Best of the Best!

One Eyeland submission by David Neff published in 2017 Best of the Best Photographers book

Another day, another promo… My photo of Joe Davis, scientist, researcher and Artist was accepted to One Eyeland for publication in “Best of the Best” 2017. Nice print job! Thanks again Joe for being an interesting subject beyond expectations.

It’s always sweet when one of my favorite images resurfaces. In this case, my wife Alice prodded me to get in touch with an old acquaintance on my next trip to Boston knowing fully well how I’d love Joe Davis’s art and attitude. She hadn’t been in his studio space though if she/I had any idea what I was about to encounter, the whole day might have been blocked out to poke around and play with gadgets. Joe’s a classic hands on tinkerer, researcher, artist. Renaissance man in flannels with a baseball bat for a lower leg. Thanks for an entertaining afternoon Joe. I’d love to have a few hours more to look at your work, if I was only 21 and fresh out of college I might beg for an internship though I get the feeing I’d be waitlisted.

See a clear image of Joe Davis here.

and more Joe here too!


Ringflash Roundup… Profoto D4 vs Elinchrom ECO

Sort of a comparison….

I have two battery systems in house. Profoto Acute B and Elinchrom Ranger Quadra. I started with the Acute B a decade ago and still love it though I bought into Elinchrom looking for fast and light digital with lots of heads. Though the Acute B has been discontinued, additional reasoning for sticking with it, it’s compatible with AC powered packs.

Brother from another mother? Profoto D4 ringflash and Elinchrom ECO ringflash


The quantitative…
Profoto D4 Elinchrom ECO
Internal Dia 4” 3.93
Weight 4.85lbs 2.2kg 2.2lbs 1kg
W/S max 2400W/S or 9600 Joules/min


Accessories Profoto reflectors/diffusers Diffuser
Casing Metal Plastic
Bracket Beefy aluminum Lighter aluminum



Cable 4M fixed 2M swap up to 10M plug-in

The qualitative:

Sure, I love my D4, had it for years, it’s solid. A power cable you could anchor the Titanic with. It puts out enough light to overcome sunlight yet can dial down low enough for just a little fill. I was about to put my Acute B out to pasture due to battery issues but as written a few posts back have given it LiFe or LiFePO4 for a future!

The profoto Acute replacement Li battery cost more than the ECO ringflash and I rarely used ringflash above 150W/S so along the way I grabbed an ECO. I have used the D4 at higher powers though in the rare case, I may be renting higher output packs as well as diffuser/reflectors for it.

First impressions of the ECO.  It’s lightweight, will make shooting 2lbs easier. It’s a little deeper, maybe 1/4″, makes manual focus tougher with some lenses.

The diffusion cap.. ugh. I’m going to modify it with black paint… if you don’t have your lens stick out the front of the diffuser cap it causes flare! Bit of a drag, not sure how that was released in the wild. To use it the focus ring on a Canon 24-70 f2.8 has to be completely witin the confines of the ring making autofuckus mandatory. Check back in a few days, maybe I’ll post the hack.


Elinchrom ECO ringflash mount

The tripod mount… I put a 1/4-20 adapter in it and it protrudes from the bottom too far to tighten, needs some chamfer. I found this out on set and had to insert it from the top to make it work, not an easy thing as you may be able to see from the bottom view. It has to be inserted between the rear support rails and screwed in using… anything but a screwdriver which won’t fit in there.

Profoto Acute LiFePO4 custom battery

26650 4.5Ah 14V LiFePO4 yay, I made a battery

I had a previous post detailing my research on an alternative power source to the Profoto branded battery for the Acute B.

After exhausting my search for a battery within spec for the job and in some form of personal protest I made a battery. Not so much made as assembled a battery of batteries with some protective circuits but still, it’s a project!

WARNING: Lithium batteries can explode or catch on fire, they can dump massive amounts of power, will melt things and burn up your devices. Build and use at your discretion, this is a record of what I have done not a suggestion that you do it.


26650 4.5Ah 14V LiFePO4 battery build

First off, my design spec… it had to fit in the original battery cassette, handle at least 26A draw and I didn’t want to exceed 14V which pointed to LiFePO4 cells over LiPo which would have given 16… and done who knows what to the electronics. I wanted it to cost less than $650, and preferably not take hundreds of hours to build. It’s a battery, not a car. It took about $100 and probably too many hours but if I want to make another…. maybe two hours not including print time.

