Monday, August 20, 2012

Ottawa Lumiere Festival of Lights – Full Camera Skills Needed

The Ottawa annual Lumiere Festival of Lights is not just a wonderful events for kids and spectators it's also a great chance to get some interesting and new photos for your collection.

 ISO 400; f6.3; 13 sec; -0.67ev; 123mm; tripod mounted; Nikon D300

This is my 3rd time attending this event and each and every time I go there is something new to see. The festival is all about light and for this event it means candle power. There are activities for kids in the leading-up week where they make wonderful colorful paper mache objects that have holders inside to take those small candles in metal cans. These candles go inside the object and are lit at dusk. This creates a wonderful glow emanating for the colorful paper mache objects.

ISO 2,500 f5.6; 1 sec;  48mm

Hundreds of these lit lanterns in the shape of many different forms from faces to animals line the many paths around New Edinburgh park in Ottawa.

For the photographer it's visually stunning but also provides many photographic challenges in order to capture the event as the night unfolds.

When you first arrive around 7:30pm, you are at the golden hour of light and normal settings gets most of these shots.  You may need a bit of fill light from your flash and here an attached strobe flash is necessary to get just enough light to fill area and the ability to reduce the exposure (-ev) so as to not over power the ambient light.  See image of man on stilts below.

ISO 200; f5.6; 1/60 sec; 40mm; Flash -1ev

With hundreds of kids moving around and depending on their activity in front of you, a long exposure shot may create interesting photo image. The children in the image below are playing a large chess game. I wanted to show motion blur to create effect of action within the photo.

ISO 80; f25; 3 sec; 32mm

As dusk starts to envelope a more  stronger flash is necessary to freeze motion and completely fill subject as with the Tango dancer.

ISO 200; f5.6; 1/60 sec; 100mm; Flash

There are other areas like the lit swans in the river where flash won't work and a long exposure is needed to amplify available light to avoid the noise of higher ISOs. But when there is some wind movement then you will need the higher ISOs as in the photo below. In these photos it's all about the soft glow of candle power.

ISO 2,500; f5.6; 0.3 sec;  -0.3ev; 190mm; tripod mounted

ISO 2,500; f5.6; 2 sec; -1ev; 28mm; tripod mounted

But a near full darkness only longer exposure times and a tripod will get you those interesting photos like the girls with their glowing and twirling hula hoops.

The main event at this festival is a giant maze on a baseball diamond (to reduce chance of grass fire) covered with lunch paper bags filled with a little sand for stability and then a small candle. There are hundreds of children walking around this maze but with long exposures they do not show up in the photo because of their darkness. It's only when they are carrying candles or light that they show up as a moving white line.

ISO 1,000; f5.6; -1ev; 3sec; 1230mm; tripod mounted

At this event I did use my new Nikon D800e and I found it worked well. I did forget to bring my small flashlight to light the buttons on the camera.  Thankfully there remained mostly the same from the D300 and I could with some ease figure where to press to make changes to seetings.

In summary for an event like this you need to be able to switch between:
Aperture, Shutter priority and Manual mode – Flash will freeze when necessary.
Low and high ISOs.
Normal shutter speeds and long exposures of 2-3 seconds.
Flash power adjustments for fill light strengths.
Hand-held and tripod shooting.

I do hope you all get a chance to try events like these or a an amusement park or fair ground.

Niels Henriksen

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