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© nevada wier               Peru. Paucartambo. Virgen del Carmen festival.

Canon 5D Mark II Canon EF16-35mm f/2.8 II USM (18mm) 1/30 sec;   f/7.1;   ISO 1600

Shutter Priority. Evaluative Metering. Daylight white balance

I’m on my way (literally, in the air right now) to Peru so this is the perfect time to write about an image I made last year at the fabulous Virgen del Carmen festival in the pueblo of Paucartambo. If you have been following my posts about photography you know that I enjoy photographing at night with fill-flash. Of course, this is not easy (another reason I enjoy the challenge) and I am used to making a lot of mistakes. In fact, I mostly make mistakes; but that is part of the process. There are a lot of inhibiting factors photographing a festival at night. First of all, at Paucartambo, it is extremely crowded and you never really know what is going on (even if you speak Spanish well, which I don’t). I am used to “wiggling” myself into a good location. I knew where the dancers were coming from (inside the church) but not when, so it was important to find a good location early, and maintain it. That wasn’t easy. I was in a great place and then, just before the action, the police (kindly) moved me. I wiggled back into another location that I actually liked better, and crouched low, so as not block anyone behind me. (I bless my good knees.)

I was aware of the yellow temperature of the incandescent streetlights. Even though it was dark they provided plenty of ambient light. I usually work with Daylight White Balance and decided to keep this setting to maintain the yellowish light temperature. Instead of putting a balancing warming gel over my flash I just used a dome diffuser with the flash straight on, to throw a whitish light onto the warm scene. I hesitated using a high ISO with the Canon 5D Mark II (I preferred to stay at 800 ISO or less), but I knew at night I needed 1600 in order to preserve some depth-of-field since focus was going to be tricky. So, it was very important to have the correct exposure; I didn’t want to have to open up any of the shadows in the RAW processing and expose distracting noise.

Certainly, I wanted a bit of a slow shutter-speed to have a bit of blur in the background for the appearance of action since I knew that my flash burst would preserve sharpness on the actors/clowns/dancers. 1/30 of second seemed perfect with a -1 EV on my flash set on TTL exposure. I was sitting on the curb so I was about 10 feet from the performers in the parade (praying the police wouldn’t move me again). I felt good about my location because I saw I had a bit of the dark sky (it was 6pm, more than an hour after sunset) and if I could place a dancer right there in the dark sky I felt it would have impact. And, there they came! I glanced at my histogram and flash exposure. I worked with different shutter speeds. I panned. I stopped action. I maintained my position, against many odds, until the police moved me and 20 other people, kindly, across the street. Oh well, I thought I had my image. And, I did.

Any questions? I’m back at it again this year!

Hasta luego amigos y amigos!

Peru. Lampa. Nighttime on Plaza.

5DMarkII    24mm f/1.4    1/40sec at f/1.4     ISO 1250

I am starting a new section call Anatomy of a Photo. I’ll post different images (mostly recent) and explain the inner workings of how they were made. Enjoy!

I was in Peru a couple of months ago; I hadn’t there for five years and I really loved it. We went to Lampa, a lovely small town, north of Julicaca. I enjoyed photographing in the late afternoon when the shadows were deep and long, however I knew that plaza would be lovely just after the sun set and the artificial lights appeared. Lampa is 15 degrees south of the equator so the dusk does not linger. The sun set at 5:35pm on July 11th. I figured there would be 10 – 15 minutes of “dull” light before the ambient artificial light glowed with the same intensity as the lingering blue in the sky. Then there would only be 10 to 15 minutes, maximum, to photograph before the sky turned too dark.

The first evening I brought my 5DMarkII with a 24mm f/1.4 lens and photographed hand holding, occasionally with an off-camera flash with a 1/2CTO gel. It was fine and I got some reasonable images. However, the church was a dominating presence and it begged to be sharp. The next evening I returned with my tripod and set up near a food stall and waited for people to cross into my frame. It is not a busy plaza, even on a Saturday night. I felt very lucky to have this confluence of activity. I only had ONE opportunity, and ONE click of the shutter when the spacing between the subjects was perfect. 

It was taken on 7/11/2011 at 5:53 PM. A couple of minutes later the sky was too dark. 

So why did I use such a shallow depth of field since I was on a tripod? Because I needed a relatively fast shutter speed so that my subjects would not ghost out. I did want a bit of motion blur but not too much; the subjects had to be recognizable. The church was at “infinity” and I almost parallel to it so I know it would be sharp even at the very shallow f/stop of 1.4. (You get what you pay for… the Canon 24mm f/1.4 fast lens is expensive but sharp). I kept my White Balance on Daylight to preserve the Kelvin temperature of the various mixed lighting. ISO 1250 was as high as I wanted to go with this camera.

Any other questions?

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