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Old Jul 1, 2006, 5:02 AM   #1
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Hi, this is my first post so please be gentle... I have been lucky enough to get the opportunity to photograph a dance show featuring tango. By going to the rehearsals, I am very familiar with the dramatic high points and this helps knowing what to frame and when to push the button.

If only it were that easy! I cannot use flash because it disturbs the dancers and audience. Unfortunately the show is very dynamic in terms of movement and of lighting.

My camera is a Canon 350D mounted on a Velbon Sherpa Pro tripod. My current method is to use a Sigma 30mm f1.4 set on Tv mode 1/40 ISO 1600. I shoot RAW. But I am finding the Sigma is very slow at focusing and often fails to focus at all. Because of the speed of movement, lack manual focusing aids on the Canon and small depth of field, manual focusing seems impracticle. The changing light also makes it very easy to get burnt out/low detail areas.

So has anyone got any handy tips on how to deal with these challenging conditions? Other lenses available to me are
Canon 17-85 IS f4/5.6, Canon 50mm f1.8, Canon 18-55 kit lense and Canon 70-300mm f4/5.6 IS.

Many thanks
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Old Jul 31, 2006, 9:25 AM   #2
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Try hand-holding. If you can get 1/40 at 30mm you should get a fair number of good shots. If the depth of field is too small then the canon IS lens will let you get the same exposures with a smaller aperture (and so more depth of field) though the exposure times will be longer. You will have more motion blur from the dancers which I imagine is already a problem at 1/40 unless you are looking for that effect. Don't know what auto-focus will be like though as that lens would be pretty dark.
Try the 50mm too. The extra distance will give you a slightly deeper depth of field at the same aperture and the 50mm focuses fast enough even though it's not USM.
You can force your camera to underexpose which will increase your shutter times. You can then boost up later in photoshop. Might lose some dark areas but as these are likely to be background anyway this might even be a good thing.
Above all, take LOADS of shots. When people show you that one great shot they took they never tell you about the 999 they threw away!
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Old Jul 31, 2006, 1:07 PM   #3
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If you have Photoshop CS2 you can also underexpose about 3 stops and it will allow you to pull your exposure back up when opening the RAW image.
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Old Jul 31, 2006, 1:46 PM   #4
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Many thanks for the reply.

In the end I used the Canon 50mm 1.8 for the most recent show and managed to get a number of successful images and of course loads have ended up in the gurgler! I used ISO 800 and fixed the shutter speed at 1/80. This worked well when the dancers are in the spotlight and I didn't get too many which were too dark or blurred.

The following link contains much valuable info which confirmed everything I found out the hard way!


Now I just have weeks of post-processing to do...
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