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Archive 2012 · Some Shooting Advice Needed - Modern Dance
  
 
Red 90
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Some Shooting Advice Needed - Modern Dance


I was wondering if there is some advice some seasoned shooter can provide over to me on a upcoming event my sister asked me to shoot. I'm mainly and landscape, people and wildlife shooter so dance is something rather new and daunting for me. The following is a bit of info that might help you understand the scenario.

Event - Modern Dance
Place - Indoor theatre, no flash usage
Typically Lighting - From past events, they are usually rather low... moody type lighting
Camera - Canon 5D Mark II
Lenses available- 17-40F4, 24-70F2.8, 15mmF2.8 fisheye, 50mm F1.4, 135mmF2, 70-200F4IS, 300mmF4IS

Given that the lighting is low and there is movement in the shots, I'm not sure how to balance between keeping the ISO to an acceptable level and shutter speed to capture the action as well as keeping the DOF at an acceptable level to keep the focus in check.

My thoughts are to try to keep the shutter speed at around 1/500sec, go for my max aperture (I'm leaning towards using my 135mm F2, or see if I can borrow a buddies 70-200F2.8) and probably boosting ISO to the 3600-6400 range. I'm unsure of how good my autofocus is in this situation where the light is low and the DOF is so shallow. I think I should set the autofocus to servo mode.

Should I also shoot in shutter priority mode or manual? Given lighting changes in the theatre, I'm not sure how to handle this one as well. I won't worry about white balance as I'll shoot in raw and can make adjustments later.

Unfortunately I don't really understand or know much about modern dance, so any advice on how to capture a good image would be appreciated.



May 01, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Russ Isabella
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Some Shooting Advice Needed - Modern Dance


I wouldn't worry too much about depth of field given that you are likely to be far enough away from what you are shooting that this won't be too much of an issue, AND the fact your other concerns are more pressing. Given the lighting changes, my personal choice would be to use spot metering and try to keep my focus point on skin (usually face). You may have to dial this in, as some exposure compensation may be necessary to get the exposure just right for the particular lighting you'll be dealing with. But once you get this dialed in, you should be fine. I would set my ISO to the highest I was willing to go, and I suppose I would use AV mode to keep my aperture maxed out (the 135L is going to be your best bet, even though it may not be long enough. Unless the light is much better than you're expecting, the 300 f/4 isn't going to be of much use to you.)

If the light is more even than the spot-lighting I'm imagining, you may want to go a different route. I'm sure others will chime in with different ideas.

As for capturing "good images," I'd say you want to go for peak portions of the performance (which you'd have to anticipate to capture) as well as flattering poses/moments that bring out the artistry/talent/physical prowess/beauty of the dancer(s). How any of this is defined will vary depending upon whether you are focusing on a single dancer or a group.



May 01, 2012 at 05:16 PM
P Alesse
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Some Shooting Advice Needed - Modern Dance


I agree with everything Russ has said with one caveat... be careful with spot metering. Actually be careful with any metering mode indoors. I'd still be apt to shoot full manual because you'll be able to determine the "hotter" parts of the stage, where you can roll the shutter up or down depending on where they are. In my experience, it just tends to be the better of the two options. Keeping your focus point on skin, especially if you are unfamiliar with the sport or routine can be very very difficult and even if you are able to do it, it won't guarantee perfect exposure. I'd say, shoot manual and roll the shutter when you can, or even if you can't, find a shutter that gets you the best average and go with it.

As for lens choice. As well as the 135/2 is attractive for it's low light ability, I'd opt for the 70-200 if you can get a hold of one.



Edited on May 01, 2012 at 05:38 PM · View previous versions



May 01, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Red 90
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Some Shooting Advice Needed - Modern Dance


Thanks Russ for the advice,

So my plan of action for the camera would be to have it setup with aperture priority to the max at either F2 or F2.8 depending on the lense I use. I'll bump the iso to 3200 or so as a starting point depending on lighting and let the camera select the shutter speed with spot metering targeted at the face of the dancers.

What would be a safe shutter speed for this type of event? 1/250? I just want to keep an eye on it so I don't come out with a bunch of blurry pictures at the end of the day.



