Lighting is the fundamental ingredient in every photograph, it defines the mood and feel of a scene and how to handle it is always the primary question when evaluating a setting. Whether staging lighting to achieve a specific look or working with available light, we’ve always been at the mercy of time, conditions, or the technical limitations of the cameras.
There’s indisputable honesty and beauty in available light, and today’s cameras with higher low light sensitivities have made it easier to capture images which where impossible or very difficult just a few years ago. An example are these two images taken for an assignment at Trinity College in Hartford which were done totally by available light at night.
The middle eastern dancer, part of an international theme, was a fast moving unpredictable subject with varying intensities of light from the swirling fire batons. She was lit strictly by the light of the fires and little help from nearby street lamps. The second shot, of students around the new outdoor fire pits, was done by the light of the fire only with a side fill from the building’s interior lights on right. On both instances, on camera flash would open up more detail but would totally destroy the mood of the scenes.
These images were shot at ISO 3200 which still provided excellent detail and minimum noise. The camera’s sensitivity can be pushed even higher, and while some camera manufacturers brag about ISO going as high as 51,200 and beyond, it always comes at the cost of quality. As low light quality continually improves, it has been liberating and refreshing and it is changing the way we capture images.