Book Forest | Commissioner Street, Johannesburg, South Africa | f8 1/30s iso4000

My friend Yvonne told me about this crazy antique and second hand bookstore in town which has so many books that they are stacked on the floor and up and down the stair cases across this 8-story building! We both have a bit of a book addiction so I asked her to take me there, hoping for some good photo opportunities.

She didn’t exaggerate. There are book absolutely everywhere. I have never seen anything like it. I was actually totally overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start or finish, not with my camera nor my own eyes.

The feature image was my first impression when I walked into the basement. It is a fraction of the size of the room but I think it gives a good idea of what it is all about.

When I took the photo I had to crank up the ISO to 4000 and I did so with no hesitation whatsoever. I know that the x100s performs nicely in the upper ranges. Even more important than knowing this is when working in those realms you must get the exposure spot on. It’s always important to get your exposure right, correct, but trusty Lightroom is very forgiving when you don’t. However, the higher the ISO the trickier. Noise is visible only in the shadows and dark areas so if you underexpose your image because you are scared to dial that iso button up you will be in trouble (well, not really, but you will end up with lots of noise).

Regardless of the “night vision capabilities” of your camera (don’t you agree that it seems like camera manufacturers these days make cameras that can see in the dark?) you must be careful with shadows and underexposed areas in your photo on high ISO. If it’s all you can do (you don’t have extra lighting, no tripod at hand), crank that ISO dial high enough to get your light metre slightly to the plus side. It will be less noisy then shooting on a lower ISO and underexpose the photograph because of it.

And honestly speaking, what are your options? No lights, no tripod… Our trusty x100s goes down to f2… You definitely don’t want to mess with your shutter speed. That’s a big no-no. Admit it, you’ve also done it. You were in a situation where the light was just too low, your camera told you: “Eish, sorry mate, but I have to call it quits now, it’s dark, I can’t see jack-bugger-all”! And regardless you take the shot. And what do you get: a blurry picture. Now that is just not on. Hello “delete” button.

If you are a “High-ISO-Worry-Bug” do yourself a favour and test it out. Try different settings and see what you get. I did that and it was most therapeutic for me.

In parting, somebody once told me that a photograph taken on high ISO may be grainy or noisy but you can be sure it must be capturing something interesting or else the photographer would not have shot it in such hostile conditions. If it’s grainy it may turn out to be an amazing photograph; if it’s blurry, well, then it’s just that, blurry.

Book Forest Collage

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