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Thread: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

  1. #1
    *Flashaholic* McGizmo's Avatar
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    Default Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    Hi guys,

    So much of our discussions relate to the specs of the various lights re: beam shape, angle, flux, runtimes, relative comparisons with other lights, etc. To varying degrees of interest and experience, we have come to know these tools here in discussion, and in hands and eyes on, evaluations. OK, we have the tools and we know and understand these tools. How do we actually use them?

    The ambient level is low and we need to add light to better see a target. Is the natural response to point and shoot? If the target is a keyhole 3' away and the tool in hand a SF M6, is point and shoot effective? Is the natural response to take the M6 and point it elsewhere to use the indirect light reflected off other nearby objects or structures? SUppose you are walking on a light gray sidewalk with enough ambient light to make out your way without the need of a light but you come upon someting small that is moving on the sidewalk. Do you take your light and point and shoot? There is enough light reflected back from the light gray sidewalk to impair your dark adapted vision. Is your natural response to take the light and cover the front end with your hand and open a "shutter" of flood until you have just enough light to illuminate the moving object?

    Until all of us are using varible level output illumination tools, many of us will be carrying lights that are typically brighter than they need to be for most needs. What are the various tricks some of you have learned to "spill" or block the extra light that isn't needed? If I may interject an analogy from my sailing back ground, with a given set of sails, one must not only learn how to get the max power from the sails in light air but one must learn the effective means of "depowering" when the wind stiffens. To a certain extent, I would think that a real master of an illumination tool would also have a "second nature" means of using the full power of light from his tool as well as knowing how to depower when the circumstance dictates.

    Even the use of constant on versus momentarily on, as needed, seems to be all part of the effective use of illumination tools. When it's dark, I prefer adding light as needed as opposed to flooding the scene with as much light as I can bring to bear.

    Perhaps I am just becomming aware of stuff that you guys have been taking for granted. I have been so busy making different lights and mods and just recently realized that I have a bunch of tricks to learn in actually using the bloody things! [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img] For instance, if you cover the front of the head with your hand and slowly open a gap from one side, you get a crescent of flood and all of a sudden you get a portion of the spot beam significantly apart from the flood crescent. It reminds me of a white ball hanging from a parachute. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/tongue.gif[/img] [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img] I have found that the crescent is ideal for reading or viewing something close at hand without getting a blast of too much light. I've also found that using my shirt tail or pullover as a "filter" will allow for a quick blast of dim light.

    Enough of my rambling. What are some of the tricks of using our lights that you guys have found? I got plenty of the tools and it's hightime I learn how to use them! [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]


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    Flashaholic* wasabe64's Avatar
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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    Hi Don,

    I use a variation of what you have described above:

    I grip the bezel of my E2e in my weak hand between my thumb and first finger, cupping the rest of my hand around the bezel to control the amount of light needed for close-in work. I simply have to open/close my hand to control the brightness.

    I used to even do this with D-cell m*gs.

  3. #3
    Farewell our Curmudgeon Administrator Roy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    When theh target is close, I generally start with a "sweeping" motion in order to find the right amount of light. Distant targets usually get a point and shoot. I have a 1w MadMax Cyan that for close in (10-20 ft) work, I use a vertical sweeping motion, as the reflected light off a reflective surface, HURTS my eyes. That cyan light is really bright and needs a dimmer switch!

  4. #4
    *Flashaholic* McGizmo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    Thanks wasabe64, I'll give that a try.

    Roy, I have been using my PR based lights in this manner and since their flood is quite large in diameter compared to the relatively small hot spot, I have found that in many cases I can bring the flood portion into the target area without looking directly at the hot spot. With a larger hotspot like the KL4 or most 5W's or a more unified beam found with the fraen, this strategy is not as effective; I seem to have more luck with bouncing the light off something close to the target, horizontaly or above if there is something to reflect the light, but not directly in my line of focus.

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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    Hello Don,

    This is a non LEO or SAR perspective. They have special needs.

    My experience with flashlights goes back to my involvement as a young man in the Boy Scouts. My Scoutmaster was a Marine. He taught us "covert" operations in the form of stalking game and playing Capture the Flag at night. At dusk and going into early night, we were able to sneak up on deer, squirrels, rabbits, ducks, geese, etc. After finishing our stalking adventure, we had to make our way back to camp. The general rule was to use as little light as necessary. Most of the time we were able to follow trails by feel and used very little light. At that time our flashlights and batteries were less reliable and I remember several times lighting a match to make out landmarks.

