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).


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).





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


Noir Is Where You Are

eye-noirHere in Virginia, far from my favorite location—the San Francisco Bay Area—I feared I wouldn’t find any noir to shoot until I returned. But then a little voice whispered in my ear: “Noir is where you are…” 

Indeed, it’s in the eye of the beholder and I guess that’s why I’d been subconsciously eyeing the many dilapidated barns around here. I pass them daily on my commute to the Mud House for a java fix.

Well, I finally had an excuse for getting out of the car and haunting barns over the weekend. I had to test the new PocketWizard wireless system for Nikon. (Click here to read our feature review in the March issue of Zoom Street.)

After dark, the ghost of Orson Welles arrived, tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You wanted noir, so what are you waiting for? Light the scene!”

And so I did.

photo by Derek Pell  For the initial test shot above, I used two Speedlights; one positioned inside the barn mounted on a light stand (off to the right); the other was attached to a tripod, fitted with an orange gel, and set outside (left) to add a touch of drama to the exterior.

I miscalculated on the first try—overexposing the interior. However, thanks to PocketWizard’s AC3 ZoneController, I didn’t have to change my position to fix things, I simply dialed down the output on the AC3.

Back at the computer, I made my final adjustment which was to convert the image to black and white using Nik Silver Efex Pro.


Click on the above image for a large view.

And may Orson be with you.

Travel Light and Flash the USA

Zoom Street Photo

I try, I try. And I’ll be trying again in April when I head back to northern California. This will be my 14th cross-country drive and I’m determined to strobe my way cross the USA. I’ll light motels with an eye for Noir, illuminate shady landmarks and seedy one-way shortcuts. I’ll produce a pictorial whodunit with how-to clues and some video interludes.

B.Y.O.P. (Bring Your Own Pulp)

I’ll be packing two Nikon bodies, four lenses, five or six speedlights (particulars to come), wireless triggers, Nasty Clamps with frios attached, an orbis ring flash, LumiQuest SoftBox LTp, Rogue FlashBenders,  etc.

It sounds like I’ll be overloaded again, but this kit is pretty compact. Unpacked, however, you’d never know it.

“You’re bringing all that??” says my wife.

“Yep. We’ll have to get rid of one of the dogs,” I tell her,” joking natch, because you don’t need a handgun when you’re packin’ a German Shepherd.

The photo at the top of this post shows a Nikon SB-900 that I Nasty clamped to a dinner bell. A frio provides a locking shoe mount for the strobe so it can be attached to the clamp.

Below, the combo rides a plank on the deck.


You can see how a bunch of  friofied clamps are indispensible when going beyond a tripod or light stand, getting “light in dark corners.”

As for the drive itself, a Magellan RoadMate 9055 will make the road trip possible. Hell, without GPS I wouldn’t step out my door, let alone gas it for 3,000 miles.


I’ll post a complete gear shot (before and after) next month and explain why each item is important to me.

More soon.

Light Reading…


Three new books worth your attention if you want to bone up on lighting techniques.

Newbies will jump into the wading pool with Digital Photography Lighting for Dummies by Dirk Fletcher (Wiley Publishing). The ubiquitous series established itself with breezy, easy, irreverent guides to computers & software, but is now a virtual industry covering every imaginable subject in flaming full-color. Digital Lighting seems a bit more sophisticated than the early dummies, yet still friendly enough to make a beginner feel at home. And, of course, Rich Tennant’s cartoons are always good for a chuckle. My favorite shows a model lost in a sea of giant studio lights, reflectors and soft boxes, while a photographer orders his assistant to “Get me three tungsten halogen lights and a 5,000K strobe, I’m trying to do something real natural here.”


Brian McLernon (obviously born to instruct) offers plenty of helpful tips in Lighting Digital Field Guide (Wiley). This is one of those books you’ll stick in your backpack and refer to often. The author doesn’t just touch on the use of speedlights, but inspires the strobist within.


An indispensable guide to shooting interiors and bringing them to life is  The Essential Guide to: Lighting Interiors: techniques for lighting with small flash by Scott Hargis (PFRE Media). David Hobby gave this eBook a thumbs up on his blog, so I knew I had to check it out. My only disappointment is not being able to hold a physical copy and scribble notes in the margins. (Note to New Riders:  buy the rights and release it in print.) Hargis is not only a master at photographing architecture and interiors but a damn good writer as well.  It’s the best of both worlds. In the wrong hands lighting techniques can be deadly dull. Instead, Hargis makes the technicalities a pleasure to learn.

The book covers the following areas:

  • Fundamentals if Interior Flash Photography
  • What gear to use and why
  • How control window exposure
  • How to setup lighting in all the different types of rooms you’ll encounter: Bedrooms, Bathrooms, Kitchens and large spaces
  • How to deal with reflections and special situations
  • Post processing

At a time when markets for photography are shrinking, there is  plenty of demand for real estate photography. This book teaches you how to show a room in the very best light.

From China With Love

Zoom Street Photo

Today—direct from Shenzhen Guangdong—came the clandestine iShoot Sniper Camera/Flash Wireless Radio Trigger.

Rumor has it the Sniper features a “very low miss rate” and extraordinary reach (500 meters). We shall see. I will be testing it soon on the firing range here at Zoom Street. Until then, I will keep it from falling into the wrong hands, i.e. strobists with itchy trigger fingers.


Stay tuned and vigilant.

Wiz Was There


If you saw my recent post The Wiz is Here you know I’m testing the new PocketWizard  i-TTL Flash System for Nikon which just hit the street. Not just Zoom Street, either, but worldwide. So popular are these goodies—including the Flex TT5 shown above—that they’re disappearing off the shelves. Hard to believe B&H didn’t order a dozen boatloads.

Since minor bugs were worked out in the system for Canon, you don’t have to wait for all the reviews to come in. Search the web and track these suckers down.

You can also check the PocketWizard Global Dealer Locator.

Last resort: Sherlock Holmes.

The Wiz is Here!!!

Zoom Street Photo

Pardon my exclamation points but like many other Nikon strobists I’ve been waiting a long time for the latest technological wonders from PocketWizard.

Canon shooters got first dibs on the MiniTT1 Transmitter and FlexTT5 Transceiver, while the rest of us had to twiddle our speedlights while the technicians tinkered in the lab. Oh and let’s not forget the new PocketWizard AC3 ZoneController.

These three goodies are rumored to be a game-changer.

Was it worth the wait?

Stay tuned for a forthcoming feature on Zoom Street. Meanwhile, I’ll be working late in the home office…


Have a great weekend.