Dancers often appear to defy the laws of physics as they routinely move in ways that would make every night’s highlight reels if someone dubbed dance a “sport.”
Sadly, my camera sensor really is bound by the laws of physics, as I discovered while sorting through 3,500 frames shot during Dancing With the Ojai Stars 2013. The lighting and focusing challenges are familiar to anyone who shoots performances, but the extra wrinkle with dance is this: I need to leave dancers a lot of room in the frame, because I don’t know precisely when arms will splay or mighty leaps appear. So even with a 16 megapixel camera, I end up cropping to images much smaller. At screen size, these images look okay. When I was working on them on my big monitor, they looked like pixelated messes. Well, that’s physics for you.
The lesson for next year? I should make a full day of it and shoot the dress rehearsal. That will help me scout moments and frame the action tighter during the performance. Plus, I’ll get twice as many opportunities with each dancer. And to answer the question from a couple of posts ago, about why my few rehearsal shots were better than my performance shots, I think there are two reasons: 1) The house lights remained on during rehearsal and acted like a fill light, reducing the contrast ratios for more pleasant tones, and 2) I was on my feet, moving around, so I was a little closer to the stage, which improved perspective, and I was not tilting my camera up, which improved both perspective and the potential flare and ghosting from errant light sources.