    Our Scoutmaster also insisted that we learn to set up camp in the dark. We practiced this by wearing blindfolds. The tent set up in the dark may not look the best, but it will keep you dry in a storm.

    A favorite game was Capture the Flag at night. We would sneak up on the other teams flag and stake the area out. We would tie twine to branches so we could create diversions. We would also tie twine around a small flashlight, turn it on and pull it through the brush. This would give enough distraction that the other team would be tempted to leave their flag unguarded and we would get it. Racing back to our flag we would turn lights on and barge through the brush as fast as we could go. We used little or no light during our stake out, then wanted the most light we could get for our final run home.

    OK, how does that apply to using lights.

    I believe that unless you are in a cave, or have sight problems, you can get around fine without any additional light at all. You may not know what kind of critter is down the path, but if it does not come after you, who cares. You should try walking down a wooded path in the dark with no additional light. You may go a bit slow, but there is really no problem. I can feel the slot that my key goes into and have no problems getting in my truck. I can also get up in the middle of the night, find my way to the bathroom, and relieve myself without making a mess or using a light.

    In these situations you need very little, if any, light and a single LED light is more than adequate. If all you have is a higher powered light, you end up putting your hand (or shirt) over it to reduce the amount of light as you have indicated. This is actually a bit difficult to do. Often your hand will not be all the way over the light and you will get a flash of light that will ruin your night vision, or you may need your hand for something else.

    Do we need high power lights? Yes, but they are for special needs.

    I was tuning the carburetor on my truck in a lighted parking lot at night. I dropped a steel ball on the pavement under the truck. I tried looking for it with a single LED key chain light, and was unable to locate it. The ambiant lighting was too bright to make a small object stand out. I grabbed a brighter light and immeadiately located it. The extra light was necessary for contrast.

    To go a step further, try to find a bolt or nut or washer that you have dropped in gravel near dusk. A really bright light will make the job easier.

    I EDC a light with a beam that provides a nice hot spot and a good amount of spill (ARC LSH-P). This allows me to adjust the amount of light simply by how I aim the light. I have tried a more focused light (ARC LSHF-P and BabyPin) but found the beam a bit overpowering. I have also tried flood lights (L4 and InReTech TriLight) but found that I could not light up a single object with them. The flood lights illuminate a broad swath of area, but it is difficult to pick out the needle in the hay stack when all of the hay is illuminated. I guess the flood light tends to remove contrast from the scene.

    I guess my trick is utilizing other senses to suppliment my eyes. Of course, anticipating situations and having a selection of lights to choose from also helps.

    Tom

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    I've requested some samples from POC quite some time ago. They've sent me a 80 degrees flood diffuser which I find quite pleasing for really spreading the light out when you want less light. Given that I live in a city, light pollution is always a prevailant problem and that usually means more light for anything I want to see better. Those pieces of flood diffuser comes in sizes of ~5cm squared. So it's quite handy for me to keep it in my wallet, and when I do need it, just take it out and place it over my E2E and I'll have a nice flood of dim light. It's only around 80% or so of light transmission I think, so it does cut down quite a bit. I usually carry 2 filters, a 80 degrees flood and a 20 degrees flood. 20 degrees opens up the E2E's MN03 hotspot up to twice it's diameter so it's 1/4 intensity in a much bigger area which I find quite useful for seeing things which are up to 5 meters away since the E2E doesn't have much spill to speak of, not like the PM6, I find that I'll see better by looking at the hotspot and sweeping the light, rather than using the side spill to see, as said, lots of light pollution in the city where I live, so YMMV.

    I really ought to get a beam filter cover and cut those diffusers down to the right size. They are dang useful! Esp when you don't want a point source of light to have harsh shadows

  7. #7

    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    I never carry less than 2 lights. My general carry is 4 lights. The fourth light is usually something that is 200+ lumens and is carried for the more obvious reasons.

    As I don't have anything with variable output (other than my red L1), depending on the condition and required illumination, I choose the one that will fill the need. The only thing that gets switched at night is my 1W HD Lx gets replaced with a red L1.

