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03-19-2014, 09:08 AM   #1
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Setup for an underground mine

Hi all,
I work for a mining contractor and i occasionally need to go in underground mines. I would like to take a couple of good pictures but my last tries were not too good. In part because i was using the Canon A2000is from my employer.

Here is what i can say so far: It is pitch dark and the main light source is our lamps on our helmets, the focus is not easy. It is humid, the flash often bounces off water droplets. Also, it seems that the camera flash does not have enough power to illuminate more than around 20 feets. The ceiling is dripping, everything is dirty and when we travel with a tractor/jeep, we bounce around and everything fragile will break.

I have a K-30 so i will be using that with the kit WR lens. I will also use a padded bag in a waterproof bag for the travelling.

What would you suggest as equipment and technique? Flash, tripod, etc?

03-19-2014, 09:42 AM   #2
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I'd consider some of the rugged battery-powered LED work lights you can place or have people hold.

Something like these:
http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200596336_200596336
03-19-2014, 10:01 AM   #3
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Depending on what you want to photograph, it is remarkable what can be shot in little light if you can use a tripod on a stationary subject. For moving things, then flash or work lights would be needed.

For stationary subjects search on "light painting" this technique can be used with just a flash light to get remarkable images.
03-19-2014, 10:29 AM   #4
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You might get some tips/ideas by checking out this guy's web page:

Mining Photographer Ontario Canada

It looks like he's got the technique perfected.


Last edited by Tako Kichi; 03-19-2014 at 10:37 AM.
03-19-2014, 10:39 AM   #5
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That's a pretty darn good niche to get into I'd have to say. Would never have occurred to me.
03-19-2014, 10:44 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by SuperSyx Quote
the camera flash does not have enough power to illuminate more than around 20 feet
Are you referring to the built-in flash? It's guide number is 12 and there is no option to concentrate the light for zooming; for comparison, the Pentax AF 360 flashes have guide numbers of 36 when zoomed, so 3 times the reach. And you can get flashes with guide numbers greater than 50. If you can get to 60 or 80 feet is that good enough? Another option is to use a trigger (could be the built-in flash) and have someone hold additional external flashes. Light painting requires lots of practice, so you need to be in a location where there is no work going on. You can use work lights to get your auto focus set, but battery powered lights are probably insufficient to fully illuminate whatever you are taking pictures of (unless you are using them for light painting with long exposures and a tripod, which is probably not feasible in the mine).
03-19-2014, 10:53 AM   #7
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Light painting takes a little practice, planning and some setup time. You can use a flashlight or trigger an off-camera flash. A tripod holds the camera still. You don't have to worry much about ambient light in a mine, so you can work under conditions that are similar every time. I'd try setting focus in advance with the distance scale on the lens, then turn off AF. I'd set white balance to match the flashlight or other light source. I'd start with f8 for an aperture. Use bulb mode and you can take all the time you need, while a higher ISO can allow you to go faster. Then when you see something to shoot, set up the tripod so it's within the distance you set previously, open the shutter, light up the subject, close the shutter and review.

This shot is just for fun but shows some of the technique. I used a flashlight with a narrow beam. I set up a tripod in my basement and focused on the wall in advance. I noted what parts of the wall were in the shot, so I could "write" within that frame. A couple of test shots showed that I could get a good exposure within 30 seconds, and that was enough time for all the letters. You can see my hand's shadow in a couple of spots.


03-19-2014, 11:14 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Tako Kichi Quote
You might get some tips/ideas by checking out this guy's web page:

Mining Photographer Ontario Canada

It looks like he's got the technique perfected.
I think this guy wins professional 'niche' photography (and it's a niche with money to spend on PR). His Crappy Vs Snappy is great for client education and inspiration.

Tons of skill and know-how will go into 'snappy' shots, but equipment is also a key. Having light sources you can position where you want is important (either off-camera flashes or floodlights in a pinch if you don't need to freeze motion). Most underground lighting isn't made to look pretty or dramatic. On camera flash can look terrible- close water droplets as you've noticed and also on things like the reflective parts of safety clothing will scream 'snapshot'.

