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  #1  
Old April 15th, 2008, 08:46 AM
Rachel Foster Rachel Foster is offline
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Default Advice needed on how to shoot a dance recital

My children's dance recital is coming up. It's dim (stage lighting) and while I'll be in the front row, it will be quite a challenge. How does one get good sharp action shots in a theatre?

I have a Canon Rebel XTi, and my lens collection includes the 18-55 kit, a 28-105, my beloved 60mm 1:2:8 macro (not for this kind of shoot though), my 50 mm 1:1:8 and a 55-250 IS. What's my best best as far as getting any decent shots?
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  #2  
Old April 15th, 2008, 08:59 AM
Nill Toulme Nill Toulme is offline
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Rachel this is just plain hard. I tend to shoot this sort of thing with high ISO, the fastest lens that works, RAW, and Av mode exposure with some compensation depending on the background(s).

I would guess your 50 f/1.8 is going to be your best bet. Start out at ISO 1600, Av at f/2 and see what shutter speeds that produces and what your exposures look like on the LCD and especially the histogram. Then adjust accordingly.

If your shutter speeds are much below 1/400, and if the dancing involves fairly quick movements so that motion blur becomes a problem, you might need to switch to M mode, 1/400 at f/2, and simply underexpose and recover it in the RAW conversion. If on the other hand you have more than adequate shutter speed, then you can afford to stop down to f/2.8 to get more depth of field.

Also if the stage lighting is very consistent, rather than changing, then figure out the best exposure and dial it in in M mode and stay there.

For focus you'll probably want to use AI servo. Be sure to lead the AF a bit (with half shutter press or the * button if you're using CF4) to let it catch up to the subject before releasing the shutter. Shoot two- and three-frame bursts. That will improve your chances of getting in-focus shots and good poses. Also try to catch the brief moments of stillness.

Be sure to let us see some examples of what you come up with.

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  #3  
Old April 15th, 2008, 09:44 AM
Shane Carter Shane Carter is offline
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Yeah, its tough. Nill covered the bases. Would say to pay attention to the light when you get there and sit in such a way that you take max advantage of what is given. Sometimes spots really light up a certain area well and the light fall off for a spot is severe...meaning you can get a good shot if directly in the spot and nada outside of it. For dance in low light, you can also look for times in the routine when they are moving less rather than more to give you more of a chance at getting a decent non-blurred shot. Personally, I don't mind blurred limbs too much if the face is sharp and well exposued. For shifting light a lots of movement, try AV, wide open, and spot meter. If the light is even, Manual as Nill suggests...I never seem to anywhere where the light is even tho. Good luck and post some later!
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  #4  
Old April 15th, 2008, 10:12 AM
Rachel Foster Rachel Foster is offline
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I was thinking the 50 since it's the fastest. I would prefer to shoot on tripod but doubt that will be possible. Has anyone tried tripod? Essentially I'd shoot whatever stepped into the particular spot it was pointed at. And focus: I was in a quandry. The action is so fast that by the time the camera focuses the target has moved. MF wouldn't be any better though. THe AI bursts is a nice idea. Hadn't considered that either.

I had not considered AV. I was thinking manual and experimenting to find the best settings (now that I can read my built in light meter!). AV might be a nice compromise. I'll have to keep an eye on shutter speeds.

I've shied away from going above 800 ISO due to graininess. But that's preferable to blur.

RAW is a good idea too. I'm giving adobe lightbox (light-something) a trial run so RAW would work. I have an 8gb cf so that won't be a huge problem either.

Thanks for the tips. In future years I might be able to move up to a lens more suited. Any recommendations for my wish list?
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  #5  
Old April 15th, 2008, 10:20 AM
Nill Toulme Nill Toulme is offline
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My favorite for this sort of thing is the 70-200 f/2.8L IS. And I do shoot from tripod, usually from one side aisle or the other, or preferably from the balcony if there is one. But I use Wimberley Sidekicks on my tripods, so I have very quick and free range of motion it more or less combines the best of shooting handheld and tripod-mounted.

BTW, make sure you're using AI servo not AI focus. The latter is one of those dumb let-the-camera-do-your-thinking-for-you compromises that should mostly if not entirely be avoided.

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  #6  
Old April 15th, 2008, 11:25 AM
Rachel Foster Rachel Foster is offline
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Thanks!

