DIY OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY LIGHTING STUDIO
I've got an outdoor family photo shoot coming up this weekend and my usual photography assistant won't be available. I started pondering who I could get to assist me with the shoot - basically I just need someone to hold a reflector or an off camera flash and to carry my bag - when I thought "I wonder if I can buy a rolling light stand cart for this type of situation". My online research turned up a few DIY techniques using push golf carts. I was inspired by a few of them, including the one by Alex Winn on http://saycheese.alexwinphotography.com I've always been pretty crafty, so I decided I would try my hand at making my own.
My first inclination was to just copy the one that Alex made by ordering all the same parts he used for his, but then I decided to try and come up with my own solution and I'm really happy I did because I think it might just be better than any of the other ones I've seen online! One advantages of this design is that the light stand can be extended, giving your light an adjustable height of up to 8'. Another advantage is that this design doesn't require drilling into the cart, so you can still use the light stand separately.
First I needed a golf cart. I called all around Austin, and finally found one by Wilson Golf at Academy for $70. Next I needed to find a way to attach a light stand, Speedlight and light modifier, so I got out all of my lighting gear and starting experimenting. I found that my Manfrotto Stacker light stand was a perfect fit for the cart. I was able to use the cart's straps (intended for attaching a golf bag) to attach the light stand to the cart by carefully threading the straps and wrapping them securely around the light stand.
These carts are made to carry a heavy golf bag, so I knew I would need to weight the bottom of the cart to prevent the light from making it top heavy and tipping over backwards. I strapped my camera backpack to the bottom and that was enough weight to do the trick. To make sure the bag stays in place, I added a strip of velcro to the bottom of the backpack and secured it to the other velcro strip I applied to the plastic plate where the golf bag would normally sit.
Next I added a Westcott Octabox and my Nikon 910 Speedlight and brackets to the top of the extension pole. If you prefer, you could use a strobe, such as an Alien Bee, with a Vagabond battery pack. The great thing about this design is that, unlike the other DIY light stand carts I saw online, this one allows the light to be raised to a height of around 8 feet! Lastly I tucked in a 5 in 1 reflector, which slides in perfectly between the bottom of the Manfrotto stand and the cart, and secured it with an elastic banded headlamp. So now I also have a light on my cart!
There's a nice little storage compartment built into the handle of the cart where I can store extra batteries, gaffer's tape, reflector clips, cell phone, etc. and the whole thing only takes a minute to assemble. I unfold the cart, extend the light stand poles, clip on the Octabox setup and off I go. To disassemble all I have to do is remove the Octabox/Speedlight set up from the light stand, lower the extension poles and fold the collapsible cart. It stores easily in the trunk of my car and is ready to go whenever I am. Now isn't that the perfect photography lighting assistant?! :-)