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  1. #751
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    Feb 2006
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    Lightbulb Shooting for results...

    Quote Originally Posted by DWessel View Post
    Now that's effort Don! But, with such a reflective surface, I'm surprised you chose to aim your lights at what appears to be close to a 90 degree angle. My thinking is that your lights at a shallow angle (i.e. nearly parallel with the train) would have given more effective and even lighting along the length of the train and eliminate areas of flash hot spots.
    Darin, with the limited number and the range of the lights... I felt what I needed were huge diffusion screens, soft boxes, or bounce card (big white drape) some one-hundred-plus feet long and hanging over the train on the third set of tracks (red arrows, on the right). Moving the engines on Track 3 could be a rather large request, requiring the use of another "yard" engine to move these assorted trains. They also had a look of some permanency, as much as they look "unmoved." I suspect it would probably would be easier to yank the entire "Zepher" out of the barn, into the daylight. (BTW: There are four sets of tracks in each of these train barns)

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    Some quick calculation for this bounce-card solution is 107" wide and 36' long Arctic White Seamless paper on rolls. I would have to recalculate the true length, but let's say, arguably, 200', provided that enough of the Zepher is exposed. That would be: 6 rolls of this stuff, at $48 a roll, or about $300 to cover the other train. Cha-ching! Now, bear in mind that the reflectivity (mirror-nature) of the Zepher, in the current photo, reveals these darker trains across from it. Once I make these opposing trains white with light, I suspect the Zepher's contrast will flatten out significantly... leaving it rather lacking any real detail.

    Another idea was to use more direct lights, run in a series, to provide a uniform line of illumination. Perhaps a series of 48" fluorescent bulbs, to provide uniform distribution of light, the entire length. The barn is not entirely a closed roof, but has a series of skylights along it, to provide illumination when the electric overhead lights are shut off, during the day. That introduces blue light, when mixed with fluorescent, or green looking light, when white-balanced for the daylight or flash.

    Again, this entire shoot was kind of a pleasant surprise when I got there. I fully expected the Zepher to be crowded out by the other engine and anticipated a different lighting combination, in the close quarters. I did not plan on having to use more strobe lights. Again, I could go back on Saturday and, once again, be facing an entirely different layout. I may be able to get a third and fourth set of Bowens strobes to do it, again, with my additional lighting stands. The problem is the enormous distribution of electrical power needed to get everything to operate. I have six 100' foot extensions, that should be enough. The six or eight Bowens strobes are fully adjustable, where the tinier Morris SLAVE strobes are not.

    The real pain (and I mean that in a physical toll - changing power settings and positioning of the lights is rather exhausting) is having to run back and forth, hundreds of feet away, setting up the reflective angles. I did not use 90-degree angles, but more of an away from the camera tilt (> 90-degrees), using the actual reflector bowl on the strobe to kind of block the direct lamp. I have limited light shaping, at this point, and if anything, this has been a terrific learning experience (cripes, I do have a few of those, don't I?).

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    Lighting it makes for some unique challenges, as all sort of hot spots show up, depending on the camera's position relative to the subject and the lighting. Just look at the door frame on the engine. It's on fire! With a subject this reflective, once the lighting is set, you are relatively "trapped" or "stuck" with the camera's position, unless you run back and readjust all the lights to correct for its change of position. Point being, minor corrections result in tremendous changes, here and there.

    As a solo photographer, I must say that at this point, I could truly appreciate the electronic Cyber Commander ratio controller working in concert with the Paul C. Buff E-640 "Einstein" flash heads. Admittedly, that's a pricey improvement to raw lighting control, but it could save some serious time with making those annoying power adjustments over the distances involved. Yes, yes... a light meter offers some idea of control, but you still have to make the adjustments... involving the lowering and raising of the strobe head to get to the power settings, also.

    Another approach, that I did not consider, was using the "ambient lighting" of the barn to expose the train, with a long shutter release (1-2-5-10-15-20-30 seconds). I have three 1000W "hot lights", but in retrospect, that just does not seem to be enough "uumph" to light the length of this thing. Again, we're into Tungsten light and white balance, making the sunlight in the overhead even more apparent. It seems more like a match in a coal mine, if you ask me.

    Then again, being even more "creative," doing a light paint effort of the machine, using a directed beam of light of some kind. I have a portable LED-sourced spot lamp. The big problem with those, of course, is repeatability. You tend to not get the same image twice. Then again, if you were to HDR merge the collection of resulting images (provided that you did not move the camera during their taking), you could wind up with some rather interesting results.

