As a continuation of the day 1 and 2′s learning experience, I have some more thoughts to document.
Shooting at Kinetik this year for 8 hours a day, 5 days straight has taught me a few things which I hope to share with you, and document for my own personal development.
Days 2, 3, 4 and 5 were all shot with he addition of flash light. After the success I got on day 2, I decided this was the way to go.
The flash was located on either the left or right side of the stage, on some speakers. I kept moving the flash from one side to another for each band, to get lighting on each side, but on day 4 and 5 I smartened up and brought my second flash (with wireless trigger) and placed one flash on each side of the stage, and set the triggers on separate channels. So now I could stand in the center of the stage, and just change the channel on my transmitter to get either the left or right flash to fire. This worked especially well when the big names were on stage and it becomes difficult to make my way to the front of the stage every 10-15 minutes to move the flash.
A note on placement of the flash. I layed the flash flat on their back on top of the speaker. I noticed the flash would “walk” over the hour worth of performance, and it would not be pointing where I had initially set it up. Need some foam/rubber feet to keep the vibrations from moving the flash. And speaking of the flash on the speaker, the sigma (EF-500 DG Super) flash got totally messed up on day 5. The display would go all crazy, and it would not function. Only taking the batteries out would reset the flash. The Minolta flash worked flawlessly. It’s a dumber flash, and maybe vibrations don’t mess up the electronics.
I talked about the things I loved about using the flash in the last post. I want to mention some of the things I didn’t like.
The dark side of the person’s face is usually very dark. I love a dramatic look to the image, but sometimes it’s too much. I would prefer a balance of light from each side. This means firing the two flashes simultaneously, with a ratio setting so that even the dark side gets some light.
Another thing I didn’t like was that as I was adjusting the ISO to compensate for the artist moving closer and farther away from the flash on stage, the amount of ambient light recorded changes with the ISO since the sensor sensitivity changes. The effect seen by the camera, of adjusting only the ISO to compensate for the artist’s location is that at high ISOs, more of the ambient light gets recorded then at lower ISO (while keeping the shutter speed and fstop the same). I tried adjusting the shutter speed to compensate for the change in ISO, but the sync speed limit of the flash/camera connection only allows for a limited range. Too low a shutter speed, (anything below 1/50 sec with a 135mm lens) will show up as a softening effect on the image due to camera shake.
What actually happens when trying to balance ambient light with flash light is that at a given ISO setting, the fstop mainly affects the brightness of the flash light, and the shutter speed affects the amount of ambient light recorded by the sensor. As the ISO is changed, the shutter speed and fstop need to be adjusted to compensate. It’s a lot of work to constantly change those 3 parameters while paying attention and trying to capture the moment on stage.
Ideally I would control the flash power as the artist moves on stage, and keep the camera settings unchanged. I am currently looking into wireless flash triggers that allow the change of flash power remotely, as well as provide ETTL metering of the flash power. Such a setup would eliminate the need to make ANY adjustments on the camera. Set the ISO, shutter speed to get as much ambient light as desired, and fstop to adjust DOF, and let the flash/camera decide how much flash power to put out to get a good exposure.
I would also adjust the position of the flashes to the be on stage pointing at each other, to minimize the amount of distracting light the artist sees.
The AF assist light worked great, thought somewhat intrusive. The idea I love and will continue to develop it. I just need to figure out a different way to light up the subject. Using the AF Assist of my Sigma EF500 DG Super flash, I can get reliable focus up to 20-30 ft away in pitch darkness, and the light is barely visible.
On day 5 I started being more careful when using the AF assist light and kept adjusting the intensity so as to be just barely visible.
The last concern I have is with camera shake. At 135mm, with a 1.6 crop factor you’re looking at nearly a 200mm lens, which by conventional wisdom would require a 1/200 shutter speed to negate any small camera shake. I know I wasn’t keeping the camera steady when shooting (I could often feel it move/jerk when I pressed the shutter release) and I was shooting at 1/100.
Maybe a monopod may help? By the end of the festival I was getting tired, which I ‘m sure didn’t help with keeping the camera more steady.
Some thoughts on things I’d like to try.
Putting the camera on a stick/monopod, and shoot from 5″ above my head for a different perspective of the artist. Get a remote camera trigger to trigger the shots.
Another thing I’d like to make is a camera trigger that is light sensitive. Often times the artist gets flooded with light from stage lights or other flashes, and it would be interesting to have the camera automatically trigger the shutter based on burts of light. Obviously this would take control out of my hands of the moment the exposure happens, but it may provide interesting ambient light shoots.