Every year I set myself a new photographic challenge and for 2012 my new year resolution was to get out of the studio more and shoot on location. Theoretically its a very simple change, but in practise requires a lot more effort than you’d think. Once you’ve found your location, there’s the element of lugging heavy equipment around, finding a source of power close enough and – if you’re outside – protecting all of that expensive equipment from the elements!
Back in February, you may remember that I ran a Burlesque and Boudoir workshop day with Melissa Love Design and Hannah from The Tea Set, where we were lucky enough to be sponsored with some amazing Elinchrom kit from The Flash Centre. Literally in the short amount of time it took me to walk over the road from the Brighton Ballroom to buy a hot chocolate and come back again, Simon from The Flash Centre had already set up 3 full studio set ups and was working on number four. (Seriously.) The kit worked perfectly in the dimly lit ballroom, so when I got a call to do another location shoot in a equally dark ballroom in London, I got in touch with the guys at The Flash Centre to ask if I could have that kit back for a day!
For numerous reasons, there hadn’t been an option to get a recce in to the venue – however my years of experience have taught me wisely that listed buildings, old theatres and ballrooms tend to have a sparse amount of power points! For this reason, we agreed that the best kit for the job would be the Elinchrom Ranger Quadra RX – which possibly the smallest and yet most versatile piece of lighting kit I’ve ever seen. The entire lighting set up, including two heads, a travel battery, cables, connectors, wireless triggers and instruction manual all fitted into a just-slightly-larger-than-your-average laptop bag. Oh, and did I mention most of that space was actually filled up with packing foam to stop things bumping around? This kit is seriously compact. The heads themselves are a little larger than your average flash gun, but what makes them far more superior is their ability to take full size light modifiers (extra adapter required). The battery pack is also pretty light, weighing in at just 3kg. With exception of my camera bag, all my kit for the day of shooting – including an extra power pack and three 100×100 softboxes – fitted into one extra large suitcase that I (a woman with very little upper body strength) could lift without too much difficulty.
Setting up on location (we were right about the lack of power sockets by the way!) my assistant and I had the entire kit set up and ready to shoot with within a handful of minutes, leaving plenty of time to explore the venue for the perfect photo spots. The ballroom was huge and so having such lightweight kit was useful when moving from location to location. I did quickly discover however that the standard kit only comes with 2.5M cables as standard (other options available) and I found this really restrictive. Luckily, I’d also been given a second power unit to play with, which meant I had a lot more freedom in positioning the two lights. However, once this issue was resolved, the kit worked perfectly. The 400 watt heads coped perfectly with the dark location and lasted well past the advertised 150 slow flash recycles – I think I managed a good 300 shots with ‘A’ heads (which recylcle even faster the standard ‘S’ heads that come with the kit) before the batteries showed signs of tiredness. For such a small piece of kit, it definitely outdid my expectations.
So would I buy it? Definitely! The difference in size and weight is a huge plus, especially for those hard to reach locations or where bringing either a car or an assistant is just not an option. Obviously everyone has their own requirements from their lighting set up, but I personally would recommend going for the Elinchrom Ranger Quadra RX ‘The Works Extended’ ‘A’ Kit, which includes the extra power unit but also comes with a second charger and an extra battery that will be useful for photographers shooting on a very regular or daily basis. I’d also recommend getting Quadra To EL Mount Adapters which will allow you to work with the full range of modifiers.
Once again, a massive thank you to all at The Flash Centre for helping out with both shoots. All the Elinchrom kit mentioned in this blog post is available to buy or rent from The Flash Centre, which has an online store as well as several shops throughout the UK. They have some great videos showing the kit in action too, which I found really helpful when choosing which kit to borrow. They also offer a try before you buy scheme, so its definitely worth getting your hands on some kit and having a play before you commit!