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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Spin Move

A simple college arts and dance show can surprise you with great photo opportunities.

Charlotte Rutty is spun upside down during a Bowdoin College dance show.

The Photo
Every Fall, Bowdoin College invites parents and family members to visit on Family Weekend and experience the variety of activities the school has to offer.  My daughter Megan helped organize a dance performance, so we didn’t want to miss the chance to see her perform on stage.  Yet while Megan was very excited about her own dance number, she said we absolutely should not miss a dance where her friend Charlotte would be spun around her dance partner’s arm. 

Thanks to that tip, I was confident a perfectly-timed photo would capture something special.  However, the dance hall lighting was far from ideal, as performers moved in and out of alternately bright and dark spots on the stage. This required perfect timing to shoot photographs only when dancers appeared in the lighted areas.  In addition, because the dance photos required freezing fast motion, the image quality would be sub-par, since I had to set my shutter speed to between 1/250 and 1/500, use a very high ISO, and set my lens f-stop to a wide-open f/2.8.

When Charlotte and her partner began the dance, they moved rapidly around, side to side and front to back, but I kept focusing and shooting.  At times, they were in the shadows, and I knew those pictures would not be usable, but when they danced in the brightest lit spots, those pictures looked great.  The first time she was spun around in the light, I missed timing the the shot for when she faced forward upside down.  Continuing to follow the dance, they did the spin again, and I timed everything perfectly.  It was a good thing, too, because they didn’t do it again. 

3 Tips
1. College dance shows can provide unexpectedly great photo opportunities.
2. Be ready to compensate for frequent changes in lighting or inadequate lighting.
3. Use a shutter speed that freezes the action, even if you have to lose some image quality by using a high ISO.

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