Allen's Blog
March, 2010

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The Ingenuity of Marty Forscher

During the past six months, while we have been working to build the new Visual Departures web site which launched just last week, I knew that a personal blog would be part of the project. I have always been certain that the blog would not be just about our company and its products but about a range of topics including (but not limited to) photography, film and video; the people who make and edit the images; travel; food; and observations that one makes after nearly 50 years of working as a photographer and in television.

But just as we started the design process, I learned of the death of an old friend and one of the truly great people in the history of 20th century photography, Marty Forscher. During the 40 years that Marty presided over Professional Camera Repair Service in New York City (the business continued for about 15 years after Marty’s retirement in 1987 and closed in 2001, largely because of the vast changes in technology), thousands of emerging and established photographers looked to Marty and his staff for support, advice, and the technical skills that kept us going in remote locations or in the studio.

He was always a lovely person, and on the days when PCRS was swamped with customers at its West 47th Street offices, everyone waited his or her turn (usually by reading the bulletin board that was an early ancestor of Craig’s List). To understand Marty’s importance, you have to know something about equipment in the days before electronic shutters, auto-focus, and sharp-as-a-tack zoom lenses.

Nikon (Nikkor) 43-86mm zoom lens

Once upon a time, when only Nikon and Leica were the 35mm cameras of note (with Hasselblad, Rollei, Linhof, and Deardorff as the larger format options), all our gear needed regular maintenance. I used to travel on extended assignments with as many as seven Nikon and Leica bodies and at least as many lenses. Even when the earliest zoom lenses arrived, they were slow, not particularly sharp, and very limited in their zoom range. My first was the Nikon 43-86mm, and it was quickly relegated to the drawer where it lives today.

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Flexfill: The Original Collapsible Reflectors

Get Total Lighting Control, Whether On Location or In Studio

We’ve all seen it: when the contrast between your light and shadows is too extreme, the sensors in your camera will “crush” the highlights or shadows, ruining your exposure and washing out all your detail. Using a reflector to “fill” the shadows or soften direct light brings your subject within the range your camera can capture reliably.

  • Controls natural or artificial lighting contrast and quality
  • Sets up and collapses in about one second
  • Collapses to one-third its size for easy transportation & storage
  • Zippered nylon pouch included
  • High-quality materials; made in the USA

In 1982, Visual Departures introduced the first collapsible reflector: Flexfill. Today, Flexfill is used by thousands of top studio and location photographers. Available in four sizes and nine surfaces, it’s a highly portable and efficient lighting solution.

Flexfill is fast. The riveted spring-steel rim allows any Flexfill to open up or fold down to one-third its working size, instantly, with the flick of a wrist. And you can hold Flexfill reflectors flat, concave, or convex, depending on whether you want neutral, spot, or diffuse light.

There have been many copycat products, but none compare well to Flexfill. Flexfill reflectors have always been made in the USA; built to last from tough, non-fading materials. Cheap knockoffs often come apart at the seams, and the manufacturers often include the rim fabric in their measurements. Rest assured: when you buy a genuine 48″ Flexfill, you’ll get the full 48″ of usable area you paid for.

The circular Flexfill is available in 20-, 38-, 48-, and 60-inch diameters. Each Flexfill comes with its own zippered nylon carrying pouch, is fully guaranteed by Visual Departures, and is made in America. It can be mounted on lightstands with the Flexfill Adjustable Holder FH-1, which is compatible with any size Flexfill (and frees up your assistant for other tasks. If you don’t have an assistant, you’ll appreciate the FH-1 even more.)

Types of Flexfill Surfaces

White: The standard reflector surface, a white Flexfill bounces light back into the subject to lower contrast without affecting the light’s character.

Silver: Similar to a white reflector, but produces a more specular fill. Use it for brightening shadows–especially important when moving a white Flexfill closer would cause it to intrude into the frame. Metallic Flexfills are made with a high-grade aluminized nylon.

Gold: Similar reflecting power to silver, but also adds warmth to the subject. On a sunny day, it can eliminate the blue cast open sky contributes to shadows; indoors, it can warm up cool window light. Minimizes the need for a warming filter that would otherwise rob light.

Black Absorber: Produces an effect just the reverse of a reflector, reducing the amount of light reaching the shadows–and creating higher lighting contrast. Especially good for adding snap when soft ambient light makes a subject appear flat. Made from a dead-matte velvet-like fabric, it’s also useful for “flagging” — keeping unwanted stray light off your lens and/or subject.

Translucent: Designed for placement between the light source and subject, a translucent Flexfill softens hard light to improves modeling. It reduces light by 1.2 stops.

Silk: Similar in its diffusing effect to our translucent surface, but transmits twice as much light. Its less heavy ripstop nylon reduces light by only .7 stop. Use it when you need more light and want somewhat harder shadows.

Black Net: Also placed between source and subject, but only to reduce the strength of the light, not its quality. Use it the way you would a neutral density filter on the camera; less light allows you to shoot at wider apertures, for example. Ideal for controlling lighting ratios, it is available in single net (.8-stop density) and double net (1.5 stops).

Flexloc: A Strong, Reusable Cable Tie

Flexloc releasable cable ties are made from tough, flexible nylon, and their 50-pound tensile strength ensures they won't snap under pressure.

Why Waste Gaffer Tape and Zip Ties?

Flexloc releasable cable ties are perfect for tying up all the cords and cables that photographers and other audio-visual professionals struggle with every time they work. A ribbed inner surface makes them self-locking and secure; just a quick pinch of the fingers releases the tie. Unlike zip ties, you can use Flexloc ties over and over again.

Flexloc cable ties are made from tough, flexible nylon, and their 50-pound tensile strength ensures they won’t snap under pressure. Their 10-inch length accommodates any diameter up to 2-3/4 inches, and they can be joined together for larger bundles. They’re available in orange and black. We’re sure they’ll become an essential part of your studio’s workflow.