Strobe Lights @ Army U23 Inter Service Match

If at first you don't succeed.........................

We have been working with the Army Rugby Union throughout the season to experiment with our photography as we look for new angles for rugby union images.  Last night they very kindly gave permission for us to set up two strobe lights during the match to see what we could capture.  The set up was very simple, two ground mounted Profoto B1X strobe lights set just behind the dead ball line 3m in from touch and 12m in from touch.  This gave a a zone of approximately 15m from the touchline where (if the play came our way) we should be able to get images.  After a number of test shots we settled on the camera be at f4.0 with shutter speed at 1/4000th.  Strobes had never been used at a live match before so naturally the Army U23 coaching staff were concerned with the possibility of temporary bright light blindness in the athletes but this fear was allayed by a few simple test shots with one of the coaches as subject.  All the images were taken with the camera on single shot as the strobes have a recycle time when on maximum power which precludes use of the motor drive.

Army disallowed try (without strobe 30m)
Army final try (without strobe 14m)
Army final try (without strobe 14m)

Unfortunately very little of the play came the way of the set-up.  However not all was lost and some useful comparison could be made.  The three images above are captured without the use of the strobes over similar distances to what we then captured using strobe lights.  An impression of the image and the slight mist that was forming at the ground could be seen.  Also the problems that are faced under the Aldershot floodlights in the In Goal where shadows form across the face of the diving players.

A failed lineout with the ball over thrown (with strobe 14m)

Though there was no Army attacking action coming in to our strike zone I have included two images where the RAF were defending just to highlight the difference in clarity that could be achieved and how it changes the  way light is thrown on to the players.

RAF clearance kick (with strobe 14m)


At half time, Graeme Main, staff photographer from Soldier Magazine, thought he would show us his best swallow dive try scoring action but without a ball and the desire to get covered in mud bottled the final action.  However it did spark an idea that having spent some time working out effective shooting distances, light coverage and exposure settings etc we could always get some staged shots at the end of the match.  The final images were taken when a few players with just invited to give us their best scoring dive.  It showed what we are aiming for as part of the project.  Again single shot and we only allowed one repeat before moving on.  It also served as a thank you to the Army U23XV players who over the course of the week had been very supportive to our ongoing project.

Front Row Union up first with how a forward scores (with strobe 14m)
The backs response - inside centre (with strobe 14m)
A little over the top flamboyance - sport is meant to be fun - (with strobe 14m)
Early shutter press and arm down results in week image - (with strobe 14m)
That'll do, not bad for a 10 second posed for image - (with strobe 12m)

Not quite the evening that was either expected or hoped for but so questions answered and some more ideas sparked.  The project continues and hopefully we will create some powerful, athlete centric images that are just a little but different to the norm.

Thanks as ever go to the Army Rugby Union and in particular their U23XV representative team, Lee Crabb of Scrumpix Images, Charley-Rose of Charley-Rose Photography and of course Graeme Main of Soldier Magazine who is always good fun on a touch line.

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