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Alex_Mustard

Shooting stills with video lights or uw-flashlights

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I think that we can expect every DSLR and compact camera that is launched from this point on to have video and stills capability. And this lots of people are going to want to shoot both on each dive.

 

One way to achieve this is to use filters and shoot video in ambient light and to either shoot stills the same way or with flash, using the white balance to overcome the effect of the filter (as Mike V showed in 2005).

 

But this is not suitable for many subjects, many lenses (macro) and many dives. And understandably, many people are going to want to light things up. Now strobes are no use for video, obviously. So many people are going to think about shooting stills with video lights.

 

It is perfectly possible to shoot stills with video lights, but there are several limitations compared to strobes. Afterall strobes were designed specifically for stills shooting (continuous underwater lights were available long before strobes were - but people still wanted strobes). The main problem is the continuous nature of the lighting, which means that shutter speed can no longer be used to independently control ambient light relative to foreground. They also prohibit long exposures - where the near instantaneous flash of strobe light will render a subject sharp. In my experience continuous lighting shots need to be at least 1/60th ideally 1/125th to be reliably sharp.

 

There are other issues too - and it would be good to see others contributing what they have learned. I know a lot of compact users have shots stills with their diving torch or video light. It would be good to hear from them.

 

Most underwater stills shooters are not experienced with shooting stills with continuous lighting. I know that I am not. So I thought it would be interesting to start a discussion thread on the pros and cons of the techniques. Please post examples if you have them.

 

Alex

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Ongoing from the Turn Your Flashes Off thread:

Interestingly enough, shining a necessarily bright enough light at something from a close distance has a noticeable effect on animals in comparison to the use of a pulse of light. You only have to see the effect of a bright light during a night dive to confirm this. Don't worry about turning off your strobes. Turn off your super-bright lamps!

Edited by John Bantin

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Here are a couple of images I have taken with continuous lighting as the main foreground light source.

 

This one I have posted here before - shows a wonderpus lit with a powerful dive torch. The aim here was to use torch to create a spotlight effect - which I think worked.

 

LMB09_49.jpg

 

In the second example I had to use a torch to light the face of the shark, because I was not allowed to use flash. I agree with John that I personally think that a brief flash is less of a disturbance than shining a torch or video light at something for 10-20 seconds. But rules is rules. Anyway the torch worked fine, technically.

 

UK09_am-13489.jpg

 

In both cases the continuous lighting was not attached to my camera, but aimed by another diver. I do not own video lights (or indeed a powerful torch). Both were higher ISO shots and needed reasonably fast shutter speeds to ensure sharpness: occy - 1/160th, dotty - 1/125th.

 

Alex

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I own a couple of Fisheye FIX LED48 DX lamps which are easy to attach to ULCS arms with a Sea & Sea adapter. So far I have used only a single lamp for focusing but I have considered using a pair for macro illumination. They should be ideal as they have a dimmer and diffuser. But am I likely to perceive any advantages in use or results over a pair of Z-240's? It would be interesting to get some feedback on this as I'm flying to Sharm on Saturday.

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Hi Tim,

 

I think that we are relying more on you to shoot them and tell us.

 

A friend of mine shoots stills with a pair of the LED FIX lights - although I know one of his overheated (when he was using it for video) so is not now performing optimally. It is also worth considering that two of them is not exactly a cheap solution!

 

Alex

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Nobody disputes that these are lovely shots Alex. However, as rules become more apparent, the future of divers exhaling gases into the water causing precipitation and oxidation become more tenuous. Unless someone can money out of it, of course! For years I have met resistance to divers from fishermen who say we scare away THEIR fish. The fishing lobby is a lot more powerful than the scuba-diving community. Witness what has happened in the Galapagos.

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Hi Guys,

I remember an image posted by Ryan Canon a short time ago of his new/current rig where he uses both strobes and two Fix LED focus/video lights.

It seems to be a simple matter of choosing the correct lighting for the format, video/stills, being used?

I would also assume a very costly solution?

 

I'm sorry but I don't follow/understand John's posts as to the origional intent of this thread?

 

Bruce...

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Hi Guys,

I remember an image posted by Ryan Canon a short time ago of his new/current rig where he uses both strobes and two Fix LED focus/video lights.

It seems to be a simple matter of choosing the correct lighting for the format, video/stills, being used?

I would also assume a very costly solution?

 

I'm sorry but I don't follow/understand John's posts as to the origional intent of this thread?

 

Bruce...

 

Bruce

 

There are moves afoot in some areas to ban the use of strobes by underwater photographers. Continuous lighting exacerbates these people's perceived problem. There will always be a lobby to say that a particular group of people should not be doing something - usually driven by either ignorance or protectionism.

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Nobody disputes that these are lovely shots Alex. However, as rules become more apparent, the future of divers exhaling gases into the water causing precipitation and oxidation become more tenuous. Unless someone can money out of it, of course! For years I have met resistance to divers from fishermen who say we scare away THEIR fish. The fishing lobby is a lot more powerful than the scuba-diving community. Witness what has happened in the Galapagos.

Not sure why this is any different to folks shooting video with a videocam with lights? Nothing new.

 

Alex; my first thought would be to use the pilot lights of my Subtronics.

