Fragility of umbrellas - carry backups!
I broke my Photogenics Eclipse umbrella during a shoot on Sunday. I loved the large but light-weight umbrella with the reflective cover over the ribs and was starting to use it more and more. I was worried about the possibility of the umbrella breaking on location, but I am always so careful with my gear.... (famous last words)
On Sunday I left my sandbags in the van because the senior's parents said they could brace the light stand. And the air was still. Well, during the session, the parents decided to step away to a get a coffee. They weren't gone two minutes before a small gust tipped the light stand and the umbrella gently settled onto the edge of a table. The very minor accident resulted in two broken pieces in the now unusable umbrella!
I continued shooting with a 7" reflector (which I intended to use some anyway, since the hard light would work well with the gritty urban alleys and walls with lots of colorful graffiti) until we got closer to my van, when I grabbed my PCB 35" octabox (I had other umbrellas in the van, too, but at this point "light weight" wasn't as high a priority as "durable.").
So, anytime you hear about how great umbrellas are, just remember that (no secret) they are also fragile and that you'd better carry spares any time you venture off to a session. Yes, the damage was my fault, but seeing how easily the umbrella broke, I'm just not going to buy another $49 Eclipse and I'm going to be more tolerant of the weight and bulk of my 35" or 47" octaboxes on location. (I also have the light-weight 7" reflector and 22" beauty dish as options)
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