This subject is featured in Issue #3 of The Luminous Landscape Video Journal.
Getting Ahead — Lamp
On location at Bosque del Apache
Sometimes it's the little things that make the biggest difference. As a landscape and wildlife photographer I frequently find myself working in unfamiliar locations in the dark — either preparing for a sunrise or packing-up after a sunset.
When hiking, a small Maglite magnesium flashlight is always in a pouch on my belt. But when setting up my camera and tripod I need both hands to be free. The obvious solution is a headlamp, and I've used one for some time. The problem with them is that they are bulky and not terribly comfortable to wear.
I've just discovered the most elegant solution to the headlamp problem — the Petzl Zipca. This tiny unit uses bright white LEDS instead of ordinary bulbs, and it's so small that it can be hidden in the palm of one hand. Instead of a bulky head strap it features a thin retractable elasticized band that fits snugly yet comfortably.
The LEDS have to be seen to be believed. Using just 3 AAA batteries the Zipca casts a brighter light than flashlights 3 times its size. Also, the light is blue-white, similar to daylight colour balance. (The frame above was shot on digital video solely under the light of two Zipca headlamps worn by nearby photographers.)
This is the Xenon headlight of headlamps. The only downside is that like automobile Xenon lights, it's expensive. But, if you frequently find yourself working in the dark with your camera gear, this is the headlamp to have. Most major outdoor outfitters and high-end sporting goods stores carry the Petzl line.
A reader writes the following....
Michael, just wanted to let you know of a small trick with the Petzl, you can replace the "very bright" white/blue LEDs with yellow and more importantly red LEDs for about 5$ at any electronics supply store. The main advantage of putting in red LEDs is not only reducing the output for light sensitive applications, but it doesn't kill your night vision nearly as badly.
I've used this technique quite extensively with other LED flash lights and have recently "upgraded" my Petzl to match. That way I can still used a headlamp without blinding my companions during a group shoot.