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09-25-2014, 02:16 PM   #1
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K-30 Low Light/Stadium Advice

Hello.

I will be shooting with my new K-30 in dimly-lit situations this fall and during the halftime performance under stadium lighting at night. Suggestions for settings would be awesome. The last time I went to the stadium at night, I was all over the dial, even using bracketing and scene modes for night shooting just to get some keepers. My goal is to get somewhere in the ballpark of proper exposure without terrible grain. I do not mind underexposing a little to avoid grain.

My budget lenses consist of the DA 55-300 and/or Pentax F70--210, the DA 18-55 AL, the Pentax FA 35-80. I sometimes bring along a Sears 50mm 1.7 just for fun.

Without buying better lenses more suited to this type of shooting, can anyone help with suggestions? Thanks so much.

09-25-2014, 02:29 PM   #2
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I'd use the da 55-300, try zooming it 200mm, and in manual mode dial in around a 1/200 shutter speed and the widest aperture you get at that focal length (possibly f4.5 or f5?), then set the iso to auto iso and if the camera consistently overexposes adjust the exposure comp to force it to underexposure more to your liking. My guess is that with these settings you won't have to crank the iso up too much and will still be able to get close to the action. Just make sure you freeze the action and don't have any camera shake, so 1/200 should take take of that if you can hold the camera steady.

PS- you can also set a maximum value for auto iso, my preference is that I usually don't let the camera choose higher than iso 2000. Auto iso really works great in dark conditions.
09-25-2014, 03:27 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by stillshot2 Quote
I'd use the da 55-300, try zooming it 200mm, and in manual mode dial in around a 1/200 shutter speed and the widest aperture you get at that focal length (possibly f4.5 or f5?), then set the iso to auto iso and if the camera consistently overexposes adjust the exposure comp to force it to underexposure more to your liking. My guess is that with these settings you won't have to crank the iso up too much and will still be able to get close to the action. Just make sure you freeze the action and don't have any camera shake, so 1/200 should take take of that if you can hold the camera steady.

PS- you can also set a maximum value for auto iso, my preference is that I usually don't let the camera choose higher than iso 2000. Auto iso really works great in dark conditions.
I second stillshot2. Auto ISO should do the job, and possibly take a tripod / monopod to steady the camera, if permitted.
Also, if you're shooting JPG, (even in RAW) make sure you set white balance correctly. I've experienced weird white balance on auto WB on K5-ii on few concerts with crazy LED lightings. On JPG if you get wrong WB you might lose color detail...
09-25-2014, 03:43 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by timmijo Quote
Hello.

I will be shooting with my new K-30 in dimly-lit situations this fall and during the halftime performance under stadium lighting at night. Suggestions for settings would be awesome. The last time I went to the stadium at night, I was all over the dial, even using bracketing and scene modes for night shooting just to get some keepers. My goal is to get somewhere in the ballpark of proper exposure without terrible grain. I do not mind underexposing a little to avoid grain.

My budget lenses consist of the DA 55-300 and/or Pentax F70--210, the DA 18-55 AL, the Pentax FA 35-80. I sometimes bring along a Sears 50mm 1.7 just for fun.

Without buying better lenses more suited to this type of shooting, can anyone help with suggestions? Thanks so much.
Another vote from me on paying close attention to white balance, especially if shooting JPEGs. Is there anyone you ask about color temperature of the lighting? Regardless, you might want to take a few test shots before the performance where you vary color temperature manually. When you find the best one, just set the color temperature to that figure and stick with it.

Assuming you're not trying to get the band at once in a shot, the DA 55-300 is probably the best lens to start with (as was mentioned earlier). Maybe set the Auto ISO upper limit to 3200 unless you think it's too dark on the field. The camera will tell you. The K-30 will take good shots a high ISO so don't worry about that. Subject movement is likely to be your bigger concern.

09-25-2014, 04:00 PM - 2 Likes   #5
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The one good thing about stadium lighting is that once it reaches full power, it doesn't change. Here's what I'd do in your shoes:
  1. bring a grey card
  2. first thing, set white balance using the grey card placed as close to the subject as possible. I'd set custom white balance in the camera AND take a photo of the grey card for future reference (in case something goes wrong at the event and you have to set white balance during editing.
  3. repeat the following all night, "Noise can be managed in post. Blur can't."
  4. shoot in Tv Mode, careful to keep shutter speed about 2x focal length and fast enough for moving objects. If you are talking about cheerleading, 1/250 or faster. If you are at 300mm on your lens, 1/500. If you are talking about band, 1/60 at wider angles. Set camera to autoISO, letting it go as high as 6400 if needed. Remember #3.
  5. if you've got stadium lights in the frame, spin exposure compensation +1 or more to compensate, depending upon how many.
  6. if you have a light colored subject against a dark field, set exposure compensation to -.5 or more to keep the field dark.
  7. practice before halftime.

Good luck!
09-25-2014, 04:18 PM   #6
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Great advice here already.