    If for some reason I'm stuck with a light that is brighter than needed, I will shine the light between my fingers to control the amount of light. Of course, this doesn't work with most of the high output lights. For that, I have to resort to indirect lighting if possible.

    Right now, the key for me is carrying multiple lights. My AAA goes around my neck and the other lights tuck away easily, the only one that can be an issue is whichever light I'm carrying that is 200+ Lumens.

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    Cyclops942's Avatar
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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    I tend to carry more lights than needed, simply because I can, and that lets me have the right tool for the job, instead of adapting a general-purpose tool for a specific need. My EDC "kit" ranges from single-cell, single-LED (5mm Nichia) lights to a 2-cell SureFire. If I need more throw or battery life than that, I head for my vehicle and the rechargeable Streamlights.


  9. #9
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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    I believe that this is the reason why the Arc AAA has become a "requirement" for the true flashaholic. It's just another tool with a different purpose to get jobs done.

  10. #10
    Cyclops942's Avatar
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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    Arc-AAA... yup, that would be part of my EDC kit, in both white and turquoise, as would the Arc-AA and the Arc-LS.

  11. #11
    *Flashaholic* JonSidneyB's Avatar
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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    I think no matter what, some people will need at least two lights as a minimum. A adjustable brightness pocket light and light that is almost never used. This light that is almost never used is to insure that when you need the light to work no matter what, you have a light with no run time on the batteries. This light might be your tactical light. Use the adjustable for utilitarian tasks, save the other for when its serious.

  12. #12
    *Flashaholic* McGizmo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    Good comments! Knowing your tools and having a choice of selection is obviously ideal. However, in a pinch, we often make do with what we have and it's the "how" more than the "what" that I want to learn more about. I particularly liked SilverFox's post. I too prefer to work with the ambient levels as much as possible. There is a big difference between a quick "look see" and setting up for a task where illumination is required and night vision or low level adaptation is not as important as adequate illumination of the task area or object at hand. If the light is on long enough, you will adapt to this level over ambient or so my experience has been.

    There are some good examples of overcoming shaddow in otherwise bright ambient levels. In these cases, the higher output lights are more in need than in low level ambient. Under the hood of a car, at high noon, is one of the most trying applications where artificial light needs to come into play.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    [ QUOTE ]
    McGizmo said:
    I have been using my PR based lights in this manner and since their flood is quite large in diameter compared to the relatively small hot spot, I have found that in many cases I can bring the flood portion into the target area without looking directly at the hot spot...

    [/ QUOTE ]

    Don, it's what you describe here about the character of your PR based beam that makes it such a favorite with me.

    For up close, I can turn the switch to constant on, then hold the light by the head and my hand blocks the hotspot from reflecting back into my retinas. I use the outer part of the flood or outside the flood entirely for good enough illumination, say, to read the ingredients on a small package.

    Yet, I still have bright flood and intense cohesed beam in the center for throw. All with one output setting and one action of the switch.

    When I'm putzing around the house or car with a harem of lights begging for attention, I am lavish with lux. But, out in the world, I rarely need the full powers of my 6 volt lights.

    Britt

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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    I have found in low-light or dark situations that if you have too bright a light for up close illumination that the best solution often is to merely turn the light around in your hand, so that the light points in back of you.

    Surprisingly, there is usually enough backscatter from what is behind you to be just enough light to see what's in front of you. And you can use your fingers on the end of the light to actually do something, without blocking the light or creating distracting shadows.

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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    I always have a low-intensity key-chain light, such as the Photon, but even that is sometimes too bright for the wilderness where I live. If I need more light, but want to save my night vision, I close one eye. Not a perfect solution, but plenty useful.

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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    I live outside of the city and have to walk down to the school bus each morning when it is still dark out. My road is a single lane road with no street lights. Even though it is usually light enough for me to stay on the road, I like to have my EliteMax on at a low setting so that cars will see me better. I also use my SBP to spot things that move off the side of the road such as rabbits and deer.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    Don,

    Colored beam (cyan especially) can easily cut through ambient light. However, not everyone likes colored light. For example, intense cyan beam actually gives me a headache.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    "Becoming a master user of illumination tools"

    Aaahhh, McGizmo, when you are able to snatch this AAA from the palm of my hand.........

    Flashlight Fu: The Legend Continues

    Sorry, I couldn't resist !

