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04-25-2007, 06:18 AM   #1
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Low Light - Low Experience - Fix $$$ ?

Well - my daughter had her play yesterday (Shakespeare’s Scottish Play - I can now say Macbeth as it is over - an old thespian superstition, anyway ...)

I was excited and yet apprehensive on how the K100D and my Sigma 18-125 DC 3.5-5.6 lens would fair. I was just off stage left and within 20 feet of the stage.

I used AV & TV mode – shot raw – and my experience came through with flying colors  All I can say is thank god there was a professional there with some equipment (I think it was a Canon 20 or 30D with a very very fast and quiet Telephoto Lens) . He was of course showing off his collection after the show and there were some very impressive shots. We bought a couple and will likely purchase a few more once they have the collection up on their web site. (But he won’t sell the jpg ‘s !!! I like to create DVD slide shows – so scan them in bugger)

When I got home – I was totally disappointed (but not surprised). I would have done much better bring my Lumix PS camera (as even with an ‘aperture’ of f16-f22 the shutter speed is likely 1/250 + and a huge DOF) . Some of the shots were light well enough (stage lighting was sometimes bright) and I did get a couple of good shots (less than 10 of the 60 or so I took). I was not too concerned about exposure as I had plan to PP that. Where I really screwed up was shutter speed. For the majority of the shots it was way to slow. Thus any movement was a huge blur rendering the picture ‘recycle bin worthy’. I should have been paying more attention.

Now I release the professional displaying all his post production pictures has as much money invested in his gear as I do on my vehicle , I was wondering what the ‘professionals’ here thought.

She has another play coming up. I can get relatively close to the stage. I know my PS will do a decent job when the stage is well lit (certainly better than last nights attempt). Can the lens I have do a decent job if I manually bump the shutter speed? (The 125mm seemed to be enough range). What other zoom lens would be better suited and more importantly does not break the bank? Should I just give up on this – take the PS – and enjoy my K100D for better light scenarios? I could use a prime however not sure 50mm would be enough and of course don’t want to and can’t change lens – and finally it goes without saying no flash is allowed.

I think I know the answers to these questions ( $,$$$.$$)but others may have some ingenious work arounds .


Last edited by daacon; 04-25-2007 at 06:27 AM.
04-25-2007, 06:47 AM   #2
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I tried musical stage shots before with canon set up - 85 f1.2L, 135 f2L and 200 f2.8L. Bright but blurry images are still common place because lack of IS.

k10d produces great skin tones when A medium tele lenses are used (my personal experience - I am not the type to test lenses, then subjected to the common torture of being accused of having bad controlled variables for these comparisons). I do not think there is that much difference shot in theatre settings.

The bokeh tend to be black or backstage objects blurred in which this usually adds little artistic value to the photos. Pentax A lenses are usually sharp if focused properly.

I see that you use sigma zoom which usually performs less well in low light. Try to use the centre point for metering as it is sharper than the corners.

Usually canon has difficulty in WB at dark setting - usually strong brown hue. It needs a lot of colour correction afterwards. The in built noise reduction inside canon cameras usually degrade low light photographs a lot once the colour correction is made.

k100d or k10d has great SR and it proves very useful in these setting. I would not feel "inferior" to these people using pentax.

Other low light medium telephoto lenses like 135mm f2.8, 85mm f2.8 soft focus or M 200 f4 should be all quite good for these theatre photo occasions. Costing not that much.
04-25-2007, 07:08 AM   #3
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Thanks reontarre

What about WB and ISO ? I was not using center point so that is a great tip and I think I had ISO at 800 and WB was cloudy or shade (not comforatble yet with manual set).

I know there are quite a few variables in this equation. I am not jelous of the Canon at all - I choose Pentax over Canon , Nikon and Sony. I don't feel bad about comparing my pitcutures to his as that is his profession - he darn well better be better than me haha.

What would be the minimun shutter speed ? I have read here most say at least 1/250 for freezing sports action - walking accross the stage I think I can certainly go lower than that.

The 85 may work - I like the zooms for flexibiliy - however I don't own or have not used any primes - so maybe it is time. Zooms would be handy if I happen to be on the side of the stage. I also have the Sigma 70-300 APO DG did not try that one last night - maybe I will give it shot -

I would love to test of course but it is hard for me to find a similar set up inside the house - maybe in the garage at night ... ummm
04-25-2007, 07:11 AM   #4
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I haven't photographed plays, but here's what came to mind, fwiw (free). If your camera has a program line option of "fast" choose that (and P mode) and a high ISO.

