Talcing and dancing

Today I met up with Joanna Vymeris for another round of street and dance photography. We had talked about doing some shots in the rain, so I had packed a rain cover for the camera and some extra plastic bags. The idea was to use a flash to light up the raindrops in the air, which could look pretty spectacular if you did it right. BBC had forecasted rain all day, and the skies were grey. This was the right day for our project — or so we thought. We wandered the streets and found some nice puddles to play with, but the expected British monsoon did not materialise. Luckily we came up with a backup plan, and went to Boots to purchase some baby powder. More about that later, first some of the street photos…

This was not the first photoshoot when I accidentally dipped my hair in a puddle on the street. It is one of the major hazards when hunting for reflections, right after getting hit by bikes and cars. It was quite tricky getting all of Joanna reflected in the puddle. I think Cambridge needs to cut down on road maintenance so that we get bigger puddles. I like how it looks like she is swimming or flying in this photo, which was why I opted to turn it sideways.
This shot was actually taken before the one above and was what got me started crawling around on the ground today. Originally the idea was to use the yellow lines as a visual guide for the photo, but then there was a puddle with a reflection… Another thing you may or may not notice is that I have played around with the contrast in the photo. Parts of the image to the left and the right have got their contrast reduced, to make the centre look more interesting to the eye. I also removed some bikes and a scooter in the background on the right hand side after a suggestion from some photographers in the Cambridge Camera Club.
One of the things that I have started to like is photos that show a dancer out of balance. It gives the shot a sense of motion making it more dynamic. Here I first desaturated the photo, added split tone, but then decided to play around a bit more in Photoshop. There are three additional textures on top of the image giving the red and green colours.
One more of these balance-shots, notice the puddle. When Joanna side steps she also moves out of the puddle reflection, so we had to anticipate where she would be to get the reflection. It took a few trials to time it right.
I wish I could do stuff like this. It might not be the best of photos, but I had to include it anyway. This is a composite shot, I took a series of photos as she was getting ready, and in one of the earlier shots the biker passed and looked at us, so I decided to include her in the final photo using a bit of Photoshop magic.
A test shot of our lighting setup before we took out the baby powder. We have the flash on the far left, with a flash bender over it to restrict the direction of the light.
This was one of the first talc photos we took. I like the jump, and how the baby powder is hanging in the air. The only thing I would change is the lighting, here it is too much head-on. It would have been better to have the off-camera flash to the right, to illuminate part of her face better, and then give some nice shadows.
This photo is more my style. We took many of these photos with a giant cloud, but I like this one because of the hair and the hand. After a few shots with side lighting we switched to back lit photos. The flash is mounted on a tripod, and triggered by remote. When doing shots like this you want to use as low power as possible on the flash. If I understand things right, what happens when you increase the flash power is not that the flash gets brighter, but that it shines for a longer period of time. So by having a lower flash “power” you can freeze the talc particles better in mid-air.
You can see how we experimented with different types of photos. We did not take that many frames, but we still used up half a kilo of baby powder.

In the end I must say I was quite happy that we did not get any extra rain. Photographing with talc was really fun, and something I want to do more. All you need is a bit of darkness, which the winter is great for, and a flash that you can trigger remotely, plus a friend that does not mind getting a bit talcy. We started getting the good shots about half an hour after sunset, when it got a bit darker.

That is it for this time! Hope you enjoyed the photos, it was a lot of fun to create them! If you like these, check out the other street ballet photos.

– Johannes

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One Comment

  1. Sander
    November 24, 2014

    Fantastic images, great job! I especially like the one in the header with the backlit talc powder.

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