Obvious question on flash, 35mm, and B&W

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by Michel Hardy-Vallée, Jun 8, 2006.

  1. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    I'll be shooting some interior shots next week for work, and I'll have the joy of using film professionally for the first time (and the stress of not screwing it!), so I wanted a quick reality check on film+flash light combo.

    My flash will be a Sunpak 383, I'm shooting people during a conference, and there may be some exterior shots with available light as well. My standard film+dev for now is 400TX w/ XTOL 1+1 7mins @ 20C. (320TXP not being available in 35mm, I think I should stick to good ol' 400TX.)

    I would use ceiling bounce on the flash, and perhaps throw on it a kleenex for diffusing the light. I also have a bit of time to shoot a test roll this weekend. I thought that reducing the development and shooting at a slightly lower ISO could help reduce the contrast.

    Anything important I'm missing?
     
  2. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    How you use the flash is really a function of what sort (and how much) ambient light you have, and what role you want the flash to play. Often, it's good to "balance" between the two, so the flash and ambient light work together, thus avoiding the "harsh" results of flash-only images. A lot also depends on how far away the subjects are compared to the output of the flash. Additional specifics relate to whether both your camera and the flash are TTL-flash compatibale (i.e. they'll work together for balanced flash contribution to the exposure, metered off the film).
     
  3. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Hi Ralph,

    I'm using my Spotmatic, so I have TTL for shutter/aperture info, but no TTL flash capabilities. The Sunpak has a light-sensitive cell that helps adjusting its output based on distance (like the Thrystor in Vivitar flashes). I'm looking at working with a 50mm focal, and a few 28mm group shots. There will be at least 2-3 people per photos (to show interactions). Thus I expect to be fairly close to people (within 5m). Do you have any suggestion in how to evaluate the ambient/flash ratio?
     
  4. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Original Spotmatic? Sync speed 1/60.

    Sunpak 383? Claimed GN 120, ISO 100, feet. True GN probably more like 90. For ISO 400, claimed GN = 240, true probably = 180.

    Flash to ceiling to subject distance? You know, we don't. If you're going to stand 5 m from the subjects with a 50 mm lens or, heaven forfend, a 28, you'll frame very very loosely.

    Kleenex costs 1 stop, rule of thumb.

    Aperture required at ISO 100, 1/60 with ambient light? Go measure NOW.

    Do the arithmetic. And weep.
     
  5. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Spotmatic F, so I think synch is at 125. I'll weep now, so I don't have to do so later. Thanks so much for the tips!
     
  6. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Spot F synch is 60(horizontal travel shutter) use 125 & you'll have partially exposed negs.
    If you have to, you can balance the exposure by dragging the shutter to build exposure.
     
  7. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Yeah, I meant to use whatever shutter speed the "x" mark means, I don't have it in front of me, so I was only guessing :wink:

    I did try once flash synch at higher speed and by making a succession of shutter speed you have a nice series of partial and growing in size photos.
     
  8. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    I use a similar kit (Canon F1N and Sunpak auto 36SR) when I need a flash indoors.

    When I do that, I always pre-measure the light by bouncing it off the ceiling with my handheld light meter (Minolta IV F) connected to the flash unit with a PC cable. Pretty old method.

    Depending of the surface of the ceiling, if it gives me a couple of good readings, I'm happy and will be fine with the results later on.
     
  9. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Member

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    I have done similar event type work with my Vivitar 283, which is, at least according to the manufacturers, the same power. I used a Lumiquest Ultrasoft, which had to have robbed me of at least a stop, more likely two, and I got good results with no problems at ISO 400. The metering in the flash worked perfectly for me and I had plenty of distance for the type of shooting I was doing (similar to your job, sounds like). I would certainly recommend shooting a test roll, but from my experience, I don't think it will be that dire.

    BTW, I really recommend the Ultrasoft, if you can get one in time. They cost about $25 US and are soft enough that you don't have to worry much about dealing with bounce flash. I just mount the thing on my flash and fire away.
     
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  10. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    I think some(or many if there are) flash units (such as Vivitar, National, and Sunpak) made for manual cameras are set to use a 35mm lens primarily. Mine is recommended for 35-135mm range, and it comes with a head gear (I don't know what to call it) that extends to throw the light further away accordingly.

    To go wider, I have to take the head-gear off, otherwise I'll start to get a circle on my images, meaning the light won't cover the entire frame. But for boucing off the ceiling, this circle effect appears less, especially in close distance to the subject.

