Daily Photo — ACC Showcase

The Daily Photo series focuses on the two or three key creative choices, in terms of composition and processing, that go into creating an image.  Specific technical details about the shot have been left out — you won’t hear me talking about tone curve adjustments and whatnot unless it was a key component of the end result.

In December I shot the ACC Showcase, an end of semester modern dance performance put on by students at the local community college.  When shooting modern dance, I usually like to cover a rehearsal or two before the main performance — that way I at least have some familiarity with the choreography and can better anticipate shots (I also prefer rehearsal photos to performance ones).  This time my first exposure was the single run of the dress rehearsal– after that I was relegated to the back of the theater and had very few options compositionally (sometime I’ll blog about noise issues during stage performances and the effectiveness of sound blimps).


  • Shutter:  1/800
  • Aperture:  f/2
  • ISO:  1600
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III
  • Lens:  Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM


Composition and Processing

  • You might be asking yourself:  “why is he shooting at 1/800 and ISO 1600?  Surely a lower ISO would have less noise and 1/800 isn’t necessary for this shot.”  And you’d be right.  However, this performance was horribly lit, often with such hard light (pointed straight down on top of the dancer’s heads) that I was clipping both sides of the histogram much of the time (and on the same individual).  So I set the ISO for the upper end of what I was comfortable with, and adjusted shutter and/or aperture on the fly.  I’d love to tweak ISO on the fly instead, but it’s simply too slow to do so.  Regardless, this is one of the few shots that was helped by the lighting scheme, since the dancers were actually in the light and looking up (avoiding dark eye sockets).
  • It’s also one of the few shots that benefited from the shooting at the back of the theater (and raised up).  I was just high enough to see into the center of the formation;  dancers in the foreground didn’t obscure the heads of those in the background (for the most part).
  • Even at this distance, f/2 means not everything is going to be in focus.  To me, the obvious target was the dancer more or less in the middle, facing the camera, and with a bit of a catchlight in both eyes.  The whole image draws to that point, so having it razor sharp compared to the rest was key.  It would have been nice if the dancer in front of her was offset a little instead of right below her face, but I’ll take what I can get.

January 09 2009 07:04 pm | Photography

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