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  1. #1

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    Need Help with Available Light vs. Flash

    Hi! I am brand new to large format photography and have not even made my first exposure yet! I'm using an old 4x5" Anniversary Speed Graphic and I am wondering now whether I should use my "flash bulbs" 3 cell Graflite + sidelight (courteously of course ) -or- if I should try and use "Available Light".

    I'll be using Tri-X 400 and shooting dimly lit interiors (some with no windows) and they will include people. These will be more or less environmental grab shots taken with permission of the shop owners and their customers.

    How would you approach this problem? Looking forward to hearing from the experienced.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Can you even find FP-sync flashbulbs for use with a focal plane shutter on a Speed Graphic or M-sync bulbs for use with the leaf shutter? If the shutter has a sync terminal, and it has X-sync, I'd use electronic flash if you need it.

    Tri-X 400?--Not unless you're using a rollfilm back. In 4x5", you would be using TXP or the old TXT 320, but if you process in Acufine, you can get EI 640, which is what I use when I shoot handheld in available light with my Linhof 4x5". At 640, you can shoot at about 1/30 sec. at f:3.5, which is about what you need for most indoor situations.

  3. #3

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    Thanks David! Yes, I do have some Flash Bulbs. They're expensive so I don't want to waste them! I consider them a luxury item. Yes, sorry about the mistake. I think it is the 320 stuff. I like the "look" of the flash bulb more than the strobes of today.

  4. #4

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    Simplify,

    I would use available light for three reasons: its simpler, you will not create an alarming disturbance with the flash, and I like the look of available light images. You may want to use a tripod if you can because you wont have much light for hand held shots or for depth of field.
    Good Luck
    Last edited by Sean; 06-18-2005 at 07:47 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  5. #5
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    The flashbulbs do have a distinctive look, and if that's what you're after, then that's what to use. Read Weegee's _Naked City_ for tips.

    Given the expense of flashbulbs, you might consider converting something like an old Norman portable barebulb flash head to fit into the Graflite 3-cell housing, so that it will use the Graflite's reflector and produce a similar lighting effect. I've seen this done. The only downside is that you will need to carry a separate battery pack for the flash either over your shoulder or on your belt, but that's not such an unusual thing to do. Old 200B setups can be had for around $200, but be sure the battery is good and that it has the proper charger, because it can be costly to convert to the new Delta V batteries, which require a different charger than the old ones had.

  6. #6

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    Thanks Greg & David. I've been studying Sasha's photos for some inspiration. I'll explore more flash options. Thanks for the tips. I'll also explore the low light / Available Light options with LF. Maybe run some tests at home before I take her out in the field.

  7. #7

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    where would you buy flashbulbs today and what would the approximate cost be? I still have 24 5B bulbs from 30 years ago, but I don't have a BC (battery, capacitor) flash to fire them with.

    Edit: Never mind, come to think of it, I don't even have a camera or shutter that has an FP sync setting anymore...

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by simplify
    Hi! I am brand new to large format photography and have not even made my first exposure yet! I'm using an old 4x5" Anniversary Speed Graphic and I am wondering now whether I should use my "flash bulbs" 3 cell Graflite + sidelight (courteously of course ) -or- if I should try and use "Available Light".

    I'll be using Tri-X 400 and shooting dimly lit interiors (some with no windows) and they will include people. These will be more or less environmental grab shots taken with permission of the shop owners and their customers.

    How would you approach this problem? Looking forward to hearing from the experienced.

    Thanks!
    Simplify,

    Since these are "grab" shots, I would definately shoot available light if you can. Work with your camera with available light first, to get the feel for what you can do with it and what you need in terms of lighting. Once that is done, you can then tell if you will be needing to use flash before you pull out the camera. If you need to use flash, go ahead and use a bulb but be careful, when you get closer to people it would be wise to have a flash shield so you don't spray glass if one of your bulbs shatters. That doesn't happen often but it does now and then. I suggest using the guide numbers for your bulb and film choice as a start. You can do a flash test to get your true guide number but that will take some bulbs. Or, you can get a Kodak Pocket Guide which has a bunch of information on using flashbulbs and has calculators for flash. Get one of the ones that came out in the mid 80's or earlier. A wealth of information. They show up on WePay often.
    Speaking of bulbs, the #5, Press 25's #6's, and FP 26's are available as are the M-2's, M-3's (ok to use with a ring clip adapter for your gun) in blue and clear flavors. Prices vary wildly so keep an eye out and you can get a good deal for them. Maybe Mr. Duffy can offload his to you for free?

    Using bulb flash is a gas and I find that when I pull out my fash unit and Speed Graphic, people tend to want me to shoot them.

  9. #9
    MattCarey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Duffy
    where would you buy flashbulbs today and what would the approximate cost be? I still have 24 5B bulbs from 30 years ago, but I don't have a BC (battery, capacitor) flash to fire them with.

    Edit: Never mind, come to think of it, I don't even have a camera or shutter that has an FP sync setting anymore...
    JandC photo has some flash bulbs. 5b's are $1.50 each. There is also flashbulbs.com. They charge $45/dozen for 5B bulbs.

    My brother bought dozens (more like a gross or more) of bulbs from an ad on photo.net for $40. When I picked them up from the seller, he mentioned trying to sell them to someone on the internet--my guess is flashbulbs.com. The offer was declined. My guess is that these are not a fast-moving item.

    They go for <$1 each on ebay.

    Matt

  10. #10

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    I have an old 200B I'd be happy to donate to your cause. Have not used it in 3 years so the batterries may or may not still hold a charge. It does have a good charger and I know of a source locally here in So Cal that still sells the batteries if this one does not work.
    Stop trying to get into my mind, There is nothing there!

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