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Thread: Studio/set lighting for Tintype

  1. #1

    Studio/set lighting for Tintype

    Howdy gang!

    I've spent the last couple of days trying to get a handle on artifical lighting for a Tintype studio or for lighting a "set" at someone else's location.

    I find f16 @ 1/2 Second works good in bright sunlight, which is about 1354 Watts per square meter. Tintype is shortwavelength sensitive and insensitive to longer wavelengths.

    I want to keep exposure times to 1 Second or less and depth of field isn't critical for studio work, so I can likely increase exposure by maybe 4 stops over the f16/.5 which would bring me down to 169 Watts per square meter.

    Now, if my set is 3 meters wide by 2 meters high, I need about 1KW of blue-rich light evenly spread over the set. Allow 1500 Watts for inefficiencies, overlap, and what-not.

    Do I have that right?

    Quartz halogen seems to have the best blue-rich spectrum but mercury vapour gives nearly all it's energy in the wavelengths where tintype is most sensitive, so it would generate less heat on the set.

    This is kind of a wierd puzzle since I am not worried about colour balance or "natural" colours but simply getting enough illumination in the blue-to-UV range. For nearly 40 years I have simply used flash and strobes but that doesn't work with tintypes.....

    Whatever I do for lighting needs to be portable and not overly expensive.

    Thoughts? Ideas? Suggestions?

  2. #2

    Studio/set lighting for Tintype

    I'm wondering if there would be significant advantage to trying to match the spectrum of the flash powder used in historic tintypes... Not to use powder, but maybe to gel a strobe or hotlight to match???

    Maybe only worth considering if it would affect the fleshtones...???

  3. #3

    Join Date
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    Studio/set lighting for Tintype

    Your thoughts on a method for generating the light itself are sound.

    But as you know, the art of tastefully lighting an object (or human face) is much more profound than the simple mechanical task of recording it on film. I never cease to be amazed at how many tasteful interior designers purchase light fixtures based solely upon how they look, rather than on the quality of light they produce. Shouldn't a dining table light fixture make the food look appetizing?

    So what kind of fixture are you contemplating? If your available location power is low, can you afford to waste half your generated light as it is absorbed by a soft box or umbrella? Surely a halogen worklight from Home Depot will be both uneven and harsh, if used "raw".

    As someone who spent much time in Hollywood during the days when Hurrell was still working, I have always marvelled at cine lighting products from people like Mole-Richardson and Matthews Grip Equipment. I believe still photographers have traditionally done themselves a great disservice and endured an unecessary handicap by not employing this rich toolbox of light generating and modifying treasures. Especially useful when a lot of light is required.

    Get hold of a Mole catalogue and learn the difference between a trombone and a cookie, a scrim and a flag. Check out an inky-dinky (hint: a tiny incandescent spot).

    Just a thought from the old duffer...

  4. #4

    Studio/set lighting for Tintype

    Great thoughts John!

    Of course getting enough wattage in the appropriate wavelengths is the technical side of the issue. Applying that illumination in a pleasing way is the artistic side :-)

    I had rambled thru a number of cine lighting sites as they seem to be the ones dealing with high lighting levels on a continuous basis.

    I'll definately try to find a Mole catalogue

  5. #5
    Moderator Ralph Barker's Avatar
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    Studio/set lighting for Tintype

    FWIW, your logic appears to be sound, but I think you have two basic considerations:

    1. getting sufficient light, at the most effective end of the spectrum, that will be practical in the locations at which you're shooting, and

    2. a setup that is visually consistent with the style of the work. Lights that appear "modern" will look out of place.

    I'd be leary about using either studio strobes or hot lights, for example, as some of your locations may not have AC conveniently available, and long extension cords present a different set of problems in a fair environment. Personally, I think I'd lean toward multiple battery-operated, high output portable flash units, disguised in some sort of antique-looking housing. My guess would also be that, for this work, you can get away with lighting that is more harsh than would be optimal for conventional studio portraits.

  6. #6

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    Studio/set lighting for Tintype

    Mole Richardson has an online catalog that covers everything...they have a store called Studio Depot as well, that sells grip equipment, like matthews etc. We use some Mole stuff where I work, along with a bunch of Lowell stuff ike tota-lights and Omnis. For portability, the lowell stuff is better in my opinion, but Mole Richardson lights are built like a tank....the Lowell Softlighter is pretty neat though. It bascially folds into a medium sized case and is a collapsible 2000 watt tungsten broad light. It's actually like having 2 totalights inside a silver faced scoop without any safety screens--so they can be lamped at !000 watts each. We have 2 of these, and you can light up a huge area with them--the Rifa-light is similar, but more compact.

