Elinchrom EL-Skyport Plus HS and Quadra Hybrid Test Photo Shoot

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Earlier this month I made the big financial leap to invest in another portable flash system from the Swiss masters at Elinchrom. I sourced two Elinchrom Ranger Quadra Hybrid AS RX powerpacks with Standard (S) flash heads from a US retailer, and the brand new Elinchrom EL-Skyport Plus HS transmitter from an Aussie store. I will be shooting primarily snowboarding with this killer kit, but wanted to give the high-speed flash-sync capabilities a test drive before I head off overseas.

Radich Elinchrom Quadra and EL-Skyport Plus HSThe big advantages of this system are:

  • Lightweight lithium-ion batteries and flash heads: each unit weights just 2kg, much less than the high-powered, lead-battery Elinchrom Ranger RX pack and head I already own – ie super portable in a backpack;
  • Built in wireless receivers in the Quadra Hybrid, which pair with Elinchrom’s transmitters – so no more fliddling with Pocketwizards, their batteries and all sorts of cords;
  • 400ws of power, which should be enough for most applications; but most importantly,
  • The EL-Skyport Plus HS has a new “Hi-Sync” feature that works with either Canon or Nikon cameras (you buy a specific transmitter) to allow flash synchronisation up to 1/8000th of a second! Previously I was flash-syncing at just 1/250th of a second with Pocketwizards. And with this Hi-Sync feature, it now means that I can easily increase the shutter speed to freeze the action, as well as underexpose (and therefore, darken) the background to make the subject “pop” off the screen. This means that you can get much more usable light out of the 400ws of flash power.

So to test, I dragged my brother to the local primary school basketball court in the afternoon. It was a pretty rushed shoot, but really I wanted to get a quick idea of how well this Elinchrom system can capture the action, darken the background, and what the range of the wireless transmitter was. And the result of the test? I love it! Easy to use, great range, quick flash refresh times. It’s going to make all my future photo shoots so much easier to set up.

So for those that are interested, I’ve included the settings by which the photos were taken. All shots were under bright, but cloudy daylight settings, with post-production editing in Lightroom. Click on the photos to see them larger.

For more information about the Elinchom EL-Skyport Plus HS click here and Hi-Sync.

For more information about the Elinchom Ranger Quadra Hybrid AS RX click here.

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1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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Yep, the flash works. First photo, making it look more like dark twilight than the bright, cloudy afternoon that it was.  1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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1/4000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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1/4000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 800.

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Moody. Testing the range of the transmitter. This was taken about 100m away, through a cyclone-wire fence, and around a brick wall and wooden fence. A few more metres away and the flash didn’t fire. 1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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Turning the tables, handing the camera to my brother and becoming the subject. 1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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Trying to make it rain. 1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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Like Mike? Doing my best to emulate Jordan’s Playground. 1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

East Coast Surf Road Trip With Just An iPhone

Crescent Head beach panorama
Panorama taken with iPhone.

iPhones make it all too easy! In fact nowadays I hardly bother taking my pocket Canon digital camera with me, let alone my new Canon EOS 1D mark IV. So I thought I’d try posting a blog directly from my iPhone with photos from a recent roadtrip from Melbourne to the Gold Coast and edited using just the phone’s auto-enhance & panorama function as well as Instagram, Luminance and Pic Jointer apps.

And the result. Well, WordPress ain’t the easiest beast to tame on a 3 inch touch screen – I couldn’t work out how to change the order of the gallery photos, or caption them. So I think I’ll stick to computer blogging from now on…

Storm Surfing

It’s just an hour’s drive north to where Brisbane is in the middle of what is reportedly the worst ever natural disaster in Australia’s history. However, down here on the Gold Coast it has remained relatively rain-free, and all the major storms and floods have passed us by. The only reminder here that we can see of nature’s fury is just in the chocolate brown-tinted ocean, which has been filled with silt, dirt and debris from the runouts of all the rivermouths and creeks.

But all the junk in the water and lumpy, wind-blown swell isn’t enough to deter the avid Goldy shred-head. Yesterday there was only one small strip between Snapper Rocks and Greenmount that was breaking and rideable, and it was amazingly busy. The waves were wild and massive, with the whole of the rocks covered in a bubbling, shimmering foam of brown sand & seas-water scum. There was such a huge drag and no let-up in the smashing waves that some guys were waiting 10 minutes at the Keyhole to find a break to paddle out furiously to the take-off zone. Admittedly, it was well beyond my capabilities, and so I stood in the shallows by the rocks and snapped a few shots into the evening. I hope you like them.

Queensland: Beautiful one day…flooding the next!

It’s probably a good thing that Queensland recently changed the State promotional slogan to “Where Australia Shines”, because taking a look at the weather up here the old “Beautiful One Day, Perfect the Next” would get them in trouble with the ACCC for false advertising! It hasn’t been a typical Spring and Summer on the Gold Coast – sunny days, like the one above, have been fairly infrequent. It is the rainy season up here, as South East Queensland gets hit by the remnants of tropical summer storms and cyclones further up north, but I don’t think anyone would have predicted downpours and floods like this!