  19. #19
    Flashaholic RadarGreg's Avatar
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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    Anyone thought about offering a Bachelor's Degree in Illuminology through CPF University? Probably could use the GI Bill or grants to pay for it. I'd think the tuition would be pretty cheap, but the classroom required material (Arc AAA, Surefires, etc.)would quickly add to the price, hehe. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grinser2.gif[/img]

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    If you purchse a baton, or an asp, usually the companies that make those will offer a training class to certify you. They will offer a certification class to instructors as well. Perhaps something along those lines would work. Each light manufacture supply the training.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    Hello Don,

    In my last post I give the impression that I do not find flood lights useful.

    Let me set the record straight. I have and use several flood lights and find them very useful.

    My favorite lighting condition is sunlight behind clouds.

    The purpose of a flood light is to raise the ambient lighting condition of an area. I was doing some work in the crawl space under my house. I grabbed my InReTech Super 6 and lit up the whole crawl space with some ambient light. I then used my more focused light to concentrate on the details of my work.

    In photography you try to balance the lighting conditions. You need fill light to reduce contrast, and highlights to accent your main subject. Using a flash with a camera makes you quickly explore indirect and difused lighting options. I took a plastic milk carton and made a difuser for my flash that worked well. I lost throw, but the smooth lighting paid big dividends in the quality of the image. Film has contrast limits, so it is up to the photographer to do the balancing. Sometimes you have to work with the image in the dark room to get it right.

    I think flashlight use is similar. If you are trying to get a general view of the whole area, flood type lights are the light to use. If you are trying to sort out a small detail, focused lights work better. Sometimes you are working in an area of some ambient lighting and just need to accent something.

    I find that my flashlight use is generally to accent something in the presence of an existing amount ambient light.

    Just last night I was out for a walk and as I was coming home I noticed a cat on the hood of my truck. I could tell it was a cat because of the ambient light from the street lights. I was about 150 yards away and was courious as to the color of the cat. I just happend to have my 990 with me. The cat was grey. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

    Tom

  22. #22
    *Flashaholic* McGizmo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    Tom,

    I think your comparison to the lighting challanges faced by a photographer are right on. As you have stated, film doesn't have the range that our eyes have and the balance of light is even more important if you want a photographic image to have information throughout; no deep shadow or overexposed areas. I think a photographer who has mastered lighting, has a good feel for how to use a flashlight but interestingly, the typical photographer likely has little experience in night shots when ambient is very low whereas the typical flashlight user probably has little experience in using flashlights in the daytime where ambient levels are high. Those of us who carry a flashlight at all times have no doubt found many times where a flashlight can be used to bring up a shadowed area to "visible" level based on ambient and the eye's current sensitivity.

    I think your comment on adding light to highlight the area of interest or work is well taken. I recall mentioning once in another thread that I think a real photon wrangler would also have a good mirror in their set of tools. At high noon in a cloudless sky, the cheapest and most abundant supply of light is from the sun itself! Capturing the light and redirecting it where you want it is not easy or possible in many cases but the results are quite satisfactory when you can pull it off. I used to have a full sized Chevy PickUp and had meant to put some loc-line on a magnet and stick a rectangular piece of mirrored acrylic on the other end as a lighting aid for working under the hood. Never got a round to it though. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

    Alan's comment on the use of a bright colored light is also interesting as I suspect its real value is in the increased contrast you can get from a monochromatic light source where different objects within the field of beam reflect more or less light depending on their color and the color of the light source.

  23. #23
    *Flashaholic* McGizmo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    DUPLICATE POST

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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    Well ... have to admit that I do not care a penny about "just enough light to do the task" and such. I want it bright, and I want it bright every time I use a light [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img]. Shining a bright white light around is such a pleasure, I just WANT to do it the silly way and grin like an idiot.
    Should it really be TOO bright, I use the "indirect light" method, but that's all.
    That might chage should I actually need my lights for very serious tasks, but untill then ... to hell with reason ... let the light shine brightly! [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/party.gif[/img]
    bernhard

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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    Hello bernhard,

    I share your enthusiasm. That's why I have the 990. It is so much fun to use...

