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Old Jan 30, 2005, 7:42 PM   #1
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Hey!

So...as you may know from other threads, I've recently stepped into the world of D-SLR with my purchase of a Canon Digital Rebel. For over 3 years, I've been shooting with a Minolta DiMAGE S304. My main photography focus is on low-light concert photography. I got okay results with the Minolta DiMAGE S304 at ISO800, f/3.5 and about 1/30 shutter speeds.

Now that I've moved to D-SLR, I have acquired 4 lenses:

Canon EF 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 USM (kit lens)
Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 USM
Canon EF 100mm f/2.0 USM

Whenever the concert venue/club has sufficient lighting, I MUCH prefer natural lighting. I have found that in sufficient lighting, both the 50mm f/1.8 and 100mm f/2.0 lenses produce excellent results a lot of the time. I have generally had to shoot at ISO1600 or ISO3200 to get enough exposure. The digital noise is surprisingly low even at these high ISO speeds and I've been able to remove most of it with NoiseWare. If for some reason there's a LOT of light on the musicians, I can sometimes back the film speed down to ISO800 or ISO400 or I can use faster shutter speeds. Due to the very shallow depth of field at these wide apertures and the very low lighting, the AF often fails to focus correctly, no matter what metering mode used. I usually switch the lenses to MF and do my best with TTL. It takes some trial and error and sometimes I'll try to focus on the microphone and then back off slightly.

I have also had some luck with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 and 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lenses in low-light concert photography. I will watch the concert and wait for the lighting to be at it's best, and then shoot wide-open at f/3.5 with either lens and use ISO3200 and about 1/30 shutter speed. As long as I can get a focus and not too much motion, this works. I can often lighten on the computer and still get a good image.

If I'm right up on the stage, I have found that the lenses are useful for the following:
18mm - whole/half-stage shot
28mm - half-stage shot
50mm - half-body shot
100mm - head/face shot

I'd love to have an f/1.8 or f/2.0 wide angle lens (or two). I haven't seen too many lense that would work and would be affordable. I see that Canon has an EF 20mm f/2.8 USM lens for $385 and they also have an EF 28mm f/1.8 USM lens for $399. I'm wondering if the difference in brightness of these two primes would be that significant from the f/3.5 lenses I already have at those focal lengths. I'm thinking that though they may be excellent lenses, I should save my money. What do you think? I realize that the Canon Triple Rebate deal ends tomorrow so if I wanted to save $45 on either lens, I'd have to act tomorrow. Have you seen any other inexpensive (read <$400) and really bright (read <=f/2.8) lenses for the EOS system?

I also just ordered the Vivitar 730AF speedlight. I think I borrowed a Vivitar 728AF two weeks ago and was excited about the possibilities. The reality is that some of the clubs I shoot in are SO dark that you can't get a decent exposure even at f/1.8 with ISO3200 and shutter speed 1/30 without a flash.

I have used the onboard flash on the Digital Rebel, but I have four problems with it: 1) it produces shadows behind the musicians, especially behind their heads, which makes them look like aliens, 2) it causes harsh lighting that sometimes makes the musicians look scary (makeup is really enhanced), 3) the lighting looks unnatural and often puts a strong blue cast on the musicians' clothing and skin, and 4) the artificial lighting takes away the beautiful colors of the stage lighting. I have had some luck with fixing #3 by setting the WB to flash, but I'm still often getting a very unnatural looking lighting on the musicians. Is there anything else that I could do on the camera to fix this problem? I'm hoping that I can deal with #1 by using the external flash and bouncing it off the ceiling or the wall, but I am told this only works when the walls are white and most clubs have black walls and ceilings. What do you think about that technique?

So...what can I do about the #2 and #3 issues? Is there some kind of diffuser that you can put on the external flash that helps with this? And how can I correct these problems in software? I have Adobe Photoshop CS and ACDSee 7.0.16 and I haven't found a way to restore the natural skin tones on the photos where the flash fired. I would really appreciate some pointers with how to do that in either program. I know that there's an option to remove a color cast but when I remove the blue cast, it makes everything look green and if I remove a green cast, it just looks plastic and fake. Also, is there a way in software to keep the exposure on the musician the same while bringing up the background? Another issue where this would be helpful is if I lighten a photo so you can see the details of the musician's face but that makes his/her dark clothing washed out. I wish I could just lighten the face and keep the rest the same. Is that possible? How?

One other technique issue that I'm not clear about is how to decide what aperture, shutter speed, and film speed to use when shooting with the flash. I know what I need to do without flash, but with flash, I don't know how to decide. I know that a wider aperture will give me a shallow DOF and I know that a faster shutter speed will give me less motion and I know that a slower film speed will give me less digital noise. But other than that, I haven't developed a technique yet. Sometimes I shoot with the flash on P and sometimes Av and sometimes Tv and sometimes M. So, as long as I'm using flash, what do you recommend for film speed, shutter speed, and aperture?

I look forward to your responses with great anticipation. Thanks as always for all your help!

Jesse
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Old Jan 30, 2005, 9:26 PM   #2
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Hi Jesse,

Bounce flash isn't going to work very well unless the ceiling is white. Also, even if the ceiling is white you may need a lot of flash power ifthe ceilingis high.

I think straight on flash with a diffuser is what you need. Lumiquest has a pretty popular product line. Take a look at the following site:

http://www.lumiquest.com/

I just ordered the 80/20 diffuser from B&H Photo to use on my 420EX, which is ok for around the house with white ceilings. For straight on flash the Pocket Bouncer, Ultrasoft, Big Bounce or Soft Box might do what you want.

