The more genres I dabble in, the more convinced I am that it doesn’t matter what the subject is. The ingredients for photography always remain the same. Of course each specialty has their own particular challenges and subtleties. However, combine a solid technique with appropriate use of light and good composition, and chances are you’ll have a pretty decent result. Throw in a good concept plus great timing and you’re on you way to creating something memorable.
This wide angle close-up is probably the most striking of the photos I shot on the day. I knew exactly what I wanted, a billowing dress and a perspective that put the viewer in the thick of things. I just needed to wait for the right couple to come to me and the perfect moment to appear. Fortunately I didn’t have to wait too long, this being one of the very first images to make my ‘best of’ from the early ‘warm-up’ session. Technically it was quite difficult to pull off. I had the lens manually pre-focused and the camera on live view to see what I was shooting since the perspective was too low to watch through the view finder. Canon 5DMkIII, 16-35mm 2.8L, ISO 800, f2.8, 1/160
While the majority of the time, I was focused on isolating individual couples, I also wanted to shoot a few in a group. Technically, this was a straight forward image to photograph. The difficulty was in pinpointing the exact moment when several couples were in a complementary arrangement to each other. I was also very pleased with the absorbed expressions on everyone which greatly added to the atmosphere of the image.
Canon 5DMkIII, 16-35mm 2.8L, ISO 1600, f2.8, 1/640
The Winning Touch
This may well be my personal favourite, a photograph of the winning couple in the Latin category doing their honour dance. By this time, I thought I was done for the night and had retired to one of the tables to relax. Watching the event photographer across the floor shooting with flash I came up with an idea – trying to time an exposure with when her flash was used. I under-exposed and fired off some frames rapidly, catching her flash several times which had the effect of backlighting the couple. The dramatic light, triumphant pose and sensuously cinematic look are the reasons I count this as my best of the day.
Canon 5DMkIII, 70-300mm 4-5.6L, ISO 1600, f4.5, 1/500
A Touch of Glamour
Even though I was shooting at quite open apertures throughout the competition (to use faster shutter speeds for freezing motion and also to blur out distractions in the background), I wanted to take advantage of the extremely shallow depth of field afforded by my 85mm 1.2L lens. As a portrait lens, it’s a difficult piece of equipment to work with at the open apertures since the plane of focus is a matter of inches wide. Throw in slow focusing, a moving target and the fact that you have to compose with the restriction of a fixed focal length and you have a really tough shot to nail.
Of course at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how technically proficient an image is; all the difficulty of obtaining a shot becomes transparent and irrelevant. Either it works or it doesn’t. Personally I like this one, in spite of the technical considerations as the use of depth of field has given a pretty striking and unusual result. Turning the lights into balls with the aperture of 1.4 seems to have added a touch of glamour too.
Canon 5DMkII, 85mm 1.2L at f1.4, ISO 1600, 1/640
A few years ago, while visiting a fabulous cemetery in Havana, I came upon two statues that were unrelated but when viewed from a certain angle juxtaposed in a harmonious fashion. Since then I have always been on the lookout for similar relationships between two subjects. The dramatic poses and positions of these two couples performing in the latin dance category provided such an opportunity.
Canon 5DMkIII, 70-300mm 4-5.6L, ISO 1600, f5, 1/250
Keeping everything nice and sharp, in focus and with the action frozen in time describes my aim in more than 95% of my dance photography. I did spend a few minutes experimenting with motion blur however. My plan was to try to fill the dance floor with swirling ghostly dancers. I experimented with different shutter speeds. Anything much more than 1 second resulted in figures a bit too ethereal and insubstantial for my likings. Since a tripod was impractical, I used my soft briefcase as a beanbag for these long exposures.
Canon 5DMkIII, 16-35mm 2.8L, ISO 100, f16, 1.3s
A really straight forward shot with timing the major factor in capturing that ‘decisive moment’. I really appreciated the extra speed of my Canon 5DMkIII over the MkII during this shoot as well as my work during Carnevale. I always shoot in burst mode; you never know when your subject is going to blink at an inopportune moment!
Canon 5DMkIII, 16-35mm 2.8L, ISO 800, f2.8, 1/320
I had a shot like this in mind days before the event itself. Nailing it proved to be far more difficult than expected. Panning is always a hit and miss prospect. One needs to choose the idea shutter speed and move the camera at the correct rate to track the subject. When your subject is moving at a constant speed this predictability becomes easier to cope with. Unfortunately dancing is very stop and start, so selecting a suitable dance at the right time was one of the problems to solve. The other issue was that the rotational elements in dance movements made attempting to track a couple in a linear fashion much more complicated. I eventually found success by panning dancers during their runs in the quickstep.
Canon 5DMkII, 70-300mm 4-5.6L, ISO 200, f5.6, 1/8
See my fine art dance photos on the official Magic Hour Travelscapes facebook page.
And my event photos from the Crown Championships on my personal Facebook page.