Category Archives: strobist

California, Gear I Come…

Vanity Plate

As I prepare to head back to the Left Coast and settle down in a permanent office for Zoom Street, I’ve gathered a few of the accessories I’ll be transporting across state lines. (This is the first in a series of posts.)

Zoom Street Photo

1. I’m not a fan of GPS windshield mounts. Attaching & detaching the GPS from the mount is a hassle. So I was pleased to discover the Nav-Mat Portable GPS Dash Mount from Bracketron. It balances the GPS securely, yet can easily be moved and stowed away. Bracketron specializes in mobile electronics and you’ll find the Nav-Mat and other accessories at Radio Shack, Staples, and big box stores.

2. I never put peddle to the metal without a Magellan GPS in view. Currently it’s a Bluetooth-enabled Magellan RoadMate 9055 with a beautiful, wide, 7-inch touch-screen. This is definitely the Rolls Royce of navigation. It features subscription-free, Lifetime Traffic Alerts; pre-loaded maps of the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico; One-Touch favorites menu for bookmarking your searches and favorite photo-op spots; built-in AAA TourBook; and its advanced Bluetooth provides a speakerphone for hands-free calling.

3. Since I’ll be porty-strobing** across the good old USA, I can’t be without a LumiQuest Softbox LTp. For drive-by portraits it softens the light just right. It also conveniently folds up flat and fits in the outer sleeve of my Domke bag.
(BTW, I’ll include gear bags in the next installment.)

**not to be confused with potty-stopping

4. In advance of April showers I’ve got a Rainsleeve 2-pack from OP/TECH USA to protect my cameras and lenses. Foul weather won’t keep me from shooting on the road.

5. When shooting videos I don’t rely on a DSLR’s built-in microphone. Instead, I opt for professional broadcast-quality audio at a bargain price. Thus, I’m packing the new RODE Videomic Pro Compact Shotgun. It’s little 9V battery provides 70 hours of recording and will last the 3,000 miles I’m covering. The Videomic Pro features integrated shock mounting, two step high-pass filter, a three position level control, and a cold shoe mount with 3/8” thread for attaching to a boompole.

6. If I’ve learned one thing from driving cross-country 13 times, it’s that you can’t put a price on comfort. There’s an  unavoidable stress-factor at play, so whatever one does to maximize the C-zone makes the trip go smoother. As always, I surf on over to Magellan’s Travel Supplies—the Santa Barbara-based shop stocked to the gills with gotta-have accessories. My first choice this year was a pair of Clarks WAVE—specifically designed for heavy-duty walking sans fatigue. The energy-saving sole is curved to propel one’s forward motion. The WAVE is also heavy on the shock absorption, so when I get out of the car I can trek for photos and return with a spring in my step. Bonus points for making me look good, too.

7. This trip I’m armed with the LumoPro LP160 Quad-Sync Flash (actually three of ‘em, although only one is shown in the photo). As mentioned in a previous post, this flash doesn’t come with a case, but I tracked down a great one from Tamrac (the MX5385 Flash Accessory Pocket, not shown) and will be taking three of those along as well. To find out why I chose this particular strobe, read my review here.

8.  Well you didn’t think I’d leave behind my Batman thumb drive did you? I’m gonna hang this sucker from the rearview mirror in place of the foam dice and St. Christopher medal. It’s a handy-dandy digital talisman. Available from Mimoco.

9. Time flies when you’re holed up at the No-Tell Motel in Belleview, OK… that’s why I pack this slim, loud chirping (92db) Foldable Alarm Clock from Magellan’s so I’m out the door before the cleaning crew starts spraying the room with chemicals. It’s lighter than my watch and easier to see.

10. I always keep a bunch of Nasty Clamps with frio cold shoes attached in my gear bag. Whether I’m on the road or shooting in the backyard, I can’t live without them. You can clamp your strobes to anything solid and discover cool new angles for flashing. No stands or tripods necessary. Clamp and shoot.

