Dress Rehearsals

The dance school had their dress rehearsal today for our upcoming regional competition in Brooklyn. This was also a dress rehearsal for me, as it has been a while since I have taken crappy light action photos. The project I did in December for the school was low light, and for the most part my 7D handled it quite nicely and produced some very nice photographs. I also benefited from being very close to the dancers. Today, not so much.

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My goal today was to get some wide-angle shots of the dances and I did succeed in doing that. Today though my throw away counts were much higher than normal. Since I am a canon guy….5D mark III anyone? l can dream right? I was tempted to ask the light guy for some more juice, but we were guests and I wanted the challenge.

The overhead pots were  the only ones on here, the strip in the back is not on.

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The past couple of years we have had dress rehearsal at one of the local elks lodge’s and because I am who I am and the space was isolated I very well could not be present when the dressing rooms were in the same room as the dances!   This year rehearsal was held at a local high school which meant all was safe for me. Sweeeet!

So back to this light stuff and my desires for wide-angle today. The competitions also have some low light but it is your typical indoor event stage lighting. I can get away with an iso of 2000 and produce a decent exposure. I was at 2000 today and my meter barely registered. The actual competitions are not wide-angle friendly. Lots and lots of heads in the way. Heads of the audience, heads of the judges and a riser in the middle holding the music and photo crews. So it is more of a long lens day and normally from a slight angle. Today was for the groups, not something I often get to do.

The opening of this dance…..picture Peanut on steroids. I had one of those mouth wide open in disbelief moments.

My apologies to the dancer I cut out, just was not wide enough for this next one.

From the same dance, and to show a good example of the challenges of stage lighting:

Different LightThere looks to be about five different textures of light in this one. Good times! Very difficult to edit, impossible for me to do. I am not that skilled.

One of my favorite shots of the day, and a dance I am looking forward to shooting live:

Looking up

My favorite discipline is still ballet and these young girls are beautiful. The light even adds an interesting pattern


Five days to go!  Wish us luck!

Before I sign off, I just had a fleeting thought of what some people may be wondering. Am I a dance dad. Technically speaking, yes. I have a daughter who is very involved in dance and my wife and I support her artistic desires 100%. But we leave it right there, we know she is in good hands. I do not think anyone in our studio is remotely close to resembling that show that I have seen for about 15 minutes just to fulfill my curiosity. I will even say this, dance moms is like the show Jersey Shore. Neither one of them is a true representation of what either is really like. Reality TV my @%%. Bring back The Sing Off, that was enjoyable.

All for now, Till next time….

Tiny Dancers

Tiny Dancers may actually be a bit of a misnomer since the age range of these dancers go from 9 – 17, but I like the way it sounds. And when you are on the upside of the middle age bracket, well we will leave it at that. I had the pleasure of spending three weeks with the competition team at my daughters dance school during their rehearsals. These young ladies and a young man spend upwards of ten hours a week honing their passion for dance in addition to all their school work and other school related activities. Most of them are honor students at their respective schools, some even made the National Honor Society’s achievement list. God bless them for being dedicated to such an expressive art form.

Tap is one form of dance I have never completely understood. I come from a musical background, I have a fairly eccentric and eclectic taste in music, hell, I can even shuffle, but I have never understood tap…..(Ok, you can stop laughing now, really I can, may not look very pretty but I can)…..Yet it is one of the most popular forms of dance there is. I do know one thing about it though, it is incredibly hard to do. Before my daughter started dancing I saw tap in a much different light. Other than Grover, Hines, the late Sammy Davis Jr. and White Nights anyone? I had not a clue. I get it now and continue to be amazed with how some of these girls can move their feet.

Jr Tap Trio

My Daughter has been part of the dance school for 7 years now and this is her third year on the competition team. This is the reason I have become so enamored with photography. I think I had a Powershot 30x when she first started dancing and once she made the team the upgrades began. From a Nikon D60 to my current horse the Canon 7D. Taking photographs in the dance studio was indeed a challenge and it certainly tested the iso capability of my camera, not something the 7D is known for. I hovered between 1600 and 2000 for all the sessions switching between a 20mm f2.8 and a 24-105 f4 all while trying to keep my shutter speed above 300. I had a 50 1.4 with me but aside from a handful of shots I rarely used it. Teenagers either love pictures or they hate them and I was very worried that some of them would feel awkward with a camera pointed at them at such close range. Maybe it would prepare the new girls for the stage, I thought, for they are stepping into the world of unknowns. The director of the dance school was very helpful in making me feel at ease. As much as I was doing this for me and my experience, I was also doing it for her and this helped put things into a different perspective.

Onto some pictures.

All the dancers on the team are required to take ballet, these are the “Senior” girls working on some technique.

Sr. Ballet

And one of the juniors:

Jr BalletLast year was the first time our school had a competition ballet, I was incredibly proud that my daughter was one of the five girls selected for it. I feel ballet is the purest form of dance, emotional, beautiful, graceful and strength like an ox. The calves on these girls are better than some of the cyclists I know. One of my goals is to photograph a dance troupe professionally but right now I feel lucky to have a daughter heavily involved in dance and a studio director that is kind enough to let me to hone my skills.

My daughter during a momentary pause in the action:

A short respite

Competition ballet group getting some instruction

Comp Ballet

A senior working on a tap routine:

Sr. TapOn stage these girls look and dance like mature adults, I am still in awe of them after every performance, I marvel at the excitement they exude, I have experienced tears of joy, I have shaken my head in amazement, I have felt sorrow when they do not win. Our first competition of the year is in two weeks – NYC here we come!  Good luck!

