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

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

A Community of Love

This one is a little tough for me to talk about. After attending our dance school for 13 years it has closed shop. Three weeks before recital, 5 weeks before nationals. Poof, done. No warning at all. Heartbreak, disappointment, betrayal and lord knows what other thoughts filled the minds of 75 students and their families. The five girls on the competition team have felt it the most, sticking by the studios owner last year while others departed for alternate places to dance. These are the girls that spend hours and hours a week at the studio, performing at competitions, proudly displaying their colors. Their life has been pulled out from underneath them.

When word got out about what had gone down, and it did not take long, the outpouring of love and support was incredible and 60 hours later we were able to get rehearsal space and the recital space we needed to see all of these dancers fulfill their ambitions and to show their families what they had learned during the year. Thank you to everyone who helped in getting this done. One of our teachers and our competition team advisory board are using all of their experience in arranging the show. Me, I am putting in my efforts and will be taking the group photos for all the dances at dress rehearsal. Of course this means I will not be doing my normal routine of shooting the dancers on stage, but I will be on it hard during the actual show.

Our next step is to obtain funding for the competition team to go to dance nationals. The money that had been put out by the teams parents is now gone. We do not know where it went or why it did not reach its destination, but what is done is done. We are hoping it went into keeping the studio open for as long as it could.  Hope and faith are a balancing act right now.

A Go Fund Me page for the girls has been established and lord willing, the goal will be reached and we will get them there. If you can help out just click the link. You will be a part of making five girls very, very happy.

I will check back in after recital. Lots and lots to do!

Thanks for stopping by!

Phil

Shout out to Dance Olympus/Dance America for keeping it real.

We have been traveling to dance competitions for the past ten years now, and I continually hear the same thing when it comes to capturing photographs of my girls – “no photos allowed to protect the dancers and the choreography of the dances”. While I have yet to understand how you can figure out choreography from stills, I do agree with trying to protect the dancers. Some joe schmo off the street walks in and starts popping away at the kids, not cool.  While I have mentioned this a few times, restraint and respect has curtailed me from unleashing a spree about the competitions only using this as an excuse to get more money from their attendees by selling them pictures. Which has led me to take a stance of refusing to purchase photos from any of them. Me taking photos of my team will not affect their sales in the least.  As much as this has infuriated me, I have dealt with it and not captured the girls on stage. Openly anyway.

I would like to give a big shout out to the folks at Dance America/Dance Olympus for keeping it real and allowing photography during their events. Their rules are No Video – makes perfect sense as this is how choreography really gets stolen, and no flash.  Absolutely agree there. Despise the use of flash when performing. We used to attend their events every year, and then the past three years or so the studio has had scheduling conflicts coinciding with the DA/DO events. The folks put on a very professional show and the last day is all workshops, which are required of dancers that compete. This is how you make money the right way. I will pay for good education any day. This organization allows me to do my thing, help promote our studio and give the girls a few chuckles while they look at their faces on the back of the camera.

As my daughter and her teammates have grown as dancers, I have grown as a photographer. I owe so much to them, many were my guinea pigs while I learned how to shoot in the studio. Each year we create a book for the dance school from whatever has been recorded, and a few of my prints even grace the walls. As I am sure someone is wondering about this, yes, I have full consent from the parents and our director.

And that is what I do, document our year. It is never easy capturing these dances, a style of shooting I am a bit rusty with. I did “cheat” during the solos and changed bodies to my high-speed crop sensor. When your environment is uncontrolled it is a must. If I was head on and had no distracting objects in my path perhaps I would have made a different decision. Eh, Probably not. Use the tools you have, that is what they are for. I was talking iso with  one of my music photographer friends and he was surprised when I told him that for my music stuff I am always at 5000. I can, it works for me so I do. The dance stuff I never go above 2500, especially with the crop body. Normally hanging around 2000 for this stuff as long as I can keep a decent shutter speed.

Our next competition that policy is in place so I will be gritting my teeth the whole weekend while I deal with that inane rule. My plea would be for the organizations who have this policy to state what it really means instead of hiding behind the attendees. The only thing that is being protected is the company that is selling the photos of a public event in a public place.

Well, I ended up teetering just a little bit there. Do not want to get carried away, so I am going to leave it be.

A few more from the fun filled weekend. This first dancer is the youngest on the team, she put in an outstanding solo hiding behind that mask. I get the feeling she has no idea how good she really is.

I have always loved those looks when you can tell they are fully immersed and invested in the number. Combined with the right music, it often will bring me to fatherly tears of joy. Yup, I admitted it.  My wife says I am a sap….  So be it.

Managed to capture one or two of the daughter that will be going on our walls. “But my arm is not straight” she says, exactly why it works. It is funny when they critique themselves though photos. Don’t do it. At the pinnacle of your movement it may have been perfect, I just did not record that point. Look at the video the organization is going to send you to do a critique. Just enjoy what we have in stills, and don’t worry, the bad ones do get deleted.

Thanks for stopping by!

Phil

 

The Final Season Begins

The final year for this era of competitive dance is now firmly upon my family as we head towards our first big event of the year. The team is smaller this time around, the daughter is a senior now, and she will be jamming out on stage with her four teammates about six more times before all is said and done. She has already been accepted to the dance program at the college she will be heading to in September, now she just needs to try out for their dance team. Yeah, I am confused about that too. Academic vs Elective?

Spent my normal run up to our first event of the year in the studio with the girls during rehearsals, and sat in for the dress rehearsal as well. I am always envious of the flexibility they have and continually say I need to do something about my own. Goals….

Even though the team is smaller this year the excitement is no less, especially with Britt doing a solo number. If I may have a father moment, I am incredibly proud of my young love, she has grown in to such a kind, caring and beautiful young lady.  Her dancing is full of expression and filled with passion.

On the flip side of this equation is the youngest dancer on the team, appearing quiet and a bit reserved, she has a smile that lights up a room and puts in a great solo of her own.

We have a nice mix of dances this year, a gorgeous lyrical number, couple of hip hop routines, a jazz and a tap in addition to the two solos. The dances are very different from what the girls are used to. For the first time in, well forever, they have a couple of different instructors bringing in some new styles and influences. Loving the fresh approach and I think the girls dig it too.

I actually called Tap predictable the other day. Compared to the other styles, photographically it is. BUT, Tap is incredibly difficult and watching it is a thing I marvel at. Shooting it is easy is all I am saying, still bunches of fun isolating the feet.

 The girls were questioning the gold jackets, but they look really sharp and fit the dance to a tee. I also think they are going to look great on the stage.

The techy, geeky stuff: On camera flash for Laura stretching, bounced off the mirror, Britt has the direct  light with a Rogue Grid attached. No flash while they were doing their routines – 2.2, 1/500th, 2000. I was done shooting when I remembered I had my 85 with me.  So of course I had to break it out and see what I could get. From that, this happened. Hey, I am a portrait guy and no matter if I shoot dance or music, I am always looking at the face.  Jamie has been in front of the lens a bit.  She has such a great look.  I tried to distract her and get her laughing but she was totally engrossed in the theme of the number.

Best of luck girls!

Thanks For Stopping by!

Phil