    As an added note: With the Museum closing down for the season, after this weekend, I suspect the trains might be re-packed in their respective barns, when I get there, on this coming Saturday. Again, that would only provide the original scenario I first shot two weeks ago. I mean, some days are just tougher than others. A more coordinated approach would be nice, but you would not believe the shoe-string budget they have this place running on. There is no way the $9.00 admission could support such a thing. Even if they had a hundred people each day... which I do not believe they do, that can't be making much of a dent.
    Last edited by DonSchap; 10-28-2011 at 05:02 PM.
    Don Schap - BFA, Digital Photography
    A Photographer Is Forever
    Look, I did not create the optical laws of the Universe ... I simply learned to deal with them.
    Remember: It is usually the GLASS, not the camera (except for moving to Full Frame), that gives you the most improvement in your photography.

    flickr & Sdi

  2. #752
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
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    i dont think you;ve lit these very well. i think a long exposure on a tripod would have been a far better bet. one things for sure though, that is a stunning looking train....and i have no interest in trains normally.
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  3. #753
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    Let there be... more lights!

    Well, through the kind assistance of the school's inventory, I was able to secure four more 500W Bowen strobes. They will SLAVE-trigger off, through their built-in cell windows, from my other four PW-triggered strobes. That means I have a total of eight variable strobes and two minor fixed strobes to work with, tomorrow. So, that's that. I have reached the limit of my portable sunshine. I'll round up the rest of my AC extensions and hope the fuses don't blow when I pull the shutter!

    The school's indulgence has come with a price: they want seriously good looking results from this. I am kind of getting anxious, myself, to be quite honest.

    The real difficulty, at this point, is how visibly accessible the "Zepher" will be when I arrive on Saturday. I mean (and I am totally serious about this), this is a true crap shoot. The condition of the barn, according to the person I spoke with today, is... undetermined. Which translates into... whatever will be... will be. I just cannot be pushing tons of locomotive out of my way. If only, eh?

    Charles Atlas, where are ya, son?

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    As a possible alternative, my instructing professor suggested I do a step-by-step (literally) horizontal panorama and just shoot the thing in a progressive series of overlapping images. Wouldn't that be fun? There is a minimum distance I would have to be away from the train, of course, due to its overall impressive height of 16-feet (5-meters). Probably would require some elevation and he also suggested the use of a fixed rail, to maintain the level and smooth progression to the shots. Well, let me get out my PVC pipe and joints and just build that solution.

    Oh, but if I were made of money.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rooz View Post
    i dont think you;ve lit these very well.
    Rooz, the shots above were simply test shots to illustrate the problem. I thought I wound up with something a little better with this one.

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    - Image is hot linked -

    Still, I agree... it needs some work, hence the return trip.
    Last edited by DonSchap; 10-28-2011 at 08:10 PM.
    Don Schap - BFA, Digital Photography
    A Photographer Is Forever
    Look, I did not create the optical laws of the Universe ... I simply learned to deal with them.
    Remember: It is usually the GLASS, not the camera (except for moving to Full Frame), that gives you the most improvement in your photography.

    flickr & Sdi

  4. #754
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
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    San Diego, CA
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    Don, there is no doubt the all chrome/stainless steel Zephyr is a tough subject to photograph under those tight indoor conditions. But, that's what separates the professionals from the amatures ... knowing how to light the subject the best way possible and when conditions do not allow for that, how to best adapt. The other thought I had was based on a recent article in Digital Photo Pro (I'm 90% sure that's where I read it) covering how an automobile product photographer approaches lighting the interior of a car to keep the blacks black and the chrome chrome without it becoming white. My recollection is that the blacks are lit with direct and angled flash while the lighting of chrome is done with a white card bounce. So, an alternative in your situation would have perhaps been flash away from the train into white foam core boards to bounce soft light back onto the train.
    Darin Wessel
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    What's next???

  5. #755
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    Darin,

    What you suggest sounds like the similar idea of using the 107" wide Arctic White paper roll, just smaller and much less portable.

    Big question: How much is 48" x 96" 1/4" thick foam core? Doing the math... it would require at least 50-pieces for a 200' uniform span. (I checked with a cardboard manufacturer, nearby... and the retail price for a carton of 25 is $660! We need 50! That's $1320... uh, not gonna happen!)

