Urban Ballet – Reflections

The term has ended and the students are leaving Cambridge for the summer. After the last Street Ballet session Joanna Vymeris and I decided to do one more photo shoot before she went on holiday. This time we were joined by Clara Novo. Clara has a long history of ballet dancing which proved to be an invaluable source of inspiration.

We started out in Corpus Christi College, looking for beautiful framings such as old archways or branches. After a while it started raining, which the weather forecast had hinted at a few days in advance. From a photographic point of view this was great, because it meant we got nice reflections of Joanna in the wet stones on the paved walkways. We played around a bit with reflections, and did a few composite shots.

Here I’m exposing for the background to have only Joanna’s silhouette visible, but I like how a bit of light hits her face. There is some photoshopping here to get rid of a sign and a metal lid on the ground.
In one of the gardens at the back of the college. I asked Joanna to move away a bit from the door, and then tried to get some of the branches in the shot to frame it. We did several shots, there are several elements to consider. Not only the composition, but the timing of the pose and all the little details such as hands and feet. A trained ballet eye can tell that she has just breathed in. Or so I am told…

At around 18:00 we moved to the entrance of the college, to meet up with Clara. The sun was peeking in through the big wooden doors, and the college building across the lawn was nicely lit. Unfortunately there was a big red sign in the way. One of the fellows of the college came by, saw what we were doing, and kindly asked the porter to temporarily remove the sign which was bolted to the ground. This made a huge difference for our shots, so a big thank you to both the fellow and the porter.

I liked this location, with the college building in the background and a sliver of light coming through the great gate illuminating Joanna. This photo got featured on the Corpus Christi College webpage (mirror).


After the “college closed” sign was removed, tourists started to sneak in, which interfered with our plans, so while waiting for them to finish and leave I snapped a few pictures with the tourists in them. They were getting the buildings in their photos, I wanted to convey what they were missing by just including the shadow of Joanna next to them in my photo.

We then proceeded to the Grand Arcade, and the rooftop car park. Normally people go there to park their cars, some go there for the view, but we went there for the puddles! We spent the next hour playing with the reflections jumping around. We also repeated the composite shot with the shoes, the puddle and the invisible subject.

There is no retouching in this photo other than adjusting the curves and colours. Joanna simply jumped out of my frame. I turned the photo upside down for extra effect.
This shot was Clara’s idea. Unfortunately I framed it wrong, so had to recreate a bit of the sky in Photoshop to get the balance right. Content aware fill is pure magic. King’s College Chapel in the background.
To get this shot I was lying down on the ground. There is an embarrassing story that goes with the photo. I’ve had longer hair for a while now, but not really got used to all the consequences of having it and the hair puddle interactions that follow. Let’s just say I needed to wash my hair when I got home. The photo turned out great though, so it was worth it.
This is another composite image that took advantage of Joanna’s fantastic poses. I superposed the shadow from another photo on top of this one, to create the fight scene. The photo came together when I rotated it 90 degrees.
There is a rainbow in the background, but you can’t see it. This was a test shot to check the exposure, but it turned out alright. Minus the rainbow but that is a small price to pay.
Last photo of the day. I had asked Joanna to bring a piece of cloth with her, and we had not used it. So before we left I felt we should at least get a shot of it. I originally intended to just use the silhouette of this photo, but then later changed my mind and brightened the photo in post processing.
The invisible subject. Not the last photo, but I felt it was a good photo to end the blog post with. It is a composite of two photos, one with Joanna and one with just her shoes. Here Bradford stepped in and helped carry Joanna to a dry patch out of the frame to make sure the shoes would not move. Here is a youtube video showing how I did the post processing.

I’m really happy with how the photos turned out. It is fascinating how many new things I do and all the great people I get in contact with just because of photography. I learned so much about ballet and what to look for in a pose and still I get the feeling my ballet awareness is just scratching the surface.


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