Motivation is Rewarded

01After photographing dance in Cuba & then at Chautauqua Institute in 2017 I was hooked on this subject. Earlier this year I sent out emails to potential resources seeking to collaborate. This gave me the opportunity to explore other genres & environments of dance. The basic challenges of capturing dynamic images during rehearsals or stage performances were the same as the limited ballet photography I had done. That experience proved to be of value.

02Attack Theater performances are of the modern/contemporary genre. Although the dancers choreography is significantly different than classical ballet, the movement, athleticism & the forms are entertaining & inspiring. I did notice that more often than not, the number of dancers on the stage was an even number. I prefer odd numbers of primary subjects but I was able to adapt.

03During a tech rehearsal I was able to be very close with my 40mm lens allowing me to capture some of the facial emotions, which are an important aspect of this performance. The side lighting was typical for a stage performance but the production also included projected images on the background screen. The imagery of the projections added to the impact of the performance. However, for still images it was distracting when on the dancers body. This image is a good example of why I like odd numbers of subjects.

04“Game Night” was a chance for Attack Theater to engage with the audience in a relaxed atmosphere while developing an upcoming performance. The space is a rehearsal hall with no defined seating for the audience. This was a good opportunity for me to be close enough to use my 28mm. I targeted to pools of light waiting for the dancers to move into them. The background worked surprisingly well. Stage lighting, while not always good for photography, can create strong shadows.

05Using the shadow to make this a 3 shot works for me. The ISO is high making it grainy but that’s OK. At first the wooden apple box bothered me but the strong low/side lighting on it adds to the geometry in the frame. This is an image I would like to choreograph for photography. I also like the re-crop to a 2 X 1 format.

06Wide shots with empty space can be as dramatic as a close-up & can be an important part of the story. Each of the dancers hit the perfect mark for the lighting. Positioned near stage left & slightly elevated I was able to add some dimension while including well-lit props. Even when the dancers are not moving, I believe including the space they are in reinforces their form. Using the 2 X 1 crop again, I emphasized the weight of the lower 1/3 pulling your attention down to the floor.

07Call it modern or contemporary, the movements & choreography on stage are entertaining. Attack Theater incorporates music & theater into a dance performance I found as powerful as my limited exposure to more classic ballet. The human form is a wonderful brush to paint with. Including emotion with character while doing this provides an inspiring performance that sticks in your mind.

08In a post from 6/15/18 I explored the creative process of Mary Miller & Charles Hall as they developed a dance piece with a story-line about friendship. My early involvement with their work allowed me to know when & where to be to get that moment while providing a better understanding of creative development.  Initially I was disappointed at the vertical split of the background in this shot but I got over it. The strong lighting & the facial expressions dominated my eye. The motion blur of his right hand is a nice reinforcement to the message on his face.

09bAt the performance of the Nandanic Dance Festival I had the chance to see different styles of Indian dance. It is not Ballet or Modern. These performers have exclusive genres of movement with elaborate costumes & make-up. In this medium close-up shot it is easy to see the importance of the eyes & facial expression in the character of the dancer.

10Another dancer in the Nandanic performance provided his own soundtrack as he choreographed his drum playing with impressive dancing. The combination of coordination, musical talent & expression made this piece exciting.

11While I thoroughly enjoyed the performance on the stage, as a photographer, I would like to have controlled lighting in a studio with this genre of dancers. The costume, the jewelry, the make-up when used on these performers deserves special attention separate from a live performance.

12My initial attraction to this image came after I cropped it square. The depth & the balance worked well. However the lighting, the background and the color were distracting. With no offense to photogs that do good B/W, sometime just removing the Chroma can make an OK image much better. I am fortunate that I was able to explore more dance photography. Come 2019 I will try to coordinate more opportunities or even enroll in a workshop.

Looking Back for Tomorrows Goals

Although we begin a new year my 1st posting of ‘18 will look back & evaluate how my perspective of photography has evolved.

