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April 11, 2004

Ballet Dancers -- In and Out of Focus

I mentioned in a previous post that I've been photographing ballet dancers at a local studio. Most of the photographs I've taken have been conventional images of young dancers in class doing barre exercises and rehearsing show routines. I've experimented slightly, but within constraints. Here are a few of the many images I've taken, mostly with a 105mm lens shot wide open and slightly off-focus (with the exception of the first image). (Click on the link at the bottom to see the entire series).








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I like these, but you'd get mauled for them on most photo web forums. Some of those guys just don't get it - and live their lives at f5.6 and above...

I think the ones that work best are those without mergers or background objects/people. I like #2 and #3 best.

Posted by: John at Apr 12, 2004 9:23:25 AM

Hi John, thanks for taking the time to look and comment. Heh, I love that line about "getting mauled"...indeed, when I first got my medium format camera, the advice given to me was "always put it on a tripod, and shoot no wider than f11". I understand what you're saying about background objects and people, though occasionally I like the stray person as a source of mystery...Antonio at defocused does a really nice job with his pinhole images doing this.

Posted by: Robert at Apr 12, 2004 10:30:39 AM

Heh, just to comment more about that - I posted some of my flower macros to a popular msg board last year.

Almost everytime I'd get comments like 'it needs more DOF', 'you should clone out xxxx', or 'you can't see the whole flower' etc. It made me wonder if my tastes were so far in outfield... Most of the photos there were precise, clinical, almost over-sharpened photos of a single perfect flower, complete with knocked out black background. I began to wonder if they were taking perfect flowers into the studio and shooting the buds under strobes (which I found out many of them indeed were). I have no problem with perfect flower shots, but there was rare deviation from this 'formula'. Strange...

I've seen Antonio's work, and I enjoy his work - I really like the beach exposures.

I guess for some reason I tend to try and eliminate background objects *indoors* - but not *outside* for some reason. Maybe somewhere along my learning process I've tried to get *too* far away from busy portraits. After all I enjoy seeing one's environment even if is *busy*.

Posted by: John at Apr 12, 2004 11:12:59 AM

Very beautiful series. I'm usually not a big fan of soft focus pieces but the technique works quite well here. Almost dangerously inspiring, I can't help but wonder how the second and last images would look printed in gum bichromate. The feeling of lightness and the translucent qualities might be well suited to that process.

Posted by: john at Apr 13, 2004 11:12:10 AM

Thanks john (small "j"...lots of johns visiting here). Your comments are very flattering. You nailed it in the tone of your comments and suggestions...what I'm doing is poor man's alt-process/toy camera with my in-camera fiddling, and I'd like to take it a step further with the real thing at some point, if I can get one or two of these dancers as models to control the situation a little more. What I did here was surprisingly fussy, though... lot of fiddling to figure out the right combo of ISO, aperture, and shutter speed (and it changes depending on the speed of the dancers), and the lens does make a difference as well.

Posted by: Robert at Apr 13, 2004 2:57:10 PM

hey im only 13 and i do ballet myself. I like Your photos theyre great- especially 3 & 6 in my opinion. It seems like u go for the out of focus look, but i found that that detracts from the actual content of thephoto a bit. Its obviously your style but i think u should try them just a bit more focused so the outline of the subject is more defined

Posted by: hannah at May 30, 2004 6:13:33 AM

These dancer photos are amazing. I found them on Google, and thought they were perfect for a banner for my blog and webpage, and so of course, I thought it only curteous to leave you a comment asking your permission to use them.
I'd be over the moon if you said it was okay. If I get no reply, I'll use it until you say otherwise. I'll give you full credit on the webpages, and leave a lovely link allowing everyone to come and have a look at your site. Thanks a mil

Posted by: Gem at Apr 11, 2006 2:15:31 PM