Assembling A Location Lighting Kit: The Basics

I hate to schlep heavy lighting gear to off-site shoots and in my quest to find the smallest, lightest, and most versatile three light system for on-location portraits , I came up with a kit based on a concept Plume Ltd’s Gary Regester came with twenty-five years ago called “Lighting kit in a shoebox” and while my update produces uses a Lightware case that’s bigger than a shoebox, it also contains more stuff yet is small enough to meet airline carry-on guidelines!

In the past, I’ve assembled similar kinds of systems but no monolight or power pack and head system is as small as a shoe-mount flash and today’s sophisticated speedlights from Canon, Nikon, Olympus, and others make it easy to control multiple lights from camera position. Because portraits are not just about the quantity of light but also about quality, I wanted to be able to use the lights with umbrellas and still keep the package as tiny as possible producing something so the would enable the traveling photographer to, in fact, travel light.

The key ingredient is the lights themselves and my client for this particular kit was my wife Mary, an Olympus shooter, so the decision was easy: The wireless FL-50R flash has multiple adjustment modes including TTL Auto and manual, high-speed synchronization up to 1/4000th sec and a fast recycle time of less than 1.3 seconds when using Olympus (optional) SHV-1 Flash High-Voltage Set. The FL-50R has a guide number of 28 at 12mm (24mm equivalent; ISO 100) and 50 at a 42mm (84mm equivalent; ISO 100).

Oly includes a Sto-Fen-like bounce adapter that works quite well but doesn’t seem as sturdy as the real thing. If you happen to crack the somewhat thin Olympus diffuser, which is easy to do, the Sto-Fen replacement is model OM-C.

The flash will sync with either the Olympus E-3 or E-30’s pop-up flash or another FL-50R in the hot shoe and control is possible directly from the camera without requiring cables or connection to an AC source, making it ideal for outdoor use. The Olympus wireless system is so dependable that I used the camera’s pop-up flash along with two FL-50Rs to photograph a model outdoors on Plaza del Quinto Centenario in Old San Juan and they always fired. The black and white photograph was captured directly as a JPEG file using the E-3’s built-in Monotone mode.

Since direct flash can appear harsh, why not soften the light from the speedlight with an umbrella. Which one? That’s coming in part 2.

Author: Joe Farace

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