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Alex_Mustard

Slave strobes, off camera

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For the last couple of years I have been dabbling increasingly with using slave strobes off camera, for various lighting effects. At times it has been quite challenging, mainly because of the lack of information on using them creatively in open water (as opposed to in caves). Very little has been written, which is surprising as this is certainly not a new technique.

 

Anyway, I finally feel I am beginning to get my head round the technique, learning which effects work best, how to create them (strobe positioning and power) and recognising occasions and opportunities when slave strobes will contribute something beneficial. Perhaps one of the hardest problems to solve is getting the slave senor off the strobe - which is essential if you are to hide the strobe from view and therefore have the light, but not the source, visible in the shot. Many strobes have built in slave sensors but these are on the strobes meaning the slave strobe cannot be hidden well.

 

I am still working on a reliable solution to this - as I have found the existing UW slave sensors troublesome. I have also had difficulty tracking down long strobe cables - as an alternate firing solution.

 

Any help on these issues gratefully received.

 

That said I have been pleased with the results I am getting and I am now really confident that there is a lot more to come. Here is a selection of the shots I have produced:

 

VW Beetle (3 slaves inside - one trigger, two main ones; + 2 strobes on camera):

slaves_01.jpg

 

Crinoid Backlighting (1 strobe behind, one on camera):

slaves_02.jpg

 

Truck on Thistlegorm (1 strobe in truck, two on camera):

slaves_03.jpg

 

Fish school on reef (1 strobe under school, two on camera):

slaves_04.jpg

 

Alex

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Here are some backlighting examples with fill - taken in very low visibility (about 1m or 3ft):

 

John Dory x2 (Single strobe backlight, 2x strobes front light):

slaves_05.jpgslaves_06.jpg

 

Boat - this one shows one of the strobes clearly, but actually this strobe is not contributing much lighting as it was aimed at the camera, light in the boat is from 2 other strobes with a separate trigger. This is 6 strobes in total (although I could have triggered it with single on camera strobe, instead of two).

slaves_07.jpg

 

Off camera strobes lighting diver entering plane wreck:

slaves_08.jpg

 

This is a frame when the slaves did not fire - which shows what the off camera strobes are lighting in the previous shot:

slaves_09.jpg

 

And finally, here is a picture of me from the dive above (which shows the poor visibility and also that these shots require quite a bit of kit transporting around the dive site):

slaves_10.jpg

 

Strobes are 2x Inons Z240 on my D700. 2x Subtronic Alpha slaves and 1x YS30 slave - attached to the remote slave trigger by a cable. This show also shows how poor the viz was - and how effective the off camera slaves are for overcoming it.

 

Alex

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Some pretty eerie stuff cowboy!

I generally like the theatrical effect more with the wreck stuff then I do with the coral and fish stuff.

Ryan should be able to make up long cables for you Alex.

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The wreck shots are spectacular. The effect created in general is dramatic and I like it a lot.

 

The schooling fish in the reef is a shot that really makes me wonder how it would have looked had you lit up the corals...it just looks like there are all these great colors waiting to come out!

 

Great shots as always!

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Hi Alex!

 

I was allready very impressed when I saw You'r wreck and beetle shot in England 2009 posting. Now it just keeps getting better, when we have some inside info how You actually made them.

Thanks alot for sharing this - certainly makeing some ideas running around in my head :blush:

 

I think the crinoid shot is great!

 

Cheers

Karel

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Nice work.

I've started fiddling with symilar myself a couple of months ago but sadly still nothing worth sharing.

 

I like the idea of bringing subjects that would be out of normal light range into the shot as has been done with the diver entering the plane.

 

Currently using 2x DS125's on Ikelite optical trigger / manual controller and then 1x DS160 on a 15 foot cable as master and trigger.

Normally also using a with a tripod to lock the composition while I set the shot up and allow slower shutter speed for more ambient contribution.

 

How are you mounting / positioning your strobes ?

At the moment I am using a barstad combination of a cut up arm with ball joint on strobe end and then a gorilar pod, plastic clamp and length of bungey "Heath Robinsoned" on the other.

Works better than it sounds as I can either stand, clamp or tie the strobe and still direct it and point the slave eye independantly.

 

This is definatly team photgraphy as need assistant to help rig it all (and a yellow box helps the bottom times to get the set up done).

 

p.s. Been looking at Joe McNally or David Hobby for insperation perhaps ?

 

Cheers,

Richard B.

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Thanks for the feedback, all, both positive and negative. As Richard points out, this is not an easy technique to get working and because the images are such a challenge to produce (compared to a normal UW photo) it is difficult to look at them objectively.

 

I tend to agree that the technique works best on the wrecks (although I like the marine life images here). I plan to set up the "diver entering plane" show again in the caverns of Grand Cayman on my workshops in Jan for everyone to try, which I think ill work well (not marine life, but scenery). I am pleased with the John Dory shots, because all pictures off this fish always look the same and it is nice to have something different with the transparency. Also the backlighting was the only way to get something useful in the conditions I took those in.

