Photography in the dark?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by JimPD, Nov 1, 2007.

  1. JimPD

    JimPD TPF Noob!

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    Hi, I'm not really a photography buff but I need some advice.
    I need to be able to take photographs at decent quality underground.


    As far as I can work out, I need a DSLR which is capable of long shutter times and/or some strong flashguns.
    Which cameras on the market have the longest exposure settings?
    What are the strongest flashguns available?
    Can you get flashguns which can react to the cameras flash going off?

    Bearing in mind that funds are not infinate, is there any good budget equipment that fits the bill?

    Any hints & tips that would help?

    Jim
     
  2. Sideburns

    Sideburns TPF Noob!

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    Any DSLR can have an INFINITE shutter. Really the only thing limiting is is battery life. You could do a shot for like...5 hours if you really wanted...but the battery may die on you.

    Underground pictures using flash? Would probably cost way more than you want...
     
  3. Patrice

    Patrice No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    What type of shot are you after? I once photographed a driller working at a drift face. The client needed the drift face, the driller and the drilling machine depicted for an employment poster. We were able to get the shot using 4 old Vivitar 283 flashes and peanut slaves. Workable but not very quick to set up.
     
  4. Helen B

    Helen B TPF Noob!

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    What sort of underground place is this?

    If you want high quality on a very low budget, then a mechanical film camera might be the thing.

    The usual way to light large underground spaces is by 'painting with light' - this involves multiple flashes from one flash that is moved around while the shutter is held open. It works best in completely unlit places.

    If you are shooting in a coal mine, or in a gassy tunnel you may or may not be allowed to take in unapproved electronic equipment, so a mechanical camera could be an advantage in that respect as well.

    Tel us more about what you want to do so that we can narrow the possibilities down a little.

    Best,
    Helen
     
  5. RacePhoto

    RacePhoto TPF Noob!

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    FILM! Long exposures with digital eats batteries, you get hot spots and personally I've never had good results. (but that's just me)

    If you want to use artificial lighting and digital, which is going to be easier.

    Cheap slave flashes are $19 at Ritz and other stores. They have the sensor built into the top. Much cheaper than buying a stack of $59 slave units, plus some strobes. You can control the exposure by f-stop, or distance from the flash, or putting a paper napkin over the strobe (or milk bottle plastic as a diffuser), or a cardboard tube to create a snoot which directs the light. All inexpensive.

    The same slave strobes can be used for all kinds of other projects, so you have them in the inventory. Great fill flashes for outdoors, use em for indoor back lighting or fill lights.

    So where is this "underground" project? :sexywink:
     
  6. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Far from the truth. It is limited by how hot the sensor gets. The picture becomes effectively worthless after a few minutes purple starts bleeding into the side of the frame. At about 40 minutes the entire frame is eaten by this.
     
  7. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    very true... and different camera/lenses have different amounts of time before they start this phenomenon.

    I've had my D200 open for 2 hours without any visible purple fringing, but my Nikon E8800 does that within 7-10 minutes.

    In any case, unless he is taking pics in near absolute darkness, this is not a real issue with any more modern dSLR today. I cannot see the need to extend it for more than 4-5 minutes if he strategically placed a few lights or strobes in the area, unless the area he wanted to shoot was huge.

    We need more info! :)
     
  8. Neuner

    Neuner TPF Noob!

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    In my business I've had to conduct walk-throughs in large abandoned old structures. There have been several occasions in which I needed a photo of a pitch-black, completely sealed off from light, basement very large in size ~ 20ft high ceilings, 100'x50'. I put my D80 on full manual, set the aperture as wide as it would go, shutter at around 160, infinity focus and used the on-board flash. The images I've obtained are surprisingly good. If I had a stronger flash with me and a tripod it would have been even better. I shot them in RAW and was able to improve upon it.

    Here are some simple examples. I know they are not great, but to help with knowing what you need these can give a starting reference. From here you can let us know if you need it brighter with more fill or better color. I set my camera up as I stated and since I couldn't see anything and didn't have a flashlight, I held the camera out in front of me and fired not knowing what I was getting. The first one is straight out of the camera and the 2nd one was manipulated slightly using Photoshop levels. Both captured in JPEG. This area was pitch black. Sorry for the large size, I'll try & get smaller versions on the host site.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  9. JimPD

    JimPD TPF Noob!

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    The situation is that I need to take photos in an underground mine. The mine is not coal so there is no issue with mine gasses etc (although I'll have to keep the equipment clear of the detonators!!!)
    Neuner, if the pictures above were taken with just on board flash in such large places then this would probably work for me.
    Will most DSLRs be able to work at these settings?
    Jim
     
  10. Helen B

    Helen B TPF Noob!

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    Are you taking pictures of working miners, or of empty caverns? What sort of a mine is it? What is your budget for equipment?

    I've never used flash when taking pictures of miners. There is often enough light in working places, especially when augmented by a miner's lamp or two. Not only does this keep the authentic atmosphere of a mine, but it also keeps the miners happy, and doesn't distract them or cause them temporary vision problems.

    It is a different matter for empty caverns. For those my usual technique is to 'paint with light'. You set the camera up on a tripod and open the shutter. Then you go around the cavern with a small flash, popping it off multiple times all over. By keeping the light off the camera axis you avoid the featureless appearance of on-camera flash and achieve some modeling of the rock surface.

    I'm from a family of miners, by the way, and I've been down a lot of mines and tunnels. I've done most of my underground photography with either a Nikonos or a Nikkormat. In coal mines I simply took the meter battery out of the Nikkormat.

    Best,
    Helen
     
  11. JimPD

    JimPD TPF Noob!

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    Probably will be taking both types, some with the guys in shot, but some to illustrate either geological features or machinery (stationary). To add further complication if I want to take pictures of working machines, they usually have onboard lighting - of varying power.
    Its a gypsum mine, room & pillar working.
    I figured that flash would not be used for photographing miners as the hi-vis on their overalls causes problems even with our compact cameras.
     
  12. frXnz kafka

    frXnz kafka TPF Noob!

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    Jeez Helen, is there any thing you haven't done? ;)
     

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