I was testing out my Softlighter in preparation for a head shot I planned on doing this week. While rummaging through an assortment of umbrella/flash brackets, I selected an Impact Umbrella Bracket. Now several of my brackets have two mounting holes for the cold shoe brass stud adapters: One on top, and one on the side. The Impact unit was unique in because the secondary mounting hole allowed me to align the body of my speedlight parallel to the umbrella's shaft. It was a simple matter to remove the mounting stud from the top hole (left below) and insert it into the alternate one (right below). This put the cold shoe very close to the umbrella shaft allowing a speedlight with its the head in the "up" position to slip into the sock-like tunnel in the center of the diffuser panel. As you can see, this alternate mounting brings the speedlight very close to the umbrella shaft. For inquiring minds who want to know, that's a Nikon A10 shoe mounted on a threaded stud.
If you already own a Softlighter II, you know about the removable section of the umbrella shaft. Because the sideways mounting of the speedlight brings the flash head closer to the inner umbrella surface, you'll probably need to leave the extension in place to maintain optimal head position.
While my photos of the bracket aren't "arty", I think you will get the idea. What is most important to me is that I now have a more practical way to use the Softlighter in the field. The Impact Umbrella Bracket can be used with the Softlighter or with my favorite Zumbrella. In addition, the Softlighter has a removable "skin" that can turn the reflected umbrella into a shoot-through, giving me two distinct characters of light without any additional gear to pack.
Let's see how this works in the field. Stay tuned.