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Photography ConCrit Interested amateur photographers can post photos and receive constructive critiques from others. Please read the guidelines thread before posting any photos.

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Old Jul 24 2009, 06:29 AM   #1
Hans
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Default Hans 6 - Circus photographs

I recently visited a circus that stopped at our town; in fact, their tent was pitched not five minutes from my home on the parking lot of the local shopping centre. It had been about 40 years since I visited a circus and my wife and I had big fun.

I set the camera to the highest ISO value of 1600 and tried shots with existing light and with the Metz flashlite I have for my Canon camera (the built in flash would not have been enough for these circumstances).

A good subject for the existing light tries was this guy:





But I soon found that the existing light didn't work with other kinds of acts, acts that didn't generate light or a good reflection by themselves that is. At first I was hesitant to use major flash but when I saw people with point and shoot cameras happily flashing away I put mine into action.

Here's one of the horse-acrobatic act:



And there was this Scottish guy who was a wizard with diabolos, he actually managed to keep three in the air at one time.



In the above and below picture another "handicap" is revealed: the circus lighting and effects. For some reason the stage lighting was predominantly red and with most acts they were spouting stage smoke into the arena. If you have a mysterious act it might actually enhance the atmosphere but to my amateur judgement they overused it...

The lady below is actually hanging by her hair from a gyroscopic contraption on a single steel wire!



At the start of her act she appeared with something in her hands that looked like a wing. But, it was only the one (the one in her left hand in the photograph). And of course, true to seeing Pern and dragons everywhere, I just HAD to photoshop something and put a second wing into her right hand, so it looked more dragonlike and if she was really flying (which, in a sense, she was)



I was gad to be able to try taking photographs at such a (to my old 35 mm film self impossibly) high ISO setting to be able to still obtain a relatively high shutter time for all these (fast) moving objects. The camera was therefore set to shutter preference. It certainly helped me to build some experience about when to change ISO and what my camera does at that setting in combination with the external flashlite as well as existing light.
My major problem was one I had not expected: being seated to one side of the ring I now know that for good pics I should be opposite the entrance of the artists!
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Old Jul 24 2009, 10:05 AM   #2
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Default Re: Hans 6 - Circus photographs

It's certainly interesting, seeing all the different acts.

Last time, a friend of mine, junior and I went to see Circus Latino and they had some interesting acts too. Junior got sick of going to the circus all the time so we had a "big" break of several years before we saw Cirque de Soleil and Circus Latino. Junior enjoyed Cirque de Soleil immensely as did my mum and I plus he's been learning French at school so it was part of his lingual experiences
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Old Jul 24 2009, 01:51 PM   #3
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Default Re: Hans 6 - Circus photographs

Very impressive action shots, Hans! I was especially drawn to the guys flying onto (or off of?) the horse. Talk about suspended animation! The faces of the people in the stands added nicely to the magic of the moment. At first I thought the heads on the bottom of the shot were intrusive but, after further thought, I think they give the whole composition an "I'm in there" sort of feeling. My only real problem with that picture is that the red light (which I know you had no control over) made the horse's legs look injured.
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Old Jul 24 2009, 03:15 PM   #4
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Default Re: Hans 6 - Circus photographs

I see what you mean with the horse's leg, Sandi. I didn't even notice that! Maybe it could be photoshopped away if it was really necessary.

I also agree with you about the heads

And the acrobats were jumping off the horse here, though they also jumped up while it was moving around the ring, not three but four and no using hands! Just jump, spread legs, sit!
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Old Jul 24 2009, 07:51 PM   #5
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Default Re: Hans 6 - Circus photographs

Hans...these are quite interesting photos. My husband and I have always enjoyed the circus, and last year we were lucky enough to take our Grand-daughters to go and see *Ringling Brothers*.We had a fantastic time, and even got to talk to some of the preformers before the show and the girls even had their photos taken with some of them. Unfortunately with the recent crash of my computer, I lost all my wonderful photos from memorible event....so I will enjoy yours now!!
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Old Jul 24 2009, 09:37 PM   #6
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Default Re: Hans 6 - Circus photographs

I like the action shots, Hans. Wish I had the digital equipment to do this sort of stuff.

Lady Maelin, the crash of your comp is the very reason I partitioned my hard drive years ago. Today, I would suggest buying an external hard drive (Walmart has a 1 Tb - that's 1,000 Gb - drive for $109) and storing all pics and important files on it. If your comp crashes, 99 times out of 100, it's the OS, not actually a drive going bad, and the only info lost will be what's actually on with the OS.
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Old Jul 25 2009, 03:17 AM   #7
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Default Re: Hans 6 - Circus photographs

What you should do, Draco, is store the pics on your computer AND have a backup on the external drive (or anywhere else for that matter).

I have to disagree with you on the computer breakdown. I don't know the percentages but I regularly encounter people who'se internal hard drive breaks down, not their OS.

TIP: if you hear (soft) clicking while hearing the spinning of the drive in your computer it is time to immediately backup all your files and start looking for a new drive!
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Old Jul 25 2009, 05:34 AM   #8
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Default Re: Hans 6 - Circus photographs

I'll second that, Hans.

I've had four Mac desktops since 1995 and one laptop; my only failure was the hard drive on a 1999 graphite iMac.

And, of course, I had no back-up.

