Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Time and Place for High ISO

EXPOSURE : ISO 2500 f/4 @ 1/15s
Sometimes you might look at a camera's latest feature and say, well that's silly, I don't need that.  There is a reason you're saying this - you've never had it before, so you haven't come to rely on it, which of course, you will be left feeling like you don't need it.

Instead, think of it as what can I do with this feature? What can you do that you couldn't do before. Take for instance the images below. A use for a little-used feature, to capture a scene I have never seen before, in a way that would only be possible thanks to extremely high ISO capabilities.

This was well after dark, after capturing a beautiful sunset by the lakeshore of a seldom visited park around here. On our way back to the car and I heard the nearby call of an owl. Normally I wouldn't even waste my time looking in the dark, but it sounded so close.  Sure enough, continuing back to the car, and in our pathway I spotted him.

The top image is the initial view I had - a silhouette of the figure on a branch. Cool - but not great, since even at only about 50 feet up, the large, but still small bird would hardly fill a frame.  Having shot birds in trees before, unfortunately the closest distance you can be to him on the ground (in flat terrain) is directly beneath the bird - hardly a photogenic angle.   So I passed around the other side and got a dramatically different image.

EXPOSURE : ISO 12800 f/4 @ 0.8"s 
No longer backlit silhouette, I had the light of the full moon at my back now, and he was showing detail, along with a faint red glow from the tungsten of the park lights.  Want to know what the equivalent exposure of the bottom image would be at ISO 400?   Fifteen whole seconds! Do you think he'd be still enough to be sharp after that amount of time? Heck no - and that would have probably meant I only get one photo of him if I did instead of fifteen or twenty.

So that's a use for high ISO, but you have no interest in photographing owls at night, or anything even remotely similar?  How about this then; what does your awesome hi-powered strobe's guide number become when you calculate it at 12800 ISO? What's that, you are even lighting spread across a massive area from 300ft away? No Way! It's easy to get caught up in thinking you've tried everything with your camera when really, there is not a chance you have even come close.  Go dust some cobwebs off and try something new!

Great story but what's the point, you're maybe thinking.

Knowing when to use a feature will make the difference for you between getting a shot you want and never had before.

C Gardiner Photography | Promote Your Page Too