Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Thoughts on the Elinchrom ELC Pro HD Lights

At the beginning of April 2014 I undertook my furthest flung and most arduous tour to date. Not that I expect sympathy but by the time I finished dates in Taipei, Taichung, Bolton and Bradford I was exhausted to say the least. I was also inspired and thrilled to have had the opportunity to demonstrate and work with the all new ELC Pro HD Compacts. Here are my thoughts.

The official press release from Elinchrom reads:
The ELC Pro HD Compacts 500 and 1000 are the worlds most complete, feature rich compact studio flash units. The result of over 25 years experience at the forefront of studio lighting technology. Designed and assembled at Elinchrom’s HQ in Switzerland the ELC benefits from the highest Swiss specification.
Elinchrom President Chris Whittle says, ”We set out to make a unit that would not only change the way a photographer works but also the way that they think. We believe the ELC combines everything a photographer needs with everything a photographer wants, plus the consistency and reliability that you expect from Elinchrom.”
Recycling times are lightning fast (0.6s / 1.2s to full power, ELC 500 J. / ELC 1000 J.) while Swiss precision guarantees consistency of power output and colour temperature, shot after shot. Furthermore the super fast flash durations (up to 1/5000s / 1/5260s, t0.5, ELC 500 / ELC 1000) enable you to freeze motion like never before.
The ELC is the first unit to incorporate an OLED screen that displays every control for the most professional user experience. As well as Elinchrom’s stop based power scale, you will now be able to see the power in Joules, flash durations and many other settings. A jog wheel provides easy navigation of the new menu.

That covers some of the techie stuff but what is the actual user experience? Firstly they arrive well packaged with all the bits you need in the box (short of a light stand) to get going. Nice little extras like the cable tidy add to the pleasure of opening up your new toy! The design is smooth and the units feel solid in construction. The bulbs are covered by a new feature, a glass dome that protects them from the most heavy handed of users (me).

The rear panel has been redesigned and if like me you like to dive in without reading the instructions then it is largely self explanatory.

The most obvious new feature is the OLED display screen that gives a lot of information. If there is any negative to these new units it is that so much information is crammed into a relatively small area that will have many photographers squinting but that is a minor quibble.
The units have a EL-Skyport receiver built in and so can be triggered remotely using a hotshoe mounted EL-Skyport trigger in either Standard or Speed Sync mode. Power output can be changed in one stop or 1/10th of a stop hops and the powerful tungsten balanced modelling lamp can be turned off, used proportionately to the power or independently. A quick word on it, it's fab. At full power through a softbox it gives a great light to shoot by or use as a video light if that's your thing. I use the modelling lamp when I have a blinking client in the studio who can't cope with flash and this is just wonderful for that job.
In standard flash mode the units do everything you expect and do it fast. Recycle times on these heads are fantastic and allow for rapid shooting of sequences. Even at full power on the 500W head you are good to go again after just over half a second.
These images were all shot at around half power on a 500w head.

It's the super fast flash duration that really stands out for me. You are shown the duration on the back screen at all times and that is incredibly useful when working with fast moving objects. The units have a 'sweet spot' at around half power when the top speeds kick in, 1/5000s for the 500W and 1/5260s on the 1000W. We put this feature to good use capturing flying hair, flying bodies and my favourite shot of the tour the wet shot. This was put together using two flashes and two volunteers either side of Jade frantically squirting the type of bottles you use to water plants. It produced very fine droplets which were picked up by the lights and look like a heavy rain storm.

There are two new modes in these units too. Strobo and Delay. Delay allows you to fire the unit at a predetermined interval which can produce a look as when you use rear curtain sync as it can fire at the end of the exposure rather than the start. 

In Strobo mode you can ask the unit to fire a number of times a second over a long exposure. This opens up a range of creative possibilities that I'm looking forward to getting to grips with more over the coming weeks. Our brief plays produced some interesting results.

In summary these lights are a great new addition to the Elinchrom range. They offer features such as Strobing mode previously only available on speedlights or much more expensive units, and are beautifully crafted. Simple to use but offering a wealth of complex, creative possibilities I expect them to become a major part of my lighting setups for many years to come.


Elinchrom Taiwan
Model : JKW Modella (

Photographer : John Denton (

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Tour of Taiwan

Finally back home after one of the most incredible experiences of my life.

It was an honour to be invited to demonstrate Elinchrom Lighting in Taiwan and a pleasure to share the trip with my regular model Jade.

Having never been to the Far East before it was a full on sensory experience to walk the streets, markets, restaurants and just be in the country. We met some wonderful people and took some great images.

I'll be exploring the trip in detail in an ebook to be published soon in the Kindle format. It will contain a wealth of how we shot them details, sample images, lighting setups and behind the scenes imagery. Keep an eye out on here for more information. In the meantime it's a huge thank you to all who made the trip possible, and such a success.

Friday, 4 April 2014

A few thoughts on Touring

"Ruddy Hell John, you've been lucky."

It's a sentiment that's often expressed to me and one that grates a little to be honest.

Tomorrow I'll be leaving for a ten day trip to Taiwan. I'll have chance to shoot in Amsterdam, Hong Kong and Taipei and share the entire trip with my beautiful friend Jade who will be there as model, videographer, beer fetcher and general all round buddy to lean on.

It's not luck that's got me there though. Since turning professional I've lost count of the number of shoots I've done for nothing to improve my skill set. Of the trips I've done to far flung areas of the country to deliver talks and workshops, sometimes to hundreds, sometimes to 1 or 2. If someone invites me I tend to go and that gets noticed. I will never claim to be the best photographer in the world, to have unique knowledge or be the only person capable of imparting knowledge. I do know a bit of stuff though and love communicating and sharing that knowledge as well as being driven to improve my skills at every opportunity.

It was in Birmingham that I was delivering some talks when I was approached by a tall, curly haired and charismatic man who asked me if I'd like to go to Taiwan. The man was Malcolm Whittle, the late president of Elinchrom and one of the most interesting people it has ever been my privilege to talk with. Originally a teacher in Leeds his drive and eye for opportunity had seen him take over the Elinchrom company and shape a wonderful life for him and his family in Switzerland. Nobody who heard him talk would describe him as lucky. A hard worker, innovator, deep thinker for sure but luck paid no part in his story.

Fast forward and I'm typing this post with my passport at my side and a large open suitcase on the floor. Excitement growing and creative ideas buzzing around my head. It's all those sessions in less exciting venues that opens the door for opportunities like this. When people ask me how to build their careers and get themselves noticed my answer is always the same. Take every opportunity you can and do anything you can for anyone, what goes around, comes around. Along the way you may even meet some wonderful people like Malcolm, that makes me feel fortunate rather than lucky.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014