In the first photo you can see the cassette, with the original Pb gell cell removed. You can 3d print the cassette for the 26650 cells from this design.

25560 cells can be bought in several chemistries. LiFePo4 gave me comparable voltage to the original PB. I had wanted to use a different cell made by Nitecor originally but thought 3.7V cells combined to make 16V might increase the chance of catastrophic failure. I used Tenergy 26650 cells. You can buy A123 cells, same capacity for double the price. The reviews were favorable on Tenergy, I have used their NiMh cells in previous projects, I’ll tell you next year how the 26650’s hold up.

26650 4.5Ah 14V LiFePO4 battery build

BMS Board- Battery balance and protection PCB. This allows you to charge the battery using a relatively stupid LiPo charger and to not blow things up. It took a while to source a board that could supply up to 30A continuous and fit in the box. This just made it, barely! It can peak discharge over 100A, kind of scary but there’s a fuse on the cassette as well to limit it to 40A. Note, the board didn’t work at first. After removing it, I found a reference online that mentioned hooking it to a charger to reset it. Bit of a pain that I had desoldered it but after successful testing with a batch of alligator clamps I put it back together and went on to live testing. How to wire it or “the secret spec sheet!”





Just because I can… I had previously printed a custom jumper set that allowed me to power up the Acute B with the battery outside the generator that was able to handle serious amperage. I was concerned that battery clamps might short out on the bench. It’s overkill but that’s what you do when you have a 3d printer. It has lights to indicate correct polarity and a power meter to catch peak draw. I metered the original Pb cell at 24A, a drop in replacement LiFePo4 I bought five years ago which is no longer available at 25A, then my new homebuilt cell at 31A. Pretty nifty, likely I’ll get a bit faster recycle on the unit. I might consider that as the cassette has a 40A fuse on it and hopefully the pack has it’s own internal temperature monitoring I’ll be safe… but then the heads for this system are not fan cooled so I’ll have to be aware to not overheat the heads/pack. It’s rare that I’m rapid firing at full power for any length of time, and for that matter on huge shoots I usually rent equipment.

battery normally goes inside the rig powerpack, power meter/test rig in use

Note: the . I have it wired externally to test it… I’ll have to upload the files for the rig perhaps…

Thanks to Jamie Allegre for initially putting the test rig on an oscilloscope to get power readings and see charge profile. The initial tests kept me from buying a bunch of possible replacement that would have just shut down on start up. Thanks for Michael Curry for encouraging me to fry my pack… enough to make me second guess the LiPo pack I bought and never test it on the rig.

Kognito Shoot

Some new work just went live, results of a two day shoot for Kognito. 

Kognito is “a health simulation company that believes in the power of conversation to inspire and inform, impact how people think and act, evoke empathy and change lives. How do you say that in pictures? The assignment was to get environmental portraits of the leadership team and a set of images from around the office to put a face behind the technology. Pretty fascinating and innovative place in my opinion.

Challenges we faced were working in a live workspace using real people while working, minimal styling and a pretty loose shotlist. Though the office usually has nice sunlight, the week we had to shoot turned out to be very wet so everything was lit using four Elinchrom Ranger Quadra packs. We had a small crew and did a whole lot of hustle. Usually keen on a tighter shotlist but can manage fine on the fly if we have to.






Profoto Acute B Lithium Battery Upgrade LiFePO4

I have a 1st generation Profoto Acute B, 600ws pack/generator. The original battery is a Lead Acid I’m documenting my second and current attempt to find a suitable LiFePO4 (Li) 3rd party replacement.

update…. I built a battery… check out the new post…

My beloved AcuteB so this post isn’t all words

 I have a 1st generation Profoto Acute B, 600ws pack/generator. The original battery is a Lead Acid (Pb) 4.5Ah 12V in the form factor of a home alarm backup battery. Several times I have re-celled the batteries and attempted to use 3rd party cells with mixed results detailed below in addition to a current attempt to find a suitable LiFePO4 (Li) 3rd party replacement. 

Profoto sells replacement PB cells for about $65 and a replacement LiFePO4 battery for $655. You can find 3rd party Pb cells for as little as $20 and LiFePO4 for $60 but don’t expect them to work so easily.

My first attempt at using an off the shelf Pb 4.5Ah (PowerSonic PS-1250) in 2010 was lousy, where the original would give about 160 full power flashes, it gave about 45 and never rose the battery level out of the red zone.  