Edited by loftus

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I experimented with that before when I was travelling with my 200W HMI years ago. Obviously as you say, continuous light creates a few issues regarding motion blur. This can also occur with strobes if the camera is exposed to ambient and the strobe is used to However it can also allow you to shoot at higher shutter speeds to capture behaviour since you are limited to 1/200-1000(Lumix LX3) with modern cameras. Hard to freeze a scorpionfish/frogfish or even flounder strike without 1/2000 which lights allows you to shoot at.

In the end, it's another tool to have to get the shot you want.

A pity about the port jackson shark dive. I can understand their reasoning (not necessarily agree with it). A constant light the shark chooses to come close or not, with a strobe it has no choice and the encounter could end very quickly if it reacts badly to the strobes, which they sometimes (but rarely) do.

In the second example I had to use a torch to light the face of the shark, because I was not allowed to use flash. I agree with John that I personally think that a brief flash is less of a disturbance than shining a torch or video light at something for 10-20 seconds. But rules is rules. Anyway the torch worked fine, technically.

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Alex; my first thought would be to use the pilot lights of my Subtronics.

 

Sadly not even close to being powerful enough. Plus do not have a even spread of light to give an acceptable quality of light for illumination. In reality we are looking for continuous light sources that is 1/125th of a second give as much light as a strobe flash - with the same coverage. Otherwise we have to compromise depth of field, iso and balance with ambient light.

 

I have heard several people talk of using big video lights and high frame rates to photograph frogfish snaps, Drew. But not seen any shots. Did you manage any? It is certainly a good idea for getting images that strobes might not be fast enough for.

 

Alex

 

p.s. I'd like to try and keep this a technical discussion on the techniques, but will immediately break that by saying I was happy to go along with the non-strobes rule with the sharks in confined conditions.

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Hi Tim,

 

I think that we are relying more on you to shoot them and tell us.

 

A friend of mine shoots stills with a pair of the LED FIX lights - although I know one of his overheated (when he was using it for video) so is not now performing optimally. It is also worth considering that two of them is not exactly a cheap solution!

 

Alex

 

I think my major concerns are that I may have to push the ISO on my G9 into the 'noise zone' to be able to work with an acceptable shutter speed and small aperture and that the constant bright dual lights may cause the subject to shy away. I know this can happen if I haven't attentuated a focus light sufficiently. My gut feeling is that a dimmed focus lamp and a momentary flash is less intrusive...

 

Yup, two FX lamps wasn't cheap but one of them is, ostensibly, for my son. But they are cheaper than a pair of Z-240s!

 

I'll pack both and will report back, sometime after the 19th when we return.

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My gut feeling is that a dimmed focus lamp and a momentary flash is less intrusive...

 

 

You bet!

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I have heard several people talk of using big video lights and high frame rates to photograph frogfish snaps, Drew. But not seen any shots. Did you manage any? It is certainly a good idea for getting images that strobes might not be fast enough for.

The ones I've seen were done in tanks for 500fps cameras done in UCB (I think). The problem is finding the right frogfish in the wild to setup the camera and lights. I'll be trying it once I get back to normal life. I think now with the new 1000fps consumer cameras, it's so easy to do high fps with just normal video lights.

 

p.s. I'd like to try and keep this a technical discussion on the techniques, but will immediately break that by saying I was happy to go along with the non-strobes rule with the sharks in confined conditions.

Well no one else is listening to you anyways :D Where was that PJ taken? Off Sydney or Jervis Bay?

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The shark was in an aquarium. Hence the no flash rule. It is actually a young leopard/zebra shark.

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I have one of the Fix Halogen lights and think it would make a decent little video light for the 5D. I wish I had two now but alas, all I have is one, but I also have an older Sunray Mini-Mod (that still works!). I bet if I used the same bulbs in each (same color) I could do a decent test...

 

Cheers

James

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I have one of the Fix Halogen lights and think it would make a decent little video light for the 5D. I wish I had two now but alas, all I have is one, but I also have an older Sunray Mini-Mod (that still works!). I bet if I used the same bulbs in each (same color) I could do a decent test...

 

James, i have been using the kowalski 50W wide beam torch with the 5d mkII for a few weeks now shooting macro video using manual settings but of 1/60 and f11 and an automatic iso that adjusts up or down for the ambient light and i have been getting some great results with my 50mm macro lens.

The noise levels on the new 5d are so low even in the 1600 iso range that it is barely noticable and it enables me to shoot video of the subjecrt and then quickly take a few shots of it without readjusting my equipment, works pretty well when i a subject starts doing something unusual and you want photos and video without disturbing your subject anymore than you have already. To be honest the iso rarely dips below the 800 mark on macro so the shots stay very sharp and noise free. I tried using 2 kowalskis but it's too much for both the subject and me.

i agree with the strobe quick flash against the long torch beam being less intrusive also and if there was a way to get the shots without light at all i would.

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I mounted my Fisheye LED48 DX's in place of my Z-240s for a night dive. Within a few seconds of settling on a subject any shot was ruined by the plankton swarm that was attracted by the lights. Otherwise I found I had to use the lamps on full power and my G9 on a high ISO, a large aperture and very slow shutter. Pretty quickly I abandoned the project and switched to shooting backlit shots of lions using a single YS-25 mounted on a long (2 x 12" ULCS) forward reaching arm.

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