Location Lighting – Vagabond Mini Lithium with Travelite 750

2011/8/26 (Friday) | Filed under: Fashion,For Photographers,How To/Tech

Today is share day. I am not recommending you go out and do this, but I hooked up my Travelite 750 (yes, thats 750 w/s of flash) to a Vagabond Mini Lithium battery pack a couple of days ago for a shoot with Vincent Hardy. This is basically a lithium battery with two 120v standard A/C outlets and a USB port for powering small portable devices. Its made by Paul C. Buff, inc. and they are slowly winning me over with all their cool toys. I usually use battery powered speedlights on location, but having A/C power on location gives you the astounding flexibility to shoot at low ISO settings and smaller apertures and not stress your flashes and batteries out by cranking them all the way up. This means you can set camera settings that severely underexpose the daylight and then ramp your subject back up with flash to balance everything.

The whole unit only weighs a few pounds (3.5 to be exact). Its technically only recommended for Paul C. Buff made flashes (Alien Bees, White Lightnings, Zeus and their new higher end Einsteins). The reason for this is that there is a significant drop in voltage between flash pops that can basically be summarized as a temporary brownout. Some flashes simply won’t tolerate this and can malfunction. So far, I have only operated one Travelite with the unit at a time but I was able to get around 30 full power pops out of it as well as about 40 1/3 power flashes without even seeing a dent in the battery life or a whisper of a problem from the Travelite! The manual does specify that its not for use with certain units, especially the popular Profoto flashes, but this is to be expected.

Needless to say, I’m impressed. I’ll come back to this after my next session with it and do an update if anything blows up or stops working! I think its a great location unit when you need a bit more power than AA batteries can offer or want the ability to charge your computer or other devices on a long location shoot. Or perhaps you just never have enough outlets in the studio and want the power source right next to your light where you need it.

First 4 photos, Travelite 750 with 32″ softbox. Blue sky/streetlight shot was: ISO 50, F/10, 1/100 sec. Last three photos were done with the battery powered speedlights. Thanks to Carlos Chavez for helping out with the lighting on this shoot! …And thanks for reading.

UPDATE: I used this combo a handful of times and nothing blew up or broke. But since then I have sold my Travelite and bought some Einsteins. I love the Einsteins because of their much faster duration and of course they are more portable and lightweight than the Travelites. I also find the controls more precise than the simple knob control my Travelite had. Another bonus is the ability to control the modeling light independently of the flash on the Einsteins. And of course they are Vagabond-approved. The wider power band on the Einsteins (all the way down to 2.5 w/s) allows me to blend them more seamlessly with battery powered lights as well.

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  1. really cool!

  2. That’s really cool. I’ve looked at power packs, but they are all so huge. This is definitely an option. Awesome pics too.

  3. Rob:

    Great images! I would really love to hear an update on your Vagabond Mini Lithium + Travelite strobes. Did they ever blow up? Any signs of capacitor damage on the Travelites due to the VML’s deep voltage drop after firing? Thanks!

  4. Will do.

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