February 19, 2018

Bridge Illumination Project – Day 2 – Quick Notes Draft 1

Lake Monroe Bridge Illumination Project Featured Image 01 DSC_0737Project: Bridge Illumination Project

Date: October 31, 2016 23:00 on ward.

Day: 2

– To establish a workable strategy to obtain focus on structure with little or no light.
– To work on exposure strategy for near dark illumination of structure.
– To experiment with light modifier (umbrella) to maximize and guide light from flash unit to desired part of the structure.


Last night was a step in the right direction where all initial objectives were sought to be resolved, and solutions applied within a reasonable degree of quality.

The issues with a brief summary of the approach used to resolve the issue were:

– Achieving focus without much light and on a structure in the distance. Approach was to use a high powered hand held flashlight with 1300 lumens output to shine toward the structure. Then, using live view, zoom in and attempt to obtain acceptable focus.

– Exposure on near dark structure with augmented lighting applied. This was a trial and error approach. Some rear curtain sync was approached, but because the cameras exposure was needing to be set for a longer duration, using a simgle pop from a flash unit did not achieve acceptable results. Work around and reasonable solution was to set the camera to expose for the desired ambient light (ISO 400, 15 Sec. at F/5.6). This allowed for the ambient and existing lights to burn into the image. Second, flash set at full power was then triggered during 15 second exposure from five to eight times until desired results were established. Hence, painting the light onto the image using manual triggering of flash.
– Some issues include over exposing the flash source, if in the shot. Solution for this would be to flag off flash unit from flashing into the lens.
– Projected issue when using multiple flashes include regulating each of the separate flash unit’s power to the amount of flash pops used during the exposure duration. That is, all units will fire simultaneously, therefore, if each unit will be firing 8 times during 15 seconds, then the power for each flash unit will need to be determined to when at the eight flash, that particular area lit by the flash unit will be exposed within acceptable limits.

So flash 1 at full power after eight pops during 15 seconds may be sufficient for location Flash 1. However, Flash 2, after eight pops, may need to be set to a different power setting to properly illuminate that area after eight flash pops.

And so on.

Note, flashes with and without colored gels may require more or less flash power than when fired without a gel.

– Camera location/mounting/stabilization/composition.

There are about two to four locations where the shot will be taken from. Outside of obtaining acceptable focus, at the location shooting from the floating boat ramp dock, there is the issue of stability needing to be resolved.

Fortunately there is a pylon supporting a portion of the floating dock. The top of the pylon is acceptable and flat enough to place camera on top of for a good stable shot during the long exposure. Some of the issues that could have resulted may have been that being restricted at pylon shooting angle may not have been acceptable for composition. However, it turns out the location is within a three foot radius of where the shot would have been taken from if the dock was stable enough for a tripod to be used. Other pylon mounting strategies could be utilized, such as clamping the camera using acceptable clamping apparatus and camera mounting brackets. This may also avoid issues of camera security by adding a layer of defense against accidental drops and knocks. Note, the camera is being placed where it could fall directly into the water.

Notable mentions.

Working with a single light to first dial in and work with initial challenges and discovered issues was beneficial in maintaining focus and avoiding becoming overwhelmed with a multitude of problems which may occur when loading up the location with multiple lights.

Late night dew. As with location shooting, environmental conditions are a matter of concern. At this location there are mosquitoes, uneven terrain, low visibility, and moisture condensation or dew which at some point need to be contended with during the shoot. The development of dew and condensation directly affects the camera by creating a layer of moisture on the camera body and fogging on the front of the lens.

People traffic, law enforcement and security concerns at the location late at night are low. Because the Wayside Park Boatramp is a well used facility which does not shut down after dark, there is ongoing boating activity taking place throughout the night by fishing or hunters which use the lake.

The parking area in the area is well lit and is an open area absent of blind spots around any parked cars. Frequent and unexpected Florida Marine Patrol personnel routinely patrol the facility while conducting boat safety inspections and while inspecting fishing activity on the bridge.

Project Next Steps:

– Improve flashlight focusing technique by creating an attached magnifying lens and snoot to keep any light spill from disrupting the user’s attempt to achieve focus at the camera either through live view of through the view finder.

– Improve illumiation technique used at the flash point. Convex use of the umbrella created a point light source on the bridge disrupting composition and exposure. Can mitigate this by inverting the umbrella and applying the black cover with silver reflective lining as the main reflector. The diffusion panel, if needed, can then be applied making sure it does not convex above the edges of the inverted umbrella.

– Imrpove illumination by lowering flash unit.
Initially, lowering the flash unit closer to the ground seems initially reasonable. However, because the PocketWizard FlexTT5 unit gets physically attached to the flash unit by way of the hotshoe, the FlexTT5 has to follow around the flash unit during placement considerations.

Therefore, moving the flash onto the ground, and because the receiver is attached to the flash, means the receive is also lowered to the ground creating interference opportunities created by the bridge structure, its horizontal physical elements (the road portion of the bridge), as well as place multiple layers of lateral obstructions such as the one-foot concrete step which is under the metal picket fence guard rails, and of course the vertical steal support structure rising above the pedestrian level of the bridge.

A possible solution to this problem would be to use an iTTL Flash Extension Cord (camera specific) that will be attached to the bottom of the flash, and to the top of the FlexTT5. Therefore, the two units will be able to be placed independently.

Other lighting design concepts and enhancements.

A number of other lighting design concepts and enhancements are currently being considered. This will include using standard long exposure light painting techniques using acceptable exposure quality tolerance.

More flash units.
More flash units are an obvious consideration, however, due to the cost of setting up another “flash station” which will include a flash unit, external battery pack, stands or clamps (particular to its position), and radio trigger bring each station cost near from $500 to $1000 depending on weather the extra gear is purchase used or new. Due to time constraints and quality of equipment acquired used, and due to the standardization of each station (all needing to be the same) a used option may only satisfy one or two stations. Eventually, causing the investment to need to be made new.

Drones have also been considered for the Project. They would be used to light paint various parts of the structure at points not easily accessible (parts of the bridge over the water, or behind/over trees, or the taller pinnacle sections of the bridge which may be deemed essential in the Project.

Various other lighting techniques known and developed as the Project gets under way will continue to be contemplated and implemented on a feasibility accessed basis both in costs and time.