Movie night

Yesterday night I and a few photographer friends watched David Honl’s two-DVD workshop combo, “Light”.

David Honl is a well-known LA-based international photographer whose blog you can see here. His DVD shows him using small flashes to do various professional shots, and he both shows and explains how he gets the excellent results he does.

Disclaimer: I am on David’s Round Table, together with Joe McNally, Lucas Gilman, Ken Cedeno, Cherie Steinberg Coté, and Gavin Blue. I am delighted to be on the Round Table because Dave’s small, light and convenient small flash modifiers have made my life easier, and I am inseparable from them.

Since the roundtable is not a paid position, I feel perfectly qualified to comment objectively on this DVD.

So, the details after the break:

I feel qualified  to comment – but I also feel compelled to. I feel compelled because I know what a difference David’s range of accessories makes. Small size, light weight, durability and convenience make all the difference. With the Honl modifiers, I now use speedlites much more often than I use my large studio strobes with all their weight, cables and complexity. My back is grateful. The Honl modifiers include Speedstraps on each of my flashes, and then a range of convenient Velcro-mounted gobos, bounce cards, snoots, grids and gels. I never go anywhere without them.

Here’s a recent portrait of our local fire chief, where I used a speedlites on TTL and I used various modifiers, including a background flash fitted with 1/4″ grid and, as you can see, a very light blue gel:

Easy and painless.

So what did my photographer friends and I think of David’s DVD?

We loved it. First, because David is a nice guy. He and his better half (whom you might recognise from TV-series “Babylon 5”) present this DVD together, and you get a real sense of what a nice couple they are. They even show us how to cook scallops (and then, almost as an afterthought, how to quickly shoot them for a pro food shot).

David is a typical photographer (and as a photographer myself, I think this is a good thing), and is soft-spoken, laid-back, and, at least until you see the take-outs, entirely unflappable. Which for a photographer are great qualities, where you are shooting in Baghdad or in your kitchen in LA.

This DVD is well produced, with cameras all over. Not your usual “one camera on a tripod” production. It is also innovative in how David shows the lights used, with explanatory drawings filmed by an overhead camera.

Explanatory drawings, demos and words, but not a lot of basic technical detail. This DVD assumes that you know how to use your flashes, usually on manual using Pocketwizards, or if you do not know, that you can figure it out independently. This DVD is about the next step – what to do afterward, once you know those basics.

(Talking about basics: I was amused that David focuses manually for most of his shots. We should all do that more.)

We loved seeing the techniques he uses, but we also loved his results. David can shoot a car in broad LA daylight, with half the car in direct sun, and yet by “nuking the sun” with a variety of speedlites with modifiers, he gets truly excellent light and colour out of an impossible situation like that.

Above all, David makes a great shot seem effortless. As photographers, we know that nothing is effortless, but clearly, the more you know and the better your tools, the more consistent you get. Watching David set up his lights, use them, and explain them was both instructional and inspiring. My photographer friends and I enjoyed this DVD greatly. Not just for passive watching: We would occasionally stop the video to comment and discuss. That was another benefit of this entertaining DVD.

And as a final benefit, I also learned a non-photographic technique as well. You can count on it: my next scallops will be served on a fanned papaya with a sauce that contains oil, garlic, lemon, wine, chili, honey, tomatoes, and more.

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