I had the opportunity to shoot the Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre with the Indianapolis Photo Venture Camera Club. This evening was dress rehearsal for “Happily Ever After”, themed around Hansel & Gretel, Once Upon a Time, and a very dark version of Pinocchio. Since this was dress rehearsal we had freedom to go anywhere except on stage. Great images here we come. The posted images are from Pinocchio.
As always this is a challenging shoot because of the extremely dark conditions coupled with mixed and varied colored stage lighting. This called for my fastest glass, high ISO & the highest shutter speeds possible with low light.
This time at the theatre I did something different. I did my normal hand held thing, but also mounted a Nikon in the balcony with a Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 prime. This is my fastest lens and from the balcony the 50mm focal length covered the entire stage. I simply set the Nikon on a tripod secured to the balcony railing. I used a Promaster ® SystemPRO Professional Wireless Remote Shutter Release to trigger the camera from about 50 feet away. I set the Nikon to manual mode, with aperture at f/2.8, shutter speed at 1/80 second and ISO at 1600. WB was set at 5400 kelvin. Before things started I focused the camera on the center of the stage and then set the focus to manual. This setup worked great.
I then used my trusty AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED on a Nikon D300s hand held. Setting was manual mode, speed between 1/50 to 1/100 of a second, ISO between 1250 & 1600 and aperture either wide open to stopped down to f/5.6 to get reasonable DOF. Also, I set the white balance at 5400 kelvin.
In almost all shots I needed to increase exposure and used the noise reduction slider in Adobe Lightroom 3. Not much additional processing was required except for the occasional tweaking of lighting using curves in Adobe Photoshop CS5.
I’ve shot this venue about 4-5 times and have always come away with great shots, but at the same time many shots are not as tack sharp as I would like. It’s extremely difficult with a crop sensor camera even if you have solid high ISO range like the Nikon D300s in such a dark setting without flash when hand held. You need to balance noise in the shadows (which often is most the photo) with shutter speed and DOF. Oh, the problems us photographers face.
Overall, a fun night with good friends shooting a great venue.
As always a few tips:
· Crank ISO up as high as you can get even sacrificing a clean image so you can get your photo as tack sharp as possible. You can often fix noise in Lightroom, but you can’t save an out of focus image
· Use your fastest glass when shooting in a dark setting. Tonight I brought no lens slower than f/2.8
· I found with both the 24-70mm f/2.8 & the 50mm f/1.4 a speed of 1/80 was about as slow as I could go and still get tack sharp images with the speed of the dancers.
· Bring a small flashlight. For some strange reason I didn’t and I really could have used one.