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Ben M

What to get for caves? Strobe, lights, other?

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Hi gang,

 

I'm a cave diver and have recently started taking underwater photos of my environment. The only available light is what I bring with me, but I am usually working in very clear water. I knew I was going to need more light but I wanted to start simple to get the hang of things, so I started with 2 DS 160s mounted to my housing. I'm happy with what I am able to do in small spaces but as the room/space gets larger I just don't have enough light. I'm starting my homework to determine what my next series of purchases should be. Eventually I'd like to light some fairly large rooms but I will probably slowly grow into it rather than get everything at once, but need a plan on how to get there.

 

I was thinking about getting another pair of 160s with the manual controller from Ikelite, but wanted to get some suggestions. I know a couple of diver mounted or well placed strobes will dramatically increase what I can do right now, but I see that approach maybe being more limited as I get into larger spaces and need to setup light in more than a couple of locations to get the coverage. Would a large diver carried video light be more beneficial? For those that are setting up lighting for their shots, is there much setup time once you get the hang of things or can you do this fairly efficiently? Do strobes/lights of different temperatures create problems or should I try and get the same temp strobes for everything?

 

Any suggestions or comments would be appreciated.

 

 

Ben

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How about 250W strobes like the S&S? They give at least 1 stop more light and a little more in price as the DS160. Then there's the big mother 625W Hartenbergers.

 

You can also have little flash like Inon S2000 which fire optically for different looks.

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I have been taking some images in the cenotes of Mexico over the last weeks. Some of them can be found at this location: http://gallery.me.com/marius.froisland#gallery They are sorted under sub albums one fore each cenote.

I'm using a Canon 7D with 2x Inon z240. I'm new to this out fit so I'm probably not using it to its fullest. But it should give a impression of how much light the z240 provides. The images are mostly taken in the cavern zone, or just inside the cave zone as my cave instructor didn't want me bringing the camera into the cave. But that is all going to change tomorrow when I reach 25 cave dives and are allowed to bring it all the way in.

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I've got some experience shooting in caves and wrecks. I've a few image online at http://damiensiviero.com/Collections.aspx (goto the technical gallery and scroll to the right on the thumbs).

 

My experience has been that you need to think about strobe placement to get more depth to the shot. Light bounces all over the place so it's easy to get a flat image. On my Florida trip last year I used 2xDS125s, one on camera and one off. The off camera one was rigged with an Ike manual controller which seem to do the triggering job really well (ie. they're plenty sensitive enough even from 15-20m away). I put the strobe on a 9+12" arm and rigged it like a sling, allowing the model to handle it as such during transport. They also allow you to hide the strobe from the shot but still expose the sensor (e.g. strobe behind/infront of dive with sensor exposed).

 

I've been thinking about cave photography a fair bit since I'm doing Florida/Bahamas later this year. I did find that the single on camera DS125 did not have enough coverage to handle the FOV of the Tokina 10-17mm (no surprising really). In tight quarters, bedrock, etc... it was ok, but for open rooms two on camera strobes will be required. On my new 7D setup I expect I will move to 2xz240s on camera and 1-2 DS125s off (depending on the dive).

 

Of all the shooting scenarios I've been in I'd put cave photography (and I mean deep pens, not cavern zone) up there as the hardest. Handling the rig through restrictions is tough, but shooting and co-ordinating with any models is even harder; and all this whilst maintaining bouyancy, line reference, etc... Definately speak to your model/s beforehand, though I found once they'd seen photos of them doing stuff wrong (e.g. bad strobe placement) they got really good at it. We tried to setup hand signals for various communication, but since I hand held canister light off hand signals (and indeed my whole body) was hard/impossible for them to see. I've wondered if a hand mounted chemcial light might allow me to signal to them.

 

These are only my experiences though I'd me interested to hear anything that helps me out.

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Thanks for the comments guys.

 

Damien,

 

Nice shots. I especially like the one of the big tunnel in Springboard. That's a great cave and I'd like to get a well lit photo of the big room room one of these days. Your 2 smaller lights did better than I am doing with 2 mounted on the camera. That's even more of a push for me to get some slaves set up right away. I have the cave diving down, it's what I do and for now I'm only shooting in caves I know extremely well to make things easier on myself. Carrying the gear has not been a problem. The photography part on the other hand is brand new to me. This is my first go at it and the learning process is like drinking from a firehose.

 

When I am shooting I have a small mask light for me to check gauges and what not. I turn off and store my primary light. I use an adjustable modelling light attached to my housing and if I need to grab a helper's attention, they know if I turn the modelling light to strobe mode, that I am trying to signal them.

 

Here's a couple shots I took this past weekend in Jackson Blue. I'm using a 7D in an Aquatica housing with the Tokina 10-17 FE and 2 camera mounted DS160s. I like them considering I've only been doing this for one month, but know there is lots of room for improvement. I can get good lighting in small spaces (maybe too hot) but the bigger spaces I don't have enough light in the right places.

