Head in the Game, Body Out of Sync

I have multiple goals when shooting a dance concert. On the one hand, I want to produce beautiful images of great athletes/artists. On the other hand, I want to document the event itself, especially the workshop participants, since their parents represent the most likely buyers of images.

I hadn’t photographed a dance event since last May, so preparatory to Thursday night’s dress rehearsal, I studied past images to better remember the camera settings and post-processing techniques I used previously.

I used a lot of software tricks to blur the background, but it still distracts. Worse, the background is so detailed, it also distracts my focusing sensors as I attempt to track the fast moving dancers. Lens-to-subject distance means that even at f2.8, the background looks more in focus than I would prefer.

But later, at the event, I learned the real value of practice as I tried to track dancers with a Nikon D300, Nikon MB-d10 Grip, and Nikon 70-200 mm f2.8 lens. My settings were fine, but my physical relationship to the task at hand was not. This setup is HEAVY and, when one lacks practice, cumbersome. My reactions were slow, and I had a terrible time keeping focus sensors on my subjects.

I want to capture pose and movement. This is much easier when there are one or two dancers on stage.

So, the dancer’s dress rehearsal was also my dress rehearsal, and I’m glad I showed up. I’ll be back on Saturday and Sunday with my head in the game, and a better appreciation for the physical art of capturing moving subjects.

The law of permutations weighs heavily on my attempts to document the more populous dances.

I plan to experiment a bit on Saturday night, choosing a fast, fixed focal length lens over my stalwart 70-200, and putting a stake in the ground, exposure-wise. I’ve been using matrix metering for these events*, but I’m going to try metering for the brightest lights in the middle of the stage and letting the shadows fall where they may. Stay tuned.

*Usually, I set the camera to manual exposure, choosing a 1/320th shutter speed and f3.2 or f2.8 aperture, allowing the camera’s auto ISO and matrix metering to react to the changing light. Otherwise, it’s just too difficult to expose for fast-moving subjects in fast-changing lighting. But now I’m thinking that those lighting changes are part of the performance too, and I might want to actually lock exposure for the best lit part of the stage and let darker areas look like darker areas.

1 Comment

Filed under Camera Settings, Dance and Theater, Lighting, Post Processing

One response to “Head in the Game, Body Out of Sync

  1. Tina Horton

    I know you post your images with photographers in mind AND the perfect picture. These show your talent for capturing the soul of the dancer and the dance – just my take. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s