Sunday, October 11, 2009

Loving the Dodgers and Higher ISO

(Click on the thumbnail for the bigger, better version)

A few weeks ago, Paul Lester posted about higher ISO’s and his remarks started me thinking again about my most recent gear purchase. When I bought my Canon 50D, I knew full well that I wasn’t buying the camera that offered the best high ISO performance on today’s market. However, it ended up being the camera that best suited all my needs—cost and fps also ranked high on my must-have list. Because I still try to avoid going over ISO 640 to minimize processing chores, I have yet to fully explore all the possibilities of higher IS0’s with my newest camera. But, I am growing more confident that there are occasions when it’s high ISO to the rescue.

I didn’t gain the new confidence because I buckled down to some serious testing, but, as usual for me, stumbled into the information. A few days ago, The Husband took a break for a ride and left me toiling over the steaming heap of numbers we had been wading through for tax preparation. When I was completely burned out (it didn’t take long, since I had been at it off and on through the day), I decided I also needed a break. A little time watching one of our recorded episodes of NCIS was just what I needed. I escaped to the living room, turned on the TV, hit DVR, found an episode, but then realized I wanted a glass of water. My detour to the kitchen, put me within range of the radio I had left on in there the last time I snuck in a few minutes to catch up with the baseball game. Uh, oh. Ninth inning, Dodgers down 2 to 1, two outs. Rats. Maybe worth a minute for the nail to be put in the coffin. What? Holladay missed the ball, the Dodgers are alive?! Well, NCIS can wait. This was a playoff game, after all. As I listened to Vinnie call the play-by-play, I looked out toward the back pasture and noticed that The Husband had removed Lancer’s fly mask and the gelding was exerting a little energy fretting over being left alone.

Now there were three distractions calling. The Dodgers in distress, a distracting 40 minutes or so of TV drama, a relaxing photo shoot of Lancer (because after all I have hardly any pictures of the chestnut.) ;) The Dodgers won. I mean they won my attention and they won the game, a wonderfully exciting nail-biter. It was playoffs for NLCS over NCIS all the way.

The minute the winning run crossed the plate I grabbed the 50D and headed out toward the pasture to try my luck. By then, it was getting late and to get decent shutter speed and good exposure in the few remaining moments of light, I opted for ISO 2000. The files required a little extra time for noise reduction and I could probably do a better job with a noise reducing plug-in; but, so far, I get along with Photoshop CS3. While it’s true that I wouldn’t put these photos up against those shot under better circumstances; once again, I felt good about my choice to buy the camera. Without that higher ISO I would not have gotten the photos I hoped for. Of course, I would have gotten something different and the result might have been terrific, but I could always experiment in that direction. Having choices is nice.


  1. Even though this was shot at a high ISO, it's still a wonderful photo. Noise, and I guess, grain in the case of film, are going to be there. The decision as to how much is too much is left to the photographer or the viewer. I find that I don't so much mind grain or noise and sometimes they enhance the photos.

    OK, another question: What is a fly mask?

  2. Anita, I'd have to say high ISO capabilities is one feature I value. I don't do a lot of extreme low light shots but I'm not a particular fan of flash or artificial lighting and I like to be able to make the most of natural lighting in almost any condition. Noise is not significantly noticeable with my Nikon D700 until about ISO 3200, so with a fast lens near dark shooting is still possible.

    Hey, good luck to your Dodgers!

  3. Paul - In some photos, I, too, am okay with grain, even noise. On the rare occasions when I go black and white, I often add a layer of grain to "rough" things up a bit.

    Oops, I forgot that I have never posted a photo of Lancer in his fly mask. I should fix that. The lightweight mesh mask covers much of the face, but most importantly the eyes. Some horses (Lancer is one of them; Night is not)are particularly suspceptible to eye infections caused by disease-carrying flies. And, of course, flies and horses go together, I don't think I want to head down that path.

  4. Earl - I think for me the bottom line is more laziness when it comes to preferring natural lighting. At any rate, like you, I really value the choice to push the ISO and know I still have a good chance at coming up with something I like.

    For years I had lost interest in the Dodgers, but several months ago I got interested in this team. I enjoy listening to the games on the radio. Here's hoping they can come through. Whether they go all the way or not, it's been an exciting season.


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