 

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I begin 2018 looking back & evaluating how my perspective of photography has evolved. Any capture by a camera immediately becomes a document of history. This image of my grandfather relaxing on the porch in Stow connects me with a man I barley knew but am deeply indebted to. It reinforced the connections a photograph can create. Operating the Bemus Point Stow Ferry I ran into a son of one of my fathers fishing pals Dr. Robert Schmalz Jr. He shared this image which was taken before I was born.

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A highlights of ‘17 was this image taking 3rd place in The Eddie Adams Show. It’s an honor to have any connection with this influential photojournalist. From the moment I snapped the shutter in Sarajevo in 2014, I knew I captured the character of the subjects. To have it recognized in a juried competition was very satisfying. The endless diversity of people & the human condition on streets are subjects that still motivate me.

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I’ve got comfortable with the ethics of editing my images that don’t touch on journalism or documentary. I still have the goal of capturing what my eyes see. HDR, can assist in adding details our eyes see but camera sensors can’t. I still believe over-saturated HDR  lacks an “actuality aesthetic”. Other images I’ve edited made me realize there is a 2nd opportunity to tell a story. A wildly over-exposed shot became a B/W image I’m happy with. A slightly out of focus image was manipulated into a frame capturing the moment I was after. OBTW I realize it’s in focus or not but I also remember Bresson said… “Sharpness is a bourgeois concept.”

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Although I doubted I would take my enthusiasm for photography into the world of printing, I did. I learned printing, matting & framing require different perspectives. The image on the left was cropped for the web. To get a well-proportioned print & ensure a solid presentation hanging on a wall I went back & included more of the original shot on the right. Is it an improvement? It depends on if you are looking at the print hanging on the wall or the screen of your desktop. Obviously my PS work has improved.

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I enjoy spectacular landscape photography & I enjoy the opportunity to experience impressive vistas. However, I’ve discovered I don’t have the kind of dedication to this particular genre to take it to another level. I will still wander with my camera, however I will try to improve my photography skills with other subjects.

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Part of my family’s history,as well as my own, is connected to Chautauqua Lake. When I saw the Steamship Replica the Chautauqua Belle along the port side of The Bemus Point Stow Ferry I was transported to an earlier time when few other vessels on the water had mechanical power. In the months ahead I may try some Photoshop wizardry on this shot. Too bad I’m not really a wizard.

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It has been almost 1 year since my trip to Cuba. The process of sorting/editing my images was a terrific opportunity for reflection on my abilities. It encouraged me to look forward to what I will do with photography. I’m hoping to cultivate connections for a showing of 15 or so of my portraits of Cuban People. A recent review I got from Lens Culture said my work “had incredible humanism in the portraits of Cuban people.” I liked that. The reviewer also said that, after looking at my blog, a book is something I should start working on. I don’t think that is going to happen.

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My own opinion of my sailing images is they are just slightly better than mediocre. That however will not stop me from pursuing this challenging subject I really enjoy. I’m in the planning stages of a trip to Newport RI to catch the 65 foot Volvo Racing beasts in May. Anybody care to join me???

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I also would like to further develop a portfolio of dance photography. Dancers have balance, form, color, The Moment, texture & space. What better subject for a camera. They blend emotions & athleticism into statuesque animation for our eyes.  Any connections in this area would also be appreciated. Happy New Year.

 

 

Museums are good exercise for your eyes

A shortcoming with my minds eye is being attracted by form. Space in many museums offers opportunities for me to focus on forms in a wider perspective.

 

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I know I can  find inspiration at museums & galleries. As a bonus, the environments are relaxing. I always ask, “Is non-flash photography permitted?”  Some on-loan exhibits don’t permit photos. A shortcoming with my minds eye is being attracted by form. Space in many museums offers opportunities for me to focus on a wider perspective. At the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh I recognized the depth, verticals & lighting on the walls were inviting components. The panoramic cropping accents the artwork.