Lesson leaned - I devote 30 minutes every Saturday morning to a maintainance programme, file clean-up, and back-up to an external FireWire

I've no reason to fear the whirr-clickety-click now!
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Old Jul 25 2009, 07:24 AM   #9
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Default Re: Hans 6 - Circus photographs

Besides simple OS crashes, I've had 1 drive failure. No warning, just one day it didn't come on. But my computer guy at that time saved everything on 3 of the 4 sections. The only information that was lost was on the section C: where the OS was. Everything else in D:, E:, and F: sections were "ghosted over to the new replacement drive. He told me it was because I had partitioned the drive. If I hadn't everything would have been lost.
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Old Jul 29 2009, 03:56 AM   #10
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Default Re: Hans 6 - Circus photographs

Hans - Your fire-eater shots are simply great! Flame is always hard to capture. You've got the detail there, while still giving enough light to illuminate the subject. I notice you're on shutter priority with a speed of 1/200 sec. Did you experiment, or was it lucky happenstance?

The horse-acrobatics shows how well-judged flash can freeze the action, while letting ambient light capture the background in just enough detail. The sequential action is well captured.

The diabolo guy is beautifully framed! Catching that precise moment is s-o-o difficult! Well done.

As for the acrobat, I didn't find the smoke excessive. In fact, I quite like it. Chaçon a son gout. But the act makes me feel queasy. In my imagination, scalping is never pretty . . .

Finally, isn't it refreshing and liberating to go to public performances with no restrictions on photography?
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Old Jul 29 2009, 07:16 AM   #11
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Default Re: Hans 6 - Circus photographs

Farclas, thanks for the compliments. I am pleasantly surprising myself after more or less quitting photography for many years, how easily I adapt and feel at home in the digital field.

As I said I started out taking shots with exisiting light as that was what I had in mind when I got the tickets for the circus. Getting to know the camera and my new 18-200 lens I bought a few days earlier. I did experiment but checking the result on the camera in the dark circustent was very difficult. I did conscioucly use shutter time preference but also tried some shots with aperture priority (mainly to see which shutter time the camera would chose with the maximum aperture ) and had the camera on a monopod. Since most acts involved fast moving people and/or objects I ended up with going for a decent/short exposure time. As said earlier the other thing I wanted to test was high ISO settings. I never shot at 1600 before and I found 800 ISO most often to grainy when I was still on film.
I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the fire shots when I looked at them at home. The only thing I did to them was minor cropping.

I have my own problems with the horse pic because, somebody said this, the action is frozen. It gives a nice enough shot but takes away the sense of movement. Not really sure if some blur would have solved this. Other pictures didn't come out better because of the fact that it all went so fast and I wasn't in the most ideal position.

Your comment on the diabolo guy was why I was very happy with this shot. To catch the way he looks was luck, but I was trying to get a wide/diagonal shot which filled the view, so the composition was my idea. Had he looked to his front the picture would have not appealed to me as it does now.

As for the red smoke/stage lighting... of course you only see a few of the photographs taken. On other ones the (red) smoke was much more intrusive and spoiling the picture or composition. I must admit that when a stage hand litterally hooked the lady up my mind was going "huh?" The fact she had her arms free as an acrobat was pretty special though and gave some extra dimension to her act that you don't see with a "regular" acrobat.

And yes! to your last question. At first I was hesitant and I did seem to be the only one using a camera that didn't fit in your pocket but I enjoyed the photography and the new lens I bought because I disliked switching too often to another lens (I started out with the 18-55 kitlens).
Your remark also touches the subject you brought up in your own "candids" thread; I'm at work now and I'll have to think about answering on that (we also seem to have different laws in place here in The Netherlands).
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Last edited by Hans; Jul 30 2009 at 09:06 AM. Reason: many typos
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Old Jul 30 2009, 05:35 AM   #12
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Default Re: Hans 6 - Circus photographs

Regarding the frozen action on the horse pic - that's where Shutter Priority comes into it's own when using flash. Here's a 'failure' pic taken at grandaughter Yanthe's second birthday party. The flash went off and captured the image, but with a slow shutter speed of 1/25 sec, the camera continued exposing YoYo's moving right arm.

Bingo! Sharpness AND blur :



Technically, it'd be better to have the flash fire at the end of the exposure, thus 'fixing' the final image as flash. That's where Custom Function (C.Fn.) 15 comes in on Canon cameras. It fires the flash just as the shutter starts to close. I'm sure Nikon and Pentax cameras have the same facility.

Edit to clarify - YoYo's arm was moving UPWARD at the time; the blur comes after the flash fired. To get a 'trailing' effect in an action picture, C.Fn 15 must be employed, otherwise the direction of blur will be wrong.

Last edited by Farclas; Jul 30 2009 at 05:54 AM. Reason: edit to clarify
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Old Jul 30 2009, 09:07 AM   #13
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Default Re: Hans 6 - Circus photographs

Farclas, I searched the internet somewhat but it looks like the C.fn 15 isn't available on my EOS 1000D. I only get pages pertainting to the 1D, 5D, and 50D.
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Old Jul 30 2009, 09:30 AM   #14
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Default Re: Hans 6 - Circus photographs

Oops! Looks like your custom functions differ from mine. But you have the Canon 1000D, right? The Canon site for the camera does specify that it has Second Curtain Sync (which is the formal name).

I'm thinking your manual should have it in the index, or the Custom Functions (found in the yellow part of your menu scroll?).

Edit - It shows up in the 5D index as Shutter Curtain Sync.

Here's a pictorial which I've knocked up in Photoshop; I had trouble getting my head round the concept initially!



A good starting point is ISO 400 and shutter priority. Fast-moving subjects may work at anything below 1/30; slower stuff may require 1/4 or more. Experimenting is fun!

Last edited by Farclas; Jul 30 2009 at 09:48 AM.
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Old Jul 30 2009, 10:29 AM   #15
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Default Re: Hans 6 - Circus photographs

Yes, as fa as I know the 1000D (and other lower than 5D spec cameras for that matter) has second curtain sync

I'll consult the documentation and settings later (when at home).
And yes, the custom functions menu options on my camera are yellow too.

Thanks for the visualisation
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