Empower Yourself On Location (Or Two Portable Power Packs)

Portable Battery for StrobeI used to love a good what do you get when you cross jokes. I still do. What do you get when you cross a battery with a pure sine inverter? Read on to find out.

As you probably know, I am a big fan of small flashes. (*cough* Strobist *cough), but sometimes small flashes just don’t have the juice to light up a scene. It may be a big place that needs tons of power or a huge light sucking modifier that eats up all the light from your strobe. (Try using the SB 900 on the westcott 2.15 meters octabank, that would be an interesting strobe challenge). So I do have one big 400WS flash. (Ok, just before you hit me with the “you call 400WS big?? ppffffhhh!”, I’d say that it was big enough for me when I bought it, and it was I could afford.

So anyway, if you are in a studio this is no biggy. Plug the flash to the wall socket, dial up the power and you are good to go. But what if you are outside the studio. On the beach, park, moon? [Image by andyarmstrong]

Then you need portable power. Now, I am a big fan of the ExplorerXT, and I think it provides great value for money. However there are cheaper (and DIYer) alternatives.

Reader Hee Soo Shin (Flickr) tipped me about some great way to build a power pack at home by Tim Kemple. So here comes the answer to the question at the top of the post: You get a lightweight 220V/110V power source that is just right for your A, prophoto or whatever big guns you use. The basic idea is simple and sits at the base of any portable power pack. Store power with low voltage battery. Supply the power via a converter at required voltage.

Wait, it does not end here. Hee Soo Shin has also coolingly made a short video showing how this flux capacitor works. And how it all fits in a tiny bag. This is great if you plan on building one yourself.

So where are the pitfalls with this kind of DIY power pack? Well the first thing is that the power is limited to what the battery can hold. So you’d want a big battery. Alas big batteries are heavy; heavy means less portable. Any idea how to tackle this one?

A second issue is discharge rate. Charging flashes are fast eaters when it comes to filling up their huge capacitors. So you want to make sure that your battery can discharge fast enough.

Lastly there is the issue of heating up. Make sure your converter is well ventilated. Why, oh there is just the minor issue of inverters heating to a melt burn down point. Some inverters have built in fans, if you can not ventilate well, consider using one of those.

And to wrap up this power bonanza, there is another flavor of this converter made by Ron Uriel.  A bit heavier – but this is good. If you’re planning on an outside session, you might as well double your battery as sandbag. Ron built a dedicated aluminum rail for this.

OK, OK, there is also a power pack for strobes. Get them small flashes juiced till they say no more, pleeeeeease.