The Talent Show

The Fairmont tries to ensure that the army of young people that run the hotel are suitably entertained, one of the ways they do this is by hosting events at the staff pub known as The Stables.  One of the more interesting events was a talent show which was held this Wednesday night.  I had no major plans so I decided to drop by and bring my camera.

Generally, I enjoy these types of events.  They are very open for people to go out and perform anything they consider as a talent, assuming it is suitable for audience viewing.  A girl joked with me and said I should go up on stage and take photos for my talent.  Although me going up on stage taking photos and talking about cameras isn’t something that would captivate a normal audience.  I joked in reply by saying I could set up some kind of firing range and photograph a series of targets in record time, like a proficient marksman only with a camera instead of a gun.

I did actually want to enter the talent show and do a Cuban Salsa performance, but I needed a partner and couldn’t find any girls in the Fairmont who could do Cuban Salsa.  So I did the next best thing; had a few beers and took some photos.

I thought this would be like shooting any other staged event, I have shot many events back home and I feel in my element when I do them.  However, when the first act came on and I started shooting I encounter a serious problem I have not had before.  The dreaded light flicker.

I have shot in dark venues before and whilst it isn’t ideal shooting in bad lighting it is still possible to get decent images with a good camera, lens and some skills and experience.  However here in The Stables, not only was the lighting dark, there was a slow flicker.  All non-LED ceiling lights flickers to some degree, a rapidly repeating wave of light.  TVs and computer monitors also have a constant flicker but we don’t see this because it is too fast for our eyes and brain to notice.  But the presence of a flicker can be a nightmare for taking photos and at The Stables it was particularly bad.  I would have been better off shooting if the venue was lit with candles, or by the moon.  Anything but these wretched pulsating filament bulbs.

 How my first few images looked.

How my first few images looked.

The flicker was a serious issue as I wasn’t getting any shots.  Each one had a menacing black bar across the image.  The only way I could solve this was to lower my shutter speed, this would ensure that my camera captured the image throughout the duration of when the light was on, effectively “riding the wave of light”, which is a much cooler way of saying it.  But lowering the shutter speed results in the risk of introducing motion blur from my hands which would also equally ruin my images.  So, quite simply, I just had to shoot the event with extremely steady hands.

To do this, I use a breathing technique that I sort of discovered by accident.  It is very simple and you can try it at home, do the following.

Inhale deeply and fill your lungs until they are comfortably full, now hold this in and watch your hands, after a few seconds you may notice that they become eerily still, this is the time to take a few shots.  Then after a few seconds exhale, breathe normally for a few moments, then repeat.

I was doing this every time I was going for a close up shot with my zoom lens.  Every time I did this I felt like a sniper, lining up a distant long-range shot on some foreign dictator.  In reality I was just trying to photograph a girl lip-syncing “my heart will go on” by Céline Dion.

Overall the talent show was decent enough, but it would have been nice if more people entered.  And if the lighting wasn’t shit.

And here is the album from the night.