The hassles of shooting with shutter lag

We were invited to another dinner tonight. This one was in the nearby Bayangol Hotel. I didn’t realise there would be show with the dinner, so I cursed that I didn’t bring my Nikon camera with me (I should have learnt my lesson from last night). But I had my little Sony Cybershot in my pocket as usual, so I was able to take a few shots of the performances.

A lot of other people had pocket cameras too, but I don’t expect many of their photographs would have come out because they were using flash. The hall was too big to use flash (people don’t seem to realise that flash only extends 4-5 metres on these little cameras – and then they wonder why the foreground looks like it has been lit up by lightning and the background is all black), so I turned the flash off and let the camera select the best exposure setting that it could given the low light.

With the flash turned off, the camera would have been selecting a high ISO (making it very noisy) and a slow shutter speed (which meant that most of my shots were blurry, except for those where I was able to hold the camera very still). But the biggest problem I had was with the shutter lag. The Cybershot has a very long shutter lag, which meant that if I was shooting a dance, from the time I depressed the shutter button to when the camera took the shot, the dancers had invariably turned around and all I was getting was pictures of their backsides!

I did manage to set up one good shot as the dancers were turning (I depressed the shutter button as they had their backs towards me) but just as the camera took the photograph, a guy leaned across in front of my table to grab one of the bottles of wine that were sitting in front of me (see picture below). I could have wrung his neck because this would otherwise have been the best shot I had.

It was a great show with traditional dancing, traditional and modern music, a fashion parade and acrobatics. The fashion parade had many of the guys in the audience drooling over the models in the show – they were all very tall and very beautiful.

Although I couldn’t get any technically good shots using just the pocket camera, one that did sort of accidentally turn out quite well – because of the slow shutter speed – was the one below of the tsam dance which is performed to drive away evil spirits. One of the dancers worked himself into such a frenzy that all the camera captured was a blur of movement.

The tsam dance features large ornate (and scary) masks which are worn by the dancers to represent various characters which are supposed to look so frightening that they will scare away the evil spirits (I suspect any young children watching this dance would have nightmares afterwards).

The tsam dance was banned in Mongolia during the communist era, but it is now a regular component of cultural performances.

(I’ve only uploaded these photos at 400 pixels wide because of the poor technical quality, so if you click on the photos in this post, you won’t see a larger version like you will with most of my other posts)

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