First off I would like to thank Sarah Collaton at 500px, Christina and Taryn at the National Ballet of Canada as well as the dancers of the National Ballet in the Nutcracker Suite for the opportunity to come down and spend a few hours taking pictures during their dress rehearsal.This was a great example of a 500px Community event. I ended up Googling ballet pictures and realized pretty quickly that we would be dealing in low light and since it was a dress rehearsal there wasn't really any proper stage lighting. Also NO FLASHES!! and no distracting the coaching, director staff or even the dancers.
I ended up bringing my 28, 35, 50, 85, 100 and 180 fast primes, a Lens Baby F4 and my 12-24 F4 zoom. I used my D200, D300 and my Coolpix 995 with the fisheye lens on it. I wish I had a FX camera because I was reluctant to shoot at higher than 800 for fear of noise creeping in. Even at the higher ISO it was a struggle to shoot 1/125 at F2 plus or minus. Low light and fast moving subjects is a photographer’s nightmare. Chris mentioned after the shoot that he shot at 6400 on his DX Canon and was going to tweak it out in Lightroom and do a B&W conversion for some of these. I wish I knew that beforehand because I probably would have shot a lot more at a higher ISO and the noise would give that TRI-X 400 ISO film effect afterwards. I am not a big fan of playing with shots after the fact on a computer but I realize it is a strong tool to have. Sara and Vince shot with their FX Canon (5D iii) so low ISO wasn't an issue with them.
I learned quickly that this became a very very stressful shoot only because fast moving subjects in low light and not really sure of how the dancers movement worked in order to anticipate a focus point. I also I was trying to offer a different look to my work. I really struggled to maintain the focus point on the dancer's face.
The 2 hours went by very quickly as I was in awe of the dancing skills as well as trying to make camera adjusts and try to find different perspectives to shoot from. These dancers arrive at 10am and may not finish until 7 or 8pm.
I am happy with several of the shots I took and would be better prepared next time to have a chance at some better pictures.
I learned that I would need to have a 24-70 F2.8, 80-200 F2.8 zoom and a FX camera as well. The FX camera would let me shoot at 12000 ISO cleanly which is a huge benefit at low light. The zooms of course allow you to crop and adjust as opposed to using the primes zoom (move feet back and forth)
Three bodies would be ideal with one just for B&W.
However, if you had just one camera and a couple of lenses then the best one can do is shoot different lens shots from the 3 different shooting locations and be more careful in your post processing and editing.
This was an excellent exercise to work under pressure in the way a PJ or press photographer would have to work. it really gave me a view in the day in the life of a PJ (photo journalist). You got 15 minutes for a single portrait or 120 minutes for a 8 photo double page spread, get it right the first time, nab the shots as needed, make the photo editor happy and keep your job so you can do it again the next working day.
Also I am glad I brought my tripod for the Ethereal feel shots and a Think Tank Roller Bag to carry all the gear in. If I had to bring studio strobes and stands or any Speed lights I am sure I would have needed to bring the Think Tank Logistics Manager to carry all the gear in.
This shoot was a really wonderful learning experience that included some pre-planning, figuring out what gear to bring, some ideas around what I wish to represent in my work, shooting the event, and then editing afterwards for submission. I would add the most important conversation after the fact is what can i do better next time? and that includes the discussion with my peers.
The most important lesson I learned is that one must shoot lots, from different viewpoints, with different lenses and to take a few minutes to chimp through the shots. Also to push yourself to think creatively and try to capture a new shot from a new angle and try to represent what the viewer would like to see when viewing the 2 page newspaper spread.