Documents and Photographs

Seventy percent of the people in the picture are nicely lit. I don't mind the uneven light, which makes this a more compelling composition, but that's no solace for the people whose faces are in shadow.

Here is my inner conflict when shooting a live performance: I’m there to document an event, but I want to make great photographs. I believe that one day, with enough experience, I’ll be able to do both. But at present, I always want to yell to the dancers, “Wait! Go back to the spot of light and jump again.”  Or I want the lighting designer to think of my needs rather than those of the audience. The biggest challenge at Matilija Auditorium, where I photograph the Nordhoff High School dance concerts, is that the lights are concentrated on the middle of the stage, but the dancers are not. Sometimes that produces more dramatic pictures; other times it limits my ability to produce a pleasing image.

On this particular stage, performers in the foreground are more dimly lit than those behind them. Since our eyes are attracted to the brightest area of a photograph, hotspots in the background divert attention from my intended subject. There's only so much dodging and burning you can do.

Sometimes, I identify the best lit portion of a stage and wait until the action moves there...

...but the action doesn't always occur in the brightest or best lit part of the stage.

Turning documents into photographs might require greater liberties in post-processing. Tilting this image turns distracting background creases into part of the composition. It also adds a sense of movement, which would really help a lot of my dance photos. Stay tuned for future experiments.

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Filed under Composition, Dance and Theater, Lighting, Post Processing

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