My favorite on location lighting setup

One of the most difficult things to do these days is travel with expensive photography gear. The problem is that you can only have so much carry on luggage and we all know that checking your expensive gear is like putting a sign on it that says "steal me now". So that means that I either travel with minimal lighting or rent my lighting gear once I get to my destination. Sometimes if the situations permits I can ship stuff back and forth, however, I’ve seen stuff disappear that way too leaving the hotel and the shipping company pointing fingers at each other.

My trusted travel light is the Nikon SB800. Any photographer that knows anything about lighting will tell you that the key is getting the light off of the camera. You typically want directional, diffused, soft light whenever you can get it. The Nikon SB800 speedlight system is great! With a couple of these, you can pull off plenty of jobs that you would have thought impossible. I love them because they can be triggered wirelessly from my Nikon D300 DSLR camera and I can even control the power output directly from the back of my camera without ever touching the speedlights themselves.

Although the SB800 can be fired wirelessly, the problem is getting it up off your camera and positioned over your subject. This requires either masterful use of "the Force" or a light stand. While there are some pretty compact inexpensive light stands out there, none of them were small enough to fit in my suitcase until my buddy Scott Kelby turned me on to the LumoPro 5-Section 6ft Stand. This puppy folds down to a mere 21.6 inches which fits perfectly in my carry on suitcase.

The next problem is you’ll need a mount for the speedlight itself. For this I use the LumoPro Umbrella Swivel w/ Hot Shoe Adapter.

The SB800 has a diffuser cap, but I want soft light whenever I can get it and while umbrellas are OK, I don’t really like bouncing light off of them. It’s light throwing a "light" grenade into room. However, I don’t mind shooting through a translucent umbrella (the next best thing to a softbox). For this I use the Westcott 43" Collapsible White Umbrella. This umbrella is small and takes up very little space in my bag. I could stop here, but I also like to have a fast recycle time on my flash as well as shooting for hours uninterrupted. For this I got the Nikon SD-8A Battery Pack, which takes 6 AA batteries reduces my recycle times by 60-75% and extends my shooting time.

Currently I have two of the stands, two of the mounts, one SB800, one SB600, and one umbrella. I like this setup so much that I’m going to get another SB800, battery pack and shoot-through umbrella.


The Results

With this setup I was able to take some nice shots of Marianne here:

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