I am an event photographer, so most of my shoots take place on location. Some locations are great – it is as if they were created with photography in mind. Other locations, not so much… I can never use ugly locations, poor lighting, lack of power outlets and overly strict venue directors as excuses for crappy photos; what a location lacks in light, beauty or power outlets I have to compensate with my skills and equipment. I love using off-camera lighting – it gives me more control over light positions, light output, shadow placement, rations and about a dozen other lighting factors. For large, poorly-lit venues I prefer using my AlienBees studio lights. However, as those require access to power outlets, up until recently I often had to use clusters of off-camera hot-shoe flashes, wired together and triggered with PocketWizards. A few months ago I had to do a photoshoot at the Heinz History Center. The event I was covering had incredibly elaborate decorations and I was told by the planner that I would not be allowed to run extension cords to outlets to power my studio flashes. At first I was really upset. Anyone who’s ever photographed at the Heinz History Center knows how enormous the first floor really is and how there is absolutely nothing to bounce light off of. I could use an array of regular hot shoe flashes placed on light stands around the perimeter of the room, but I figured that I would need about 8-10 small flashes to achieve what I could do with just 2 or 3 studio lights. Besides, I really doubted that the planner would be happy if I stuck a bunch of light stands all over the room. I started searching around for alternative solutions. I never used battery packs with my studio flashes because I always found them to be really heavy, bulky and expensive. After some searching and reading a number of reviews, I decided to try a recently released AlienBees Vagabond Mini battery pack. The specs looked really impressive and the battery pack itself seemed really small and light. I gave AlienBees a call and had the Vagabond Mini battery pack in my hands a few days later. Being the geek that I am, I decided to do some serious testing right away. I charged the battery, set up one of my AlienBees B800 flashes, plugged everything in and began firing. Here are my test results: AlientBees B800 (on full power) 413 flashes on full battery charge ~1 second recycling time (time between flashes) AlientBees B800 (on 1/2 power) 532 flashes on full battery charge ~1 second recycling time (time between flashes) AlientBees B800 (on full power) + AlienBees B400 (on full power) 198 flashes on full battery charge ~3 seconds recycling time (time between flashes) A projector and a MacBook Pro laptop 59 minutes operation time ASUS ProArt Series 24-inch monitor and a MacBook Pro laptop 2 hours 47 minutes operation time As you can probably tell from my tests, I’ve used the Vagabond Mini for a few unintended things; in all cases it has performed admirably. The only negative thing that I can say about this particular battery pack is its lighting stand attachment clip. The Vagabond Mini comes with a plastic clip and a spring-loaded screw that can be used to attach the battery pack to a lighting stand. The plastic clip is only big enough to loop around the thinnest (upper-most) section of a lighting stand. Moreover, the spring itself is a huge hindrance. It is so tight that threading the attachment screw requires a significant amount of force and on one occasion I accidentally knocked over a lighting stand while trying to attach the battery pack. Also, as I said before, the attachment clip is plastic; while the battery pack is not that heavy (a little over three pounds), I always feel very conscious of that fact when moving lighting around. Overall, the Vagabond Mini is an excellent product and as far as battery packs go, it seems to be far better and less expensive than any similar product currently on the market. If you do a lot of on-location shooting, having this little battery pack in your lighting case is an absolute must.
Two weeks ago I had an amazing opportunity not only to photograph Melissa`s and Christopher`s beautiful wedding at the Aviary, but I also had a chance to work with two wonderful photographers – Anita Buzzy and Jenny Karlsson. Here is a little sneak peek at the beautiful bride and groom getting ready for their big day… <!– –>