Finally! Lighting for Landscape, Outdoor and Nature Photographers

In Photography by Matt K16 Comments

Well folks, if you follow my blog at all you may realize that every once in a while I find one of those products that totally changes things for me and I have to write about it. The LumeCube mini-light is one of them. Being mostly an outdoor, landscape and nature photographer, I’ve never really had the need for lighting. But every once in a while, I grab my little flashlight and need to add a hint of light to a night scene, or even some of my landscape and close-up/macro shots. I figure that portrait photographers do it, so why can’t I right? 🙂

NOTE: There’s a short 3 minute video at the bottom if you want to skip all this and just hear me talk about it 🙂 But, there are some cool before and afters if you scroll down too. 

Here’s a great example. Last year I went to Costa Rica to scout some locations for a workshop I was planning and we came across a glass frog. It was in a primary rainforest under a thick canopy and barely any light. Not only was it dark and shutter speeds were longer, but it just needed some light to define the frog more clearly. So there I am with my camera, tripod and cable release trying to get a sharp photo.

But, I was able to put my iPhone flashlight on it. It’s not perfect, can you can’t really control it all that well, but it did help add some depth and dimension to the frog. That with a little bit of an Exposure boost in Lightroom got a better shot. As a sidenote… Pretty amazing looking frog isn’t it?

(Click to see it larger)

Enter… The LumeCube

A friend of mine turned me on to the LumeCube. It’s this little mini-cube-shaped that’s crazy bright (don’t look at it – I did and I won’t again). It fits in your pocket or camera bag, or where ever. It’s got like 10 levels of constant light brightness, a flash mode, it’s bluetooth, app-controlled and waterproof up to 100 ft. Here’s a photo of the actual LumeCube and a photo of one of them in my hand so you can get an idea of how big it is.

I’d been looking for something better than the flashlight I was using, and this seemed pretty promising. I think one of the reasons I was most excited about trying it, was because it’s something that was obviously made for photographers. You’ll see why when I show you the housing and diffuser + warming gel filters it has.

Anyway… Last week I was headed to Costa Rica to teach one of my workshops and I decided to take a few along with me. I figured being in the rainforest is a good place to put something like this to the test.

Macro and Close Up Photos

The first place I tried it was for macro and close-up photos. One several mornings we went out and there was a lot of cloud cover. Not only does the reduction in light extend your shutter speeds and make you raise your ISO – but it’s also just flat. And that’s not all bad for macro, but there were some photos I thought could use some light so I held the LumeCube in various places around the flowers to “pop” in some extra life and depth to the photo. This was the first one I used it on, and I realized right away I found a new piece of gear for my bag (that’s thankfully small because there’s not a lot of room left) 🙂

(Click to see it larger)

As you can imagine, with any gadget there’s usually extra gadgets to go along with them. On their website you’ll see lots of things like ball-heads, iPhone mounts, hot-shoe attachments and magnetics. But the newest is this housing that goes around the cube, and let’s you snap their new diffusion and warming filters on them. I had them on nearly 100% of the time because I didn’t want a really harsh light. I wanted it to be slightly diffused, but also warm, so that it looked more like sunlight coming in on the flowers.

Here’s a few more before/afters. To keep things consistent, I really didn’t edit these or remove any distractions and stuff like I’d normally do. Just a little cropping and contrast in Lightroom.

Sidenote: Camera Gear

I always get asked about the gear I used, so here’s a quick list.

• Sony A7Rii Body (Link) or…

• Sony a6500 Body (Link)

• Sony 90mm Macro Lens (Link)

• Really Right Stuff TVC-34 Tripod (Link)

Frogs, Frogs and More Frogs

On one of the days we went in to the rainforest to look for frogs. We didn’t find the glass frogs that we found last time but we did find one of the little black and green poison dart frogs.

Like I mentioned before, it was really dark and the shutter speeds were like 2-3 seconds. Everyone did have to crank up their ISO, but I was able to get in there with two cubes on the sides, and get some light on them as well. Not only can it help keep shutter speeds faster and get a sharper photo, but it does add a little more life to the shot as well since it was so dark.

You can’t see the frog, and I’m just back from the workshop so I haven’t been able to get a photo the attendees to show. But I know it was there, as I was dodging it trying to make sure it didn’t touch my skin 🙂 Here’s a couple photos of the scene so you can get the idea of what we were doing:

TIP: Much like portrait lighting, the further away you put the light source, the shadows will get harsher shadows. The closer, the softer shadows. So, even though I wanted to mimic sunlight, I felt the shadows were too harsh if I kept the light further away, so most of these have the light pretty close to the flowers. 

Some Closing Thoughts

If you want to check ’em out, here’s the link. (Click Here) I have the 4-pack, but I mostly used 2 at a time. But it was nice having the 4 of them, so I could shoot all day (and at night) and when the battery died on one of them, I did have a backup.

As I mentioned in the beginning I know there’s a ton of lights out there. For me, this hit the spot. For starters, it was made for photographers. Whereas my flashlight wasn’t. The attachments TOTALLY made the difference. I think the addition of the snap-on diffuser and warming gel really add to it. Plus, it’s bluetooth and has the app that A) Makes my flash photos from my phone SO much better and B) Let’s me control the lights from a distance – even if I dunk them in water.

