Sunday, June 8, 2008

So you think you can dance?

Photographing theater, stage, or concerts has it share of technical challenges. Last night I attended my daughter’s high school dance recital and I took my Nikon Coolpix P5100 to essentially play with and see what I could capture.

There were a number of inherent challenges with the whole scenario. The lighting on stage was very contrasty and low in brightness as expected. The black rear curtain fooled the camera meter and as you can see when Aperture Priority was used, there was faint detail in the curtain and the dancers are blown out. So I quickly switched to Manual metering and tested for a better exposure for the highlights.

I tried exposures at ISO 100, 400, 800, 2000, and 3200 and each delivered different results. The ISO 100 produced some fun and creative blurry images because the shutter speed was 1/4 second. The ISO 3200 captured less movement but produced tremendous noise as expected. The ISO’s in between captured files with varying degrees of blurring movement.

Even at ISO 3200, I still had blurry images because at 3200 the exposure was 1/125th @ F5.3. The Coolpix when zoomed to the longest telephoto setting has f5.6 as its widest aperture and this limited the shutter to 1/125th. If I would have used my Canon 5D and 70-200 mm f2.8, then my exposure would have been closer to 1/250th, f2.8, and a better ISO of 800.

All and all it was fun to experiment with and see what I could get. I am happy with these colorful and blurry images. The experience also demonstrated the challenges that commercial photographers specializing in concert and theater photography encounter.

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