Sunday, September 1, 2013

Photography Under Adverse Conditions

I've hiked some good distances to remote places under adverse conditions for the opportunity to photograph some pretty awesome sights.  I've taken photos in rain, snow, freezing conditions, standing in a cold mountain stream, and on the side of mountains in winds that would blow my tripod over if I didn't hold it down.  Each of these conditions brings different challenges from keeping the camera dry to not getting blown off the side of the mountain.   Recently I ran into new conditions that presented a new challenge to me.

I almost always shoot with my camera on a tripod.   As long as my subject is not moving, using a tripod gives me the sharpest photos possible.  It allows me to take long exposures without having to worry about camera shake. 

On a recent trip to Nashville I went to the Serious Steel: Art Deco Automobile exhibit in the Center for Visual Arts with my friends Kent Ervin and Pete Culotta.  When we bought our tickets the lady and the counter said "No Tripods or Camera Bags Allowed".   I turned my forbidden gear over to the concierge, got my claim check and went in with just my Canon 5D Mark ii and a 17-40mm, f/4.0 non-stabilized lens.  This was going to be interesting.

The first challenge we ran into when we went in to the exhibit was the crowds.  It was difficult to get shots of the cars without people in the frame.  Even when they weren't in the picture their reflections were in the ultra shiny paint and chrome.  This took some patience and creative positioning.  It amazed us how long people could stand in one place.

The second challenge was the low light.  I found if I set the ISO to between 3200 and 5000 I could get speeds fast enough to get a decent shot hand holding the camera.  My slowest speed was 1/15 second!

I had a couple things going for me.  First the Canon 5D Mark ii does pretty well at low light and high ISO levels of 3200 and up.  Second, using a wide angle lens I could get away with  little camera shake that would have ruined photos at 25mm or higher. 

We ended up walking through twice and I got a handful of shots that I was happy with.

17mm, 1/15 sec, ISO 3200, f/5.0

17mm, 1/60 sec, ISO 3200, f/4.0

17mm, 1/125 sec, ISO 3200, f/4.5

33mm, 1/60 sec, ISO 5000, f/5.6

32mm, 1/80 sec, ISO 5000, f/5.6

40mm, 1/60 sec, ISO 5000, f/5.6
I used Nik Define 2.0 software to remove the digital noise that introduced to these photos due to the high ISO settings.   It's my go to tool for cutting through that digital static and does a great job.

All in all not a bad day.  After picking up our gear we were off to the next destination with a little more light and a few less rules.

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