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Arms length for photos and videos

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#1 kalani



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Posted 28 February 2012 - 09:53 AM


As mentionned in a previous topic, I'm planning to get the configuration described below BUT I have a doubt concerning the arms length.
I would like to use the arms mainly for wide angle photos AND videos.
Do you think that "1x20cm arm + 1x30cm arm" on each side will be too long and not enough flexible?

Thank you for your help

1. Sony Nex 5N + 16mm Pancake + Fisheye or wide angle + Nauticam housing + 36125 E mount 4.33' fisheye port
2 and 3 : Dragonsub videolux (video lights)
4 and 5: Strobes: sea and sea YS-110A
6 and 7 : Nauticam double tray
8 and 9 : 2 Nauticam balls + 2 simple clamps
10 and 11 : 2 simple clamps
12 and 13 : 2 x multiple clamps + 2 sea and sea adapters + 2 Ultralight universal focus adapters
14 and 15 : 2 x 20 cm arms
16 and 17 : 2 x 30 cm arms
Extras : 2 x optic fiber in order to link the housing to the strobes

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#2 oosantoo



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Posted 29 February 2012 - 05:54 AM


I dont shoot video so can only talk about my experience with shooting photos...

Things to consider:

1 - the further away from the lens you set your strobes the less likely you will get backscatter

2 - the further away from the lens you set your strobes the more unbalanced your system will be

- for example looking t your diagram - if you would have only 1 arm linking from 8 to 10 and from 9 to 13 you would get the same type of light, the same likelihood of backscatter, less bulk and a better balanced system in the water

3 - as important as having the strobes far away from the lens is to have the strobes far away from the plane of the photo,in other words, positioned far behind the dome

4 - also important is using the edge of the beam of flash to illuminate the subject as opposed to pointing the flash pointed straight at the subject

5 - the more connections and arms (and the longer they are) the more wobbly it all be. that is ok underwater but if you try to do work at the surface you might find yourself in a wobbly nightmare

In conclusion, and depending on the type of light you want to produce:

1 - if I would want the strobes close to the dome (close focus wide angle), I would only use 1 short arm, maybe 10cm close to the dome slightly behind the dome

2 - If I would want the strobes far from the dome (bad visibility wide angle) I would use to long arms or maybe 1 extra long arm as far away from the dome as possible and about 10cm behind the focal plane

Hope it helps

Good luck

#3 Aquapaul


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Posted 29 February 2012 - 11:26 AM

I have 2- 5" or 13cm if you prefer on each side of my housing and as long as I remember to get my strobes behind my port they are plenty long enough for wide angle, I also shoot with 2- 110a's.

With the arms fully extended considering the 2 clamps on each side and the 45 degree dovetail mounts on the housing I have 15" or 38cm of extension.
So, my camera housing is about 12" or 30cm from handle to handle, add that all up and the whole rig is 42" or 106cm wide fully extended. I use the same set up for macro or wide angle. I have had 12" or 30cm arms and the whole thing becomes unwieldily.

This is all just my opinion but food for thought.

Good Luck
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#4 Timmoranuk


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Posted 29 February 2012 - 02:03 PM

IMHO all that you will need is a 5" / 8" arm combo for the purposes of stills and video. But... Also IMHO I think the combination does not double your creativity on a dive, it halves it. I ONLY shoot wide angle, or CFWA, or a macro / portrait combo, or video. When I shoot DSLR video, I use single 12" arms but I am shooting wide angle of mid-water subjects. I don't shoot CF or macro video so I'm not able to comment.

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#5 kalani



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Posted 01 March 2012 - 12:08 AM


First of all, thank you very much for your a dives and your help.

There is a topic in the lights' section : http://wetpixel.com/...t...=14131&st=0

It seems that 5" + 8" is effective.

In addition, I would like to give more details on the type of photos/videos i am interested in:
1. What I like the most is quite big animals : sharks, dolphins, mantas, whales, turtles...
2. Ambiance pictures
3. Macro is not my priority

I also read that strobes/video lights are not often used when shooting pelagics because : there are often too far away or/and there are often near the surface.

One last question which is off topic : when you shoot an animal (which is very close) with 2 strobes, is it dangerous for the animal's eyes? I mean, it's not pleasant to take a big flash in the eyes ;-)

Thanks again

#6 Puffer Fish

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 07:54 AM

Sea Nettle...nice questions.

There is a huge issue with lighting large animals with strobes...first because of distance and second because to get close and have the animal in the frame you need a really wide angle lens.

Those two issues mean than having long arms would require huge, really wide angle strobes.

To get good images of a large animal also requires fairly clear water, where back scatter is much less of a concern.

