I love to dance.
Today was Day 11 of the #AmyShuttPhotoaday challenge, a photo-a-day project for this month coordinated by Amy Shutt of Amy Shutt Photography. Today’s theme was “dance.”
I've been taking ballet for a little over a year now. I love the structure of ballet - the raw strength required is masked by perfect posture and soft arm positions. It looks effortless, but is everything but.
Faced with today's photo theme challenge, I really wanted to photograph the other women in my ballet class. But the class is an adult class, with mostly older women and retired dancers, and older beginners like me. I wasn't sure they'd be comfortable with me photographing them, so today I decided to go for a self-portrait.
First, I needed a dance place. There is a particular corner in the house we live in now that always has beautiful light. It has the magic of north facing windows. No matter what the weather looks like outside, this corner of the house has a constant stream of beautiful, diffuse white light.
Now normally our two couches line this corner of the house - great reading light. So before I even set up the camera today, I had to rearrange my living room. Despite how peaceful this corner looks in the photos here, one of the couches is in the kitchen and the other is almost on top of our dog's kennel - poor Mojo didn't know WHAT was happening today!
I knew I wanted the long exposure of a pirouette. So I set up my Canon 5D on a tripod with a 40mm lens. Using manual mode, I set my ISO at 100 (lowest possible to allow for long exposure) and my shutterspeed at 1.3 seconds. After a bit of trial and error to get the exposure right, I set my aperture at f/6.3.
First I auto-focused on the bar stool at the side of the frame, where a small potted orchid garden sits on a daily basis. I then switched my lens to manual focus, so that the camera wouldn't be trying to re-focus when I pressed the shutter button from the front side of the camera. I used my camera's 10-second delayed timer function (found by changing the "one shot" shooting mode on the Canon 5D Mark III to a timer mode) so that I could release the shutter and then quickly walk into the frame to set up my dance move.
For the long-exposure pirouette, I waited to hear the mirror of my camera flip up to start my turn. An exposure of 1.3 seconds was a perfect duration to complete a single pirouette turn but not have to come back down from releve (up on the ball of my foot) before the shot was complete.
Other details were also important to the final photograph. The flower pattern on my tights and the orchid plant at the side of the frame are not accidental. I love how they mirror one another.
In Lightroom, I converted the photo to black and white and rather significantly boosted contrast. I sharpened the image and reduced noise, while also adding some grain to give a more "film" mood to it. I let the highlights blow out slightly (and even more in the image below) rather than reveal the view behind the window.