Saturday night I was invited to shoot at a magazine launch, Phabrik, being hosted by Western Canada Fashion Week. They were holding it at the newly opened Alberta Art Gallery here in Edmonton which makes for an beautiful venue.
There were a number of us photographers attending so rather than try and cover it all I had decided to cover mainly the interaction of people and leave the other aspects to some of the others since we were all working together anyways. I saw this as a good chance to experiment as well as trying to push my camera to some of its strengths.
I had recently purchased the 70-200mm f2.8 VR II for the D3s, in part to situations as these. The venues lighting conditions were, to put it nicely, very moody, aka very little light. While I'm not against using flash what so ever in this particular case I wanted to experiment just going off ambient and seeing what the camera and lens could do. Even though I'd probably regret it I ended up intentionally leaving my wireless transmitters at home so I wouldn't fall back on the flash.
In regards to using some fill flash the setup of the venture made it a little difficult. The ceilings were very high and the majority of the area was open space, making it difficult to bounce flash off of a wall. Doing it straight on worked but resulted in images that were a little too flat for my tastes. Carrying around the 70-200 would have made it difficult to handhold a flash anyways.
So I went without and worked with the light that was available for better or worse. I have to say I was impressed with the performance of the camera and lens. The AF had little to no problem keeping up with focus in the extremely dark conditions. The VR which was marketed as able to provide around 4 full stops of Vibration Reduction completely impressed me. I hand held some shots at 1/13th of a second @ 200mm and still got sharp results, something I had a lot of trouble doing when I was shooting on the Canon side. Granted I did not have an IS lens at that time but even then I couldn't even dream of getting some of those results. As for the ISO performance on the D3s it definitely kept up. There were shots between ISO 3200 and 12,800 which showed very little noise. What noise there was can easily be cleaned up in post processing.
At one point of the night there was a ballet performance right in the middle of the dimly lit room. In order to freeze the action I had to shoot at a higher speed, I cranked the ISO to 12,800 and got some great results. I found that really impressive given the circumstances of being in a venue with lighting not specifically tailored for that sort of performance. Having that sort of flexibility in the camera reminds me why I invested in it.
After yesterday I'm no longer particularly worried about shooting the ceremony side of a wedding in a church which prohibits the use of flash. Being able to shoot at 200mm, 1/20th of a second at f2.8 and ISO 6400 and still get quality images will make life easier. In the end it gives me more freedom to worry about composition.
Otherwise it was an interesting night. I got a chance to meet the mayor and grab some shots of him. That in itself was kind of a bit of a wake up call, a realization of not having a second chance at some of these shots.
One other aspect that I'm not too used to quite yet is approaching people I would like to use for models sometime in the future. Oddly enough I don't feel out of place asking those advertising themselves as models, even given the idea they probably on a regular basis work with photographers much more talented than me. Coming across people in every day situations always feels a bit more daunting though. Perhaps it's the notion of not wanting to come off as some creep with a camera or the fact that I really need to make a new business card already, something that looks a lot more professional than my old one.
Luckily though I'm slowly getting rid of that mentality and approaching some of these people. The fact that some of them I probably won't run into again and others are incredibly hard to come by has made me realize I need to take some initiative and make it happen.
What I want to do now is learn how to develop the photos to have a greater tonal range and get more knowledge on evening out the white balance. While I fully understand the concept of doing so using gels on flash getting good results out of the camera in which the conditions and colors are continually changing is another thing on its own. It's still something I can't control anywhere near as well as I'd like. Though perhaps it's just the nature of the beat shooting with some many different colors of light in one scene. You can only go so far.