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  1. #1

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    Looking for advice on shooting welding scenes

    As the title says, I've been asked to take some "artistic" shots of a friend of mine (hot rod builder) using an arc welder for an upcoming project. I'm looking for some tips from anybody who has shot scenes like this regarding exposure and safety (for me and for my gear). Looking around online there doesn't seem to be much advice on this topic geared to us film users. I've had a look around here on APUG but I can't seem to find any topics where this has been discussed before; if I am asking a repeat question I apologize.

    While I'm generally very comfortable with my exposure skills, I'm merely an artist/hobbyist and shoot mostly landscapes and architecture. I have never had to shoot anything with such a stark lighting contrast (bright welding arc vs. relatively dark shop background). I do not own a flash or any other artificial lighting, so using a fill flash is out of the question. My plan as of right now is to compose and meter each shot for the ambient light in the shop before firing up the welding equipment. Obviously the sparks/arc will be grossly overexposed but it seems as though this is pretty much unavoidable due to the intensity of the light. Does this sound like a reasonable plan, or am I missing something? I will be using 35mm film so I do have the luxury of bracketing profusely.

    Other questions: I've seen recommendations on other forums to use a UV filter. Is there an exposure-related reason for this, or can I assume it is just to protect my lens? Would I gain any benefit by shooting through welding glass (besides very long exposure times)?

    Some more information on the shoot:

    - The shop fairly small and very well-lit with overhead fluorescent bulbs. We also have the option to shoot with the overhead doors open as well, so I can also have outdoor sunlight at my disposal if needed.

    - The goal is to preserve as much background detail as possible whilst capturing a long-ish exposure of the welding arc; I'm thinking probably in the 1/4-1/15 range. My subject assures me he can hold still for that long!

    - I'll more than likely be using Plus-X, although I also have Pan F and Tri-X as an option, if it matters.

    - I will more than likely be using a 135mm lens to put some distance between me and the action, and I will have a welding hood to protect my vision. As I will be composing/focusing ahead of time, I won't need to look through the lens while shooting. Are there any other precautions I should take?

    Thank you in advance for any and all input!

  2. #2
    richard ide's Avatar
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    I assume your friend will be using either TIG or MIG welding. I would personally try to keep the arc duration as short as possible. This would reduce the area where the arc overexposes the surrounding subject matter. You might try an ND filter to increase your exposure time and create the arc within that window. Have fun.
    Richard

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  3. #3
    Robert Hall's Avatar
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    Expose for the shadows.
    Robert Hall
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    Technology is not a panacea. It alone will not move your art forward. Only through developing your own aesthetic - free from the tools that create it - can you find new dimension to your work.

  4. #4

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    Start by getting as much ambient light as you can. Using a film with a long scale and lower inherent contrast is a good idea. So depending on what sort of image characteristics you want (graininess etc), a medium speed film (Plus-X for example) or faster film (Tri-X) will both be easier to work with than Pan-F under high contrast conditions.

  5. #5
    dmb
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    Welding arcs put out a lot of UV light so a UV filter will have 2 benefits, firstly reducing the effect of UV on film and second protecting the lens from any molten metal spatter. I would also suggest drapeing your camera in a flame retardent cloth as the metal spatter sticks to everything. If you are looking for artistic effects the extra flare and glare a filter will generate if the arc is in the field of view may be a benefit. Some of the best welding photos I've got in the past were when the welder was using manual metal arc welding (stick welding) and the welders body shielded the camera from the arc. It gave a great sillhouette and the sparks from the welding stood out.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Hall View Post
    Expose for the shadows.
    Yup. And, Protect your eyes! Don't even peek at the arc.

  7. #7

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    Thank you so much to everyone for all the great advice! Sounds like exposing for the shadows and letting the brightness of the arc fall where it may is the best method.

    @richard ide, Yes, it is a TIG welder and I had not thought of using an ND filter to be honest. I will give that a try, sounds like a great idea. I did not mention it in my initial post, but the camera will be mounted on a tripod, so long exposures are not an issue.

    @dmb, Thank you for the explanation; I will try shooting both with and without the UV filter and see what happens. I'll be using a 135mm or possibly even a 200mm lens quite a distance away from the welder, so I'm thinking protection from flying sparks etc. won't be too big of an issue. Or am I wrong? The type of composition you describe is exactly what my friend is after.

    @E von Hoeg and noacronym: I will be wearing a welding helmet and since I will be composing/focusing ahead of time, I won't be looking through the lens either. In fact, I'll probably be looking down at the camera as I'll be needing to bracket/advance/shoot/repeat. Is this sufficient eye protection, or should I consider taking greater precaution? I am quite paranoid about my eyes!

    Thanks again for the help!

  8. #8

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    A welding helmet will be fine.
    Steve.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by noacronym View Post
    Amen on that. I've done my share of MIG, and it'll cook your eyes PDQ.
    As will the other arc welding methods - stick and TIG. They'll also UV burn unprotected skin, badly if you're exposed for any length of time.
    Gas welding (or cutting) will damage your eyes too.



 

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