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 What are the best field lights to use? 
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Joined: Fri May 02, 2014 12:45 pm
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Post What are the best field lights to use?
I'm planning a night shoot at Cape Scott to try and get some nice astro timelapse sequences and I wondered what the best lights
would be to create soft, low light on the scenery in my foreground?

I know nothing about field lighting for timelapse but I know I'll need something with a constant output that doesn't flicker.
I need something that wont weigh a tonne and won't cost a bomb.

Any advice?

Cheers
Gavin


Fri May 30, 2014 9:43 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
I prefer white LED lights to keep the power low, and the daylight balance the same for the stars.
I've got a couple of these off ebay, and found they are pretty close to pure white, and of course will run all night with a usb battery pack...
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Flexible-Book-R ... 2ecfedde75

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Fri May 30, 2014 11:08 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
Thanks Antz.

Do they stay put once placed or do you get sagging?


Sat May 31, 2014 4:16 am
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
Depends on how you place them, and the wind. Stretched out horizontally they can sag, using the neck to wrap around something they are generally rock solid. Easy enough to figure out with a bit of playing about. I bought about 6 of them, a couple needed a drop of glue on the end of the neck to stop the head from coming loose from the shaft. Really cant beat the price though.

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Sat May 31, 2014 9:18 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
I'm interested in seeing some same shots. How many lights do you typically need to light your scene. I'll be shooting some old sugar mill ruins and would like to light it up faintly.


Sun Jun 01, 2014 3:04 am
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
Yes, this would be good advice to get. I'd like to light my subject from both sides with one of the sides being much brighter. Any advice on this would be great. Feel free to draw diagrams and use graphs ;)


Sun Jun 01, 2014 12:48 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
It really is a lot of trial and error and mostly personal taste. If you are trying to get stars along with a foreground object, you only need very minimal illumination, barely enough to make objects visible to the eye by the time you do a long exposure for the stars. Pretty much the same sort of rules for a fill-in flash, only much much darker.
Probably 90% of the time I prefer no extra light for a night shot, unless it is something specific like a monument or statue. If it is a natural object fixed lighting can make things stand out in a bad way, ie the lighting does not change with the stars moving, so the scene becomes artificial in feel, although it can be minimised with very soft even light. Again all very much personal preference and taste though.

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Sun Jun 01, 2014 4:19 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
Thanks for the tips Antz. Just waiting for this hazy nights to clear and then I'm on it.


Sun Jun 01, 2014 4:52 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
I'd also be interested to see the results anyone gets from those little reading lights. Pretty cheap option if a row of those are all you need!

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Sun Jun 01, 2014 4:59 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
Here's a sequence I shot using a pair of those lights: http://app.nimia.com/video/106603/northern-lights-08-hell

Great lights. Super portable and can't get any cheaper. Just don't expect them to light up anything further than 15 feet away.

I bought a bunch of them and prepared sets of 3 for different color temperatures by taping layers of colored film over them. Works like a charm.

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Mon Jun 02, 2014 2:38 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
Thanks for the link - they seem to have a nice natural colour, great location you have there too!

Did you power them with some sort of portable USB power?

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Mon Jun 02, 2014 2:44 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
Yes, I use some small 5000mAh USB batteries.
A usb extension cable or two will come in handy when there's nowhere to leave the battery close to the light.

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Mon Jun 02, 2014 2:57 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
Plan9 wrote:
Here's a sequence I shot using a pair of those lights: http://app.nimia.com/video/106603/northern-lights-08-hell


Great example of good soft lighting.

I tried a whole bunch of cheap LED lights from ebay in the under $10 range, just out of curiosity to see what they behaved like. The vast majority have a very significant blue cast to them. These were one of the only ones I could find that were close to pure white.
And yes, for large objects some distance away from the camera, you will need much bigger lights, or a handful of these small ones all working together and strategically placed.

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Mon Jun 02, 2014 5:18 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
Plan9 wrote:
Yes, I use some small 5000mAh USB batteries.
A usb extension cable or two will come in handy when there's nowhere to leave the battery close to the light.


That is a gorgeous sequence Plan 9, so smooth and with zero flicker. How far away were the lights from your foreground subjects?
I'd also be curious. to know what ISO and interval you found worked best for those conditions.

Cheers
Gavin


Wed Jun 04, 2014 11:02 am
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
I've just bought a set of those lights, now looking for a battery (like the below) plus a cheap USB hub to power all the lights from. I figure with the below battery, I could power both the TB3 and lights from the one source, if needed.

http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/191148065730 ... 1438.l2649

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Wed Jun 04, 2014 1:49 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
If you want to power the lights off the same battery as the TB3 just be aware that doing vertical slides will use up a lot of battery power so you'll need to factor that in to your consumption when using the same batt for lights. Please keep me posted and let me know how the lights perform.

