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

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

Jumping clear and sharp at 1/160th of a second

Photographers always want something more, something different. I am no exception. My desires lie with obtaining a system that will afford me high-speed sync capabilities – to shoot with a shutter speed surpassing my current flash sync speed of 1/200. Simply put, if this number is breached, you will get a lovely black strip on the bottom of your frame. While that wish is nowhere near budget allowance, I am now wondering just how much I need them. I know there would be massive benefits for outdoor stuff, but inside? I am thinking probably not. Now me thinks I have known this for a while, but have refused to accept it. All comes down to confidence really.

I recently completed some promos for one of our local dance schools and after we were done with the formals we naturally had to get in some of that stuff that dancers do.  I will frequently shoot dancers in my little home studio, but with seven-foot ceilings we are very limited. This shoot was at the dance school so all cylinders were firing.  Five dancers of varying ages and skill levels and a couple of my trusty Alien Bee 800’s.

Geeky stuff: Cross light, One light had an 8″ reflector with a 30 degree grid, and the other had a white beauty dish with reflector plate.  f5.6, 1/160th, iso 100.  Cyber Sync triggers.

First Light with the grid,  Camera Right:

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And Both Lights:

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There is a slight ghosting of her left foot and shin, she is turning incredibly quick, but the rest of her is great. Maybe HSS could have prevented this, I think it is more because of the light hitting her than anything so it would not matter. I love the fact that her fingers are curled in and she is spotting her landing point.

It still cracks me that they look at themselves in the mirrors. Self critique at its finest. Digging the shadow on the wall.

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Tell ya what, I used to be flexible, but never could I do this. She is not even in maximum gumby mode, I think I was a hair off in my timing.

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So the moral of the story is, and I am sure we have all heard it before, use what is available to you instead of investing in more stuff. You may be surprised. What you have will probably work just fine.

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Yes, I still have desires for a B1. Thanks for stopping by!!

Phil

 

 

The Beauty of the Face and its Subtleties

My favorite thing about portrait photography is capturing the subtleties of the face. How micro expressions develop out of the smallest of movements and adjustments.

A little twitch, a minor change in posture, the smallest rise of the eyebrow can bring an image from ok to wow in a fraction of a heartbeat. This is beautiful. What landscape photographers possibly wait an hour or more for, those who capture people can attain in seconds. Now, of course in both instances the subjects have to cooperate and both could strike out and gain not a thing but one has control over their subjects and the other is at the mercy of mother nature.

My last session of 2015 was with a dancer that had a look I noticed down at the school while shooting rehearsals last spring. A look that screamed to be captured. This has happened more than once for various reasons, but this instance spoke volumes, moved me quite a bit. And it was all about the look of the face.

Christmas Holidays gave her mom and I the time needed to schedule the session. Fanfreakintastic is was. Still going through all the images but I came across this series of eight successive images that reveals what drives me in creating portraits. Each frame is different, each look unique. Some work, some do not.

The first two images are the concluding run of some keepers, then I lost her for a minute before getting her back. Processing was just some minor tweaks in Lightroom, none of these have been retouched yet. Kylie_PShepherd-23-2Kylie_PShepherd-24-2

I started losing her here a bit as we transitioned into a different feel. This is where the subtle movement comes in. I always capture the transitions, you never know what will come out of them. The fortunate thing about the digital age. Kylie_PShepherd-25-2Kylie_PShepherd-26-2Kylie_PShepherd-27-2

Those times when you wish you remembered what you said to get this reaction. Probably threw out a Hurleyism. Kylie_PShepherd-28-2Kylie_PShepherd-29-2

Transition complete, we have a winner. A completely different look seven images later and some fun in the process. How beautiful is that!  Kylie_PShepherd-30-2

Looking forward to many great things in 2016. I wish all of you a great transition in to the new year as well.

Thanks for Stopping by, drummers will be coming soon! Till next time…

Phil

The Sun Dancers

An early morning began with the intent to get in some sunset images on a full frame body I was trying out. But I am a people person, and as we progressed throughout the afternoon, I asked my wife and daughter to join in. When they said sure, I thought getting my daughters dance team sister in the mix would be a great idea too! Little did I know that we all would be so taken with the images we created. But after all, that is always the end goal, right?

