VSL waves (with sadness) goodbye to the K5600 Lighting HMIs. A wonderful continuous light source for portraits, video interviews and a lot more...


I was sad when I finished boxing up the loaner HMI lights from K5600 and dropping them off at the local Federal Express office. I'd rally fallen for those lights and it will be hard to go back to using my studio flash systems for portraits again. 

The kit in question was a two light, compact kit with an open face 200 watt Joker HMI and a fresnel 200 watt Alpha HMI and their attendant ballasts. The Alpha is a focusable, lensed light source that gives one nice, soft edges when used as a background light. It's got a good beam range and it's quick and easy to use as an accent light. The open face light can accept a wide range of lenses on the front and do everything from mimicking the effect of a fresnel to doing a wide spread, a tight spread, and everything in between.  The ballasts for the lights were convincingly heavy duty with massive heat syncs and positive locks on the cable connections. 

But the really cool attribute of the lights was the solid quality of light they put out. And, for the electrical draw, the quantity of light you could bring to bear as well. 

I like soft lights for portraits. Nearly everything I do when lighting people has the light blasting through something or bouncing off something. I like the way the edges work when a big diffuser is used in close to a subject. I love controlling the contrast of the light by moving black flags closer or further away from the opposite side of the sitter's face. But most of all I like shooting at the narrow apertures and still being able to get good, non-stuttering focus. It's just more fun. 

While I can get 90% of the way to the look of the HMIs (the way I use them with diffusion) with fluorescent it's really the color purity and overall spectrum that's is the icing on the cake. The light from the HMIs seems as though you had the quality of electronic flash (when it comes to tone and color accuracy) but you were able to slow down light time and have the clean blast of light last---a long time. 

I love shooting with continuous lights because they eliminate the annoying and intrusive flash pop. Subjects get comfortable with continuous light quickly and the output of the small HMIs is not overwhelming. It's enough to get me a good shutter speed, aperture and ISO combo but way under the  "squint" threshold. Must be why they use them extensively on movie sets...

The portrait above is very conservative. It's a timeless style.  It's for an attorney and it's meant to be used for a number of different marketing constructs. During the course of our session we did three wardrobe changes and experimented with alternate poses. After I put up a web gallery of the images that made it through my selection process Luke narrowed down the assortment to four or five he really liked and I retouched and delivered them. The portrait was done with a 6x6 foot diffusion scrim to one side with the open face HMI coming through and the background is lit by the fresnel fixture, fired through some netting to match the main light exposure. It was done with a Nikon D7100 camera and the 85mm f1.8 lens.

It's been a week of "good-byes" here in the studio. First I severed my relationship with Samsung's shooting program and then I got the e-mail letting me know my mini-romance with the K5600 HMIs had come to an end. Funny how letting go of stuff can make one feel very unencumbered and free. I like it. Now I feel like diving into a whole new range of photographic subjects I've been interested in, like my favorite photographic books. 

In fact, I'm planning to do a series of smaller articles dedicated to one book per blog post. I need to get started on that. How about right now?

In the meantime I would love it if you would head over to Amazon.com and buy yourself a copy of my novel, The Lisbon Portfolio. I put a lot of hard work into it. It's not perfect but then few books are. By snagging a copy you'll be providing VSL some emotional support. It can be hard for creative people to let go of projects and put them out in public. Seeing them sell well is a happy thing. 

As an incentive to make giving yourself the book just a bit easier I'm dropping the price by $6.00 to a new price of $3.99. This new price will be good only through the holidays. The price will go up right after the New Year!  Get yours soon! Before they run out of the Kindle edition!!! 


James Pilcher said...

Kirk! You are like a whirlwind blowing through the realm of photographic equipment. It's hard to keep track of where you are, and certainly impossible to predict where you are going! It's a master, though, that changes his tools on a whim and continues to produce. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Jim said...

That is sweet light but I checked the price on those units and I see why you didn't just dash out and buy a set of them to keep. WOW!

Derrick said...

Hi Kirk, what ISO/Aperture/SHutter combination did that K5600's allow you to use with that lighting setup?
Thanks and happy holidays!

Fugazi Dave said...

In my assisting work, I've used all manner of lighting gear. The K5600 lights are what surprised/pleased me most in the last few years. I've used them with architectural shooters as well as with people and loved them in both applications. Supplementing daylight in a huge daylight studio in Chicago by shooting a half dozen Joker Bug 800s through a twelve foot silk turned out beautifully. Fantastic lights.

Huw said...

Hi Kirk, I keep coming back to this photo because it confuses me. Luke is a good looking guy with amazing eyes but there's something strange about his face - like it's been artificially smoothed or something - especially compared to his pin sharp tie. Is this a cultural thing? Are corporate photos photoshopped like this? It seems strange when put alongside your quest for sharpness and capturing your sitters' 'true' essence (and compared to your iconic and luminous pictures of Belinda).
Just wondering! Keep up the good work.

Kirk Tuck said...

Hi Huw, Thanks for the query. The extent of retouching on commercial images commissioned by clients varies with the client. Some like less retouching and some more. We show clients the images we do for ourselves as examples but we collaborate on the final look. That's the nature of commercial work.

I am, at heart, a commercial photographer. Keeping my clients happy keeps my bank account happy...

Huw said...

Thanks for the response, Kirk. I guess even 'straight' portraits have professional and societal subtexts. Interesting stuff. Also to say that Luke looks very much at ease, which is to your credit.