This week I get another opportunity to photograph a dance concert. Actually, I get to shoot two dance concerts and one rehearsal, so this should be one of my best opportunities ever to make strong images of high school dancers.
Based on last week’s experience shooting the Santa Barbara City College dance rehearsal, here are some of the things I’ll be thinking about this week:
Mixed lighting. In this case, red gels on the stage lights and green lights from the projected film. When possible, I accept colorful stage lighting as part of the theater art I'm attempting to capture, but most people just don't look good in greenface.
Scope. Trying to capture the whole scene from a distance generally diminishes the image by revealing too much of the surroundings. This may work to document the look of the scene, but it doesn't work for me as a photograph. A wider screen in the background would have been very cool! Or I could crop it to be a panorama, but I like the lights at the top.
Count my blessings. My shots of leaping dancers tend to be poorly composed because I usually don't know a leap is imminent. My shutter speeds are too low to truly freeze the action, and I feel extremely lucky when I don't lose a hand or foot at the edge of the frame. I'd rather have more space above this dancer, but I'm glad to have caught the moment at all.
Stage performances of any kind test the dynamic range of our film/sensors. Bright lights, dark backgrounds, white dresses. Yikes. Sometimes I just have to let the highlights blow out and remember that on a backlit monitor, it will actually look kind of cool. Hard to print, though.
Play to the lens's strengths. I'm inexperienced with wide angle lenses, but shots like this teach me that less compression means I don't have to rely on shallow depth of field to separate planes of an image. It's a nice way to get a group shot that still provides a clear subject in the foreground.
I’ll be thinking about a thousand or so other technical details, but it’s hard to contain my excitement over how much I’m learning from comments on this blog. Mike Kichaven saw my earlier dance images and asked, “Will they let you get closer?” That question led me down the path to understanding perspective. I’ve observed that people who started out as draftsmen or painters tend to make the best photographers. Now I’m starting to better understand why.