My second amateur assignment with the XE-2: salsa dancing in low light.

Discussion in 'Fuji X-Mount Cameras' started by ebouwens, Nov 20, 2013.

  1. ebouwens

    ebouwens FujiXspot Rookie

    11
    Jun 13, 2013
    Grand Rapids, MI
    Eric
    This was not going to be fair after all: a salsa dance floor with no overhead light, rotating halogen lights zooming around the room, and my friend with the Nikon D800 says his autofocus gets confused most of the time, and I believe the D800 has about the best low light AF around.

    I am having to learn this:

    1) No auto focus, not even a DSLR or Fuji Xe-2 will be able to find focus in this nonexistent light/ rotating extreme light.
    2) Auto exposure - forget that, it's hard to get enough light at maximum ISO and wide open
    3. I forgot that making your camera "silent" turns off the flash, so temporarily forget about flash.

    My approach: zone focusing with a manual or Fuji X lens
    Set ISO 6400 and the XF to f1.4
    Pray

    At ISO 6400, I was getting exposure times of 1/13 second.... impossible to get action.
    And then, I happened to catch a flash from the strobe lights

    DSCF0403 (1).
    XF35 f2 1/20 sec

    My first reaction: there is nothing to be saved from this blown out photo.

    Then I decided to try the SilkyPix program that came with the XE-2 (none of my other RAW developers seemed to be doing anything with XE-2 RAF files yet. Moving the exposure all the way to the left I was able to get:

    DSCF0403.

    Ok, it's still a bit blown out, but the woman, who organizes our local salsa dances was delighted and used it for her Facebook Cover photo. Technically imperfect , but emotionally impactful.

    Lessons:
    There are limits to any camera's autofocus. Use flash or some other source of lighting.
    Watch the background source of light that is often very bright, it will through off the exposure
    Anyone can get lucky once in a while, but use it to learn.
    The image stabilization is very very good.

    Next salsa night: flash, second curtain, bounced off the ceiling.
    Question to answer: If auto focus and auto exposure are completely disabled by dance lighting, how do I set them manually so they are not confused by extraneous lighting. Stay tuned.
     
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  2. entropic remnants

    entropic remnants Solving for X

    718
    Jul 28, 2013
    Sometimes RAW is the way to go. Nicely done.
     
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  3. ebouwens

    ebouwens FujiXspot Rookie

    11
    Jun 13, 2013
    Grand Rapids, MI
    Eric
    Why is my flash so often off the mark: All the little bright disco lights and surrounding light pollution can all throw off the flash metering, as well as the exposure
    I have never used manual flash, but now I know I must learn to use it:

    Here is my wooden model:
    8 fee distance
    ISO 3200
    Bounce lighting, 30 degrees forward.
    f2
    Manual flash EF42 Digital 1/64 power.

    DSCF0513.

    Ok, it's close.

    Next experiment. Rotate the model on a lazy suzanne and try out the 2nd curtain with long exposure.
     
  4. entropic remnants

    entropic remnants Solving for X

    718
    Jul 28, 2013
    With manual flash of course there is no metering involved unless you have a flash meter. So, normal technique is to take a test shot and then adjust. Generally, you pick the aperture to get the "look" you need, then adjust the shutter speed to let in the amount of ambient light you want. After that you can set the flash to provide the required illumination from it.

    However, when using bounce, I often have the flash on-camera and use TTL metering and it works fine almost always. You can adjust flash comp on the flash to compensate.

    But if you want to do manual flash you basically have two choices: get a flash meter or do test shots. Some kind of wildly talented strobist might be able to guess settings looking at a scene but I am not that strobist, lol.
     
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  5. ebouwens

    ebouwens FujiXspot Rookie

    11
    Jun 13, 2013
    Grand Rapids, MI
    Eric
    TTL vs manual flash

    Thanks very much for your suggestions.

    TTL will be the easiest of course, but if the disco lights throw it completely off, I'll have a backup to fully manual flash. For some reason I've never even thought of this. .

    This weekend I'll post my results.
     
  6. entropic remnants

    entropic remnants Solving for X

    718
    Jul 28, 2013
    Yes, I can see the constantly changing light of the disco being an issue. Had a similar issue at a wedding reception recently and sometimes it'll just be that some shots don't work well enough to use. In very difficult light, I find myself satisfied to get any usable shots, lol.
     