    Tom

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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools


    I find that a small portable fluorescent light works well under the hood of a car on a sunny day. A mirror works well, but that takes some real wrangling to get it to reflect where you need it. The loc-line/magnet with mirror sounds like a great situation. If you could reflect the light onto a partially reflective surface like something similar to a piece of a movie screen or even a white piece of paper, it could quite possibly give you the same result. I've found the widest area of illumination works the best for that.

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    I carry multiple lights also but when I really need dim levels so as not to wake up wife or kids, I put the ARC AAA so it shines in the back of my mouth and open/close my lips to adjust light levels. To "scare" the kids, I put in the 9P and flair my nostrils. Looks cool to them but all I see is red. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/naughty.gif[/img]
    imgadgetman

  28. #28
    *Flashaholic* js's Avatar
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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    At the time this thread was posted I did not feel qualified to comment. I understood that the intent was not to talk about the tools themselves, and what combinations we liked and used and so on, but to talk about the techniques that we had developed to make the most out of our tools. At the time this was first posted, I was still too new to flashlights to feel I had much to offer about good technique for their use.

    And now, much later, I find that SilverFox and McGizmo have pretty much said it all anyway. LOL!

    But for what it's worth, I would very much second the notion that various levels of lighting and various incident angles of that lighting, are needed. In some cases we bounce the light of something else, or partially mask the lens. In other cases we use only the spill light or light filtered through a shirt of an actual filter. All of these techniques are useful, even if we carry multiple lights, and/or multi-level lights.

    For outdoor walking or hiking, I prefer to flash my light when I need it, and retain as much of my dark adaption as possible. I will flash the light to see far out, or flash it with the hotspot far away just to use the spill light. But most of the time, I simply use my dark adapted vision all by itself. It is the most satisfying way to take a walk at night!

    But anyway, just wanted to post to this and knock it to the top. We need more information and discussion of the finer and less gadgety aspects of flashaholism. Good stuff here. I recommend reading this thread from the top, in full.
    -Jim Sexton, creator of the M6-R, the TigerLight Upgrades, Fixture-ring lamp potting, the SL60, co-designer of the B90 Upgrade, and proponent of the SF A2, the SF M6 X-LOLA, Titanium, the Haiku, and the LunaSol 20

  29. #29
    *Flashaholic* bwaites's Avatar
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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    I had forgotten this thread, and like Jim, I was completely unqualified to report or talk about much at the time it was posted.

    But now, a few things occur to me.

    I recently had the opportunity, (well I actually created it by getting very angry about something that in the long run was inconsequential and unimportant but that bothered me a lot at the time!) and decided to take a long hike home on my own on a very dark night. I had my A2 with me, with THC3 LED's, as well as a CR2 Larrry Light.

    I didn't need anything on the short portion of the walk that was next to city streets, as the streetlights gave me more than enough light to walk.

    However, when I moved away from the roads, I found that I could walk just fine with just the A2 LED's, even in fairly rough terrain. (I chose to walk through some unimproved parkland and a small orchard on my way home. Lots of rocks and ruts, and tree branches on the ground and in the air.) A couple of times I used the incan portion of the A2 to select which of 2 trails I wanted to walk down, and once I heard some movement to my right in the brush. I stopped and carefully examined the area, only to find a mature skunk about 25 feet ahead and slightly to my right, crossing in front of me. If I hadn't heard the rustling, I probably would have walked right up on him, (I walked the 5 plus miles in about 65 minutes, so I walk fairly fast) and I definitely couldn't pick him out with just the LED's.

    I found, however, that with dark adjusted eyes and the incandescent out a ways in front of me that I could EASILY see 50+ yards and distinguish trees, rocks, trails, etc.

    The different uses of the light, and the difference in using the LED for close in and the incan for distance reminded me that using lights as a tool is something that you actually have to practice at to achieve competence.

    I like incandescent lighting, but appropriate use of well colored LED's is effective as well.

    Bill
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  30. #30
    *Flashaholic* carrot's Avatar
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    Default Re: Becoming a master user of illumination tools

    Thanks for digging this thread up. An interesting read. I find that, for the most part, I really do prefer to carry multi-level lights with me, especially if I expect to encounter darkness where you *do* need to use a light to see, and sometimes there really is such a thing as too bright. Maybe it's just the feeling of being too conspicuous sometimes. Other times it's a question of conservation of battery life. But then having an extra boost of power is always great, because being able to see better and at greater distances makes it easier to identify things, as in the example bwaites gave.
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