    I really think though, that going the way of hotlights is going to be very costly in many ways--both in power and in price. I think you'd need so much light that it would be hard to get power out in the field--if you gel them with daylight blue Rosco gels, or maybe a dichroic filter, you'll lose abotu a stop and just need more power. Not that I'm a big expert on this or anything, but something like an HMI light might be the perfect source to use since it's daylight balanced and is stable. But they cost an arm and a leg and then some--would be better to rent something like that if you could find one.

    fwiw---There used to be a style of lighting used by furniture studios here in NC, shooting room sets using hotlights. They used to shoot----4x5, 8x10 and larger chrome film and they would use all these carboard gobos and fingers made out of foil to basically light every angle on a piece of furniture. The gobos and fingers were used to keep the light from hitting just the piece--avoid double shadows--and they would use cards & flags tocut the contrast on stuff like marble tops etc. Anything in the shot would have it's own lighting--not like a main and a fill, more like a movie set really. I worked in a place like this as an intern, and they had a massive silk over a key with about a half dozen Mole strip lights in them putting down the soft fill. Then, 1K fresnels and mini-moles and the like were used to highlight the shape of the pieces. They used 8x10 deardorfs and ektar lenses and the exposures were done by hanging a cardboard box over the open lens and using a stopwatch. They never used alight meter and rarely used polaroid--it was all eyeballed by routine experience. An exposure on EPY with thousands of watts, would be like 15 minutes. You could walk in front of the camera and not even register on film....

    I'm just thinking of the amount of light it took to do those shots, and the film speed was like ektachrome 64,. It's really incredible studio technique, all done with hotlights, but you almost wouldn't believe how many lights they use to light even something as simple as a small table or a chair. I think the Sun is you best bet.....if you want a good book on lighting technique though, check out Ross Lowell's "Matters of Light and Depth".

  7. #7

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    Studio/set lighting for Tintype

    I use fresnels because of the quality of light produced....( sharp crisp shadows)....If I need to soften the light I just punch it through a scrim. I have a junior Mole 4131 that can be lamped from 1000 - 2000 watts. I also use the lowel frenL 650 watt for many fill applications.these along with a couple of old century 750 watt theatrical fresnels are the source of my studio lighting. Also the lowel 200 watt pro light is one of the nicest fresnel- quality lights around. ( great hair light). I agree the " Matters of Light and Depth" is a great book. Ross' one, two, and three light technique is a great place to start. It's amazing what you can do with one light and a couple of reflectors. As far as portability, three 650 watt lowel fresnels would make a great location kit. They weigh about one third what the mole weighs. I think B&H offers a kit like this. What ever you decide on you'll have fun playing with different lighting situations.

  8. #8

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    Studio/set lighting for Tintype

    I'm not so sure about your power estimate--most of the power in sunlight is in wavelengths longer than ultraviolet and even blue, and non-halogen lamps have even less UV. An exposure box containing a few UV fluorescents (at 20 watts or so apiece) can conveniently replace sunlight for many of the alternative processes, so the spectral distribution is clearly more important than the raw power consumption. (I'm not suggesting that you make wall-sized panels of fluorescents, although the idea is intriguing...)

    Give all of the possible complications---flashtubes usually have built-in UV blocking filters, the really short actinic wavelengths will not make it through the lens anyway, and even xenon arcs and HMI lamps may be filtered to prevent ozone production---a practical test using scrounged or borrowed light sources may be in order.

    Have you considered adapting a "tanning lamp"? Or are these even still available? If it can tan skin it should expose a tintype...

  9. #9

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    Studio/set lighting for Tintype

    Some problems with your power calculation. The 1354 W/m2 is all of the spectrum combined, light that the tintype can see, the rest of the visible spectrum, UV and IR. So effective power is some fraction of the 1354. Then, an incandescent puts out most of its power in IR, rather little in blue, an incandescent has an efficacy of about 15 lumens per watt, the sun is about 100. Lumens are related to the eye's sensitivity, the blue sensitive tintype adds another variable. This can be calculated if the response curve of the tintype is known, but probably easier to try it, see how close you have to get an incandescent lamp to a typical subject to get an exposure. You might make a mask to put in front of the plate, so you could get several little exposures for 1 plate.
    Of course, for the right period setup, you need flash powder. Makes lots of light. Might get you in trouble with fireworks regulations. Might burn you house down.

  10. #10

    Studio/set lighting for Tintype

    That's exactly the path I am following Harold!

    Mercury vapour (which is also the heart of a sunlamp) has 5 major bands (in order of decreasing intensity): 580 nm (yellow), 360 nm (long wave UV) , 550 nm (blue-green), 450 nm (violet-blue), and 420 nm (violet). It has almost zero radiation in the reds and infrared which keeps the set cooler and makes better use of the electrical energy.

    As far as what the tintype can "see" mercury vapour should be Watt-for-Watt as effective as sunlight.

    I'm just trying to nail down suitable MV bulbs and housings in the 300 to 600 Watt range.

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