A father's tale...long...

Commodorefirst

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Thought I would share my adventures shooting "for hire" this past Feb. The indoor event was a Masters Dance Thesis full stage concert presentation. The event took place at the State University of NY-Brockport, and involved me traveling to the location from Missouri. How did I agree to this job, well it is hard to say no to your daughter when she calls. :) I told her I thought I retired once in 2010 from dance studio work, and again in 2014 after her BFA dance Choreography honors project, but she simply said un-retire!

After taking two days to travel up there because of weather concerns, I arrived in upper NY State to blizzard conditions, (Rochester area) with lake effect snow, and 50 mph winds with snow accumulations between 4-6 inches each day drifting much deeper. I was scheduled to shoot both dress rehearsal performances on two different days prior to the two sold out evening performances. Grrrrrrr. The things fathers do for their daughters....

I arrived at the venue, that was not plowed, loaded up my rocknrolla cart with my multiple gear bags, and proceeded to plow the sidewalks to the theatre entrance. Upon arrival and getting my gear set up I realized that even my favorite 200vr lens was to close for full body shots, so it was relegated to close in crop work. My equipment ended up being my D3s, and D3 with the 24-70 f2.8 and 200vr1 that I used for dance studio concerts back when I actually was paid for my work from 2005-2009. I published numerous books for studio clients of live action dance performances from both rehearsals and performances. This was above and beyond the usual posed studio shots typical of the time period. I did well, made good money and the dance studio owners liked my product. Life Was Good and being a Dance Dad led to $$$$ (until the crash of 2008 when my cash cows closed up because of market forces. Many private studios closed.)

Anyway, my reason for the long intro is to lead into my images from the event and my concerns and fears about being rusty. It had been 5 years since I last did this. I did not want to mess up my daughters production which she produced and choreographed.

These images are not staged and are actually shot as they performed. This creates numerous problems from dealing with the artistic lighting designs ranging from ultra cool to ultra warm, near dark, full bright GI, to isolation spots, strong side or back lighting, and the dancers moving in and out of light and dark areas. All in all, a tough, challenging, but enjoyable experience that I missed doing the past decade. However, I was nervous, extremely nervous. These images of mine and the videos she hired to have produced were going in her portfolio. Different when it is your daughter in her 20s vs a studio owner.

10,000 shots taken, 1500 good keepers. Keepers are determined not as much from sharpness but actually the symmetry and dancers uniformity. This causes 80% of the culls. 5 dancers with matched hands, with one a touch late, you throw it away. Dancers (and daughters) do not want to see poor positions or non matched images. They are adamant about that. Fortunately being a dance dad, I have years of experience with this and know all of my ballet positions and dance timing.

I shoot fixed iso either 3200, to 6400, and I also shoot aperture priority, spot meter on the faces with +- ev as needed, because of the always changing lights during all numbers. I only adjust ev and iso and manually adjust the focus point when shooting. Back in the day, I was able to shoot manual, but lighting was fixed a lot more for young dancers dance numbers. For collegiate and professional companies, the lighting changes quickly. Examples provided like the male dancer below, warm to cool back and forth within a minute or less. I keep my white balance set at incandescent, and I shoot raw compressed lossless, to keep file sizes manageable.

Anyway, on to a fair number of images showing the variance of a live dance performance, and what a father does for his daughter. I still feel the snow stinging my face as I plowed the sidewalks. (And yes she graduated this May with her Masters Fine Arts - Dance) all low res files:

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NCV

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Thanks for an interesting post, that took me back in time. I did dance photography in the nineties using film for a national dance company here in Italy.

Some things have changed. My "keeper rate" was about the same as yours but I would shoot 20 rolls of film for a production. That's about 720 frames. It was mostly all in B&W for the press release.

A production would mean shooting in the evening, developing and printing enlarged contact strips through the night and delivery to the theatre in the morning. I would then print the press release in the afternoon to be ready for the show in the evening. Digital has been a change for good for this sort of work.

Yes, the choreographer looks at the timing, expression, equilibrium and having everything in synchronisation which made working with top rate dancers easier than Ballet School dance sessions. Technical perfection often took second place.

I got to be able to judge exposure by eye looking at the intensity of the stage lights or by using a Pentax spot meter in difficult situations. My main lenses were the 35-70 2.8, 135 2.8, 180 2.8 and a 3002.8. I cannot ever remember working at less than 2.8 as 1600 was my standard ISO

I can always pick out posed Ballet shots, they just have something that is not quite right and are "too perfect". I always shot live at the dress rehearsal.

Great pictures BTW.
 

kilofoxtrott

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WOW!
The master strikes again...
Wade, you've taken fantastic pictures under difficult circumstances.

Very, very well
Klaus
 

Commodorefirst

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Thanks for an interesting post, that took me back in time. I did dance photography in the nineties using film for a national dance company here in Italy.

