Lighting a Dungeon (Without a Fire Breathing Dragon)

There is only one Joe McNally and only Joe gets the BIG jobs like this. The rest of us? We get a wee bit more modest jobs…

Had some fun Friday shooting a pretty cool computer controlled coordinate measuring machine (CMM) made by none other than Zeiss, a name very familiar to most photographers. I wanted to get a few close-up shots of the probe that does the actual measuring as well as an environmental portrait of the machine and operator in action.

I walked into the 10′ x 20′ room housing the CMM and took a few snaps with my G10 to see what the room’s fluorescent lighting looked like. As in most manufacturing plants, the dark floor and walls seemed to suck up the available light like a sponge. And as luck would have it, the CMM’s base was a giant block of black granite and Miguel, the operator, was wearing a grey shirt and black pants. (Butterflies in the stomach…)

I decided to get the easy shots out of the way and began with a few closeups of the measuring probe as it zoomed all around the part it was measuring. I shot these using a softbox on the left and a shoot-through umbrella on the right at 45 deg. I chose a fairly wide aperture to throw the cluttered background out of focus. My 580EX II’s were on manual around 1/4th power controlled wirelessly using the PocketWizard MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 units. My biggest issues were the specular highlights (that’s a David Hobby term for a blinding reflection) coming off the (very Terminator looking) probe. These shots contains a few small areas that are almost completely blown out but hey, that’s life.

CMM Closeup 1

CMM Close Up – Houston, Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on manual (M) using an EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens tripod-mounted. The exposure was taken at 180mm, f/5.6 for 1/50th of a second at ISO 400. All post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 Beta. Click on the image above for a larger version.

CMM Closeup 2

CMM Close Up – Houston, Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on manual (M) using an EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens tripod-mounted. The exposure was taken at 135mm, f/7.1 for 1/60th of a second at ISO 400. All post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 Beta. Click on the image above for a larger version.

With the easy “product shots” out of the way, now I had to figure some way to light this dark room, the big shiny machine and Miguel, the operator. All with three Canon 580 EX II strobes, a 24″ Lastolite Ezybox Hotshoe (softbox) and a 43″ Westcott shoot-through umbrella. (Panic begins to set in…)

Miguel was extremely patient while I tried several different lighting positions attempting to light the machine evenly without leaving him in the dark. I settled upon the layout shown below by pure luck, using the softbox pointed at Miguel through the arch of the CMM, as the key and using the shoot-through umbrella as the fill. I also bounced another 580EX II against the white ceiling to add some additional fill behind the CMM to soften the shadows. I pumped up all three strobes to 1/1 power to fill this dark room with as much soft light as possible.

CMM Lighting Diagram

Shooting at ISO 400 with the Canon 5D Mark II really makes this a snap due to the almost nonexistent noise at ISO 200 – 800. The 580EX II’s worked perfectly with their external battery packs and new PocketWizard MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 radio triggers. Post capture processing was simple using Miguel’s shirt to set a custom white balance in Lightroom. I spent less than 10 minutes retouching these shots in Photoshop so my entire “labor” for this shoot was under four hours.

My next shoot is a bunch of big green machines under sodium vapor lamps on the factory floor, so wish me luck!

CMM Operator

Hard at Work – Houston, Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on manual (M) using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens tripod-mounted. The exposure was taken at 47mm, f/6.3 for 1/80th of a second at ISO 400. All post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 Beta and in Photoshop CS4. Click on the image above for a larger version.

5 thoughts on “Lighting a Dungeon (Without a Fire Breathing Dragon)

  1. Pingback: Packing for an Industrial Shoot « Serious Amateur Photography

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