using fill flash with view camera : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'd like to ask about a subject I've not seen covered here. How would I go about using a fill flash with a view camera to photograph a subject outdoors? What special equipment would I need, if any? Recommendations on make and model of strobe. I think flash synchronization is achieved with a dual cable release, but I've never seen or heard about the other aspects of this subject.

- Ray

-- Ray Dunn (, August 15, 1999


You use fill flash the same as with a smaller camera. Your other concerns may be a longer sync cord so you can move around a bit with the flash if you want to sync at faster speeds. If you want to fill with much longer exposure times, you can just set a small strobe on automatic settings to choose an f/stop a bit below your indicated exposure and walk around & fill to your hearts content. This works very well in opening up darker shadows a bit, especially if you fill a couple of stops below the indicated exposure & use the strobe a bit off axis so you don't get unrealistic lighting. Quite a number of LF shooters use strobe fill as it can really help in some situations. You have the choice of really big & powerful potato masher units to small Vivitar types, depending on what amount of power you need. Longer exposures at smaller stops allow you to vary fill angles with low powered strobes to keep odd angled shadows to a minimum.

-- Dan Smith (, August 15, 1999.

Part of the answer is: how much money do you want to spent? You can do it with everything from a Vivitar 283 (approx 50 watt seconds) to the Hensel Porty (a 1200 w/s battery powered strobe) or a Comet PMT (another 1200 w/s battery powered unit). Somewhere in the middle is a 400 w/s Lumadyne (another battery powered unit). I have used all three. I think the special equipment beyond the lighting itself will be one or two light stands. light modifiers like umbrellas, softboxes or "grid spots", sandbags, a sync system I prefer not to be plugged in directly to any high voltage flash equipment after being shocked badly years and years ago) which can include either a long sync cord, or a radio remote like the Bogen/LPA Pocket Wizard and appropriate sync cords, and of course a meter that reads both flash and ambient light. Hopefully you already use Polaroid. you won't need a dual cable release. View Camera just ran an article about Shelby Lee Adams and his portraits in Appalachia that contained several examples of his use flash in remote locations.

-- Ellis Vener (, August 16, 1999.

I have a fairly simple approach.

All of my Copal shutters will accept a PC sync cord. I have a 3 m cord with a basic shoe to which I attach my flash. I've been using a Pentax 280T, because that's what I had. Tripping the shutter trips the flash.

After composing, setting the aperture, and preparing the film for exposure, I set the shutter to about 1/250'. I use this speed because I can do multiple pops of the flash without exposing any areas of the composition that won't be flashed. After all, how often will ambient light be effective at 1/250' and, say, f 45?

I expose the areas of interest that need fill flash to -1 to -1 2/3 stops from the ambient. It's a matter of taste. I use the scale on the flash to determine the number of pops for a given aperture.

Now turn off the flash. Set the shutter to the appropriate value for the ambient light and make your exposure.

Source of frustration - it takes about 4' for my flash to recycle. This is a long time when the sun is setting and 4 or more flashes are needed. Sometimes it's better to do the ambient exposure first, and then the fill flash. That way you get the image if the light is changing. A larger flash would also work, but they are heavier.

Best wishes, Bruce

-- Bruce M. Herman (, August 16, 1999.

I use the pocket wizards from LPA desing / Bogen, they work great... also, since they are a bit pricey, I fire many of the remots via a Wein flash slaves, it goes off when it detects the first flash going off. These are only like $50 vs. $200 for a pocket wizard receiver. You will only need one transmitter and one receiver, about $360. Then for flashes, I find the biggest bang for the buck, i.e. guide number for the dollar is the Cannon 540 EZ flashes.. only $200 for 190 guide number. For this price, I string a bunch of these together and have a very powerful battery operated flash system. Of course they are not equipped with the automatic mode, however, since I read all my flash reading via a reflective spot meter, I do not need this feature, and don't reccommend it since there is way to many variables that can fool you, nothing beats a straight reading from a reflective meter. I also hold a large piece of cardboard, of 18% grey at the subject area (s) and flash them to get my readings from the camera postion. Another maker of flashes, Japan made, I think they are called Nikki.. or something like that, distributed by REI in USA has 195 guide number flahses for low as $165. I am not sure if you have tried this before, but it takes a lot of flash power to overcome daylight shadows of large subjects, especially if the flash is located out of the scene, then you need a ton on flash. I locate the flashes as close to the scene as I can then remove them digitaly since all those flahses with stands appear quite odd.. hope this helps ys.. good luck...

-- Bill Glickman (, August 21, 1999.

Bill, I doubt that the 540EZ has a guide number 190. It is 177 ft fully zoomed to ~100 mm focal length.

-- Carlos Co (, August 23, 1999.

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