Dance Season is Upon Us

Seems appropriate that I get off my duff and continue where I left off at the end of last summer when I was trying out some new lighting gear. A blurry few months have shot by and it is a new year now, with dance season bearing down upon us. For the next five months many of my weekends will be spent glued to the viewfinder with hundreds of competition dancers leaping across the plane of my lens. I can only hope the light is good during these events as we are subject to the confines of the stage we are visiting. Ain’t no flash here.

The second go round I had with the Flashpoint Xplor Pro 600 back in the fall was just as awesome as the first. Mary Cate was the subject for this particular evening, and even though we did not get much color in the sky, the fact finding mission was accomplished and we captured some great material in the process.

Mary Cate is a dancer of course, long and lean with some great lines. To refresh, I was checking out the high speed sync capabilities so my shutter speeds were upwards of 4000 with the tele lens at 2.8, and 2000 with the wide at 4.0. Since this time I have become a big fan of this series of light, and at half price or better from the big boys, very well worth it.

I think the biggest challenge when shooting during a setting sun is the large change that happens in natural light in a very quick time span. The constant evaluation of meter readings can be a pain but once you get a base, should not be that bad. Grabbed this on while the sun was still reasonable, but no clouds to play with so a little flare:

Then after a bit it came time for another base exposure

And then the real fun began:

The final series of the night and a look that seems to have become very popular in the dance world. Or maybe it has always been and I just have not seen it much. Either Way…

It was great having some one on one time with the dancers, always a pleasure getting them in this environment. Spring should be right around the corner, though we really have not had much of a winter yet, so as soon as it warms up I will get them back out there. In the meantime to the stage we go!

Thanks for stopping by, Talk to you soon!

Phil

My First Go Round with High Speed Sync

Being someone who likes action oriented photos as much as I like the static ones, I have always wanted to get into high-speed sync. The Canon 430 used on camera does a decent job, if you are close, but I have always wanted something with a bit more juice to it. Not having the budget to purchase a desired Profoto or Broncolor unit, I went all in on the Flashpoint Xplor 600 Pro, half the cost of the others.

There is quite a bit for me to still learn about it, but as soon as I got it I secured my test subjects and went into HSS mode. I will go over more of the features in a future offering, this one was all about fast shutter speeds.

The majority of my outside sessions involve a setting sun, I love the combo of a lit subject and a colorful, scenic background so these images are some of what went down on the first day of tests. This image is one of the last of the evening, and while you do not necessarily need to shoot HSS to achieve it, I did it anyway. f4.5 at 1/1250.

Allie used to be one of my dance girls so I have known her for a number of years, but never had the opportunity to get in a session with her. Allie does not dance competitively anymore, but she does cheer so she still has those pliable abilities and of course we got them out.

f4.5 1/1250

Solid result. Crisp, mid-air edges. I think I was still using a soft box here so we got some pretty good flash coverage area. Funny thing, these images are six weeks old and it is the first time I am noticing that yellow sign.

Since we seem to be going in reverse order here, this next image was shot at f4, 1/2500th of a second. It did not make the final selections – I am all about the face – but I am impressed with the stopping power. The light provided just enough detail in the image and 1/2500th caught Allie with hands just off the ground and the sand in the air.

I originally thought this next image could be obtained just using a reflector. After studying it, I do not think it would be possible. F3.2, 1/4000th of a second. Soft box just above head and pointing down.

One of the first images of the evening while we were getting dialed in with light and position. Another at 3.2 4000.

I was very happy with my first foray into high speed sync and the Flashpoint xplor600 pro. Be back soon with our next adventure with the new gear.

Thanks for stopping by!

Phil

 

No Tolerance for Ignorance

I need to get back and pay attention to this area of my life. Growing up I thought life was supposed to get easier as you got older, it seems to be steamrolling right along, without a chance to step back and relax. I have started to make time for doing nothing, just to try and clear the mind and body. Gym time stays in the loop three or four days a week, but certain things have definitely taken a back seat as of late. When you sit in front of a computer for most of the day, you kinda want to stay away from it at night. It just saps your energy.

I was sitting outside tonight, watching the sun set, it was pure and peaceful. I always want to find somewhere to capture it, but I have shot at most of the good locations around here and have no desire to drive more than needed. [discovered a couple new locations last week!] Plus I have run out of room on the walls and the last thing we need are more digital only images. I like to hold and remember the moment, not just look and move on.

Anyway, what prompted me to get going here is a comment that was thrown at a coworker I recently shot. Melissa has busted her ass for two years, transforming her life and her health during that time to become an award winning body builder. TWO YEARS. In her first competition she did not place, this was around one year after she began her journey. In her second one, another year later, she placed second in two different categories! Busted her ass, full time job, mom, wife, homeowner and she got it done!! If that is not bad ass I do not know what is.

So just a few days ago someone told her she looked like a man. Ummmmm, not. Why, because she is fit?  Just stop. Intimidated perhaps? Should be, I am and I am fairly confident with my appearance. (The over 50 belly and loose neck skin has made its way forward) What is wrong with people these days. I would challenge anyone to put in half the effort that Melissa has put in. So that comment kind of bothered me and was just the spark I needed to get going here.

During the actual competitions, it is all bikinis for these ladies, but for the sessions I like pure fitness. This may be adjusted if we shoot again, just to stick it to a few people. I have never appreciated shooting scantily clad bodies for the simple fact I feel it degrades the person. How is that for old fashioned thinking. Eyes, hair, face and shoulders are all I need.