 

Thanks for the tips on strobe positioning, Richard. It is a real pain. I want to try a gorillapod - have one on order - but don't know how the buoyancy will affect its stability underwater.

 

I have yet to find a slave sensor I am happy with - but I am attempting to house some that seem more resistant to ambient light than the UW ones I have tried. I have not tried the Ikelite one. I'd like to get some long cables too.

 

Alex

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I have yet to find a slave sensor I am happy with - but I am attempting to house some that seem more resistant to ambient light than the UW ones I have tried. I have not tried the Ikelite one. I'd like to get some long cables too.

 

Alex

 

Speak to Kevin at Aquaphot - he made my 10m strobe lead. Not cheap, but very reliable (both the lead and Kevin!).

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Fantastic work Alex. I particularly like the crinoid shot and the Vobster plane which is unachievable without remote slaves.

 

Looking forward to experimenting in Caymen (although I'm not going to bring 6 strobes :eek: )

 

Tim

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I still don't understand that none of the manufacturers has invented a system of wireless control. Both audio and radio work good underwater and is fast enough for strobetriggering. No more synccords, just a little antenna in the bulkhead. Wouldn't that be nice?

Studiophotographers have this system already for decads..

 

BTW for the future: this idea is now copyright Kees

Edited by DuikKees

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We were playing with the same idea for a little bit. (Inon’s type 4 are much easier to control from a distance.)

 

slave_tst1.jpg

slave_tst2.jpg

Edited by maxtom

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Well-timed thread Alex! I took this week's winning shot (thank you all for the votes! ;) ), 'I've got the power' (one must think of the snappy tune :blush: ), with slaved strobes.

 

I agree on both the cord and sensor issues. In this case I had the strobes mounted on studio light stands (don't try this in seawater) and was careful to have a line of sight between the sensors and front of the main strobe, which was centered above the housing (in order to illuminate right in front of the FE lens). Whatever background you see under water as well as the green leaves of the trees overhanging the site above the water were due to the slaved strobes. Without them, there would have been just a few specks where light was coming through the leaves.

 

I have done other shots where I have held a slaved strobe pointed at the camera (my other hand had the remote release). It is VERY easy to get lens flare this way! One also gets retinal after-burn. However, it does light up the background well. See attached pic of a female coho salmon digging her nest. The background would have been virtually black without the slaved light.

 

Ike makes an extension synch cord but only for their strobes. It is amazing that no one, to my knowledge, has made a Nikonos-Nikonos extension cord (male connector on one end a female connector on the other).

Tom

post-3540-1258001046.jpg

Edited by Tom_Kline

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OK, I went browsing through my collection of jpegs and found this technique shot. It was taken 2 weeks before 'I've got the power!' so the setup is not identical. I replaced the Inons with a S&S and added a diffuser to the Seacam strobe. The location is within a few meters of where 'I've got the power!' was taken. The arm holding the S&S strobe is positioned so that the slave, which is next to the strobe mount, is facing the housing. The Inon's are bolted directly to an Al L-bracket so that the row of sensors are in front of the bracket and have a clear sight towards the housing.

Tom

post-3540-1258000096.jpg

Edited by Tom_Kline

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@ Kees, I looked at acoustic strobe triggers, but there was nothing for UW use off the shelf in my price range. Ryan Canon also commented that it would certainly be audible to divers/marine life and could have a negative impact. We didn't go any further with it. If you can make one for 100-150 Euros I think it would be popular.

 

@ Maxtom, very atmospheric. I like them both. The reason for the need for strobe sensors and cable is so that the slave can be in front of the camera, but hidden from view. If you use the on strobe slaves then the slave strobe cannot be well hidden from the camera - creating a light without an obvious source.

 

Thanks for posting the setup, Tom. That is fascinating. It really makes it look like the sun is shining and gives the image tremendous depth. Very cool. Shows how much work goes into your images. I am mightly jealous of your strobe collection too. I only have 2 strobes less than a decade old. Makes me realise I need to invest in some lighting. The Seacam 150 (Kurt Amsler edition, of course) is such a nice strobe.

 

Alex

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At the moment I am using a barstad combination of a cut up arm with ball joint on strobe end and then a gorilar pod, plastic clamp and length of bungey "Heath Robinsoned" on the other.

Works better than it sounds as I can either stand, clamp or tie the strobe and still direct it and point the slave eye independantly.

 

Got my gorillapods now, Richard. They are great on land, but I am concerned how they will perform underwater when the centre of gravity will be higher (heavy strobe above a light tripod). How have you found this?

 

Alex

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I have a 4m N5 extension cord I was going to use for the third strobe for off camera stuff but didn't get much time to play with it. Subtronic made it for me.

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Got my gorillapods now, Richard. They are great on land, but I am concerned how they will perform underwater when the centre of gravity will be higher (heavy strobe above a light tripod). How have you found this?

 

Alex

I've found using these underwater a lot more tricky than topside, used it when messing with HDR underwater.

One has to have enough weight of the rig for stability, particularly if there is any current or surge, but not too much weight so that the arms lose their stability / rigidity.

