Ambient Event Photography
Finding clarity in the dark
From time to time we need to try out new ideas and new kit so that we’re ready for you when you call us to shoot your event.
I took the latest Pentax K1 and 24-70 f2.8 down to The Loft in Plymouth and shot the Salsa lesson and after party.
This is the image I chose to edit fully.
It would be all too easy to buy a cheap camera and just let the flash do all the work lighting the scene, but that would create static dancers, with over-lit and unhealthy looking skin, along with ugly shadows behind them and a dark environment devoid of colour and ambient light.
I try to retain the atmosphere of a venue and not blast everyone directly with flash; to achieve this, it’s important to have a camera able to perform in the near dark of a dance floor, with sky-high ISO and the ability to focus in the dark (-4 stops EV in this case).
To stop the movement of the foreground subjects (and concentrate on the performance of the lens for this test), I mounted a warm-gelled flash on the wall facing upwards and set the power and spread remotely with the on-camera trigger. With the camera set to under-expose the ambient light by about two stops and the flash set to expose the nearest dancers correctly, I set about moving around and shooting the dance teacher – Misael Cordero.
The Pentax creates RAW files with enormous latitude and dynamic range, so it is possible to lift the shadows by as much as 5 stops without introducing too much noise.
Notice the dark area above the DJ booth – this is how the room looked in reality, with small pools of colour from the disco lights.
In the shot above I lifted the blacks of Nicole’s outfit a little too much and finally introduced some speckles of noise, however, it is not intrusive, so I’ve left it. The image below shows the same scene without lifting those deep shadows.
The image below shows how the ambient light takes over as the subjects move away from the flash. This creates more movement, which can look really nice, but you will have to throw a lot more shots in the trash.
All in all the K1 acquitted itself well, leaving me with an amazing number of usable shots to choose from and it will prove a real boon alongside its older sibling the K5IIs and the almighty 645z. More on that beaut at a later date.
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