Monday, April 10, 2017

The Bard at ISO 3200

Deb and I had the pleasure of attending a rather unusual and fun performance the other night. We got to see the very entertaining "Shakespeare To Hip Hop" show. The group consists of two actors/performers, Regie Gibson and Marlon Carey, backed up by a musical trio. They taught us about Shakespeare and his work using rap music. Both actors were extraordinarily animated and expressive with their poetry and acting. Regie Gibson is a National Poetry Slam Champion and TEDx speaker. Marlon Carey has also won many accolades for his poetry, writing, and performing skill. Please see to learn more about them.

Regie Gibson

Unfortunately, the venue was in a very dimly lit church. Not only was the light dim, it wasn't a warm light either, but rather a drab colorless environment. Turns out the applicable white balance on my camera was 2800 degrees K, which is nearly "candle light" level.

Adding to the low light challenges, Marlon was standing directly in front of a bright screen which was displaying images to accompany the performance; he was very strongly backlit. Since I don't use spot metering, I used a +3 full f-stop exposure override when photographing Marlon. I was even able to recover the image on the bright screen behind him somewhat by lowering highlights in post processing. In addition to the low light issue, I wasn't particularly close to the performers; we were sitting about two thirds of the way back in the church pews.

The good news is that my camera was still able to capture a few decent photos, despite the challenges. With some post-processing, the photos show a clearer picture than what we saw with the naked eye.

Marlon Carey

Because of the extra distance from the subject, I took these with my 60mm lens, which is equivalent to 120mm in a full frame camera. While this is also a macro lens, it takes perfectly good pictures at any distance. In this case, I cropped in further in post for these photos, using as little as 1/3 of the original pixels in this third photo. I suppose that is a bit like using a 360mm equivalent lens (with no cropping.) My 60mm lens is an f/2.8 lens. Were I to have used my 70-300mm telephoto, I'd have to use a higher f-stop, and that would not have yielded these satisfactory results.

Marlon, as Juliet

I used the Aperture priority mode on my camera, setting it to its most wide open setting of f/2.8. Given that these actors/rappers/singers were quite dynamic, gesticulating frequently, it was important to try to get the shutter speed fast enough to be able to freeze the action. I was hoping for at least 1/60 second or faster. These four photos ended up being at 1/40, 1/100, 1/25, and 1/50 of a second, respectively. An oft used rule of thumb is go at least as fast as one over the (35 mm equivalent) focal length. It's likely the "rule" is meant for non-moving subjects. Clearly if the subject is moving, it would be better to go even faster. In any case, the rule suggests that I should be shooting at 1/120 second and preferably faster. So, I was living a bit "outside the box" when I dared shoot these at slower speeds. I do have 5 f-stops of in-camera stabilization, so the rules can often be stretched w/my gear, the real issue in this case being how fast the subject was moving. When I took the photos I made every effort to capture the actor/singer when he was not moving, or moving very little, yet also capture the emotion and vitality of the performance.

Making a Point

There's some noise in the photos since they are taken at ISO 3200 on a Micro Four Thirds sensor camera of this vintage. If I'd had, say, an Olympus 75mm f/1.8 lens (a possible new acquisition some day) I would have had another 1 1/2 f-stops to play with and could have dropped the ISO to 1600 or 800 which would largely eliminate any noticeable noise in the photographs. I've taken other pictures at ISO 3200 and even 6400, that show less noise than these, so there's no hard and fast upper ISO limit on low noise photos. Results depend on many factors.

All photos © 2017, all rights reserved.  Contact me for licensing or to order prints.

No comments:

Post a Comment