A few scanning tips

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Don't mix slow and fast lights when the idea is speed

False shadow due to slower background light

I had the notion to light the background for a pleasing color. In the first try that produced this result, two Nikon SB-800 speedlights were used, one as main light close to the milk drop, and one on the background. The timer triggered the background light directly, and then its flash optically triggered the foreground main light in SU-4 mode. The main light was at minimum power to be fast to stop the milk drop fall. The background light was much farther back, but much stronger (and slower), which was a dumb idea, because the slower background light ruins the shot, but in an interesting way.

What appears as a shadow under the milk drops is NOT exactly an expected shadow at all. It cannot be a shadow from the main light, because the main light path and camera lens path makes an X, not pointing the same direction, which is seen in the position of the highlights on the milk drop. Turns out that the "false shadow" is the darkness behind the milk drop, NOT by the main light, but illuminated by the background light, by the continuing slower light on the background being blocked as the drop falls farther (drop itself is blocking seeing the light that is on the background). The falling drop blocked the background light longer that the faster front light was lighting the drop. It was very visible when the main light was faster than the background light. The only benefit of that dark "shadow" is that it does clearly represent the difference in speed of the two lights. The main frontal light was 1/128 power, very fast and brief. The background light was lower power and slower, being present longer as the drop fell and was hiding it.

The milk drop has fallen 12 inches here which computes about 8 feet per second velocity. The main light was at 1/128 power in all frames, and it did stop the milk drop well, clear and sharp, until the slower background light (higher power setting) continued to add effect, much more than I expected from its distance.

You can click each image for a larger view. The only change in all frames is that background light was changed to be the power level specified below:

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Background 1/32 power
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Background 1/16 power
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Background 1/8 power
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Background 1/4 power
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Background 1/2 power
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Background full power

The main light at 1/128 power was about 11 inches in front of the milk drop, and the front of the camera lens was about four inches. Background was at seven feet behind, and its light was four feet in front of it. That seemed far enough back to not expect any ill effect. But it had effect, not due to the light levels, but due to flash speed.

This test sequence was taken to try to resolve what that dark shadow was, since no shadow was possible here (certainly not this shadow). Then the truth was easily revealed. These photos show the speed difference very clearly (due to difference of two power levels). The fast flash in front cleanly stopped the falling milk drop, but the slower light on the background was present a longer time, and was blocked from the camera lens for a longer time by the moving milk drop. This really surprised me! It wouldn't have mattered on a motionless opaque subject, but it was necessary to abandon the pretty background light for these shots.

Other shots on the first "speed" page here would be with the AlienBees B800 at full power from about 15 feet, and some with the Nikon SB-800 at less than one foot, so if I could not light the background independently, then I felt it necessary for the milk drop and background to be very near each other, to keep the background from appearing bright at high power, but dark at low power. In the final run, I put the background up within a couple inches of the drop (to illuminate it), which still shows a slight difference at lowest power. But this lost my planned deep red color. And then it was necessary to work around the real drop shadow on the background (a small angle fixed it). The final results are here.

A speedlight is very fast (very short duration) except at its Full power level. At 1/2 power, most are near 1/1000 second duration, and it is very much faster as the power level is reduced. But the Full power level is not truncated short (to be less power), and its duration is more like the Minimum Flash Sync Speed rating, maybe 1/200 or 1/250 second. Which is not slow, but it is not speedlight fast when at Full power level.

And most studio lights are "voltage controlled power" instead of speedlight power, and they get slower at low power, with duration becoming perhaps twice longer at minimum power level.


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