    Worse yet... what the heck do I do with all of that foam after I am done? Storage would be impractical. 50 x 1/4" ... 4" x 8" by over a foot thick. What a brick! I suppose it is doable, but would require significant consideration of the logistics. Wow...

    I mean the roll paper was about $50 a roll ... needing 6 rolls to provide 200' of reflection. That's only $300... so... still, too rich for a school shot. Okay, I can clearly demonstrate how to do it the WRONG WAY. LOL

    EDIT: Okay, looking at this further... Calumet Photographic has 32-yard (approximately 100-ft) rolls 140-inches wide Arctic White Seamless @ $174/roll. I could do 200' with two rolls of this stuff. Shipping the two rolls to Union, IL from the downtown Chicago warehouse is $150 and then, managing to get it all hung. (SHAKING HEAD)

    Photography... you gotta love it.

    EDIT2: Exploring all the options, without having to resort to masking the other train with "newsprint" level paper... the shorter seamless rolls would appear to be the proper and cheapest convenient solution. Managing a 36-foot stripe of 9-foot wide paper sounds enormously simpler than a 100-foot stripe of 12-foot wide paper. The retail store informed me that I could eliminate the shipping by dropping by the Chicago store's warehouse and taking it off the dock. Each of these 100' roll boxes weighs around 60lbs. and is 12 feet long. My truck might be able to handle that, but... having six of the smaller 9-foot long, 20 lbs rolls sounds, again, a little more manageable.

    Hmmm... it is still too "iffy" to bet on the results. I need to know the conditions at the train barn, first. Are those tracks still clear? It's tough when you cannot be two places at once and your communication is... effectively nonexistent. Yes, the fog of war.

    EDIT3: I called a friend, who has a number of "paint" tarps. The problem with these is that they are usually an off-white/light gray and of limited size, even if considered to be "large." I would need eight 25' x 12' tarps to make the 200' stretch... and someone actually having eight paint tarps at one time? I mean, that would be a stretch in its own right. Anyway, he went on to suggest... "white-colored plastic" and was checking into whether it would be available. It comes in 100' rolls, 12 feet wide and... it is darn near indestructible, unlike the perishable paper. I mean, I am not shooting it as a background... just using it as an illumination device, so what the heck?

    Okay... as always, compromise time. The concept seems sound enough, so I am sporting for a couple rolls of 100' long and 9' wide "Tyvek Homewrap." I plan to tape them together with white gaffer tape. I would have been happier with the 20' wide white stuff, but it is only available through "mail order" and I just do not have time for that. Timing is everything. I am planning on suspending the plastic drape from the train barn rafters with lightweight rope and tiny c-clamps. I am going to have to bring my extension ladder, to reach up into the 18-foot ceiling.

    One of the other questions I have been kicking around, concerning this image, is if a polarizing filter would help, considering the reflection aspects. I am planning on shooting a couple shots with and without it, just to see the effect it has.

    The tale continues... this one hearty field trip. Can you feel the excitement? That's okay, me neither.

    I mean, some people believe you can do this stuff FAST. Personally, I just don't want to wind up doing it... half-fast.
    Last edited by DonSchap; 10-28-2011 at 08:43 PM.
    Don Schap - BFA, Digital Photography
    A Photographer Is Forever
    Look, I did not create the optical laws of the Universe ... I simply learned to deal with them.
    Remember: It is usually the GLASS, not the camera (except for moving to Full Frame), that gives you the most improvement in your photography.

    flickr & Sdi

  6. #756
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    Thumbs up Lighting a train - a variation

    On Saturday, I went back to Train Barn 9... and found the track OPEN! -> Yes! (fist pump)

    I then went on a mission to try and communicate my need to clear more of the track adjacent to the Zepher. That effort was, in a word, unsuccessful. (You may interject my mental negative reaction to this, if you'd like). But, of course, being the pleasant and mild-mannered photography student, I simply thanked them for considering it and we went back to the barn to take a breath, calm my angst and consider what would take place, next.

    I broke down and bought the Tyvek "Homewrap" and with the assistance of a wonderfully helpful friend, hung it as a drape reflector from the rafters, in a 200' straight line. Just as a point of detailed information, the "Zepher" is 350-feet long. We paced it off. I only had 200' of drape, so, because that red train engine was still on the second track, we actually masked it with the Tyvek-drape, to prevent it from reflecting on the Zepher.

