Moscow State Circus

1/200sec, f/4, ISO 1000, 24mm
1/200sec, f/4, ISO 1000, 24mm

I briefly mentioned in October’s review that I’d added a new lens to my collection. A few weeks ago my wife and I got tickets to go see the Moscow State Circus, finally giving me an opportunity to take the new glass out into the field to see how it got on. Spoiler alert: I’m really rather pleased with it.

Unfortunately, as you can see from the image above, we didn’t have the best seats. We had a big support strut, and some ropes, ladders and safety equipment that got into almost every shot. I did my best, though, and I’m pretty happy with the results.

As soon as we arrived I drew immediate parallels with shooting at the Greenwood, and started to shoot in manual mode, so to not be caught out by sudden changes in lighting levels or accidentally metering on a brighter part of someone’s clothing. This was made even easier by the lens’s constant f/4 aperture, meaning zooming in doesn’t change the aperture of the lens, thus letting in less light (when you zoom in many lenses, the aperture gets smaller. There’s really no easy way to explain why this is without risking your eyes glazing over, but if you’re interested you can ask in the comments…).

A few test shots later, and I settled on an ISO of about 1000, an aperture of f/4 and a shutter speed in the general area of 1/200th, and got to trying to take some real photos.

1/250sec, f/4, ISO 1000, 50mm
1/250sec, f/4, ISO 1000, 50mm

If you’ve seen any of my images from the Greenwood then you’ll know I like to photograph lights. I love how a shaft of light looks when beaming through smoke, so in this post you’ll see quite a few shots framed to catch the lighting at the edge of frame. Plus, it opens out the image a bit and helps justify the obstructions in the shot a bit.

1/200sec, f/4, ISO 1000, 105mm
1/200sec, f/4, ISO 1000, 105mm

Following the jugglers was a woman with an overly complicated swing set.

1/200sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 35mm
1/200sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 35mm

Fortunately she was using it in an interestingly lit, smokey environment, giving me ample chance to get those in the frame.

1/200sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 28mm
1/200sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 28mm
1/200sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 28mm
1/200sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 28mm

Occasionally I was lucky and could get a closeup that wasn’t too obstructed by a bit of rope. Occasionally.

1/200sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 105mm
1/200sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 105mm

She clearly liked her swing set. When she had finished her performance and was heading back out of the arena she paused and gave it a wistful look.

1/200sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 40mm
1/200sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 40mm

Don’t worry, sweetheart. You can play with it again at the matinée.

The next act was three woman and a climbing frame. A flying climbing frame. This is like a surreal playground. Actually that’s pretty much the definition of a circus, I guess.

1/250sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 67mm
1/250sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 67mm

Much like the earlier displays, there was some great lighting to capture.

1/160sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 24mm
1/160sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 24mm

Of course, unavoidably from time to time a ruddy great rope got in the way of the shot. Just try and look past it.

1/160sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 35mm
1/160sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 35mm

The other issue was this display was predominantly pink, which never seems to look that good when shot with my camera.

1/160sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 28mm
1/160sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 28mm

Their high wire stunts complete, they came down to the front to dance about a bit. Guess what? More lights.

1/250sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 85mm
1/250sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 85mm

Just ignore the ever-present rope in the bottom corner of the frame.

During the interval I took my light photography to the a virtual extreme, and captured the bored spotlights as they shone through the ropes.

1/250sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 75mm
1/250sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 75mm

Like most big family events, there were various forms of glowstick available for the audience. As the interval ended and all the lights dimmed, the crowds lit up.

1/15sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 24mm
1/15sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 24mm

The first act out after the interval was the trapeze artists. Every circus has to have trapeze artists, right?

1/160sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 24mm
1/160sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 24mm

I really love the colours of the lighting in this part of the show.

The act was full of flying action, giving me a chance to get some action shots. Even better, there was slightly less visual obstructions as the ropes and ladders were for the safety net for this part of the show, although the main support was still in the shot.

1/160sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 24mm
1/160sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 24mm
1/160sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 32mm
1/160sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 32mm
1/200sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 24mm
1/200sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 24mm

I could never do this. For a start, they have to wear white trousers. I’d never be able to keep them that colour whilst swinging from a trapeze high above the ground.

1/160sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 105mm
1/160sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 105mm

The trapeze artists were a tough act to follow. So they were followed by a guy who could juggle five footballs whilst standing on another, larger football. That was impressive.

1/200sec, f/4, ISO 1000, 73mm
1/200sec, f/4, ISO 1000, 73mm
1/200sec, f/4, ISO 1000, 40mm
1/200sec, f/4, ISO 1000, 40mm

When the act finished, I really liked how the ball looked on its own in the ring.

1/200sec, f/4, ISO 1000, 24mm
1/200sec, f/4, ISO 1000, 24mm

The finale involved using a swing thing to catapult people into a landing net. I guess it’s a Russian thing.

1/200sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 35mm
1/200sec, f/4, ISO 1250, 35mm
1/250sec, f/4, ISO 1000, 35mm
1/250sec, f/4, ISO 1000, 35mm

Annoyingly, the ropes and ladders got in the way a bit.

1/250sec, f/4, ISO 1000, 35mm
1/250sec, f/4, ISO 1000, 35mm

The show ended with a company bow and a stream of confetti.

1/200sec, f/4, ISO 1000, 24mm
1/200sec, f/4, ISO 1000, 24mm

It’s this shot that has helped me fall in love with this lens. I just love the clarity of the confetti as it falls, that I don’t think I’d have been able to get with my old 18-135mm. And at no point did I really feel that I was contained by its narrower focal range compared to the lens it is replacing. All-in-all, I’m happy, and I’m looking forward to taking it out more.

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6 Comments

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  1. You have captured some amazing shots – the close up of the girl on the silks/complicated swing set is fantastic! Interesting to look at a circus from a photographer’s perspective (and you are right about the ‘Russian thing’ – it’s actually called a Russian swing!)

    Like

  2. the addition of the technical details showing the ISO and shutter speed really add to this post Rob – these are both creatively and technically impressive – the lighting generates some great atmosphere.

    Like

    • Thanks Scott. I pride myself on supplying the technical info when I post my images because frankly I like to see it when I’m viewing others’ photos and it can be a great help to those just starting out (like I was only a few years ago).

      Like

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