Dancing With the Dudes

The editor of Central Florida Lifestyle Magazine contacted me about a story they’re doing on two championship ballroom dancers. Here’s the twist: they’re both men. Apparently that’s a category in the competitions.

I met Richard and Stuart at Annie Russel theatre at Rollins College in Winter Park. This link gives you an idea of what the theatre looks like. Well there were a couple of problems off the bat. First, it was pitch black save for a single light bulb on a stand with wheels (I’m sure theatre folk have a name for this light). I managed to find the control panel for the lights and that brought up two more problems. The curtain was up, which meant if I shot toward the stage from the audience the background would only show electrical boxes. Great for an industrial shoot, not so great for ballroom dancers. And shooting toward the audience wouldn’t work either because the stage lights produced too much lens flare.  So we settled for one of the ornate alcoves on either side of the stage (you can see the one on stage left in the picture in the link above).

Ballroom Dancers

click for larger size

If you’re not a photographer, skip this paragraph and jump to the next. Okay, now that I have the rest of you, here’s the geek speak. The picture above was taken at ISO 500, 17mm, f/5.6 and 1/90th. The light was a Canon 580EXII camera right through an umbrella set at ETTL. This proved to be a problem for this shoot. Here’s why: on ETTL (i-TTL for Nikon shooters) the camera thought the scene was too dark. It was. And the black tuxedoes didn’t help. So the flash thinks it needs to pump out a lot or power. That means the scene is exposed correctly but the subjects’ faces are overexposed. I did set the flash to manual eventually and dialed in the power to get a nice exposure. I still had to tweak it in Lightroom 3.0.  In the picture below, I was still at ISO 500 but I changed the aperture to f/8 because I wanted more of the background in focus. I also wanted more ambient light in the back so I dialed down the shutter speed to 1/45th.

Richard and Stuart were fun to work with. They were very professional and patient as they started and stopped their moves so I could get a shot. For almost every shot, they held a pose for what seemed like an eternity while I snapped away and adjusted my camera settings. I’m sure it wasn’t comfortable but they handled it like the pros they are. At the end of the shoot, they wanted something a little more casual and fun.

Stuart and Richard

click for larger image

Good luck to them both!



3 thoughts on “Dancing With the Dudes

  1. I know! I always have until reading Joe McNally’s books and he shoots i-TTL, so I thought I’d try it. I think it works in most situations (like a shoot I had today), but in tricky light, it’s best to go manual.

  2. Pingback: Published Works « Harry Lim Photography's Blog

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