Friday, June 07, 2013

Big Light!

Photography is about light, and not cameras and lenses alone.  Right?  It's amazing stuff, light.

I'm happy to report that the WICE Dramatic Studio Lighting course that I'm teaching has started well.  I've tried to keep things as simple as possible.  One light.  One subject.  Leading to a hopefully deeper understanding of how people can control light to their advantage.

Ahead of the workshop, my wife and I dove into the studio to work with a model.  This, so I could remember some of the small important details to share with the students.  It was fun working with Lady Bunnydoll.  She is very creative and isn't afraid that her culture might think it "weird" that she would enjoy dressing "like that."

Before moving to Europe I used a Paul Buff Einstein 640/PLM studio light kit.  I sold it and felt that I could find this same gear here after we arrived.  I was right, but was completely unprepared for the huge increase in cost I'd have to some way absorb.  All I could think was "wow!  Now that's some serious price uplift!!"

Doing a bit of research, I found a more than adequate/suitable alternative in Elinchrom's BX 500 Ri system.  With a gear list I felt I could live with it was easy to see that my original desired Paul Buff system here in Europe would cost me twice(!) as much as the Swiss-made Elinchrom.  I'm not living on a fixed income and it was a "no brainer" at that point to go with the Elinchroms.

Always looking for inspiring images to reverse engineer, I recently stumbled across a photo made by the famous strobist, Joel Grimes.  I've been watching his work over the years and remember when I'd moved to Paul Buff's PLM light modifiers just ahead of him (I think M.Grimes uses Photek parabolas, which are copies of the original PLM).  The moment I saw the quality of light those things put out, I was convinced M.Buff had a winner.  Joel added something similar to his line-up of light modifiers and his work changed in a few not so subtle and increasingly incredibly beautiful ways.

My work?  Well, it completely stalled with the move to Europe.  I never had the chance to fully explore the qualities of light the PLMs put out.  Oh well.  Joel is a working (damn him!) photographer and I'm just an interested non-professional photographic artist who is trying to keep busy while living as an ex-pat in some far-off corner of the world.

After almost of year of working with the Elinchroms I wanted to add a PLM to my own kit.  But they, as I previously noted, were ridiculously expensive.  So are the Photeks.  What to do?

If you follow my Retiring Out of America blog, you know I have a serious bee in my bonnet about China and it's on-going program of stealing intellectual property from of the West.  Yes, in the area of photography and studio lighting, the Chinese have turned to making/selling PLM knock-offs.

A search on turned up several parabolic umbrella sellers, but no one seemed to sell their brollys with the white diffusion screen that helps create the "magic".  I contacted the sellers to see if I'd missed their scrims somewhere buries in their ebay stores.  Only one person responded with "it's on our roadmap."  Everyone else either didn't want the potential business or they couldn't understand English nor (my horrid) French.

It gave me time to ponder the question of ethics, intellectual property, and business.  How I spend money is an expression of who I am.  We don't own a car.  We walk to the market.  We take the train when we travel outside the city.  We arrived with 5 suitcases filled with things that two people might need in a foreign land.

Meanwhile, over on the German ebay site, someone is selling Walmex 180cm parabolic umbrellas with (note that I said with) a white diffusion screen to stretch over the front of that silvered light modifier.  The price was right.  The store was in Germany... and... yes... I'm nearly certain these are made in the PRC since a lot of Walmex's gear looks just like much of the studio lighting gear coming out of the People's Republic of China these days.

I closed my eyes and hit the Buy It Now button.

The Walmex arrived today.  Oh, gods!, it's a vast and beautiful beastie.  I can't wait to put it to good use.  I have a lot of ground to make up on M. Grimes.  A lot of ground, indeed.

As for concerns of ethics, I just heard the Trappists knocking at my apartment door.  They have an 11 percent Quadruple (beer) they think will help me defer thinking too hard about the PRC, PLA, and immoral business practices.

No comments: