I confess to normally being highly organized and desirous of planning all of the significant details of a dance photography shoot in advance — dancer, concepts to shoot, wardrobe, locations, equipment and lighting required, etc.  I like to understand the dancer’s strengths as well as angles or positions he or she is less confident about.  If there is one key ingredient that is essential to creating high quality dance images, it is to understand and develop a rapport with the dancer.

Now that I’ve built a case for preparation, there are times when it is neither possible, nor desirable to plan everything out to the final details.  Sometimes, it’s important to simply open your mind to the possibilities and allow your creative instincts to take over.  Light is so critically important to good photography, that I find myself almost obsessed with either controlling the light with studio strobes, reflectors, or shooting only at specific times of the day when I know that the natural light will be most favorable.  For the photographer, awareness for light and its possibilities is extremely important.  Understand where it is, its direction, and how to use it to your advantage. Sometimes, that stream of light making its way through the trees, an alleyway, or a rock outcropping can take an ordinary dance photography image and make it a great one.  Use the sun to create rim lighting on your dancer, or perhaps as a sidelight to create separation between the dancer and his/her background.

I spent the afternoon yesterday with a ballet dancer from Alonzo King Lines Ballet in San Francisco – a very well-respected ballet company and academy.  We had a general idea of where we wanted to shoot, but most of the details were deliberately left to our creative instincts as opportunities presented themselves throughout the day.  One of them was the image featured in this post.

We found ourselves in an old tunnel in the Marin Headlands.  The light was coming from both tunnel entrances and the military built, weathered tunnel structure had picked up the grittiness and color of time.  I felt like there was an opportunity to use the natural light to define and light the dancer, and the distant tunnel exit as a means of framing her.  I knew I could edit the RAW image to bring up the detail and colors of the old tunnel structure, thus adding a grittiness and more visual interest to the image.  When Abigail hit a beautiful Arabesque, I knew I had what I was seeking!!!


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