Shooting Tethered Outdoors with thinkTank Sunscreen

Posted by: on May 30, 2013 | One Comment

Written by Jay Bartlett and originally posted on LightingLeica.com on May 24, 2013.

As a commercial photographer, I find it essential to view my images instantly on a larger screen as I take them. The small LCD on my camera often cannot guarantee the sharp focus that I can achieve when I see the pictures on a good-sized computer display. The larger screen also permits me to share the images with my creative directors on set, allowing them to consult with me and comment on the pictures so we can make changes on the fly.

Shooting tethered becomes more of a challenge, however, when I leave the controlled, fully-furnished environment of the studio and head out into the uncertain, ever-changing conditions of location shooting. To ensure that I always had a secure spot to place my laptop, I used to rent a Magliner Jr. utility cart for all my outdoor shoots. Although it was very useful on set, it proved bulky, heavy, and not really portable at all. Even when collapsed, it would not fit in any of my assistants’ cars. The cart also came with a very pricey day rental rate, and having to return the cart was a major inconvenience.

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Photo Courtesy of ©Jay Bartlett

Then I discovered the Tether Tools Tether Table Aero.

Constructed of T6 Aerospace Aluminum, the Aero weighs less than 3.5 lbs. (1.58 kg), yet is tough enough to hold a maximum load capacity of 30 lbs. (13.5 kg). It comes with its own compact travel case, making it easy to store and transport. Like the entire line of Tether Tables, the Aero includes an LAJO-4 ProBracket that has all the mounts you could possibly need: a ¼”-20 or 3/8” tripod mount, a 5/8” stud which is perfect for almost any light stand, even an Arca-style plate attached to the base of the bracket. The Tether Table designers have obviously thought of every eventuality. Available with either a gleaming brushed silver or a non-reflective black finish, the 22″x16″ (56 cm x 40 cm) working platform is optimally balanced to provide a stable pedestal for your computer. You can also complement the Aero with a complete line of Tether Table accessories.

On a recent shoot for a clothing company affiliated with the Home Shopping Network (HSN), I found the Tether Table Aero to be a valuable asset. Navigating a bulky cart among spectators and pedestrians on the crowded streets of Downtown Los Angeles would have been a nightmare. Instead, I paired the Aero with my Manfrotto aluminum tripod and a set of casters that provided an easy, lightweight way to maneuver and position my Macbook Pro in different locations around the city. No hefty rental fees and no cumbersome carts to return.

However, shooting outdoors and viewing images on my Macbook Pro can still be difficult due to glare, especially in very bright conditions. To address this problem on my afternoon shoot in LA, I attached the Pixel Sunscreen v 2.0 from thinkTank to the Tether Table Aero to shade my Macbook Pro from the overpowering sunlight. Together, these products make a better combo than peanut butter and jelly. The Tether Table serves as a perfect platform for both my computer and the sunshade, which I need to see my images clearly.

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Photo Courtesy of ©Jay Bartlett

When folded, the Pixel Sunscreen is not very large–a round, portable package about 14″ in diameter that weighs about 1.2 lbs and carries as easily as a folded reflector. The Sunscreen pops up in a flash thanks to the wire spiral structure, which reminded me of my kids’ pop-up tent. There are clear instructions for folding the Sunscreen itself as well as a printed thumb image on the bottom of the Sunscreen that shows where to position your thumbs before folding. Although none of my assistants had used the product before, it only took a few minutes for them to master how to unfold and fold it.

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Photo Courtesy of ©Jay Bartlett

When opened, the sunshade has exterior dimensions of 14.5″ wide x 22″ tall x 19.5″ deep and fit my 15″-wide Macbook Pro perfectly. thinkTank claims that you can put a 17″ laptop inside, too, which seems feasible, although it may stretch the side panels a bit. Version 2.0 has openings for cords and cables in the side and back so your laptop can nestle into the deepest recesses of the hood. The interior offers a lot of depth and features plenty of room to suspend things. There’s even a moveable clip for hanging printed information.

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Photo Courtesy of ©Jay Bartlett

The elastic netting that holds the unit closed is located on the outside right panel. Securing the front of the Sunscreen in this fashion helps keep it from catching wind that could possibly blow your computer over. Version 2.0 also adds non-slip material to the outside and inside of the 201D nylon fabric to make it more stable in slippery conditions. The bottom of the screen also has non-slip material.

Interior elastic net pockets on the right and left panels permit you to store pens, pads, cards, and whatever other accessories you like. The pockets are about four inches deep and run the width of the panel and can be fastened with a Velcro strip. Velcro on the outside opens to allow your cables to snake through the bottom of the panel. The rear is open to the outside to let your laptop ventilate properly.

My favorite feature, however, was the hood tucked into a Velcro pocket on top of the unit. It unfolds to cover both you and the Sunscreen. With this remarkable design, you really feel like you are sealed off from the outside world, with nothing to focus on but the bright, clear image in front of you.

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Photo Courtesy of ©Jay Bartlett

If you’re a photographer who shoots tethered outdoors or needs a way to review images on a larger laptop screen, you will not find a better setup than the Tether Tools Tether Table Aero and the Pixel Suncreen v2.0 by thinkTank. This winning combination has now become standard procedure for me when I shoot on location.

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