Update on the photo studio project: I still need a flag and pole (any ideas?) but some advice from a friend and additional research has yielded a great inexpensive lighting option.
The Smith-Victor KT-500U Photoflood Tungsten Light Kit with Umbrellas (B&H # SMKT500 Mfr # 401430) looks like a decent and affordable kit, about 50% of which can be found at any hardware store sans brands. But 250W is a lot of energy to waste on heat, and the Tungsten 3200ºK has a 20 hour life span, which is very short. While the daylight bulb only has a four-hour lifespan!
It has been a while since I researched studio lighting, but with developments in CFLs and LEDs you can now get high lumen, always-on lights, that don’t waste energy and create so much heat that it makes it uncomfortable to work with them.
So instead of the incandescent bulbs, I found these CFLs. They are daylight-balanced (6500ºK), 105W (400W incandescent equivalent), and have a 8000 hour life span, all for less than $30 each. Photo geeks and indoor growers also agree that the spectrum good.
So for less than $200 I’m looking at a decent set of lights that doesn’t require a light meter (I have a grey card) and doesn’t get hot. It’s quite bright, but I can move it back or bounce it off or through the umbrella.