I may be a little burned out on photographing theater, but I will never miss an opportunity to photograph dance. The local high school is staging a fundraiser called Dancing WithThe Ojai Stars, and I was asked to photograph high school dance students as they choreograph their partners from the community. The first week of lessons has been a lot of fun for me, and I am SO glad to have two camera bodies, as I am shooting the sessions with a wide-angle zoom (usually the 17-55mm f/2.8) and a fast telephoto (85mm f/1.4). My goal is to capture the community volunteers watching and learning from the dance students.
I like using the fast 85 because the rehearsal space is very cluttered, and shallow depth of field makes the background less distracting. Of course, the second person in this image is also out of focus, but we can still see the interaction and the point of focus is in fact where HE is looking.
The 85 is great for these tight shots, but I found that the dancers were rarely this close together.
The 17-55 provides images with more context, and greater depth of field. By the way, I'm honored that posters of some of my images adorn the walls of the dance studio.
Fortunately for History teacher John Hoj, he will not be expected to learn this particular step.
I'm still very uncomfortable working with wide-angle lenses, but I cannot deny their excellence as storytelling tools. Here, Ojai Valley News editor Misty Volaski rehearses with dance student Hannah Keller.
This is photojournalist Logan Hall, who dropped in to cover one of today's sessions for the local paper. Here he is using a telephoto, but I watched how he used his wide angle lenses to move in VERY CLOSE to the dancers, so I gave it a try later in the day...
I shot this with my Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 zoom, and let me tell you, my odds of getting kicked in the face rose as my focal length shrank!
Still, getting close with a super wide angle lens provides an altogether different perspective, and I'll definitely experiment with this during the sessions to come.
Of course, I'll also come out of these sessions with a lot of outtakes to play with. As I mentioned on Facebook, photographing dance students is like being invited to witness Athena springing from Zeus's brow. Teenagers NEED to dance.