The Rajasthani desert town of Pushkar comes alive with pilgrims and tourists every year about nine days before the full moon of November. It’s believed by Hindu worshipers that the town came into existence when Lord Brahma dropped a lotus flower to earth. Water magically appeared in the desert where the petals landed. On the banks of Pushkar Lake it’s believed that Brahma convened a gathering of 900,000 celestial beings and today Pushkar is revered as one of the India’s most sacred religious sites: Pushkaraj Maharaj or “Pushkar King of Kings.”
Camel herders from afar bring 20,000 to 30,000 camels to market here at the beginning of the festivities and tens of thousands of pilgrims arrive to worship and to take a ceremonial dip in Pushkar’s holy waters. During this nine-day period it seems that just as many amateur and professional photographers descend upon the town, as well. This year marks my seventh visit to the Pushkar Mela (or festival) in fifteen years–this time for Stroborati.
Camel herders go about their trading business almost oblivious to the myriad cameras focused on them. If you approach a group of these gentlemen sitting around the campfire smoking a hookah pipe, it’s easy to break the ice. Just say “ram ram sa” then put your hands together at your chest and initiate a small bow of respect. Almost all will reply, “ram ram sa” and will feel honored to pose for photos.
One of my lighting assistants held the new LumiQuest LTp Softbox fitted with a Canon 580EX II Speedlite for the key light at upper camera left. Before attaching the LTp I placed a Sto-Fen diffusing dome over the flash head and set the unit to 24 mm coverage for more even light. A second assistant held a 430EX II rigged with a LumiQuest Snoot with the flash unit set to the 105 mm position for the rim light from camera right toward the rear side of the subject. On camera I used a Ray Ring Flash powered down about two stops for fill. All were triggered via Pocket Wizard TT5 radios using the new AC3 zone controller, which now makes it quick and easy to adjust lighting output ratios for three groups of lights. I set the ambient exposure down one and a third stops. Using portable Speedlites added three-dimensional lighting otherwise not possible with the overcast lighting of the day.
This was my first field test for the LTp Softbox. It’s 10×14 inches in size. It stores flat and unfolds quickly for attachment directly to the flash head with Velcro tab fasteners. LumiQuest provides a short Velcro strap designed to be used on the outside of the upper three tabs for extra grip and rigidity. The size of the softbox adds a bit of weight and the desert heat had the effect of “softening” the vinyl construction materials, which caused it to droop quite a bit no matter how tight the Velcro strap might be. It’s a bit annoying to use a light modifier that flops around and I needed to improvise more secure rigging. First, in addition to the provided Velcro short strap I used another longer synch strap around the entire mounting one more time for an even more rigid grip. Next I stapled together the four corner joints of the softbox with three staples on each side along the seam. Needless to say, this defeats what would otherwise be a fairly quick setup. I’ve contacted LumiQuest suggesting they add Velcro strips inside the four corner seams similar to the arrangement used to attach the ends of the LumiQuest snoot together. This would make it much more convenient than using staples that will most likely damage the unit over time. Velcro strips would make disassembly much quicker, too. The unit is designed to fold flat and when the shoot is finished I stuff it into the laptop pouch of my camera backpack.
Other than the stapling inconvenience, the new LTp softbox is ideal for upper body portraits in the field where the unit can be held close to the subject in situations where mobility, portability and small size are of prime importance.
Click the photos below for info about some of the gear I used for images in this blog post.