I had a little photo job this past saturday night. The Wife asked me to take pictures at her 30 year high school reunion and, being the husband that I am, I gladly stepped up to the plate. I needed to get some things ready first, though.
I decided to put to use several of the e-bay strobes I’d been collecting, all Vivitar 285hv’s… I’d seen these mentioned in various places as a good choice for off-camera flash, most notably over at the strobist. Since I don’t have any wireless triggers, I needed to work out some type of wired-setup to use these strobes. I did a couple internet searches and found an article by Nathan Kerr over at shuttersnapstudios.com with a mod for adding 3.5mm plugs to the 285’s, effectively bypassing the proprietary Vivitar connector included on the flashes and the need for expensive adapters and cables .
This mod wasn’t too difficult, but it did involve opening the shoe, drilling a hole and doing some soldering in a tight space. If you’re not comfortable with that, avoid the mod… I chose not to goop up the cable with epoxy where it leaves the shoe. I may pay for that later but I’ll take my chances with my soldering and careful handling. Ideally there would be room for a zip-tie inside the shoe, but it’s just too crowded…
I wasn’t going to need all the strobes at once, but decided to do all of the mods at the same time while I had the tools and parts out and ready… After working through all six of my 285hv’s, I made a few connecting cables with male 3.5mm ends and a four-way Y to join everything together. A few tests with the strobes and my wiring and all was ready.
Next I needed a couple of umbrella/shoe mount multiclamps. I’d seen some on ebay while looking for the 285’s and ordered a couple from some shop. These arrived and I found them to be less than perfect. The way these were designed left much to be desired, the shoe was funky with a clamping mechanism that didn’t clamp straight and didn’t offer a very secure foothold for the strobes.
After more research, I opted to purchase a couple more adapters from Adorama by way of Amazon. These were by Photoflex and much nicer: a better build and a far more secure shoe. I won’t hesitate to order more of these later. The others? I’ll chalk that up to the cost of education…
The night of the reunion went well. The affair was at a small restaurant with a lot of atmosphere… a great place for a meal, but awfully tight for setting up light stands. I did my best to wedge the lights in among the aisle and chairs, trying to keep any of my wires out of the way. The only downside was all of the memorabilia. Almost everything was in glass-fronted picture frames and securely mounted on the walls. With the tight space I couldn’t get my umbrella stands up high enough or at enough of an angle to avoid seeing the strobes reflected in all the glass. I decided to just live with that, having been assured by The Wife that my chimping-shots already looked better than those taken by the photographer at the last reunion. Aside from the reflections (I’m still unhappy about that!) the pictures turned out decently and the folks were happy with the results.