I have gone to using the UCLS arms with the triple connector as a tripod, not as fexible of course, but more rigid.

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I have a 4m N5 extension cord I was going to use for the third strobe for off camera stuff but didn't get much time to play with it. Subtronic made it for me.

 

A good source, Drew. Thanks. I am likely to use the Subtronics as my of camera strobes and because of their low trigger voltage they do not power all of the external slave sensors available. Although the Subtronic cable might be out of my price range.

 

I've found using these underwater a lot more tricky than topside, used it when messing with HDR underwater.

One has to have enough weight of the rig for stability, particularly if there is any current or surge, but not too much weight so that the arms lose their stability / rigidity.

 

Thanks for the advice and info, Jeff.

Gorillapod have a "new" version (it says new in the blurb where I bought it, but I don't know how new new is!) out which is rated for 6.6lb, which should be plenty for a strobe. It supports the Subtronics fine in air. So I am only really worried about centre of gravity and toppling over in the water. I think that the flexible arms will be very useful in wrecks for securing the slaves.

 

Alex

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This is a great thread as using slaves is something I want to try on our wrecks here in the Great Lakes. Would a Nikonos SB-105 make a decent slave unit? You can find them pretty cheap it seems. I'm also going to head into our studio and start looking at background light stands to see if I could use something like that underwater. I have Bogen Magic Arms but don't think it'd be cool to clamp a strobe to a 150 year old wooden wreck. :-) I'll be interested to hear how the Gorilla Pod works.

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Thanks for posting the setup, Tom. That is fascinating. It really makes it look like the sun is shining and gives the image tremendous depth. Very cool. Shows how much work goes into your images. I am mightly jealous of your strobe collection too. I only have 2 strobes less than a decade old. Makes me realise I need to invest in some lighting. The Seacam 150 (Kurt Amsler edition, of course) is such a nice strobe.

 

Alex

 

 

Thanks Alex, trying to make the lighting look more natural has been one of my objectives. There are too few sunny summer days here. :blush:

 

Ten years ago, and less as well, I was using Ike SS200's as my main strobe. Have done a lot of adjustment since going digital. The D2X is the newest camera that I use under water. A bigger strobe is a partial compensation over upgrading. ;)

 

What is a Kurt Amsler edition?

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What is a Kurt Amsler edition?

 

Although Harald designs and builds all the Seacam products, Kurt provides the photographic input to their whole range. The Seacam Seaflash 150 was really his baby, his perfect strobe. There is an edition of the strobe called the Kurt Amsler edition (which is the fully manual version - and has Kurt's signature on the side). I chatted with Kurt recently for my "A Conversation With" series and one thing we spoke about his work with Seacam and the detailed input his photographic experience has into their products. That interview will be out at the end of the year, it is a great read/listen.

 

Alex

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Thank you all for sharing your experience with remote slave strobes. I have been planning to try some creative lighting as well.

 

If I get you right you typically use long (electrical) cable for triggering the primary slave, and if there are several secondary slaves, they are triggered optically off the primary, right?

 

I am looking to try to remotely trigger the flash optically (I plan to use a YS110 strobe initially), so I would be great to hear your experiences from different brands of slave sensors.

 

 

So far I have considered the Heinrichsweikamp [1] slave strobe addition. Bu also, a mate into cave photography recommended Firefly [2]. I have been in contact with Firefly and they can make a variant of their slave sensor sensitive to visible light at about the same cost as their ordinary surface model (the attenuation of IR in water is too high)

 

What sort of range have people here achieved with optical sensors? And have anyone tried really long optical fibers for triggering?

 

 

Cheers

OS

 

[1] http://www.heinrichsweikamp.net/#/en/rsu/

[2] http://www.fireflyelectronics.co.uk/pages/info.htm#BF1SPEC

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It is great to see lots of interest in this/these techniques. I think in the good old days we used to do much more off camera strobing - because of small Nikonos cameras (easy to shoot with one hand) and the fact that strobe arms were crap. So you hand held your strobe for most shots, which led to lots of more unusual images.

 

I took this nurse shark when I was 17 (a couple of years ago, then). Nik V + 15mm + SB102 (hand held):

off_camera_11.jpg

 

@ Oskar,

 

For me I tend to use on camera strobes on normal cables as the trigger. Then I have a dedicated trigger strobe off camera. Partly because the german made Heinrichs RSU does not work with my german made strobes. But this also means that you can set up the off camera trigger strobe to set the others off and then positioning the main off camera strobe or strobes more freely. The off camera trigger strobe is the one connected the RSU.

 

I have tried both Heinrichs and Firefly in underwater testing. The Heinrichs one is designed for underwater use. The Firefly ones are not waterproof. Also the Heinrichs has connectors that will plug straight into you existing strobe cables (assuming you are not using fibre optics). I am not sure how you would trigger fibre optic strobes remotely?. However, the Firefly units do seem more resistant to ambient light levels than the RSU (although the UW tests were with an old design Firefly). I hope to soon test (when they are waterproofed and have UW strobe connectors) two different systems made by Firefly. When I have I will post my results and share my recommendations here.

 

Alex

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