Flying...Thanks for stopping by, till next time…

A visit to Seaside Heights

Finally open to non-residents, we decided to take a short jaunt over to Seaside Heights today to witness the sights first hand. I had said I will not document the destruction, and I am not, but some images you have to have in your personal records. Direct access to the beach was still off limits with the State Troopers taking care of crowd control. Still people came, they lined up to see what they could see, cameras in hand, with that WTF look on their faces…

Lined up for the view

The most iconic image of the event still remains, its fate uncertain for all except the Gulls:


To refresh what it once was – @ 36hours prior to it going in:

Sandy SundayWe only stayed about an hour and I only took about 50 shots, many of those bracketed sets for some HDR renditions. I am really liking the HDR stuff right now, though these were probably the last planned ones I will be doing for a while. Since I have no idea how to use Photoshop I feel this is my way of being artistic.

Before I became compliant and crossed back to the other side of the yellow tape…The chairs and a portion of the boardwalk that made it through with building attached!

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A different perspective:

Long view

So we departed that section of reality and took a little walk. Take a good look at this next image:

SSJan6 pSp-31I broke out laughing at the perfection of the shot. It struck a nerve though when I came upon this – Coke, Mt Dew or Diet?

Soda anyone?And the monkey in a barrel…Monkey in a barreltrying to find an angle…


while realizing the force…

rebarThe building in the background is used by Triboro EMS for their fundraiser raffles. Since a personal connection exists ’tis a grand opportunity for an HDR shot:

TriboroHDRNot much to say during this posting, I hope you enjoyed the pictures. I tried to find the interesting, the unique and a little humor all in an hour.

Thanks for stopping by!  Till next time…

Adventures in the Smokies

Hiking along the trails with wife and daughter by my side on our annual visit to the Smokey Mountains was difficult to get going. Rain graced us every day sans two, my father in the hospital recovering from hip surgery, and my wife required to work on Christmas day resulting in a fly down for her on the 26th. My daughter and I along with our 145 pound Landseer arrived at my parents on the 22nd, the first time I ever made that drive by myself. I did much better than expected, only one five hour energy consumed, but like clockwork by the last hour my legs began cramping up. One day of rest before my daughter and I went exploring, in the rain no less. I mentioned in my last post our intended destination was closed so we just took a drive around Little River Road and went stream shopping, for pictures of course. This is a single image processed through HDR software. Just a little experiment I was trying.

HDR Stream

Since I started seriously learning about photography last sping I have never attempted any serious nature pictures. I was very excited for this trip and finally on Thursday the rain subsided and we were able to go hiking to Abrams Falls which is located within Cades Cove. Seems everyone had the same idea because it took us almost 45 minutes to get around the loop to the pull off for the trail head. I did not mind so much because there were many other sights to see during our crawl.

Cades Cove pSpAnd around every bend and in every field the deer roamed free. There was many a time we saw people in the fields within 15 feet of one, accustomed to the tourists they are. Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. I see deer all the time on the way to work, but this guy had the most amazing face I have ever seen. I was just not quick enough pulling over and getting out of the car. He knew I wanted a shot of him, so naturally he decided to walk away.

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We made it to the trail head to begin our five mile round trip hike. There were only a few very rocky sections on the trail, the normal ups and downs associated with mountains and even a few stream crossings, made possible by a carved log, at an angle, with a very shaky railing. Good stuff.

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Abrams Falls is not a large waterfall at only 20 feet high but the volume of water coming through is tremendous. This is our first view as we came around the corner. I did not  notice the couple when I took this but dare I speculate that he just proposed and by her reaction she said yes!

Abrams propose pSpThere were quite a few people congregated about and as we got in closer, one large group noticed me with bag and tripod and gave me their camera’s for a group shot. Of course I obliged… as I thought….K, move along time for me to get my shot….

I was feeling the spray on this one, but it gives you the idea of how much water comes over these falls. Truly breathtaking. This was 24mm, 1/4 of a second at f13.

Close up

The next day was earmarked for a hike to Laurel Falls. This was a much different hike, the trail was paved and half the distance! Not a bad thing because it kept going up, and up and pavement, although not very smooth, was a welcome respite for our achy calves. All the people we saw the day before seem to once again have the same idea, leading to  two full parking lots and cars along the side of the road up to a half a mile in either direction of the trail head. No worries, a little patience combined with a little strategizing and we secured a spot right next to the lot. We are suburbanites after all, no need to be walking so we can go hiking….

This trail offered a few open views of the surrounding landscape:Laurel Trail View pSpLaurel Falls has an upper and a lower section, separating the two is a little bridge and a cliff. I think the upper section is visually more pleasing. Regrettably due to the amount of people present I did not get the exact shot I wanted but this one is the closest:

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And the little but very hazardous cliff:

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While the upper portion is nice looking, the lower portion is much more fun! Particularly navigating down to it.

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I refrained from playing too much on the rocks, lord knows I wanted to, but since my wife and daughter were looking bored topside and probably wondering how crazy I really am, logic prevailed. Besides I think they were growing tired of people watching and needed to get away from the crowds. Meeee too.

NB Wait pSp All in all it was a great time, The things I learned during my first experience dedicated to nature photography:

You should always check to see if your ND filter and Polarizer are in the bag before you leave, and when you do have it, you should take the time and use it; IS really does work to at least three stops; two second timers are great but I think the remote release is better….especially when people are milling about; that I should go to some spots in the state where I live, when it is sunny, um, less cloudy. We have so many beautiful areas here I need to take advantage of them. Oceans are one thing, but woods and mountains provide a totally different experience  I also have decided that it is time for some workshops so I can work out some of the finer points of this adventure.

Thank you for stopping by! Till next time…