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At gallery exhibits of photographers I’m reminded of the responsibility of documenting history with my camera. This show at The Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh legend Tennie Harris, who chronicled 5 decades of life in the city starting in the mid 30’s, was fantastic. Visitors could watch a projected slide show or scroll thru his work on a desktop computer screen. I choose to examine the matted prints, which allowed you to observe in a single glance the diversity of his subjects. There are many things about his career that are inspiring but his nickname of “One Shot” is especially humbling.

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Not technical a museum or gallery the Mirogoj Cemetery In Zagreb Croatia has interesting similarities. It was overcast, cold & damp on the December day I visited which added to the sensual experience. The lighting in hallway of family mausoleums gave interesting depth while the arched columns balanced & framed the various lines. The grouping & number of exact tombstones in the section of those killed in the Croatian-Bosnian War in the mid 90’s hit a deep level of emotion.

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All serious photographers understand lighting. Some that have studied illumination will recognize Renaissance Masters using chiaroscuro style to give 3D modeling to subjects. Joos van Cleve’s 1528 work of “Saint Jerome In His Study” is worth examining closely. Since I’m attracted to the light from windows, this single source natural light is especially appealing. I chuckle at the unlit candle since some art of the Renaissance used oil lamps, candles & fire as key light in the painting. Fogg Museum Harvard.

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The walking tour of “The Road to Berlin” was a well though out multi-media exhibit at the WWII Museum in New Orleans. The diversity of relics, uniquely projected film, photographs, audio and personal memoirs was well worth the time. I was especially impressed with “camouflage” shadows on the floor.

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This graffiti of 1 or more US solders during the war is a very basic. It became synonymous with the American GI in Europe. Then, to use today’s description, the image went viral after the war ended. Sometime little details catch my eye.

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The use of interactive displays for visitors to read & experience is common in more modern facilities. Usually these exhibits are not conducive to getting people shots. Here, at the National Museum of African American History, I found a good perspective to get this portrait. Occasionally, primary illumination from below can make for a nice portrait.

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As you walk thru the exhibit, the paths areas are dark. Some exhibits are back-lit turning the visitors into a parade of silhouettes. The newest Smithsonian Museum has done some very good photo restoration as part of their tour.

09Often you find surprises at a museum. Made for the International Correspondents School in Scranton PA this Edison recorder is in better condition than any of the other 5 or 6 I’ve seen. Finding it at Museo Provincial in Camguey made me scratch my head. It would be interesting to find out the legacy of how this remarkable invention to record/playback sound ended up in a Cuban museum. Decades after this technology was invented I made a good part of my career recording & playing back audio WITH pictures.  Sometimes I slowed it down!

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Some places with historical significance are still used for what they were built for & are active tributes. The Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta is one of those places. I could imagine Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the pulpit. Unfortunately the camera can’t capture inspiration to the soul. However, sitting in those pews I had a powerful sense of purpose.

12I have admiration for capturing “The Moment” in dance. This exhibit at the August Wilson Center drew me in on many levels. The story behind the showing was inspirational. Mother & daughter Jill & Joy-Marie Thompson choreographed a tribute to historic images of influential dancers. They worked with the highly respected photographer specializing in dance Rachel Neville. The space, lighting & images with white backgrounds on walls of white are an amazing display of art, collaboration & talent. Of course…never avoid the opportunity to put red in the frame.

More Ballet

I recently took a Master Photography class with Martha Rial at Chautauqua Institution. The class was an inspiring motivation which concentrated on a photojournalism approach to telling a story. I did my assignment with the resident Chautauqua Summer Ballet, which is the Charlotte Ballet.

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I recently took a Master Photography class with Martha Rial at Chautauqua Institution. The class was an inspiring motivation which concentrated on a photojournalism approach to telling a story. I did my assignment with the resident Chautauqua Summer Ballet, which is the Charlotte Ballet. Martha reviewed some of my images & suggested I shoot wider to tell more of the story & zoom with my feet. My interpretation was to work with 85,40 & 26 prime lenses. I knew the background & lighting were going to be far from pristine but I accepted that as part of photojournalism guidelines.

