Islands Folk Festival – New photos and stage lighting

I’ve finally managed to upload most of the galleries for the Islands Folk Festival that took place at Providence Farm in Duncan in July 2011. I mentioned this huge job previously back in February,  Islands Folk Festival – Editing the PhotosAs often is the case I try to learn from my experiences with the idea of making myself a better photographer for future assignments. What did I learn from this job?

2011 Islands Folk Festival Photographs

The Islands Folk Festival used a new sound and lighting company for the 2011 event and while the presentation was spectacular the light created real issues with the sensor on my Nikon D300. I knew of these issues previously and it certainly isn’t limited to my particular camera or even Nikon in general (let’s not have a Canon vs. Nikon war!) but this year just seemed harder to cope with than what I remembered from previous years. Certainly the lighting was way more contrasty. When shooting I was often compensating the exposure by up to -1.3 EV or even more, a substantial amount. By comparison, the previous year I rarely compensated by over -0.7 EV. This was primarily for the red and yellow lights, always an issue with digital.

Islands Folk Festival Lighting

Islands Folk Festival Lighting

With the 2012 Islands Folk Festival coming up I started looking at this scenario a little closer. Better to figure out how to deal with this before the big event this year!

Comparing the actual shooting in 2011 to the shoot in 2010 didn’t really lead to anything, the same camera, same lenses and same metering. On a hunch, I started to compare the light placement on the stage. The exact same lights are being used with the location of the front lights the same. What did change was the location and number of the rear lights with the 2010 lighting having the rear lights further forward on the stage and 6 per side while the 2011 lights are set further back and only 4 per side (see photo above). This might explain a little, the 2010 rear lighting providing more of a fill light than a back light and in addition, 2 more lights per side. Possibly not as good for the audience but certainly easier on the photographers.

Urban Folk Quartet, Islands Folk Festival 2011

Urban Folk Quartet, Islands Folk Festival 2011

More than anything, the person responsible for turning the lights on and off will determine the outcome of the photos. Over the years I’ve noticed the lighting getting more contrasty and punchy as the evening performances go on. This does makes sense as well as the Islands Folk Festival becomes quite a bit more raucous as the evening progresses with some pretty rocky bands late in the evening. Wild dancing, flashing lights and smoke machines, it makes for a great show and fantastic although difficult photographic opportunities.

Scott Jeffers, Traveler, Islands Folk Festival 2011

Scott Jeffers, Traveler, Islands Folk Festival 2011

What’s the point of all this? I found some of the editing very difficult when working on evening images from the 2011 festival. Being a photographer, we often end up in situations where control of the lighting isn’t part of our gig and we just have to work with what we have. For 2011 this is what I got.

I’ll be shooting this years festival with my new Nikon D800 and I’m expecting the RAW files will be easier to work with for a number of reasons. The high ISO quality of the D800 should be superior to my D300 with far less noise and a higher dynamic range. Most of the evening images are shot in the ISO 1600 – 2000 range. As well, I expect having over 36mp images will allow for downsizing to give the appearance of even less noise when needed. This is something I’m really eager to explore. What would I change if I could shoot the 2011 images again? I might try shooting in 14 bit color rather than 12 bit color to see whether this would help but… I don’t expect it would under these circumstance.

Tribe of One, Islands Folk Festival 2011

Tribe of One, Islands Folk Festival 2011

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