Photographers are the kings of erratic work days and sleeping schedules. I have shot at literally every hour of the day, on every day of the week at any time of the year. I can be found crawling around the desolate landscape of an urban skate park before the sun peeks over the horizon, strung out on a limb of a branch 30 feet in the air on a cool fall afternoon, or pacing in circles knee deep in snow in the darkness of night on new years eve.
Only weeks ago I found myself outside fumbling in the near freezing temperatures before sunrise fumbling with a light stand cursing over the uneven ground. My subject surveys the scene carefully awaiting her time to fuss over details when the lens finally turns towards her.
‘Do you think that one is standing up straight?’ She inquires about the light stand now propped up on a dead log with one leg, the other to jammed into the frost bitten ground.
This question isn’t foreign to me, I always assure them that if it falls its my fault, and not to worry about it. I finish setting up the lights as the sun starts to spread it’s radiant glow across the clouds in the distance, perfect timing. A few light tweaks later its all running smoothly and the shots are turning out. Then through the lens I see a face of sheer horror on my subject, as a cold breeze bites at the places left uncovered around the collar of my jacket.
The flash, which had it’s stability so respectfully questioned just moments before, crashed to the ground several feet in front of me. The shoe of the flash sheered off and bounced a few feet downhill. The combination of a cold november breeze and uneven ground took prisoner my flash.
This destruction mobilized me; I wouldn’t be outside shooting again without a light stand which could be better stabilized for shooting in the outdoors. The solution is modifying one leg of your light stand to move independently, a ‘Lazy Leg’.
After my flash was mutilated by the forces of nature and an ill suited light stand, I used some back up equipment to carry on with the shoot. However the cost of that error would pay for this modification many times over. The modification would also have made the shoot go better; zero time down, and needless to say a shattering piece of photo equipment doesn’t rest easily with many people.
Keith Pytlinski asked me a good question in response to this tutorial; ‘Why don’t you just use tripods?’ I have used tripod in the past but my light stand has a couple things that tripods don’t:
The light stands i’m working with in this tutorial have a umbrella holding mechanism.
These light stands are eight feet tall. Many tripods don’t reach that height.
Weight: instead of 3 legs standing the full height, light stands have three shorter legs stabilizing a central column. So there is a lot less material used.