Some things have changed. My "keeper rate" was about the same as yours but I would shoot 20 rolls of film for a production. That's about 720 frames. It was mostly all in B&W for the press release.

A production would mean shooting in the evening, developing and printing enlarged contact strips through the night and delivery to the theatre in the morning. I would then print the press release in the afternoon to be ready for the show in the evening. Digital has been a change for good for this sort of work.

Yes, the choreographer looks at the timing, expression, equilibrium and having everything in synchronisation which made working with top rate dancers easier than Ballet School dance sessions. Technical perfection often took second place.

I got to be able to judge exposure by eye looking at the intensity of the stage lights or by using a Pentax spot meter in difficult situations. My main lenses were the 35-70 2.8, 135 2.8, 180 2.8 and a 3002.8. I cannot ever remember working at less than 2.8 as 1600 was my standard ISO

I can always pick out posed Ballet shots, they just have something that is not quite right and are "too perfect". I always shot live at the dress rehearsal.

Great pictures BTW.

Thanks for the post, and your history.

Your reply also brought back further memories, I used to use either 3 D70 bodies or three D200 bodies at iso 1600 with fast glass like 35 f2, 50 1.4, 85 1.4, and my old favorite the 180 f2.8! Great minds think alike regarding glass.
 

kilofoxtrott

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Thanks Klaus!
Wade, it's weird...
Since a few months I'm planning to buy that 180mm f/2.8 lens.
You've confirmed me now.

When I started Nikon digital back in 2010 I bought the three wonder zoom lenses. And now?
I love shooting the 28mm f/2.8, the 50mm f/1.4, the 85mm f/1.4 and the 135mm f/2 DC a lot.

Thank you for confirming my opinion about the 180mm
Klaus
 

Commodorefirst

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Wade, it's weird...
Since a few months I'm planning to buy that 180mm f/2.8 lens.
You've confirmed me now.

When I started Nikon digital back in 2010 I bought the three wonder zoom lenses. And now?
I love shooting the 28mm f/2.8, the 50mm f/1.4, the 85mm f/1.4 and the 135mm f/2 DC a lot.

Thank you for confirming my opinion about the 180mm
Klaus

I still regret selling that 180 f2.8 lens, small compact, sharp, pretty fast af, rugged, etc etc etc. Average prices around $450 us for the AF ED crinkle version. You will not regret it.
 

LyndeeLoo

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These are superb, Wade. I truly wish I understood lighting the way you do. Kristen must be thrilled with these images, and Congratulations to her!
 
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Nothing rusty about you at all.
Yes, what we do for our daughters!!!! But the pay is out of this world---hugs, and "that" look!
Hard to pick favorites, or to decide is B&W is better than color. I love 'em all. Bravo both of you!
 
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The "substantial" introduction was fascinating but the images tell the story. They scream "this guy has done this before". :))

Some of the best stage/theater shooting I've seen. Thanks for sharing. And, FWIW, your daughter has a pretty awesome dad. Father's day card better be really good.
 

Commodorefirst

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The "substantial" introduction was fascinating but the images tell the story. They scream "this guy has done this before". :))

Some of the best stage/theater shooting I've seen. Thanks for sharing. And, FWIW, your daughter has a pretty awesome dad. Father's day card better be really good.

Best Father’s Day card would be her getting her dream employment at a university. I tease her about getting her first job at Northeastern Southern North Dakota state U. Lol. She is a city gal, but will have to travel for employment.

Thanks Doug!
 

Commodorefirst

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These are terrific, Wade! You capture the beauty and the hard work of dance all in one and also we get a sense of the story that is being danced.... Very, very nice!!! Your timing is impeccable!

Thanks Connie, appreciate your words.

Great shots and story. One is my favorite.

I do love the facial expression on this dancer.

These are superb, Wade. I truly wish I understood lighting the way you do. Kristen must be thrilled with these images, and Congratulations to her!

Being a theatre manager as a fine arts admin garnered me a lighting education. Yes, Kristin and the dancers liked the images. They are being shared all over social media and being used by them. At least the low res files. Thanks Lyndee!

These are terrific, Wade! You capture the beauty and the hard work of dance all in one and also we get a sense of the story that is being danced.... Very, very nice!!! Your timing is impeccable!

Thanks Connie, appreciate your kind comment.
 
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Commodorefirst

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Nothing rusty about you at all.
Yes, what we do for our daughters!!!! But the pay is out of this world---hugs, and "that" look!
Hard to pick favorites, or to decide is B&W is better than color. I love 'em all. Bravo both of you!

I converted a fair number to BW and my favorite dance image of all time I ever took was a B&W one with a d200 body back in 07. https://wadedowdy.zenfolio.com/img/s/v-2/p589580573-5.jpg
 

Butlerkid

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Superb set of images, Wade! You may have felt rusty, but your images reveal "Pro" level expertise! You and Kristin make a great team!
 
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