    One thing about boucing off the ceiling is that if the ceiling is not flat and/or has a lot of objects (lighting fixtures, etc), You may not get soft and even light on your subject(s). But again it depends on how wide you shoot.

    And you don't need a diffuser for that. Diffusion is needed when you aim your flash at your subject(s) directly to cut the intensity and reduce the amount of the light. Bounced light is already soft enough to begin with.

    I never aim my flash directly at my subjects so I don't use any diffusion material, but my flash has a 1 stop, 1/2 stop, 1/4 stop, etc adjustment that I can take off some light if I want to. Also all of my lenses have half-stop settings, which can be used for this kind of control, too.
     
  11. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    are you going ot be photographing speakers at a podium, or general views of people gathering ?

    when i worked for a newspaper i had to cover events like this, and realized that if it is "at the podium" figure out what the lights are ahead of time .. kodak used to have a little light guide that would suggest fstops and shutter speeds for low light situation. data guide maybe?

    your flash won't make a difference if you are in the audience with a long lens ... if you are doing "table+socializing" shots, put your flash on "manual" point it straight up and have a white card behind to bounce it. you'll have to do some tests to determine your fstops with the flash. i used a nikon speedlite the last times i did this, and i don't remember my fstops, before when i did it, i was using a lumedyne with a "tupperware lid" about 100ws at f11 or 22 ... (sync 125 ) .


    ==================
    ==================

    added after claire's post:
    i just remembered when i did most of these types of functions, i would hold my camera in one hand, and have the lumedyne on a bracket ( with a reflector+tupperware diffuser attached) - held above my head pointing at my subject. i used to use tmax400 film, but learned the hard way that that film can be unforgiving, and the highlights from a flash-blast can get really blocked up. the lumedyne is a beast of a flash - but it works very well ...

    best to do a trial run ...

    good luck

    john
     
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  12. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    If you are intending to use bounce flash then I question what benefit you will get from the Kleenex. It will reduce your exposure and I do agree that 1 stop is certainly in the ballpark for the exposure loss of the Kleenex. By bounging the light it is already quite diffused. If the light is going to be almost entirely from the flash then bouncing off the ceiling can be tricky. It is very easy to create a situation where the appearance of the photos show well lit foreheads and fronts with deeply shadowed eye sockets when used the flash is bounced from the ceiling on or at the camera position. Except for a special effect this is most unpleasant This is a very tough way to do the job. It is enormously helpful to have experience.

    Here is what I believe is much safer and foolproof. If your camera has a locking sync speed then be sure to use it so that it becomes very unlikely that it will be changed by accident. It is quite easy when concentrating on all the other things that demand your attention and find out after the fact that what you thought was the spped being used was not true and for instance you ended up using for example 1/250th of a second. It is very distressing when this happens..very distressing indeed. Do not use bounce light. Arrange that thru the use of hand holding, using a flash bracket or light stand have your flash about 8-10 inches directly above the lens axis. Everything will be well illuminated at the main subject position. Only small shadows will be cast. Background shadows will not be visible in your photos. With groups of people get them to stand or be seated in roughly a plane at right angles to the lens axis rather then seperated by depth such as shooting down a table with people from 5 thru 20 feet away. Be on the safe side and expose at least 1/2 stop more than normal. One stop of over exposure from normal will not cause much problems either..it may indeed be better. Be very careful not to over develop. 10 percent less than what has proven to work well for you in the past is a good starting point. IF YOU ARE NOT CONFICENT IN YOUR ABILITY TO EXPOSE AND PROCESS MATERIALS WELL AND DO NOT HAVE SIGNIFICANT EXPERIENCE WITH THEM, THEN DO YOUR SELF A FAVOR AND USE A B&W C41 FILM AND HAVE IT PROCESSED AT A 1 HOUR PHOTO LAB AND 4X6 PRINTS MADE. Do not compose over tightly. Leave your self some room. Make sure that your equipment is working before you start. Flash cords are the item most likely to cause problems. Take plenty of batteries. An additional camera and flash can be most helpful. Good luck.
     
  13. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    OK, lots of great comments, so let me make my comments at once:

    Good observation; the last time I was working with a Nikon Speedlight and it had two modes: normal-tele and wide-angle. The flash contained an internal focussing system. I will test my 28mm to be sure.

    Other good observation. I am not sure yet how high the ceiling will be. I'm at Acadia University, so I suspect the ceiling would be fairly high, following institutional standards. I think I will go the way of the Kleenex+Straight aim if they are too high. I also have variable intensity at the Manual setting.

    It will be mostly people gathering, but I'm double-checking that.

    That one I knew about from my father always saying that during football games!

