Archive for March, 2008

DIY Vagabond – Portable Power pack for Monolights


The power pack all zipped upSo I’ve been using Alien Bees with their original Vagabond power pack for a few years. Last year I decided to split up the Vagabond so I could have one pack per head, so I wouldn’t have to run extension cords, and have more capacity for each head as well. Recently I found a very good bag to put the inverter and battery into that makes this work a lot better! Here’s a run-down of how to make your own power pack for a Alien Bee, White Lighting or any other monolight strobe.

What you will need:

  • 16 Gauge or thicker wire. Speaker wire can even work, although it’s good to have one side black, one red when you are putting it together.
  • (2) Anderson Connectors – Slip-fit connectors that are simply amazing. You can find them at hobby shops and at specialty electronic parts supply stores (NOT at Radio Shack, they are worthless for these types of things.)
  • (2) inline fuse holders.
  • (2) wire nuts
  • (2) crimp fit terminal connectors (battery connection)
  • 25 amp blade fuses that fit in your fuse connectors. They make mini ones, which are nice and small. Also out there are fuses that have a LED on them that light up when your fuse is blown. Sometimes this just happens and when you are trying to setup lights in the dark, it’s nice to be able to see that in the case that you blew out a fuse. Can save some frustration!
  • 12 Volt Sealed Lead-Acid battery. 15ah suggested for Alien Bee 1600’s, 10ah could work for AB 800’s, 7ah can work for a AB 400. I get about 250 pops or so at full power from the 15ah battery with an Alien bee 1600. Lead is expensive right now, you are basically paying the same at most battery shops locally that you would buying online these days.
  • True / Pure Sine wave inverter, 150w continuous output (or more)
    This is the best I’ve found it’s , small, light, 300w capacity –
    AIMS 300 Watt PURE Sine Wave Power Inverter

  • American Tourister toilitries bag from Wal-Mart. This bag fits perfect for the 150w inverter and 15ah battery that come in the original Paul Buff Inc. Vagabond power pack. You could probably find something that fits better with the smaller inverter listed above and a smaller battery but for the parts I’m using it fits sung and well.

Opened up with the wires hanging out.The side access, cut a hole out of the nylon divider and duct tape it to the side of the inverter.  This leaves a somewhat sealed environment.Wiring Diagram

I have a set of Anderson connectors at the end of the wire going to the charger. I’ve cut the wire coming out of the charger and put Anderson connectors on those as well for a quick connect to the charger. As for a charger you can just get a car/marine battery charger at any store. I go for the 2-4-6 amp chargers. If you have a 15ah battery you can charge at up to 6amps, 4 amps for a 10ah battery, 2 amps for a 7ah battery.

Other than that, just follow the wiring diagram and you’ll be all set.

If you want a faster recycle time, then you can get a larger inverter. If you want more capacity you can get a bigger battery. It all depends on the size and weight you are willing to lug around.

Power pack specs:
12.2 lbs (15ah battery, Samlex 150w inverter)

I am not an engineer, electrician or by any means qualified to design any sort of electrical systems. Use this information at your own risk.

How to fix your broken Pocket Wizard Shoe


Broken pocket wizard hotshoe footSo chances are at some point your Pocket Wizard hotshoe foot broke off and ended up looking like this. Now it’s an easy enough of a fix but people have asked me what to do so I thought I’d post this here.

So, it’s an easy fix and if you’ve used these things a lot, you’ll want to have a bunch of extra hotshoe feet sitting around just in case they break very easily.
CAS-PW-Shoe LPF037
P/N# 360797

pw_repair_002.jpgRemove the 5 screws, make sure you keep track of which screw goes where, there are different thread pitches and lengths.

Remove the batteries and push the circut board out of the plastic case through the battery compartment. Remove the batteries and push the circut board out of the plastic case through the battery compartment. Pull the broken hotshoe foot out of the hotshoe contact.

All the pieces of the puzzle.  Pinch the outer prongs of the hotshoe contact together and slip the new hotshoe on over the hotshoe contact. All the pieces of the puzzle. Pinch the outer prongs of the hotshoe contact together and slip the new hotshoe on over the hotshoe contact.

Slide the circuit board back into the housing. Make sure you put all the buttons back on and screw it all back together. That was easy huh?

To order parts in the USA, contact Pocket Wizard (MAC Group) directly at:

PocketWizard USA
8 Westchester Plaza
Elmsford, NY 10523

Outside of the USA go here and select your country:

The part you need is:

CAS-PW-Shoe LPF037
P/N# 360797

F-Stop Lotus photo backpack review


F-Stop Lotus backpack side view, fully loadedWell add to the bag reviews, here’s another one. The F-Stop Lotus. The Lotus was designed as a pack to carry a smaller amount of camera gear than the Tilopa or the Satori, however it just seems to work really well to carry the bulkiest of all the photo gear, the battery powered strobe kit. The Lotus works best with a Profoto 7b kit as you can fit the power pack, 2 heads and a the adjustable reflector inside. With the Elinchrom Ranger kit you can only fit 1 head in there due to the larger size of the Elinchrom Freelite heads, however you can easily fit an extra battery in with the different orientation of the Elinchrom Ranger power pack. With an Ranger kit in the Lotus you can fit the power pack, extra battery, charger, standard reflector and one Freelite head.

One of the great things about the F-Stop Lotus pack for carrying a battery powered strobe kit is how well the pack carries, and how well it carries on the front of your body. Now for most photographers that sounds pretty stupid to carry the pack on the front of your body but for outdoor sports photographers that carry these strobe kits along with the rest of their cameras an lenses on their back it does matter. I’ve skied with this pack on my chest with the F-Stop Satori fully loaded on my back. Now I wouldn’t ski this setup off-trail but skiing with it in a terrain park or something of the sort is much easier than with any of the other packs I’ve tried doing this with.

The Lotus, like all of the current F-Stop backpacks has a partial internal frame which makes these things carry like no other packs on the market. One last great thing about this pack is how small it folds up to. You can put your strobe kit into your Pelican case to fly with, then fold up the Lotus and put it in with the rest of your luggage, taking up very little space and weight. When folded up this pack is a mere one inch thick. To me this is a big deal. It makes traveling with the strobe kit a lot easier.

Volume: 35 Liter
Torso Length: 18.5″

F-Stop Lotus backpack top view with the Elinchrom Ranger power pack, Freelite A Head, reflector, charger and cablesF-Stop Lotus backpack top view, with the Elinchrom Ranger power pack.F-Stop Lotus backpack top view with the Elinchrom Ranger Kit, unpackedF-Stop Lotus backpack, folded up and ready to throw into the luggage.F-Stop Lotus backpack, folded up and ready to throw into the luggage.

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