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In Cuba I had a few hours to shoot ballet.  At The Chautauqua School of Dance I had 3 days of opportunities & everybody spoke English. However, listening to dancers learning a new work in class, their jargon was as foreign as Spanish. They rehearsed with Chautauqua Orchestra & performed a tribute to the retiring artistic director on the newly rebuilt stage/amphitheater. I had GREAT collaboration with the staff & the dancers. The “story” for my assignment evolved into an understated look at change & how the show goes on.

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I had some satisfaction/success in Cuba with low shots & I explored that perspective even further by being closer & wider. Including the background dancers mirroring the primary subject adds another layer to the image I find absorbing. Instead of fighting a losing battle with lights I tried to be “in the moment” as Martha suggested & ignored the florescent lights. For me, the best part of the 5 day class was the interactive critique.

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I was impressed with Mark Diamonds style of choreographing the routines. He spoke in a soft voice forcing quiet with students & capturing their attention. The pace the dancers were taught & coached was faster than I expected. During the condensed summer season the turn-around between performances is sometimes less than a week. Collaboration within the company was reflective of their professionalism & attempts of perfection.

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For dancers it is all about the form & the purity of the line. As a photographer I want to capture those elements but I also want lighting & background to enhance them. Since I had no control of either of those elements I needed to react to the activity as it was happening. In this shot I captured the dancer with an interesting positioning of students in the background. At least the fluorescent lamps were close in color & relatively even.

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Sarah Hayes Harkins is a principle dancer in the Charlotte Ballet. She has been with the company for over 9 years.  When I saw her massaging her quads with a roller I immediately recognized the similarities to the way other athletes train & condition their muscles. Dancers have a remarkable harmony between the power & tone in their legs, shoulders back, arms & even their neck. If you think ballerinas are delicate think again. They are superbly conditioned athletes.

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I’m not sure if he would agree but I think I captured the moment of his leap. I even had some better lighting as they rehearsed on the stage. For my class we were to do minimal cropping & for most of the images in my presentation I did as I was told. However, for my blog & other presentations I find cropping to emphasize the subject is a very powerful technique. During class we discussed where the line is photojournalism shouldn’t cross with respect to editing. I got a better perspective of when I would enhance an image with Photoshop. I now need to work on better use of PS tools.

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Although wider shots fit the adage of showing the whole dancer, every now & then I’d see a frame that wasn’t head to toe.  I never thought just one extended arm in the frame would be a good shot until I saw this. Sarah Lapointe has her focus on the mirror as she examines her form. Capturing an expression in relationship to a pose can be dramatic. Her concentration & expression are clues to her personality. For my blog posting of this shot I stepped over the line of photojournalism by eliminating background distractions and inserting a gradient. I recognize my PS skills need improvement. However, this is closer to the style of image that motives me to shoot dancers.

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I spent time further exploring the added dimension of the mirror. This shot was a major improvement from the mirror shot in my last blog post from Cuba. One of the great things about photographing the dancers is that they almost never made eye contact with me. I was as close to being a fly on the wall as I have ever experienced.

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The low angle adds emphasis to the height of the dancers. The symmetry of their form & line fills the frame. Given the results of shooting low & wide, if I get the opportunity to shoot more dance I will search for methods to be low on the ground that don’t aggravate my old knees.

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I anticipated this classic pose during afternoon rehearsal. As they were rehearsing with a live orchestra I found myself guided by the music as to when to expect moments like this. I have become more comfortable with square framing in post-production. When I snapped the shutter I knew I would crop it into a square. I also found off angle positions to be more interesting than straight on from the center of the stage.

