12.19.2020

Just a short post about a light. Yesterday was a full retro experience. But (groan) enlightening...


I've been trying to figure out how to store my newest gimbal. I wanted a solid case that would protect it while traveling to weird locations. I looked around the studio and spied an old, black Pelican case wedged under some Metro shelving. I hadn't opened that particular case in years but I pretty much knew it had some old light fixtures from a different age. I opened it up and found one Lowell Tota-Light (pictured above) and two Lowell VIP lights. All three are tungsten light fixtures that take 500 watt bulbs and have barn doors that fold up to protect the lamp. 

My instantly retrieved memory of these lights was about how often I burned my hands trying to handle them before they cooled off and how hot the rooms got when we had three or four of theses fired up to shoot ancient Sony Beta SP video. Since it was pretty cold outside yesterday and I wanted to set up a quick light for my on camera chat I decided to just put the Tota-Light on a C-Stand, put us a big diffuser and then see if the lamp still worked. It did. Well. And it kept me warm for a while.

Funny, we've more or less (collectively) relegated inexpensive "hot" lights to the trash heap of video production but yesterday's session reminded me about a few features that I'd more or less forgotten in the heedless pursuit of LED lighting at all costs. 

First of all, you can buy a used Tota-Light fixture for around $75 and a lamp for about $15. Aim it at a diffuser and turn it on and you've got an amazing amount of light in one small, inexpensive package. Bounce a 500 watt off the ceiling and you can evenly light up a small space. But there's more to it than quantity. Hot lights/tungsten halogens are very, very color accurate. There are no big spikes in their spectrum like there are in most inexpensive LEDs and nothing to correct. If you are matching lights from set to set you'll have no problem with hue or color temperature with your lights. They sit there at 3200° until the tubes burn out or you assistant bangs them around before they've cooled and kills the filament. 

They can also be (see the Total-Light) small and light and easy to use. 

When I shot some video yesterday I set up the light and set the camera at the tungsten bulb setting for WB. When I looked at the virgin footage with a vector scope enabled in Final Cut Pro X the light fell exactly on the flesh tone index line with no weird spikes or splintered. The white dot was centered and compact. Nearly a perfect white balance. No muss, no fuss. 

They do suck up electrical power. They do run quite hot. But damn they are color accurate and easy to use. 

No, not giving up on the LEDs now. The tungsten lamps are pricy and prone to having short and sad lives. But I'm not ready to jettison these three little lights. They've got some practical use left in them. 

Nice to rediscover stuff. 

Simple and quick. And color neutral. 

VSL reaches another (smallish) milestone. We've enjoyed 27,000,000 direct page views here at the blog.

The Borghese Gardens. Rome.

That's the tally from 4,761 published blog posts (plus any that I tossed away over the years for irrelevance or spite) and well over 50,000 comments from readers all over the world. It's been a lot of fun and kept my mind busy and my hands less idle during times of international financial collapse, the pandemic, personal family tragedies, and all kinds of anxiety producing mini-disasters. 

I've written blog posts on airplanes after midnight, in very strange and cheap motels sprinkled over the hinterlands, on an iPad in Berlin and once on an iPhone keypad while sitting out a blizzard in an airport in Toronto. Mostly though I tend to write blog posts first thing in the morning. And I tend to blaze through without an outline or a re-write, though I do go back through after I've finished writing and try to clean up  the grammatical errors and clumsy fingered misspellings. 

Pre-pandemic I'd get up early, write a blog post, head to swim practice and then meet my assistant in the parking lot at the swim club to head off for a day of client work. When I returned home in the late afternoon, if it was not my turn to cook dinner and clean up, I'd decompress from the day buy getting started on another post; usually a de-brief of my day's project. Now I just get up, swim and then write. I have other writing projects I'm working on after I get the daily blog out the door...

Since the median length of a post is around 2,000 words (give or take) my calculator tells me I've banged out something like 9,522,000 words over the last 11 years. That must be why my fingers feel most comfortable hovering and pecking over the keyboards. Glad I took a typing class in high school. Better than anything I learned subsequently.

I don't seem to write in a way that encourages much commentary on the site but I know I have a loyal family of readers here. I guess I could pepper my blogs with more opportunities to: list your favorite camera, tell us what you want for Christmas, encourage you to chime in on top ten lists, set up straw man arguments about the benefits or detractions of the latest current cameras, and make frequent predictions while asking you what you think of said predictions. 

All of these things are known tricks of the trade for bloggers who are determined to make their sites financially profitable. They also pepper the comment attractive posts with lots of affiliate links and even display ads. 

I watched one blogger shamelessly ask one of the "trigger" question which prompted, almost immediately, hundreds of comments. But that particular blogger loves to go in to study and parse and edit each comment. Almost a compulsion, and it puts him way behind the productivity curve vis-a-vis for getting interesting material out on a routine basis. But since I stripped the blog of monetization schemes I stopped being very concerned about using popular triggers. I'll just take the people who enjoy reading about photography and video. I also don't edit my own stuff. It's all first draft. Maybe that's why some posts are so long?

I am lucky. Most are happy to read and comment just at need. To correct me (hopefully gently) if I seem to be going off the rails. I like that. I never "edit" my commenters comments. I might banish a malignant comment to the pits of blogging hell but I don't presume to step in and clarify or correct my commenters. 

Sometimes I get affirming or informative direct e-mails. I don't mind that at all. Sometimes the one-to-one engagement leads to longer term friendships. (I'm looking at you Frank, Andy, Eric, Fred, Michael, Stephen, Sanjay, Greg, Abraham and others lost in the swirl of memory this early morning). I love it when that happens because we start with a basis of interest but it grows more interesting when personalized. One of my own best mentors is someone I met here years ago and I have coffee with him nearly weekly. He's a sage guide for impending retirement. A thoughtful artist.  A great guy too. 

Since I'm not editing, and only doing binary comment moderation, I don't waste a lot of unproductive time that I'd rather spend writing. But I was happy to see a couple of longer comments on yesterday's post. I always feel like I'm really putting myself out there when I do a video starring me. It's nice to get a longer and more considered comment. 

My current intention is to stay relevant until I hit at least 5,000 posts. That seems to be enough for anyone and it will take me at least another year to get to. Till then I'm committed to pounded out pieces about whatever I find interesting. I hope you'll continue to read. That's what makes it a happy process for me. 

I am enjoying the (very quiet) holidays and I hope you are too!  - Kirk