 

IMG_4475-2.jpg

 

 

IMG_4476-3.jpg

 

 

If you come back to the Marianna area, ask Edd for me. I am a local and would love to chat with you at the very least if not dive get in a dive or two.

 

Ben

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Ben,

 

Shots look good, though as you say a little hot in the foreground and dark in the back. I think this might be the result of two powerful on camera strobes. I suggest getting one off camera, as both of the above shots would have turned out much better with light behind your model. It'd give depth to the shot and balance out the exposure.

 

I'll shoot you a PM regarding the trip in September. I don't have any firm plans for Florida at this stage, though getting back to Mariana is highly desirable.

 

Damien

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Hi this is my first post my name is Jack I'm a cave diver also this works for most people. One or two strobes with remote sensors one for your buddy to carry to point at the wall behind him or hid one behind a rock lighting the back wall.

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This is something I have been interested in for a while, although I have not been able to get up to cave country enough. Some shots from when I was last there can be found here: Peacock Springs Shots

 

My model carried an diffused Inon S-2000 in her hand along with her primary light. The nice thing about the cave environment is it's so dark, it doesn't take much light to trigger your remote strobe, and the remote strobe can be far away. Ultimately, I'd like to get a string of 2-3 or even 4 divers each with an S-2000.

 

I tried it later with the model carrying a FIX LED1000, and it just didn't provide enough light. We also tried it with a Z240, but no diffuser, and it seemed like too much light. It was creating a hot "cone" off the strobe. You can see this to some degree in some of the shots even with the S-2000.

 

I would keep the strobes all the same temp.

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Tony, two questions?

 

I tried it later with the model carrying a FIX LED1000, and it just didn't provide enough light.

 

I presume you're referring to a Fisheye LED 1000DX here. How indequate was it? I ask as I'm hoping to shoot some DSLR video in florida/bahamas and am considering buying 2 x 1000DX lights for modelling and video work. I'm wondering if you can speculate what exposure would be like using a 1000DX 1/30th @ f/3.5 (say maybe ISO400). I know this is a tough question, so I"m just trying to gauge whether your tests resulted in a black exposure or just one that was under exposed by a stop or two.

 

I would keep the strobes all the same temp.

 

I've always wondered if colour temp would be a major issue with off camera lighting, particularly as the distance in between strobes and camera grew. Does anyone have any experience either way with this? I'm considering using 2 x DS125s off camera with 2 x z240s on camera. I know there is a ~800-1000K difference between these strobes but I've been wondering whether this would practically be an issue given the potential distance between on/off camera strobes.

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Found some cavers........excellent.

 

Tony, what strobe(s) did you have on your housing for those shots? The model carried s-2000 makes a big difference. How do you trigger these lights? Does the model have to point the rear of the unit back towards the camera? I assume this makes it impossible to hide the strobe from the camera. I like the manual controller than Ikelight uses, but see advantages to not having seperate components and cables.

 

Damien, Yes, I've seen how much remote strobes can add. Instead of removing 1 from my current setup I'm going to add and leave the 2 I have on the housing alone. Seems the best way I can keep backscatter out my shots is to position them at large angles so I'd only light half of the frame if I dropped one, but I'll give it a try. I need to get a manual controller to test it though.

 

I use the Fisheye LED 1000DX for my focus light in caves. As I mentioned before I use this instead of my primary, which is stored, when I am shooting. I haven't tried to take any video but I need to give that a try. I'll try and remember to test this the next time I'm in the water, but it may be a couple of weeks until I get the camera back in the water as I have some other things going on.

 

I've seen photos where the temps were mixes. You can definately tell, but these were large differences. I'm not sure you would pick up smaller differences as much or at all, other than knowing it was a different light source. I wasn't sure if that was frowned on or not.

 

Ben

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Slaves. You need slaves for cave photography.

 

Mount a backwards-pointing slave stobe between the cylinders of your dive buddy.

 

If there are three of you, the third person can carry a hand-held slave pointed in the appropriate direction.

 

It is difficult to get good cave photographs without a slave.

Edited by harrym

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How about 250W strobes like the S&S? They give at least 1 stop more light and a little more in price as the DS160. Then there's the big mother 625W Hartenbergers.

 

You can also have little flash like Inon S2000 which fire optically for different looks.

 

I think it depends what look you are trying to acheive.

 

I use a pair of YS-250s and they put out a lot of light (almost never use them full power) BUT they give a range of images you can reasonably capture where the diver is relatively close to the camera.

 

 

Remote strobes open up new techniques where you can illuminate things much further from camera without blowing out the foreground

 

EDIT:

Here was what I could achieve with just onboard strobes.

 

Cave Shots onboard

Edited by limeyx

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