Fluorescent Lighting: Westcott’s D5 System

When it comes to continuous slighting, florescent is giving LED a run for the money. And why not? It’s continuous and works perfectly for hybrid video/still shooters with the RGB spikes from fluorescent light closely matching the receptive RGB spikes of imaging chips. With tungsten lighting, producing 93 percent heat and seven percent red light, fluorescent easily comes out the winner. And more often than not it’s more affordable.

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Take Westcott’s Two-Light Daylight D5 Softbox Kit ($399.90.)The basic building block of the kit is the D5 head. Made of nylon, it weights a little over two pounds and features five ceramic light sockets, each supporting a 50-Watt lamp. The D5 head has five illuminated power switches arranged in a row across it’s back, each controlling a single lamp. There’s a tilting bracket for positioning and a heavy-duty 13-foot cord with an in-line power switch.

red.catThe kit includes two D5 light heads, two 24×32- inch Basic softboxes, ten 27-Watt daylight-fluorescent lamps and two 6.5-foot lightstands. The softboxes have a reflective silver lining to maximize output with heat- resistant rods mounting on receptacles on the D5’s head. It comes in a 10x12x29-inch box that since it has a handle can double as a carrying case, at least for a short time. For the serious location photographer, a more lasting solution might be a Lightware Cargo 32 case ($204.20) that will hold all of that gear with room left over for accessories and an extension cord or two.

For the setup (shown above,) a Westcott D5 with all bulbs illuminated was placed directly behind a Savage Translum background and aimed toward the subject, while a second D5/softbox was placed at camera right with three lamps turned on. Final exposure required a higher than normal ISO (800) plus two stops of exposure compensation. For the unpublished portrait of a young model, I used a Panasonic Lumix GH4 and 45mm f/2.8 Leica DG Macro-Elmarit lens with an exposure of 1/125 sec at f/2,8 and ISO 800. Captured in RAW and procesed with Color Efex Pro.

Be aware: Because they contain mercury, many fluorescent lamps are classified as hazardous waste. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends fluorescent lamps be segregated from general waste for recycling or safe disposal. Home Depot in my area has a recycling area for these kinds of bulbs and I’m sure there are others at similar stores.

Author: Joe Farace

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