Thursday, January 7, 2010
Better Than Daylight
I do a fair amount of higher ISO rated shooting with my photography these days and there is no doubt that the capacity to which we are capable to shoot this way has literally changed the realm of photography. Its a game changer as much as roll film or Polaroids or the advent of digital photography.
Camera sensors are rated for a range of sensitivity, my Nikon D700 shoots from 200ISO through 6400ISO. Then you have the option of pushing beyond the sensor's ratings into "High ISO" or, essentially, push processing (remember that?). Push processing was rating film at your camera for underexposure then "pushing" the film back to its original rating during the processing of the negatives. This was tricky to get just right, unless you did the math. Let's be honest though, the math sort of ruined the fun; I'd rather just guess and see what came out the other end. This was akin to shocking your film with a cold water rinse just before the fixing stage or cross-processing chromes in color chemistry. All these options, with so much left to the unknown, often resulted in blase or undesired results, but ever once in awhile strange and happy photographs would greet you on the other end.
I know a lot of photographers that wont budge over 800ISO on their fancy pro DSLRs. 3 years ago i was more inclined to agree with them as the loss of detail through noise reduction or the overwhelming amount of noise produced in the image made it near impossible to see what was what. Put simply, as a photographer, all we do is chase the light around. Today, however, if you're not venturing down the higher ISO road, you're missing out on some great light.
I love night photography. The color cast from lights at night are anything but normal. The strong shadows and eerie light patterns are a draw to my photographic eye. Normally higher ISO ratings aren't a necessary tool with night photos, a sturdy tripod is, however, a must have piece of equipment.
The image above (click for a larger view) was shot without a tripod, because i can't find my quick release plate for my tripod head. i know, i know... =/ so the thought enters my head, lets see what light is out there. With my D700 and my 70-300VR lens hand-held (lens hood pressed against the glass door) i looked across the backyard, dialed the ISO to High 2 (25,600 ISO, this is two stops above 6400 with each stop acquiring two times as much light), set the aperture to f/11 (the sweet spot on that lens) and the shutter speed to 1/2 seconds. This metering set is equivalent to 200 ISO, f/11 at a 60 second exposure time (shutter speed). Keeping in mind VR in your lens can compensate the same 2-3 stops regardless of what shutter speed you start from, i braced myself against the back of a chair for a little extra stability.
B/W picture control was set at the camera. The image was processed through Nik Capture NX2 for sharpening only. NO noise reduction was applied (NR was off in the camera, also).
I don't normally venture above 6400 ISO on my camera, but i didn't often cross-process slides either. Some days it just feels right to be a little abnormal.
Go shoot something differently tomorrow.
Get outside your comfort zone.