One further suggestion: shoot RAW and use noise reduction software. I use DxO Optics Pro (PRIME noise reduction). It's very easy to use and it does wonders with a 6400 ISO image. Topaz is also said to be good. It's a really cheap way to get a couple of extra stops.
09-25-2014, 05:27 PM   #7
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Thanks for the help, the more helpers, the better I will learn. At the moment, to handle noise after the fact, I use Lightroom's luminance slider just a bit, and then pull the photo into Elements 11 to finish it off. At least it's a starting place. You're right about the noise and blur being separate issues. I have some lovely photos, no blur, but lots of noise due to the (too) high ISO that I played with. And of course, many useless photos that are both blurry and noisy. I am going to print all of this out in a Word Doc as a practice guide. Thanks again. Keep it coming.
09-25-2014, 05:42 PM   #8
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Oh yes, white balance! I forgot to mention it because I always shoot in raw (dng) format and can go back and easily fix mistakes in Photoshop. Since you have Lightroom and Elements I would recommend beginning to shoot in raw if you aren't. It does take up more memory space and takes a little longer to process but in return gives you a lot more to work with if you mess up the exposure or white balance, etc.

09-26-2014, 08:00 PM   #9
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Thanks, yes, I must start to shoot in RAW; I have been editing jpegs for forever, and it can be quite thankless at times. (I convert them to TIFF format, make the edits, then finally save a JPEG off of the TIFF.) I guess I'll try a few RAW shots at the next game. Then I will need to learn how to develop them. Thanks, everyone.
09-27-2014, 10:53 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by timmijo Quote
Hello.

I do not mind underexposing a little to avoid grain.
Underexposing causes extra noise if you bring the exposure up in post. Better to use RAW and expose for a little highlight clipping using the blinkies, it'll be recoverable in Adobe Camera RAW and you'll get lower noise OOC. Also, a NR plugin like Noiseware will help to reduce noise but keep detail that Adobe NR tweaks lose.
09-27-2014, 11:49 AM - 1 Like   #11
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Shooting our son's band performances in stadiums was what got me back into the DSLR era... Besides all the other advice, the best thing you can do to get better shots is to get a monopod for support! It's not as good as a tripod for stability, but it's a darn sight better than nothing, and it is far more portable and convenient in the tight confines of stadium seating and walkways. And the height can quickly adjust to standing or sitting use.

You don't need a fancy head on it, in fact my first one was just a walking stick with a threaded knob, and it still made a tremendous change in my picture quality.

Jim
09-27-2014, 08:01 PM   #12
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I'll think about that monopod idea and all of the ideas. Yes, I do use the "blinkies"; they can be a lifesaver. I think my grain problem was due to ISO being way too high in the dark, with my f stops way too closed (high numbers). Still analyzing why I got so much grain on those jpegs; it could also be due to always maxing out the sharpness slider in custom image. Maybe I should slide it back some.
09-30-2014, 11:30 AM   #13
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Last weekend I shot at a conference with low light environment as main photog, and here is my setup for your reference.
It will be different for you, but perhaps detailed setting could prepare you better.

TAv mode - RAW
Shutter: 1/60 ~ 1/100
Aperture: As wide as possible, depending on lens
ISO range: 400 ~ 12800
Flash: no flash
Tripod: took it but ended up not using it as I moved around stage quite a lot
Exposure compensation: -2.3 (wide angle shot, f/4) ~ -1.0 (tele at 200mm f/5.6, spot metering)
WB: Custom - I asked the engineers at the hall / stages to show me preset lightings they'll use, and they were more than happy to help me out, so ask if they are accessible.

I didn't worry too much about noise as it was important to get the shot rather than make it crystal clear and noise free.
ACR did a great job even reducing much noise at 12800 with decent light (unless you pixel peep :P), I have plenty of keepers I'm happy with.

As far as I know K-5ii and K-30 sensors have similar performance, as long as exposed correctly, high ISO noise is none-issue, in my opinion.
I'll try to post few photos took with 50-200 mm, my once I'm done post processing whole batch tonight.
09-30-2014, 12:34 PM   #14
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Is this a pro stadium or high school? Pro stadium lighting is really very good - even, bright, no darker areas. In this scenario, I'd use auto modes (maybe - often green grass registers as dark making light uniforms or faces blown out). If you're in a less evenly lit stadium, just be aware what's happening with your aperture and shutterspeeds depending on the mode you're in. The 55-300 can be a bit soft at wide open apertures, so I'd stop down a stop. Adjust your iso accordingly. Shutter speeds will depend on what you're taking pics of - cheerleaders, or fast moving action sequences will need 1/300 or higher. Music or a marching band can be a lot lower. This will lower your iso if the action isn't fast.

If you're comfortable and if the light is even, I might suggest shooting in manual. Once you have the metering figured out, the lights won't change, but the persons uniform or the amount of grass in the image will change and this could through your meter off. Keep it in manual and you have no worries. Just remember to change the shutterspeeds depending on the action.
09-30-2014, 02:23 PM   #15
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This is in a pro stadium. Next question, forgive me if this sounds stupid, but can I shoot in genuine manual like I used to with my K-r? I got my best shots with the F70-210 attached while using the aperture ring rather than using the A setting. Now, I have a DA55-300 attached to a K-30 and can't seem to match that combination in image quality. Sounds crazy, I know, but I am on a learning curve still, and come to find out, the firmware in the used K-30 I just got has never been updated. Anyway, "manual" on the K-30 is either Tav or Av. When I attach the F70-210, I can get back to that manual mode that I am used to. Maybe I should dig out my old K lenses? What am I missing?
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