We were headed back to Wellington and to the te papa national museum once more to view the ANZAC Exhibit and I knew it was going to be a challenge!
I ran the settings I would use in my camera through my mind as te papa does not allow the use of camera flash inside the exhibitor or being able to use a tripod. Drawing upon past experiences from te papa museum and other venues, I compromised with a combination that would give me my desired results.
Shutter speed would suffer unless I shot the exhibit with my lens wide open. Depth of field (the area that is in sharp focus) was going to be very shallow and both would suffer unless I used a high ISO setting.
The slower the shutter speed (the time the iris of the camera is open recording the information onto the camera’s digital sensor), the harder it is to keep the camera steady and have a sharp, focused image.
Imagine it as being a fast blink and a slow blink only in reverse.
The eye is open longer making it harder to keep the camera steady.
The exhibit commemorates the 100th anniversary of our entry into World War I.
I knew that the line into the exhibit would not be as long as it was during the first week it opened, but I also knew that there would be many people still visiting.
te papa worked in collaboration with Weta Workshop (Lord of the Rings fame) to bring us Gallipoli: The Scale Of Our War exhibit.
According to Weta Workshop, they put in more than 24,000 hours of work creating the eight amazingly detailed, lifelike, human reproductions that are 2.4 times normal scale. It covers the lives of seven soldiers and one nurse along with their personal experiences in addition to the details of the eight month campaign in Gallipoli.
The exhibition cost around eight million dollars to create but admission is free to the general public.
Once inside the exhibit, I realized just how much of a challenge this was going to be. The rooms were very dark with spotlights on the exhibits and the flow of people was a constant.
I sought a quiet corner to work out my plan. Setting the ISO to 800 on my 5d mrk 11 is as far as I dare to go in these poor light conditions. Lightroom, clever as it is, can only deal with so much digital noise and heavy grain that hides the sharpness and detail in a digital image.
The higher the ISO speed, the quicker you can trip the shutter but compromise the overall fine detail of your image.
Life isn’t a box of chocolates, its compromise in the digital age. 😀
So I set about opening my 17- 40 F.4 lens to wide open, I tested the speed.
I also knew that because there were spotlights on the exhibits, I could have used spot metering so that the camera would not attempt to expose by evening out the darkness of the unlighted areas thus making the shutter speed fall into the 2 second mark. But I chose to under expose the shots by 2 full stops losing detail in the dark areas while keeping the focus on the exhibits themselves.
Even with all these settings designed to give me a maximum speed, I was still running at 1/3 of a second. This was going to test me alright.
I positioned myself against the wall and took a shot. It was clear that this was not enough support so I headed for the floor. The angle was hardly ideal being so low to the ground but I was getting acceptable results and kept repositioning myself around the human reproductions till I had all the angles covered.
Some display areas had seats where I could sit and ball myself up locking into a stable and steady position to shoot from. I kept the lens at 17mm so I would get a maximum depth of field and the maximum amount of light coming into the lens.
As we made our way through the maze of displays, you could see the impact on people’s faces as they viewed the suffering and pain the men and women endured during this war as it was also taking a toll on me.
There was a certain feeling of despair and sorrow in the air and the expressions on the faces of these displays perfectly captured it.
This Bible saved a man’s life by stopping a bullet
I found this message a touching reminder of the relationship between opposing sides
A little over an hour and I was done. It had proved difficult but I was well pleased with the results. This experience and the exhibit will long be remembered and if you get the chance, I highly recommend taking the time to see it.
I offer photographic workshops that include special trips to te papa museum for those who want to learn to make the most of the challenge of shooting in difficult settings.