Greek Tent

The dimly lit scene of the Greek tent at Lark Camp

I have recently returned from Lark Camp – a world music camp held every year in the Mendocino Woodlands in Northern California. This is an event that happens every year – this year being the 30th anniversary. I’ve been going to Lark for for 3 years now and I plan on going every year that I can for as long as it continues. It feeds the musician in me AND it offers some wonderful photo opportunities.

One of the most amazing musical experiences at camp is the Greek tent! Here, in a exotic environment dimly lit with Christmas string lights, musicians gather and play Greek, Turkish, Arabic and/or Balkan infused with occasional Jazz music until 3 or 4 in the morning.

A wonderful musical experience but a very challenging photography environment. The lighting is so dim that at ISO 6400 exposures are down around 1/8 to 1/10th of a second. There is usually no room for a tripod as every square inch of floorspace is occupied by people or instrument cases. This year I had a solution with the SteadePod a very cool, inexpensive “string tripod” –  you can see examples of the shots I took here – most every shot was taken late at night in extremely dim light ISO 6400 but I still had to use very slow shutter speeds of 1/8th – 1/10th sec.

This little “string tripod” made it possible to capture sharp images (when I wasn’t quivering with the beat of the music) even at such slow shutter speeds. Using the SteadePod is very simple – a retractable wire cable extends from the unit which is attached to the camera and you step on the end, pull “up” to steady the camera and squeeze the shutter to take a shot without jerking. With a little practice you can get very sharp images down to 1/2 second or so as long as the subject is not moving too fast.

The SteadePod (or any home made version) opens up a range of photo opportunities that would otherwise be off limits to photographers using regular tripods. (think Museums…) It is also very useful for video where you need to be mobile and perhaps grab a telephoto shot hand held.