Friday, March 18, 2011

The Romance of the Dance

In the summer of 1975, I was an AFS exchange student to Argentina, where I lived with a wonderful and very kind family for 6 weeks. They were (and are) an amazing family who generously offered me every opportunity to experience and live the Argentine culture. They introduced me to tango music and the dancing that goes with it. My host father even tried to teach tango to me as we listened to tango music in their living room! I never did get the hang of it, but we had so much fun in the process.  (Yep, that's me 36 years ago trying to learn the tango!) 

I returned to Argentina in 2006, and spent an evening with friends at La Cumparsita Tango Bar in Buenos Aires. The tango bar is an intriguing place, dimly lit and mysterious with the strains of classic and romantic tango music filling the air. Small tables lined the dance floor where we sat watching the practiced and talented dancers translate the passion of the music through their dance moves. I have always wanted to experience the flow of the tango firsthand. Foolishly, I believed I could move as fluidly as the dancers just by watching them, and so I was hoping someone would come and ask me to dance, but also fearing the same. While absorbed in the atmosphere, it happened: one of the experienced male dancers asked me to dance! I thought, "Why not give it a try- especially since no one here knows me?" And so I did, following his lead as he moved me across the floor. As you can see in the photo, I had progressed some in style, but still had to stare at what my two left feet were doing instead of gazing intently into my partner's eyes! Trust me, tango is more difficult than it looks!  (even in flat shoes!)

The next morning, I met a professional tango couple in La Boca. Milagros and Omar graciously and passionately modeled their tango poses for my camera in various parts of the area for half the day. It was a magical photo shoot... Even without the music, I was still swept up by the passion of the dance! 

Fast forward to two nights ago, when I attended "Fire and Passion of Tango" at the newly built and opened Palladium Concert Hall in the Center for Performing Arts. (Carmel, Indiana.) The performance featured the talented Argentine dancers of Tango Buenos Aires- 'one of Argentina's great cultural exports.'
We were seated in a box seat on the second level over, and just in front of, the stage where we had an unobstructed view of every precise and passionate dance move. 
Although a perfect vantage for photographing, sadly, cameras were not allowed in the concert hall. But as I watched the show, in my mind's eye, I was composing and snapping images in my head. This is how it has to be: Knowing I will never actively master the tango as well as the Argentines, I will have to be content to forever enjoy it passively through the viewfinder of my camera. 

To see more of my images of the Romance of the Dance, please click HERE 
Featured models are Milagros and Omar-Professional dancers and instructors of tango. Their website can be seen HERE
And, to see a short video clip from the show Tango Buenos Aires "Fire and Passion of Tango," click HERE

Friday, March 11, 2011

Before and After ‘The Decisive Moment'

In the words of the father of modern photojournalism, Henri Cartier-Bresson: "There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative," he said. "Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever."

'The Moment' to which Cartier-Bresson refers has been coined 'the decisive moment.'  As in photojournalism, wildlife photography also has its decisive moments.
However, unlike photojournalism in Cartier-Bresson’s day, when cameras only operated in one shot mode, today’s digital cameras can capture images from 3 to 10 frames per second, so even the ‘missed’ moments are recorded forever!
Bwabwata National Park, Caprivi, Namibia
Canon 50D, 70-200mm f 4 lens, ISO 800, 1/1600 @ f 4.0
Using high speed motor drive is very useful for capturing the quick movements of wildlife and nailing the decisive moment within the burst of images.
Yellowstone National Park, Canon 50D, 600mm f4 IS lens + 1.4X teleconveter,
ISO 400, 1/1250 @ f 5.6
When editing images made utilizing high speed motor drive, one sorts through bursts of images and keeps the one frame that was made at the peak of the action or during the perfect pose as “the decisive moment.” 
So, what can we do with the sharp frames which are made within the burst before and after the “decisive moment?”
Since scrolling through images shot at high frames per second (FPS), resembles a crude movie- much like the flip books from our childhood days, I asked myself: what if I made some of these series of images into a photo collage or film strip of the action I witnessed? In a creation such as this, the photos surrounding the decisive moment would help tell the story of what was witnessed.
Chobe National Park, Botswana,
Canon 5D Mark II, 600mm f4 IS lens + 1.4X teleconveter,
ISO 800, 1/500 @ f 5.6 
Look at the individual photos in each of these series. Which one photo in each series would you choose as the 'decisive moment?' 
(They can be seen larger by clicking on each collection. Please use your back browser to return to the blog entry.)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Time for Spring Cleaning...

We all know the excitement of being in the field or on location with creative juices flowing and our visions being recorded onto numerous CF cards. There is nothing more inspiring than witnessing and capturing a beautiful sunrise or sunset, cascading waterfalls, or wildlife engaging in unusual behaviors.
What a glamorous profession we have chosen...until we bring home the thousands of images. Then the flip side of that glamour appears.

This past month, I have been using my time to catch up from all those wonderful experiences in the field, and I assure you, it has been quite time consuming! I really do enjoy the importing and editing process . (however, key wording them is another story...!) I must say, it has been a very long while since I have spent extended periods of time working on my images.
Upon opening certain programs, I found they needed updating. Having the most current versions of software updates insures that the programs are running at optimum performance. And so, I took a day to go through all of my software programs searching for updates and bringing them up to speed. (Updates are usually found under the 'help' menu on the tool bar) I then took the time to visit the web sites of the hardware components of my computer system and updated drivers as well.

Another important thing to check is the current firmware version of your camera. This can be done by visiting the manufacturer's web site, locating the model of your camera and looking for drivers and downloads. By comparing the firmware listed in the camera's menu to the most recent posted firmware update, you are able to tell if it is necessary to perform the upgrade. The camera manufacturer's web site posts easy to follow instructions to perform the firmware update.

OK, now the camera's software has been updated...what about the hardware? Lens calibration is worth the time and effort to get the most out of your camera and lens combinations. And speaking of camera hardware...when was the last time it was in for serious cleaning?? I am using the gray days of February and early March to send some of my gear to Canon for a professional cleaning in order to be ready for the next photo adventure.

So, when was the last time you took the time to make sure all of your photo equipment, computer hardware and software were up to date? If you can't remember when, then you are long overdue! (And as fast as technology changes, it's a good idea to check for updates monthly)