You've got to be kidding me. Continuous light is making a comeback? Oh, the pain... the pain...
OK, here's the deal. The first place I worked when I got out of school was run by a guy who had started out as a portrait photographer in the late 40's. He hated strobes. Didn't understand them and didn't want to use them.
He would always tell me, "The Old Masters didn't use strobes!" I never really knew if he was talking about Adams, Strand, Steiglitz and the rest, or maybe he was talking about Rembrandt, Vermeer and other heavy hitters.
In any event, I'd usually come back with, "Well, I'm shooting 4x5 table top and I'm getting tired of exposures lasting a half an hour in order to get any kind of depth-of-field." It got to the point where I could do reciprocity failure calculations in my head.
Then, he retired and his son took over and I was finally allowed to purchase strobes. Happy days indeed.
Now, I hear that what with the gaining popularity of digital, tungsten and fluorescent lighting is making a comeback. I've got to admit that with my digital, I think I could be tempted back to a continuous light source, so long as I wouldn't have to deal with long exposures.
So, I'd like to hear what you all think. Anybody already made the switch back to hot (or cool) lights? Anyone feel that with the gaining popularity of continuous lighting that their world no longer makes sense?
You've got to be kidding me. Continuous light is making a comeback? Oh, the pain... the pain...
I went from tungsten to strobe and have never tried the flourescent units. IMHO, hot lights are uncomfortable for the sitters and can be dangerous around kids. Blue bulbs or tungsten film is too expensive and the shutter speeds can be too slow.
Why choose between just two alternatives? The history of studio photography goes back to the gaslight era, a time when the only sufficient lightsource for photography was daylight. If you delve into photography's history you will find around the turn of the century, at least amongst the affluent, photographic portraits were a highly sought after luxury. And photographers catered to this new fashion by creating quite eleaborate daylight studios with great expanses of windows facing usually north to best suit the color blind emulsions used to make B&W photographs at that time. It really wasn't until well into the 20th century and with early motion picture production that the then still new electric stage lighting was adapted for motion picture production that really effective "hot lights" became common.
However, where I began photographing for a living in Los Angeles with electronic flash still not affordable or particularly effective (early 60's) and few buildings wired sufficiently for Mole-Richardson lights, with limited resources I converted a large 2-car garage into a daylight studio. But even in sunny California a daylight studio can be limiting, so I got acquainted with one Bill Norman who had a store-front operation in Burbank hand manufacturing electronic flash.
But even though I got proficient enough with artificial sources to produce a successful book on the subject of lighting, I still liked the image quality a daylight studio afforded. And had daylight studios I worked in, as much by chance and fate as anything, continnously for almost 30 years, until I moved from Hollywood to Seattle.
Now with digital, if I were still doing studio work. I think I would definitely, being back in sunny California, build another daylight studio.
I used to use tungsten all the time. When I went to school that was all we were taught. Naturally I went out and picked up about 10,000 watts of hotlights and shot that way for several years. I was always dissappointed in hot lights for several reasons...
1. the power usage is so large since you need horrendous wattages to even get reasonable shutter speeds. This caused a lot of problems with the electrical system in my studio. I had to literally run seperate breakers to each outlet.
2. the heat generated by the lights was so high that you could literally see the air boiling around the heads
3. you could actually get a sunburn from the things if you spent too much time under them
4. you could get seriously injured from the things. I have many burns on my body just from getting too close to the things, let alone touching them. Beleive me, a 4000 watt Mole softlight puts out some serious heat.
5. Tungsten slide film has never been my favourite and I never found one that I liked in temrs of skin tones. Using filters on the camera further aggrivated the problem because youd lose something like 2 stops of light to convert the light to "daylight use"
6. diffusers and light modifiers are not only WAY more expensive for tungsten, but often you cant get the same level of control as you get with strobes
7, often the only way to adjust rattios with the lights is to move the light physically or put heavy diffusion in front of the bulb because most of these lights cannot be dimmed with rheostats...it seriously lessens the life of the very expensive bulbs..the diffusion further causes problems with color temperature
8. the lights are much heavier than strobes, can only be mounted on the celing with massive jigs....are dangerous to move when mounted....cant be put close to ANYTHING that can burn etc.
