Joey Ybarra is an Emmy award-winning director of photography and a freelance network news photographer. His coverage of the Jan 6 Capitol riot earned national recognition and is also featured in an ABC News documentary.
The Astra 6X is small but mighty. It is punchy, compact and versatile. I’ve been working with a pair of them for nearly 3 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 sound bytes from members of congress and going live in the rotunda with national correspondents. I have since moved to Los Angeles, CA where the odds are generally 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.
There are a few different versions of this light; daylight, bi-color and bi-focus. Daylight is the brightest of the three. A lot of my colleagues run with bi-focus which gives you the ability to adjust the beam angle from 15 to 45 degrees. This is extremely useful on a bright, sunny day. However, 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 when it comes to brightness and color temperature. 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 at a premium in my work vehicle. I drive a compact SUV so every piece of gear that goes in, has to count. These panels are small and light, making them easy to carry and pack away. As I was writing this piece, I was actually sitting in my car waiting for the green light to set up a live shot. I was waiting for the location of the shot to be confirmed before unloading anything. I got the call at 3:21 p.m. and I was ready to go in 15 minutes. The shot went to air another ten minutes later. The producer, the sound tech, even our 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 these lights were built for someone on the go like me.
Litepanels has crafted a light that has become an industry standard. It’s tough enough for travel and mobile enough for an everyday carry.
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, to a live shot in the matter of just a couple of hours. Not a problem with these lights. I’ve had them flying on a C stand and was able to bust them down within seconds to be handheld with ease. There are also several choices for modifiers, including barn doors and egg crates. I like to combine these lights with DoPchoice Snapbags for diffusion and this adds little to no weight with great results. Like the name implies, they literally snap on which helps even more when it comes to setup time.