    Folks, hanging this drape took about an hour and half of concentrated ladder climbing, string routing, drape pulling. I then set up all the strobes. I used every light I had brought with me, eight Bowens strobes and the two splash SLAVE strobes for a touch of fill lighting. Another hour of light set-up and tweaking. By the time I was ready to take the first real shot, we were four hours into this shoot and definitely feeling it. I broke out the 12-24mm... sized it up and fired away, using a taller ladder and my 8-foot tall studio pole to hold the camera steady. I wanted several series of varied exposures and 2 f-stop HDR runs.

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    The above "working view" shot was taken with the TAMRON SP AF 14mm f/2.8 Aspherical IF

    Anyway. here is the image from the prior week, using the direct lighting from the strobes.

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    α850 - SIGMA 24-70mm f/2.8 DG EX IF HSM
    @ 26mm - f/16 - 1/125 sec. -/+ 2-steps - ISO-200 - Synchronized strobes (via PW) - HDR merge - Handheld!


    And here is the indirect lighting...

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    α850 w/ SIGMA 12-24mm f/4-5.6 DG EX
    @ 20mm - f/16 - 1/60 sec. -/+ 2-steps - ISO-800 - Fixed Monopod - Elevated platform - HDR - Indirect panel lighting - synchronized strobes (via PW and onboard flash trigger cells)


    This second effort took quadruple the amount of time that the first effort did... and I even had serious help, this time! There is a definite shift of improvement, in my evaluation of the shot. I am sure wider drape (we were limited to the nine-foot width of the Tyvek, could have solved it substantially better, but please consider that this truly was a learning experience with limited funds available. Also, acquiring wider material would have required better lead time to order it and have it shipped. Be sure that no one else is paying for this but moi!

    And, of course, as promised... the obligatory "ambient" lighting shot.

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    α850 w/ SIGMA 12-24mm f/4-5.6 DG EX
    @ 22mm - f/11 - 1.6 sec. - ISO-400 - Tripod - Ambient Lighting

    Last edited by DonSchap; 10-30-2011 at 10:07 PM.
    Don Schap - BFA, Digital Photography
    A Photographer Is Forever
    Look, I did not create the optical laws of the Universe ... I simply learned to deal with them.
    Remember: It is usually the GLASS, not the camera (except for moving to Full Frame), that gives you the most improvement in your photography.

    flickr & Sdi

  7. #757
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    Dec 2006
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    Wow. Look...10/10 for effort. In fact...screw that...11/10 !

    Im not convinced of the result though to be honest. Imho, the ambient shot is the one wirh most potential which is why i suggested it to begin with. Make a 3 shot hdr and your golden.

    I think the questions you need to be asking yourself before you use all those lights is..."why ?" Essentially people use lights for 2 reasons:

    1. There isnt enuf ambient light. Well in this case i think there is, you just need to use a longer exposure. And the subject matter allows that.
    2. To create some kind of dramatic effect that ambient light cant give you. And in this case you arent trying to do that. You're just trying to illuminate it.

    So logical reasons aside...there is a 3rd reason of course which is "cos i want to." and if thats the reason and you had fun doing it, then thats great.
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  8. #758
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    Lightbulb Take aways... an artist statement

    Over the past two years... a lot of lighting principles were demonstrated by others or performed by me, in an effort to see the effect. The "Family of Angles" is one of them, when trying to illuminate a highly reflective surface (metal or mirrored), but again... as you point out... you really don't know until you step up and try it for yourself.

    From beginning to end, this particular thread is a rather detailed explanation and illustration of what I, personally, have experienced. It has not always been fun. In fact, there have been torturous events involved. By being rather extreme, I have tested principles far beyond the standard fare the other students bring in. They simply do not make the reach to do much more than complete the assignment (sometimes) and they get what they get, a degree and someone else puts them through the "real life" ringer.

    Ambient lighting can be just fine, but you are left with what you find at the mercy of "whatever" illumination there is. If you are willing to accept that... then there you have it, a rather raw image, uncultivated and... well, as is. Walk up with your camera, snap the desired angle, and then walk away. It really does not require much more than that. The guy in front of you & behind you will, more than likely, lay claim to a similar shot.

    Now, from an educational standpoint, I don't really see the value of that kind of effort. By doing so, you have taken all your lighting options and, effectively, heaved them. Hey, it is definitely cheap, I will grant you that. You could probably call yourself a "photographic spectator." You know, a low-impact sort of "green" photography, I suppose.

