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08-11-2008, 10:27 AM   #1
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Pentax K100D and night shooting

Hi everyone, I've just registered and I have to say that I'm pretty new to the world of slr photos.

First of all, last Christimas I bought myself a Pentax K100D Super kit with the 18-55mm lens and I practiced it a bit during these months but there are some situations where I cannot reach the results I was hoping for.

I play in a rock band and enjoy attending live shows... and I was hoping to have it easy at shooting great photos during the concerts but it seems to me to be a little more difficult than I thought

The main problem is that, due to the fact that they are often small gigs, the lights are pretty low or not enough to get a good illumination of the subjects I shot. From what I understood in my researches there are 3 factors: time, f-stops and iso.

Willing to keep time and iso as low as possible the only variable seems to be the f-stops, and I'm starting to ask myself whether the value of 3.5 is enough for what I wanna do or I should start and look for another lens.

Of course, I'm trying to avoid the use of flash not to spoil the colors and "atmosphere" lights create on the stage, but I often have problems with over-saturated colors.

Can anyone help me find out my way in this wonderful world and shot photos that look like a pro?

Thanks!



08-11-2008, 10:44 AM   #2
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I have the same camera and I've been looking at the FA50 1.4 prime lens:

Pentax Lens Review Database - 50mm F1.4

For a fast zoom I am considering the DA*50-135:

Pentax Lens Review Database - 50-135mm F2.8 ED [IF]

For the type of shooting you are looking to do the DA* lens may be more handy giving you a zoom lens. However for the type of shooting I do I am probably going to get the FA50 1.4 first and a superzoom (18-250) second before I even consider buying the DA* lens. Hope that helps!
08-11-2008, 10:52 AM   #3
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I shoot bands with Pentax, as previous post stated get a 50mm f/1.4 this will give you fast shutter speed.

I invested in a Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 lens for zooming at small shows & has increased my success rate no end.

I regurlalry use these settings for gig photography

shutter speed 80-125 slower depending on light available, for larger shows I have been known to shoot at 250ish with f/4 but that is very rare.

aperture f/2.8

ISO at least 800 for small clubs I have used 1600 & 3200 succesfully with a little grain

You can see examples of my work on my website Gary Stafford Music Photgraphy

HTH

Gary
08-11-2008, 12:11 PM   #4
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Great! Thanks for the advices... I'll be looking for the lens you suggested and see how it works

08-11-2008, 12:38 PM   #5
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For small clubs, you'll need the FA50 f/1.4 and maybe even a flash. I've shot a few times in dark clubs and even the 50mm f/1.4 isn't fast enough. On your K100D, bump up the ISO to 1600, open the aperture as wide as you can, and try to freeze the action that way. You may still need a bit of flash.

Good luck!
08-11-2008, 01:08 PM   #6
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about the flash... I've experienced kind of problems in the past with it... it seems to me that if the subject isn't in the right position the flash isn't that effective.

I mean, if it's too close the photo results over-exposed, whilst if it's too far it is under exposed and I don't know if there is a way to adjust the strength of the flash (or the timing) accordingly with the position of the subject...
08-11-2008, 01:42 PM   #7
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Also depends on how far away from the stage you'll be when taking the photos.
You may find that 50mm a little too short to get up close and personal, and at times, the large aperture might make it hard to get all you want in focus.

Essentially, a 100+ focal length with f/2.8 would be helpful to complement the fast fifty and make it easier to shoot in low light without flash. I've done this reasonably well with an FA 100/2.8 macro and M200/4 without flash (pictures are in other 'post your photos' threads).

As for flash, depends which flash you have. If you have a P-TTL flash, you should be able to get decent exposures as long as you observe the minimum distance you need to be from the subject. If you don't have a P-TTL flash, you might find it more difficult since shooting in M or A modes will mean you have to keep changing flash intensity settings each time you move further away from or closer to your subject.
08-11-2008, 01:46 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by alchemy Quote
Willing to keep time and iso as low as possible the only variable seems to be the f-stops, and I'm starting to ask myself whether the value of 3.5 is enough for what I wanna do or I should start and look for another lens.
f/3.5 is indeed often pretty borderline, and to make it worse, the kit lens only gets f/3.5 at the widest (18mm) end. Zoom in to 55mm and you're at f/5.6. *Way* too small an aperture for a good picture in that light.

