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Thread: Tips for effective flashlight use?

  1. #1

    Wink2 Tips for effective flashlight use?

    It occurs to me that in all our discussions of the merits of different builds, outputs, interfaces, etc., we don't often discuss general handling issues that could have a big impact on how effective our flashlights use is.

    Sure, there are plenty of threads on the topic of flashlight/weapon combinations (which makes sense, given most of us only have two hands - well, plus one mouth usually ). But what about more general uses where you have found a certain approach that works remarkably well? I'll start with two examples that occur to me:

    Eye shine for spotting critters:

    I was taught this one by a field naturalist. With the light on low, hold the light at the level of your eyes, and track the center of the beam as you scan a night scene. Because of the angle, you will catch critters by the "eye shine" reflections off the tapetum lucidum at the back of their retinas (common in many vertebrates). Of course, this works when animals happen to be looking at you.

    This trick is remarkably effective, with relatively low powered lights (although throwier ones work best). Depending on what type of animal you are looking for, adjust the height of the beam center appropriately (i.e. tree branch level, gound level, bush, etc.). Apparently you can even distinguish some species by the color of the eye shine, but that's complicated by the angle and the source characteristics of the light used.

    You will be amazed at what you find. I have surveyed a range of rainforest trees under high power with a traditional underhand grip and seen nothing (a lot of animals blend it petty well). But after switching to a lower output and scanning this way for eye shine, I picked up all sorts of things. Needless to say, a big clumsy human walking around shining a light attracts all sorts of attention - they will be looking at you, alright.

    Oh, and if you want to gross out friends and family, try this at night on your own back lawn (if you live in a suburban area). Detect tons of little diamond-like sparkles in the grass? Move in closer on one pair to find out what they are ... bet you never knew how many spiders there were in a typical subdevelopment.

    Shadows are your friends when dropping things on the floor:

    We've all had the experience of dropping small objects on a floor where they blend in too well (small screws, pills, and granola bits come immediately to mind ). Want to find them a lot easier? Scan the surface with your flashlight parallel to the floor (i.e. horizontal, as if it were lying down on its side).

    As long as the floor surface is fairly flat, you should spot the runaway object pretty quickly by the long shadow it leaves. I've got a heavily patterned area rug under my desk right now, and I know from experience how hard it is to spot things otherwise. But a quick sweep with my hand low to the ground picks up even the smallest item this way.

    Those are my two best tips. Any others you would like to share?
    Last edited by selfbuilt; 05-27-2011 at 08:05 AM.
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  2. #2
    Flashaholic* angelofwar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    Have a flashlight with you in the day for finding things

    I use a light even during the day to find things...i.e. a "Spotlight" approach. Something falls under a desk, trailer, whatever, even though I probably could find it with out a light, a light will make your search go A LOT faster...especially brightly colored objects, that lose there color as they lose the light around them. Can you find a red ball in a pitch black room? Or in the shadow of a wheel under a trailer even in broad day light, when a black shadow is cast over it? Flashlights are awesome for finding stuff in the day!

  3. #3

    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    Great tips

    Taking the shine a light on the floor one step further:
    -It will easily locate lost jewelry in the grass/woods etc.
    -Also great for cleaning up broken glass

    also
    let your wife hold the light when out walking and she wont complain of cold hands

  4. #4
    Flashaholic* parnass's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    Good tips, selfbuilt. I use those techniques with success.

    I place the flashlight itself directly on the floor and shine it around when looking for lost items. If you turn off the room lights while placing the flashlight flat on a desk, table, or vanity, you will be able to see where you have forgotten to dust.
    Retired engineer, author. Running Linux.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    When navigating in the dark, brief flashes from your light will not only reveal details and otherwise invisible obstacles in the terrain (or interior) in front of you, but will also preserve your night vision, especially if you close one eye while the light is on. Also, this makes it hard for someone to locate you with any precision, if that is a concern (let's say for instance you're playing tag), and will greatly extend your battery life.
    It is better to light up one LED than to curse the darkness.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    I find that using a flashlight for searching something in a messy room etc can also help you to mentally focus on the spotlighted area, finding things faster.

  7. #7
    Flashaholic* angelofwar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    Quote Originally Posted by Helmut.G View Post
    I find that using a flashlight for searching something in a messy room etc can also help you to mentally focus on the spotlighted area, finding things faster.
    That's was kinda what I was trying to describe in my post Helmut, but I couldn't find the words...Thanks for the awesome "description".

  8. #8
    Flashaholic AlPal's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    I just used your tip and scanned my floors using the flashlight. Your right- I found a ton of spiders. LOL.
    Last edited by AlPal; 05-19-2011 at 04:51 PM.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    Pointing a flashlight at the ceiling indoors has a great room lighting effect as opposed to pointing the flashlight around the room.Indoor environments vary but this works very well in most homes and allows a light with a tightly focused beam to be more effective for indoor use.I realize this is well known on CPF but for the casual users and newcomers it may not be as obvious.Modern high output LED lights make this technique very effective.
    Last edited by ZMZ67; 05-19-2011 at 05:52 PM.

