Night Wilderness Photography- Thower-ish Flood recommendations?

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Yooperlights
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Night Wilderness Photography- Thower-ish Flood recommendations?

I guess I like to shoot… sometimes guns, sometimes cameras. At any rate, one of my new art projects is doing wilderness photography in the dead of night. I am lucky enough to live in a place where I can be deep in the woods within 10 minutes of my house. I’ve found that using artificial lighting can open up all sorts of new possibilities for images, and now I’m looking for better options.

I’ve been using an oddball assortment of headlamps and random battery-powered rechargeable work/utility lights. I basically want to be able to light a whole landscape scene (not like open prairie, more deep woods and hills) from a couple of angles. The more powerful headlamps/flashlights I have are pretty focused beams, and the work lights don’t have enough throw to properly light something at a bit of distance. I’d guess that my “long range” for this stuff is about a hundred yards, sometimes half that, sometimes a bit over.

In an older thread here, I found mention of these things: https://www.nealsgadgets.com/products/nightwatch-nsx3-led-flashlight?var...

That seems like a great starting point, but I would need to boost throw somehow, work in some sort of reflector. But instead of reinventing the wheel, is there something “off the shelf” that might work for my application? A non-spotty throwerish flood? Any thoughts welcome.

goshdogit
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I enjoy night hiking and photography, so your project combining the two sounds like fun!

Lighting a scene from 100 yards away will require a lot of light.

Would your subjects work with ‘light painting’ techniques?

Do you mean you want several light sources coming from different positions in the same photo? Rather than using flashlights, you might consider a long exposure while walking around firing off some high-powered portable strobes.

You could also experiment with combining multiple exposures of the same scene lit from different angles.

My biggest floody thrower is the ThruNite TN40S, about 4400 lumens. If money was no object, I’d suggest the BLF GT4. It can sustain 20,000+ lumens until the batteries go dead!

Yooperlights
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Love that someone else finds it interesting!

Crazy as it sounds, I’m basically trying to light the natural world the same way you would light a studio shoot. I try to set up two or three light sources from different angles. The long exposure/multiple strobe shots thing isn’t what I have in mind, basically because: What I’ve been finding is that if I can light the “main scene” well, background clutter falls away. It’s giving me a way to accentuate things that get lost in the daylight. Whatever I can coat in adequate light is what ends up in the image… anything else falls into blackness. It’s kinda awesome, though also a new experiment.

Money plays a role unfortunately. But also, I have a couple of pretty good thrower lights, but the images end up about as you’d expect… washed out in the beam, pitch black outside the beam. Trying to find a more balanced light that has a bit of reach without being so, ya know, defined-

goshdogit
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Have you experimented with diffusing your throwers?

d-c-fix is a popular self-adhesive diffusion material that can be applied to the outside surface of a flashlight lens. It’s thin and easy to cut with scissors or a knife. It is easily removed, and can be reused if you’re careful.

BLF member ‘Boaz’ sells d-c-fix in small quantities and has several types. It’s available in larger rolls on Amazon.

Another option is the diffusion material used in LCD televisions and monitors. It isn’t self-adhesive but it’s certainly cheap if you can find a TV on the curb!

Frosted ‘Scotch Tape’ works too, but might be cumbersome on a larger lens.

You could also try some frosted items from around the house, but they’ll likely cause a lot of light loss. d-c-fix only eats about 3% of output.

Be sure to share some of your photos with us!

Robin Dobbie
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What’s your typical shutter speed? At say 1/100th, my Emisar D4 with a 4 volt charge on turbo offers vaguely comparable output to my speedlite strobe at 1/128th power. So in situations where you want to obliterate as much ambient light as possible, I’m not aware of any flashlight that could touch even a single of my decade-old relics at full power. They’re cheap enough, used. And from what I’ve read there are clones that are satisfactory for even less.

You might want a flashlight because you might want to run around and get that studio-like softness that comes from an apparently large light source. Multiple pops do it, too, but things aren’t as soft.

You might want to see your scene before you hit the shutter.

You might want to get a bit of sky in the shot. At any kind of exposure where you get the sky, pretty much any flashlight would do, as long as you’re happy with the CRI, color temp, and beam. For throwy-floody, the Emisar D4 pretty much delivers. I think mine is 80 CRI, so I don’t remember if that’s still considered “high” CRI. I got 5000K and it’s the closest thing to white I’ve ever seen.

