Lessons from the Shot: Nikon D4 @ ISO 12,800 Still Not Enough by Stanley Leary


by Stanley Leary


Figure 1
When Available Light Isn't Enough
My daughter has a favorite band called Late Night Reading. They are a pop-punk band started in 2009 when they were all just sophomores in high school. 
I was fascinated at how the bands build their fan base using social media and then going to small venues like Swayze's Venue in Marietta. This is where they played Thursday night when I went along to help chaperon my daughter and her friend going to the concert. 
Figure 2
My wife reached out to see if they mind me shooting some photos. We were doing this as much to make my daughter happy with photos of her with the band as to just have some fun ourselves.
The good thing about shooting the headliner is that they always have a few opening acts. Well this meant I could do some test shots and tweak everything so when the Late Night Reading band took the stage I was ready.
As you can see in the first photo I was only getting to shoot at about 1/60 for a shutter speed.  While I had my 85mm ƒ/1.4 to shoot with the problem then became a depth-of-field issue.
Why was 1/60 and ƒ/1.4 not good? This is a pop-punk band. They and their fans move like crazy. I am not sure with all their head banging that they are not moving faster than many of the athletes I photograph.
While the shutter speed was better at ƒ/1.4 I was having a terrible time getting many usable shots unless they paused for a moment.
I went back to the car and pulled out my hot shoe flashes, PocketWizard and Light Stands.  
Figure 3
I put the two lights stands all the way up as high as they go. Pointed the strobes to the stage zoomed all the way out for most of the photos and changed the zoom to a little wider if I moved them close to the stage. The SB800 was zoomed to 105mm and the Nikon SB900 was zoomed in to 200mm.
The strobes are on the PocketWizard Transceiver TT5.  They’re on Manfrotto 5001B Nano Black Light Stands and the Manfrotto 175F Justin Spring Clamp with Flash Shoe to hold the flashes. I am triggering the TT5 using the PocketWizard Mini TT1 and PocketWizard AC3.
I turned the ISO up to about ISO 5,000 because I didn't want the background to go totally dark.
One of my favorite photos is of the bass player. I liked working from the side of the stage because I put the strobes in front like typical stage lights would be placed.  This meant I was getting more cross light from the side and shadows were helping give more depth to the photos than from the front of the stage.

Shoot test shots of available light before adding lights

Always have strobes with you

Use off camera strobes 

Use higher ISO to open up the background when shooting with strobes

If you are a parent, taking photos of your kids favorite activities and sharing them with them and their friends is a good thing to build long lasting relationships.