Monday, December 16, 2013

OK, So What About That Christmas Party?

EOS 5D, Sigma 50mm f1.4, ISO 1600, -0.5 EV, 1/60 sec., f2.8
Yesterday, I wrote about how I'd snapped perhaps one of my best pictures ever at a Christmas party, without even looking through the viewfinder (or rear LCD live view, because my camera doesn't have that.) Aside from this, I was moaning about how so many of the other party pictures came out so wrong, because I was trying to get enough light to not use a flash by opening my Aperture real wide... after all, my Sigma f1.4 lens is designed for this, isn't it?

Sure it's a superb lens that opens way up to f1.4 with very little distortion or vignetting, at a very reasonable price (many say it's too expensive). But I was putting way too much faith in the lens, and the EOS 5D (original 2006 version) camera, as great as it is, has a very crappy 2006 era rear screen, so I wasn't seeing how slightly out of focus so many of these shots were. I've learned my lesson - all lenses go soft when opened up, and older cameras don't have quite as good Auto-Focus performance as you'd get today, with the highly tweaked newest cameras.

Let's talk about the above picture first - this one I'm happy with, but as you see right away, it's just not quite right. I'd say this is a bad shot of a great picture. Blurred, but so happy and spontaneous. This girl wasn't posing at all - we were just talking about her dog, Phoebe:

EOS 5D, Sigma 50mm f1.4, ISO 1600,  -0.5 EV, 1/15 sec., f2.8
I said - "you're the owner, right?", and raised the camera and snapped her picture at exactly the same time I was saying those words. She struck up the pose and the smile extremely fast, as soon as she saw me about to take her picture, so, with the combination of her quick movement, and my very quick movement with the camera, perhaps it's motion blur we're actually seeing here. Same as for the dog - notice my shutter speed had dropped way down to 1/15 - and my camera doesn't have image stabilization either.

But I could've prevented this very easily - by under-exposing by -1.5 EV or even -2.0 EV, instead of -0.5, I could have reduced my Aperture to f4 to give me greater focus depth, or increased my shutter speed enough to stop the motion blur. I already have proven time and time again that the "secret sauce" of the EOS 5D is it's remarkable noise immunity, made possible NOT by aggressive in-camera noise reduction, but because with only 12.8 Mega-Pixels on a 35mm (full-frame) sensor, it has very large picture elements ("pixels") that capture lot's of light without introducing noise. Stated another way, it has an extremely good signal to noise ratio, allowing me to under-expose like crazy, and recover the shadow detail on my computer when working with the Raw Data file. I knew this, but for some reason, this time I didn't make use of it. This is a truly rare camera with which you can easily break the "expose to the right rule" (read: slightly over-expose), and instead when necessary, you can "under-expose like crazy, push it back up when processing, and don't worry about it" much like film.

The golden rule of digital photography - "Really get to know your camera, and use it accordingly". I was shooting this party as if I were using a Canon Digital Rebel instead of the far more capable EOS 5D.

But some of the photos worked, in spite of my big mistake. I really like these -

Here's the whole set.

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