Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I want to dive head first into lighting my studio shots while having some flexibility for outdoor and long distance use.

I have a Nikon d7000 and sb700 now.

I want to be able to use my sb700 as one of the three off-camera lights.

I want to be able to use one of the lights outside and at far distances (let's say to light a subject on a mountain while shooting from its base and getting the subject illuminated at dusk time).

The third will always sit in my home studio so it can be whatever, no need to even be portable, though portability is a big plus.

I know I need stands, I'm guessing strobes would be best for my needs, and as for everything else required, I am clueless.

I also want to be able to get all three to fire together for home studio portraits.

can anyone list the hardware ill require to make this happen? I am lost when it comes to what i need to get the mountain top flash to fire when not in line of sight and very far away.

also what does it take to get the three flashes mentioned above to fire at once?

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For outdoor flash reach, you might want to look into a Better Beamer or other flash extender. It's doubtful you could illuminate a subject way up on a mountain while you are at the mountains base...thats a LONG way and would require some serious flash power as well as a gargantuan Fresnel lens to even barely reach your subject. Flash extenders are really only good on the scale of dozens to a couple hundred feet...beyond that, they aren't going to be all that useful. –  jrista Jul 25 '12 at 19:42
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We do need to know what your actual question is though, as your statement above contains no actual question. –  rfusca Jul 25 '12 at 19:48
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I cleaned up some of the grammar, but I also have trouble figuring out exactly what information you're after. You may want to split this up into a couple different questions (though I don't know because I'm not sure what you're trying to ask). –  Laura Jul 25 '12 at 20:15
    
added detailed section at the end as to what information I am looking for –  kacalapy Jul 25 '12 at 20:19
3  
If you are serious about the distant mountain case, I suggest you split that part into another question, as it is both specific and extreme. You're going to need something out of the ordinary for that. –  mattdm Jul 25 '12 at 20:30

3 Answers 3

There's one question here I was really curious about the answer to:

I want to be able to use one of the lights outside and at far distances (let's say to light a subject on a mountain while shooting from its base and getting the subject illuminated at dusk time).

There are a few difficulties with this. For one, positioning the light: placing the light at the base of the mountain and shooting towards the peak would be casting some light upwards and that would always be an unflattering photo. Also, with the light so far away it will be harsh and also create an unflattering photo. But, looking at the math:

guide number = f stop x distance

So, for arguments sake, lets shoot at f4. Mount Washington in New Hampshire is 6288 feet tall, and the visitor center is at 2032 feet, for an elevation change of 4256 feet (or just shy of 1300 meters). So, that means: 4 x 4256, for a guide number (in feet) of 17,024.

  • The SB700, when shot at full zoom at ISO 100 gives a guide number of 125. 17024 / 125 tells us you would need 137 SB700s to match that.
  • I'm happy to say I invested in SB900s, which have a guide number of 172, so I would only need 99 of them! (At the same ISO 100, zoomed to 105mm.)
  • Let's go for something bigger but still portable: a Metz Mecablitz 76 MZ-5 (zoomed to 105mm, shot at ISO 100) has a guide number of nearly 250. You'd only need 68 of those!
  • Ok, so maybe you'll need to think of "portable" as "bring a power pack or generator." Elinchrom's BRX 500 has a guide number of 270, so you'll still need 64 of those. (Though that measurement is with a 48 degree reflector; I bet you could get a little higher guide number with a tighter reflector.)
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It's possible. According to a Lensrentals blog post - lensrentals.com/blog/2013/07/… - they made a 43,000 Ws flash unit during WWII for air reconnaisance, it could illuminate subjects 6 km (4 miles) away. Weight more than a metric ton, though, so not very portable. In practice, I think I would buy a few 1000W worklights and a diesel generator, and send an assistant to position them at the mountaintop, communicating over cell phone or walkie-talkie. Would be semi-portable, at least. –  j-g-faustus Jul 11 '13 at 16:12
    
@j-g-faustus -- great link! –  Dan Wolfgang Jul 11 '13 at 16:26

For reasonably priced equipment that is reliable, I'd suggest you look at the Cowboy Studios line. I have their wireless triggers, which work beautifully and allow you to have multiple channels. They also have stands, brackets for the triggers and strobes, and lightboxes for use in the studio.

There are fancier and more expensive setups. I've found that this simple setup, combined with some "vintage" Vivitar 283 strobes, has served me well in a variety of circumstances. Everything works reliably, and I haven't invested an arm and a leg to get there.

You might want to throw a superclamp or two into your kit, for times when you want to attach a strobe to something other than a stand, like a railing or branch.

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You have many options, thousands at least. So I suggest you do a bit of reading to learn the basics first.

Got to the Strobist blog, http://strobist.blogspot.com/

and read especially the Strobist 101 series: http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/03/lighting-101.html

One decision will drive a lot of your choices, and you don't know enough to answer it, yet. That is whether or not you want to use a TTL system, such as Nikon's CLS. Some people swear by these systems, and others swear at them. If you go, you'll want strobes that are CLS compatible.

The non-CLS strobes are cheaper, and can work very well.

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