You might think this to be an odd question for this forum but....

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by ellis_vener_photography, Jul 19, 2014.

  1. Sorry for the clickbait subject line but here goes.

    I love my Honda Element. For someone who shoots on location and takes a lot of lighting gear and C-stands it is terrific but it's getting
    worn out. The drive train and chassis are fine however. Also the high engine and road noise levels are bothersome, but the E handles handles great. I love the Element as a photographer's vehicle because t can haul a lot of stuff, particularly tall standsand has great
    head and legroom. Did I mention that it is loud?

    Sometime n the next year or two I'll be needing to replace it because repair costs are creeping up. Despite the noise levels, I'd get a new(ER)Element but Honda discontinued them in 2012. Suburbans and other Brontosaurus size SUVS are
    out of the question, and I'm not a van or mini-van fan. The only other automobile that looks like it will work for me is the Ford Flex.

    Here are my questions: Does anyone have experience with the Flex or can make another recommendation?

    If you have a Ford Flex how does it drive and ride and hold up?
  2. Ford Flex is a "has been". Look at a Mercedes Sprinter.
  3. [​IMG]It may not be even close to your criteria, but I have found my Ford Explorer to be ideal for hauling gear, especially after I built a drawer system for the back to house lots of equipment. It hasn't been too expensive to maintain even though I bought it with over 100,000 miles and it now has well over 300,000.
  4. Funny that you should mention an Explorer. The Element replaced an Explorer. The Element holds about 30% more gear,
    handles better, and gets better mileage than he Explorer did.

    The Mercedes Sprinter is a van. Not interested. If I was a rock band drummer or road manager I'd consider it. Thanks for
    the laugh however. A Mercedes station wagon? Not out of the question.
  5. I loved my Mazda Tribute for hauling gear, and that's been replaced by the CX-5, which has lots of room and drives really well. And if you
    like Honda, the CR-V specs indicate that it has about as much cargo capacity as the Element did.
  6. seems popular around here. My boss and a friend with family appear(ed) happy & content with them. - I'm not into cars at all and would probably get a small car front with van rear solution as catered to plumbers & similar. As a wannabe nature photographer, I'd look for something allowing roll on roll off transport of my cargo bike. Renault Kangoo are known to swallow even motorcycles.
  7. Ellis, for a large vehicle such as Sprinter (MB version), it will give you excellent mileage. The other way to do this is to get a light pickup truck such as Chevy or even Dodge Dakota and get a shell or even build (if you're handy) the shell for your needs.
  8. Some times its really funny how a subject comes up after you have been perking the idea around. I have a Honda Element, its a 2008. I've got just shy of 80k on mine and its fine so far but every year now, I feel it getting a bit more worn, looser and this year while on a rack getting shocks put on, I noticed the under carriage is rusting pretty bad. Its garage kept too but still not wearing well. I'm a bicyclist too and for hauling my photo gear to locations and my bicycling gear, there is no finer vehicle. I love the Element but have started wondering what I could replace it with. I haven't found anything suitable yet and hoped that in the next couple of years someone would make a suitable vehicle. I just came back from a trip to Ireland and man, they have some nice choices over there! But the States don't get those.
    I've been looking at Sprinter's since it could really haul my bikes well, and give me more than enough room for C stands and grip arms. I've recently been looking at a new Cherokee because it has fold flat seats with wide open cargo bay, comes with a diesel and I hope it might last but man are they pricey. I'd be real keen to know how this works for you Ellis. Please keep this thread updated.
  9. My wife drives a Subaru Outback that I've used on occasion to carry lighting and camera equipment on location for commercial photo shoots. It holds a good bit.
    Don't be so quick to dismiss a Suburban. My Suburban will carry much more and can even fit 4'x8' foam-core flags and reflectors with the third row seats out and the second row seats folded down. I can also fit 9' seamless paper rolls and a 9' remote control Manfrotto boom with the windows closed.
    Gas mileage isn't great at 17mpg city and 20 mph highway but I can also tow a 25' boat and motorcycle trailer when I need to. It's got all the benefits of a long bed pick-up truck and it rides like a luxury car.
  10. I have a 2013 Subaru Outback. AWD, good cargo space, hard-to-beat-in-it's-class 8.7" ground clearance, manual transmission available, good general crossover vehicle.
  11. The problem with a Sprint and similar vehicles, ANC I have thought about those is that it is too tall for parking decks and
    garages. If I were getting out to,shoot in the great outdoors: it or a 4WD suburban would be an excellent choice. But I
    want something that behaves like a car or a station wagon.

