Morning Ballet

This morning my alarm was set for 05:10. When it went off I really wondered how it could have seemed like a good idea yesterday. It was pitch black outside, but soon the sky began to brighten. Google had the sunrise at 6:23. I met up with Tara Thean at the backs. You might remember her from the levitation blog post. This time the idea was to do some ballet shots with a bit of morning light and maybe some mist.

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We started with a few photos with King’s College Chapel in the background. Here I am lying on the ground, trying to get a nice framing around Tara while not having her obscure the chapel in the background. All shots this morning were done without a flash, but I wonder if having a flash at low power would have allowed me to have a slightly shorter shutter time to darken the sky over King’s. Here you can see that I have darkened the highlights and brightened the shadows a lot (look at the dark tell-tale contour around the chapel).
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Tara was posing on the bridge when suddenly two of the birds in the river below took off. I asked her to stand still and managed to shoot a few frames. This was the best one. I wish that the shutter had been a bit faster to get the goose sharp, but I had not anticipated this so it was set at 1/125 s. I like that her arm and foot are pointing in the direction of the bird. Been thinking about how to crop this photo, but in the end I decided to keep it like it was shot. Update: I got some good feedback from Lars Sveberg and Maria Bäckström in the facebook group Svenska fotoklubben, so have now removed the stone ball to the left. If you want to compare with the previous version then click here.
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There is something about the composition here that appeals to me. The ball to the right in the frame nicely balances things and draws the eye (I have sharpened it quite a bit in post processing). The sky was somewhat empty, so I worked on recovering some of the texture there. I also added two textures on top of the image (with low opacity settings) to help a bit with the sky.
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I was trying to find an interesting angle from below and took this shot, but the sky was too empty so I have used the clone stamp to extend the branches over her which gives another line leading into the college building
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I asked Tara to do a pose with an upward direction. I think she nailed it. Several times I asked for poses with some sense of direction in the frame. I’m working on getting better at giving directions, but still it can get a bit overwhelming to keep track of all the limbs while getting a good composition. Also there seem to be some physical constraints to how long a body can do things like standing on the toes.
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Here I experimented a bit with tilt-shift. I know the feet are supposed to be the most important aspect of a ballet pose, but to me the left hand looked much more interesting. Anyway, I am getting better at asking for poses on the toes. Here I have sharpened the decorated metal bar leading towards Tara.

We got kicked out of Clare College by a porter that thought we looked too professional and told us that we need to get the Head Porter’s permission to photograph at the College. That was unfortunate, but no point arguing with him, so we went to the centre instead for a few shots before turning back and taking the Garret Hostel Lane to the bikes.

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King’s College Chapel. Tara provides a bit of scale, but she is so far away from the college that it does not do it justice. That builing is huge. I am having some problems with the perspective here with the towers converging at the top. I tried correcting it in Photoshop but that looked like a bad cartoon so left it as it was.
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The posters caught my attention so I asked Tara if she could pose next to them. We played around with several different poses, but I’ll leave you with my first test shot I did to check the exposure. Hopefully this photo makes you think a little, perhaps even invent a background story.
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Here I am playing with lines, trying to build a scene. There were a lot of little leaves in the water. In another photo (not shown) I wanted the reflection clearer so ended up photoshopping away hundreds of leaves one by one with content-aware-fill.
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One last photo, a bit mysterious. I could have made it darker, but I wanted to leave some texture in the reflection of the tree so your eyes would get more to explore.

It has been a long day. After the morning shoot I headed in to work, and now I have spent the evening photoshopping and writing this blog. Time to call it a night! I hope you enjoyed the photos, if you want to see more check out the street ballet photos.

Cheers,

Johannes

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