One image in particular struck a nerve for all of us, and when I shared it with her mom, one of her close friends, who just happens to be a writer, commented on it. Having previously collaborated with her on an image I asked her if she would be willing to have a go at this one.

The words were inspired by this image:

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SUN DANCER

A blazing orange sunset

visits the shore.

Sun-drenched love from sea depths

kisses the chin of grace.

Pointed toes and sculpted limbs

adorn the beach

with the beauty of balance.

 

The audience to this sand ballet

is the surface of the sea itself –

reflecting back to the shore

a dance of freedom.

 

Color melts from the sky

in hues of caramel and mango.

The body moves to the rhythm

of storied waves and unfinished tales.

There is so much still to be written

with each fluid movement

of arched back

and essence reaching to the sky

in prayer.

  Cristina M.R. Norcross ©2015

Cristina is the Managing editor at Blue Heron Review as well as an established author. You can take in many of her poems and other writings on her writers blog.

This is our second collaboration together and if our children and mother nature are willing, we will create some more art in the future. If you would like to read the first one it can be viewed here.

Thanks for stopping by!

Phil 

 

A New Year, A New You

Here we are already three weeks in to the new year, so why does it feel like yesterday and why do the days go by so fast. Yeah I know, why ask why. Just take it and run with it and try and keep up.  One thing I always keep up with is watching “my” dancers grow. I refer to them as my dancers mainly because they are in front of my lens for the better part of five months out of the year. I am like a proud father watching the maturation process take place throughout their years on the dance team.

Kelsey is one of the girls who has grown into not only a gorgeous and artistic dancer but has blossomed into a beautiful woman as well. She came in over the holiday season to update her head shots and capture a few portraits.

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I was excited that she understood the need for a good head shot as they can be applied to so many outlets now. Social media is ripe with selfies and if you are creating a presence or portraying your personal brand the ole selfie is not the way to go. I think the one outlet that I am amazed at is LinkedIn. Holy mackerel, why do people do that to themselves? Do your self justice and have a photo that represents you. Granted my profile photo is not that great either but I just can not get my wife to press that button for me…Selfie with tools…

Back to Kelsey. I finally secured a couple of the modifiers I have been pining for and what a difference. I shoot in a somewhat confined space and I feel a medium softbox is a bit large for my purposes when it comes to head shots. A couple of strip lights do the job quite nicely.

After we had secured our head shots she sat for a few different portrait looks. One with a bit of a fine art feel to it.

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And one that truly shows her spunk

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And I think this one may be my favorite of the bunch

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To Kelsey and the rest of my dancers best of luck in the coming months and to those of you who need to update your presence, get in touch with me and lets make the world a more attractive place.

Thanks for stopping by!

Phil

Competition Time!

It is that time of year for us once again. After six months of rehearsals, sans quite a few snow days, the competition team from Alice’s Dancin’ Corner is on it’s way to it’s first performance of the season. The team just had it’s dress rehearsal and other than some normal minor quirks, they are ready to go!

Alice's Dancin' Corner

The team decided to expand a bit this year with the inclusion of what I refer to as the mini’s category. Holy Cuteness! In previous years the team has been broken down into juniors and seniors. With the inclusion of the minis we can add a third classification to that and bring the teams size to 41 dancers! In relation to the dances, historically in order to emphasize a team concept there has been a very limited number of solos and duets. But with so many graduating seniors as well as an increase in the talent level of this years team we will be entering dancers into those categories as well this year. For me, as a photographer, this is incredibly exciting…..no extra arms or legs in the frame!

Alice's Dancin' Corner Alice's Dancin' Corner Alice's Dancin' Corner

That last statement may be a bit selfish sounding and rightly so. Having the ability to capture images at these competitions is challenging enough without prime real estate available, heads of judges in the way and the need to use a long lens. A long lens does much better with one or two dancers than it does with 15. Just the nature of the beast. But I love every second of it. This is probably the main reason I go short, for the most part during dress rehearsals, I do not get that opportunity during the actual competitions.

Alice's Dancin' Corner

Each year there seems to be a few dances that really stand out for me, this year that number is much more.

Alice's Dancin' Corner

Best of luck to the team this week, Dance like no one is watching!

Alice's Dancin' Corner

If you are a resident of Ocean or Monmouth County and would like to see the excitement this team generates keep May 3rd and 4th open! Details to follow.

Thanks for stopping by!