Saturday, November 08, 2008

Seeing in the Dark

The candlelit cemeteries during the Dias de los Muertos are beautiful. But there is more than just beauty. There are truly spirits in them and a feeling of a deep connection not just with recent lost relatives but a connection with many generations who have lit candles and sat in these same places.

This image was made just before dawn in Cucuchuchu in the State of Michoacan. Some of the people were wrapped in blankets and sleeping in chairs or on the ground. Some were quietly talking with each other and some were beginning to gather their blankets and baskets of fruit and food. I was so thankful that I could walk around and feel the atmosphere, smell the wood smoke of small fires and exchange smiles and my limited Spanish with some of the people. It was a very special time for me and I'm grateful that I was allowed to share in a small way this tradition.

It is very difficult to photograph in this environment. I understand that in some of the cemeteries that camera crews come in and set up lights in order to photograph. And some tourists use flash and or tripods. Those are ways to manage the wide range between the candle light and the night. But all of those methods seem too invasive to me. If the ancestors are to come back during the night wouldn't all this light and bolts of flash confuse them? So, personally I can't use a flash....maybe a tripod although it would be hard to manage on the rough terrain and tiny spaces in the cemeteries.

This image was shot at f1.8 at 1/125 of a second at 1600 ISO. I might have used f2.8 but then I'm taking the chance of blur because of the movement of the people. I could have gone to the higher extended ISO of 3200 on my camera but it is so noisy that I can't stand it....1600 ISO is bad enough. Those are the parameters that I had to work with in the camera. I also had Photoshop to help lighten the image. The image was much darker before running through Photoshop but even Photoshop has limits.

Better parameters are on the horizon. Canon has announced the new Canon 5D Mark II with a range of ISO from 100-6400 and an extended range of 12800. I'm really amazed at what I've seen from examples at ISO 6400. It was just three years ago that I purchased my current DSLR. That is the problem with digital equipment, there is always new technology on the next generation that is intriguing. There are several new features and more megapixels on the new Canon5D MKII but the one that interests me most is the higher ISO feature. I'm not sure this is enough of a reason to shell out more dollars to Canon but this camera is definitely better at seeing in the dark.

6 comments:

Steve Cotton said...

Great shot. And thanks for the shooting parameters. I need to start applying some of your lessons.

Islagringo said...

The majority of my pictures are done non-flash with an ISO of 1600. Seems to work for an amateur like me. I hate the way flash washes everything out and doesn't reflect the true colors. See? I'm learning!

Cynthia said...

Amazing! I wouldn't know where to start. Thank you again for sharing all these beautiful images.

pitchertaker said...

Hey, remember the camera doesn't see in the dark, you do. and there is some good seeing in the image.

P'taker

From The Eagle's Nest said...

WOW! I love the photograph. Even more impressive is the care in taking the photo, care to honour both those alive and those being remembered. I have been following for about a month and appreciate your words and photos. Feel free to visit my page on blogger.

Erika Sidor said...

I agree, the folks with the flahses and such seem invasive. I wouldn't ever want to use flash in a place like that. But it is amazing what the 5D CAN do. :) I love my 50mm lens wide open, and will push myself for stillness to get slow shutter speeds.