Tilting an Apollo Octa

Here are the items involved: Apollo — DIY dual speedlite mount — YN560 Flash units — RF-602 Triggers — 40″ grip arm — umbrella adapter.

What has always bothered me about Westcott Apollo foldable softboxes is the way they mount on a light stand.

Recently I was watching a Syl Arena video where he had an Apollo mounted on a Grip Arm and attached to a C stand.

That looked like a great idea. I had earlier tried using two umbrella adapters with a shortened background stand post but it seems kind of wobbly.

This approach seemed much better.

Here’s what it looks like mounted on a 10 ft Calumet Stand;

As you can see, the 40″ grip arm is way too long unless one wants to also use it as a boom.

So adaptation one will be to get a 5/8 length of tubing and two Calumet 2.5″ grip clamps so the Apollo can be brought closer to the stand.

The clamps also make it easier to mount on the stand.

Another thing I dislike about the Apollo is how far off center the flash tube is when normally attached to an umbrella adapter.

I found a DIY dual flash bracket on the web at http://www.diy-lighting-kits.com (also available from B&H).

This bracket is both economical and easy to setup and use.

Here is a picture with two flash units mounted:

You can see that the flash heads are not pointing straight back. That’s because I discovered, with some experimentation that this arrangement offers the best light distribution at the diffusion panel.

Here is an image showing the distribution with the flash heads as shown. They are zoomed out to 24mm.

This configuration delivers an exposure of F5.6 at ISO 100 with the front of the Apollo about 4 feet from the subject. The flashes were set to 1/4 power which would be half power with one speedlite.

Next I took the assemblage outside to see how it would work in the sun as fill.

Here is a shot with the ambient exposure dialed down about 1 and a half stops. There is no diffusion panel mounted and the flash units are at half power.

Exposure is F8 at ISO 100 with 1/200  shutter speed;

This image has highlight and shadow detail and the Apollo is probably far enough away to make it useful for full length or at least 1/2 body shots.

Naturally wind is a major consideration.

This little exercise illustrates to me that the Apollo’s significant shortcoming can be overcome without too much trouble.

One additional benefit available from the flash bracket is that with a longer spigot  it will hold 4 flash units.

It would also be easy to use a long TTL cord and the IR slave signaling. Or, lots of Pocket Wizard Flexes, Pixel Knights or the new 600EX-RTs. These options save having to get into the Apollo to adjustments to the flash unit(s).

While doing research I discovered that Phottix, the company that makes a TTL trigger system also has an Octa very similar to the Apollo available on its website. Its a bit smaller but also half the cost.

I noticed on the Syl Arena blog a comment suggesting the use of a Paul C Buff Baby Boomer (http://www.paulcbuff.com/mba.php) to help off set the umbrella adapter to facilitate tilting the Apollo. Since I have a Baby Boomer I thought I’d give it a try. EURIKA! Perfect solution and they cost $14.95.

As you can see in the image below, this approach offers 45 degrees downward tilt when mounted on a light stand.

What makes this solution even better is the compact size of the Baby Boomer. It, the DIY bracket and the umbrella adapter take up very little space in a kit bag keeping with the idea that this whole thing should be easy to transport.

Here are all the pieces to give an idea how compact they are disassembled.

The bracket is a thin sheet of metal, I presume steel. It comes with the wing nut for attaching the spigot. The six blue rubber bands also come with it. I used a single band to hold each flash. Two would make it a bit more secure. leaving the third one off, means that the flash head can be rotated and tilted to even out the light pattern in the Apollo. The bracket and Baby Boomer together are about $35.00 investment. That’s a great bargain for making the Apollo a useful tool in my view.

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