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Thread: Let There Be Light

  1. #1
    Two23 Guest

    Default Let There Be Light

    I've long been toying with the idea of buying a few radio slaves and going after some night shots with my flash units. I always held off, partly because of the cost and partly because it's a lot of work. Now that it's getting dark earlier and the trains are only running at night on my busiest line (due to MoW work), I finally bought the stuff. I'll go into detail what I bought later.

    While I bought the radio slaves for use at night, yesterday I found a use for them in daytime too. They are very flexible. I used two to light up the inside of these plastic coils and one was used to light the train with a little fill flash. This is my first attempt at this shot and the light isn't as even as I wanted. I might have to shoot the lights into a reflector. I also might climb into the coils and shoot with a wider lens to get more of the engine. I think it's kind of an interesting shot so I will continue to work on it. It has to be done in morning because of light direction, and it's about 45 minutes from home in an area I don't cover for my sales job. I think it has promse though, so I'll keep fine tuning it. This was taken along the BNSF line in Sioux Center, IA, a county seat farming community.

    Nikon D80, Nikon 18-55mm,
    SB-25, SB-28, SB-800 flash
    Elinchrom Universal slaves
    tripod


    Kent in SD
    Last edited by Two23; 09-24-2007 at 12:39 AM. Reason: better photo

  2. #2
    Two23 Guest

    Default

    Here's a second shot. This was actually the very first shot I tried. I had three Nikon flash units firing at 1/2 power spaced about 8 feet apart on a concrete highway bridge that parallels the railroad bridge. Train was just picking up speed from being held in a siding. I used my Nikon 20mm f2.8 wide open, ISO 800. Since there was still some light in the sky, I set flash mode to slow sync, which was a mistake. Shutter speed was 2 seconds. When I reshoot, it will be at standard flash mode, shutter speed at 1/250 second. Considering this was the first shot I've taken with my new flash gear, I was actually happy. I mean, I got an image. I can fine tune it in the coming weeks. Plenty of traffic on that trestle and it's only half an hour from my house.

    Nikon D80, Nikon 20mm f2.8,
    SB-25, SB-28, SB-800
    Elinchrom Skyport universal radio slaves.

    So, how much does the gear cost to do these kinds of shots? I went with mid priced radio slaves and used the flash units I already owned. Here's what I think this simple three light set up costs:

    Radio slaves x4 $403
    Adapter cords x3 $ 50
    Adapter plugs x3 $ 10
    Recharge batt x12 $ 30
    Used SB-25 $ 80
    Used SB-28 $ 90
    New SB-800 $300

    Total: $963


    I didn't include the cost of fast lenses either. It's looking like I need lenses at least f1.8. I got away with the f2.8 lens here because the flash was relatively close to the train, maybe 50 feet. Despite the cost, this is a lot of fun! I think it has real potential. The cheaper SB-28 type flash would work just as well as the state of art SB-800 I have since they go on manual mode anyway. If bought used SB-25 from eBay, I think each additional complete flash will cost me about $240. For the capability that's a relative bargain.


    Kent in SD

  3. #3
    Youngwarrior Guest

    Default

    I like them, although I do agree the first shot would be better with a little less coil in the shot.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    close to Lake Ontario in Burlington, ON Canada
    Posts
    470

    Default Lighting the light

    Most impressive.

    Mind I thought the CSX unit was going to hit the tree!

    The coils are of irrigation pipe?
    Most interesting the colour of the coils themselves
    contrasting with the colour of the tie wraps for the coils.

    The train beyond and the tree are to me, distractions.

    The coil shot reminds me of an industrial publication
    illustrating a product in this case the coiled pipes.

    As to the image from the highway bridge.

    Roughly how far is the railway trestle from the highway bridge and the
    flash units? I would be concerned more about other automotive
    traffic on the bridge rather than what's over on the railway bridge.

    Was there any comment on the railway radio about the sudden flash
    of light on the side of the train?

    And finally, if i am to interpret your comment, the lower priced/power
    SB24/28 flash units are perhaps equivalent to the SB 800 in versatility.

    And, did you purchase your hardware locally or from a source
    distant from you ie some place in the Big Apple.

    Bryce Lee

  5. #5
    Two23 Guest

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bryce View Post
    Most impressive.

    1. The coils are of irrigation pipe?

    2. The train beyond and the tree are to me, distractions.

    3. Roughly how far is the railway trestle from the highway bridge and the
    flash units? I would be concerned more about other automotive
    traffic on the bridge rather than what's over on the railway bridge.

    4. Was there any comment on the railway radio about the sudden flash
    of light on the side of the train?

    5. And finally, if i am to interpret your comment, the lower priced/power
    SB24/28 flash units are perhaps equivalent to the SB 800 in versatility.

    6. And, did you purchase your hardware locally or from a source
    distant from you ie some place in the Big Apple.

    Bryce Lee

    1. I'm not real sure what they are. They are about six inches in diameter. I suspect they are rural water lines.

    2. Tree is too big for me to cut down and since it's right in town I'd be caught. The coils are too heavy to move without a forklift. So, unless I either clone it out or find some other coils with no tree, I'm stuck.