Cheers
Gavin


Wed Jun 04, 2014 2:00 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
Thanks for the post, I've got a couple of large SLA batteries that usually power the TB3 so that solar power one would really be a backup of a backup. Thought the solar option might be useful if away for days on end, plus it can charge things like phones and tablets - drained the car battery one night watching movies on my phone. Had to jump start the car from one of the SLA batteries.

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Wed Jun 04, 2014 2:13 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
The built in solar panel will not be big enough to charge it very fast, probably about 3 days in the sun at a guess based on others I have used.

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Wed Jun 04, 2014 7:04 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
Antz wrote:
The built in solar panel will not be big enough to charge it very fast, probably about 3 days in the sun at a guess based on others I have used.


Thanks for the info. I'd seen an estimate of about 8 hours solar recharge on one, but that could just be marketing. I'll rethink the solar idea as really all I need the battery for is powering 8 of those little $1.20 lights.

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Wed Jun 04, 2014 7:14 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
Got the last of my lighting setup in the mail this week, in the end I went with:

12,000mAh USB battery - $15.70
5x 1m USB extension cables - $8.95
2x 4-port USB hubs - $7.90
8x USB lights - $11.20

Haven't shot with it yet but plugged it all in, and just one light provides considerable illumination, enough to light up the garden 6m away: (bottle of wine not included).

Image

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Tue Jul 01, 2014 3:11 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
CAN'T wait to see some footage. Shame the vino was'nee included.


Tue Jul 01, 2014 3:23 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
I bought a dozen wines too but that was a separate purchase. I'll try and take some test shots sometime this week and post the results back here.

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Tue Jul 01, 2014 3:30 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
Here are two test shots from tonight. I wanted to get an idea of brightness and coverage so took a sequence of 5 shots starting with no lights, then building up to 4. As you can see, even just one light is probably too bright for long exposures with high ISO for a close foreground object unless the lights are well behind you, or dampened. I had mine set up curled around the tripod below the camera.

Next time I take them out for a proper shoot I'll take some white cloth to wrap around and dampen the lights.

No post processing on the shots other than reduced size to 600x400.

Shot 01 details:
Camera: Canon 5D3
Lense: Canon 24-105 at 24mm, focus at ~5m.
f4, 10 secs, ISO 800.

Image

Shot 02 details:
Camera: Canon 5D3
Lense: Samyang 14mm, focus at infinity.
f2.8, 15 secs, ISO 800.

Image

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Wed Jul 02, 2014 2:06 am
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
Thanks for the test shots. As you say, they are plenty bright. Is there a way to turn down the brightness on the lights or is it simply a case of use less lights or place them further away?


Wed Jul 02, 2014 5:06 am
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
No way to dim them, you'd have to put them further away (and try not to cast a camera/tripod shadow) or perhaps use some white cloth to dim them.

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Wed Jul 02, 2014 2:26 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
Karl M wrote:
Got the last of my lighting setup in the mail this week, in the end I went with:

12,000mAh USB battery - $15.70

Image


Hi

do you have a link by any chance ?


Wed Jul 02, 2014 3:47 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
Yep, Antz provided the link in the second post:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Flexible-Book-Reading-13-LED-Light-Lamp-USB-Power-Cable-For-Notebook-Laptop-/201056968309?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2ecfedde75

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Wed Jul 02, 2014 3:51 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
oops, was referring to the battery you purchased


Wed Jul 02, 2014 3:55 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
Ah, there were tons to choose from, this is what I went with:

http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/12000mAh-USB-Portable-Power-Bank-Charger-Battery-For-iphone5-Mobile-PSP-IPAD/291180721663?_trksid=p2047675.c100012.m1985&_trkparms=aid%3D444000%26algo%3DSOI.DEFAULT%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D20140107090229%26meid%3D8041238756247186319%26pid%3D100012%26prg%3D20140107090229%26rk%3D2%26rkt%3D10%26sd%3D291170883899

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Wed Jul 02, 2014 4:00 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
thanks for the quick reply.

I might also look at the cases that take AA batteries( as it saves carrying extra chargers)


Wed Jul 02, 2014 4:56 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
Something else that can be useful is a USB hub with on/off switches for each port. Mine don't so had to pull each light out when taking the test shots - just something to make your life a little bit easier ;)

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Wed Jul 02, 2014 5:00 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
Good stuff.
Another simple trick to reduce light if you have too much is just put a bit of tape over some of the LEDs.
I really like the flexibility of being able to place (or just point) lots of smaller lights as opposed to using one or two big lights.