Assuming you do find 50mm a good focal length for this sort of thing - and the best way to check that is to see if you are currently using your kit lens a lot at that end of the its zoom range and if you are happy with the composition of the pictures - then definitely, picking up a faster 50mm lens makes a lot of sense. For around $200, you can get the FA50/1.4 others have mentioned. But note AF is also pretty dicey in these situations. You may find yourself just as happy if not happier with a used manual focus 50 for less than half the price.

Personally, I tend to prefer more close-up pictures, and I'm seldom *right* in front of the stage like a "real" pro, so I find 50mm is usually too short. My most used lens is the M135/3.5, available used just about anywhere for about $70. Yeah, still f/3.5 but as I noted, you probably weren't really getting f/3.5 most of the time with your kit lens. In the cases where I *am* right in front of the stage, I'll use my A50/1.7, but I'll probably end up getting the DA70 at some point so I can get a bit closer without having to crop to get the image I want.

QuoteQuote:
Of course, I'm trying to avoid the use of flash not to spoil the colors and "atmosphere" lights create on the stage, but I often have problems with over-saturated colors.
There's a reason so much good concert photography is B&W - stage lighting often sucks. Too dim to avoid the need to shoot high ISO and the resulting noise, too strongly colored to get natural-looking skin tones. But I often find that, after doing the best I can with WB adjustment in post-processing and still not being entirely satisfied, turning down saturation just a *little* makes a big difference. Skin looks better, but you can still see the color of the light on inanimate objects.

QuoteQuote:
Can anyone help me find out my way in this wonderful world and shot photos that look like a pro?
Some random bits of advice:

- As a musician I find flash from close range annoying as hell, so I definitely support your bias against it for both practical as well as artistic reasons. Although flash *is* useful for creating the look where the subject is well exposed but the background is completely black. Still, we're mainly talking about available light here.

- In most situations, forget about messing with ISO less than 800, and actually, expect to be at ISO 1600 most of the time. Sure, you get some noise. But it beats motion blur, and noise can be reduced in PP. Blur can only be made worse.

- As I said, don't expect AF to work all that well for you. It tends to be slow in low light, and it has a frustrating tendency to focus on microphones, instruments, amplifiers, stage curtains, and other stationary objects rather than the musicians. Luckily, while musicians move around a lot, they often tend to stay basically in the same area of the stage as far as focus is concerned, so you can usually focus once and snap away for a while in manual focus mode.

- Don't expect auto-exposure to be of that much use, either. Even at ISO 1600 and shooting at f/2.0 with SR on, it will often suggest a shutter speed too slow to eliminate subject motion. And given the spot nature of the lighting, different parts of the stage get very different amounts of light, causing exposures to fluctuate all over the place from shot to shot. Instead, I use M mode, set ISO to 1600, set the shutter to 1/30 (the slowest speed that has a fighting chance of stopping subject motion), set the aperture as wide as I can or dare (too wide and the lens is often a bit soft, and you also get *very* limited depth of field), and shoot some test pictures. If my picture are a little dark - as they usually are - I grit my teeth and expect to push them in PP, but leave the settings alone. If the light is so bright that my test pictures are actually overexposed - fairly rare, but it does happen - I thank whoever is running the lights, then turn down ISO to 800 to reduce noise, stop down the lens a notch to get improved sharpness and DOF, and/or increase the shutter speed to 1/45 or even 1/60. I then basically leave the exposure alone all night unless I see that some musicians are just *constantly* in an especially dark or light area of the stage, in which case I'll adjust exposure just for them.

- Note I talk a lot about PP - adjusting WB, reducing saturation, removing noise, and pushing exposure. If you aren't shooting RAW, you might as well just leave the camera at home.