  10. #10
    Flashaholic* angelofwar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    Quote Originally Posted by ZMZ67 View Post
    Pointing a flashlight at the ceiling indoors has a great room lighting effect as opposed to pointing the flashlight around the room.Indoor environments vary but this works very well in most homes and allows a light with a tightly focused beam to be more effective for indoor use.I realize this is well known on CPF but for the casual users and newcomers it may not be as obvious.Modern high output LED lights make this technique very effective.
    And this is even easier when placing the light in a heavy glass cup (the thinner the better, like a tall thick shot-glass), so it points at the ceiling (for lights with out tail-stand capabilty).

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    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    Quote Originally Posted by angelofwar View Post
    And this is even easier when placing the light in a heavy glass cup (the thinner the better, like a tall thick shot-glass), so it points at the ceiling (for lights with out tail-stand capabilty).
    I have used cups,mugs and other methods in the past but using a tall shot glass never occured to me,great idea! As an aside,glassware can often be found cheap at thrift stores if you are looking for a certain size.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    In the woods when foliage is thick, start with a lower light to preserve night vision.
    Never shine a bright light right below you.

    In a wide open area, break out the monsters

    I find even long ranged birch trees (or anything light colored) can kill my night vision in the woods with a higher powered light.

    And while I don't have any yet, why is no one preaching the use of headlights?

  13. #13
    *Flashaholic* Burgess's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    This is gonna' be a Great Thread ! ! !


    Better make this one a Sticky.





    My contribution:

    Try using the Lowest brightness setting needed to accomplish yer' task.

    That way, your eyes (pupils) will tend to remain Open (dilated).

    Too much light simply makes the eyes "stop down", thus wasting the extra lumens.

    Give it a try.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    A lot of good tips. The ceiling bounce is of course a classic - and one many of us take for granted. Good to have it pointed out.

    One more I would add on that theme - the value of a good diffuser. My main light for taking the dog out in the backyard is an Eagletac T20C2-II XP-G R5 on general mode (~80 lumens or so), with the included screw-on bezel diffuser. Gives me plenty of light in a nice wide spill.

    That said, I can also see how "follow the bouncing ball" (hotspot) is a good way to focus the mind and pay attention to what you are looking at (messy room or wilderness, take your pick).

    But one that really speaks to me is:

    Quote Originally Posted by Burgess View Post
    Try using the Lowest brightness setting needed to accomplish yer' task.
    When I think of the standard level of light I use for most evening tasks (e.g. dog walking, scanning the back yard, navigating the house with lights off, etc), I realize that I typically don't use more than 50-80 lumens max (often a lot less).

    I was thinking about this during my recent testing of the Novatac Classic. Turning it on at night in max reminded me of just how bright 120 lumens actually is. The circuit is basically the same as my 2008 edition 120P, which I EDCed for a period of time. My default settings for that light at the time were single click = 0.3 lumens, double-click = 15 lumens, click-press = 85 lumens, and triple-click = beacon. I didn't use the 120 lumen mode, as I found 85 lumens bright enough, and prefered the better runtime.

    Checking out my more recent EDCs and other general use lights, I find I still don't typically go up to 100 lumens (and always start them as low as I can, usually <1 lumen). Don't get me wrong - when something is going down, I love an 800 lumen thrower as much as the next guy. But it is a good general principle to use as little light as possible.

    Keep the good tips coming ...
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    Flashaholic* mrlysle's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    We have dogs, and light colored floors. Just standing and looking at the floor, it doesn't always look like there's dog hair on the floor. But I ALWAYS use my 170t clicky, and just lay it flat on the floor, and even the smallest dog hair casts a shadow. So after I run the sweeper, it;s easy to see places I've missed, by using my light flat on the floor. I just roll it around to cover the whole floor. It always amazes me how easy it is to miss spots if you don't use a light.
    Jeff

  16. #16

    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    On my car I can check the power steering and brake fluid levels by shining a flashlight through the container. Quick and easy!

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    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    Oh, and don't test the brightness of your new light by looking in the business end and switching it on. I do it every time.
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    Flashaholic* mvyrmnd's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    My personal preference is for big, floody lights. My tip is when using said big floody light, the higher you hold it, the better. Try it for yourself You'll see much further with the light held at your shoulder than at your waist. I'm sure there's a good reason for this, but I'm too tired to work it out right now

  19. #19

    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    Ok this may be a bit over the top.

    Transillumination - if you have a splinter and you think you have gotten it all out get a flashlight with the smallest head/diameter and place it on the skin next (not over) to where the splinter was. The tissue will be illuminated pink and you will see any foreign objects clear as day. (Doesn't work with glass)
    What do you mean they blew up the death star.......... Wait....What the hell is an Aluminium Falcon?

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    Quote Originally Posted by selfbuilt View Post
    Eye shine for spotting critters:
    Shadows are your friends when dropping things on the floor:
    […]
    Just did this the other day from the balcony of my parents flat. There is a fox family in the bushes in front of their apartment complex. And the “Lost and found” technique, just like the “concentrate on the area in the spotlight” helped me quite a bit when looking for lost parts from my 1/72 scale model planes. I actually think that this is the reasin why the guys in the different CSI – tv shows use their flashlights even in well lit rooms. ;-) And of course because it makes them look busy.
    I would like to add that one can easily check if stains etc. could be removed from clothing. A few days ago I managed to get some brown colored localantiseptic on a khaki colors shirt and my jeans. I immediately put some detergent on the stains themselves and let them soak in warm water and afterwards got both parts in the washing machine. When returned by my wife, I used the Thrunite Scorpion at full power too see if any stains had remained. Good thing was – everything got washed out.