Then focus on timing and panning. Timing your shutter releases to capture the expressions on the actors when they're not moving, panning to ensure your subject is clear when she is moving. 'Course this means SR is off, too, but it sounds like your problem is more subject motion as opoosed to camera motion. Resist the impulse to use continuous shooting or bracketing as the audience might lynch you during 1st intermission.

I'm going to Macbeth tomorrow at the Jube. Wonder what they'd do if I brought my Bigma.
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04-25-2007, 07:26 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by dbh Quote
I haven't photographed plays, but here's what came to mind, fwiw (free). If your camera has a program line option of "fast" choose that (and P mode) and a high ISO.

Then focus on timing and panning. Timing your shutter releases to capture the expressions on the actors when they're not moving, panning to ensure your subject is clear when she is moving. 'Course this means SR is off, too, but it sounds like your problem is more subject motion as opoosed to camera motion. Resist the impulse to use continuous shooting or bracketing as the audience might lynch you during 1st intermission.

I'm going to Macbeth tomorrow at the Jube. Wonder what they'd do if I brought my Bigma.
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dbh
Bring the Bigma !!! Lead on McDuff ! Who knows I may one day go to the Jube to see may Daughter in 'that play' ... Panning is a good idea ...so are you suggesting using the 'sports' mode ? And why does SR have to be off ? And Yeah the lens I have is not the quitest for sure haha - have to time my shots over the screaming on stage
04-25-2007, 07:56 AM   #6
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There is good price on the 28-105mm f3.2-4.5 smc FA AL IF Lens Silver think this lens is significanlty better than what I have (specifically the Sigma 18-125)

I am going to look at a lower zoom Pentax SMC-DA 16-45mm F4.0 ED AL I have read no complaints here about this one.

If those work out I will sell the Sigma 18-125 for a good price

As for the da* lenses - I think I will wait and see how serious I get - I love photograhy (mostly people - candid shots on vaction or various occasions) and creating DVD slide shows are a passion - unfortuantley both are time cosuming and it does not pay the bills so to speak (at least at this point!)
04-25-2007, 08:24 AM   #7
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In my humble opinion, you really need a fast lens for conditions such as a play. That generally means constant f/2.8 or faster (and unfortunately, it also means $$$).

For what it's worth, I highly doubt your P&S would do a better job. BTW, I know of no P&S camera that stops down to f/16-f/22, and using such a small aperture would be nonsensical in the conditions of a play.

I also believe the 16-45 f/4 is not a good choice for this situation. It's zoom range will probably be too short, and f/4 is too slow anyway.

My only recommendation with the gear you have is to use Av mode to keep the apeture open as much as possible (smaller f number), and bump the ISO to 800 or even 1600 (the K100D is very good at high ISO). Aim for shutter speeds of 1/60 or thereabouts.

Good luck !
04-25-2007, 08:32 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by dbh Quote
I'm going to Macbeth tomorrow at the Jube. Wonder what they'd do if I brought my Bigma.
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dbh
Internal search plus confiscation of the bigma ...



04-25-2007, 08:36 AM   #9
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I think dbh and Rbellavance have already answered your question regarding aperture and ISO setting for these types of low light photography.

The brighter aperture the better. Timing and panning are all important. I went to a comedian show early this year and the only decent photo I could capture was when the light shining on the guy's face. The shot was still a failure because of clipped forehead caused by the lighting.

If the person was standing still, singing some melody, time to turn on SR. Ultimately, it is the facial expression that counts. Capture the sweat and muscle twitching in these people on stage
04-25-2007, 08:47 AM   #10
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Thanks for the suggestions and confirmation - I know it is a difficult situation with the solution running into $1k plus - even then. I cannot justify that kind of money quite yet for what I want to use it for (Son also play football but hopefully at least some of the games will be in the bright Sunlight!) .

So not to mince topics I realize the lower the f/stop are more expensive (not necessarily better per say - but more useful in allot of situations from my limited experience ).