It’s noticeably warmer than the Canon strobes, however, so if you do decide to mix and match strobes and flashlights, it might be worthwhile to find what’s the exact temp of your strobes. Then again, gels fix anything. They get a bit crinkly from full-power pops, however. Still work, though.

One thing that looks cool is when you take a nice high-CRI warm light like a 4000K flashlight set your white-balance off that and use a cheap ebay light that’s pushing 8000K for the background. Cheap and easy blue background with no gels. Vice versa for a red/amber background/accent. The low-CRI of the cheap light isn’t too hard to deal with.

Yooperlights
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I’d tried diffusing, but just stuff I had laying around, and they all killed too much light. That dc fix looks like it could be great!

I can’t find any of the original images at the moment, so I screen-grabbed one of them from Insta on my phone, re-cropped, uploaded… image quality is awful, but gives you an idea of what I’m doing:

Yooperlights
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I’m out middle of the night, pitch-black, miles deep into the woods, but my approach is basically to light it and shoot it as though it’s daylight. It’s an evolving process! I keep all my light sources at 5000K, high CRI. I like the tip on varied spectrum lights for changing background tint! For this project, background is pretty much just inky blackness. But I could see ways of incorporating the idea… come to think of it, I’ve tried lighting foreground and background images to get separate pops before. Your idea would probably be a more effective tool to do that.

It’s a pretty low-tech approach, so I literally just go around a scene I want to capture, moving those battery-powered shop lights, flashlights, etc, until the scene’s lit about like I want. You make a good observation about multiple pops not being as soft. Gotta try to find that balance between, say, lighting a falls from the other side of the river, but keeping the light relatively diffuse…

Marc E
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The Sofirn SP36 BLF edition springs to mind:

This is a nice review by member Flashaholics:
http://budgetlightforum.com/node/67410

SuzukiGS750EZ
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The problem is shadows. You can bring them up in post a bit though. Keeping ISO down is another issue. Are you shooting moving subjects or stationary?

Geuzzz
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Bigger lights have more stable output. So don’t go to small, especially if you are setting up multiple flashlights and they have to stay at a certain setting.

To keep the budget down. A few convoy L6 would probably work. Or do you need high CRI?

Yooperlights
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I’m pretty much a landscape photographer, so the only thing moving is wind/water/precip Smile For the most part, the shadows are good for this project, makes the foreground pop more… but yeah, I still try to get light from a couple angles to backfill some of the shadows. I’d rather err toward being less “in your face” that it’s all artificially lit.

High CRI is the goal, but those Convoy L6s would deliver… 5K is about as good as it gets. A bit spendy, but looks like a few of them could work, esp with that dcfix.

A couple things I’d been contemplating:

portable spotlight
and

COB disc

Seems like I’d want to make some sort of reflector dish for those discs, though. And I’d have to do something funky for batteries, seems like?

I’ve been using headlamps and some things like this:

work light

But these don’t have enough throw

middle age man
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A couple of Astrolux MF01/MF01S flashlights with the high-CRI Nichia or SST-20 emitters may serve.

lightdecay
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Emisar D18 with SST-20 4000K CRI95 emitters is my recommendation. 10000 lumens of high CRI light with high R9.

SST-20 4000K with high R9 could make colors pop a lot more. Most 5000K high CRI emitters have a lower R9, which makes red and brown tones look less accurate. You can adjust white balance in post-processing, but you cannot get back the missing color spectrum when you have low R9.

https://www.soraa.com/learn/science/why-understanding-r9-not-just-cri-ma...

Its beam is best described as thrower-ish flood. You can make it more floody with d-c-fix.

Robin Dobbie
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Quote:
I keep all my light sources at 5000K, high CRI.

I wouldn’t be looking at what you say you’re considering, then. The spotlight with the “P70.2”, whatever kind of XHP70.2 clone that is, doesn’t even specify a color temp. The huge cobs don’t either. Although they do let you choose warm and cool, that’s too vague for me where photography is concerned.

The spotlight doesn’t sound floody at all to me. That kind of reflector would likely be very spotty.

Not even sure how those huge cobs would be more throwy than the worklight you linked to. The reflector those would need…

All likely super sketchy in the CRI and just general build quality.

