Cirque de Bombay (continued)

In one of the breaks I jumped up on stage and climbed up on one of the table-things at the back to see what it looked like from their point of view. I noticed that the bright spotlights were reflected in the floor, and asked some of the dancers to stand there in the bright reflection to create a silhouette. Four of the girls volunteered and I photographed them. They all looked happy in the shot, but I did not get good silhouettes of them, there were simply too many overlapping people in the frame, so I asked for some single person shots instead. This is one of them with Joanna Vymeris posing.

The dress rehearsal for “Cirque de Bombay” was yesterday, this time on the big ADC Theatre stage. I arrived just as the tech rehearsal was finishing, so I ended up standing around talking to Lucy Twistleton, and her sister while waiting for the dancers to get changed. Lucy was there to watch the rehearsal and to write a preview of the show.

Joanna Vymeris (front) and Shikha Pahari (back).
Shikha Pahari and Connie Muttock.
Pinky Langat, I liked her pose but the background was very distracting so ended up darkening it. She wore black pants which meant that her lower part disappeared, so I ended up cropping it a bit closer to focus on her upper half. I also added a bit of gaussian blur to soften parts of the image.

I had been shooting “Her Naked Skin” and “A Clockwork Orange” with a shutter speed of around 1/100 seconds, while I usually do sports photography at about 1/200 seconds. It is funny how blur works, a little bit of blur bothers me, while a lot of blur can be artistic. I started out with a shutter time of 1/100 seconds, and the photos looked good on the back of my screen, but when I got home I was bothered by how much fuzzyness there was in the first batch of photos. To freeze dancing it seems you need something like 1/200 seconds, which was what I used earlier for the Cirque de Bombay rehearsal this past weekend.

Portrait of Mala Yamey in between dances. I darkened the background to remove distracting elements, then added a hint of red to the left to make it more dynamic.

Once I get a few safe shots, then I like to step away a bit from my comfort zone and try something new. A little experimentation spices up your shoot, and you learn new things. My idea for this shoot was to have a slightly longer exposure than I would normally do in order to capture a bit of movement. Perhaps something like 1/20 seconds, which with a 50 mm lens would require a steady hand. I also wanted to try even longer exposures, in the range of 1/5 seconds, possibly all the way up to a second or two. For that reason I had brought my tripod along. It has happened quite a few times that I lug it around, but then don’t end up using it as I get distracted by other things. It is quite clunky to bike with, so I am happy that this time I did end up using it!

In one of the dances Shikha danced alone. I got quite a few frames, lots of them had great light and composition, but I ended up choosing this one as it showed a lot of movement while still having her face sharp.

For the light painting scene I wanted to switch to my 20 mm lens, but as I put it on the camera the display showed “fEE” and the camera refused to take any pictures. Not good. Not good at all. I quickly switched back to my 50 mm lens. I later googled the error message, and read that it could be a problem with the communication between the lens and camera. Their advice was to wipe the connectors on the lens with a piece of cloth, and to turn the aperture dial to the smallest number before connecting the lens again. This seemed to do the trick, which is lucky since I only think that Nikon has a two-year warranty on their lenses.

There was a scene with a strobe lighting. This one was faster than the strobe used in “A Clockwork Orange”, so I thought it could be a good opportunity to capture a sequence of motion with a longer exposure. For the first run through I tried it without a tripod, placing my camera on the stage floor, and putting my hand under the lens to tilt it upwards slightly. The second time they ran through only parts of the play, and there was a pause so I had time to set up my tripod. In the end the strobe was too fast in relation to the movement. It might have helped to increase the shutter time even further, but unfortunately there was no time to have a third try, they had to leave the stage at 18:00.

I had wanted to ask the girls to stand in the red frame and pose, but I did not have to ask them. Just before the lights went out they jumped up there as part of the show. After they had left I deliberately snapped a second shot of the frames without the girls. When I later on tried to use Photoshop’s automatic alignment feature I ran into trouble as the two shots were taken from different angle. It complained that there needed to be at least 40% overlap between the photos. Luckily I could use the perspective transformation tool to align the two frames roughly, and then the automatic feature was happy to help.

I did however get a few nice long exposures. There was a segment where three of the girls were lined up behind each other, then stepped out to the right one after the other, and finally in sequence did a spin. I like to have at least something sharp in my photo, completely blurry artistic shots I leave to other people. So a situation like this where one or more dancers were still, while others moved was exactly what I wanted. I was quite happy how it turned out.

This photo was shot with 1/5 of a second. The dancers moved in sequence, first Joana then Pinky and last Shikha in the front. I cleaned up a few things at the edge of the frame, and adjust contrast, white balance, the rest was done in camera.
The group shot, after taking a few normal photos I asked them for a crazy one. The final result is a composite of two frames. When doing group shots it is good to take several shots from the same angle, so that you have the freedom to mix and match in photoshop to get a good end result. The chance that everyone looks great in one frame is tiny.

After the rehearsal had finished I quickly edited a few photos, sent them off to Lucy for her Varsity piece, then headed off to the PdOC committee meeting. The rest of the photos had to wait until I came back. The dress rehearsal was a good shoot, but I must say the first rehearsal was more fun. I had more opportunity and time to interact with the dancers, and more freedom to play around and be creative. When shooting long exposures you relinquish some of your control, as it can be hard to predict what is going to happen for the duration of the exposure. It is a bit of hit and miss, but when it works it can give your photos a special look. The show is running tonight, so head on over and check them out at the ADC Theatre. You can find a review here.

– Johannes

Reviews: Varsity (4/5)

Sam – Henry Pressling
Lorcan Odufuwa – Bolger
Cast – Shikha Pahari, Joanna Vymeris, Pinky Langat, Landi Wagner, Connie Muttock, Emily Marr, Mala Yamey, Natasha Cutler, Matt Dammers

Production Team
Director – Shikha Pahari
Choreographer – Shikha Pahari
Producer – Leo Sands
Stage Manager – Em Miles
Lighting Designer – Bethany Craik
Lighting operator – Thea Dunne
Sound designer – Em Miles
Set designers – Tim Palmer, Ele Brown
Costume designer – Shikha Pahari
Production Manager – Min Ji Choi
Photographer – Johannes Hjorth

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