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.
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.
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.
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.