I hope you guys enjoyed. Let me know if you have one or share a photo if you do. I’m anxious to see what other people are doing with them. Have a good one!

Oh… And a Quick 3 Minute Video

Comments

  1. tom

    That pic of y’all photographing the tree frog is the oddest thing I’ve seen in a while! Thanks for the info.

    1. Author
      Matt K

      Ha! Those are some really little creatures. And the iPhone photo doesn’t do it justice to show how dark it really was there 🙂

      1. James Rodewald

        I can attest to what you’re saying about darkness in those forests, in March we were in Selva Verde in Costa Rica. Midday is dark. One rainy evening we heard red eyed tree frogs come out and managed this one with the help of a cell phone light and a dim head lamp.

        https://www.instagram.com/p/BRSAewEBYEt/

        I only wish I had a pair of these cubes then. Well, next time. It would have reduced some of the heavy shadow.

        Thanks for your helpful review!

      2. Researcher7000

        Hi Matt

        No doubt you’ll have knowledge of the improvements in the next iOS release, especially the ability to use your iPhone in RAW format. Have you had a pre-release test yet, as I’m sure that the frogs would have been easier to work on (both LR and PS) in RAW?

        Tony.

        1. Author
          Matt K

          Hi. I actually have no interactions with Apple other than when I go in the Apple store and they gladly take my credit card to purchase something. And I don’t beta-test anything from them. As for iOS and Raw, I’d have never been able to capture that photo with my iPhone. That frog as so small even one of those macro lenses on the phone wouldn’t have done the trick.

  2. Marilyn Krell

    Thank you for your kindness and free spirit in sharing your love for photography and everything to make it more fun for all also.

  3. Kevan Barton

    Okay, so here’s the rub. Say, you are shooting by yourself, and you need a little light in an area. Well, where does the third hand and arm come from to hold the cube if there’s no place to set it? Sounds great, but not sold on it as it seems there will be a lot of fidgeting needed to use it. Your pic of having a huddle of folks around it makes it visually less appealing as it could look like it requires more than one person to use it instead of the excitement of it and multiple folks trying to get into the circle. Can it fit on your camera’s shoe? and power without being used as a flash? If it can do that, it looks more practical.

    1. Author
      Matt K

      I had my camera on a tripod and just held the light when I needed it. If I needed to trigger the camera I just did the timer.

    2. Paula B

      Hi Kevin,

      I attached mine to a selfie stick so I had a much longer arm to work with. This makes it easy for me to control the light on my subject while standing near my tripod. I have a mirrorless A6500, which is light enough for me to shoot one-handed, so I can use the selfie stick with the lume cube in the other hand when I don’t use my tripod. I did get the ball head attachment when I bought the lume cube so I can control the light direction when using the lume cube on another tripod or a selfie-stick. I only have one cube, though, so it would be more complicated if using multiple cubes.

      Paula

  4. michael

    I’ve never heard of these before, they look really cool. I love the first macro shot and how much it changed the image with the warm light. LumeCube should give a promo code for your site for the in-depth review you did (hint hint LumeCube ;-P ). Anyway, great review!

  5. Lee

    Hi Matt, thanks for all the post and videos you share to help us be better photographers.
    The LumeCube looks like a useful light for certain situations, it really improved the flower photos. However, I must say that I found the demonstration photos of you shining two of the lights at the frog a bit disturbing. You stated that the light is “crazy bright” and it hurts your eyes if you look into it. So, if it hurts your eyes, it will also hurt the frog’s eyes. Especially since he lives in the rain forest and is not at all acclimated to bright light. I just want to make the point that it is important to be careful when using a bright light around wildlife or any animal.

    1. Diana Sorensen

      So I would use it on the flowers and such but not on live creatures not used to bright lights.

  6. Den S

    My brother gave we one of these for Christmas but I had no idea how I could use it! Thanks for the ideas. Also, thanks to Paula B. for her description of how she has used it. I frequently use a electronic remote control attached to the camera which has a cord that is about three feet long which would be useful in at least some circumstances. Alternatively, one could go whole hog and use a radio controlled shutter release.

  7. Blaine

    Excellent, Matt, cool gadget, great tips, very useful! I had seen these a while back, but it’s great to get your take and review on them. Thanks a lot, as always, B

  8. Jaime Dorman

    I’ve been a fan of Lume Cube (local San Diego company) since their early days. The new Light-House and magnetic Diffusion Filters makes them even better. Some of the “odd” things that I do with them:
    1) Hand Hold to spotlight areas of interest as a way to force Luminance, especially outdoors
    2) With a couple mounted on a bracket with my camera, I’ve started using them for HDR 3×2 or 5×1 shots in extreme low light situations.
    3) Underwater with a GoPro Hero5 Black for Swim, Dive & Water Polo @ GrandSon’s High School

    Still waiting for delivery of the Honey Comb & Bulb Diffusers to round out my 4 LumeCube setup.

  9. Thomas

    I almost bought these when I saw them advertised in an email, but I didn’t know anything about them. Now that I do I will get them. Thnaks.

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