Inside: Self-promotion; Save the kittens; ISO research, More dimly lit jazz clubs
How does that saying go?
Do something that you love so much that you’re willing to do it for free, and do it well enough so that people are willing to pay you for it.
I took slightly over 500 photos at Bohemian Caverns the other night. Good friend and bass clarinet wielder, Todd Marcus, was there with his quartet performing from his “Inheritance” release. It’s on NPR’s Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2012.
What a condition my condition was in.
I showed up and asked Todd if he minded if I took some shots. Well, he’s asked me about it before and this was a chance to try out some things with the 50mm f1.4. I couldn’t use the flash during the show because there were some pros shooting video. I also did a lot of manual focusing for three reasons:
- To eliminate the noise of the lens. Didn’t want to irritate/distract people.
- It was too dark for any quick focusing. (The a55 is great but it doesn’t have all of the hybrid focusing and peak detection that some of the NEXs do.)
The videographers also happened to be set up in the perfect spots so I had a heck of a time composing shots. And there were a few die hard fans right there at the tables directly in front of the stage so that was mostly a no-go.
500 shots includes bursts every now and then but I still don’t see how I cranked out that many.
It seems that my success rate is about 10%. That’s the pattern. 53 of them passed the first smell test. The rest were blurry (mostly), poorly composed, just not interesting, or caught someone at an awkward moment. I don’t mind a few photos that aren’t crisp and sharp if it captures a special moment or adds to the authenticity but I do want photos that will look good at any reasonable size.
One of my goals is to be much more efficient. Especially since I’m going to have to start shooting RAW instead of jpeg. The raw files at 16.1 MP are 3x+ the size of jpegs. I don’t have the storage locally or remotely to deal with that for long. I did some tests tonight, by the way.
You can see especially in the photos of George Colligan from his left that there was very little light over there. I rolled with it and went for the backlit shot. I had to bump the ISO up to 1600 and I may have tried a few at 3200, hoping that I could pull something off in post-processing.
Keep in mind that expressive musicians move around a lot, too. A person moving (although usually standing or sitting in one spot) in the equivalent light of a few candles backlit by spotlights. You can see how that would be a challenge.
So my piano photos are very, very noisy. Wouldn’t make good prints most likely. That’s too bad because I like them.
I don’t do this often but at the moment it’s called for.
I’ve been researching for months on how to take good low-light photos and what gear is best.
ishootshows.com – This guy has a great feel and style and a lot of useful, practical gear info.
dxomark.com – Just layman enough to understand and exactly the empirical info I need.
snapsort.com – I like big, clean, chunky web design. It’s informative, too. Kind of fun.
dpreview.com – Gets pretty techy but there’s some cool comparison tools using actual digital photographs.
You’re welcome. These are amazing resources if you’re looking for cameras and comparing things. ISO yes!
The Nikon D600, Canon EOS 5D Mark ii, and probably the Sony a99 are the best. Apparently, the Nikon D600 takes the cake in low light with ISO 3200 or even 6400 with very low noise. Phenomenal.
In other words, the photos of the piano player above would have worked out just fine with a steady hand. Again, keep in mind that expressive musicians move a fair amount, too.
The research has shown that a fast lens is key. I have a few fast lenses, i.e. light sensitive. I think they’re mostly fine for club venues if I can roam a little. Of course, there’s all of the pricey 2.8 zoom lenses. Those are the pricey ones. Those are the multi-thousand dollar lenses.
I’m betting that a full frame sensor (much better high ISO quality), plus a high but not too high megapixel count (too high and ironically the quality suffers), and a fast lens (like a 50mm f1.4), plus the accessibility of being a musician and knowing a ton of musicians would take me to pro level photos that I only dream about now.
Why go flashless?
A flash solves the issue in many ways but completely changes the ambiance of a room. There’s a time for that, of course. If the goal is to capture the performer, for example, that’s okay. If the performers have expressions or moves that need to be frozen. That can trump the room vibe.
If the goal is to capture the performer and the unique ambiance of the venue (or to keep things moody) you need to go without a flash. Or you need to have the mad crazy skills to somehow make it look like you didn’t use one.
I dunno. It’s tricky (to rock a rhyme that’s right on time).
Okay. This is going to sound a little weird.
I’ve been getting way into the photography and the folks at the gym where I train (big ups to Underground Athlete!) have been the targets of my photography habit. They’ve been patient with me and encouraging.
At our Christmas party they shocked me with a gift. They set up a donation page to help me get the kind of gear I would need (like something I found above) to shine at taking these intimate jazz club-type photos.
If, for any reason, you would like to support this effort, for the next 4 days you can do so at this link:
Every time a donation is made another genetic marker is found that gets us one step closer to curing male pattern baldness.*
I’m not used to … this. How do you thank someone enough? But I will make the most of it and be of service as much as I can. And remember.
Every dollar you donate will magically heal a sick, lonely, depressed kitten.*
You can also see more photos — of other things — here: