1 Picture 1000 (or so) Words

Connecting across 6 decades.

An Individual’s history goes beyond the years they have lived. Connections before our birth are woven into the timeline of our lives. The crossroads of past generations intersecting our life providing interesting synapses connecting seemingly unrelated parts of our lives. 

I recently had one of those intersections.  This MGM camera crane connects my first job in TV to a project I’m working on in retirement. This is indeed a reach to make the connections. But stay with me.

This story begins with childhood inspiration of film making. Specifically dance scenes in West Side Story. Visual storytelling is something I latched onto as a goal. I got a degree in Visual Communications from KSU. During my Sr. year I got a job at Cathedral Teleproductions, in Cuyahoga Falls. The technical, studio and editing facilities were far superior than any TV station outside of a major market. I was “the new college kid” and the people were great. My job was the library/shipping/receiving of dubs of the Rex Humbard show.

Any down time, I was in the edit suite or the huge studio. 25’ ceilings, 60 X 90 floor space, Mole lights and more grip equipment than I had any idea how to use. This was the real deal. Big time sound-stage. Years before I got there, the facility did commercial production and was the biggest sound-stage between Chicago and NY. In the back of the studio was a big crane but was never used. Curious about big blue I was told after it was delivered a copy of the script from Gone With the Wind was found in one of the compartments. The cynic in me recognized I was the new kid to tell stories to and took it with a grain of salt. But there were markings on it tying it to MGM. Maybe?

If you know anything about production you know this crane is an unbelievable custom  piece of gear. Room on the tongue for 2. I balanced it and was amazed how smoothly I could make it move. The arm approached a ton but I moved it with 2 fingers. The electric motor was burned out and had to be moved by hand. This was my first “crush” on production equipment.

After about 6 months I became involved in studio and Sunday service productions. I had found my place and what became a career, on the production crew.

Shortly before I left that job, a new show open was scheduled to be shot in a park near the studios. The crane was pulled out of mothballs to be towed to the park. The two rear wheels were used to steer. Somebody had to ride in the driver’s seat and keep the wheels straight. The kid” got a chance to drive the crane. I knew this crane had done some big jobs. I was pretty pleased with myself. Not real resume material but a nice ego boost to begin a career. Being connected to the era of production I admired was an impetus to always look for connections you can reflect on.

Now a leap of decades. Before retirement I got back into still photography. A few components of this story are already connected but life goes on after retirement. Capturing moments and telling visual stories was the objective I wanted to pursue. The primary subjects I wanted to see in the viewfinder were sailboats & humans. Humans is subdivided into creative, artistic/athletic and just folks. Dance, both artistic and athletic, was in my mind’s eye for the challenge of capturing light, form and emotion. I looked for opportunities and found them.

A connection with Dancer/Choreographer Maria Caruso has provided wonderful opportunities. But our first meeting is the connection (unknown at that time) to the big blue crane. Ms Caruso told me her studio is the old studio of Gene Kelly…a kid from da ‘burgh. I always respecte the space of artists and her studio was no exception. I was in a space that was more than it seemed. I put that outta my mind, grabbed my 2 step ladder and started taking some pics during a rehearsal.

A recap. I was inspired by strong visuals including dance as a youngster. Wanted to work on production crews as a career. First job had big time gear including a big 40’ crane built for MGM. Had a career doing what I enjoyed, but no dance. Retired with a DSLR and found opportunities to capture some dance images. 

Ok. I now have a connection to Singing in the Rain which arguably is the best musical/dance production ever made. West Side Story grabbed me, but as my appreciation for the genre evolved Gene Kelly and company set a standard that should always be part of any critique.

And now the connection back to that very first job.

Facebook has a group called Eyes of a Generation I follow.  Many TV geeks are still telling stories and sharing pics of gear on this site. I posted the pic above. That connected me with a camera operator who had worked at Cathedral on commercial production in the early 70’s. He corrected the story I was told when I was “the new kid from college.” They didn’t find a script to Gone with the Wind. They found a work order in one of the tool storage compartments for Signing in the Rain.

Here’s the final weave of connections. I was inspired by dance scenes in West Side Story. MGM’s Singing in the Rain was a natural progression of appreciation of this genre. I drove this MGM crane on my first job. The pedigree of this classic camera crane is a work order for the film a kid from my hometown,who owned a studio in Pittsburgh, starred in and co-directed. I took pictures in Gene Kelly’s studio. It was the first time I ever took a 2 step ladder onto a shoot.

If you look, you can find connections in life that will give you a sense of place in history.

Athletic Artists

Integrating movement & emotion with music is how dancers turn their athleticism into art.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
Led by Light
Choreography & Costumes by Maria Caruso
Music by Zoe Keating
L to R – Principal Artists Kaylin Treese & Bethany Schimonsky

The foundation of my interest in dance goes back to the 1st time I saw West Side Story on TV circa 1966. Over the years my primary exposure to this art form was via cinema. Later, musical theater gave another venue to experience talented artists in live story telling. On stage or on camera, dance is a very powerful & memorable component of entertainment.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
Intimate Liaisons
Choreography & Costumes Maria Caruso
Music by Kronos Quartet
Top to Bottom Principal Artists Kaylin Treese & Nicole Ivan

In ‘02 I saw the Alvin Ailey Company perform their signature work Revelations. The overwhelming emotional power of that performance impacted me in a way no other production has ever done. It motivated me to explore the world of dance beyond the supporting role it had in film & musicals.

