Outdoor Flash Problem: shooting in giant horse shed

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by mitchellzimmerman, Nov 7, 2017.

  1. Mitchell, one of my all time favorite photos was taken as a volunteer. It brings tears to the eyes of men and women alike. I took the assignment as an homage to a friend who had similar brain cancer.
  2. PapaTango

    PapaTango Itinerant Philosopher

    Something no one has suggested yet is the use of continuous lighting--flood or theatrical.
  3. "Something no one has suggested yet is the use of continuous lighting--flood or theatrical."

    - Probably for good reason. When I started out, all I had was 1500 watts of tungsten lighting. It was barely adequate for head and shoulders portraits in my small studio.

    Maybe 10KW of conventional hot lights or 2KW of CFLs might make a small dent in the ambient light of a large shed, but then you have a CT imbalance to deal with as well, or how best to utilise the diffuse light of CFLs.

    I believe Andrew had already suggested the use of a powerful torch (flashlight), which might work for long exposure 'painting with light', but a focussed beam is a difficult source to work with on a large subject and with instantaneous exposures.
  4. It's bad enough trying to shoot show-jumping in an indoor riding-school WITH ceiling lights, not least 'cos they are all different colour temperatures, Tungsten, Sodium, Mercury and now warm and daylight LEDs!

    Photographically they provide no-where near enough light to shoot anything under ISO 6400, but, and it's possibly a big but, the clients don't seem to notice noise nearly as much as photographers. Sure we want to get the best picture possible and it's good to be self critical, but at the end of the day noise is far better than motion blur, or unhappy blinded horses and riders!

    It's bounce or nothing in my book. They effectively become lit from above using a shrouded (OK, Bill maybe not a FULL snoot!) flash. Something like a GODOX AD360 with a honeycomb grid (AS-S12) on the standard reflector.

    Now if someone were to paint the ceiling with a nice fresh coat of brilliant white emulsion.......:D
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2017
    Andrew Garrard likes this.
  5. (Crossover.) Yes, I suggested the flashlight option. If you've not seen one, don't underestimate how much light a drinks can-sized flashlight powered by four 18650s can pump out - for the couple of minutes it takes them to go into thermal shut down - they usually last much longer at "merely" 4000 lumens; by comparison, a 100W incandescent bulb puts out about 1300lm. My TN36UT will run at 7200lm for about three minutes unless you give it a lot of cooling (in my case, dangling out of a car window at night in Yellowstone because the car headlights were poor is the only thing I've found that worked). New ones can triple that power but shut down faster. I worked out that mine's pulling about 100W from its batteries, if you want to work out how hot it gets. Several come with a tripod thread if you want to use them for photography.

    But they're very bright to have in your eyeline, they will dazzle, and they're "flooders" rather than "throwers" - they'll light a large area (such as bounce light off a ceiling, where mine can provide enough bounce to overpower my kitchen spotlights), but not a large distance. They'll light a barn, but probably not well enough to freeze action. They'll light up a small room like daylight, but a football field area needs real floodlight power.

    On the other hand, they're battery powered and self-contained, which probably makes them a better idea than having uncontrolled hotlights with power cables running around an agricultural setting with large animals in it.

    A relatively modest flash gun will freeze the action with less discomfort to the subject, but however you cut it I think any lighting at a distance is going to have to be ambient unless you really want someone trying to track the subject with a "thrower" spotlight, and that'll annoy the hell out of them.. Candlepowerforums is your friend if you want to check, though.
  6. SCL


    I remember facing the same dilemma years ago when my teen aged daughter was doing dressage and low jumping....winter arrived and everything came indoors - dark arena, faint sunlight coming in thru high windows. No way to stop motion other than flash. I ponied (sorry for that one) up for a more powerful flash, increased the ISO, got as close to the action as was safe and prayed for the best. Limited success, really needed multiple flashes...but the results I got have been well received over the years by viewers. My advice is, if possible, move in reasonably close so as to not spook either the rider or horses and prefocus or focus limit for when the subjects cross a point you have chosen and are certain the flash will properly illuminate. Potentially boring, but you do improve your keeper rate this way. I wouldn't hang my hat on long lenses, as their DOF will be too narrow, maybe 135-150mm max depending on how much you want to capture and your distance from the subjects. Good luck, I'm sure the parents are grateful for your endeavors.
  7. I think SCL has good advice about getting close if you can (although I'd take some higher-ISO and flashless shots at a distance too, unless they look completely hopeless - no harm in variety).

    I just wanted to call out...

    To a good approximation, with the same subject framing, the same relative aperture gives you the same depth of field irrespective of focal length. (This is nonsense if you think about hyperfocal distances, but if the depth of field is small relative to the scene then it's usually valid at normal range - the approximation assumes that the entire depth of field is at roughly the same magnification.) That is, if you fill the frame with someone's head at 50mm and do the same at 200mm (from, obviously, farther away), and both lenses are at f/2.8, you'll have about the same amount of the subject in focus. The concern with a long lens is how "close" you're getting whilst physically being at a distance - you probably wouldn't be standing on a stepladder next to the child on the horse with a wide-angle to see what the depth of field is doing.

    So perhaps the guidance is "don't shoot at a fast aperture and zoom in very tightly, and still expect much depth of field" - no matter what the actual focal length is. It's just easier to cause a problem accidentally with a longer lens.

    (Sorry if that sounds pedantic. I hope the distinction is useful.)
  8. Having done exactly this in a large dark area with the same problem it is an easy answer really. First, no the SD400 won't be enough, try for a 600 maybe, better an 800 or 900. You don't need a long lens or a particularly fast one. A 28-75 will be plenty. These horses are always calm, they have to be with these riders. A high strung mount is something you will not find here. As such you will be able to move quietly and calmly to a spot where the horse and rider will be close enough for a lens about this focal length. As for flash, a simple balance setup is easy and effective. Let's assume ISO 200 and you are using a camera with a flash sync speed of 1/250. Bright sun in the background would give you 1/250 at about f/16 . Set your flash up to shoot at f/22 for correct indoor exposure. That will darken the background a stop and keep it from blowing out those highlights. If you can sync at 1/500 do so and adjust aperture. With a digital body you can do a few test shots and adjust as needed. With film we had to just hope we got it right. We didn't always.....

    Rick H.

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