03-19-2014, 12:13 PM   #9
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Wow, very cool!
Can you place inconspicuous lights along the tunnel, that would illuminate it further away? Or wirelessly triggered remote flashes, but I don't know if wireless would work well in that environment.
About focus.. I would suggest you buy an older prime with DoF scales and work with zone focusing. Something like a relatively cheap 24mm lens and focus looking at the lens, not through the viewfinder.
03-19-2014, 01:13 PM   #10
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I would work with the camera on a tripod which would allow longer exposures without camera movement. I would have at least 1, and probably 2, speedlights on my heavy duty lightstands, triggered with radio triggers.

QuoteOriginally posted by SuperSyx Quote
I would like to take a couple of good pictures
Decide what it is you want to show, and take the time and trouble to set up the shot. "Documentary" style isn't going to cut it.
03-19-2014, 03:46 PM   #11
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Oh wow so many comments, so many info, thanks all!
I prefer going the external flash way... since it is a reason to buy one ;-). Seriously easier to carry some flashes and jam them here and there with gorrilapod/Ultrapod/Cheapcopypod. From my underwater experience, i could get rid of back-scatter if i use an external flash not mounted on the camera. Does this work the same way? (Move the strobe away and do not point directly to target)

Painting with light is a good option for still photography but is also limited to that. I would also like to take miners breaking stuff (working for the bonus) and drills splashing all around.

I did forgot about the reflective strips from their overall. Will having offset flashes remove those or there is a special technique?

---------- Post added 03-19-14 at 07:07 PM ----------

Here is ordinary results. I had the Canon S100 at the time.


And without flash. Only with my partners spotting randomly.


There is massive grain in the darker area when i raise the exposition in Lightroom.

By the way this a mine that is no longer in exploitation. It is only used for training purposes, hence no fog, smoke, trucks, miners, etc.
03-19-2014, 06:08 PM   #12
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The mining photographer in Ontario is really doing a great job! Looking a his pictures made me see 2 things: He is using external lighting and... powerful stuff! In one of the mining pictures, you see the bulb of the miners light and the reflector clearly (17 of 30).
Would i be better off buying 3 cheap 20$ Polaroid flashes to have more light sources or a more powerful Yongnuo YN-460 that is around 60$? Maybe the YN-560?
03-19-2014, 06:40 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by SuperSyx Quote
Would i be better off buying 3 cheap 20$ Polaroid flashes ... or a more powerful Yongnuo YN-460 that is around 60$
You still need to trigger each flash, and while slave triggers aren't expensive, more flashes mean more complex and time consuming setups. Getting the external flash off of your camera body will eliminate the bright reflections in your pictures, two flashes off of the camera body will eliminate most of the shadows and give you more options for highlighting various elements in your pictures. Maybe one powerful flash and a cheap flash for filling in select areas that are in shadow from the main flash.
03-19-2014, 06:47 PM   #14
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If you have time and a tripod experiment with long exposure. In my home, with lights only from LED's on the front of my cable box, at 30 seconds exposure, I'm surprised how vivid the colours I can pull are. Before spending too much money, if you have time for longer exposures, I'd try this first. This of course, would not work for 'action' shots....
03-19-2014, 07:06 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mistlefoot Quote
If you have time and a tripod experiment with long exposure.
I did a couple of night lanscape and even with only the moonlight you can have overexposed pictures. I will try the light painting. I have so many flashlight to choose from.. yeah I like those too!

I just bought my first good tripod and i am not willing to break it in an underground mine yet... maybe ill stick a jack leg bar in the muck and stick my Ultrapod to it. BOOM Ghetto monopod.

Now for the flashes, there is something that I do not understand. How complicated can it be to put 1 or 2 cheap slave flashes on small cheapos tripods? Is there a risk that they will not fire? Will my camera flash ruin everything?
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