Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Good Shots From Row P?

The research begins now. With 11 days between now and Tom Waits 16 lettered rows from me, I need to learn the best tips on how to take good concert photos with a Kodak Z740. Of course, I am assuming (hoping) that it will be allowed to accompany me into the beautiful auditorium called Ryman.

This camera has yet to take a good shot in low lighting, but maybe that's just the fault of this photographer. I need bravery and education. I need to move away from the "auto" setting, and get confident in the more manual ways of photographic manipulation. I know better than to rely on the flash in a concert setting, so I'll need a steady hand and a long exposure. But the setting numbers are greek to me. Time to surf the net for tips - or just welcome the input of readers...readers like you. ;)

By the way, my Chicago bro has turned me onto a band called The Bad Plus. Dig them up and give them a click. For those who pay attention to genres, Rhapsody.com categorizes them as such: Jazz > Bop > Post Bop > The Bad Plus. Interesting, indeed. While very fantastic in performing their own written stuff, they get my attention by putting their own spin on these three songs:
"Immigrant Song" (Led Zeppelin)
"Human Behavior" (Björk)
"We Are the Champions" (Queen)
Have a nice night. And listen to WRVU as often as possible.

1 comment:

Horse N. Buggy said...

OK, I'll play along. I assume that this camera is digital. So the first thing I'll say is hold still until the image is fully recorded, which will be longer than normal in low light.

There are three settings that affect the lighting conditions in photography.

Film Speed: The higher the number the less light you need. If this is a point and shoot consumer level digital camera, you probably can't change that aspect. If you are actually using film, go to a camera store and get the highest speed film they offer. (As a hobby/enthusiast, I love Ilford Delta B&W 3200, but you can only buy that online from www.bhphotovideo.com.)

Aperture: This is how big the lens opens. Go into the bathroom in low light, sit there for 2 minutes to let your eyes adjust. Look at your pupils in the mirror. They will be very large. Then flick the lights on and see what they do - they become very small very quickly.

So, the less light you have, the wider your aperture needs to be. On an SLR, the aperture is a function of the lens. The odd thing here is that the lower the number, the bigger the opening. Strange, but true. Apertures range from 1.0 (really large and needing very little light) to 64 (very small and best in very bright light). There are weird steps in the aperture game. 1.0, 1.7, 2.8, 3.5, 4, 5/6, 8, 11, 16, 22, 32, 64. But your point and shoot probably doesn't show these numbers because the lens is affixed.

So you're probably looking for something like -2, -1, 0, +1, +2. Play around with those settings. I believe the positive numbers mean that you have less light, so overcompensate, but I am not quite sure about that. Stand in a semi-bad lighting condition and shoot on each of those settings to see what it does.

Shutter Speed: This is how quickly the lens opens and closes (or how quickly you blink). On an SLR, these numbers are in part: B (meaning hold the shutter open as long as my finger is on the button), 2 seconds, 1 second, 1/2 second, 1/4 second, 1/8 second, 1/15 second, 1/30 second, 1/60 second, 1/100 second, 1/200 second, 1/400 second, 1/500 second, 1/800 second, 1/1000 second, 1/2000 second - I think that's it.

The longer the shutter is open, the more action that can happen. I know you've seen those photos of highways at night where the taillights are all blurred and leave a trail - those were either taken on Bulb or 2 seconds. But action shots where you catch a drop of water in mid-air or Michael Jordan making a spectacular dunk use a much faster shutter speed, maybe 1/500.

So the faster the shutter speed, the more light you need - cause it's not open for long. Again, you probably won't see those settings on a point and shoot. You probably have "modes." There is a little guy running for "sports" mode (relatively fast shutter speed) or a mountain for "landscape" (average shutter speed).

For a concert, you probably won't change this from the normal. There is some movement of the subject, but not a whole lot. I would put it in aperture "priority" mode and only change the -2, -1, +1, +2 settings.

Keeping Still: The best way to keep still is with a tripod. But of course you won't have one of those. The next best thing is to put the camera on a stationary object. You may or may not have a railing or seat back for that purpose depending on view obstruction. The final best practise is to use your body as a tripod. If standing, plant your feet firmly and lean against something - your seat or the seat in front of you. Hold your elbows in to your body as much as possible to eliminate shake. If seated, rest your elbow firmly on your knee and your leg firmly on the ground. Zooming out increases image shake, don't zoom more than necessary. And as I mentioned at the outset, hold the camera still until the image is fully saved.