A few weeks ago I was photographing a friend of mine, the great blues guitarist Jim Weider in concert. As is typical of most nightclub settings, the stage lighting was very dim and overly saturated with red lighting. It's a frustration I've been dealing with since I first started photographing concerts back in the 1960s. (Wow, is he old!)
Anyway, I spent the first hour or so of the concert trying to get sharp, well-exposed photos but I could tell that Jim was moving too fast and my shutter speeds were too low--even with the ISO cranked up to 1600 (the top speed of the Nikon D70s that I was using--but my new D90 goes much higher, thankfully). I decided to throw caution to the wind and instead of trying to get sharp photos (since I wasn't getting them anyway) to experiment with long shutter speeds and letting the action become a part of the shots. So I switched to the shutter-priority exposure mode and reduced my shutter speed to 1/2 second. Then I improvised and experimented with all sorts of camera-induced motion--I jiggled the camera, twisted it, zoomed the 70-300mm lens in and out, etc.
The shot here was made by zooming the lens from it's longest focal length to it's shortest during a half-second exposure. (See the tutorial on the night-photo techniques on my main site for detailed info on zooming.) I really love the way the lights create a wired-up atmosphere that echoes Jim's very electric blues music.
So next time the environment isn't cooperating with your photography, just blow-off your plans (and reality) and improvise--you'll be surprised how much you like the results.
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