    I'll take a look at a CR-V.

    The problem with an Outback is too little cargo room and not enough headroom. (I'm 6'5" or a couple of cm short of 2m.)

    The problem is that even though high end cameras are getting smaller lighting and grip gear isn't. It's not unusual for me
    to bring 10 or so medium to very large cases on a job. Plus an assistant , and if we go out of town, luggage.
  12. Look at the Ford Transit Connect.Starts at 22,000, high roof line. I see a lot of them running around here.
  13. The Honda Pilot has a huge amount of room, and it drives pretty much like a car. Since you'll be looking at a CR-V, you'll already be at a Honda dealer, so it would be easy to check it out. (We decided on the Toyota/Lexus side because we wanted a hybrid, but liked the Pilot a lot.)
  14. A Jeep Cherokee holds my light weight stands in a rolling golf case nicely. The heavy duty rollers fit in it nicely loose. Used to even carry a 3x4 soft box open til I got the folding speed ring. Access through the side doors for small heavy items like sandbags or strobe batteries. 9 foot seamless fits out the passenger window. Will have to be selective when I purchase it here in Tampa since I no longer have the May to November rainless months of CA.
  15. Why don't you get a Certified used version of the Element. maybe you can get one with low mileage. I hardly ever buy new cars just like photography you can find some great deals in the used market. Plus your insurance won't go up with a used car...
    P.S. This is a pretty weird question for the Lighting Forum, I'm surprised the Forum Police did not get to it by now..
  16. Harry: I'll check that out. Thanks for the tip. I buy my cars used as well.

    As to this being a "weird" question for this particular forum: the reason I chose to ask it here is because there are a
    number of pros like Brooks and some others who, like me, often end up hauling a lot of bulky gear in cases , mostly
    light and grip related, to location shoots.

    Whether I deploy it all is another question. In point of fact I try to use as little equipment as possible but I'd rather have
    the tools with me that I might need to efficiently solve problems I encounter, making the photos clients are paying me for,
    rather than not be able to make them.
  17. Ellis,
    You're correct. I've taken tons of lighting, grip equipment and an assistant, from Florida to locations all along the east coast and into the Long Island, New York, the Mid-Atlantic and the Southeast. In the 1980's and 1990's I used a full sized Ford Van but since 2005 I've had a Suburban. The van had a fold-down bed which was convenient when traveling 900 mile days with a second driver. The Suburban hauls just as much and is easier to park in covered garages.
    I no longer do those really long road trips for shoots. Most of my location work is within a 500 mile radius today. In recent years I have found that it's easier to drive and bring all the lighting equipment than it is to fly with it.
  18. To add to what Brooks said

    These days I rarely need the 2400 and 4800 watt-second packs and a dozen heads like I needed in the late 1980s and
    throughout the 1990s. But I sometimes still do. A major reason for this is the midrange ISO performance of many digital
    cameras and now medium format backs that use CMOS arrays for sensor. I used to consider ISO 200 to 400 for color film
    and early digital cameras to be used only if absolutely necessary. That isn't the case anymore. And because I have had a
    client who really needed 4x5 or 8x10 film in a decade I very rarely need to get f/16, f/22, f/32 or f/45 levels f lighting.

    So in place of the big packs I know carry multiple mono-lights or similar battery powered lights, plus about 8 hot shoe
    mount flashes (plus batteries and chargers, etc.)

    But the modifiers are still the same general size and the stands and grip gear to support them are too, as are camera
    tripods; there just seems to be no getting around that.

    And all the gear needs to be protected from the rigors of road work.