    Personally, I desire more than that from my technical efforts. If it does not work out... I suppose you can drop back to the "as is" position and say that it proves or disproves a point. In this case, I wanted to add my "personal" touch to this normally immovable historical monument, which, in most cases, would be an "as is"-shot. I wanted to clearly demonstrate the variants that technique-lighting can provide and, perhaps, inspire others to step up and make their own efforts and improvements. Again, it may not always be as successful as we would care for... but, whatever it is... my friend, it is your image. You are the photographer. Make your mark.
    Last edited by DonSchap; 10-30-2011 at 07:55 AM.
    Don Schap - BFA, Digital Photography
    A Photographer Is Forever
    Look, I did not create the optical laws of the Universe ... I simply learned to deal with them.
    Remember: It is usually the GLASS, not the camera (except for moving to Full Frame), that gives you the most improvement in your photography.

    flickr & Sdi

  9. #759
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    Lightbulb Adding some style to the vanilla

    In regards to the "ambient" lighting variant... I took the below image and ran it through the RAW converter and made three JPEGs with 'daylight', 'fluorescent' and 'tungsten' White Balance settings. I then added them to the Automate HDR process of PS CS5, with a +/- 0.5 exposure to the fluorescent and daylight images allow the process to go forward. It does not like to merge things without some exposure variation. Out it came and I then added a little more contrast.

    There was a bit more red than desired, to it, so I used a color adjustment layer with settings of C/R -16, M/G +5 & Y/B +10

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    Now, my argument for "long exposure" is that the eye does not quite have this capability. This is a 1.6 second exposure, allowing the light and the colors to, you know, "soak in." In a way, it is artistry, also. Unfortunately, without touch up, the blacks kind of get washed out and it just does not look... well, the human eye does not do this.

    On the subject of "whacky" White Balance issues, the image below is straight out of the camera, from the "Steam Shop." It made me laugh.

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    a850 w/ SIGMA 12-24mm f/4-5.6 DG EX
    @ 24mm - 1/10 sec. - ISO-400 - ambient (Tungsten WB) - tripod
    Last edited by DonSchap; 10-30-2011 at 07:49 AM.
    Don Schap - BFA, Digital Photography
    A Photographer Is Forever
    Look, I did not create the optical laws of the Universe ... I simply learned to deal with them.
    Remember: It is usually the GLASS, not the camera (except for moving to Full Frame), that gives you the most improvement in your photography.

    flickr & Sdi

  10. #760
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    Art Direction... costs

    The Art Direction class has been one fiasco after another, in an effort to coordinate a show presentation of a design set of booklets (2 or more), a 7 x 9 container box for the booklets, a poster (18 x 24) and a third design of your own consideration.

    The entire class, for cost effectiveness, is being required to submit all their work by the end of the 6th week of the 11-week course. This allows the printer to provide a "group rate". The class is also completely responsible for providing for the entire show cost. In short, without the location (which was offered as "no-cost", it was looking like $5000 stretched across 26 students. We dropped the cost of the 120-pg magazine of the event, and saved about $2000. (Whew!)

    I am not sure how this is going to play with my ultimate effort, but I feel it has been rather pointless, expensive and just plain time-consuming. Hmmm, any points of value? Uh... probably not. It is a place to show my work... but, the work is not going to be in a format that I feel is conducive to properly demonstrate or present my photography that would offer much serious interest. So, no real promotional return on the bucks, as it were. Goodbye dollars...

    I guess, what I am saying is, not many photography students would miss this aspect of the curriculum.

    On the other hand, tonight I ran into a fan in one of the local grocery stories. She told me she was "delighted" by the work I had presented on-line with Flickr and Photobucket and gave me a big thumbs-up for the talent I showed. I told her: "I was not a product of the system, but a product that survived the system." LOL

    Anyway, it is nice to have your work sighted and positively supported. Kind of makes this Art Direction nonsense a little more tolerable.
    Last edited by DonSchap; 11-03-2011 at 04:42 PM.
    Don Schap - BFA, Digital Photography
    A Photographer Is Forever
    Look, I did not create the optical laws of the Universe ... I simply learned to deal with them.
    Remember: It is usually the GLASS, not the camera (except for moving to Full Frame), that gives you the most improvement in your photography.

    flickr & Sdi

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