    I will test auto+kleenex vs. manual+white card vs. bounce and see what I like best. As Claire and the other have mentioned, it's useless to combine two diffusion methods.

    The only flash bracket I have is a normal angle bracket. The light is not higher than the Spottie's hotshoe, just a few inches on the left of the lens axis. Do you think I should just stick to the hotshoe position?


    I'll have the time to shoot a test roll or two this weekend and process it. Someone suggested Delta 400 because of its long straight line, but I haven't tested for its EI, so I'd be reluctant to rely on it. With 400TX, I'm confident that my time and exposure are good. Perhaps I will also shoot a C41 roll just to check flash intensity and light quality.

    I'm taking note of composition, and I bought an extra battery for my camera meter (in the event that I can work with available light).

    Thanks a million everyone for the help. I must shamefully admit that the last time I did such a shot it was with d**** equipment (lent to me) and I just tried all possible combinations until I found something on the LCD that looked good. I like the challenge of working with film, and I hope to get some good shots.
     
  14. metod

    metod Member

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    I would also back up Claire’s suggestion for using C-41 B&W film. It is a very forgiving film and works well with photographing people indoors. Another advantage I would see is that if a lab could make you proof prints, you could see people’s expressions right away (closed eyes, funny faces….) and exclude those ones later as you develop your prints. Just a thought….
     
  15. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    Using a flash bracket to the side will need more care to watch where shadows fall, Be very creful that your flash in that location does not cause shadows to fall on others that you wish to have illuminated. Keeping people a distance from the background will also be useful in shadow control. For myself, I prefer to hand hold the flash above the lens if I have to. If you do handhold it instead of using a tripod, bracket or light stand then be very careful the camera is on a srap around your neck.

    All in all my personal feelings about what you are to undertake makes the c41 b&w film and 4x6 prints very desirable. If the film is over exposed a stop there is a very good chance that the image quality may be better than being exposed at 400. If you do the job with tri-x and are taking quite a few photos then what? A big proofing job is then what. Making 4x6 prints is little easier, at best, than making 5x7 and 8x10 prints. If particular prints do not satify you then you ask the lab to reprint them for free. Making final enlargements is a different situation. Typically the price of 8x10 and even 5x7s is much more expensive than the 4x6 prints. Of course it is very helpful to work with a 1 hour photo lab that has a very good reputation.

    Be careful or this first job can be a nightmare.
     
  16. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Hm, Claire you migh be right on C-41. Given it's a first film assignment, and that I can bill my employer for any supplies, it puts the responsibility out of my hands. I also know that we're going to use most of these photos online, so showing them scans instead of proof sheets may be more useful. So the question is now... XP2 or T400Cn ?
     
  17. metod

    metod Member

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    Michel, I used T400Cn quite a bit and really like it. I would actually use it more generally, if there wouldn't be some archival concerns. But I think that should not be a worry in your case. I rated this film at ISO 800 with no problem. Try to test it, if you can. Good luck.

    Metod
     
  18. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Went to the photo shop on my lunch hour and picked up a BW400CN that I'll be testing tonight. From what I read, XP2's advantage was traditional darkroom processing, but in the present case it's not a hard and fast requirement...
     
  19. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Alright, testing is in. What I found was that when using the Automatic mode, the flash had a tendency to overexpose by about a stop. Bounce tests show me that it doesn't look good unless you have an angle of at least 60 degrees. That way the light comes diffused from the ceiling. You have to crop the top area though, otherwise it looks kind of funky. Kleenex diffusion might be a more reliable way to control the contours, but even direct flash on someone doesn't look ugly or unflattering.

    Manual mode was also very precise, and didn't require much corrections. There's one thing about it I'm not sure I understand, though: when I use the automatic mode, my flash gives me an interval of usable distances to subject. When I use manual mode, I have a set of pairs aperture-distance to subject. But let's say I have a distance of 5 meters for f5.6. What does it tell me about the light before and after 5m ? My test shots show me that there's sufficient light for an interval of distances before and after 5m, but is there a way to guesstimate it?
     
  20. epatsellis

    epatsellis Member

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    michel,
    if you're primary use is going to be for the web, when you get the film processed, have them make you a photo cd for each roll, for that application they work wonderfully, and the quality is surprisingly good for a few dollars.


    erie
     
  21. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    When they mention a set of distances for a film apeture combinations they are telling your for instance that with 200 speed film the flash will function well from 4 to 16 feet. Beyond 16 feet it is lacking in power and closer than 4 feet it cannot shut itself off fast enough to avoid overexposure relative to that film speed/apeture combination.