I often get asked how I carry my lighting gear on shoots, and what gear I use. This is a big question, with lots of answers. The simplest way to deal with airlines and portability is use speedlights. Today there are more accessories than ever for speedlights, and you can create some incredible images using these handy flashes. Weighing in at a pound with AA batteries installed, speedlights are the ultimate lightweight option you can carry onto the plane with you. But what if you want more power, more lighting modifiers (larger) and quicker recycle times for those portrait sessions? That is where the Elinchrom Quadra does a fantastic job of finding the middle ground between speedlights and large studio strobe packs.
A real concern traveling with studio gear is getting it through the airport security. If you check your lighting equipment, you are trusting that it will make it through TSA screening (we have all heard horror stories). Generally speaking, if you put a note about the battery type, battery documentation for your strobe pack, and note that it confirms to IATA regulations, you shouldn’t have any problems. I also include a copy of the users manual for more documentation. I’ve traveled extensively using the larger Elinchrom Ranger and have not had problems, but my gear gets checked every time. With the Elinchrom Quadras, I am able to carry these 400 watt units right onto the plane with me. Sometimes security asks to see the units, other times they don’t. I have traveled from Alaska to Mongolia carrying Quadras and never had problems. The Quadras use a sealed lead acid battery, not lithium, and you can pull a fuse from the battery to make it even safer for travel. This satisfies the TSA folks. These units work wirelessly using the Elinchrom Skyport system, and with the wide range of softboxes available, I have lots of creative portraiture options.
The other key part of this carryon lighting system is the Lowepro Pro Roller X200. This roller bag carries 3 quadras, 3 heads, cables, softbox adapters and more and fits in overhead compartments on standard jets. The Quadra weights just over 6 pounds, the head 8.8 oz. My total case weight comes in around 30 pounds with 2 Quadras. Yes, this is more than they recommend for overhead compartments. But I have never had a problem. If needed I could check this bag, but then it is out of my control. Another great aspect of the Pro Roller is the inside bag comes out of the roller case, allowing you to carry it as backpack when you can’t roll the bag on the ground. In a place like Mongolia, this is key! In the end there are lots of options for carryon lighting kits with wide ranging costs. The best solution for your lighting kit is the one that fits your budget and works for your type of shooting.