I first laid eyes on the Elinchrom ELC Pro HD heads back in the autumn of last year, whilst on a quick trip to visit The Flash Centre at The Digital Imaging Roadshow in Milton Keynes. Having played around with manual multi-flash exposures with life-hacked lighting gear to a degree of success in the past with Marnie Scarlet, I was really excited about the possibility of working with technology that would allow me to get perfectly spaced flash sequences to capture movement. The amazing team at The Flash Centre were able to organise me a two week loan of a two head Elinchrom ELC Pro HD 1000 heads over the Christmas break, which gave me a few days over Christmas to get to know the kit, the digital menu structure and their capabilities, before getting to work on the three shoots I had planned to accomplish in the first week of January.
The menu structures of the Elinchrom ELC Pro HD heads are so straightforward and simple to use considering how many lighting options are built into the heads. After a quick Youtube search I found this brilliantly informative demo of the menu structures from Elinchrom President Chris Whittle, which gave me all the info I needed on Delayed mode and Strobo mode in order to use them both effectively in the studio environment.
As it was my first adventure into the world of multiple exposures with the Elinchrom ELC Pro heads, I wisely decided to have a test shoot with fan dancer Aurora Galore and ballet dancer Jessica to test out the environment needed for the lights before I started playing around with them on commissioned shoots. Having worked with Aurora multiple times over the last few years and her incredibly fast and powerful movements with feather fans, I knew she would be strong in front of the camera and really test their capabilities. I also really wanted to work with a professional ballet dancer, who would have the strength and flexibility to perform complex movements and jumps, which Jessica would be perfect for.
With two dancers, we needed a lot of space to shoot. As most studios were shut over the christmas break and therefore not taking bookings, I’d decided to go ahead and book a local community centre, which had great wooden flooring and lots of depth so in theory I could utilise the magic black background effect in my work. With the lights out however, there was still too much light in the space to really utilise this effect, so we needed to shoot against the minimal wall space available in the room. Despite this setback, we cracked on and started creating some images.
Both Aurora and Jessica were incredible, giving me everything and more I could ask for in front of the camera. As someone who shoots mostly at 1/125th of a second or higher, I took to sequence mode really quickly. However, it took me a few minutes to get settle into the longer exposure settings and find the settings to suit the effect I was after. We were only shooting at a maximum of 1.5 second exposures, but that was long enough for the room to fully expose itself with ambient light. In all honesty, I don’t think I really nailed delayed mode that day, but I came away with some images that I’m pretty happy with… if we ignore the radiators in the background!
Later that week I had juggler Mat Ricardo in to shoot some new promo shots for his website. I mentioned to him that I had the Elinchrom ELC Pro heads still in my possession and it didn’t take much convincing for him to delve deep into his magical bag of juggle-worthy items and try out a few different things in front of the camera. We started simple with a couple of juggling balls, which actually turned out to be brilliant for delayed mode. Working at around 1.5 seconds as before, the clean black background in a blackout studio also gave a much better aesthetic than the yellow walls and ambient light of the community centre.
Another of the props we tried was the bowler hat, this time opting for Strobo mode on the Elinchrom ELC Pro heads to catch Mat in multiple stages of putting the hat on. I think this might actually be my favourite shot of the shoot! I definitely felt a lot more comfortable with my settings after two days of experimentation.
I eventually had to give the Elinchrom ELC Pro heads back to The Flash Centre, but it was only a few days until the SWPP Convention in London, where I had been booked to give a live shooting demonstration. Having already delivered a session on my Quadras that morning, I decided to get out of my comfort zone and try shooting with the Elinchrom ELC Pro heads under convention lighting, which can be tricky to control at the best of times! Despite a high level of ambient light, model Scarlet Dugan was the perfect muse for the afternoon and we got some great shots in both Delayed and Strobo mode.
So what do I think of the Elinchrom ELC Pro heads? Well, first off, I LOVE delayed, strobe and burst mode. The ability to create such a dynamic range of images is a feature that sets these lights apart from everything else out there. The menu systems are easy to navigate and the ability to control the output by such small increments can be really handy for making sure you get the perfect exposure. The only real downside I found to the lights is their weight, coming in at 6.3KG for just the heads in comparison to my Quadras that come in at 2.6KG including battery pack. They also need heavier duty stands than the Quadra set up, which made travelling to locations impossible without a car. That being said, my favourite shots with the Elinchrom ELC Pro heads were all studio based – no travel required – and it brought the fun back into shooting against a plain backdrop. Although they wouldn’t replace my nifty little Quadra set up on location, I can see myself investing in the Elinchrom ELC Pro heads as a brilliant addition to the studio.
If you’d like to try out the Elinchrom ELC Pro heads, get in touch with The Flash Centre, who offer brilliant rental services from their London, Leeds and Birmingham stores.