The cobs suggest you’re considering even the slightest bit of DIY. Might as well get quality COBs because that’s the one thing that doesn’t cost that much but will dramatically and I can’t stress this enough, *DRAMATICALLY * improve everything from light quality to accuracy in selected color temp to battery life. For example I just built a light table for growing plants and I used 90CRI name-brand cobs. I went with 3000K because I didn’t really know anything but I read somewhere plants respond well to red. I came across more info on how and why that works and doesn’t work, but that’s irrelevant. The key is, I thought I would hate the 3000K, visually. But it is in fact amazing. Also, at first glance I thought they were actually cooler than 3000K. But my DSLR and white balance target agree it’s as advertised.

I don’t have a proper lux meter, but I’m pretty sure they’re still twice as efficient as cheap low-CRI cobs. Sure the cheap cobs are like $2 – $3 vs $16. But you can’t put a price on having to carry only half as many batteries. Well, you probably can, but it’s well worth $12. Or $20 or $30, whatever size cob you might end up with. Generally speaking, COBs that can use both reasonably-sized and priced reflectors are 32mm or less in diameter. Larger than that and questions about reflector price/availability and what you would even use as a heatsink start to crop up.

Yooperlights
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What’s R9? I’ve come to enjoy the neutral color of 5000K, but maybe I could try a 4000K lamp for giggles.

About that Emisar, and lights like it… with absolutely no reflector, it doesn’t seem like it’d have much throw at all? Reminds me of COB shop lights, put out a bunch of light, but it doesn’t necessarily have much reach. I’m just not familiar with that style head on a flashlight. Would it throw 150-200 yards at least?

Yooperlights
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Yeah, good eye on the color spectrums. I’d have sworn I saw it somewhere! But it was more the design concept. And, holy wah, how would you even go about making a reflector that huge? First thing to mind was to cannibalize an old single-bulb, clamp-style shop light.

Thinking about the goal, I’d rather err toward more throw and less flood… thinking that it’s easier to diffuse light than tighten/project it.

I love going out in horrid weather, so weather resistance would be important too. Will definitely get wet.

If I went DIY, how do I know the difference between quality COBs and junk? I dunno. Think it’d be better to diffuse a spottier light still… but at least fun considering options.

Robin Dobbie
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Emisar and the MF01S mentioned as well as most flashlights now that aren’t “throwers” like the GT4 mentioned, use what are called TIR optics. Totally Internal Reflection. So technically still a reflector. You can look up beam shots of the various lights until you’re 10000K in the face. It’s sometimes difficult comparing them because you don’t know the distance or FoV of the beamshot. I personally wouldn’t mind if my D4 had a touch, and I mean just a touch more throw, but it’s surprisingly throwy considering its size. It’s unusable in my opinion without the optic, but there are “mule” versions with more emitters and absolutely no optics. I don’t understand it, but they’re available.

Those huge cobs specify on the cool white that they’re between 5500K and 7000K. So yeah.

Any kind of Emisar or Astrolux or Lumentop is watertight, I think. DIY can be done, haven’t done it, but it’s a bit of work, looks like. But putting the whole thing together is already going to be a bit of work.

As far as brand of COBs, it’s possibly safe to say anything DigiKey or Mouser has will be decent. Citizen, Bridgelux, Cree, and many others. I used Bridgelux for my light table build and I’m suitably impressed, given I don’t actually have proper test equipment.

I don’t even think you’d save money going DIY. And I don’t even think you’d need a particularly powerful flashlight. When you get into the several-second exposures of waterfalls and whatnot, suddenly tiny flashlights become very powerful. At faster shutter speeds, one old used strobe is like a million high-CRI lumens.

lightdecay
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Yooperlights wrote:
What’s R9? I’ve come to enjoy the neutral color of 5000K, but maybe I could try a 4000K lamp for giggles.

About that Emisar, and lights like it… with absolutely no reflector, it doesn’t seem like it’d have much throw at all? Reminds me of COB shop lights, put out a bunch of light, but it doesn’t necessarily have much reach. I’m just not familiar with that style head on a flashlight. Would it throw 150-200 yards at least?

4000K vs 5000K should not matter, if you can change white balance in post-processing, but R9 is a different story. You cannot get back the missing color spectrum with post-processing when you have low R9. Since there are many brown and red colors in a forest, R9 is as important as CRI.

Learn more about R9:
https://www.waveformlighting.com/tech/what-is-cri-r9-and-why-is-it-impor...

Emisar D18 beamshots in a forest:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_QBx-2KxZk

stephenk
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You don’t need crazy bright flashlights for long exposure night photography. I often use Convoy S2+ for this, and have also recently started using KDLITKER E6 with various colour drop-ins. Check out my insta for some ideas (I list flashlights used and exposure). @stephenk_lightart