Old Hollywood lights

This evening I spent some time photographing an old-style 10 inch Bardwell-McAlister fresnel light. I am doing some old Hollywood glamour work with it and wanted to photograph it for a promotional card and also because it’s beautiful in its old fashioned way. This instrument was converted into a 2000 ws flash head by Norman years ago.

Here is how I photographed the fresnel. First, I turned the fresnel’s modeling light on to maximum power. Then I used two SB800 flashes to illuminate the sides of the fresnel. I had the flashes gelled with full CTO to match the color of the modeling light, just in case I wanted to use the color versions of these images. Since the main purpose was to create black and white images, white balance doesn’t really matter.

On the first image I used an exposure of 1/2 second at f/8. Only one SB800 portable flash is used here, with a 10 degree grid, pointing to the back of the lamp. The fresnel produced the pattern of light on a black 4×8 foam core board. I like the light escaping from the top, bottom and back. I didn’t use any fill on this image.

On this second image I did use two flashes plus the light coming from the fresnel. There is a flash without any modifier about three feet in front of the fresnel, centered on the lens, and pointing to it. This flash illuminates the front of the head. There is another flash with a 10 degree grid positioned behind the head and throwing the rim light you see to camera right. I liked the cinematic effect of having that light rimmed and not pointing directly to the side of the fresnel. Exposure was 1/50s at f/8.

The third image is more conventional and I used two flashes throwing harsh light as for the second one. You can tell where they are placed but looking a the shadows projected on the body of the lamp by the hardware sticking out. The exposure was 1/13 sec at f/8.

It was fun illuminating a light.

Category: Technical


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