Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Filming / Photographing Welding


Can anybody advise me how to photograph welding safely?

The first ever 100ft roll of film I ever shot had some shots of somebody welding (at my university) and I remember Teachers telling me that I should not look down the lens at it - so in the end I just set up the shot without the person actually welding, metered it and then stepped away, leaving the film running so when he was actually doing the welding I was not looking at it.

This method seemed to work as the footage came out fine but now I've been asked to do a series of stills photographs of a welder for a company and I was wondering if there was a better way of doing it - also I usually use my digital camera for stills for this company as most of them end up on the net and they don't like the extra cost of processing and printing but I am worried that it might damage the CCD - or burn out pixels. (You have to look down the lens of my digital camera - the LCD is not for taking pictures only reviewing them.)

The shots that I am after are not close-up - just dramatic shots of sparks flying everywhere. Any advise on health and safety for me and my camera on this would be very useful - I am scheduled to shoot
next week.

Anna Carrington
Camera Assistant
(and sometimes stills photographer)
London/South East

A pair of welder's goggles will protect your eyes during welding.

The shots could be set up beforehand without the subject actually welding so you can frame the image. The brightness of welding at the point of contact can easily burn your retina if you look at it without protection.

I shot a film about a sculptor who worked with iron and steel many years ago and being film there was no issue with the camera.

I would venture a guess that other than creating a problem with an image the brightness level is unlikely to cause permanent damage to a digital camera. The same would not be true for hot metal hitting the lens.

Robert Goodman

Whenever I've shot welding on film (motion picture) I've been stopped down/ND'd so much that it hasn't been an issue (I tend to leave my sunglasses on all the time when I'm around welders just in case I forget myself). Of course, with stills cameras you're generally viewing wide open, so it's a much bigger concern. That and spot metering - I ALMOST did that once, fortunately caught myself before my eye was up to the meter...

With digital stills I'd be tempted to set up the shot on a tripod, use the cable release & then quickly review on the LCD panel - that's one of the advantages of digital and an excellent time to make use of it.

And definitely put up some B glass in front of the lens/camera/yourself.

George Hupka
Downstream Pictures
Saskatoon, Canada

I thought that with HD and DigiBeta cameras the way that you get dead pixels is by a very bright light/radiation zapping them - surely it is the same with the pixels on the CCD chip of my digital camera - yet mine stills camera doesn't have a dead pixel fixer (although actually I've never looked!)

Anna Carrington
Camera Assistant
South East England

Anna Carrington writes:

>Can anybody advise me how to photograph welding safely.

Most industrial operations won't allow you in without the proper safety equipment. However, independent operators may not be so formal.

A great deal of your personal safety depends on the type of welding you are going to be filming and how close to the welding you plan to be. In any event, you should wear a tight weave long sleeved shirt, that can be buttoned around your neck -- it's not just your eyes that can be burned by UV radiation, if it's arc welding you're filming -- and wear long trousers preferably without cuffs.

A couple of sparks caught in a cuff and you'll be doing an unrehearsed version of the "welder’s tap dance." Also don't wear sneakers or shoes made from synthetic material for the same reason. Work boots are a very good idea as is a hat that can't catch sparks.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP

It's quite easy to find out when you have dead pixels as you test a camera before shooting :

Close cap the diaphragm and have the cap on the lens put electronic gain on at a high level like + 18 dB or so the dead pixels will appear as white spots in the frame then you know.

Laurent Andrieux
CA, Teacher

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