We tried a couple of different looks during the session, played with some gels a little and even got the atmosphere aerosol out for a long burst. I am still feeling a bit confined in my space, the low ceilings especially weigh on me, but Grids are good and light is just light after all. I just added one to the inventory for my favorite outside shoots. Touch base on that one in the next offering.

Thanks for stopping by, get out and get it done!

Phil

The Ricketts Glen Romp

If you are following along – Meanwhile out at Dance Nationals, we had an off day to begin the week. The girls went and did their thing, and I had a chance to go out and do some exploring. Our base of operations was in Lake Harmony, Pennsylvania, right down the road from Split Rock Resort. The cabin we rented fit all five of our families comfortably and we even talked about what a nice area this would be for a vacation home. And we continue to dream.

Just over an hour north was Ricketts Glen State Park, a destination I had pegged out due to the twenty-two waterfalls located along a seven mile loop. You can’t go wrong with that one. I did enough research of the place to figure out I really only needed to traverse just over five miles to take in all the sights and sounds of nature I could not wait to get a hold of. This place is a photographic gold mine and you can get in a decent work out while wandering about.

Once you figure out your plan of attack grab a snapshot of one of these located in either of the parking areas to help you identify where you are and which fall is which. Unfortunately, I have no idea where my notes went to so I can not remember the names of each of  waterfall that is pictured. Following the advice of the article I took research from I parked in the Lake Rose parking area and proceed to head right at the fork down the Ganoga Glenn side.

My logic heading of in this direction was simple, it was stated to be less steep than other side and I would also get right to it instead of taking the hike cross trail. Right off the bat a challenge presented itself. I have always had a hard time trying to convey the depth of a waterfall when shooting from the top of it. I’ll get it figured out one day. All part of the learning process that goes on every time I press that little button.

I have three different angles on this one. I just could not seem to get one I was very happy with. Being so mesmerized by the landscape and the inability to get a composition I felt good about I did not even pay attention to the small breeze that was blowing. Like, at all. The results from that are blurry branches. Time to bring the iPad for a bigger view perhaps. I am a big proponent of an EyeFi card, this allows me to send tiny images to my phone for the social thing but I am sure it can just as easily be set up with the iPad as well.

This photo looks like it should be Ganoga Falls. A massive beast. If you can zoom in there are a couple of people at the top of the falls to give you some perspective.

On the left of the photo below you can get an idea of what the easy portion of trails are like. Check out those steps though at the top. In many of those cases there was often an alternative route, but it was rarely ever easier. It just looked like it was.

For all the water that was being carried over the falls, I kept wondering where it all went. Just kind of dispersed once it got to the bottom.

My exposures averaged 10 – 20 seconds around f 16. I had 30 seconds on a few of them, this was too long and resulted in the branch blur. I had a polarizer and a two stop ND on the lens. I alternated between the 16-35 and the 24-70 for pretty much the whole hike I believe. I had the grads with me but it does not look like I used them. 

It had been a while since I was out in this element shooting, and you can certainly rehash your knowledge and skills very quickly with the amount of scenery on the hike. We went to one other place during the week and I will go over what I found when I used varying shutter speeds. Thus, when is long to long. It will all come down to personal preference I am sure, but it is going to be interesting for certain. 

If I am remembering correctly, this spot was one of the three on the lower trail and one of my favorite. A narrow stream of water busting out over the top and widening once it started getting to the bottom.

There were not many people in the water which I was thankful for, but there were a few locations where a dip looked doable.

My favorite image of the day, and the one that has made its way to my wall, blurry branches and all. I am glad I go here, learned a great deal.

Thanks for stopping by!!

Phil

 

The recital that almost didn’t happen

Got to keep the train rolling here and see how long it takes me to catch up to present day from a summer of craziness. At the other end of the wedding that kicked it off, the next week we had our last dance recital. Looking back it seems like forever ago, for all the trouble the girls went through, their last time dancing together was a beautiful and heart warming event. To briefly recap the weeks leading up to it, the dance studio abruptly closed and with it any hope of having a recital or seeing the competition team perform at Nationals. However, the parents and teachers called foul and brought a community together. Donations poured in allowing the recital to go off as planned and garnering enough support to send the competition team off to Nationals as well.  An enormous thanks again to all who came through, and much love to Amy Cowley of Jersey Shore Performing Arts Center for leading the way.

The night was full of stars, but this one stole the show

I do not know if she was the youngest dancer of the night, but she was close. The teams youngest dancer had my eye all season. She has so much talent, more than she knows I do believe, and she was rocking it all year-long.

The next young lady has been in front of my lens on numerous occasions, never takes a bad photo and always gives me great material.

As a group it was difficult for me to see the season end the way it did. They all deserved so much more, they all have gone their separate ways now that the studio is closed, but all remain friends and in contact with each other. Mine is off at her first year of college doing a minor in dance, one is concentrating on her beautiful singing voice and the rest are still getting it done with their current dance schools.

And that trip to Nationals, well it resulted in a first overall in their category! The song to which they danced to, most apropos for today, is called No Hate. Check out the theme of month for a shot we set up during some down time. When you have the girls in a setting like we were in you just have to have a little fun.

Love baby. All we need is Love.

Thanks for stopping by!

Phil