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


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.


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


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.


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


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


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


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


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.


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


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


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


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


Ride the Written Wave

A few weeks ago I was called upon to write something about surfing. I’ve written lots and lots about snowboarding, but never from a first-person perspective – usually I’m writing some event report, travel trip-diary, or interviewing someone – so it was refreshing to try something new and different. What I wrote was a little outside the parameters of what was asked…but take a read if you have the time and let me know what you think:

Snapper Rocks heavy-hitters session, mid-June 2010:

A rustle of the leaves outside the window. Was that a change in the wind direction? Quick, get on the net, check the cams. Yep, looks like it’s pumping. Tide is right. Quickly, quickly, grab the board, wetsuit and towel, pack the car and race out the driveway. Engine revving, stomp on the pedal, race off at the lights – it will get you there faster, even if those Government TV ads would say you’re a tool. But why oh why are there so many red traffic lights on The Gold Coast Highway between Palm Beach and Coolangatta? Surely, this 15 minute trip must have been closer to 30…today of all days! Bloody Queensland drivers.

Finally, the Promised Land is in sight…but which wave to choose? It really is a wealth of riches on the Southern Gold Coast. Slow down for the pedestrian crossings on the Cooly esplanade. It’s OK, take you time to cross, old man…it just gives me more time to check out the line of peeling aqua barrels coming round Greenmount, a black speck balanced on each face, tucked into a crouch and coiled like a spring, while an arc of white spray flies off the crumbling lip and back towards the horizon.

Mount the rise into Rainbow Bay, slowing down the hill trying to simultaneously check the waves, the crowds, look for a parking spot, and dodge crazy bush turkeys and golden-haired rakes who flap across the road with their wetsuit arm-wings hanging at the waist with stickered-up DHD spears clutched tightly under bare brown arms. Is that a pair of red eyes glinting? Yep, a ute has just started up, reverse lights now on as well…and there you have it, a prime parking position where you can watch the hordes of upturned bare-feet and awkward footfalls on concrete as more and more rubber-clad bodies race away from you towards the pure white sand and blisteringly clear azure water.

Getting suited up seems to take an age. And don’t forget that spare key tucked into the wetty before you slam down the boot. Wow, for a mid-week, mid-winter, mid-June day, there sure are a lot of surfers in the water. Doesn’t anybody on the Goldie have work or school to go to? I guess this is the swell everyone was waiting for, when the days of southern slop finally turned easterly enough to wrap around the Tweed and charge along the crescent coast like soldiers in formation, wave after wave pounding the sand bars with perfect rhythm. It looks about 3 foot plus out there, perfect for someone who up until recently was more accustomed to measuring 3 foot of fresh pow on a mountainside in the morning.

Racing across the flat, hard sand to cut the rocky corner in front of the surf club, leg rope making that strange, hollow “slap, slap, slap” with every stride. Overtaking a black shape, round at the waist, glad that you’ve done enough cardio to keep running without too much panting, even when the wetsuit is already sticking to you back under the mid-afternoon sun. Big crowd off Snapper Rocks…and you can see why. It looks amazing.

It’s fairly sheltered from the south-westerly winds here by the high-rises and headlands, but there is enough of a breeze to hollow the wave faces, and when the reflected sets double-up to well over head-height it is a pure vision. A religious man might say that this is a true sign that God exists, and that he fashioned Man in his very image, just so that he may tame nature’s fury in such a way. Every wave a barrel, foamy to begin with then turning crystal clear and transparent…and every wave being slayed, constant movement of water and man, black bodies, white boards, blue-green water, white foam, and huge plumes of spray flying high into the sky while a thunderous cacophony fills the air.

A long line of shapes bobs in the ebb and flow from round the corner of Snapper, all the way round into Rainbow Bay and even on towards Greenmount, jockeying for position and trying to find their comfortable place in the pecking order. You’ll never be able to snaffle a wave from right off the rocks among the throng all searching for the ride of their life, but if you’re lucky you might just get one of those waves that heads wide from the crowd halfway towards the surf club.

