NEW COURSE: MATT K’s Guide to Bird Photography… Now On Sale

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

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