Backlight and High Contrast: 2013 Nordhoff High School Dance Concert

I haven’t organized the lessons from shooting this event, so I’ll start by sharing some of my favorite shots and worry about the lessons later.

During rehearsal, I was able to shoot with the 85mm f/1.4 from the middle of the theater, for a very different perspective than I get with the 70-200 from the back of the theater.

During rehearsal, I was able to shoot with the 85mm f/1.4 from the middle of the theater, for a very different perspective than I get with the 70-200 from the back of the theater.

In some shots, backlighting was a challenge; in others it made the image work.

In some shots, backlighting was a challenge; in others it made the image work.

I'm getting a lot more comfortable letting the highlights go in these dramatically lit moments.

I’m getting a lot more comfortable letting the highlights go in these dramatically lit moments.

Opportunities to capture a single dancer on stage were rare, but allow the simplification and exclusion I prefer in my compositions.

Opportunities to capture a single dancer on stage were rare, but allowed the simplification and exclusion I prefer in my compositions.

I miss a lot of moments during dance concerts, but I catch some too.

I miss a lot of peak moments during dance concerts, but I catch some too.

The very dramatic lighting enhanced the live performance, but made photography quite difficult. Sometimes, though, it all worked together.

The very dramatic lighting enhanced the live performance, but made photography quite difficult. Sometimes, though, it all worked together.

Silhouettes were a big theme during the show, but it was hard to catch those fractions of a second when there was adequate separation between the shapes.

Silhouettes were a big theme during the show, but it was hard to catch those fractions of a second when there was adequate separation between the shapes.

Letting the highlights and shadows fall where they may.

Letting the highlights and shadows fall where they may.

I had three opportunities to catch this, and needed all three.

I had three opportunities to catch this moment, and needed all three.

Here's a case where I'm not sure why I like the image, but it gets me.

Here’s a case where I’m not sure why I like the image, but it gets me.

Most of these images were captured at ISO 6400, and it shows.

Most of these images were captured at ISO 6400, and it shows.

I'm always torn between showing the dancers in context of the full stage and moving in for tighter compositions. The tighter compositions often make better photographs, but technically, I'm there to record the event, and that requires wider shots.

I’m always torn between showing the dancers in context of the full stage and moving in for tighter compositions. The tighter compositions often make better photographs, but technically, I’m there to record the event, and that requires wider shots.

Again, choosing to let the highlights and shadows fall where they may. In the past, I've been trying to use post-processing to "de-dramaticize" the lighting, but this time I decided to exaggerate the contrast and go for a different mood.

Again, choosing to let the highlights and shadows fall where they may. In the past, I’ve tried to use post-processing to “de-dramaticize” the lighting, but this time I decided to exaggerate the contrast and go for a different mood.

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

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