Having borrowed a D4s from Nikon UK during the Edinburgh Festivals, I thought I’d do a round-up of the Best of the Fest from a (my!) photographic perspective, and see just what a difference the super-high ISO capabilities of the camera made for my work.

Firstly, it was hugely kind of Nikon (thank you Rob and Artur!) to loan me it for so long – a week or so is more usual, apparently. What’s also unusual is that loans are more usually made to those photographers covering large sporting events, such as the Olympics, etc. Given that the Commonwealth Games were overlapping with #EdFringe, this was especially appreciated. Although sport is a great test of the capabilities of this camera, my reasoning was that the type of work that I do, performing arts, was like shooting sport in the dark (especially contemporary dance and contemporary circus), making an even more extreme test of the camera!

And so it was! Although not needing the extremes of high ISO on every job, what was extremely handy was the ability to use a decent shutter speed with a higher ISO that I’d have been happy with on my D3s. The noise control at higher ISOs was especially pleasing, the ‘noise’ being even more akin to very fine ‘grain’ from film days.

So, what was the most extreme test for the camera? Well, it had to be NoFitState’s “Bianco”. The light in the Grand Chapiteau was low and moody, with plenty of haze, for added atmosphere. The performers were swift, strong and daring. The combination meant that I was working, largely, at 16,000 ISO (yes, you read that correctly! I haven’t added a zero by mistake!) and at 1/250th at f2.8. Ideally, the shutter speed would have been higher, and I guess I could have taken the ISO up a tad more to do so, but as this was a commission for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, and I knew, through having tested out such high ISO in the weeks before, that the quality would still be great, I was happier with the combination I had in the examples I am showing here. With the D3s, I’d have been at an even lower shutter speed at 12,800 (top native resolution for that camera).

BIANCO, NoFitState Circus, Big Top, Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

BIANCO, NoFitState Circus, Big Top, Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

BIANCO, NoFitState Circus, Big Top, Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

BIANCO, NoFitState Circus, Big Top, Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

BIANCO, NoFitState Circus, Big Top, Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

BIANCO, NoFitState Circus, Big Top, Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

Contemporary circus being particularly fun to photograph, as well as being challenging and providing some great moments to freeze in time, I am also throwing in a couple of photographs from Circa’s show, “Beyond”. Not really at an extreme of the camera’s capability but nice, crisp, flying, shots nonetheless at ISO 3,200, f2.8/3.5 and 1/320th.

Circa, BEYOND, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

Circa, BEYOND, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

Circa, BEYOND, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

Circa, BEYOND, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

The ability to have a higher shutter speed, to freeze movement, was appreciated during photographing Mark Baldwin’s and the Sisters Grimm’s “Inala”, which had its world premiere in Edinburgh, before coming to Sadler’s Wells in London and then on tour a national tour (ongoing). Still up at a high ISO of 10,000 and wide open at f2.8, but fast enough so there was no motion blur.

INALA, Edinburgh Playhouse, EIF, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

INALA, Edinburgh Playhouse, EIF, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

This one made it into the Telegraph to accompany the review.

Inala, Edinburgh Playhouse, EIF  - The Daily Telegraph - 12 Aug

“Inala” provided such a wonderful array of photographic opportunities, it was even more difficult than ever to do a tight edit! Such beauty in colour, shape and composition! And to see/hear it as an audience member was fantastic – who knew Ladysmith Black Mambazo were such great dancers too?!

Akram Khan’s “Gnosis” was also a production which benefited from a higher shutter speed/high ISO combo. This one utilized 16,000 ISO, 1/500th shutter and f 3.2 aperture.

GNOSIS, Akram Khan Company, Kings' Theatre, Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

GNOSIS, Akram Khan Company, Kings’ Theatre, Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

As did Pina Bausch’s “Sweet Mambo”. 16,000 ISO, f2.8, 1/500th.

SWEET MAMBO, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, Playhouse, Edinburgh International Festival, Scotland, UK.

SWEET MAMBO, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, Playhouse, Edinburgh International Festival, Scotland, UK.

Another commission for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society was of Colette Garrigan’s “Sleeping Beauty” at the French Institue. The fairy tale was given a reality-twist – a Glasgow childhood populated with a real evil stepmother and a handsome Prince with a happily-ever-after (or was there?!). Skilful shadow puppetry gave the eloquent story-telling an eerie atmosphere – who knew how sinister forks could be, for instance?

SLEEPING BEAUTY, French Insitute, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

SLEEPING BEAUTY, French Insitute, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

So those are my D4s highlights from Edinburgh 2014. Further blogposts coming on the Rest of the Fest! In the meantime, if you would like to look at all the galleries, here is a link to the Edinburgh International Festival galleries and here is the link to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe galleries. Enjoy!

All in all, I was sad to see the D4s go home to Nikon. There is no doubt it is a great camera. There is no doubt I want one. There is no doubt that when the light levels get so low and the speed of movement gets so high, that this is the camera to have. When the clicks around you subside and you are the only one left shooting, you know it is in its element. However, at present, the number of situations when this (amazing) benefit would apply, and would result in payment, are not numerous enough to provide financial justification for this £5,200 camera (body only) for this photographer.

Yet.

Sigh.

Advertisements