I've run out of things to say. Taking a break.

March 20, 2018.

I've jabbered on here with over 3580 posts about photography and video in the last nine years. Shared well over 10,000 images. But when I sat down and tried to think of something about photography that I have not yet shared I came up blank today. I never wanted to be a gear review blog and I never like to repeat myself. I've stopped putting up links to products, except fleetingly, so I've driven the income from the blog to zero. With nothing to say and nothing to gain it seemed like a good time to take a break. Maybe I just need to recover in a different way from the past few months of stress, strain, loss and grief. Maybe I really have used up all the knowledge I had about photography in the previous posts and need to recharge a bit. 

I'm not shutting down the VSL blog or taking my ball and going home. I'll keep everything up and readable. I'm keeping the comments open and I'll moderate them as we go. Feel free to use the comment section of this post to message me or anyone else whose been a regular commenter on the blog and who may drop by the comments. If you need to reach me just head to the website: www.kirktuck.com for contact info. 

I'll check back in soon when I actually have something to say that's different from what you can already get in a thousand places on the web. Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing.  

Thoughts about conventional wisdom, cheap Chinese mono-lights and actual use and reliability.

 I've had a fair number of assignments that call for me to light stuff up to a degree that's a bit difficult for smaller, shoe-mount flashes. And I've had a fair number of assignments calling for good light that are on locations where running meters and meters of extension cords is neither safe nor practical. What I needed in nearly every situation was a light that could fire hundreds of times at half or full power with its own battery power, and one which could kick out enough light to be used 7 to 10 feet from a subject, through a softbox or umbrella, and still give me a solid f8.5 or f11 at ISO 200.

If you scout around for user articles on the web most people talk about Profoto, Elincrhom and Phottix flash equipment. I get that these companies were producing good stuff in the days before competition from China (exception: Phottix, which is sourced from China) and that it's still very good equipment but to ignore the now maturing (budget) products from China is a bit sentimental. In the past I bought into the company line from Profoto; that they were building stuff to a higher quality level, that the light itself was better somehow. But I'm not convinced anymore. I've worked with files from these lights, from Alien Bees and from various generic speed lights and if you can handle making custom white balances in your work the quality of the light can be remarkably nice across brands. UV coated flash tubes are one thing but the physics of flash tubes just isn't the new technology marvel they were in the 1950's. The market is ever changing. Get a UV filter for your cheaper lights and stop worrying....

I took a chance last Fall and bought one of the lights you see above. I'm sure it's made with a different design skin for a number of different brand names but this one is called the Neewer Vision 4. It's a 300 watt second unit with a nice lithium battery, a simple wireless remote, a Bowens accessory mount on the front end for speed rings and the promise of "Designed in Germany."

When I bought the first one I did so with much trepidation for about $279. Over the course of the quarter the price eventually fell to $219 and I bought two more. I've used them extensively indoors and it's nice not to have cables strewn about. But their real strength is in outdoor work.

I was photographing on a golf course yesterday and I had one of these lights on top of a good light stand, secured by a 30 pound sandbag. I'd created a little exterior working area where I could photograph golf professional, Zach Taylor, doing a grip-n-grin with about 50 people. The flash had an inexpensive 47 inch Phottix umbrella softbox on it as a modifier. I triggered the flash with the included and very simple flash trigger connected to the hot shoe of the (currently on probation) Nikon D700.

The flash worked well and the shoot was relaxed. The only iffy part to the day was the constantly changing wind. Sometimes it was wicked and gusty while other times it was mellow and constant. When the wind picked up I reached over with my free hand to anchor the light stand.

The flash did exactly what it was supposed to do over and over again. The unit I was using is the first one I got and now has logged well over 10,000 pops. The idea of this kind of flash at this price was unthinkable just five or six years ago. We can talk about the extra finesse or precision of Swedish or Swiss brands but after having used most brands of electronic flash on the market I'm amazed at what a bargain these lights are and how consistently they've performed.

As I mentioned when I discussed these light previously the only thing I'm not thrilled about is the 30 second duration of the built-in LED modeling light. I wish there was a way to change the duration or to leave it on all the time. I know it would drain the batteries quicker but the convenience of an "always on" modeling light would outweigh the slightly shorter use cycle between charges. Plus, if I am only using one unit on a shoot I've got two others units from which to borrow batteries. With three batteries I should be able to shoot something like 1500 full power flashes a day. I can't think I'd need more than that....

Nice to be able to position my light right next to the golf course, far from a wall socket, and fire away with abandon.

Just checked, the current price is $179.99 on Amazon. About what I would pay for a generic hot shoe flash.....

OT: A quiet celebration last week...

When Ben was young he thought I spent too much time in my office and 
not enough time hanging out with him so I set up a second desk in the office, complete with 
a "blueberry" laptop so he could work on his projects in the same space.
He was a good office mate; his computer rarely crashed and he didn't
drink all the coffee without having the courtesy to brew fresh.

Saving up for college was a long process. We started it shortly after Ben was born. We were pretty optimistic about our ability to save until it became apparent, far into the process, that he had his mind set on going to school out of state. The next escalation was his discovery of a private college that felt just right to him. 

With the help of our 529 account, my ongoing (and variable) cash flow and my partner's great management skills we were able to underwrite all four years. We celebrated last week as we wrote the very last check to his school. 

When we were childless, oh so many years ago, a celebration would have included a pricey bottle of Champagne and an evening at one of our favorite (and extravagant) restaurants. After shipping off so much money over the last four years our actual celebration consisted of sharing a $10 bottle of Prosecco and two chocolate lava cakes from the freezer at the local Trader Joe's. It seems that paying for a good education is, by extension, a good education for at least one former spendthrift parent. 

It's probably the same continuing education that led me home for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch today. As a bonus I had the opportunity to play with Studio Dog for a while before heading back to work.

We held back just enough cash to head up to New York for the commencement ceremony in May. It should be delightful.

My biggest current fear? The lure of graduate school.... 

My spouse still counsels me that the investment in Ben's education was money better spent than me investing in fast cars or medium format digital cameras. Who am I to argue?