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11-01-2015, 07:03 AM   #1
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Trick or Treat Lens and/or Technique?

Just as the thread title says - what would be your lens of choice if you knew you were going to be limited to one lens, constantly on the move (so no tripods/monopods/long exposures), and shooting in generally 'neighbrhood after dark' conditions with liberal use of a flash unit slapped onto the camera.

I rushed out the door last night and grabbed the kit lens in the first time in forever (other options for autofocus zooms would have been the 35-70mm, a busted up Sigma 28-200mm I don't trust the zoom on, my Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5, or the FA 35-90mm - all similarly slow at their widest zoom). If I had more time I *probably* would of grabbed the F or FA, but I was rushing.

Second year in a row, and second time I was generally disappointed with my results. There are a few good keepers, and in the 'family snapshot' crieria most work fine, but I have yet to have a trip where I wasn't messing with the settings half the night.

I know its not the camera here - its the guy behind the camera shooting in ways he normally doesn't (I love night photography, but generally I use a fast prime and a tripod and shoot stationary objects, not kids running around in the dark).

So if you were limited to a slow zoom, what settings would you use? I was opting for TAv mode, but the flash unit wasn't liking that at times, and I was quickly finding the flash shots weren't that great anyway overall (nothing to bounce the flash off of, and dead-in-the-face shots were annoying the family).

So how would YOU go about catching your kids in a dark, widely spaced streetlamp environment? Or am I simply trying to do the impossinble ere short of having a zoom lens that shoots at an expensivey-wide aperture?


Last edited by Sagitta; 11-01-2015 at 09:25 AM.
11-01-2015, 07:49 AM   #2
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Before I got the FA43/1.9 I would have gone with my A50/1.7 for low light shots with candles.
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11-01-2015, 07:51 AM   #3
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I haven't tried capturing active trick or treating yet, but if I were to try, I think I'd invest some time beforehand in getting my light sources figured out. Like having a good wide-beam, daylight-temperature flashlight (or even just an iPad) that the kids can use to illuminate their own faces in creative ways while they're walking, and figuring out which houses have decent yard lighting and spending more time on photos there.

More likely though, I'd just do costume portraits at home and instead bring my RX100iii trick or treating so it can do the thinking for me.
11-01-2015, 08:09 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by JibbaJab Quote
More likely though, I'd just do costume portraits at home and instead bring my RX100iii trick or treating so it can do the thinking for me.
I'm starting to think a good low light point and shoot may be the answer as well, until they can release an affordable 28-200mm f/1.4 lens, of course. (ie, never! LOL)

11-01-2015, 08:33 AM   #5
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I think a similar approach to nightclub photography would work: wide angle zoom like the kit lens with an external flash on a tether or a radio popper.
It's the same problem, dark ambient with dim lighting you want to incorporate into the picture.
Hold the flash in one hand at various positions - above , off to side, or even down low for that creepy effect.
You can try different effects such as slow speed trailing flash etc.
Lots of videos on YouTube re. nightclub photography should give some ideas.
11-01-2015, 09:10 AM   #6
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I went Trick-or-Treating with my kids last night and I took my K-3 with a FA 28-105mm f/3.2 lens. A Yongnuo 560 flash was mounted on the hot shoe. We live in a rural neighborhood so our streets have less general illumination than what is found in a city. The flash played a critical role in illuminating my kids. Here's a sample shot :



This was done at ISO 400, 34mm, f/6.3, 1/180th shutter speed. I would let the AF pre-focus at a certain point in space and fire the shutter once the kids entered the zone. The kid's movements are very predictable so it's easy to set up the shot this way. There must have been enough illumination from the house's lights to enable the K-3's focusing. The AF assist light rarely came on. It did not for this shot. Oh, and I simply set the mode dial to X. Simple!

A lot of people would use a higher ISO, larger aperture, and a softer flash than what I have. Higher ISO can introduce more noise. I want cleaner images. Wider apertures can result in shallower depth of field so focusing becomes more critical. It's harder for the camera to focus at night and the kids can end up coming toward me in random order and depth. Something like f/6.3 seems like a good compromise between depth of field, light entry, and general sharpness in this lens. In the shot above you can see I easily got all three kids generally in focus. The trade off is needing a really bright flash to fill in the area with daylight quantities of light. At f/6.3 there is no light except for what the flash provides. That is your sunshine on a darker rural street. Flashes are generally cooler than sunlight so most shots end up looking bluish. It's possible to correct for some of this but it's also easy to go overboard and make the shot too warm in post. Then it doesn't look right either.

I thought about using my FA 31mm Limited but I wanted some flexibility when the kids are indoors. The 31mm is quite a bit sharper than the FA 28-105mm zoom I used. I probably could have opened up my aperture to f/4-f/5 and use less flash. There would have less, but enough, depth of field still available. In my next life, when I am a millionaire, I will have a FA 31mm just for outdoor halloween shots.

It took me about 3 shots to fine tune the flash settings. The first shot, a group shot of the kids, came out way over exposed. Thankfully the K-3 dynamic range is large enough to enable highlight recovery through exposure compensation and shifting the data down. The third shot was a little underexposed - no surprise. The third shot of the night was just right. I used anything between 1/4 and 1/2 power and I would tweak the power up and down +/- 1/3 throughout the evening. Full power comes in handy when I need t bounce the flash off of some surface. I have had some practice in other events so I already knew where to start with my K-3's setting.

