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Old 14-12-2008, 12:22 PM
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g__day (Matthew)
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How does one correctly photograph at medium distance indoors without a flash?

Nothing to do with astrophotography here, last night I went to photograph my daughter in her gynamistics show last night using a Canon DSLR and 28-135mm macro lens. I have only really run this camera from my PC! I couldn't find settings that worked well.

The distance was about 30 metres from the action - some slow and some fast. They turned the lights quite low (annoyingly). When I set it to full auto it kept popping up the flash - which is useless for shots beyond 3 metres - so they were all very dark.

I was trying to work out a setting for low light, fast action and moderate distance. Maybe there isn't any setting for this combination that works. I ended up going manual using settings: cloudy colour temperature, 1/6 of a second shots at ISO 800.

Needless to say I got alot of blurs!

What should / could I have done to get a better result?


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Old 14-12-2008, 12:40 PM
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acropolite (Phil)
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Not many options, the best option is to get closer, more ambient lighting, higher ISO and faster lens, an aftermarket flash with higher output , probably the best if the organisers will allow it is a couple of flash units placed close to the action and triggered with some inexpensive optical triggers.
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Old 14-12-2008, 01:36 PM
Ian Robinson
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Unless you've a very fast lens (f 2 or better) and IS , put the camera on a tripod and set to aperture priority , the camera will work out the best exposure if you've nominated no autoflash or have no flash handy.

Tripods are a very good idea for exposures longer than 1/60th second , which are very likely under lowish light and indoor.
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Old 14-12-2008, 02:11 PM
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I found using my aftermarket speedlite flashes for both canon and nikon cameras that I could use the flash at up to 25m range and still have decent illumination... Failing that, as Phil mentioned, you could set up a couple of aftermarket flashes to be run as slave flashes, and mount them closer to the action, that way, no matter how far away you were, the flashes would be from a short distance away, ensuring good illumination..

Ian is right, a faster lens will help. as will a tripod. However, for the type of photos you were attempting, I dont think that a tripod is the best option.. Yes, it will eliminate camera vibration/shake from the equation, however if your shutter was less than 1/40th of a second, any movement of the subject (Ie, People dancing) would blur reguardless of the tripod.

Faster lens and/or aftermarket flash is the way to go here.. I took many shots with my 300mm F/2.8 indoors or low light (From the sidelines at the football night matches etc) and found that the 580EX flash coupled with the fast aperture of the lense allowed me to take great photos of full pace action..
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Old 14-12-2008, 06:23 PM
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g__day (Matthew)
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Thanks all - but to me it says this is a no go area. I am one of maybe five hundred people at a sporting venue - so I can't go generally rigging flash lights. It basically boils down to if a flash is needed but you are too far distant to use a small flash - then the shot is beyond the gear available to me.
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Old 14-12-2008, 06:36 PM
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iceman (Mike)
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ISO1600 and slowest shutter you can without blur, probably 1/30 or 1/60, unless you use a tripod.

Obviously the fastest aperture you can too.

Some will turn out darker, you just need to lighten them as much as you can in post-processing, and don't forget the noise reduction.
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Old 14-12-2008, 06:40 PM
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sheeny (Al)
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The low light is the killer in your scenario there, Matthew.

When I was in Canada last year we went to the ice hockey, and it was no problem to get good shots from halfway up the grandstand even to the other end of the rink (though my camera has IS).

However, for what it's worth here might be the place for some advice my brother (the real photographer in the family) gave me before going to South Africa last for a Vertical Rescue Competition. The Competition was being held in the Sun Dome at Jo'burg. It's a huge dome 200m diameter and >60m high. Lighting conditions quite dim for photography - flash was a must. His advice was set the camera on manual with 1 stop more aperture than required for the flash... I was using an aftermarket Ham'n'Eggs flash on my old OM-1 and 400ASA film. It Worked a treat! Under normal conditions the flash had a max range of 5m I think, but my shots were good out to 15-20m. Ofcourse the action in a vertical rescue comp is nowhere near as quick as gymnastics, so this may not be of use to you.

Considering I didn't ask him for the advice, he obviously made some excellent assumptions about the conditions I would find when I got there and offered it straight up.

The only other option I can think of is buy a big flash! ... or a camera with really high ISO...

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