A few months later I purchased a Tenergy 4.5Ah LiFePO4 which is no longer on the market and was getting over 200 full power flashes per charge. I should have bought four of them.

Recently as the performance of the Pb and Li cells have sharply dropped, I began shopping for another drop in Li and it’s turned into an engineering project. After a two month wait for the only drop in I could find out there, a CTC LiFePO4 I was disappointed that the cell would shut down when the generator was powered up. I’ll go into the details a bit more below and document my attempts to avoid dropping $655 which just seems like a steep hike… until you start doing research.

The Profoto AcuteB is rated at 600J output per flash and charges the capacitor bank in under 2 seconds using a stock PB 12V 4.5AH 

with a 40A automotive fuse on the battery case. Speaking with a tech on the phone at Silvino’s in LA I found the approximate surge pull on the battery was 30A. He was also searching for a feasible LiFePO4 solution.

Considering the lack of a drop in replacement I began looking at configured and tested packs that might fit into a 3d printed battery case vs building a pack using off the shelf cells and protection circuits.

So far, I’m unable to find a preconfigured pack that will supply over 22A peak discharge let alone the 30-40A I need. In conversation with a battery tech, we surmised that it would be possible to wire a large capacitor in parallel to the battery pack to buffer the peak draw, keeping it from shutting down during the initial surge and also lengthening the life of the batteries as a bonus.

Breaking out a calculator and the internet, I did a little math to see how this would work.

The AcuteB has a rating of 600WS or 600J
WS = Watt Seconds
J = Joules
S = Second
A = Amps

I’d like to cut the peak draw from 30A down to 20A, if a capacitor could hold 14.5V 10A it would appear that I might be able to make this work. A few more google searches and scribbles and I calculated I need a 15V 1F cap or (5)2.5V 5F caps in series parallel with the battery to do the job. Here’s where I need someone to chime in and tell me it won’t fry.

Q=Coulomb=1A/1S 1Amp supplied for one Sec
C=Capacitance (Farad F) 1F cap can store 1Q
C=Q/V for Parallel
1/Ceq=1/C1+1/C2… series

Alternative Solution: I spoke with a tech today at bioenno power about a 4.5Ah pack with 18A peak cutoff and a 6Ah with 24A peak cutoff . The tech said that they could be programmed to cut out at a higher current though it would decrease the battery life/charge cycles though pose no danger of overheating.

AcuteB battery $250, replacement cell $65, carrier $190? for what?

Kona Ute in New York City

Source: Max Mercury Neff | David Neff Photography 2015

Benefits of self employment, I’m getting to spend some quality time with my boy. A few days a week, he gets to run errands with me, indulge in my cookie addiction and see the sights of NYC. I pity the kids that get stuck on the subway every day. We have a Kona Ute, I did a previous write up a while back if you want to know more about cargo bikes/long tails. A Ute is probably tougher to handle with the current config. but it’s what we have… Maybe a HaulADay in the future? We bought apples too, Max loves apples!

the Family Truckster: Kona Ute

Max Mercury Neff (David Neff)

Megabike, Kona Ute, cargo class 1.  I made that up, there are no standards on Cargo bikes but this one has a rather conservative 100KG rating. It was a tough decision between Extracycle, Trek, Surly and Yuba but the winner came from Craigslist as the first available. It works, the center of gravity is a bit high as Kona went with 29er wheels rather than 26″ as most manufacturers do. It makes mounting and dismounting a bit precarious, expecially when overloaded as I often do. Otherwise, it handles like a tank, the bags hold a pile of stuff and it’s sexy as all hell.  Fitting it into the elevator and or the bike room in our Co-Op is a real challenge so as it’s been on the street now the greater part of the year, I have in mind my alternatives for when it gets stolen. Bike Friday has a new cargo bike which weighs in about 10 lbs less and is about a foot shorter due to smaller wheels.  I missed the kickstarter but maybe one will hit Craigslist at the right moment.

Max is sitting in his Yepp Maxi, he is older than 1 year making him legal to carry on a bike in NY and he is wearing the latest most fashionable outfit I won’t describe.

In case you’re shopping for a cargo bike, here’s my take on the competition… in longtails. I didn’t visit bucket bikes.