    But at least I'm not still lugging around big igloos full of film and Polaroid anymore, and that's a good thing.
  19. Right Ellis, I still carry the large 4800ws Speedo power packs upon occasion but for many jobs, 3-800ws Speedotron packs suffice. Flash heads are still the same size, about the same as mono-lights. Everything else is the same so really the only space I occasionally save is when I use the smaller power packs, and three of those are the same size a one large pack. And no need to carry film and Polaroid now, instead I carry a cart and computer, either laptop or iMac.
    Most location work is about the logistics of transporting and carrying the gear which is why I have such a large vehicle.
  20. AJG


    My solution for years has been Volvo wagons. I also travel with a lot of lighting, mostly local with a longer trip or two each year somewhere on the east coast , and I too have gone from 4x5 to digital so the film transport and the massive Calumet case with my Toyo 45G and 6 lenses have been swapped out for a smaller bag for DSLRs and lenses. 9' rolls of seamless will fit inside the V-70, and I get 30mpg on the highway. It has also been a comfortable , quiet and reliable car. I am fortunate to have an extraordinary independent repair shop who also sells used Volvos where I live, since repairing these cars isn't cheap.
  21. When I have a lot of gear to haul I drive my Honda Pilot. But years ago all I had was a Hyundai Excel hatchback and was able to fit quite a lot into that. I would think just about any hatchback would work (do they still make hatchbacks?) Some sedans have back seats that either fold down or have a middle piece in the center that opens up, so long things can extend from the trunk into the interior of the car.
  22. Hi Ellis,
    Enjoyed your contributions to forum for years!
    Have you looked at Toyota Highlander at all? It is a mid size SUV with great car like drivability. There is also hybrid version available. Second raw seats split/turn flat independently. Another option is Honda Accord Crosstour. Good luck!
  23. Put your stuff in one of those little red wagons and have your kids pull the wagon? Stop off at McDonalds for
    a happy meal. The kids will be soo happy! Free gas! Just a thought!
  24. Ellis:
    Your off-hand remark about a Mercedes wagon resonated with me. In 2011 I needed a new vehicle to carry gear. Looked at a C class wagon, but reviewers felt that the small engine was too wimpy, while the bigger engine had been discontinued for a while. So I started to look at the E class wagon (which of course also holds more gear) and liked what I saw. Being a bit of a motor-head I of course went for the five liter V-8 engine, which makes the little old black wagon into an SL 500 in drag. Of more practical concerns; the car is built for full size Germans with a lot of seat adjustments. You should have no problems adjusting the car to fit your size. Second seat row folds flat, front passenger seat can be made almost flat. It holds a lot of gear!
    In 2004 the car stickered out at $ 63K+. It wasn't registered until January 2006; when I bought it in January 2011 it had had two owners and 45K miles. I got it for under $ 21K, with one year of CPO warranty. When I picked it up it looked like brand new 2009 leftover (last year they made that body style.) The wagon has been absolutely bullet-proof; although I suspect my driving style will eventually take its toll! All joking aside, remember that the MB E class is the world's most common taxicab; they are built to last.

    Finally, showing up in a car this nice tends to convince clients that you mean business!

  25. Great points Chris!
  26. You might check out a KIA Soul. The seats fold down flat and there's plenty of headroom for my 6'3" husband.
  27. I rented a KIA Sol. Liked it a lot but not enough cargo room.
  28. Ellis, I don't know whether the Subaru Forester or Outback gives you the configuration you need, but they do have a lot of room. More importantly, these are very agile, sure-footed cars, and very safe in a collision. The Subaru symmetrical AWD is a big cut above the others' 4WD; only the Quattro compares. If you travel frequently in rain and snow, you might consider it.
    I survived a high-speed crash in an Impreza WRX after spinning out on black ice at highway speed. I cut a telephone pole in two with my driver's side door. I had to get cut out of the wreck. I did not break anything; the only injury besides tremendous impact was a separated shoulder from the shoulder belt. Those B-pillars have 8 layers of reinforced steel in them, and it took every tool the EMS had to cut it. I should have been sliced in two.

Share This Page