LOS ANGELES—As a network news photographer, I have found the Astra 6X light panels are small but mighty—punchy, compact and versatile. I’ve been working with a pair of them for nearly three years now in the fast-paced and demanding environment of network news. For a solo run ‘n’ gun shooter, speed is everything and these panels not only keep up, they refuse to compromise on the quality of light.
I got my hands on these lights for the first time in Washington, D.C. where I was running through the halls of the Capitol as a freelance photographer, collecting soundbites from members of Congress and going live in the rotunda with the magnificent dome over the shoulder of a national correspondent.
I have since moved to Los Angeles where the odds are in favor of the sun. A good amount of my shoots happen in the afternoon, fully exposed to the elements, and that burning ball in the sky is very unforgiving. These lights are bright enough to compete, yet easy enough on the eyes to keep talent from squinting on live TV.
The Right Light for the Light
The lights are available in three versions: daylight, bi-color, and bi-focus, with daylight being the brightest of the three. Many of my colleagues run with bi-focus, which offers the ability to adjust the beam angle from 15 to 45 degrees, which is very useful on bright days.
I opted for bi-color to give myself more versatility with indoor shoots and early morning live shots. The rising sun brings a couple of challenges for brightness and color temperature and being able to adjust both on the fly—from the dial or via the Bluetooth app—is a dream.
I would gladly find a place for all three versions, but space is a premium in my work vehicle. I drive a compact SUV, so every piece of gear that goes in has to count. These small, lightweight panels make them easy to carry and store.
As I was writing this piece, I was actually sitting in my car waiting for the location of a live shot to be confirmed before I unloaded my gear. When I got the call I was ready to go in 15 minutes and the shot went to air 10 minutes later; the producer, sound tech, and even security commented on the speed. My panels are equipped with a gold mount adapter and there’s hardly any setup time compared to other lights I have in my garage. It’s almost as if they built these lights for someone on the go like me.
There is also more to be said about the versatility of the Astra 6X. My shoots can go from a sit down interview, to a handheld walk and talk, or to a live shot in a matter of several hours. But it’s not a problem with these lights; I’ve had them flying on a C-Stand and could bust them down within seconds to be handheld with ease.
Mobile and Tough
There are also several choices for modifiers, including barn doors and egg crates. I like to combine these lights with Snapbags for diffusion and this adds little to no weight with significant results. Like the name implies, they literally snap on, which helps even more with setup time.
Litepanels has crafted a light that has become an industry standard. It’s tough enough for travel and mobile enough for an everyday carry. The Astra 6X has earned its place in my kit, and the pair I bought is worth every penny.
Joey Ybarra is a freelance network news photographer with 13 years of experience in broadcast journalism. He can be reached at email@example.com
More information on Litepanels’ Astra 6X is available at www.litepanels.com.
Joey Ybarra is a freelance network news photographer
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