Extracycle – The original, created the standards for most accessories, makes a frame extender kit or a frame. Not cheap but well designed

Trek Transport – No longer made, hard to find, was pricy but nice! Very well made frame, compatible with Extracycle

Surly Surly is just cool. Bombproof, not cheap though most of their bikes are pretty well priced

Yuba Mundo – Very reasonable and super cargo capacity probably due to the oversized rear axle.

Kona Ute – The only one that uses a 29er wheel, high center of gravity reasonably priced, just went back into production after two years off. They also make the MunUte, a shorter version for your average city dweller.

Bike Friday Haul a Day – Compact, never seen live… sounds like a great bike, missed the kickstarter on it but hope to get one without having my bike stolen.


Glowcamp – RGB Lighting Control… by me!

29::GC-6, originally uploaded by M::R::I.  find them here:–r–i/4882082967/
Presentation day! So I made something nifty, a lighting control unit for and RGB LED strip. It’s been a conversation piece and accent light in our dining area for the past half year and today it got some street cred in the techie world and was used for a photographic lighting tool too! More to come on that one. Neat things I spoke about but not in the notes, it’s easily programmed to do whatever lighting effect you want. Additional controls can be added as there are plenty of pins left on the microcontroller. Also there are plenty of unused outputs so dream as you wish. You can see the full presentation here: Glowcamp if you follow the link in the description my presentation will pop up in a new window. I’ll try and post a few shots here later but I wanted to get something in writing before a wild night in the East Village distracts me from such important things.  Part of the fun at Glowcamp, a couple of photogs that go under the handle M R I wanted to do some time exposure portraits with people in camp… nifty LED Strip controller turned out to be quite good for the show.  Perhaps I should get a few hundred thousand of them made in China and bring the cost per unit down from the hundreds to something marketable?

Hey, is that Salad on Your Roof?

Fresh green salad blogging
blogging about my salad
Last night I received a text from a friend, Daniel Bowman Simon, an activist involved in The WHO Farm asking if I was interested in meeting up with him for a little urban gardening.  It’s been a while since I had my hands in dirt so I dragged my lazy ___ out of bed and off to Greenpoint Brooklyn to do a little work outdoor.  I was pleasantly surprised with the scene that awaited me upon arrival at the Eagle Street Rooftop Farm.  Cool brezes coming in from the East River, amazing views of Manhattan, chickens clucking and a full rooftop of organic greens awaiting attention of the many enthusiastic volunteers in attendance.  After a few hours of milling about and being mildly helpful and more, just amazed, I bought a bag of greens, went home to have a fresh salad before class.
Brooklyn Rooftop Garden - Greenpoint
Views of the Brooklyn Rooftop Garden – Greenpoint


A relationship begins, My Dream Boat…. Feathercraft Khatsalano, 18′ of techno love!

The deal of the century!  My Dream Boat!  Feathercraft Khatsalano, an 18′ aluminum framed hypalon & poly skinned beauty.  This one is just too much for words, I am now held captive by a full schedule and unable to get out and play but still I got out the boat the other day to inspect it and do some minor repairs.  Can you believe this fits in a backpack?  A great big heavy backpack but still… you can carry it.  My office is on an island… its seven blocks from the water and on the 5th floor.  There is no way to get the boat out of my office without taking it apart again other than throwing it out the window which has it’s own issues.  Oh well, it’s back in the pack again today.  Hopefully I can get out one day next week and put her on the Hudson.

Bench Test MacBook Pro

Bench Test of the 2010 i5 and i7 MacBook Pro vs older Dual Core model and a Quad core Tower

MacBook Pro summer 2010 edition


I sent my IT expert (uh, er, me) to the Apple Store in Chelsea to see if the new MacBook Pro i5 or i7 would be a worthy investment, and the results are below.  Now remember, I am a photographer, so the tech specs you find on most sites don’t make much sense to me.  I thought it would be simple to run my own tests.

I had to install my software on a jump drive to run at the store as you can’t install software at the Apple Store, and they don’t regularly load Lightroom on the machines.  Lightroom is the biggest number cruncher I use and often a bottleneck so I used it for my testing.

For benchmarking the two machines I used Lightroom to convert 50 RAW files from a Canon 5D and 25 RAW files from a Canon 5D MKII to DNG from CRW and added the files to an empty library while generating previews.

Results: the MBPs differed only slightly, so I bought the less expensive one with the i5 processor.  Detailed results below.

