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

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pushing the limits of your equipment

One of the places I visited on my trip to Singapore was the Night Safari, a zoo with all nocturnal animals and no flash! The flash affects the animals' night vision so it's prohibited. Nobody wants to blind the little furries.

It's amazing how bright something appears to your eye, and how pitch black it appears when you look through your viewfinder!

This image is of an animal show that takes place in an ampitheatre. They paraded out otters and servals, raccoons and binturongs - just like this fellow here.

And it is really dark and difficult to photograph anything that moves. Just to show you how dark it is, this image was shot at ISO 1600 at f2.8. Even then my shutter speed was a dismal 1/25 second. And that was one of the faster shutter speeds I got! When the lighting was darker I was down to as low as 1/3 second - the lights have come up a bit here for the end-of-show introduction of the performers.

When the light is this low and your shutter speeds are this long there's nothing much to do but put yourself in the lap of the luck gods. You need to keep an eye on the action and look for slight lulls in the movement. In this case the performer was waving to the crowd but put his arm down to feed the hungry binturong. Click, click, click goes the motor drive. You need to shoot a lot of images in the hope that one (or hopefully more) will be clear.

I had the camera on a tripod so hand shake wasn't a worry - all the blur came from movement. Here I've not done too bad a job but you can see the binturong's head is slightly blurry where it's lunged for the food.

At ISO 1600 there's a worry about noise so you need to make sure your histogram is well up to the right to limit it as much as possible. Unfortunately doing this also gives you a slower shutter speed so it's more keeping the fingers crossed as you work the shutter. At least with digital you can shoot to your heart's content without worrying about the processing bills.

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