    Cheers
    Thorsten
    Last edited by Xacto; 05-20-2011 at 04:17 AM.

  21. #21
    Flashaholic* Solscud007's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    Im surprised no one has mentioned this. But I use my hand as a diffuser all the time. Or i choke down the light for night adapted vision. Depending on the light. Obviously I dont have to do that with my Titan T1A.

    Also you dont have only to bounce light on a ceiling. You can do it to anything. When I was installing our new home PC, I "ceiling bounced" light under the desk the PC was under. I also like to use my hand to make cool lights warmer.
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    Flashaholic* parnass's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    Under the right conditions, you can use a flashlight pressed against a sealed envelope to see (and read) the contents. But, don't snoop.
    Retired engineer, author. Running Linux.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    When going over uneven terrain, raise your flashlight to shoulder level, as close to even with your eyes as possible. This will remove shadows from the scene directly before you, making things look clearer where you are walking. Floody lights are infinitely more useable for this than throwers.

    Have a small, single cell, led type light in your pocket as backup. This is a variation on the "carry extra batts" theme.
    The Phaser: A nice EDC with great throw; heat and runtime can be issues.

    Best Diffusion Film!

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    *Flashaholic* StarHalo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    Soda Lantern: If you happen to have a cup of your favorite beverage from a convenience store/fast food place, you can set your light emitter-down on the lid and the entire cup emits light smoothly and evenly. A great way to light your path and carry a drink at the same time, and can be especially eye-catching with a bright-colored drink, like Mountain Dew..

    I'll also agree with Hotwire that you can check the fluid levels of any container by shining your light in/on it; I use that trick frequently with laundry detergent.

    And thanks to modern high-power emitters, you can pre-screen any enveloped piece of mail by setting your light on high, pressing it directly against the envelope, and observing the opposite side. It doesn't matter how thick the paper is or how much interior masking it has, a power LED will cut right through..

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    Quote Originally Posted by StarHalo View Post
    Soda Lantern: If you happen to have a cup of your favorite beverage from a convenience store/fast food place, you can set your light emitter-down on the lid and the entire cup emits light smoothly and evenly. A great way to light your path and carry a drink at the same time, and can be especially eye-catching with a bright-colored drink, like Mountain Dew..

    I'll also agree with Hotwire that you can check the fluid levels of any container by shining your light in/on it; I use that trick frequently with laundry detergent.

    And thanks to modern high-power emitters, you can pre-screen any enveloped piece of mail by setting your light on high, pressing it directly against the envelope, and observing the opposite side. It doesn't matter how thick the paper is or how much interior masking it has, a power LED will cut right through..
    Empty plastic pop/water bottles often fit snug on the end of flashlights like the Quark 1X123 and other lights of similar diameter for use as a diffuser.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    If you go camping then always take a light with VERY low output, when you need to pee at 3am the last thing your night adapted eyes want is the glare of a high powered light! My Jetbeam Jet-IIIM has a very low minimum output or my Quark AA with Olight diffuser is another option, moonmode + diffuser = no harsh hotspot to hurt my eyes or ruin my night vision.
    So many lights, so little money (cause I spent it on lights). I'm not afraid of the dark, the dark is afraid of ME!

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    Quote Originally Posted by mvyrmnd View Post
    My tip is when using said big floody light, the higher you hold it, the better. Try it for yourself. You'll see much further with the light held at your shoulder than at your waist. I'm sure there's a good reason for this, but I'm too tired to work it out right now
    I notice that too. Probably, you get more light reflected back up off the ground that way. It could also shorten shadows cast by medium-height brush and such.

    My favorite trick though is the light along a flat surface (floor etc). I use that all the time to find stuff.

  28. #28
    Flashaholic* Launch Mini's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    I find that a warm light works great when a flood pattern is needed, ie close up vision and a cool emitter when throw is more important.
    I have the same lights with both emitters and change them when my needs change.
    My warm SPY tends to be my inside light as it doesn't overpower my eyes, and the cool versions for walking the dogs.

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    As a general rule, CPFers have a lot of lights.

    So it is important you choose the right light before heading out. Taking a few moments before heading out and you can save some frustration.

    Think about the activities you will be doing and then choose the right light for that day. If you are going to work indoors all day, then a floody light may be a better choice than a thrower. If your going to a movie, a light with moon mode may be better than a 200 lumen single level light. Etc, etc, etc.

    You'll get more pleasure out of your flashlight hobby when you have the right light for the job.

  30. #30
    Flashaholic* angelofwar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips for effective flashlight use?

    Well said PSM! I like to think that the near perfect combo, for only EDC'ing 2 lights is an L2 and an LX2! My L2 is one of my most EDC'ed lights.

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