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Thu Jul 03, 2014 10:09 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
Ha ha, a piece of tape, nice and simple trick there, thanks!

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Thu Jul 03, 2014 10:50 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
i remember reading this post not long after joining finally got around to ordering 4 tonight. i have to agree the price is right lol. i notice the comment about a spot of glue to hold one part together. which makes me curious as to how hard it would be to get a 3 position switch in there somewhere perhaps then you could have two,five or all of them on which might extend the battery a little or give something like a variable output ? admitably tape is cheap. just a idea i'd thought i'd throw out there


Tue May 19, 2015 3:13 am
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
after i my last post here i thought about it abit and i think my thinking was a bit lax if i put a three way switch in the housing them i am guessing i would need some resistors to take up the slack as more voltage would be going to the fewer leds right ? so for 3 leds on you would need the most amount of resistors. then a few less resistors for 7 leds and no resistors for all leds running. not that i have calculated anything out. yet however seems a bit involved to get a "variable" output so to speak and i'm not sure that there would be a noticeable improvement in battery life to justify the effort. any thoughts ? is resistance the only issue i face or have i missed the ball somewhere else ?


Thu Jun 04, 2015 1:43 am
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
I haven't pulled one apart to look, but I suspect they might be wired in groups. Since they are only running on 5v from the USB supply I would expect them to be wired in probably batches of about 3 in series at a time. So in theory they could be broken down.
For what I have done with them I find just unplugging or adding whole lamps covers things pretty well though.

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Thu Jun 04, 2015 5:15 am
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
I've got three of these 60 led lamps which you see television news camera operators using now days. They are overkill for timelapse but I also use a PWM (pulse width modulation) circuit which controls the intensity from OFF to FULL. You could use a simple DC motor controller like this - http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Pulse-Width-PWM-12V-24V-36V-DC-Motor-Speed-Regulator-Controller-Switch-3A-/181539908750?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_15&hash=item2a449f2c8e to control the intensity of lamps.

I was concerned that the pulsing would be noticeable but it is fine for timelapse work. Not sure about video work though it shouldn't be an issue here either.

If you wonder how they work then the output voltage of these units is the same as what is put in but the waveform coming out is switched off and on and a very high speed. The changing of the pulse width changes how much of the output is the voltage and how much is off. Hence your light changes intensity.

Additional. The nice thing about these larger lamps is they have a slot for putting coloured filters in. Mine came with a few different correction coloured filters.

Hey the tape idea is cheaper !

Steve.

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Thu Jun 04, 2015 3:54 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
For video the PWM frequency would need to be either far too high to be practical or synchronised to the video camera's electronic shutter which would cause other problems you don't want even if it were achievable.

You can control the light output of a LED to some extent by using a variable, constant current supply (does the comma stop that being an oxymoron?). Note you must stabilise the current not the voltage to get a constant light output from a LED. It is possible to reduce the light output to a point where the LEDs suddenly stop conducting and go out. The PWM mini stage lights I built a while back have this kind of adjustment to control the maximum output. I'll do an experiment (after it gets dark here in WA) to measure the number of stops control you can get.

Kit


Thu Jun 04, 2015 5:09 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
I'm using an Arduino to control light outputs and the input PWM is about 4khz which is too low for video. I did do a video test and it slowly fades up and down over several seconds. Weird. But I've had no issue with this speed with timelapse.

The PWM Buck converter modules have constant current output but I've found that just a bulk standard darlington attached to an Arduino output and PWM adjusted for light level to work just fine. Though you're making me concerned now. For the only test I've done was over a couple of hours without any noticeable change in light intensity.

Might have to search out some constant current designs to modify what I have.

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Thu Jun 04, 2015 5:25 pm
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Post Re: What are the best field lights to use?
Steve,
Beware of over-simple constant current circuits, especially ones that use little more than current sensing resistor and a bipolar transistor. These circuits are very sensitive to temperature changes which affect the forward voltage of the base-emitter junction and make them anything but 'constant current'.

I'll dig out the circuit for my lights which use a temperature stabilised reference voltage source and an op-amp comparator to give a rock-steady current which can be varied over a wide range with a potentiometer. Might not be today though, the Eagle file isn't on this computer. Hopefully it is on my laptop, but I have a burst water pipe to mend first!

Kit


Thu Jun 04, 2015 6:48 pm
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