Wow, that title sounds like a cult doesn't it "Circle of Light"...well it's not, it's just a description of my newest lighting modifier, the Ray Flash. This is a product that is distributed by ExpoImaging, which also makes Expodisc, the custom white-balance disc that just seem like a waste of plastic to me, but a few photographers I know swear by it. The Ray Flash is a ring-flash modifier that can attach to any dedicated speedlite from Canon or Nikon. It redirects the light from your speedlite down and around your lens giving you the ability to create a near shadowless splash of light on your subject and giving you a really awesome looking catchlight in the eyes. I decided to blog about this since I got quite a few emails, Facebook messages and "what is that thing?" questions from people I've never even met before, I think all due to Moshe's photos of me (from his blog and Facebook page) from this past week's DC Area Photographer GTG.
Thanks to Moshe for these shots!
Hey Jim Garner...if you're reading this, yeah thats a Boda shoulder strap that's starting to tear...
I gotta say, the thing works as advertised: It creates a virtually shadowless fill on your subject and bathes them/it in smooth diffused even light... however that can be a very good thing or a very bad thing depending on your subject and your artistic intention. In all honestly this thing will probably spend a lot of time in my camera bag, but I think I'll definitely find uses for it in certain circumstances. I don't do the normal "studio" portrait stuff, and those of you reading this who do, should definitely look into trying one of these out yourself. I shoot out in the world and don't have a studio with pull down backgrounds and props, so I was looking for something super-light and ultra portable, and the Rayflash fits the bill. The next best thing is the Alienbees ABR800 which looks like a stellar product (also only $100 more than the Rayflash), but its heavier and doesn't run off a speedlight I'd already have with me anyways. The ABR800 would require me to plug it into a wall or run it off a big external battery pack, which I don't feel like lugging around everywhere.
I see the Rayflash as my go-to lighting modifier for things like macro shots where flash is necessary, full face headshots where I want to smother details (such as a face that has some wrinkles or some significant wear-and tear, where I can eliminate shadows caused by the extruded details) and when I want some on-axis fill but don't want that "snapshot" look that a direct on camera flash give you. So enough talk...here come some samples I snapped last week at the National Harbor.
Kenny wants a Rayflash for Christmas... I'd send him mine if he started using Nikon gear...LOL!
Flash set to 1/128th power to use as a very light fill to the ambient exposure...probably how I will use the Rayflash most frequently going forward.
Flash turned on...richer skin tones, less harsh shadows! That white corner is what I mean by "it doesn't fit right on my D3 (shot taken with a 50 f/1.8, a VERY small lens)
Don't photographers make great models? So the bad news? The Rayflash costs about $300 which is quite a lot for a piece of plastic that doesn't actually flash itself, it requires your speedlight to do all the work. That said, if you were to build your own or buy other similar products, the light loss would be far more significant. By some work of incredible engineering or some dark magic they actually were able to build this thing and only lose 1 stop of light!!! That's crazy impressive. That means you can still shoot at smaller apertures at a reasonably fast frame-rate without killing your batteries every ten seconds!
Be sure to try one out before you hand over the cash though, mine doesn't exactly fit my D3 properly, although it fits my flash like a glove. A email to Expoimaging (and less than a 5 minute wait for a reply! AMAZING!) allowed me to discover they have individual models to fit not only specific flashes, but also specific camera bodies. Apparently the place I got it from thought I said D300 when I said D3. I bought mine from Ace Photo (a local photo store) but I'd highly recommend buying your Rayflash - if decide you it fits your style - from either BHPhoto or Adorama, as Ace Photo doesn't let you return it if it's not right for your workflow...not even with a restocking fee! Thankfully Expoimaging is able to exchange my Rayflash out for the proper model! Great customer service!
PS: Whoa, my watermark is doing something weird and I'm not planning on re-exporting these images to fix it...do not attempt to readjust your set, I am controlling the vertical and horizontal! LOL!