Navigating the flailing legs, arms and floating boards all around me as I paddle out, just off to the right a figure is crouched lazily back into a wave, right foot facing me, front hand gripping the rail of the board near his toes as he smothers himself in the armchair embrace of the little barrel. It’s like an early 90’s Point Break flashback. Then he stands to gain speed, punches two powerful and stylish turns, and I see that it is, of course, Luke Egan.

It’s hard work out here – every wave is taken, and destroyed by all manner of man and craft. Even bloody boogie boarders are getting pitted! Every now and again someone falls off, or a smaller wave goes wide and the jackals around me pounce, darting inside to snatch their small chance at glory. C’mon Sean, you have to get more aggressive and paddle in closer or you’ll never snap up one of these rare vacant waves. Missed that one. Paddle back out. Catch the wild eye of the surfer bearing down on you. Duck-dive this rising mountain in front of you. Surface quickly, rain of slash-spray falls all around and slaps the water loudly. Look just right at the next wave. It’s a snarling, angry sandy coloured funnel, dark black and hollow right off the rock. There is a small puff of spray, like the last breath of a dying man, from out of the vortex of this head-high black hole…and then somehow a figure emerges from the darkness, as crouched and composed as a bronze statue. Then as he enters into the light he explodes, rising up the face and going over-vert to smash the lip in one glorious powerful snap, sending spray 15 feet high. Once again he is composed and coiled, gouging deep into a distinctive bottom turn laid over almost horizontal, and then as the wave passes you are slapped with the full force of a wake, smiling with the realisation of how much water a mere man and board can move. All around the surfers had stopped to watch this magnificence just like you, and two minutes later that broad shovel-headed face is looming up beside you as Parko laconically paddles out and around. You have to say something, but how do you not come across as a complete star-struck kook?

“That was a sick barrel you got there!”

 “Yeaaaah, it was fun little one, eh?” he whines back nasally as he smiles and paddles past.

Inspired, it’s time to move in closer. Wait, wait…the waiting and paddling in circles seems to take forever. Then finally, there it is, the opening you were looking for. Paddle hard, arms screaming to out-paddle that kid beside you, then you are taken, lifted up slightly from behind and propelled forward. Hands instantly push down, legs up and around, crouched down, eyes focussed down the line of the wave. Senses are heightened as you contort your body into a position of fluid tension ready to react to the changes underfoot. The sun catches the rising water beside and in front of you, refracting like a magnifying glass the crystal clear sand below. You feel the eyes of the world upon you, and other surfers paddle hard across the line of your wave to get out of the way.

You may not be able to gouge a turn, cut-back or hit the lip like Parko, but when you’re on the wave this is your own selfish moment to enjoy and be watched…and now, after this moment of pure joy you can truly understand why so many surfers crowd such a small section of water around the tip of Snapper Rocks day after day. They are all waiting for their chance at glory. And if you can only manage to get one wave out there with some of the best surfers in the world around you, make sure it’s the best wave of your life. It’s all worth it, and you’re sure to want to come back for more!

The photos of Rainbow Bay and Snapper above are from a day in June with smaller swell, plus there are some actions shots I took of Parko around the corner at Duranbah back in January. And here’s some footage of Parko and Egan at Snapper Rocks from a couple of months ago – it might just be the day I was out there with them…the crowds sure look about right!

And this is the footage of Parko getting his famous fin-chop to the foot out at Snapper in July – it has skuttled his chances this year, yet again, of winning the ASP championship. But take a look at the first barrel that he manages to make – it was pretty similar the snarling monster I saw him emerge from up close. Yeeewwww!


The Colours of Queensland

I’ve been meaning to doing some business admin and finish off my last magazine article about our Los Angeles trip…but I’ve been procrastinating. With waves on the doorstep it’s all too easy to distracted by the surf. And I’ve even been procrastinating so much that when a colourful little lorikeet arrived on our balcony I found some bread crumbs and pulled out the camera. Tourists pay $44 at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary just down the road for pretty much the same experience – we are pretty bloody lucky to basically live in a tropical paradise, more so as our first floor apartment is located pretty much at treetop level. Birds (and bats sometimes) zip past the balcony and wake us up outside the window every morning. And take a look at the beach scene when I had a sneaky look at the waves this evening. Every day something colourful and magical happens on the Gold Coast…

Nature’s Nightly Show

Sunsets still continue to amaze me – the colours and ever changing nature of the light is a truly uplifting sight. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time in some really beautiful locations with amazing light, but I think Queensland’s Gold Coast has to get the award for the best sunsets on earth. It must be something to do with the clear azure sea, nearby craggy rainforest mountains and sub-tropical storm zone that provides a nightly overload for the visual senses. Then there is the shrill cry of hundreds of colourful birds finding a roost for the night as the sun dips below the western Hinterland.