There are some home-made solutions for trying to soften the flash from thepop-up flash.Following is a pretty good link about this:

http://194.100.88.243/petteri/pont/H...he_Pop-up.html

I'm not sure if the one the author calls the "FinnBounce" bounces off the ceiling (looks like it does) ... so the first one he shows (the "Smelfen") might be better for your purposes. Cool idea though, but I'd want to make sure I didn't install something that scratches up the finish on my new camera.

I read a similar post for the pop-up flash where the poster said to take a white translucent film cannister and cut a slot in it so you can slide it sideways over the pop-up flash.



Shutter speed Rule of Thumb: The slowest shutter speed to avoid blur from camera shake is 1 divided by the focal length. Shooting at 50 mm,don't shoot slower than 1/50s ... at 100 mm, 1/100s. Like any other guideline, it's just that ... a guideline. If you are pretty steady you may be able to get away with 1/50s to 1/60s for all your shots. Also, if the band members are moving around a lot and you want them sharp, 1/60s will be too slow.

I'm looking forward to hearing some answers to your questions from some of the more experienced photographers here since I'd like to take similar pictures of my kids classes during school concerts. I'd be inclined to shoot in Manual with a decent flash/diffuser at ISO 1600, 1/60s to 1/100s and picking an aperature that ensures I stay within the ability of my flash. If I can't get a good exposure (underexposed) with the lens wide open, then I'd back off the shutter speed a bit, or try to move closer to the action... but wouldn't go below 1/50s.

Or, if there isn't much movement, I'd pick 1/60s and the smallest aperature before running out of flash power. Depends on what's important, DOF control or minimizing motion blur. I'm no pro at this stuff ... so I'm hoping to see some other opinions!



I hope the above helps!



Bob


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Old Jan 30, 2005, 11:19 PM   #3
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I might try making a diffuser for the onboard flash. I also looked at the LumiQuest products. I can't tell which one would be best for concert photography, especially if I have my camera and Vivitar 730AF flash rotated 90 degrees to the right for a vertical composition. Part of the reason I chose the 730AF is that it can rotate right and left as well as up and down. I figured this would be useful for when I have the camera rotated 90 degrees to the right. Am I correct about this?
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Old Jan 30, 2005, 11:35 PM   #4
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You are being hit with a couple of problems with using flash.

For bounce the distance must be considered, remember how light intensity falls of as a square of the distance, and it will be affected by both the color and reflectivity of whatever it is bouncing off of.

For flash straight from your camera, the light direction is very unnatural coming from below,sort of reminiscent of low budget horror shows. Lightingcoming from above is best, or even straight on isOK. I think I would prefer to try using existing lighting if possible.

As to the lens, the faster the lens the faster shutter speed you can use with the lens wide open, useful if you are handholding or your subject is in motion. Long ago Canon used to make an 50mm F1.0 :-).


As for the Lumiquest's Ihave a pocket bounce,it works well but it costs you a couple stops in flashpower, and it is still on your camera, so the lightwill bedefuse but still coning from below.


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Old Jan 31, 2005, 12:35 AM   #5
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I definitely use natural light whenever possible but in some clubs, I can't get a decent exposure even at f/1.8 with ISO3200 and 1/30 shutter speed. So, I'd like a flash solution that doesn't look horribly unnatural. I'd like to minimize the shadows and keep the skin tones more warm and natural. And I need to be able to do this with the camera setup for a vertical composition. Would the LumiQuest SoftBox II work on the Vivitar 730AF if the flash is coming from the side rather than the top? Does it help that the 730AF rotates side to side?

Is there any attachment to the Digital Rebel that allows you to mount a flash on the "side" of the camera? Like some kind of bracket that attaches to the hotshoe and the battery grip?
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Old Jan 31, 2005, 5:35 AM   #6
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Listen up to PeterP :idea:

A flash maximum Guide Number (GN) is rated at its tele position... :evil:
Marketer does this to inflate their power number, at 50mm the 550EX output is reduced to that of the 420EX and at 28mm - It's only 30 (@ ISO-100): http://www4.pbase.com/canon550ex/image/23295788

Since a GN = distance X f-stop
-> at f/3.5 the max. distance of the 550EX is now only ~8.5ft with a 28mm FOV and direct flash - If you bounced the flash or diffuse the light in any other way the distances are even shorter!

ie you need to be on-stage for the pictures... or spend on one of thoses 'Metz' handle mount fan-cooled power house! You then don't need a bracket anymore for the side, because that's how they are (direct and bounce all at the same time) :lol: :-) :G

FYI - http://www.bogenimaging.us/product/t...68&itemid=1182
... either that or get multiples flashes to widen up (or increase the ISO)
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Old Jan 31, 2005, 8:49 AM   #7
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That Metz 70MZ-5 is $750...way out of my price range right now. But are you saying it's a flash that mounts on a bracket to get it really far away from the lens?

As far as GN and distance are concerned, I'm not worried about it because I'm usually between 2' and 7' from the musicians.

So...is there a bracket that would allow me to mount the Vivitar 730AF on the side of the Canon Digital Rebel?
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Old Jan 31, 2005, 9:36 AM   #8
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YourFace wrote:
Quote:
So...is there a bracket that would allow me to mount the Vivitar 730AF on the side of the Canon Digital Rebel?
FYI -
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...=109448&is=REG
http://www.adorama.com/SUDCFA.html?s...cket&item_no=1
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Old Jan 31, 2005, 9:40 AM   #9
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Do those brackets just move the flash to one side or are they appropriate for a vertical composition? I was thinking of something that would make the flash mount at a 90 degree angle...
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Old Jan 31, 2005, 9:50 AM   #10
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This one flip!
http://www.adorama.com/SB310635.html...cket&item_no=1
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