish in a pinch.

Results

I love this thing to death. In fact I can count on my fingers the times I used anything else this year. Now, the reason it took this long for me to review it is that I wanted to do it properly, shoot examples with each configuration, show the differences etc. I never found the time and I have to be honest with myself, I probably never will. So I hope you'll forgive me if I simply show a few of my favourite images below, most of them using the inner baffle setup. 

THE ONE NOT SO FUN THING


It's a temporary problem but it IS something to be aware of: setting this up for the first time is an absolute B.I.T.C.H. I wanted to throw it out the window, set it on fire and scream every single word in my extensive dictionary of very-bad-things-I-must-try-not-to-say-in-front-of-the-kids.I think I tweeted about it — after struggling for 15 years or so — and my friend Morten called me up from the other side of our beautiful country to give me some pointers. He'd been through the same ordeal, like pretty much everyone who owns this contraption. Seriously, look it up: there are YouTube videos about it..

The problem is that the amount of force needed to get each rod into place makes no sense and at some point you end up convinced you're on your way to breaking the entire thing. But you're not. Plus the provided instructions don't really help at all because none of it lays still the way it says. You basically need to put one hand on the speedring to get a few rods in, then use your elbow and push like mad to get the rest of them in place. Like MAD. But it works. And once you've done it a few times it isn't that bad — but man... The entire dictionary, I'm not kidding.

The good news? Once it's assembled you don't have to take the rods out and go through all of it again when packing up: you just take the ends out and the whole softbox folds in like an umbrella, speedring included. And it fits in its bag as well.

So you need to suffer to get the goods.
But they're worth it.

The Elinchrom Deep Octa 39" is available pretty much everywhere. There's also a smaller 27.5" model.


Matthews Hollywood Century C Stand Grip Arm Kit - 10.5' (3.2m)

I can't believe I waited this long to get a c-stand of my own. Well... It's not the sort of thing you rush out for excitedly — it's not the latest camera or crazy amazing lens you've been waiting for, the one that will suddenly transform everything you shoot into unicorns. It's just a bloody stand. Plus they're big and heavy, and bulky and... Heavy. But they're incredibly versatile, have a smaller footprint (because of the way their legs are designed) and they're stable. Very, very stable. 

I kid you not: I get giddy every time I use this thing and I'm kicking myself for not buying one sooner. It's a tank; the build is incredible, all solid metal. You lock any of the joints and it's locked, tight, with very little effort. You look at those grips and think you'll be sweating but it's just the opposite: slight twist and you're done. Everything is just rock solid — sandbag this baby and bring on that hurricane.

The boom easily holds the Deep Octa/BX500ri combo at any angle. The longest leg is adjustable to accommodate steps or uneven ground. And the bonus with this particular Matthews stand is that it isn't actually as heavy as similar models from other brands. It's still heavy enough mind you, but it easily packs flat and can be moved on location without the need for a few months of weight training.

It's machined beautifully and does its job. It's a stand that makes me happy — Can't ask for much more. Again, available in all good camera stores.

And still the cold lingers...

The wind blows like it's February and promises keep slipping further and further away. Three days to go now. Three days or an eternity.


Shot with the X100T


Through the windshield of my car with an X30


Shot with... The X30 (!)


The Change

One hundred and fourteen years the meteorologists say. That's how far back we need to go for a winter this cold. To anyone living under more temperate skies, this fixation on weather may seem borderline obsessive—but in this country of extremes, it's a constant reality with physical impacts.

This morning, spring is finally here. Timid but still...
It'll take a while for the ice and snow to melt but we can already hear that soft gurgling in the air as the sun bears down. It's going to get colder again, before it gets warmer...Again; I know this.

But in this quiet moment, as I walk around witnessing the change... Nothing can get me down.  


Shot with the X100T