Street ballet: One jump one shot

When the first shot of the evening looks like this then you know you are in for a treat. Unfortunately King’s College was closed, so we could only walk through, otherwise there would have been a lot more shots in front of the chapel. You can click on this photo and others to see them in bigger size.

I went out yesterday and photographed Joanna Vymeris, who you might have seen in a couple of my previous posts (see Thing with Feathers and Cirque de Bombay). We had talked about doing an outdoor photo shoot for a while, and after rescheduling a few times due to bad weather we finally met up outside King’s College and proceeded to walk along the backs and then back through St John’s. A walk like that takes about 1.5 hours if you stop and admire the view and snap a few shots. Having a properly trained dancer like Joanna in front of the camera is a joy, she has a big repertoire of jumps and poses that look great, taking the photos to a whole new level.

One of the things we wanted to do was to make the photos Cambridge specific. The view of King’s Chapel from the backs is iconic. Here I used the trees around to frame her while she was doing one of her graceful ballet poses. Joanna wore a red dress, and I feel almost guilty for making all the photos black and white, but they look better that way.
The colleges are really funny about people walking on their grass, but gracefully flying over it must be a whole different matter.


We tried a few shots against the sun. Here we are playing with scales, note the little old man sitting on the bench to the left. I had purposefully moved to the left, to make him look in Joanna’s direction.

In case you wonder about the title, there is a reason for it. I write this blog as much for myself as I do to share the photos, and there was a valuable lesson learned today. When photographing jumping shots with a modern DSLR it is very easy to just hold down the shutter button and machine gun the sequence from the start of the jump to the end. The point you most likely want is at the peak of the jump, when the dancer is hanging there in mid air, still for a split second. If you catch her too late, you will get her hair going up as she goes down. At the beginning of the shoot I completely failed to notice the little details on my camera screen, but after a while I caught on. Anyway, the title is a reminder to myself that when doing jumping shots, don’t just machine gun, instead try and catch the peak of the jump with one shot. Oh, and a friend pointed out to me that this is not just ballet, but also acrobatics. Thanks, Clara! 😉

This is an example of the jumping shots that we did. I was lying on the grass to get Joanna to clear the building roof completely. The original shot was a bit wider, but I cropped it in closer as I felt there was too much sky. This is an example of a shot that I took just a little bit too late, Joanna’s hair was standing right up, so I photoshopped that out.
This looks very difficult. The left arm almost disappears, so I decided to colour the jacket just to make it more visible. I also accidentally cut off the foot. I have a few more shots of this in front of Trinity and King’s but I liked the fact that there was a bit more to look at in this shot, providing a context.
This is not a dance photo, but I have to share it. Some of you might know that I have a bit of a vivid imagination. To me it looked like something bad just happened down the alley by the river, maybe an explosion or something, and the villain is biking away (Cambridge style).


This is one of my favourite shots from the evening. My mind has been looking for repeats around me lately, I am not sure what triggered it, but I am definitely exploiting it. Joanna was already doing headstands, so I asked her to move a little bit to the left so as to align with the towers of King’s College Chapel. I took multiple shots, and this one was my favourite with the girls walking by looking at her. I brightened the upper right corner to try and get the viewer to start looking at the photo from there, then their eyes follow the three pillars from right to left. After that they hopefully see the girls walking by, and lastly when scanning the photo further the woman to the left becomes visible. Was that how you perceived the photo?


That’s it for this time. I hope you enjoyed the photos! We had a lot of fun. May week is coming up soon, there should be plenty of new photo opportunities then, not sure how to top this though. (Update: check out my Urban Ballet post with Joanna).



Written by:

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.