Being out in the Southern Gold Coast surf as the sun sets is one thing that everyone should experience at least once in their life: a warm yellow glow illuminating the high rise towers and headlands as dophins breach the water with their fins glistening gold, then soon out across the eastern Pacific Ocean the reflected sky turns a deep shade of violet while the western aspect is aflame with fiery cloud formations over the mountains.

As Clancy of the Overflow might say if he were a surfer:

And the waves hath friends to meet him, and their thund’rous voices greet him

In the murmur of the breezes and the surf on the bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit high-rise extended,

And at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars.

Here’s just a few examples of the “visons splendid” I have trid to capture with my little Sony pocket camera.

Bi-Coastal Surf Sessions

My last weekend in Melbourne was action-packed, helped by a 3 day visit from brother El Rad, who was keen to try the cold waters off the Surf Coast. Fortunately on the Saturday the weather was actually warm and sunny, the water retained a lot of its summer heat and the waves were pretty clean and off-shore. Annoyingly, an amateur surf comp was on at Jan Juc, clogging up the beach, so we headed down the road to 13th Beach, where all we had to dodge was a few horses. Yes, horses. They allow them to gallop along the beach – maybe they were inspired by Old Spice?

We made it back in time to Melbourne to join our cousin James, who’s on dog-mauling injury-leave from his Northern Territory Thunder footy team (see the front-page article here…but which is nothing compared to James’ brother’s wife’s boobs-inspired front page effort! Most popular story on news.com.au. Check it here). I hadn’t been to the football in ages – man it has changed, and not really for the better. But it was good to sit in the new(ish) MCG northern stand, even if it does feel a bit like you going up the escalators to a shopping centre to get to your seats.

El Rad was keen for a bit of a bi-coastal surf mission on monday: the waves were forecast to be all right on Monday morning, and with a 1.30 pm flight back to the Gold Coast he was hoping to hit the waves up north too. We set out well before dawn – it was a nice sight to see the city in the golden morning light, but not really worth giving up a comfortable sleep in and warm bed when the thermometer showed 4 degrees going past Geelong! After a hard-work short session out in heavy overhead waves at Torquay back beach (a couple of dudes were absolutely ripping, almost getting barelled) it was straight to Tiger Airways at Tullamarine for El Rad. Two hours later he walked through the gates at Coolangatta with his carry-on bag, picked up his car and was straight to Currumbin Alley for another hour-long surf till the last light slipped behind the hinterland. It’s pretty epic to be able to get two surf sessions in during one day, basically in two separate oceans and 1800km apart!

The next day it was my turn – sort of. I flew up to the Goldy, surf board in tow to spend some time in the warmer weather with waves at the front door…not an hour and a half’s drive away. It’s great up here – and pretty relaxed according to the postcards! Unfortunately the bogans over the road have found another piece of junk car to clog the street up with, but their house is on the market so they’ll be moving their infestation along soon I hope. There’d been a huge storm the night before I arrived and couldn’t replicate El Rad’s Currumbin surf – the water coming out the rivermouth was as brown as strong tea! I didn’t want to risk paddling through that, even if it is mostly just silt and leaf tannin, it means there must be all sorts of other chemicals and pesticides washed down from the hills.

As fun as it is up here, it’s going to be tough to handle when the snow starts to fall and the lifts start to run down at Falls Creek – I think that might be my cue to head south again. So take a look at my photos – we caught some great sunsets down south, but really nothing compares to the light and sunsets up here. There’s something about the water, mountains, storms and setting sun that consistently creates the best evening visions of anywhere I’ve ever seen.