New product test: the Omega Reflector

I was just on creativeLIVE, this time doing a fun class on DIY photographic lighting gear. We made all kinds of groovy things on the cheap, proving that great lighting doesn't necessarily require expensive gear. One of the techniques I've used in the studio for years, as have many other photographers, is to cut a hole in a large reflector panel, or V-flat, and photograph the subject through it. When you bounce some studio light or sunlight in to the face of the panel, it reflects back on the subject with a soft, wrapping, beauty light. You also get, as a bonus, catchlights in the eyes that look similar to a ring light.

Taking this entire contraption on location, however, is another story. Enter the Omega Reflector, designed by Jerry Ghionis and produced by Wescott. The Omega Reflector is billed as the "world’s first 10-in-1 'shoot through' reflector", and it truly is one of those products where you smack your forehead and go, "Duh! Why didn't anyone do this sooner??" Thank you Jerry.

The Omega is a large rectangular diffuser, with multiple cover surfaces giving you a plethora of reflective options: gold, silver, black, and white are all at your fingertips. The unique feature, however, is the velcro attached window in the middle that you can rip off faster than an Elvis belly dancing costume and photograph right through it. When you use it in this manner, you only need one light source to create beautiful hair light, soft wrapping main light, and twinkling catchlights in the eyes.

I used the Omega during my class on creativeLIVE to demonstrate how it compares to the traditional hole-in-a-foam-core method and the results were beautiful. Even more beautiful, however, is the Omega folds up in a compact package, slides in your camera bag, and goes with you everywhere. 

This past weekend, I was photographing children for a local charity called Sparrow Clubs. I've been working with them for years and they truly are an amazing organization designed to encourage and support kids in helping other kids with medical needs. I photograph with natural light, keeping things as simple as possible to avoid making the children uncomfortable. Usually I use a large reflector, and maybe my large scrim. I brought along the Omega to see how it would work and discovered it not only created the perfect light for children, but gave me a fun "window" to play peek-a-boo through! The kids were fascinated by it and I got some wonderful images. My son came along to assist me and he was able to hold the Omega and simply move with me as I adjusted to my subjects movement.

The Omega seems to be constructed with high quality materials and the flexible wire framing holds well without twisting. Re-folding the reflector to fit back in the bag is a little more complicated than your typical round disc, but after a few tries you get the hang of it. It does take a bit more time to set up when you have to remove the layers of windows from each surface, but I've started to just leave it stored with them off, since I use it that way most often anyway. I can then apply the appropriate window material if and when I need it for a full, traditional reflector. 

If you don't want, or need, to use the Omega in the shoot-through configuration, you can velcro back the windows and you have an extra large diffuser, or multiple reflector surfaces. This truly makes the Omega the most versatile lighting tool I've ever come across. Seriously.

In my brief time with the Omega Reflector, I've realized that it will be my new "desert island lighting tool" – the one thing I would take with me if I could only take one thing. 

The Omega is only available at TheOmegaReflector.com and is currently at introductory pricing of only $99. A great deal. Ωooohhhhmmmmmm

 The Omega Reflector works great for close-up images of children. Notice the signature catchlights in the eyes. I used a Nikon D800 with 85mm f1.4 lens at f1.4 and aperture priority. Natural light only. Final image was enhanced with my Lightroom Presets package.

The Omega Reflector works great for close-up images of children. Notice the signature catchlights in the eyes. I used a Nikon D800 with 85mm f1.4 lens at f1.4 and aperture priority. Natural light only. Final image was enhanced with my Lightroom Presets package.

Do you know one of these amazing people?

Ah, October...one of my favorite days of the year falls on a beautiful Autumn Sunday. This was our 13th year to host Family Photos in the Park Day in Bend, OR. The project started over a decade ago to provide free family holiday portraits to families in need in our local area. We rally together with other local photographers and volunteers to photograph them throughout the day and ultimately provide them with a free picture package and digital files so they can inexpensively make holiday cards or other prints on their own. This year we photographed over 200 families yesterday! 

I really love this project because it not only provides the obvious gift to the families, but it also brings together like minded friends and photographers to spend the day having fun and doing something truly awesome together. Photographers also say it's one of the best learning experiences for them as well – having to photograph 30-50 families in one day quickly hones your location portrait skills! 

Each year I look forward to seeing my repeat "customers" who bring their families back and seek me out at my photo station. It's such a joy to see how they've grown and they truly inspire me with their hearts and smiles. One such family comes every year and is headed up by a couple of matriarchs in their 70's and 90's who have adopted and care for several children with Down syndrome. This year they told me they ALSO have 6 dogs! Talk about energy and compassion!

