19 Jan 2017

Dancing in the streets

From last weekend’s session with Wetika, a ballet and contemporary dancer. The concept we had for this shoot was to get out of the studio and have Wetika dance on an urban setting. Ballet is such a technical discipline that on previous photos, Wetika had had little chance to actually dance in front of a camera, but previous sessions had been more about micro-managing the most minute aspects of each pose. For me it was the opposite, where I had experience with fluid shoots, but a great deal of learning to do into what makes a good dance picture (besides the usual lighting and composition that makes for a good image from the photographic standpoint).
So off we went into a freezing London morning, trying to work before the shops would open and people would start filling the streets. The session was hard work for all of us: this is something perhaps people don’t appreciate when they see the final image, which is the hard process that can go into them. But we were there focused and had a plan, and it was such a joy to see Wetika dance lit by the beautiful morning light, eyes closed and barefoot, that it made up for everything else.
For our second look, we worked on some poses that required less movement. So I wanted to do something a bit different and pulled out my lights and moved to an adjacent street, where we were given a grand total of 10 minutes to get the job done and out (everything is private property in London, so more often than not we’ll get someone letting you know you can’t shoot in this beautiful street).
From the technical standpoint there were a couple of good lessons learnt as well, namely stating the obvious: dancers are fast, and move a lot. I was shooting with a large and heavy Nikon 200mm f2.8 lens, mounted on a monopod, shouting from 10 metres away from my subject. In order to freeze Wetika’s movement I had to shoot at very high speed, rely only on natural lighting, and master the heck out what my camera could offer in terms of auto-focusing and continuous tracking systems.  This was much more a sports-shooting style of working than my usual portrait style, where my subjects don’t run off and I can think about composition and fine focus. But I loved the experience and was good training for me as well!
And finally a quick couple of behind the scenes images, showing a very cold Raquel holing the light -compare the difference in clothing with Wetika- and a quick shoot later in the morning when we were all having hot chocolate and reviewing the pictures.


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