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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Low light ninjas

A lot of travel photography is documentary in nature. You often have to work with the lighting available to you. On a commercial shoot I often bring my own lights and control everything in minute detail but when you're reliant on somebody else's light it makes things tough.

Take these ninjas here. Now your average ninja doesn't run around in the middle of the day in bright sunlight unfortunately. They wear black and like to stick to the shadows.

In this particular case they were inside a pitch black room, lit only by the occasional flash of simulated lightning and very dark, overhead blue lighting. The first thing I do in a situation like this is bump my ISO up. The general rule for photography is you want to use the lowest ISO you can because the lower the better the quality.

So most of the time I have it set on 100, then if it gets a bit darker I put it up to 200 and so on. In this darkened auditorium I just put it straight up to 800. Even then I was working with pretty slow shutter speeds.

My one chance at a good shot came when the main ninja decided to sit down and meditate. Static subjects are always handy in low light! Then his apprentice decided to light a candle right in front of my face and I finally had a bit of a faster shutter speed. Click, click, click. You can see the apprentice's hand has moved in the bottom left hand corner because of the slow shutter speed.

The camera was on a tripod by the way - no point putting more shake in there than necessary. As soon as the candle was lit the rock music started up again and the fighting began. When this happens (and flash is forbidden) your only hope is to try and shoot as much as possible when there's a slight lull in the action and hope for the best. Sometimes you just have to resign yourself to the fact that you can't photography everything.

This is at a place called Date Jidai Mura which is a theme park on ancient Japan in Hokkaido. It was a great place to photograph ninjas, samurai and geisha and my kids loved it!

If you have any low light photos you're happy with, or even those that you're not and would like some hints, post them up on the Flickr group and I will take a look at them and help you where I can. Or if you have any questions post them in the same place and I will be happy to answer them for you. Remember that I'm here to help you all to enjoy and improve your travel photography as much as possible so come on down to the group and join in.

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