As I prepared to photograph the first performer at OjaiAid: From The Valley of the Moon to the Land of the Rising Sun, fellow volunteer Marcus Lopez asked how long I’d been a photographer. The answer surprised both of us: forty years.
It surprised him because he’s not yet forty. It surprised me because I feel like I’m just starting to understand the tiniest bit about photography.
For the seven hours following Marcus’s question, I had to scrape my brain for every low-light photography tip and trick those forty years could provide.
It was a day of great music and high emotion (for those capable of feelings – it turns out my prized emotional detachment is a real liability in the editing process, as I’ll explain later in the week).
It was also the new Toughest Shoot Ever. As I described in a previous post, the venue was a bar and restaurant where the little candle on your table is a significant source of light. But that was not the only challenge. Here’s a summary:
- Downward angled, multi-colored stage lighting
- Moving performers (literally and figuratively)
- Small stage
- Numerous video and live feed cameras limiting access to front of stage
- BIG crowd
- Numerous musicians performing short sets in rapid succession
- Dare I say it? HATS
Okay, so we’ve got a limited choice of shooting angles, high ISO (causing increased image noise with decreased dynamic range), constrained mobility, and direction of light guaranteeing raccoon eyes on the performers. Common stuff for a theater and dance photographer like myself, except for one important difference: when I photograph a dance performance or theater rehearsal, I usually have the option to study the first set of images and then go shoot another performance or rehearsal to improve the results. OjaiAid was a one-time deal, so I had to get it right the first time. And I really wanted to. These people brought very big hearts to the day, and I wanted to honor their gifts.
Did I succeed? That’s for part three of this series. In part two, I’ll explain the gear and settings I chose – and the real-time adaptations required as new challenges arose.