Twelve strobe camera rig

Photography & Video
Twelve strobe camera rig



Photographer Syl Arena built this oak-framed flash rig for serious light output. The twelve Canon 580 EX II strobes are controlled by RadioPopper wireless triggers. Shooting at 1/8000 sec. in broad daylight makes for an incredible, dramatic, day-for-night photograph. The ambient sunlight barely has a chance!

1/160 exposure

1/8000 exposure

On his blog, Syl says:

Turns out you can stop a motocross rider flying through the air at 40 m.p.h. with enough sharpness so that you can see the individual links on the motorcycle’s chain — look for that Gang Light post soon.

via Wired Gadget Lab

18 thoughts on “Twelve strobe camera rig

  1. says:

    That’s one heck of a lot of light.

    Given each 580EX-II at full power gives ~60-70 watt-seconds of power, that whole setup would put out ~720-840 watt-seconds. That’s one heckuvalotta juice, beating out even 2 * 300 W/s strobe heads.

  2. says:

    I would think, though, with a little wiring, he could probably have rigged all of those flashes off of one RadioPopper…

  3. SteveC says:

    Of course, what the photo doesn’t show is that a few milliseconds later, the subject was blind, and on fire.

  4. John Park says:

    SteveC, that’s hilarious, I wondered about that too…

  5. Michael O says:

    First off, a single flash will stop a Motocross racer at 40mph. The exposure is dependent on the flash speed, not the shutter speed. Secondly, the photo turning day to night taken at 1/8000 of a second can be done with a single flash as well. If all you change is the shutter speed, then of course daylight is going to appear darker compared to the flash. All more light will do for you is increase the range and/or allow a smaller aperture to be used.

  6. Michael O says:

    Watt/seconds are not a good way to measure light output and they’re not really additive with multiple sources. Which do you think is brighter, one hundred 10 watt light bulbs clustered together, or one 1000 watt bulb of the same variety?

  7. Rob Cruickshank says:

    One of the advantages of using multiple strobes like this is to reduce flash duration. A strobe controls the amount of light hitting the subject by varying the flash duration- more power=longer flash. By ganging up strobes like this you can get a bright light AND and a short flash duration. Glad it’s not me carrying around, though.

  8. Anonymous Coward says:

    – Exposure is dependent on ambient + flash.

    You are right that in a (non-daylight) studio the flash will be the primary source of light, so the exposure will be dependent on the flash duration.

    Outside, however, you have a lot of ambient light that will also contribute to the exposure. This means that in order to freeze the biker in mid-air you need a very short shutter *and* flash duration.

    – Canon flashes

    I expect that the reason he is using Canon flashes is because he is also using a Canon camera. Using this combination will allow him to sync the flash + shutter at speeds above 1/250s (which is the standard top sync speed of a focal-plane shutter on most pro cameras). The trade-off however when you sync at high speed is a huge loss of power. That loss of power is why he is using multiple flashes.

    – Watt seconds adding power

    If I am shooting a portrait at 1/250 s at f/8 with one light and add a second *identical* light in the same place guess what happens? I go to 1/250s at f/11.

  9. Nathan says:

    I have shot hundreds of thousands of photos of motorbikes and at 40-50mph anything from 1/640th of a second will freeze the chain enough to count the links. Big whoop.

    I can see the need for something like this, but the example of capturing a sharp chain is dumb.

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John Edgar Park likes to make things and tell people about it. He builds project for Adafruit Industries. You can find him at and twitter/IG @johnedgarpark

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