Christina Lindhout Verb Ballet Cleveland

Even though dance is best suited to the stage or the screen, as I got back into photography I realized that still images of dancers are dramatically powerful & beautiful.  I also recognized that capturing those decisive moments was extremely challenging.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
  Mother’s Prism
Choreography & Costumes by Maria Caruso
Music by Arnald Olafur & Dustin O’Halloran
Principal Ambassador Artist Amanda Fisher

To try to learn more about what I considered good dance photos I looked at thousands of images to establish ground rules for pictures I liked. Lighting, form within the frame, costume, environment, foreground, background, expressions & occasionally shadows were important. I also was determined to always be head to toe. Recent dance films or shows feel the need to cut away from the dancing. Show me see the dancers dancing!

Christina Lindhout Verb Ballet Cleveland

In reviewing so many images I soon discovered that not unlike accomplished sports figures, the dancers muscle tone/tension highlighted an athleticism that in my mind’s eye had been subtle. The lighting & costumes are the most critical factors in capturing this detail revealing the unseen elements of power & strength. The images I liked best made great use of theatrical, studio or natural light & fashion.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
Led by Light
Choreography & Costumes by Maria Caruso
Music by Zoe Keating
L to R – Principal Artists Bethany Schimonsky & Kaylin Treese

I recognized that unlike those that compete in sports, dancers are athletes that create art with their athleticism. For me, this was a new perspective of how their talents are perceived.  Blending this with the ability to layer emotions onto their movements elevates the viewer’s connection to the drama. Capturing that moment on a still camera is an ongoing challenge I find rewarding.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
Vespers
Choreography and Costumes by Maria Caruso
Music by Aix Em Klemm
From Left to Right – Company Artist Derrick Izumi and Founding Director Maria Caruso

Head to toe is usually the best way to see the complete visual story. The space around the dancers is critical to emphasizing the form. I also prefer an odd number of dancers providing asymmetrical balance. However, two dancers can provide a balance I like. Also, I can crop tighter than head to toe to create a better image. I made those rules so I can break them!

Christina Lindhout Verb Ballet Cleveland

With almost any image, red can be a dramatic addition if not overwhelming. Beyond that my “fashion” opinion is shallow. I quickly recognized that for me controlled lighting had the most impact on images that inspired me. Moving into a position for strong backlight helped to provide the silhouetted form of her legs.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
Life Force
Choreography and Costume by Maria Caruso
Music by Garth Stevenson
Founding Director Maria Caruso

One of my biggest peeves is the unavoidable horizons in photos of stage performances. While stage lighting is often less than perfect from a photography perspective I recognized that environment & look is part of the visual story. Also, don’t sweat things you can’t control. In my mind’s eye the black stripe across the lower third of this image adds strength to the base of the picture. The consistency of the lighting in this performance was a big plus.

Christina Lindhout Verb Ballet Cleveland

During my initial exploration of dance photography the leaps & jumps with the dancer suspended in midair caught my eyes. While this type of image is indeed sensational, I found that it could easily become unimaginative. I do like non-traditional locations of dancers. Photos showcasing the talent of these artists outside of the rehearsal studio & off the stage add drama.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
Really?!
Choreography and Costumes by Maria Caruso
Music by Quixotic
Principal Artist Nicole Ivan

As I am learning, it is crucial to the dancers that all of the details of their lines are precise. I am extremely grateful for the critique & education that Maria Caruso Founding Director of Bodigraphy has given me. I have photographer eyes & she is helping me understand dancer’s eyes. Having respect of the dancers perspective & approval of my images is critical. Details are extremely important!

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
Rehearsal of Billboards
Choreography and Costume by Maria Caruso
Principal Artist Nicole Jamison

In addition to her personal review of my images Maria Caruso has allowed me to shoot a rehearsal at her studio & a live performance. Without getting to geeky…the low light sensitivity of the camera sensors along with a new software programs are wonderful tools.  Since I got camera geeky I will get history geeky. Bodiography’s studio is Gene Kelley’s old studio!

Christina Lindhout Verb Ballet Cleveland

In my quest for doing more/better dance photography I signed up for a workshop entitled Dancing in the Dark. I looked forward to an opportunity for some control of lighting & more direct input to the dancers posing & movement. Unfortunately I was disappointed with the way the lighting was handled & less than thrilled with the locations. On the positive side Christina Lindhout of Verb Ballet was a very easy model to work with. I appreciated the way she could very subtlety change her form while understanding what myself & others photogs were trying to capture.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
Rehearsal of Mother’s Prism
Choreography and Costumes by Maria Caruso
From Top to Bottom – Principal Artist Kaylin Treese and Principal Ambassador Artist Melissa Tyler

I’m extremely grateful for the support & opportunities Maria Caruso Founding Director of Bodiographics has provided. It is likely in the near future I will do a photography workshop with a recognized dance photographer. (Work I enjoy the most is predominately from Eastern Europe & naturally St. Petersburg Russia.)

My heartfelt thanks to Amanda, Bethany, Christina, Derrick, Kaylin, Maria, Melissa, Nicole & all the talented dancers at Bodiography Contemporary Ballet. I believe everyone dreams they could do what you do!

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.