Generally what would be your recommendations on the upper end of that spectrum for pictures lets say in general low ligh (dusk , dawn, indoors , etc ) t? f4 ?
04-25-2007, 08:56 AM   #11
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I'd certainly bump up the ISO to 1600 or 3200 -- it'll make for noisy images, but that is de rigeur for theater photography. I used to routinely shoot T-max 3200 at school plays, and man, is that film grainy! One hint, though: if you convert your images to black and white the noise isn't nearly so bothersome. It adds a certain ambiance.

I'd also shoot in Av mode at the widest aperture (f/5.6 @ 125mm on your lens), and use spot or center-weighted metering, aiming at whatever is in the light. That will help keep your shutter speed up.
04-25-2007, 09:04 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by daacon Quote
Generally what would be your recommendations on the upper end of that spectrum for pictures lets say in general low ligh (dusk , dawn, indoors , etc ) t? f4 ?
Most of my photos are in fairly low light indoors, mostly portraits (new baby, after all ), and I usually use f/2 - 2.8. It allows me to use ISO 800, which means that images stay relatively noise-free.

Remember: For a given shutter speed, f/5.6 and ISO 1600 is equivalent to f/4 and ISO 800, or f/2.8 and ISO 400. A lens a stop or two faster can make a huge difference.
04-25-2007, 09:19 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by daacon Quote

Generally what would be your recommendations on the upper end of that spectrum for pictures lets say in general low ligh (dusk , dawn, indoors , etc ) t? f4 ?
One thing to bear in mind. The dark lighting reveals low contrast images. Sharp images in low light are usually impossible because there is little light available.

I still remember the days I was in New York trying to capture images from a piano concerto. I deliberately bought the front seat (which costs a lot in deed). I still failed to manage a good decent shot with 85 f1.2 wide open. All these images were converted into "abstract" like images in the end like Monet's impressionism. I had no choice.

Few choices

A* 135 f1.8 (The common problem of CA would not be a problem in low light)

A* 85 f1.4 or Fa* 85 f1.4 - I personally think Fa 85 f1.4 is a bit over rated though. Maybe I got a dud lens but it is not as sharp as fa 77 ltd at f1.8. The contrast is not as high as fa 77 either.

A* 200 f2.8 or Fa* 200 f2.8 - I had seen great images from these lenses. The forth coming Da* 200 would be great

If you are really into zooms, let's wait and see how da* 50-135 f2.8 performs when they will be released.

James
04-25-2007, 09:26 AM   #14
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I'm cetainly no pro, but I have some ideas that might work (if I'm wrong, those of you who know better please chime in)

1) Would an FA 1:1.4 50mm be within your budget? I have one, and if you're into snap shooting your daughter (as I am- with a camera, of course!) then this lens is priceless.

2) Assuming you get the lens, choose manual mode on your k100d. Take advantage of the k100d'd improved sensitivity, and bump the ISO to 800 or even 1600. Set the aperture between 1.4 and 2 and take a few practice shots to find the proper shutter speed to set the histogram and WB properly. Dial in that shutter speed and WB and leave them, as the lighting really shouldn't change too much. This combination should cut down on motion blur significantly.

3) Your field of view will probably cover most of the stage, but you can crop later. The advantage here is that your DOF will be greater (although somewhat counteracted by the large aperture), and you might even be able to prefocus to spot that will allow your daughter to move around a bit and stay in focus.

John
04-25-2007, 09:26 AM   #15
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My advice, for what it's worth - take a couple test exposures in the beginning and then turn the camera to M (manual) mode. The lighting for the shows that I've been to has been much more static than you'd think, although it does fluctuate some you'll pick up when to change the aperture/shutter as the night goes on.
You have to shoot RAW because the colors of the lights is unpredictable.

Below are just two shots from last year's 'Theater In The Park'. I believe it was 'Much Ado About Nothing' and it was really funny.

The first one was taken with the FA50/1.4 at f/4 and 1/40th second ISO 400:


This last one was taken with the FA31/1.8 at f/3.5 and 1/60th second ISO 800:



As you can see by the apertures I used, you could have gotten both of these with a zoom. The light did change for this (mostly because it was outside and started at dusk) but it changed slowly and predictably. The spotlights were the same ones all night - and I'll bet I could have taken the bottom shot at very nearly the same settings as the top one and still had a 'usable' shot. (Sorry, I'm not sure of the PP after all this time!)

Sports (IMO) are a much different venue from theater/concerts. I haven't done enough sport shooting to help out.

--Sean
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