May 01, 2012 at 05:37 PM
benee
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Some Shooting Advice Needed - Modern Dance


Having just shot my first rock concert, and primarily using a 135L, I can vouch that the lens is a beast for performance photography. I would NOT use AV mode. Just go strictly manual and spot-meter for the performer's skin. Too many variables if you use an automatic or semi-automatic mode.


May 01, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Red 90
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Some Shooting Advice Needed - Modern Dance


P Alesee,

Thanks for chiming in. The lighting is something I'm worried about... as generally the scene is rather dark, with just spot lights on the dancers. So I'd be rather wary of what the metering in the camera is giving me. The purpose is really to try to keep the dancers exposed properly, but it is difficult to effectively do that giving the lighting changes so rapidly. It'll be an exercise in trial and error...



May 01, 2012 at 05:44 PM
 

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Russ Isabella
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Some Shooting Advice Needed - Modern Dance


Spot metering for skin in AV mode removes the many variables. I'm not sure how spot-metering and manual mode would work together, unless you were using the spot meter to determine your manual settings, but in ever-changing light, that's going to be a lot of changed settings and lots of time lost to metering and re-setting your exposure.

I think 1/250 is a reasonable minimum shutter speed. Higher would be better of course. Just keep an eye on it.

I'm sure that being able to dial in the 'correct' exposure settings at any given time would be ideal, and preferable to shooting in an 'automatic' mode. But with constantly changing light, that's beyond my ability, and in my experience, spot metering in AV mode can work quite well.

EDIT: Seeing Paul's comments, I agree with what he is saying if the lighting on and across the stage is fairly constant over time (varying across the stage but staying the same from beginning to end of a dance, for example). Based on the initial post, I was thinking more of a situation where the lighting is changing as part of the performance, like a concert.



May 01, 2012 at 05:51 PM
benee
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Some Shooting Advice Needed - Modern Dance


Russ Isabella wrote:
Spot metering for skin in AV mode removes the many variables.



Not entirely.... For one, you have to re-meter for virtually every shot, otherwise you may mistakenly meter the background, etc and get the exposure all wrong. If you go with manual, you don't have to meter as often and won't be stuck with the occassional unintended motion blur, since you're in full control of the shutter speed with manual.

I'm sure you can make AV mode work in these kinds of situations, but I think full manual is really the best way to go.

For me, the most effective thing is to get my initial exposure reading based on a fairly "bright" moment on stage with a high shutter speed (say 1/800). I can then quickly dial down the shutter speed if the light gets dimmer to 1/250 as needed.



May 01, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Russ Isabella
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Some Shooting Advice Needed - Modern Dance


Ben: I think you are right in that there is likely to be more than one approach that will work. This is one of those instances (like so many with photography) where the shooter has to learn by experience what works best for him/her. I find it very useful to read about the different approaches taken by different shooters, because it gives me more to work with the next time I'm in the type of situation we are talking about here. Thanks for sharing your experience.


May 01, 2012 at 05:58 PM
benee
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Some Shooting Advice Needed - Modern Dance


^^^ Yes, there's more than one way to skin a cat!


May 01, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Red 90
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Some Shooting Advice Needed - Modern Dance


Thanks guys for all the ideas. I know it will be a bit of a trial and error to figure out what works best for different scenarios, but at least I have a bit of a starting point adn some guidelines to watch out for. I will try both the Av and manual to see what works best. It all depends on the scene and the changes. I'm afraid if I get too caught up in monitoring the shutter speeds or the metering that I'll miss taking a good shot. And the converse is true, if I frame a good shot and moment and the exposure is completely wrong with the shutter speed it doesn't do me any good. I guess that's just a part of learning photography and my lack of experience.


May 01, 2012 at 06:15 PM
P Alesse
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Some Shooting Advice Needed - Modern Dance


Hmmm... now I'm seeing that there might be a spotlight on the dancers. Didn't know that. Spotlights provide nice even lighting on the subjects if the light tracks them properly.


May 01, 2012 at 07:24 PM





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