Any suggestion on how I could have got this shot?

Ngwenya lodge across the crocodile river into the Kruger Park.

They have huge yellow light shining across the river and there were two elephant casting huge shadows and reflecting in the water.

Had a very frustrating few minutes, tried two different lenses and many camera settings.

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Alfred Stieglitz said, that wherever there is light one can photograph. Danie Bester says wherever there is no light, one cannot photograph. Pun intended!

Chris, would appreciate if you could give your settings before I comment or offer any advice. 

Tried several this one was at f4.0 ISO 3200 manual focus which didn.t work too well

Hi Chris, please will you give us the following info to assist you better; camera, lens used, focal length and shutter speed, auto white balance or not? Metering mode selected for this shot? - any camera support? Is this the original image? Are you shooting in RAW? - The reason why I am asking, I have been in a similar situation before and got some good advice from Wim van der Heeven which I would like to share with you.

Hi Bruna

I had two cameras a Canon 1d mkiii with 300 2.8 and 1.4 extender (420mm) and a Canon 7d with a 24-105 lens. I didn't have a tripod with me but tried to use the railings on the patio at Ngwenya for support. I changed the white balance to tungsten (the light is yellow). I set the ISO to 3200 eventually and opened the lenses to f4.0.

The problem I had was the auto focus didn't work and I battled to manually focus. It was like trying to catch shadows.


and yes I do shoot in Raw

When photographing animals at floodlit waterholes, most of the same rules apply as photographing in low light. You will need a tripod and yes, even a trigger remote or your camera's timer will help. Also take multiple images as speed is always an issue. Use only your fastest glass, remove extender as it robs you from light/speed and rather crop tighter later. Only use the camera which will allow for you to ramp the ISO up as high as possible with the least amount of visible noise. So now you have your equipment sorted - take a light reading and adjust settings accordingly - point the camera at the brightest part of your picture (even into one of the actual lights itself - press the shutter halfway down (don't let go) move your camera back to frame your shot and take the photo. In effect what you are doing is tricking your camera. Things to remember; bear in mind reciprocal of focal length for minimum shutter speed, or as close as possible, unless you prefer motion blur - maximum possible ISO - widest aperture or adjust if possible, according to DOF - full manual or aperture priority as to allow for as much light hitting your sensor as possible - auto white balance when shooting in RAW as you can sort the yellow tones out later as well and pull in more light and sort out noise if necessary. Then most important....rather compose drama, mystery, emotion, the moment and mood which often stands out because of the story that it convey. The dark shadows could be interesting and actually add to your composition. So look carefully and decide before you press the shutter, what it is that you would like for us to see... and enjoy with you. The picture you had in front of you if what attracted you in the first place, why change everything to something totally different. It will never be super sharp as our cameras need light for that! So, next time, don't get frustrated promise! Work with your equipment and share with us what you have witnessed the best you can. That is more important!...or at least for me. Hope this helps a little.

Thanks Bruna - hope I can remember half of this!


I don't know if it would have been possible to get a photo in this situation. I have not tried Bruna's suggestion on the focus but if it is so dark that the auto focus does not work then you will need a BIG iso to get a photo.

I quite often get the chance to photograph chess tournaments in school halls. For the camera it is quite dark. I use a 70-200 f2.8 @f2.8 and even a 50mm f1.4 prime @f1.4. If I get faster than 1/80 sec then I am lucky and by that time I have pushed the ISO to 3200 and even upto 5000 but then I draw a line and call it quits. The grain is just to much. This is with a Nikon D7000. And auto focusing here is still a piece of cake. I do use a monopod and am not allowed to use a flash. A tripod is just to bulky and there is no place for it. I also have to convert these photos to B&W to "hide" some of the grain.

I think the biggest culprits here are the extender and not having a tripod. The shutter speed was just not high enough.

Hi Tiaan -  Thanks yes I also tried with a 24-105 on a Canon 7d but had the same problems.




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