How to outshine the sun

The idea of making light that's brighter than the sun is a source of constant amusement whenever I use it. If I wanted to do this sort of stunt with video, we'd be talking the sort of lighting gear that they used in the days of Technicolor that left actors and actresses complaining about eye damage from the bright lights.

But with strobe lights that already dump their power over a fraction of a second, it's easy. All good strobes are actually brighter than the sun, it's just that it's over before it can cause damage. But you can put your hand in front of the flash and feel a bit of heat.

Now, you can't shoot fast enough with standard optical slaves or even radio slaves and normal cameras to get the sky really impressively black with the sort of power you can get out of a battery powered strobe until the sun is very low in the sky. And that's just no fun. So I ended up needing to do things entirely via cable.

Anyways, so here's what I consider an impressive flash trick shot:

The Bauble

How did I do it? Here's what it looks like when the flash doesn't fire:

Without a flash

I'm taking full advantage of the fairly unique properties of the G7. See, the exposure was ISO 80, a 3 stop neutral density filter (the one built into my G7), a shutter speed of 1/2000th of a second (whereas most SLR cameras synch at 1/500th if you are lucky) and an aperture of f/4. And I had the 622 Pro on quarter power since otherwise the flash would be longer than the shutter was open.

On it's own, the sun doesn't have enough of the ball-like nature to look right. So, for my first try, I just had the light off to the side. But then folks pointed out that I didn't get it quite right because you didn't feel like Reese was really holding a ball of fire in her hands. Here's what it looked like the first time I went through:

First try

The best idea ended up being to have the flash right above the frame on a boom and a second flash held in my hand to fill in some light:

The setup

We put Reese's Sunpak 444D, which is designed for the pre-EOS Canon flashes, on a off-camera hotshoe. I then stacked my hotshoe-to-PC-adapter on top of that. So I used that to add a little bit of fill light in. Note that this is an overall bad idea because the 444D has two contacts that match up with the G7's and might do bad things. This also required a certain amount of cable wrangling because all of the wires were too short.

I find myself needing to point out "Oh, that's the sun in her hands" to people when I show it.


I've actually made enough headway on my pile of film that needs to be developed that I don't have any rolls of black and white film that I need to develop. I still have like four rolls of color film.... and a neverending queue of film to develop.

Hard part, of course, is that I'm moving soon.... to a place where I won't wake up at night because I'm scared somebody stole our car in the middle of the night... so I'm going to have to take everything apart and transport it and need to spend time packing instead of editing.

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