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Tag Archives: Alien Bees
Normally I would never hesitate to highly recommend Alien Bees studio lights to anyone. Their products are stellar, and their sales support is fantastic. But any product, no matter how well made, will eventually need to be repaired.
I had two of Alien Bee 800s die on me last year. The first one just *poof* blew up at a shoot. The acrid smell of burning electrical parts filled the shooting space, and I was down from 3 Bees to 2.
In December a friend was using my lights, and one of them decided to no longer flash and just stay on constantly. I was now down to just 1 Bee.
The holiday season had me busy with family, and the first few months of 2011 have not been studio heavy, so I kept putting off getting my lights repaired until I realized that I only had one studio light left! If (when?) that one blew out, I would be crippled. So I sent my two ailing Bees back to Nashville for repair.
If I ship from Atlanta to Nashville via FedEx ground, the package will arrive in one day. I sent my lights out on March 28th, and true to form they were in Nashville and delivered to the folks at Alien Bees on the 29th. But by Friday I had no word from them. A quick call to find out the status was not encouraging.
“Sorry Mr. Selby, there’s nothing logged in. When did you send them in?” Hmmm…. I told them delivery was confirmed on the 29th. She checked, and tah-dah, my lights were there after all – still in the box and still on the received shelf. They had not even been checked in, but the lady I talked to said she’d get them checked in and sent over for repair that day.
As of today I still had no word, so I called again.
“Sorry Mr. Selby, we don’t have anything logged in for you. When did you send them in?” What?? I repeated the facts from a week ago, and again I was told, “Yes, they’ve been marked as received, but we don’t have them in repair yet. We probably won’t have them until Friday at the earliest, maybe Monday.”
“How long does it take to turn around a repair,” I asked with just a hint of whining.
“Well, we’re really busy in repair. It is a three to four week turn around once we get it.”
Obviously there’s nothing I can do about that (yet), but if we take the worst case four week turn around, then it will be close to six weeks before my two Alien Bees will be back in service in my studio. I had an engine replaced in a car in one week. I don’t understand why it will take almost six weeks to get my studio lights back.
I still love Alien Bees. They are reliable and affordable, and generally well made. And I can’t “blame” Alien Bees for the fact that I am down to just one light. I should have sent the first one in for repair the day after it blew. Same goes for the second. I would certainly be in a better position now, but a six week turn around? Really?
(The picture was borrowed from Jeff Denomme at thehauntedzoo.com. Check out his work. It’ll make you laugh)
Way back when, a man named Paul Buff started a line of affordable and reliable studio lighting called Alien Bees. Over the years, his little power blocks have made a well deserved reputation for themselves as – well – affordable, reliable, and TOUGH light units. This is all well and good. Yes, the lights kick serious studio butt, but what really sets Alien Bees apart is their attention to customer service.
Example – I borrowed Chris North’s Alien Bees ringflash, and since Chris uses my studio more often than he uses his ring light, it pretty much lives with me now. During my last shoot I did the unspeakable – I dropped the ring light (sorry Chris, I know this is the first you’re hearing about it) and the ring light reflector shattered. It seems it is not made of the same high-impact bullet proof lexan that the main units are built with. I was horrified. But I did the Right Thing and called Alien Bees to get the piece replaced.
I made the call at 3:15pm on Tuesday August 24th. It is now 10:45am on Wednesday August 25th, and the replacement part is sitting on my desk. That’s right, kids, in less than 24 hours (and less than $30) the folks at Alien Bees sent a replacement part for my friend’s ring light.
Do the math: Great Product + Great Customer Service = Paul C. Buff & Company for the win!
I recently had a photo shoot with the lovely Kris Melton, founder and editor of the on-line local rock resource website rockfistreviews.com. This was our second shoot, and I was very happy with the results. I uploaded a few to Flickr, and sent a tweet about the upload. One of my Twitter followers, “DantePasquale“, asked how I lit one of the shots. I told him I’d do a blog post about it. So, here ya go, Dante!
Kris wanted some shots that showed off her new chest piece tattoo as well as submit for (hopeful) inclusion in a nationally distributed tattoo lifestyle magazine. She and I had worked together before with good results, and we managed to squeeze a few hours into an otherwise busy weekend for me to get this shoot done. This was done in my basement home studio. I’m fortunate to have a big room to spread out in, but a large space wasn’t needed for this shot.
The background is two pieces of 2 1/2 foot wide corrugated steel. You can easily find this at your local “Lowes Depot Home Improvement” store. (Be *very careful* with this stuff. The edges can be sharp and jagged and give you a nasty cut.) I store these panels outside under our deck so that eventually they will age gracefully. In an ideal world, I would have scavenged a few pieces from one of the myriad rural outbuildings around us that have been razed to make room for another subdivision, but this blog isn’t about that.
On either side are double fold doors – again a “Lowes Depot” purchase. One side is painted black and the other is painted white. The black sides are facing Kris to cut some of the natural reflectivity of the steel. This was an idea I gleaned from Zack Arias, so I won’t claim it to be original.
I am about 5 feet in front of Kris with my Nikon D300 and trusty workhorse of a lens the Tamron 28-75 2.8. I’m seated on a low rolling stool, and over my head is an Alien Bee 800 fitted with a beauty dish set to f11. To camera right and just a foot and half in front of Kris is another Alien Bee 800 with a blue gel just brushing the steel behind her. The f-stop on that light changed a few times while I sought the right balance, but it was well below the f11 of the main light.
As I said, even though I have a big space to work in, this shot could have easily been done in a garage or even a living room (as long as your wife doesn’t mind you leaning dirty corrugated steel against her walls).
There is an almost happy-ending punch to the end of this shoot which I’ll share with you as soon as I know for sure that the punch will happen — ooooo, foreshadowing!
In Adobe Lightroom, I fiddled with the clarity, contrast, black levels, and saturation to get the effect I was looking for.