I am truly grateful today for the generous help of our volunteers who make time in their schedules to give back to the community with us.  We certainly could not do this project without them and they all have a special place in my heart!

If you are a photographer, or heck – anyone wanting to start a project like this in your town, email me and I'll be happy to share the information on how we organize this and provide samples of all the documents we use to connect with families through local charitable organizations. 

If you know one of these good folk, give them a power hug! 

 The superstars of Family Photo Day! Some volunteers had to leave before we took the photo so they are not digitally represented, but still wholly appreciated!

The superstars of Family Photo Day! Some volunteers had to leave before we took the photo so they are not digitally represented, but still wholly appreciated!

The photographers were:

Alycia White - Echo Photography

Bob Fowler

Jesse Laird

Jessica Heigh

Kimberly Teichrow - Kimberly Teichrow Photography

Marina Koslow - Marina Koslow Photography

Nathan Smith

Sandra Kunz

Kevin Kubota

Other volunteers & assistants:

Kecia Kubota - Groove Consulting

Judy Kubota

Clare Kubota

Kai Kubota - Go Summit High! 

Cindy Girror

Kevin Desrosiers

Karen Brown - Team Kubota

Miranda Brown - Go Summit High!

Patch Heatherman

Staci Demarco - Team Kubota

Kathryn Osborne - Team Kubota

Trish Crawford - Team Kubota

Anna Miller (Alycia's sister)

Chris David

Michael Conkey

Cali Clement (Team Kubota) and her sister, Abby Elvebak

 

First test of new PocketWizard Plus III radios

I got my hands on an early set of the brand spanky new PocketWizard Plus III units at WPPI last week and took them out on the streets of Las Vegas for a quick test and photo shoot. It was also a great opportunity to use my new Lensbaby Edge 80, which I am totally smitten with. 

I love it when a manufacturer takes a great product and makes it even simpler to use. With the Plus III transceivers, PocketWizard have taken all the great features of the Plus II and made them easier to access and squished them in to a more compact device. They've added some new features as well, upping the value proposition. These new units are more affordable than previous Plus II models.

Pros:

  • Super easy to use controls!
  • 4 zones for controlling up to 4 lights on the same channel
  • More compact with shorter, more protected antenna
  • Automatically detects, activates, and works as a transmitter or receiver
  • Long battery life, improved battery retaining door
  • Reliable

Cons:

  • No TTL control of speedlights (buy the TT1/TT5 units for that)
  • No audible beep option to confirm fire/signal receive
  • Will not function as a coffee warming device

The Lensbaby Edge 80 is the newest optic from Lensbaby. It is a flat-plane selective focus lens, which differs from the classic Lensbaby optic. The original signature Lensbaby look has soft, gradual blurring from the selected point of focus out towards the edges in a circular pattern. The Edge 80 is more like a traditional view-camera lens (some folks associate this with the "Toy Camera" look). It is razor sharp across a plane of focus that can be tilted and twisted to wherever your heart desires. (A typical lens has this plane of focus straight up and down, parallel to the sensor plane)

You can create some really cool and unusual looks with a lens like this, and it's far easier to use than a traditional view camera (which requires you to view an image upside down or stand on your head to shoot). For example, you can create a full-length portrait where the subjects face is razor sharp, but her body is out of focus - putting the attention where it should be: the eyes and smile.

 

Placing the Edge 80 optic in the Lensbaby Composer Pro body is fluid bliss in use. The machining and build quality are beautiful and smooth as glass. This is a manual lens, so you set the aperture and focus manually. Setting the camera to aperture priority works great and allows for quick shooting and allows putting attention on getting the focus plane where you want it. Speaking of which, you will need some practice to be able to work quickly with this lens, however the payoff is well worth it. Spend a little time playing and you'll have a valuable artistic tool that will further separate you from your competition.

The following images show examples using these tools. I used a small Photoflex Octodome with (2) Nikon speedlights in it. I used two speedlights to give me enough power to easily match and overpower the existing sunlight, and to allow lower power settings for faster recycling. A third speedlight was used with a Rogue Grid over it to create a spotlight on the opposite side of the sun, further helping to separate my subject from the background. It also adds great highlights to her hair and jacket. See the lighting diagram for placement details.

For your research:

 

Kubota-_kev5117t Kubota-_kev5105 Kubota-_kev5161 Kubota-_kev5147

 

 

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