11. Last but not least… the Digital Tire Gauge with Multi Tools (you guessed it—it’s available from Magellan’s.) This is a Swiss Army Knife for folks in the fast lane. I can check my tire pressure after dark on its easy-to-read blue backlit LED screen (w/3 mode gauge: PSI, BAR. KPa) It has a white & red LED flashlight; pliers; screwdrivers; scissors; seat belt cutter; and glass hammer. Runs on 1 Lithium battery (included) and 1 AAA battery (not included).   

12. I lied. This is the last but not least. (Now you know why comments are blocked on this blog.) The eco-friendly 21 oz Hydro Flask was too shy for the group photo so I’ll stick a snap bellow. As a confirmed java-junky (on or off the road), my intake goes through the roof on long drives. And there’s nothing worse than sipping cold coffee at the wheel in the wee hours. The Hydro Flask, however, is “double-wall” insulated and keeps my Sumatra Bold steaming hot for 12 hours. Then, when I’m speeding through the desert, it’ll keep my spring water chilled for—no joke—24 hours! Made with 18/8 Stainless Steel, it’s BPA free, has a leak-proof lid, and doesn’t sweat the slings and arrows of travel.

Yet another gem from Magellan’s.

Zoom Street Photo

Click here for Part 2.

A Pocket Full of Flash

TAMRAC 5385_large
I’ve been gathering together gear in preparation for my 14th cross-country drive. We’re moving to a new home in northern California—Hidden Valley Lake—above Napa.

No more Mr. Renter, thank you very much.

Zoom Street Photo

Part of the journey will be devoted to a feature for Zoom Street called Road Strobes. I’ll be using three LumoPro LP160 Quad-sync flash units exclusively. (You can read my report on the LP160 here.)  This strobe offers professional quality and the oomph of a Nikon SB-900 at an affordable price—$160. (Keep in mind Nikon and Canon’s high-end flashes run $500. So you can have three for the price of one SB-900. And who do we have to thank for this stellar light? Moishe Applebaum of Midwest Photo Exchange in Columbus, Ohio. (Bless you, Moishe.)

Now the LP160 is a manual flash without all the TTL bells and whistles, but that’s fine with me. The only problem I faced with the LP160… it doesn’t come with a padded travel pouch. I understand that helps to keep the price down. But if you think finding a generic case is easy—take my word for it—it ain’t.

Midwest Photo has the 32” LumoPro Lighting Case—a nice bag, but way too big for my purpose. So I shopped around in brick & mortar stores, but still came up empty. Digicam cases & lens bags were too small. Camera cases too big. I even searched luggage shops through miscellaneous travel bags, but nada nada nada, no cigar.

I phoned Adorama and gave them the dimensions…they had one soft case but couldn’t guarantee it would fit.

After a grueling search online, I finally stumbled on the Tamrac MX5385 M.A.S. Flash Accessory Pocket (Large, Black… see details at bottom of this post).

tamrac

I purchased the last one in stock on Amazonand it’s perfect.

Zoom Street Photo

flash case

Not only is it a perfect fit—snug and well-padded with a bit of breathing room at top—but it includes a front pocket for the flash stand and spare batteries. The case can be quickly attached to a belt or to most Tamrac products featuring their M.A.S. (Modular Accessory System).

NOTE TO

ALL LP160

OWNERs:

 

Beat a path to Tamrac immediately!

Zoom Street Photo

The nice folks at Tamrac are sending me two additional “pockets” so each LP160 is guaranteed to survive the  road trip. That is, unless I encounter an IED.

LumoPro LP160

Here are the Tamrac MX5385 specs:

Material    Exterior: 600 denier Ripstop PolyTek nylon
Interior: Closed-cell foam padding
Type of Closure     Touch fastener
Exterior Dimensions     4.5 x 3.125 x 9.25″ (11.43 x 7.94 x 23.5cm) (WxDxH)
Interior Dimensions     3.5 x 1.75 x 8.75″ (8.89 x 4.45 x 22.23cm) (WxDxH)
Accommodates     Flash or light meter
Carrying/Transport Options     Carry handle
Belt loop
Weight     4.0 oz. (113g)

For additional info on these products & other cool gear, visit:

www.tamrac.com   /   www.lumopro.com