Shooting Available Light Travel Photography

My favorite lenses for indoor available light photography are fast prime focus lenses but I still use zoom lenses  when traveling because you rarely have the kind of choices for camera locations and positions you have under more controlled conditions. If you care about image quality, forget the digital zoom feature found on some cameras. It simply crops and saves a small portion of the sensor’s data, then interpolates this new, smaller amount of image data. I usually refer to this feature as “mostly useless” because it is.

Image stabilization: When working under low light I prefer  image stabilized lenses or a camera body with built-in IS. I’m not getting any younger and my ability to hold 1/15th of a second consistently is not quite as good as it was a few years ago.

The above image (and the cover shot of Better Available Light Digital Photography) was shot near midnight in Old San Juan in Puerto Rico using a Zuiko 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 lens. At 12mm, the aperture is a fast f/2.8 and I had selected an ISO of 800. Aperture Priority mode exposure was one sec at f/11 with a plus 0.7 stop exposure compensation. The camera’s in-body image stabilization kept the camera steady at the slow shutter speed and it was shot in AWB (Auto White balance Mode.)

Slow shutter speeds: The average photographer can typically hand hold a camera at a shutter speed equal to the reciprocal of the focal length of the lens although I have a suspicion that this number changes as we get older. Factoid: With focal plane shutters, the effective speed of the curtains at 1/1000 sec is the same as it is at 1/30 sec. At higher shutter speeds, the only thing changing is a narrowing of the gap between the two curtains.

During WWII my Dad tried to visit as many historic churches in Europe as he could so I guess I inherited that interest from him. The Cathedral of San Juan Bautista in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico is the second oldest cathedral in the Americas having started construction in 1521. I placed an Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 lens (at 12mm) on the cathedral’s floor to make this shot. Exposure was 1/13 sec at f/2.8 and ISO 1600. I tried variations of this shot using the camera’s AWB (too warm) and Tungsten (too cool) color balance setting and ended up using the AWB shot and correcting it using PictoColor’s Correct EditLab Pro but then faded (Image > Fade) the correction by 50% to produce the Goldilocks color balance you see here.

light.bookAlong with photographer Barry Staver, Joe is co-author of Better Available Light Digital Photography that’s now out-of-print but new copies are available at collector (high) prices or used copies for giveaway prices—less than two bucks—from Amazon.

Author: Joe Farace

Share This Post On