Light

Dancing with a Shadow

Both photographs and dance have an innate capability to tell and convey stories and ideas, as with any kind of art form. I have always wanted to portray a story through dance and photographs. Being able to fuse both art forms have always intrigued me because of the many factors involved. How does one art portray another in tandem and with accuracy? I want to explore these ideas. Therefore I asked my dancer friends Marissa Mes and Rafa Siguion-Reyna to model for me. Marissa was part of the final competitors in So You Think You Can Dance in Holland.

The concept for this series was the idea of “letting go”. Letting go of a loved one is always a difficult ordeal. However, it doesn’t mean that you have to let go of everything. One thing you can keep are the great memories that you have of them.

For the shadows of the models in the background, I used a similar technique from one of my older composites. I first took a photo of the models doing the lift together and then a separate one with them reenacting the lift by themselves. I then created a silhouette of the dancers together and used that as the shadow behind the solo dancer. 

For this post, I wanted to focus on how I was able to completely simulate a backlit and ethereal effect using photoshop. This is the original photo taken without any post-processing. I originally wanted a lot of backlight for this series but lacked the amount of natural sunlight due to the cloudy weather.

In Photoshop, I simply created a new layer and used white colored large soft round brushes (0% hardness) with 40% opacity and built it up. I used the color white because I would have more control of its color in Lightroom which would be the last step.

I also added shadows to give it a more realistic look. For this, I added another layer and used the lasso tool to create a rough shape of the shadow then used the radial gradient tool and used the soles of the feet as the center. I finished it up with the Gaussian Blur tool and decreased its opacity.

I then used the masking tool as you can see on the screen shot, to start removing the white on the subjects. I used the round brush with 100% hardness in the inner side of the models then changed it to around 40% hardness around the edges. This simulates a rim light effect to make it look more natural.

Finally, the last step is editing the colors and the contrast using Lightroom. I gave it a warm color to further simulate the light effect. I also increased the clarity of the subjects using the adjustment brush, isolating the effect from the background. Here is the final image:

I edited these photos mainly using Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom 4. I also used Portrait Professional Studio for retouching. If you have more questions on how I produced these images, feel free to comment here or post on my wall on facebook.

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Night Club Photography

Night clubs are always a great place to take pictures in, because of all the energy. In return, you can really capture some great candid memories. Some also do it because it’s a great way to expose your work to a larger audience, especially now with social media. I do it just as favors for friends because I don’t like risking my camera. But when I do take my camera out to a club, it’s always worth it.

Nikon D800, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6, Aperture: f/3.5, Shutter Speed: 1/125

Nikon D800, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6, Aperture: f/3.5, Shutter Speed: 1/125

Here are a couple of pointers when you plan to take your camera to the club.

1. Define your point of view.

A lot of photographers are hired to go to the night club specifically to take photos. It means that there is a certain barrier between them and the subject because they will most likely be posed. There is nothing wrong with that but you lose a lot of energy in those photos and they are very generic. However, most clubs don’t allow DSLR’s and so being hired does give you an advantage.

In my personal opinion, it is still better to find ways to bring your DSLR in a club without being hired. You have a fresh perspective and can focus on capturing unposed portraits. It’s all about capturing memories and you can focus on your friends. If you aren’t a hired photographer, I would avoid wandering outside your group of friends because you might be thought of as a creep.

Nikon D800, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6, Aperture: f/3.5, Shutter Speed: 1/60

Nikon D800, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6, Aperture: f/3.5, Shutter Speed: 1/60

2. Flash

I would suggest investing in a flash that can rotate its head vertically and horizontally. This enables you to bounce your flash so that it doesn’t create a harsh lighting on your subjects.

Bouncing your flash basically means directing your flash towards the ceiling or a wall. In return, your flash’s light travels more distance, making it softer and more spread out. Your light will be more diffused and thus, less hotspots. Hotspots are harsh light on a subject (usually on a person’s nose). You also don’t get that annoying red eye that you usually have to edit out.

3. Flash Sync

Flash sync speed is the fastest shutter speed you can use with a flash. Most off camera flashes will have a maximum flash sync of 1/250th of a second. If you want to capture the motion of the lights and the atmosphere, then you would have to use a shutter speed slower than 1/250th. If you want to completely freeze all of the action, then use 1/250. I often use a slower shutter speed so that I can get those nice laser lights that add a lot of mood to the photos.

Nikon D90,18-200mm f/3.5-5.6, Aperture: f/4, Shutter Speed: 1/30

Nikon D90,18-200mm f/3.5-5.6, Aperture: f/4, Shutter Speed: 1/30

4. Lens

You usually just bring one lens to a night club because you don’t want to be bringing a bag with you. Therefore in my opinion, the best lens for a night club would be a lens that can do it all. I usually carry around either my DX 18-200mm lens or FX 28-300mm. These super zooms/wide angle will make sure that you don’t miss a thing.

Do not worry about depth of field and aperture as much because your flash/light will be responsible for separating your subject from the crowd. Your flash has a certain reach due to its power and therefore will only illuminate a certain part of the picture. You can control this to add focus to your subject. However that being said, my personal choice for aperture is as wide as your lens can go (low f number).

Nikon D800, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6, Aperture: f/5, Shutter Speed: 1/80

Nikon D800, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6, Aperture: f/5, Shutter Speed: 1/80

5. Friendly reminders

Don’t drink and shoot: You know how they say don’t drink and drive? The same rules apply when taking photos in a club. You don’t want to mix drinks and taking photos. The last thing you would want is to damage your camera or lose it while being drunk. If you do plan to drink, have a sober friend help keep an eye out for your camera (just like a designated driver).

Bring a Handkerchief: Getting drinks spilled on you is always a risk at a party. It’s even more of a risk when you have your camera with you. Most DSLR’s are weather-proof and can afford to get a little wet. However, you would want to dry up that alcohol as soon as possible and that is where a handkerchief comes in handy. If anything though, keep your distance from people that are too drunk.

Nikon D800, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6, Aperture: f/3.5, Shutter Speed: 1/125

Nikon D800, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6, Aperture: f/3.5, Shutter Speed: 1/125

I edited these photos mainly using Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom 4. I also used Portrait Professional Studio for retouching. If you have more questions on how I produced these images, feel free to comment here or post on my wall on facebook.

website | facebook | flickr | behance instagram