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  • Writer's pictureJohn Patota

Low Light Photography

Living Life at 1000 ISO Robbins, NC

There was a time when I thought everything had to be shot at 100 ISO for the best results. Get the cleanest images, lowest noise - then lift the shadows in post. Now, that has changed.

Most of my photography these days is seen on social media. That has made a huge shift in thinking for me. I know now that my images will not be printed as wall-sized. Grain doesn't matter as much anymore.

As long-time photojournalist and friend, Ted Fitzgerald tells it: "if you notice grain in a photo, you have a boring photo." Or said another way: subject, composition and light trumps high grain.

So it was that I intentionally showed up to the Robbins Farmers Day just before dark. Armed with just one lens and a small flash for backup. Yes, old habits are hard to break. Setting my Nikon Z7 at 1000 ISO and apparatus priority mode, I set off to capture what I could.

Small fairs like the Robbins Farmers Day come with their own built in lighting. The neon colors of the carnival rides, the soft light of food trucks and best off all - the fabulous stage lighting for the live performers. With all that light, and an ISO of 1000, I was able to keep the shutter speed above 1/100 sec for most of the night. That gave me an aperture of around f/3.5 well into twilight.

When it got dark, and there wasn't much light from the attractions, I turned on my flash for a little fill in flash. At one point, I actually jumped the ISO of 2000!

First photo of the evening, just as the sun was going down. 1/125 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1000

I call these shoot throughs. 1/50 sec, f/3.5, ISO 1000

Another low light image. I would not have been able to take it using 100 ISO. 1/100 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1000.

Using the light provided here. 1/60 sec, f/4.0, ISO 1000

One of my favorite examples of low light photography. Using the build-in image stabilization, I could use a very slow shutter. Of course, it helped that the subjects where not moving much. 1/20 sec, f/2.2, ISO 1000.

Lots of light on the subject. 1/60 sec, f/4.0, ISO 1000.

Captured the moment here. 1/200 sec, f/7.1, ISO 1000

Gotta love fill in flash. 1/60th, f/4.0, ISO 1000

Another fill in flash. 1/60 sec, f/4.0, ISO 1000

Yup. fill in flash. 1/60 sec, f/4.0, ISO 2000
Looking at the settings, I must of had my flash turned on for this one. Didn't need it, but what the heck. 1/60 sec, f/4.0. ISO 2000

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