Not your mama’s refrigerator!

We’re back on “The Curated Fridge”  again, I love having my photos refrigerators & cubicles!The next two months, Daniela Momo from Taragano Dance Theater is being exhibited on “The Curated Fridge”  if you’re in Boston, you can see it live, otherwise see it online. Fun exhibition. If you request one, you might just get your own postcard copy in the mail.

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

400W/S

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

3/8″ 

3/8″

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!”

 

 

 

Testing….

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.

The Pains of Being Pure at Scheduling

Last month, we photographed Peggy Wang, a Buzzfeed founder, for Tulane University Magazine. We had sample layouts, a bit of instruction for self AD’ing the shoot and and Peggy’s email address to get the ball rolling. We almost nailed down the time, date, place and some ideas with Peggy before the PR handler jumped in. What started as an hour shoot with an hour setup was hacked down to twenty minutes setup and twenty minutes to shoot for two to three sets. From run of the shop to two tight locations. You take what you can get sometimes, and even if you have to spend 5 of your forty minutes looking for a two replacement light bulbs. We found only one. Just do it? Photoshop the lamp to look like it has two bulbs in it? Maybe tomorrow.
Peggy Wang, Founder: Buzzfeed
Peggy, seasoned with a decade plus in public eye was easy to work with. PR advised her not to dunk the cookie for us even though she convinced Pres. Obama to dunk a cookie for Buzzfeed. Thanks Obama? Once again, you take what you can get. Though I would have liked to have some silly in the shoot, here’s the serious Peggy Wang from Buzzfeed.

P.S. stock concert shot isn’t mine.

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
1AhV=3600J

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
V=Volts
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?

Snow day without snow

We had a snow day last month, a snow day without snow. From the set design side, a little snow might have been nice but if it had snowed I probably wouldn’t have been able to get these guys to drive over to the TransCanada power plant in Queens NY for a photoshoot either. Sure it was cold, sure I was wearing a fur hat, down parka and mittens but these guys are snow pros! Interesting showing up on location and having security tell you you can’t photograph the power plant, smokestacks, waterfront, barge, dock or any infrastructure. Okay, not interesting but that was the gig.

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Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 2.58.09 PMScreen Shot 2016-02-10 at 3.31.06 PMScreen Shot 2016-02-10 at 3.40.26 PM

Shot with:

  • Canon 5DmkII
  • Profoto AcuteB & umbrella
  • Special Sauce
What I learned: Mac Laptop battery life is reduced by… maybe 7x when it’s below freezing so tethered shooting can be precarious. If it was my car, it would have had an inverter in it. Oh well, NYC sucks for owning a car so I rent.

 

 

Stuffing your squirrel*, no cranberry please?

An interview with Wilder Duncan, classical artist, taxidermist and Brooklynite

A happy coincidence, having missed a special seminar at the Secret Science club a few years back: a client from Chicago asked me to introduce his nephew to the Great Fredini thinking there could be some symbiosis.  Before passing on the info, I thought it best to check out his credentials.  To my delight, Wilder happened to be a rather colorful person well deserving of documentation.

Wilder Duncan photographed in his parlor Brooklyn NY 2013 (David Neff)

Wilder honed his craft at Wesleyan University.  A mashup of classical art education, the lifelong love for animals, art, history and diorama.  His reanimation of roadkill began in Newton, Massachusetts.  Self-taught as a taxidermist he went on to be the make it look alive again guy at the Evolution Store.  When he’s not making or protecting art, he teaches workshops in preparation of zoological displays.

When he was 12, Wilder’s aunt found a dead Oriole, that would be the first bird he stuffed.  When I asked him what got him started, he said, ” People love animals so much they decide to stretch their skins over something else so they can look at them forever; this phenomenon fascinates me.”  He had already professed his love of animals ten minutes earlier.  What would he hope to do with his work one day?  Show it as a whacked out, crazy natural history collection.  Hellooo Museum of Natural History, anyone want a resume’? Sideshow!  Take me with you!  You can pay me (David)  peanuts to brush the beetles out of the dioramas.

Coincidentally, a few days later I ran into The Great Fredini as I was passing through Union Square.  Introduction done.  Museum of Natural History, meet Coney Island, I see great hairy reanimated possibilities.  Did someone say sideshow?

See more of Wilder’s work here

* note: Wilder would like it to be known that all animals used by him are acquired legally as well as ethically.  Please practice responsible taxidermy.  Live animals are to be respected, expired animals are to be admired.

 

Wilder Duncan photographed in his parlor Brooklyn NY 2013 (David Neff)

Wilder Duncan photographed in his parlor Brooklyn NY 2013 (David Neff)

 

My Compact 36th Street Studio

 

I moved into another office/studio recently, this time in Midtown West on 36th Street.

Most of my work is still on location, and in reality, all I need is a good space with a freight elevator reliable enough to get my equipment down to a taxi.  For just a little bit more dough I upped the footage to have a play space.  The majority of the shots in my current portfolio were taken in Manhattan office spaces more cramped than mine, so I thought I’d give shooting in it a try.

Results: it works!  Here are two rounds of model testing.  I shot another gig last week in here with models lounging naked on a riser, but to see that one, you’ll have to go to the gallery opening in a few months when we get it all together.    For today —  Sherry P — a fun girl to work with!  Tiny studio, yet compact, efficient, and sleek!

Premiere Radio Shoot

It’s been a long time since I have rented a studio for shooting.  Usually I shoot in my own, but we needed something a little bigger and a bit more polished for my peeps this go ’round.  So, off to 28th Street– James Weber’s studio. Another change for this gig involved renting most of my gear.  The rental joint was only six blocks away, and yet I felt paralyzed with the following choices: push a giant handtruck loaded with equipment, take taxis six blocks, or worse yet, rent a truck?  I decided to rent the lighting gear instead and arrived with a stool, camera case, and some snacks.   Fun day!  Two assistants, a great stylist (Thanks, Jerry!), and really nice clients.   Randi was fun to work with, and I look forward to doing it again, perhaps on at a more scenic location next time.  …and just moments after we wrapped and shut down the lights I powered up for a group shot.  It’s not often I remember to put myself into one of these.
Photo crew
Evan, Moi, Hosea, Randi’s staffer, Randi Rhodes, another handler, Jerry

Promo Day!

New e-mail promo!

If you’re on the list, hopefully you received the new promo.  If you’re not on the list, or you are but did not receive it, email me.  This one resembles the original; I’ve been playing with templates, but go easy… I’m not a designer nor a programmer.

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Greetings [My Esteemed List],

As the sun sets earlier, and days turn colder, I thought I’d share some images from a sweltering few days this past August.  I shot production stills on the set of an exciting short film that should work its way through the festival circuit in 2010.

In 1960, students at Sycamore University volunteered for an experiment that sought to stop the external aging process. The experiment worked, and the resulting drug, Juvenol, went on to become the most popular prescription drug in history. Fifty years later, the Sycamore Class of 1960 has gathered for a reunion. Some look young, while others have chosen not to take the drug. JUVENOL is a short film directed by Yale University graduate Xander Dominitz and executive-produced by Stone Phillips (Dateline NBC).

Enjoy these images, evidence of the fun I had working with talented filmmakers, cast, and crew.  I’m grateful to the JUVENOL folks for allowing me to establish my own off-set narratives featuring various cast members in character.

Please contact me directly if you wish to see a portfolio in person.  Portfolio delivery available by foot, bike, or boat.
Cheers,

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