snoot provided a narrow electronic flash beam for effective
control and blending of highlight and shadow to create
a still life of a Mexican mask with strong highlight and
Photos © 1999, Mike Matzkin, All Rights Reserved
The modern automatic electronic
flash system can be a mind trap. You focus, aim the flash at the ceiling
or directly at the subject, press the shutter release, and it's
virtually a cinch that you'll get reasonably well lit images--with
no danger of your creativity or imagination taking over. You fall into
the trap of letting automation do all the work. For a lot of photography
that's okay, but often it also adds up to a sameness from image
to image. Even pros like Eddie Adams bemoan the fact that automation
is making everyone's images look vaguely alike.
You can still keep the advantages of auto flash and give your creativity
a chance. Every now and then a small company comes along with an idea
that makes a difference. At least, that's what the people who
manufacture and market the LumiQuest flash accessories seem to have
in mind, and to a large extent they work. The accessories provide a
great deal more flexibility to portable electronic flash. You are still
going to have to let your creativity take over--but the accessories
do help. You also don't give up auto flash exposure. I did the
testing on the Canon 430EZ and shot on A-TTL as well as TTL.
of the light goes toward the ceiling but the built-in reflector
directs fill light to the subject. Various inserts control
light quality and flexibility.
The accessories attach to the
electronic flash head with self-adhering hook and loop fasteners. Once
the fasteners have been added to the flash they work to support virtually
every accessory in the line. They are attached to the top, bottom, and
both sides of the flash head. The accessories attach in a matter of seconds.
We'll talk about all of them, but first let's take a look
at three that worked especially well for me. I used them to solve three
different shooting situations and they made things a lot easier. The first
accessory I tried was the LumiQuest Promax softbox.
I needed to shoot action pictures of Brazilian style Jiu-jit-su wrestlers.
It's a martial art that Japanese immigrants brought to Brazil, where
it was then modified and changed. It's beginning to gain popularity
in the US. The action is fast and complicated. My big problem was eliminating
shadows caused by the extremely close proximity of the wrestler's
bodies. Available light shooting was not practical because the light level
was much too low to allow for high shutter speeds. I also needed freedom
of movement to follow the wrestlers around the mat. Using studio flash
was not an option since I would be between the subjects and the flash
a good part of the time.
serves to provide bounce light when ceiling is too high.
Small amount of light is also directed toward subject.
The LumiQuest Promax softbox
measures 5x7" and weighs hardly anything. You do lose slightly more
than one stop exposure but it allowed for short flash duration and virtually
shadowless lighting. It also provided a softer look to the images and
good skin tone.
I also used the Promax softbox to light the background with multiple flash
setups for product photography. It provided a softer look to the background
and avoided a dark, dreary or a harsh, overly bright look. The softbox
also works well for portraits. It helps if you use the flash off-camera
with a flash cord extension.
Another neat little accessory is the Promax 80-20. It simultaneously delivers
bounce and direct lighting. Eighty percent of the light from the flash
goes to the ceiling, while about 20 percent is reflected at the subject
to act as a fill light. It works best with a 8 or 9' ceiling. You
do lose effective light output but that depends on ceiling height. The
Promax 80-20 has an accessory insert system for special lighting effects
and a diffuser that softens the overall effect of the bounce light.
immigrants brought Jiu-jit-su to Brazil where it was modified
and changed into a fast, tough and close contact sport.
The LumiQuest softbox provided shadowless lighting and good
A set of inserts adds greatly
to the flexibility of the 80-20. I decided to shoot a portrait session
of a mother and her daughters outdoors on a balcony in the evening. I
wanted the dark background beyond the balcony and I still wanted to use
bounce light. I attached a white insert into the top of the unit (hook
and loop tabs) above the flash that created a bounce effect while still
retaining the direct fill light.
I also made photographs with the gold insert that adds a warm, sunset
quality light to the flash. The gold insert also works with flash fill
light for shadow detail in normal daylight. A silver insert adds intensity
to highlights outdoors or indoors. Great for more formal photographs.
I'd been trying to create a still life around two masks I brought
back from Mexico. Nothing seem-ed to work well. The LumiQuest snoot inadvertently
supplied the answer--keep it simple. I placed a mask on a black background
and used the snoot to concentrate the light on the mask only. The snoot
is great for narrowing the flash for a variety of close-up photography.
I use it now for images of small or tiny subjects along with a macro lens
or bellows mounted lens.
softbox produces virtually shadowless lighting and good
skin tones. Its light weight makes it applicable to a wide
variety of action situations, and pros have adopted it.
LumiQuest manufactures a wide
variety of electronic flash accessories. There's a pocket bouncer
designed for use when there's no ceiling. It can also be aimed directly
at the subject for a softer lighting effect. Good for quick portraiture.
There's a light loss of somewhat more than one stop.
The Promax Ultrasoft is useful with one flash unit or for lighting the
background with multiple flash.
The Big Bounce is somewhat larger but provides soft even lighting for
portraits and close-ups.
Barn doors used with the pocket bouncer help direct light into specific
areas of the subject.
A tabletop system enhances creativity and control with reflective lighting
snoot narrows flash output for shooting tiny or extremely
There's even an attachment--the
Reflecta Bounce Kit--for use with bare-bulb flash with silver or gold
Other units: The Promax Midi-Bouncer is designed for use with larger,
professional electronic flash units. There's also a set of colored
gels designed to change light color for dramatic effects.
All that increased flash flexibility has its price. There's at least
one stop light loss with the attachments. In some instances it's
as high as 22/3 stops. It's a price worth paying if you find the
modern electronic flash getting in the way of your creativity and imagination.
There's some crossover with the LumiQuest accessories, but it does
make it possible to choose one or more that fit your needs more precisely.
For more information contact LumiQuest, PO Box 310248, New Braunfels,
TX 78131; (830) 438-4646, fax: (830) 438-4667. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.