Last week, I shot about 2200 frames at three dance performances. Believe it or not, that means I’m getting more economical with my burst modes. In past years, I averaged about 1200 frames per performance. It will take a while for me to mentally process the lessons from this project. The first, as I explained in the previous post, is the importance of regular practice when photographing dance or any other fast action. By the third show, my reflexes were more attuned for capturing key moments, but with regular practice I develop a better ability to anticipate those moments.
It also took me a while to admit that I would have to make some serious camera setting compromises. As much as I would like to shoot in RAW mode, the camera’s memory buffer is just too slow for fast action bursts. I went with large jpegs, the camera’s “neutral” picture control, and tungsten white balance. Although I have gotten some good action shots at 1/320 of a second in the past, it wasn’t working this time. I scooched it up to 1/400 and shot wide open at f2.8. None of my faster lenses were long enough to be of any use from the back of the theater.
I believe I achieved my goal of documenting the event for the teacher, but I’m still falling short of my goal to make stunning images of the artist-atheletes on stage. One obstacle is the scrim behind the dancers, which looks beautiful to the audience but is quite distracting in photographs that reveal it’s detailed fold creases. Another obstacle is the fact that these are school performances and the stage is often crowded with many, many dancers. You know how much I dislike group photos, because the law of permutations dictates that I will capture someone in an unflattering position or expression. I know that “unflattering” is in the eye of the beholder, but I try to err on the side of caution. I like these kids and their teachers, and I don’t want to embarrass anyone. Besides, with the crowded dance shots, that’s not even the biggest problem. But I think I’ll save that complaint for the next post.
Technical note: Nikon D300 camera body, Nikon 70-200 f2.8 VR lens.