Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dance Dance Dance Your Butt Off

A fellow colleague of mine, Andrew has just bought himself a Nikon D5000, one of the latest line-up of Nikon DSLRs, and we were courteously invited by another dear colleague Puy Shan to her dance practise session. It was one of the rare chances of taking a sneak into a full dress rehearsal as the dancers were preparing for a grand performance. Since Andrew has just got himself his new set of gears, and me getting seriously deprived of shutter therapy nowadays, I figured why not give this dance a try? I have got nothing to lose after all.

The dance itself was a mixture of modern, traditional and tonnes of various styles, and presented in a musical format. I am not exactly a dance literate person, but I guess everyone will surely enjoy a good dance as much as a good music. Part of the main attraction of the dance would be the superbly attractive costumes and their striking colours. I have got to say I was quite impressed by the flashy tones and sparkling apparels being donned by the dancers.

The dance rehearsal involves not only on the dancers and their moves, but also the coordination and timing of each phase, including the changing of costumes for the coming stages. Those are the scenes the audience do not get the chance to witness. The entire show’s success was not dependant solely on the stage performance only, but also on how each and every one of the dancers timed themselves accordingly and maintained the overall coordination. What happened backstage would have been a lot more dramatic and hectic, with each dancers spending every singe precious second changing into the next costume, making sure everything from head to toe, make up and accessories was in place. This serves as a reminder to myself that any huge event, as I have witnessed a number of times before, requires an enormous amount of organizing works, and practise will always make it an inch closer to perfection.

It was an immensely challenging task for me to photograph this particular dance session. I have not had the slightest clue on how the dance moves were like, how long was each phase before the dancers go to change for the next scene, where they will be moving and which direction will they be facing. I believe if I was going to be serious about capturing the shots I should have asked in advance on the entire dance layout, at least this way I should be able to predict and expect certain really cool moves or dance poses to be captured.

The dance studio layout itself was not very photo-friendly. The floor, walls and ceilings do not compliment the superbly awesome looking dancers clad in their astonishing costumes. The distracting and messy backgrounds have somehow taken the glitz and prestige away from the overall presentation feeling in the photos. I did my best to get close and isolate the subjects, and it was also not easy to do so because I could not predict their erratic and random movements. Not to mention also I tried my best to keep myself a fair safe distance away, who knows someone might come flying my direction and knock the lens out of my camera.

I do feel that the greatest challenge for the night was lighting. Careless me, I only brought one set of 2 AA batteries to be fitted on my external flash. The fluorescent lighting not only introduced an ugly greenish tint on the overall unpleasant colour cast, but it was so dim that even shot at ISO1600 without flash, I could only get a decently exposed photograph at shutter speed of 1/80 seconds, which was not sufficiently fast to freeze very rapid dance motions. I needed at least 1/125 to 1/160 seconds or faster, and even at such shutter speed, I still could not completely freeze some of the faster dance moves. Using flash as the main light source has got to be the only solution for me. of course if one of you are kind enough to buy me a better lens that would be much appreciated This was not very favourable, since intense use of flash can quickly drain away my only 2 AA batteries. I only have myself to blame for this mistake.

Armed with 14-42mm kit, the lowest grade of Olympus lens line-up of standard zoom lenses, it was a disaster keeping up with the dance moves. Focus was impossibly slow, and once I have locked the focus, the dancer would have moved 6 feet away from the locked focus position half second earlier. Focus and snap is not feasible with such slow speed of my poor lens and poor Autofocus on my camera body combination. Nonetheless, all complains aside, I still did what I can and find myself snapping away into the night. I may have missed out a lot of good shots, but still I managed to salvage quite a good number of usable ones. As difficult as the challenge was, sometimes, what truly matters would be the way you rise up from all complains and break all barriers of impossibilities. It is not easy, but it all boils down to how much you want to make that shot happen. This can very well be what we evidently learn from “the matrix”.. mind over matter.

So yeah, there it was, a little weekday adventure with my Ollie. Have you watched any live musical or dance performance lately?

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