Allen's Blog

Posts tagged ‘Flexfill’:

C.S.I. (The Real Deal) at IAI Providence 2013

Just back from Providence, RI, and the annual conference of the IAI (International Association for Identification). We were there in partnership with the Forensic Division of our friends at Adorama Camera (who knew they had a forensic department?), and it was a very interesting couple of days…

Wheel of Death!

Hundreds of detectives, crime scene analysts, lab specialists… all advancing their skills in classes and seminars and getting to look at and play with the full range of tools dedicated to “whodunit?”. Adorama’s Caroleann Fusco has been working with every aspect of the forensic community for a very long time and it seems like she is on a first-name basis with every investigator there (probably ensuring a lifetime of absolute immunity from any charge short of homicide).

Bullet hole examination kit

I’ve always felt that our products have a wide range of applications beyond the usual range of photographic assignments, and forensics is a prime example. The Rosco LitePad and LitePad Loop, Dedolight, even our Flexfill reflectors, Dewitt’s Brush, and Steadybag are some of the Visual Departures tools that we want to see in the hands of investigators. And with Caroleann’s introductions, it was easy to do.

LitePad fingerprint detection setup at IAI 2013

LitePad, with its diffuse LED lighting, absence of heat, range of sizes, and the capability of being powered by battery (as well as plugging into the wall) drew the most notice. It’s always interesting (and satisfying) to see a group of professionals, long used to doing something one way, find a whole new (and better) way to advance their craft.

After all, at what other convention are you going to spin the Wheel of Death to win a prize? Or add titles such as Principles of Bloodstain Pattern Analysis or Death Scene Investigation to the stack of light reading on your bedside table? Even got to bring home a bit of swag for the grandkids… who wouldn’t want to go to school with lunch in an Evidence Bag (covered with blood spatter) or a bright yellow neck lanyard boldly marked, CRIME SCENE – DO NOT CROSS?

Forensics books of every description

We Photographers Need to Protect Intellectual Property — But Not in the Way You Might Expect

Flexfill: Still proudly made in the USA

Thirty years ago, we introduced collapsible lighting reflectors to America. Our Flexfill® products, still being made in our own US-based workshop by our own staff, are used by many thousands of still, video, and motion picture photographers all over the world.

But as I found out the hard way, having a great registered trademark for a fine product isn’t enough to keep the knock-off jackals at bay. There are a lot of copies of Flexfill reflectors out there, coming from offshore and produced with varying levels of quality. I’m always pleased when we hear from shooters who have used the same Flexfills for 10 or 20 years.

My good friend of many years, Quest Couch, has had (like me) a long career both as a photographer and as the founder and president of an innovative photographic products company. Many of you know the name LumiQuest, which has been one of the great innovators in accessories for flash photography. Recognizing the increasing and continuing abuse of intellectual property rights which apply to creative work, like photographs, and to physical products, such as those used by photographers every day, Quest has launched a website www.QuestForRights.org and produced a video that you should take about three minutes to watch.

Many years ago, I was asked to submit a portfolio for the annual report of a major international bank. In the initial meeting with the art director and the design firm, I was shown a dummy version of what they were hoping to produce for their client. I recall being asked if I could produce images with a similar look and feel to the sample. At the time, I was more amused than angry because more than half the pictures in the dummy presentation were mine, clipped from other projects I had photographed.

I have always worked hard to protect my rights to the pictures I’ve made over the past 45 years, and yet I know (as do most shooters) that in the digital world, images and text are routinely taken and used without payment or permission. I consider it a point of pride that we continue to manufacture our signature products here in America at a uniformly high level of quality, rather than take shortcuts. So here’s to Quest Couch and his new effort to build awareness and action on saving what many of us work very hard to build.

Flexfill… on a Football Field?!

It’s the week leading to the Super Bowl (again – a year goes by so fast), and I thought it would be fun to revisit number XXVIII, between the Cowboys and the Bills, played in Atlanta. A few months earlier, we heard from the NFL with an interesting question – could Visual Departures make a large number of collapsible disks in red, white, and blue. And keep it secret. Our answer was, “Absolutely, yes,” and we got the assignment.

So on January 30, 1994, about 350 young volunteers dressed in matching red, white and blue jump suits came on to the field as Natalie Cole prepared to sing the National Anthem. Their hands were behind their backs, each one holding a collapsed Flexfill. As the anthem began, they dropped to their knees and the Flexfill disks were popped open over their heads to form an American flag covering the area between the two 35-yard lines. With a little hand movement, the ‘flag’ began to ripple for the almost three minutes that Ms. Cole sang.

American flag made of Flexfill discs during Superbowl XVIII

I was lucky enough to have a field pass for the game, and even though I took a number of pictures, the best image of all was made by David Tulis of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, shooting from high above the playing field. By the way, Buffalo led at halftime, 13-6, but Dallas came back with 24 unanswered points. Final: Cowboys 30-13.

The “Nature” of Quick and Dirty Macro Photography

Great close-up nature photography doesn’t have to involve a lot of equipment (and weight or bulk). I almost always have with me, besides the latest in Canon’s G-series of professional quality point-and-shoot cameras, a couple of our smallest Flexfill collapsible lighting reflectors, a Steadybag Jr., and a table-top tripod and head.

Comparison of an open 20-inch Flexfill with an identical closed model inside its storage pouch

We’ve been bothered at home by an invasion of what I just learned are cicada-killing wasps. Earlier today, I watched one of these airborne attackers start to drag his latest victim under our porch. A quick shot of hornet spray took care of the wasp, but it was too late for the cicada. But in a couple of minutes, using a white Flexfill (model 20-1) as a shooting surface and a silk Flexfill (model 20-9) to diffuse a very harsh sun, I was able to produce a studio-quality image of both.

Insects on a white Flexfill

The Canon G11 has extraordinary macro capabilities (plus I always try to shoot RAW files), and since I was shooting down, my Leica ball head and tripod was the choice over the Steadybag.

The silk Flexfill was the key to the shot, allowing the G11 to make a correct exposure even in bright sunlight. Each of the 20-inch Flexfills weighs less than 5 ounces, expands to a 20″ circle, folds down instantly to about one-third that size, and fits into its own 8″ pouch. Flexfills come in a variety of sizes, up to 60″ across, and all of them are similarly compact, lightweight, and reliable.

Next up: using the ultra-cool LitePad (Rosco’s LED light panel) to produce a location food photograph at the edge of the ocean.

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).

The Flexfill Adjustable Holder

Flexfill Holder FH-1

Pair This With a Light Stand, and You Can Hire One Less Assistant

Ideal for stationary, still life, and portrait subjects, the Flexfill Adjustable Holder has a telescoping design that slides to fit all Flexfill reflectors (20″, 38″, 48″, or 60″ diameters.) Flexible rubber grips keep a firm hold on the rim of the reflector, while locking knobs hold each tubular section in place. Standard 5/8-inch sockets accommodate most light stands and will accept a threaded screw-mount adapter for use on tripods. Custom-made in Italy for Visual Departures by Manfrotto.