We had quite the rockin' weekend which started off Saturday night with a four-header rock show full of chicks at Radio Radio. Okay, well there was one band of guys, but otherwise it was an estrogen-fest on steroids. First up it was our good friends from Neon Love Life, followed by Sick Of Sarah, the tex-mex honky tonk Hacienda, and the very hard-to-put-a-finger-on indie/punk/alternative Girl In A Coma. These bands were seriously awesome and I was very impressed. Commentary on photographing live music (and an essential photographic concept that EVERYONE should know) after some pictures!
I love live music photography. It's made all the better by having a love for music, and even better still by being a musician myself. I blame live music for being the reason I'm a dedicated photographer today. I blame it for forcing me into purchasing very expensive equipment much faster than I was prepared for. I blame it for cornering me into using prime lenses. I blame it for teaching me how to use wide angle lenses effectively. I blame it for teaching me patience, shot timing, and shot anticipation. I blame it for my ringing ears in the morning. I blame it for getting me into killer shows for free, and putting me in the front row.
Damn that live music, and it being one of my favorite things to photograph.
But, if anyone has ever tried to shoot a concert before with either a point and shoot or mid-level SLR with a kit lens and you wondered why they looked absolutely terrible, I shall tell you why: Aperture, aperture, aperture. Also known as the "f-stop", this is the size of the iris of the lens. (ISO is also pretty important, but it's secondary, and well... not what we're talking about today.)
The smaller the number, the larger the iris. The larger the iris the more light is allowed inside your camera at one time. This means you can use higher shutter speeds and/or lower ISO to get the same amount of light in.
You may have heard the term "stops" before... as in "stops of light". These are also known as "Exposure Value" or EV. Well, a stop (or 1 EV) is either doubling or halving the amount of light. So, if ISO and aperture stay constant, 1/250th shutter speed lets in twice as much light as 1/500th... so that's one stop. 1/100th shutter speed lights in twice as much light as 1/250th, so that's one stop. Therefore, going from 1/500th to 1/125th is two stops... NOW, you can do the same with ISO. ISO 200 to 400 is one stop. ISO 400 to 800 is another stop. Therefore ISO 800 takes in three times as much light as ISO 200.
NOW, we get to aperture. Since aperture is a mathematical ratio based on focal length (which I won't get into today), it has odd jumps in numbers to equate to a stop... basically, you need to just memorize these important numbers. Let's start at f/2.8. If we want to double the light that comes in, we'd stop up to f/2. If we want to double that, we stop up to f/1.4. WOW. Think about it. f/2.8 to f/1.4 is TWO stops of light. That's the same as changing your shutter speed from 1/500th to 1/125th... when it comes to freezing motion, that's a BIG difference. To make it an even bigger difference though, think about those stupid kit lenses we talked about in my last post. A typical kit lens will be: f/3.5-5.6. This means when it's zoomed to its widest setting you have a maximum aperture of f/3.5... but when you zoom in, you can't get any more light in than f/5.6. With that said, here's the standardized aperture scale. Each one of these is a stop apart:
f/1.4 - f/2 - f/2.8 - f/4 - f/5.6 - f/8 - f/11 - f/16
Uh oh. Your kit lens at 55mm is only f/5.6. That means that an f/1.4 lens lets in FIVE times more light. That's the difference between ISO 3200 and ISO 200... or the difference between a REALLY noisy image and a totally noiseless image. That's the difference between capturing a singer stage diving at 1/250th of a second, or a huge blob of smeared lights and color at 1/15th of a second.
Once you grasp this concept you can apply it to your needs on the fly. An exposure with a shutter speed of 1/250 s and f/8 is the same as with 1/500 s and f/5.6, or 1/125 s and f/11... but each one will give you a vastly different composition.
Whew. Read that again if you have to, 'tis very important.
After recovering from our hard night of rock and apertures, we got a pleasant, and quite fun, senior shoot with Maddie who happens to be my first senior ever from Cardinal Ritter High School in Indianapolis. Maddie is a tall and bubbly volleyball player who likes to swing from sculptures at art centers. Don't believe me?
Well, I've now had almost two weeks to put that new 85mm f/1.4 through its paces and I was able to get some just great up close portraits like this:
I also have FINALLY got the bokeh panoramas down... or as Molly says "You just got lucky twice in a row."
And here's another:
And since I feel bad for neglecting my 70-200 (and since I needed the compression), I thought I'd let her out of the bag for a nice shot at the end of the day:
*whew* Well, we've got a wedding this Saturday and the reception is at the Indianapolis Zoo. We're really excited and should be absolutely beautiful! The End.