One great part of recitals are the timelessness of costumes and many dance moves. I often think this is why so many parents return to sports fields or the arts. We can literally put ourselves right there in the center of the action if we simply suspend belief in our current age.
In this photo I simply waited for the girls to assemble for their final pose, and snapped away. With the classic hair and costume it was easy to go black and white to add to the timelessness of the image. I wanted to to make viewers wonder if this was last week, last year or ten years ago.
A great photo is really a timeless. That is what I want to keep learning to do.
Julia dancing my favorite set of the night…
Capturing a dance recital for an semi-pro want to be like me is a lot of fun. You get opportunities to capture artistic poses, action and if your lucky the drama of a performance all in one sitting. This means the challenges range from simple to complex in the technical and composition aspects of shooting. I categorize the main challenges as lighting, subject placement and choreography.
If you are lucky you get a professionally lit performance. The lighting in a professional show always follows the action and movement (or creates a special effect on purpose). If you do not get a well lit show, you will find the active dancers in the dark. This slows the autofocus times, and puts your subjects literally in bad light. Bad light just ruins a good composition.
Subject placement can also bedevil you. If your favorite dancer is in the back, or obscured because they are the tall one, you will have a hard time getting the clear image. Subject placement will also effect the quality of your autofocus system. Objects appearing between you and your desired subject almost always cause the AF system to switch tracking to a near subject at the worst possible time.
Finally, the choreography will present the final challenge. Disciplined performances and staff will make sure the spacing and marks are exactly placed on the stage and in the performers heads. Leaps, spins, and other actions in the higher level groups and dance company will be precise. For shows where you can one chance to get a photograph, you also want an identifiable rhythm between the music and actions on the stage. This rhythm provides the photographer a predictable composition guide during the performance.
With some practice, and luck, you will get shots you want to keep and post. Up above here I have my girl in motion. Face sharp as a tack, some motion in limbs and those around her let you know this was not a still life. Such photos are possible with just about anything on the DSLR or Mirrorless market today. Just takes some time to practice, and patience in post processing to make the most of what you get in camera.
P.S. This shot came from my Fujifilm XT-1 with the 18-15 F2.8-4 lens. If I had another few hundred I’d use a 16-55 F2.8…but it is out of my budget right now. And it was an odd location for the primes I had in my bag that night.
The little girl no more…
Something happened on the way to her fourteenth birthday…see found grace, beauty, poise and calm. You see here a little lady making her Daddy proud for her dedication to rehearsal, and making the most of every opportunity she gets to dance. It is with gladness I see a strong Catholic woman growing before me, and sadness when I realize how fast my time with her is drawing to a close. I also find touch of humor when I find a grey hair or two popping out after a night like tonight. I just hope it means I will get a crown of glory like proverbs promises!
P.S. Yes this was done on my Fujifilm X-T1. Mirrorless has come a long way with autofocus and sensor tech. It is still one of the few nights a year when I long for a 35mm sensor DSLR on a tripod with a good F2.8 lens….But after looking at this I really cannot complain…I got a few great shots and that is all I need.
Putting dance into a still photo almost sounds sinful. Dance is the art of moving one’s body, and that of others to create visually pleasing sights though motion. So it definitely sounds nuts to capture the soul of dance in a single frame.
This capture is one of the better ones from the night. Beautiful motion frozen with just a tinge of motion in the dresses, hands and feet. Then I caught some excellent emotion in the dancers faces conveying joy in the act of dancing. It was that emotion that really set this photo apart from a similar one take a few seconds later.
To achieve this I had to be careful with the shutter speed and experiment…the variable of course is also that the speed of dancer motion which of course varies greatly in any one routine. Since this shoot occurred only with available light, and no flash, the experimentation was critical to know my gear’s capability and the type of scene I could reasonably expect to capture with some quality.
So experiment…be thoughtful and look for the emotion in the motion to sculpt a wonderful photo.