    3. I think it's about 50 feet. The highway is rural with light traffic, and it's very wide so it can accomodate combines with big corn heads. Flash points 90 degrees away from the highway, so I'm not concerned. I park right by where I set up and leave my parking lights on, and wear a reflective jacket.

    4. None. It was the Sioux Falls local and they know me anyway. They gave me a toot on the horn. If look closely, you will see the flash definitely lit up the inside of the cab though!

    5. The SB-25 & SB-28 have the same power rating as the SB-800. They are just older units designed for use with film cameras is all. They have a GN of 150 as I recall. That's clearly enough power for most of what I want to do. Flash were set at half power for this shot at that!

    6. The Elinchroms & cords came from B&H, the adapter plugs came from local store, Kodak rechargeable AA batteries came from Walmart, and I had the flash units already. The older ones from eBay and the SB-800 from B&H when I bought the D80 last fall.



    Kent in SD

  6. #6
    Two23 Guest

    Default

    I caught the Sioux Falls local slowly cruising over the old iron bridge at Garrettson, SD the other night. Train was moving less than 10 mph as it slowed for a switch. For this one I was on another small old stone bridge with the 3 flash units spread 8 feet. apart. Because of the distance, something like over 100 ft., I put the flash on full power and set the zooms to 35mm to better concentrate the flash. I used my Nikon 20mm f2.8 at f2.8. Shutter speed was 1/160, and ISO 800. The flash was just not quite strong enough to light things up really well, but I am basically happy with the shot. I used the straight flash mode for this, not slow sync etc. I think the shot would be better if I used something like a Sigma 28m f1.8 lens. There is a difference between f2.8 and f1.8 at this light level! I'm now watching for a 28mm f1.8 on eBay, used. I think I am making progress--this is from my second attempt on a moving train. I could try to see if I could put the flash up closer to the trestle on the hillside somewhere. I also had the thought of bringing my duck boat and paddling out and sticking the flash on poles out in the water. Heck, I could just go out in my waders. It's only a couple of feet deep. That would get the flash closer. A shot like this takes a ton of light. The area I lit up here is really pretty big. I will continue to fine tune over the weeks ahead. This is fun!


    Kent in SD
    Last edited by Two23; 09-26-2007 at 03:07 AM.

  7. #7
    Two23 Guest

    Default

    Here's a second shot of the same train as it began moving off, maybe at 3 mph. Flash heads were zoomed in to 85mm setting and concentrated on one area. ISO 800, 1/125 sec., f1.8. See what a difference concentrating 3 flash heads can make? Also, the f1.8 helped noticeably. This trestle is really pretty far away and the night is inky black out there. The flash even carried on into the background some. I would guess the flash would have some effect even to 120 ft. but I haven't tested it. Shots like this let me test the capabilities of the gear. I will put them to even harder tests in the future. I also want to know how far I can be when I fire the flash. I can be up on a hillside looking down and fire flash that are along the ROW.

    This wasn't bad considering it's my second time out, and the distance involved, is it?


    Kent in SD

  8. Default

    I'm not sure what happened in photo #1, but you have some weird stuff going on in the area that is not inside the pipe. Get carried away trying to fix stuff in Photoshop?

    Photo is OK, but you have some distortion from the lens that could be corrected in PS.

    I am liking number 3 quite a bit, even more so with one more light and a little sharper take on the engines.

    Number four shows what you can do by concentrating the light. Looks very good.

    Keep showing us the results as I'm interested on how this all may work out for you.
    Dan Schwanz
    POSTCARDS FROM THE GORGE Website update 12.26.09
    http://w3.gorge.net/schwanz

  9. #9
    Two23 Guest

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by E-21 View Post
    I am liking number 3 quite a bit, even more so with one more light and a little sharper take on the engines..

    One of the more difficult things is turning out to be focus. I set up in near total dark and often can't even tell if the camera is level! My old way of focussing with my 4x5 was to put a small flashlight in the part of the scene I wanted to focus on, but that's just not practical here. I don't want to be climbing up on the bridges in the dark to stick a flashlight on them. What I finally found that worked was to focus on the lit up track as the train approached. I also have a big 2 million candle spotlight I could start to bring. The problem with something like that is it attracts a lot of attention, something I don't always want to do in some of the places I plan to be. The plan is to set up, hunker down, take the shot, and scoot out of there! The other problem with the big spotlight is due to this time of year. If someone sees a really bright light being flashed around out in the middle of nowhere, the assumption is someone is out there shining deer and shooting them. Often the sherriff is advised to come check it out. Maybe I should be leaving my carbine home if I start doing that. In some states around here it's actually illegal to have both a big light and a rifle with you in the fall. Not sure what South Dakota or Minnesota law is about that.



    Kent in SD

  10. #10
    Two23 Guest

    Default

    One other thing I forgot to mention is that the fast aperatures of f1.8 and f2.8 give me the most use of the light, but the flip side is the DOF is very shallow and makes it even trickier to focus. This is one of the reasons I've picked spots a ways from the tracks, so I could come closer to useing infinity focus. This sort of thing is why I posted this thread under "techniques." I need to continue to take shots, analyze them, and then go back and refine.


    Kent in SD

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