I saw some pretty decent flooding down in Victoria during winter and spring, but Queensland is sure getting hit harder. I flicked through Brisbane’s Courier Mail today, and it showed that rainfall was up to a foot within 24 hours in some locations across Queensland, and I just heard that Toowoomba received 170mm in one hour! Fortunately, the Gold Coast isn’t affected by floods because the nearby mountain range and numerous rivers flush out all the water into the sea. However, it does turn the waves a murky, dark green which takes a few days to clear up, especially around the rivermouths. Yet even in the rain and gloomy skies you can still find some colour and brightness. You have to be careful, though, as the  rainfall has brought all sorts of creepy-crawlies into urban areas.

But I can’t complain too much: the ocean temperature is 23 degrees celsius,  the waves have been pretty good, you can still find quiet little seaside towns to escape the GC holiday crowds just 25 minutes down the road, and even when it’s teeming down with tropical-style rain, the outside temperature still hovers around 25 degrees. Just don’t count on getting a tan if you come up here for a holiday anytime soon

(Note: WordPress seems to be uploading photos at a very low resolution for the previews, so if you like a photo, click on one of the thumbnails, then click it again on the next screen to see the original higher quality jpeg)

All that glitters on the goldy…

After the end of winter I flew up to the Gold Coast for a mighty Metallica concert up in Brisbane, and decided to stay here for a while at Casa El Rad with some work lined up from early November. It’s a good thing the the Bligh State Government changed the State slogan to “Queensland: Where Australia Shines” from “Beautiful One Day, Perfect the Next”, because we know that isn’t true. There are some amazing sub-tropical downpours up here, and long-range forecasts for more cyclones up north, which will be great for waves down here on the border. And at least after the storm comes the sun, and with it, rainbows over the waves.

I’ve taken my camera down to Coolangatta a couple of times, and last night snapped a few sunset shots after a fun surf session. There were dolphins out in the water bobbing lazily between paddling boarders, and not far off shore some huge whales splashed around. Unfortunately, by the time I had finished checking out the sunset it was too dark for the couple of shots I took of the whales to come out properly. But I hope you enjoy the Coolangatta photos below.

Over on Snowboarder Magazine’s website there are some shots of mine of Jeremy Burns from Falls Creek. It’s a nice little online profile, and I was glad that these shots from 2009 finally managed to see the light of day (see some of them below too). I’ve shot a couple times with Jez this last season, and there are sure to be some bangers of him in the mags next year. And we also have a fun little project in mind for overseas this coming winter. So stay tuned to Radman and Radical!

Changing topics, and getting back to one of my favourite issues, recently Coastalwatch ran an interview with a well-known surf and fashion photographer. Jason Reposar  started out in graphic design, didn’t like a surf photo he had to turn into an ad, so picked up a camera and some film and shot his own ad…and the rest, as they say, is history. Coastalwatch’s article is a shortened version of a longer interview in a new online magazine called 18 Seconds, and omits some of his colourful past…and even more colourful quotes. For example, when asked about his favourite (photographic) subjects he replies: “Pussy, music and surf. If I wasn’t a photographer I’d still be interested in those three things.” I hear ya, Jason!

Reposar has some interesting things to say about the state of surf photography, the switch from film to digital, and the influx of new photographers under-cutting the pros and deflating the industry:

”With digital cameras and the explosion of surf photography, it’s become harder and harder to make a living from just surf photography. You’ve got all these kids now whose parents bought them a camera and they’re swapping their shots for clothes and empty promises. The magazines and clothing companies are taking full advantage of this. It’s really killed a lot of careers because some of the older guys who have been doing this for years and have families, are suddenly taking huge cuts in salary. They’re having to work harder for a lot less money…

I think that some of these new guys are killing off careers and sending really talented surf photographers to other areas of photography to make a living. Most importantly, they’re killing any chance of a career they might have by underselling images and poaching other photographers…

Why would a company pay $3,500 for a great photo when they can get a good one for a few t-shirts and a pair of boardies?….It’s the companies that I would hold responsible for controlling the pay rates. You can’t really blame an uneducated 18-year-old with a 600mm for trading shots for product. Maybe after they’re brought up to speed on this game you could, but what kid wouldn’t be stoked to get a shot in print?”

So in a lot of ways it sounds like a similar situation to snow photography: when you are willing to take photos for the pure love of it, it makes it tough on the guys who are also trying to make a living out of it. Now I just wish snowboard companies were willing to pay $3500 for a photo for one of their ads! I’ve discussed the issue of what a photo is worth, about a surf photo of mine being published in a newspaper for free, and about how to try and protect your digital images from being used and abused by companies that should know better. If you are interested, take a look at the blog entries here, here and here.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Reposar has some ideas about how to make it better for the pro photogs…and it’s quite similar to an idea a great Aussie snow photographer had a couple of years ago..a shame we couldn’t get it to take hold:

“It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there and it’s all fuelled by corporate greed. This is no surprise to me and I don’t think it should be any different. What should change is us… the photographers. We need to unify and create a union to provide security for ourselves. Make some guidelines for pricing, maybe some health insurance for the dangerous situations we have to put ourselves in. We should have some security for our families and most of all have some consequences which companies take up the arse when they get caught breaking the rules of the union.”