Was a flash necessary for night football games in 1959

Discussion in 'Sports' started by chas7557, Jun 11, 2018.

  1. Hello everyone,

    I know nothing about the state of the art of sports photography right now, let alone what it was in 1959. But, I am fascinated by a photograph of Billy Cannon's Halloween night punt return touchdown. The photo looks like a flash was used but the video of the play does not show a flash.

    Check out the video I have uploaded to Youtube and see what you think.

    My question is: Was a flash necessary to take that photo in 1959?

    Thanks for tolerating a novice's ignorance,
  2. Vincent Peri

    Vincent Peri Metairie, LA

    here is a better video. There are several plays before the touchdown run, though.

    You can see flashes going off during the early part of the run, so I'd say, yes, flash was used.
  3. The still photo in question was shot with a flash. The drop off of the light with distance is one clue. The shadows the flash created, especially the shadow of 88's right arm as it falls across Cannon and the ground, but other shadows as well, confirm it. Film like Tri-X was around then, but in order to stop the motion with this degree of detail, a flash would have been used.

    The video offered by Vincent actually does show a flash going off at the time the photo was made. Check out the slow motion replay, and at 1:02 there is a flash just as Cannon is a step from the 25 yard line.
  4. Hi, I wasn't quite around in 1959, but not too many years after that I was sometimes doing high school football night games. I doubt it was too much difference aside from the more advanced 35mm slr cameras that were first coming out around 1959.

    From my experience I'd guess that in 1959 available light was doable with a 35mm camera having a fast lens, but with a fairly low hit rate due to the problem of getting good focus (the lens aperture must be nearly wide open, giving a narrow depth of field). Even at that, the shutter speed would be barely fast enough, with "pushed" film, to adequately stop motion. Using a larger film with flash gave a much higher success rate, but with the downside of having the "flash" look at a time when things were changing over to the "available light" look."

    Regarding "video," I used to shoot our high school "game films" on an 8mm or super 8 camera. The big difference with movies is that a longer exposure is used - perhaps 1 or 2 f-stops equivalent speed improvement. The focus situation is not a problem because 1) you don't zoom in so closely as with still shots, and 2) the (typical) high shooting angle means that the distance doesn't change that much.

    I didn't look at the photos; I'm just explaining how a movie could readily be done in the available light, whereas this would be much more difficult with a still camera from the sidelines.
  5. Wow, thanks guys. A stupendous, magnificent flash just at the precise moment. I guess the film to video transfer that I used skipped the crucial frame. Mystery solved.
  6. SCL


    If you had really bright lights, like those used in pro games-not high school, a fast lens and you pushed film, you could get by occasionally without flash. Having been a photographer for my high school's newspaper that year (59-62), I can tell you we always used flash, and even then it was still difficult to get sufficient light on your subject, as you were usually too far away from key plays to gain the advantages flash offered. In those days, most flash was by way of flash bulbs, not electronic flash at the high school level, and the bulbs weren't the big powerful ones used by newspaper reporters, but recently introduced miniaturized bulbs (I don't remember the designation). Films were typically Plus-X or if the school was flush, Tri-x. Development usually in D-76 in our lab, although we knew of Rodinal, but didn't have any.
  7. I was at a presentation a while back where the guy said they shot football with a flash.
    Today??? Why?
    With a f/2.8 lens, wide open, I could shoot at ISO 3200 or 1600.

    OK, the only reason that I can think of is to illuminate the face inside the helmet.
  8. I vaas dere Sharlie.
    1959 was my senior year in high school. Later, I attended Faber College, or something very much like it.

    Flash was sometimes used, but (as noted) many people who were then starting to use 35mm were into available light in a big way. Leica especially advertised their suitability for available light and several well-known press photographers gave up on the Weegee-like flash and 4x5 at that time.
  9. Larger flash bulbs were around then, than are easily found today.

    I have some #40 flash bulbs, which have the same shape and base as usual incandescent bulbs.
    I believe one use was with simpler cameras with small aperture and one shutter speed.
    If used with fast film and reasonably fast (maybe f/2.8) lens, you might get a reasonably distance.

    Cress Photo - Flashbulbs.com

    The #50 is 94,000 lumen seconds, compared to about 16,000 for the more
    usual (now) #5 bulb.

    With faster films, that should get a pretty good distance.
  10. You mean the one in Animal House?
  11. Looking at the above linked table, with the #50 bulb and ASA 400 film,
    and also a sufficiently large reflector, you get a guidenumber of 1600 feet.

    With an f/2.8 lens, you get pretty much of a football field from a good spot.

    With a #5 bulb, more common in later years, you only get about 600 feet guidenumber,
    so not as much of the field, but still should be pretty good.
  12. Yes those bulbs were/are wicked bright.
    When I started in film, the thing was the new "electronic flash," and not burning your fingers on a HOT bulb. But we were struggling with the lack of power output of the electronic flashes.
  13. Flashbulbs can throw a lot of light when you need it.

    Even the little peanut-sized AG3 bulb has an ASA 100 guide number of 80 ft when used on the M sync setting at a shutter speed of 1/125, and you can even squeeze out 125 on X-sync at 1/30(the total duration of the Phillips brand bulb is around 40ms, but it peaks at around 15ms and falls off pretty sharply on either side of that, so I'd guess it would do a decent job of stopping action). That's on the low end of power for an electronic flash today, but is in the ballpark of a "small" electronic flash unit and 2-3 stops brighter than a typical pop-up flash.

    Move up to the ubiquitous bayonet base #5/P25(about the size of a walnut), which is still easy to find in volume and inexpensively today, and you move up to a GN of 250 at 1/100. I haven't looked at the power vs. time curves for that bulb, although I've heard anedotally that the Sylvania P25 peaks a bit faster and sharper, and consequently is better for stopping action than the the GE #5. In any case, the GE chart I'm looking at for that data says "normal sized reflector", which I would take to PROBABLY be a 5" polished reflector. It's worth mentioning that flash bulb GN charts are significantly more complicated that those for your typical electronic flash since the GN is shutter speed and flash sync setting dependent(i.e. even though many folks think of cameras only having M and X settings and those being exclusively for bulbs and electronics respectively, the only real hard and fast rule is not to use the M setting with electronic flash, and bulbs will generally work with a wide variety of settings as long as you properly account for the light output. The Nikon F has I think 6 different possible sync settings-I've used it with both #5 and #6 bulbs, and finding the "right" GN for your sync setting and shutter speed for those bulbs with the same total light output can make you dizzy).
    Gary Naka likes this.
  14. I was shooting night football in 1969 and yes, flash was necessary - a big powerful flash. I used a Braun strobe.
  15. Most definitely.
  16. For a few years before I got my Vivitar 283, I used an Agfalux-C:


    which uses flashcubes, and is not much bigger than the flashcube
    (not including the flashcube). It has a small plastic case that fits
    on a camera strap.

    Not as much light as the 283, but not bad compared to many smaller electronic flash units.

    I used it with M sync at 1/30 on a Canon VI, even though it isn't supposed to be for
    focal plane shutters, it always worked well enough.

    I never had the special FP flash bulbs.
  17. I started shooting high school and college ball about 1977. There were two stadiums that had good enough light that with a 2.8 lens, generally a 135, and some Acufine you would be fine. All the others though seemed to actually suck the light out of a flash they were so dark and still are. For those I used a Sunpack 511 or 611 and occasionally a Norman 200B. The Sunpacks were powered by an external pack with a big expensive512 volt battery. It was normal carry at the time but I bet now it would feel awfully heavy.

    Rick H.

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