The Recital is around May 9 so I'll have time to play with the settings.
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  #7  
Old April 15th, 2008, 11:52 AM
Shane Carter Shane Carter is offline
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I would not be afraid of high ISO, you will need it. Noise reduction works quite well for 1600 and even 3200. Better to get the shutters you need and do some post work than not get them because of slower ISOs...IMHO.
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  #8  
Old April 15th, 2008, 11:58 AM
Charles L Webster Charles L Webster is offline
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Shane hits the nail on the head. You can recover underexposed pictures that are sharp, vut you can't recover correctly exposed ones that suffer from camera movement.

Watch out for those slow shutter speeds, even with the 50, don't let them go below 1/100th.

FYI, the 60 would be OK for this, if there were more light. Just because it's a macro doesn't mean you can't use it as a "short telephoto." In this case the f/2.8 just won't be fast enough though.
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  #9  
Old April 15th, 2008, 11:59 AM
Shane Carter Shane Carter is offline
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As for lenses...

70-200 2.8 IS handheld or monopod at 1600.
400 2.8 IS with a full Wimberley if the venue is large and you can do it...1600. 300 is usually better, but I don't have that one anymore.
135 2.0
85 1.2 if they are not moving fast or light is really low, lots of tracking issues but works with good technique
24-70 2.8 at 1600 sometimes, not much
Fast 50 L, but I don't have one, but sounds good if close enough.

Of course the 200 1.8 (sold mine some time ago) is amazing really. Need a monopod. I'm going to pick up the 200 2.0 when it comes out...mostly likely divorce papers come with it tho.

Basically, the faster the better. Monopods are good and small too. Use the arms rests, lean on a wall, anything to keep the lens still.
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  #10  
Old April 15th, 2008, 03:26 PM
Rachel Foster Rachel Foster is offline
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I bought a really good, sturdy tripod second hand and will be in the front row. I have a lot of freedom (as long as I don't use flash and stay off the stage) since I've shot most of the dance teachers.

Front row, 50 mm, tripod, remote shutter release, very high iso, fastest shutter speed I can get, AI shooting with bursts, AV to start or maybe M. I'll go back now and see what I left out.
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  #11  
Old April 15th, 2008, 03:34 PM
Shane Carter Shane Carter is offline
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Hi Rachel, how are you going to use a tripod? Sorry but a tripod with a stationary ballhead is not going to work at all for this. What Nill and I were saying is that the only say a tripod works is with a gimbal-type head...otherwise you have no way to track the subjects, which is critical for AF in lowlight. Maybe you have a gimbal head and I missed that information. A monopod or handheld would be far superior to a tripod with a traditional ballhead. I suspose you could loosen up the head a bit and try to track that way...sounds fussy but might work. Hope that makes sense and good luck.

Oh, not sure how a cable release is going to help...you need your hands on the camera to track, change AF points for framing, change from Av to Manual and back, change ISOs, etc. I find I'm contantly working the camera for theatre...the light sooo variable.
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  #12  
Old April 15th, 2008, 03:42 PM
Rachel Foster Rachel Foster is offline
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I"m not sure what a gimbal head is...sorry! But I have a manfrotto 30 30. I'll look it up and see.

I go on auto pilot to the remote shutter release now because of all the problems I've had with camera shake. Thanks for pointing that out.
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  #13  
Old April 15th, 2008, 03:43 PM
Rachel Foster Rachel Foster is offline
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And a review I just found said "This is definitely not a tripod for shooting fast action." Ooops.
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  #14  
Old April 15th, 2008, 06:48 PM
Nill Toulme Nill Toulme is offline
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Do you have a monopod? That would be better.

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  #15  
Old April 15th, 2008, 08:09 PM
Rachel Foster Rachel Foster is offline
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I do, but I've not got the hang of it yet. Could be because it's a very cheap monopod.
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  #16  
Old May 11th, 2008, 07:31 PM
Rachel Foster Rachel Foster is offline
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The dance recital went well and I have some good shots. I won't post shots of children, generally, so all that I will put here are the adults. I shot as suggested, but also experimented a bit. I tried to take advantage of the lighting conditions, aiming at getting "drama."

I can use a lot of practice, but here is where I'm starting.

Focus is soft here, but I love the action




This one is grainy, but....




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  #17  
Old May 11th, 2008, 07:32 PM
Rachel Foster Rachel Foster is offline
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I'd love to redo these, better, next time.



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  #18  
Old May 11th, 2008, 07:37 PM
Kathy Rappaport Kathy Rappaport is offline
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Rachel - these are a great first start! The more you do them, the better they will get - practice for these types of shots are not something you can do everyday. Good job!
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