Here are some recent images shot with my K200D - all with inexpensive manual focus lenses - along with some commentary:

Billy Wallace, with the M135/3.5 at f/3.5, 1/30, ISO 1600 and pushed more than a full stop in PP. I also tweaked the WB in PP but didn't desaturate this one:



Bob Rebholz, same lens & camera settings, but color was *hopeless* (green spotlights), so I converted to B&W using a combination of WB tweaking and desaturation:



Kenny Garrett, with the A50/1.7 at f/2.0, 1/30, ISO 1600, pushed only a little more than half a stop in PP, also tweaked WB and desaturated a little. This was taken from directly in front of the stage but still needed some cropping to satisfy me; I think the DA70/2.4 would have been nice here:



08-11-2008, 02:08 PM   #9
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Great! You've been really useful

These are great tips for me, I'll make good use of them and from now on only shoot RAW at live shows

I should practice a bit the manual focus 'cause I've always been using the auto one... about the focal length I find 18-55mm a good length, I like the effect both at 18 and at 55 mm and so I think that 50mm f/1.4 could be a good choice for my actual needs.

I was also thinking about a fish-eye lens, but first I need to learn how to make thos shot I have in mind, practice and improve my skills

Thanks again!
08-11-2008, 03:45 PM   #10
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well... I have to admit I'm pretty lucky

I've just found between my father's photographic gear a smc pentax-m 50mm f/1.4 manual focus lens from his old film camera.

I think I will try and practice on this one to see if it's enough for my needs

what a luck!
08-11-2008, 03:50 PM   #11
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Very good fortune indeed! Here is a link that will help you a lot to get started with your M501.4:

K100D (Super) Pictorial guide to using manual lenses [imgs] [Page 1]: Pentax SLR Talk Forum: Digital Photography Review
08-11-2008, 04:25 PM   #12
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Great guide! I found a lot of interesting stuff in there

Only one question is left... let's see if my english is good enough to describe the problem I'm experiencing

When the 55mm f/1.4 is off the camera I turn the f-stop ring and it works, I see the leaves closing or opening as I turn it... the problem is that once I put the lens on the camera the ring looses its effect and the aperture just keeps completely open.

I noticed that as I turn the lens on the camera to lock it in position the metal leaves open completely as if they were positioning for the camera to control their position, but the camera can't control them because the lens doesn't have an A option for the f-stops, so they just remain in that position (f/1.4 I think) and I cannot change it in any way.

Hoping I've been able to make you understand the situation, can you suggest me anything to solve the problem?

Thanks.

Last edited by alchemy; 08-11-2008 at 04:31 PM.
08-11-2008, 05:53 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by alchemy Quote
When the 55mm f/1.4 is off the camera I turn the f-stop ring and it works, I see the leaves closing or opening as I turn it... the problem is that once I put the lens on the camera the ring looses its effect and the aperture just keeps completely open.
Yes, that is normal. Did you read the guide - the part on "shooting" in particular? In order to stop down the lens temporarily and take a meter reading, you need to press a button. In the guide for the K100D it is described as the AE-L button, but on cameras with a Green button, it's the green button.

EDIT: I should add, the lens that came with your camera doens't stop down immediately when you set the aperture (using the dial) either. Lenses are designed to stay wide open to make focusing easier. With "DA" lenses (also FA, F, and A), the camera knows what aperture you set on the camera and doesn't need to actually stop it down in order to meter - it only stops down when you actually take the picture. But with "M" lenses, the camera needs to stop down the lens in order to meter.

Last edited by Marc Sabatella; 08-11-2008 at 08:02 PM.
08-12-2008, 02:13 AM   #14
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Ok, now I got it... I took some test shots looking directly into the lens and saw that it closes down to the right size when I press the shooting button

So, everything seems to work just perfectly. Thanks again for your guide 'cause I found some precious tips (expecially about the focus assist).
08-12-2008, 04:07 AM   #15
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It'll be easier for people to give an appropriate advice if you give us a sample photo of the venue just to understand how dark is dark. Shutter speed + aperture + iso settings are also required.

Even iso 1600 with f/1.4 might be to dark for you.
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