9. did I mention you need LOTS of wattage to get useful shutter speeds...and dont forget, that since the lights are so hot, they have to be placed further away from the model to allow for comfort. So having 10-15K of lights in a small studio is a SMALL setup!! try photographing a moving child in a studio with tungten and you will what I mean. that is, if you dont get a lawsuit when the kid knocks over a light or touches it...
10. you need an airconditioner in the studio to get rid of all the heat. 10-15K of light is the equivlent to a small furnace.
11. in macro work you cannot set the lights close to the subject or you risk serious damage to the subject or the camera. I burned the coatings right off a lens once when I pulled a fresnel too close. Having lights far away is NOT good in macro work.
need I go on?
tungsten lights make sense for VIDEO work.....as a cheaper alternative to the cold fluorecent tubes
tungsten lights are OK to learn on, and to be honest I think everyone should try it since you will learn a lot. using tungsten is a lot like using a manual camera. You often modify the light by physically moving the light closer or further as opposed to just adjusing the setting on the strobe. but lets be honest, for tungsten, its mostly a cost saving thing...... and the irony is that if you buy cheap tungsten lights you will soon find out that you need A LOT more to get the effect you want. Soon you realize you could have just bought that AlienBees strobe outfit for less money and solved a lot of problems
my 2 cents ( more lik $1.50 :-)
North Coast Photo Arts
I feel for you.
I was taught nothing but hot lights when I was in school and the first company I worked for also used them. I can remember being up in the studio (On the top floor of the bldg., with no windows or A/C) during the summer and the sweat would just be pouring off me. If I was above my set-up, I would sometimes drip on the products. Not a pretty sight.
If I had to shoot some large set up and needed all the depth-of-field I could get, I'd have exposures that might last 10 or 15 minutes. And if a large truck drove by and shook the place, I might have to scrap that exposure and start over.
I did one shot that had the product sitting on frosted glass, surrounded by rose petals and lit from beneath. I actually caught the moment when the glass shattered from all the heat and the whole set-up tumbled to the floor.
Luckily, my good exposure was on another sheet of film. (Good times, man. Good times.)
Hot lights may be making a come back with digital, but I think I'll be hanging onto my strobes for now.
GREAT story :-) I have so many hot light horror stories...and most of them do seem to revovle around product shots or macro work......I am SOOO glad that hot lights are in my past. Don't get me wrong, I have some awesome memories and some great pics during my "lets pretend Im C.S.Bull" phase... but eventually even the models had to say enough is enough :-). I still have most of my old lights laying around and on VERY rare occasions I will even break them out. But I have to be honest, the last time my Mole Softlights got used was when i was redoing my basement and I needed a lot of light to see what I was doing :-) nothing like a 4000watt shoplight to brighten your day. Thank God it was winter or else I'd have died from heat stroke working around those darn lights.
About 8 years ago I had a quartz bulb blow up, sending pieces of glass onto my client, I know of a photographer who set off a sprinkler(bouncing a hot light into a ceiling) in a dept store shooting furniture.
Now I only use use strobes for photography, and exclusively use hot lights for my house painting jobs.
I've never cared for hot lights. I used them in school occasionally, but I never really got used to them. Flash (for me, anyway) is much more accommodating of the view camera because you can get a LOT of light from a capacitor and xenon tube.
The bellows draw eats a lot of light, and I never had the studio space or money to afford equipment that would give me the output I needed for the view camera. They make a lot of sense for those who need wysiwyg and don't use a Polaroid proofing system. (I use flash and still use a Polaroid for view camera work!).
Oddly enough, I had occasion to use hot lights just last week. We needed to shoot an instruction video in my studio and fired up a couple of 500W softboxes.
My studio is not large and in a short time it began to get quite warm in there. I turned on the AC (Something I rarely do in December in NorthEast Ohio) until it became a bit more comfortable for us. Of course the other people in the office began putting on coats, scarves, hats and mittens in order to stay warm and many disparaging comments were made towards to those of us doing the video.
Thankfully, the mittens hid the obscene gestures, but we knew everyone wasn't just waving "HI!" to us.
Bloo Dog, it's been awhile since I've shot 4x5, but I will never forget "bellows extension factors". That and reciprocity failure were my two main nefarious enemies back in my hot light days.
Going to strobes and getting a strobe meter, then a Poloroid back where I could use type 69 for color and type 55 to check sharpness was the life of Riley, I tell you!