  7. jloden

    jloden FujiXspot Top Veteran

    708
    Mar 9, 2013
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    Yeah I've had similar problems before, it's a tough situation to work in. Doubly so with strobe lights!

    Bounce flash will definitely get you cleaner shots, but you may still struggle with AF. You might try working with MF but I don't know if that would be more or less frustrating than simply using AF and waiting for lock on. Some tips:

    1) If you don't have the AF assist light on, turn it on (and make sure your fingers aren't blocking it). I know that's basic, but I turn mine off by default and you mentioned you had silent mode on which also disables the AF lamp.

    2) For on-camera bounce flash I'm a huge believer in the Black Foamie Thing light modifier Neil Van Niekerk espouses. A million times better than just pointing a flash at the ceiling at a 45ยบ angle for bounce flash, and much better quality and directional light than a bounce card. Won't work in every venue but more often than not I'm able to use it effectively even in tough situations.

    3) Depending on your freedom to use lighting, consider other sources of light, e.g. a video light which will help with the AF since it's continuous light.

    4) Also consider other options like off-camera flash (again, depending on your degree of freedom). If you have to move around a lot and the subjects are moving that may be worse but in some cases it's possible to use off-camera flash to light the area you want and all your shots will have consistent quality of light.

    Some of this will depend on your comfort level with lighting of course, but I hope some of it helps!
     
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  8. ebouwens

    ebouwens FujiXspot Rookie

    11
    Jun 13, 2013
    Grand Rapids, MI
    Eric
    All great ideas, jloden! I did not have a chance to use them last night, but here are a couple of shots, and fortunately I had better ambient lighting for a couple of them.

    DSCF0660.
    ISO 6400, f 2.2, 1/300sec, no flash, XF23mm

    DSCF0646.
    ISO 6400, f 2.2, 1/350 sec, no flash, XF 23mm


    DSCF0685.
    ISO 6400, f1.4, bounce flash, XF 35mm
     
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  9. jloden

    jloden FujiXspot Top Veteran

    708
    Mar 9, 2013
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    Glad to hear the ambient was a little easier to work with the second go-around :)

    If you're adding flash (even bounce flash), I'd lower your ISO some. You should be able to get down to ISO 1600 or at least 3200 instead of sticking at 6400, which will get you cleaner files to work with. Might need to up the flash exposure comp if you're using TTL to get a good exposure, but that's one of the big benefits to being able to work with added light: avoiding noise and color cast etc. that start appearing at higher ISOs.
     
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  10. ebouwens

    ebouwens FujiXspot Rookie

    11
    Jun 13, 2013
    Grand Rapids, MI
    Eric
    I will definitely try the lower ISO. I was having trouble with blowing out the shots at ISO 6400 at times, intermittently, and not clear why some times and not other times.

    I would guess that the flash exposure comp would depend on the clarity of the ceiling, as well as it's height.

    Also, what is your thought on stopping down to f8 so that the depth of field is wide enough to nullify focusing errors?

    Also, I am considering substituting a manual Minolta lens 50/1.4 to see if I have better manual control of the focus rather than fly by wire.

    Will look forward to the next opportunity, but I have to admit, I'd much rather take some shots during a lighted lesson, than the disco light/pitch black social dancing.

    Eric
     
  11. jloden

    jloden FujiXspot Top Veteran

    708
    Mar 9, 2013
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay

    :biggrin: yeah the dirty secret of performance photos is that often it's a lot easier to do the good shots during dress rehearsals...

    The flash exposure might be off periodically because of the bounce flash. TTL isn't exact especially when bouncing, and sometimes it will over or under expose. In those situations you're forced to ride your Flash Exposure Compensation up and down to adjust. When it gets really bad/inconsistent, you may as well switch to manual flash at that point.

    As far as stopping down - it will definitely help to have more DoF but there's only so much output you can expect from a single on-camera flash unit. If you're shooting 1/250s or whatever you need to stop action, at say 1600 ISO, then even at full output you may simply not be able to produce enough light to have headroom for stopping down much more. Also bear in mind that the more powerful your flash pops, the longer the recycle time (and the more batteries you'll eat through).