Thursday, December 27, 2012

TOTW: Flashlights for Light Painting

Today, I'm starting a new weekly blog feature: Tool of the Week (TOTW). This will include everything from equipment, gadgets, hardware, software, applications, website instruction, or any tool that helps night photographers take better photos.

David Kingham started this discussion about flashlights a few weeks ago when he asked other night shooters to share what they used for light painting. He shared his own night chaser, the UltraStinger Xenon flashlight by Streamlight ($195 list). Kingham reports, "This is the main light I've been using for a few years now. I love the xeon light, but this thing cranks out too much light most of the time." The UltraStinger is the brightest Streamlight flashlight available, putting out to 35,000 candela (peak beam intensity), or 230 lumens.

About a month ago we did a feature on Neale Smithies (a.k.a. "LED Eddie"). Neale's signature LED flashlight is 7-LED "torch" made by LED Lenser, and known as the X21R Flashlight ($600 list). The 7-LED reflector pattern of this flashlight is used as Neale's watermark on his website gallery. With up to 1600 lumens, the rechargeable X21R may be the most powerful handheld LED on the market. It's Advanced Focus System allows the light to be directed into a far-reaching spot (up to 1900-foot beam distance), or as a flood light.
Lighting set-up for Hole in the Wall Arch - Arches N.P., Utah USA ~ © Royce Bair (click to see more info)
Click to enlarge
Although much of my light painting is actually done with large, stationary halogen lights and studio strobes (i.e. in the above light set-up), I do employ the use of flashlights on smaller landscape features —like the orange (gel filter) glow in this 30-foot diameter hole you see to the right (which is the hole you see in the above photo). I found a company in Portland, Oregon called Coast Products that makes a line of high performance LED flashlights that are very similar to the LED Lenser line, but about one-half the cost. Their 1317 lumens HP21 ($295 list) is similar in design to LED Lenser's X21 model, but half the price. Coast lights are well made, and they have beam focusing optics (giving you a flood beam and a Bulls-Eye spot) similar to the LED Lenser brand, and most have a high and low power cycle switch.

I have two of their flashlights: the HP14 and the larger HP17. The Coast HP17 ($117 list) uses three D-cell alkaline batteries and gives me both a 615 lumens output (almost as much as a 60-watt incandescent lightbulb), and a low output of 64 lumens. This heavy-duty light will run for over 15 hours at full power. At just under 2 pounds (with batteries), it also makes a good night club when traveling in rough neighborhoods. The more compact Coast HP14 ($72 list) uses four AA alkaline batteries, yet still puts out 339 lumens and 56 lumins in the low setting. When I'm shooting at ISO 6400, in order to get the stars in one 30-second exposure, the even the low output setting is sufficient power to paint some close objects.

(Note: all of these flashlights can be purchased online via mail order houses at substantially lower prices.)

Royce Bair is the editor of this blog and the photographer of the above images. Here is my gallery of NightScape images. My schedule of workshops, tutorials, and other events is available here.


  1. Very nice review. Do you hear about Armytek company? I have Armytek Barracuda. It is very impressive and powerful light.

    1. This IS an impressive flashlight!

  2. Flashlights for Light Painting sounds cool. I guess it would help a lot. Thanks for posting this up.
    LED Lenser Flashlights

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