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

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Shooting without a tripod

Before I left for this trip to Singapore I really ummed and aahed about taking my tripod. Which is really unusual for me because I religiously take it everywhere with me.

And in the end I did this time too - but I found that I didn't have it out all that much. Which is even more unusual because a lot of the places I seemed to end up were dark and needed long exposures at lower ISO settings.

But instead of my tried and true tripod I had a bit of an experiment with high ISO's. Take this shot here taken in the Underwater World aquarium on Sentosa Island. ISO 1600 and even then I ended up with only a shutter speed of 1/10th second wide open at f3.5. That's pretty damn dark!

I was a bit worried about the noise levels and how they would look and discovered a few things when it came time to post-process the RAW files. The first thing was that the grain (ah Freudian slip - that's the film photographer in me coming through!) - noise - wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. Yes it was there but not at really horrible levels. There certainly was hardly any of that horrible blue and red splotchy colour noise to be seen. It was mostly the black specks of Luminance Noise.

Secondly I found that if I had underexposed a shot and had to brighten it then that really brought out the noise to an unacceptable level. The right exposure was absolutely criticial, even being too bright was preferable. I found that by reducing the exposure level and the brightness and darkening my blacks (all in Adobe Camera RAW) the noise virtually disappeared! So for those pictures where I had shot it a bit brighter than necessary and needed to darken the picture I had virtually noise free images.

So I have pretty much been convinced that I can shoot at at least up to ISO 1600 - I was a bit too scared to go beyond that being the big chicken that I am. :) As long as I remember to expose my picture so that it is a lot brighter than I need (without blowing out the highlights) then the pictures are really, really good. I want to experiment a bit more with the apparent sharpness levels at these settings but from what I saw in my few days of shooting a lot of dark places I'm sold.

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