Using the 5"/8" arms puts the stobes out (with tray and connectors) around 20 + inches, and if one is trying to keep a 45 degree angle and is using most of the normal strobes, you can comfortably light up around 5- 6 feet in clear water (maybe a bit farther)...not much when thinking of a whale.

To shoot one 30 ft away would take arms of a stupid length, and strobes larger than a person.

Regarding shooting an animal with strobes, closer is actually better...as light loss thru water is exponential, so the farther away, the stronger the light needs to be in both directions.

Does it hurt them? I would guess it depends on the animal and how much extra light the strobes are adding. I've taken images of lots of creature over months and years and never seen any effect on them...but that would not mean every animal is uneffected. I can say for sure that Octopus, frog fish and several types of shrimp seem to be uneffected.

Edited by Puffer Fish, 01 March 2012 - 07:55 AM.

#7 kalani



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Posted 04 March 2012 - 08:29 AM

Thank you for your answer Puffer Fish.

So, for you the 5"/8" arms combination is a good idea but it's not effective for animals bigger that 6 feet (around 2 meters) ?

Concerning the effects of the strobes on animals, it is strange to have difficulties for finding informations...

#8 betti154


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Posted 04 March 2012 - 02:27 PM

I have dived with a similar config multiple times, though with a aquatica 7d, z240s and custom video lights. I've found 9+12" arms on each side annoying/difficult to use. Even single 12" on both sides is a pain.

Using 3 way clamps to hold my lights and strobes on each end makes strobe and light adjustments difficult, mostly because of the reduced space to move them. I also needed to tighten the clamps too much to take the weight of both strobe and light, so this made adjustments difficult too.

Even with stix float arms I've found the rig way too heavy. The additional weight of the strobes out wide does offer a stabilizing force though, which reduces wobbles.

Although not a hard rule, I aim to shoot only video or stills now and on configure my rig to suit. I use single 12" arms each side for video. I also found switching between stills and video mode distracting, with more time adjusting the rig back and forth rather than focusing on shooting.
Damien Siviero
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#9 stever


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Posted 04 March 2012 - 06:05 PM

i highly recommend Martin Edge's latest edition of The Underwater Photographer. He is not in favor of longer arms (and he's pretty much tried everything). He particularly makes the case that getting the strobes far away from the dome is neither required nor beneficial. i started out using double arms - 5 in and 8in and have ended up with single 5in or less on the right and 8 in on the left for wide and macro - sometimes going a bit longer for wide, but usually single arms

seems to me that large cumbersome arms and big flash are at odds with the NEX

in general, strobes are not very useful for large pelagics

#10 Puffer Fish

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Posted 04 March 2012 - 10:21 PM

Thank you for your answer Puffer Fish.

So, for you the 5"/8" arms combination is a good idea but it's not effective for animals bigger that 6 feet (around 2 meters) ?

Concerning the effects of the strobes on animals, it is strange to have difficulties for finding informations...

If you mean around 2 meters away, then yes. Flash coverage varies, as would where you have the center of the strobes pointed, so how big of an animal that would cover is pretty variable.

You will see a fair number of absolute opinions of what the "correct" strobe arms lengths should be, but like many things with shooting underwater, the conditions and type of water you shoot in, as well as what type of images you like make a difference.

If, for example, you dive in very clear water all the time, well you don't need long arms. If you dive in hazy water, a little distance helps and if you dive in terrible vis, removing any defuser and getting the strobes out to at least 45 degrees is really important (which can mean more that the standard 5"/8".

I have 3/5/8/12 inch arms and while I normally use the 5/8 combo, have used them all.

If all you are shooting is wide angle, in clear water, you may find that a single arms works.. would not recommend that for general underwater use.

Oddly, about one in of ten dives I have something that can not be lit without actually removing a strobe and holding in my hand. Assuming one can control their position without using their hands, it is kind of fun and it occurs to me that one dive I should just take all the images that way. It is surprising when you do that how many new lighting options come to mind.

Note: The last time was to get an image of a never before photographed deep reef scorpion fish. It was in a recess that the strobe arms made it impossible to get light to. I actually had to hold the strobe in front of and over the top of the camera, farther than the arms would go. The one before that was a leaf fish in a small ledge, where the strobe needed to be under the camera to get any light on it.

The neat part about this is that strobe arms don't cost that much, and regardless of what anyone says, you can try different setups and pick the one you like.

#11 Larry C

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 08:36 PM

I stink at wide angle, but according to Andy Sallmons (featured in current issue of Stephen Frink's Alert Diver magazine) the strobes need to be spaced from the camera at 1/2 the distance to the subject. How far from the subject do you typically shoot?

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