A Festive Blur of Color

Raas Garba, Diwali Festival - Austin, Texas

Raas Garba, Diwali Festival – Austin, Texas

I mentioned yesterday that there was a circular structure behind the Temple at Radha Madhav Dham in Austin. Later in the night, I discovered what it’s used for. With a live band setting the mood, a festive crowd with a rainbow of colors, danced. Called the Raas Garba, it was quite the spectacle. The first I’ve ever experienced.

My first visit to this Hindu Temple, south-west of downtown Austin, was like being teleported to India. The architecture, the people, the smell of the food, the visual displays and the dancing were unlike what you typically find in Central Texas. That’s one of the great things about America, the diversity of communities and the ability to experience the culture of one of many subgroups who live here.

Photographically, capturing this dance was a disappointment. I often talk about my photographic successes on this blog, but certainly not all of my pictures work the way I want. Sometimes I make mistakes. Other times, I’m swept up by the environment and might not think as clearly as I should. Documenting the Raas Garba was one of these times.

I had two cameras with me, one with a 50mm equivalent f1.4 lens and the other, a wide-angle, which I used to create this photograph. I wanted to capture sharp, motion stopping closeups with the 50mm f1.4, but most were disappointments. With the slow f4 wide-angle, I opted for motion blur, since I knew my lens was optically too slow to stop motion.

I think good motion blurs need the right amount of blurred movement and a good sense of balance. Many of my attempts of shooting at a slow shutter speed did’t work well. Perhaps the excitement of the place didn’t allow me to steady myself and even the usually excellent Olympus in-body image stabilization was not enough to compensate. The result, I didn’t create enough keepers to find the composition I envisioned in my head.

The action stopping attempt at f1.4 was also suboptimal. I got a few decent shots but not at the image quality I wanted. For all my love for the micro 4/3 format, there are limitations, which I usually don’t bump into. But getting tack sharp results in a dim environment with fast action is going to be a challenge, even with a f1.4 lens. These are situations where image stabilization won’t help. Using ISO 5000 – 6400 was bad enough, but post processing increases the noise to a level that I’m not happy with. Future micro 4/3 sensors will get better, and I heard the one in the OM-D E-M1 Mark II is improved. But for my OM-D E-M5 Mark II, I found it a bit of a challenge.

The irony is that I have a more capable low-light camera, my full frame Canon 6D. The thing is, I rarely use it since it doesn’t bring me joy. But perhaps, if I go to this festival next year, I’ll take along the 6D to see what I can do. DSLR technology might not be the state of the art, but a sensor that is nearly 4X larger has a strong advantage in light gathering physics.

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