Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Turning Night into Day

Here are a couple of photos taken last weekend at the Carter Mansion in Elizabethton, TN. These candlelit shots would have been very difficult to capture were it not for some amazing developments in digital photography. The challenge of low light photography is that in order to capture a sharp image that is correctly exposed, you need subjects that are perfectly still while the shutter to remains open long enough to capture the necessary light. The higher the ISO (film speed), the more light sensitive the film is (or in the case of digital cameras, the sensor) and the faster the light will be recorded. So why not just use the highest ISO, you ask? Well, the problem has always been that severe 'noise' results with high ISOs -- noise refers to the grain that appears in photos where the pixels are pushed beyond what they can record in the time being demanded. On my old Nikon D80, noise began appearing with ISOs as low as 400. I could get acceptable images at ISO 800, but at 1600, forget it. Enter the D90. The above photo was taken at ISO 3,200, while the photo to the right was taken at ISO 6,400. Click thumbnails to see 100% crops. I took these without using a flash or tripod, just steadying the camera against the chair rail along the wall. While the images contain noise and some of the detail has been softened, these results are still amazing given the high ISOs, the relatively fast shutter speeds, and the fact that the room was completely dark except for the candles you see in the windows. By the way, if you want to reach levels of ISO 25,600 buy the new Nikon D3 for $5,000 (and then let me borrow it for awhile!) :)

Photo details...
Top: Nikon D90 with Tamron 28-75 at 32mm, f/2.8, 1/6s, ISO 3200
Bottom: Nikon D90 with Tamron 28-75 at 31mm, f/2.8, 1/6s, ISO 6400


  1. You got a D90? Sweet! That is nice high-ISO performance. Oh, and how do you like you Tamron 28-75?

  2. Yep. I didn't realize what a huge difference it would be from the D80. Very impressive! But it's no D300 or anything... :) The Tamron 28-75 is a great value -- it is very sharp stopped down to f/4, but tends to be a bit soft at f/2.8. But considering it's 1/4 the price of the Nikon version, I won't complain!


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