Thursday, November 10, 2011

Shot in the Dark

By Jennifer Kay

Photography is problem solving, Brian Smith told us at his Miami launch for his book “Art & Soul.” Photography is creating opportunities out of problems. Lately, I’ve made a point of shooting in problematic situations. I’ve only allowed myself to shoot with available light, which means I’m often shooting in the dark.

Solution 1: Find the Light

 I’ve incorporated a lesson from the spring semester into this exercise -- find the good light, and wait for something to walk into it. One night this week, some of the Occupy Miami activists held a candlelight vigil on the beach. My only light sources were the moon, the moonlight reflecting off the sand, the electric candles and cell phone screens. I set my exposure for those lights and kept my shots wide to allow for as much light as possible, and then I watched for how the activists interacted with the light.

Solution 2: Know What Your Camera Do

 My DSLR can set the ISO as high as 6400. The higher the iso means I can still shoot clear frames in low light, but it doesn’t solve everything. I wanted to make portraits of the Haitian musicians performing on an outdoor stage during South Beach’s Sleepless Night arts event, but I didn’t have the kind of up stage access I had when I shot Shenita Hunt at The Clevelander last month.

My 50 mm lens has a wide open aperture to collect the most light, but it wasn’t getting me close enough to the singers. To get closer, I switched to my point-and-shoot camera, which has a zoom function.
I set the camera to a “high grain” setting with a 1600 iso to compensate for the camera shaking in windy conditions.

Solution 3: Make Trade-Offs

Shooting in the dark means I have to give up some things. Changing the ISO to 1600 or higher means that I lose the mid-tones in my images. The singers appear as bright spots of light and color surrounded by darkness. I also get noisier, grainier images because of the high ISO. I get high contrast, black and white, without soft grays or soft light.

Solution 4: Move My Feet

My 50 mm lens shoots fast, letting in the most light with the widest aperture. On the other hand, it’s a fixed lens. I can’t zoom in, and I can’t shoot wide. The only way to change the perspective is to move. In the Hotel Urbano, a trio sat talking at a table in front of an abstract painting hung on a bold red wall. When I first saw them, I tightly framed the shot on one half of the painting, a sliver of the red wall and a small portion of the table. What made the painting, and the scene, interesting was the red wall framing the painting. In order to get the whole table and painting in my viewfinder, with enough of the red wall framing the scene, I had to physically back up several feet.

1 comment:

  1. Jennifer, these are awesome pointers and a great review on the reduction of mid-tone values with pushing ISO, and also finding the light! Love your images. Great work, as always!