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This is definitely not part of the dancers routine. However, this shot makes the dancers more human & adds depth to the story. Even as they leave the stage after a grueling rehearsal they are still in step. I was satisfied with the presentation I did for my class. I felt improvement in my ability to capture “the moment” of the dancers. I would highly recommend a workshop to photogs that want to expand their skills. This class was not as intensive as most & it was also far less expensive.

Camaguey Cuba Ballet

The most exciting photographic opportunity I had in Cuba was at a rehearsal for the Camagüey Ballet.

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The most exciting photographic opportunity I had in Cuba was at a rehearsal for the Camagüey Ballet. I’ve always wanted the opportunity to capture dance, which like music, is a linear art form. Unlike musical performances, dancers provide numerous moments for powerful still images. Considering it was my first attempt I did OK. My instincts of where to be & when to snap were solid. The challenges of background & lighting were a distraction. A photo my daughter took inspired this shot.
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As I have mentioned before, odd numbers for me are more visually interesting. I find that 3 or 5 primary subjects can create unbalanced symmetry I find intriguing. Maybe it has something to do with the rules of thirds. I found this tighter shot, which cropped the full form of the dancers, engaged my eye more with the individuals. I enjoy the personal outfits of rehearsal instead of more formal costumes during performance.
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As I was transitioning from the horizontal of video into stills I discussed the challenges I had with vertical framing. A single ballerina in a spinning pointe erased whatever traces I  have of reluctance to turn the camera 90 degrees. I also explored personal post-production boundaries on this image. I justify the enhancement with the fact that the subject is “art”.
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A square cropping also pushes my comfort zone. Shortly after I started working on this image in PS I was drawn to this perspective. In some respects, because it lacks the entire pose of the dancer, this shot is a failure. However the expression on her face justifies to me showing only 3 of her 4 appendages. This led me to explore square cropping with other images.
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When photographing in a room with mirrors it can be either a nightmare or an entry to another dimension. Fortunately the mirror was on the south side of the room where I kept my back most of the time. I would however like to explore coordinating the perspective of this shot. Standing there trying to make something out of this angle I remembered a workshop where I learned where you stand with a camera is a lot like shooting pool. A few degrees difference can make a big change.

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Although shot has an even number of subjects I like this image a lot. The missing form of the ballerina in the foreground is partially revealed in the background dancer. This combines the power of a close-up with a hint of the pose. I also like the green leaf earrings, which are a personal touch you could easily miss in a wider shot. along with the informal wisp of her hair. If only the bar in the background had not been there. I was thrilled & thankful to be a guest at this rehearsal. However, the photographer in me wanted control.

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OK, I’m back to odd numbers. In an effort to eliminate the bar that encircled the room I tried getting a lower angle. However my old knees had an opinion as to how much I should do this. Again, I justify the failure of not having the complete form with the more dramatic facial features. The receding focus & the position of the dancers arms in conjunction with the direction of the their gaze create both tension & harmony.

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This shot demonstrates all of the visual distractions I was trying to overcome. If I had to choose only one distraction I could eliminate I would have the bar removed. In my minds eye the strong horizontal lines is a visual speed bump. Ignoring the distractions and the noise from a high ISO I love the form captured in this moment as well as the dancers concentration. In hindsight, I could have lowered the shutter to 350 speed & reduced the ISO.

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As somewhat of a bookend to the beginning image of feet in the 3rd position I choose this CU of pointe to end my images from the rehearsal studio. A ballerina in pointe is an iconic image of the art. In my minds eye the subtle strength & precise form of the dancer are captured in this detail.

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I must thank Esmeralda Pimental Rodriguez a representative for Paridiso Tourismo Cultural for the connection and insight into Cuban Art. She helped coordinate my trip to the ballet rehearsal at Casa Quinta. If I ever return to Cuba I will look for her assistance in coordinating  my visit around a performance of the Camaguey Ballet.

The content of these postings are based upon my observations, conversations with my guide, interviews with people interpreted by my guide & interactions I had with people I met. Any mistakes are entirely mine with no intention to mislead.