My flash was mounted on-camera. I have to have one hand free to hold my younger kid's hands when crossing streets, pointing my flashlight at them from behind so they are illuminate for safety, etc.

I'd like to post more shots but this is the only shot where everyone has a mask on except my own kid.
11-01-2015, 07:14 PM   #7
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Sometime in the mid eighties, I had to shoot at an open air party of friends. It came as a surprise, so I was in the same situation as the OP. When I got the pictures developed, it turned out that most of them were nearly unusuable (white faces against dark black background).

I was stunned, as I remembered that, ten years earlier, I had shot a lot of pictures at similar conditions, and most of them had been quite good.

After some experimenting, I found the reason. I now had been shooting with my Super A (which had TTL flash control), and my flash did support camera TTL control.
In the mid seventies, TTL flash metering had not existed, and I obviously had used a flash without (or switched off) Thyristor auto mode.
So old fashioned GN/ISO/distance calculation for aperture setting was the secret.

To translate these findings to modern DSLRs:
Under such circumstances pTTL is no better than the older TTL, and in open air at night causes the same problems (background too far away, acting as a black-cloth background).
You COULD try to use pTTL in combination with fiddling with flash power reduction (from the CAMERA, not from flash); but some experience would be needed, as the best reduction value would heavily depend on the distance to the object, the distance to the background (if that exists), and the relation of near/far away area .

The best results you will get if there is some background not too far away. Or if you use a manual mode only flash, and calculate aperture from distance and GN/ISO.

About the lens:
In the film days, I used either a Pentax 2/50 (later the SMC-A 1.4/50), or my Tokina AT-X 2.8/35-70. With my present equipment, this would translate to my SMC-A 2.8/28, the Meyer Lydith 3.5/30, or the kit lens if i really need a zoom. For such shootings, border resolution is irrelevant, and the center of both aforementioned primes at F5.6 is tack sharp / difficult to beat.
11-02-2015, 01:01 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by RKKS08 Quote
Sometime in the mid eighties, I had to shoot at an open air party of friends. It came as a surprise, so I was in the same situation as the OP. When I got the pictures developed, it turned out that most of them were nearly unusuable (white faces against dark black background).

I was stunned, as I remembered that, ten years earlier, I had shot a lot of pictures at similar conditions, and most of them had been quite good.

After some experimenting, I found the reason. I now had been shooting with my Super A (which had TTL flash control), and my flash did support camera TTL control.
In the mid seventies, TTL flash metering had not existed, and I obviously had used a flash without (or switched off) Thyristor auto mode.
So old fashioned GN/ISO/distance calculation for aperture setting was the secret.

To translate these findings to modern DSLRs:
Under such circumstances pTTL is no better than the older TTL, and in open air at night causes the same problems (background too far away, acting as a black-cloth background).
You COULD try to use pTTL in combination with fiddling with flash power reduction (from the CAMERA, not from flash); but some experience would be needed, as the best reduction value would heavily depend on the distance to the object, the distance to the background (if that exists), and the relation of near/far away area .

The best results you will get if there is some background not too far away. Or if you use a manual mode only flash, and calculate aperture from distance and GN/ISO.

About the lens:
In the film days, I used either a Pentax 2/50 (later the SMC-A 1.4/50), or my Tokina AT-X 2.8/35-70. With my present equipment, this would translate to my SMC-A 2.8/28, the Meyer Lydith 3.5/30, or the kit lens if i really need a zoom. For such shootings, border resolution is irrelevant, and the center of both aforementioned primes at F5.6 is tack sharp / difficult to beat.
Have you tried spot metering in PTTL mode?

Should work

11-02-2015, 09:08 AM   #9
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I "went to war" with the DA15 and the popup flash on the K-3 this halloween.


I can hold that combo in front of the kids one handed when they knock on the doors and get a lot of smiles and grins.


I generally shot at f/4, 1/2 to 1 second and ISO 1600, and flash EC at -0.7. That yields fun streaks from the streetlamps and windows
and sometimes a spooky double image of the kids when there's more ambient light. Ride the shutter speed to control this.


I have the AF assist light on and shoot "no see" from the hip or at arms length. Good fun and a handful of keepers.


Regards,
--Anders.
11-02-2015, 10:59 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
Have you tried spot metering in PTTL mode?
I shoot with spot metering most of the time anyway. But since I use DSLRs, I have not worked under such conditions.
With the TTL of the Super A, there was no spot metering.

And with most of my present lens range, pTTL is not supported anyway.

EDIT:
The way asp1880 does it, should work ok most of the time.
The popup flash is weak anyway, and with EC -0.7 this would be roughly what I suggested in my posting if you have to use pTTL.

EDIT 2:
If I think again, the idea of using (pTTL) spot metering under these conditions would not be the way to go for me.
Keeping AF spot and TTL spot seperated would hinder my workflow, and I would not be totally free anymore to select the frame of view, as metering is only done while shooting; so selecting a good point for TTL exposure would also decide about the frame.

This is different from shooting without flash, where you can store the measured exposure value.

Last edited by RKKS08; 11-02-2015 at 11:15 AM.
11-07-2015, 06:29 AM - 1 Like   #11
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My absolutely amateurish take
I had the flash in the one hand and the camera in the other using the optical wireless TTL with exp. corr set to -1(on the body), metering set to the centre





BTW: Do you use any compact diffusers? One that can be carried and used on body and off body

Last edited by AldaCZ; 11-07-2015 at 06:37 AM.
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