Dance and The Journalist in Me

I cannot be what I am not, and I am not an artist. Every now and then, I produce a photograph that someone considers artistic, but, as the saying goes, even a blind squirrel sometimes finds a nut. My instincts and temperament as a photographer are to capture moments and move on. I am an amateur photojournalist, trying to catch a story in an image or series of images.

I tend to see the world in fraction-of-a-second increments. My photos don't hang on gallery walls, but I'm quite happy to know they appear in proud parents' scrapbooks.

As I reviewed the 3500 frames from last weekend’s dance concerts, I could instantly see only five or six images had potential to be beautiful photographs that would make someone outside the dance program ooh and ahh. If I got really, really motivated and spent many, many hours in post-processing, I might produce five or six more.  But that’s not what these shoots are all about. I’m trying to produce a record for the teacher, the dancers, and the dancers’ loved ones – a simple document depicting moments from an event they all worked very hard to produce. So, I hunkered down at the computer, culled about 300 representative images, cropped, corrected, and edited down to 125, and posted them.

Now I’m eager to move on.

Every now and then a lucky composition comes my way. This image illustrates how a break in a pattern can make a photo more interesting. On another level, the costumes and makeup are recorded.

Another lucky composition, showing how asymmetry, left-to-right action, and bright colors guide the eye. I'll probably use this in future composition workshops.

The dance teacher noticed that I caught a lot more in-air moments than usual. Disappointed with the overall sharpness of past efforts, I decided to increase my shutter speed to 1/320 and let the shadows and noise fall where they may. For the most part, it worked. I'd rather be shooting at 1/500, but there's rarely enough light for that.

This would be a better photograph without the partial people at the edges, but it's a fine moment just the way it is. Maybe if I had Photoshop CS5 with its content-aware editing tools, I would be more inclined to remove distracting elements from my images. But it would still feel like a lie. That's the journalist in me.

For those keeping track, this is how I eventually finished the image from an earlier post. I darkened the floor to the left, slightly darkened the floor right around her foot, and then said, "screw it, that's enough editing."

Ultimately, I have to remember that my work is about smiles. If I think the kids, parents or teacher will see this image and feel a fraction of the ecstatic joy of the moment, that makes ME smile.

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Filed under Camera Settings, Dance and Theater, Motivation, Post Processing, Professional vs. Amateur

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