Lightroom was running from a USB2.0 jump drive on all machines and the files to be converted were copied to the HD.

updated 1/2018 with some new data…


Source files/CPU convert to DNG
MBP 2.66 GHZ i7″ 4GB RAM 500GB 15″ screen 2013 5400RPM HD
MBP 2.53 GHZ i5″ 4GB RAM 500GB 15″ screen 5400RPM HD
MBP 2.4GHZ Intel Core 2 Duo 4GB RAM 13″ screen 250GB 5400RPM HD
2010 Tower 2.6GHZ Intel Quad Core 3GB
Macbook 2016 12” 1.2Ghz CoreM5 8Gb 500GB SSD
Macbook Pro 2016 15” 2.6Ghz Core I7  16GB RAM 500GB SSD
Canon 5D 50 files CRW
Canon 5D MKII 25 files CR2
Canon 5D MK IV 25 files CR2


5-Boro-Bike-Tour Bag

By now you kind of get it– that is, assuming you know me or you have read some of my more personal entries.  I’m a cyclist and a bit of an environmentalist.  This past weekend we partook in the 33rd Annual TD Bank 5 Boro Bike Tour.  This year 32,000 cyclists rode a 42-mile route beginning in Manhattan, touching the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and ending in Staten Island.  This year marked my fifth 5 Boro Tour, including three as a ride marshal.  It’s a fun ride, and not a competitive one.  I prefer a hard 80 miles at a faster clip, but it’s fun to be social, see some sights, and be with Abby and 31,998 other car-free enthusiasts!

Sewing the bag

Notice we’re wearing green vests to identify registered riders.  That is where the impetus for this entry arises.

Thirty-two thousand riders!  That makes at least 32,000 vests printed.  …and what do you do with them post-ride?  If you live in Manhattan you don’t have space in your apartment for such keepsakes.  Photos on your hard drive are enough.  But throwing it away?  Not very green for my green vest, is it?

Reuse, Recycle, Reduce!

Here is what I did with our vests: an easy craft project and one that will give you bragging rights at work, the grocery, wherever.  Make a bag!

You, your mother, your neighbor, your grandmother, someone out there you know has a sewing machine.  This is not a high-skilled project, and you can make something useful out of something designed to be tossed.

Take your vest, turn it inside-out, and start sewing the front and back sides together from about where the dark-colored stripe is, down to the bottom, and up the other side to the striped top again.   Turn it inside-out again, and you will have a nice, light, packable tote bag about the size of a grocery bag as a memoir of your ride.  Imagine how much landfill space 32,000 of these vests will require! Make a difference.  Save the Earth. Reuse your vest!  I used it for my lunch bag today.





Off the grid…. for a month

Grubby and tired but solar & kinetic

Grubby and tired but solar & kinetic.
What really is “off the grid?”  In some ways I feel it might be out in the wilderness with only my significant other, some rugged boots and a bowie knife.  Maybe off the grid means you live in a city without a grid pattern?  Can you just unplug power and be off the grid?

Abby and I took off one day on our trusty touring bikes to take a little tour of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.  The plan was to follow a loose schedule from Yarmouth NS around Cape Breton, round to Pictou and finish our last week touring Prince Eward Island before shipping our bikes back and catching a plane home to NYC.  We carried typical backpacking camping gear including a tiny stove and would resupply as we passed through towns.

Being that I’m a self employed photographer, as much as I love to think I can walk out of the office and leave it all behind, I end up bringing a pile of technology wherever I go.  No surprise here, I shoot digital now.  We (mostly I) had about 8Ah of lithium ion batteries between the camera (Canon 5D) media viewer/downloader, Ipod touch for checking email via WIFI (is that still off the grid?) and two cell phones.  Had we needed to charge devices along the way, we would have required a receptacle and four or five chargers, maybe a hundred foot extension cord?  How about a dynamo on a bike and then I could just ride in circles while taking pictures?  I opted for solar panels, we had a nice stable platform on the back of each bike that would be facing the sky for 120 kilometers or so a day over most of the next month.  How to make it all work?  Rather than reinvent the wheel, I found a nifty little device in Radioshack that would enable, with a little modification, us to charge most any small battery powered device with our setup.  Perhaps I’ll detail in a another post modding the Igo dual power adapter shown below.


Off Ebay, I purchased a couple of 1/3 watt 12 volt thin film (flexible) solar panels that would not only charge our stuff, but with a few bungee cords, keep our sleeping pads, food and miscellany from flying off the back of our racks.