For the last several years, Shannon has been taking Ballet through Pamela Trokanski Dance Workshop. Every year, at the end of May or beginning of June, they put on a Student Concert where each class performs. Photography is allowed, under one strict condition: NO FLASH.
This is a particularly difficult assignment for me. Consider the situation: Low light, fast-moving subjects, and no flash. This is the fourth time on this assignment, and I have to admit that I'm getting better. This year was probably the best ballet photos I've taken.
I can attribute some of my success to the valuable advice I receive from a wonderful podcast called Shutters Inc., particularly this episode where they respond to a letter I wrote asking for advice on how to take live stage photos. Basically, they said I need more light, so try getting closer, and using a faster lens. That means a lens with a lower f-stop value.
Fortunately, I had a f/1.8 lens on hand, so I used that. Unfortunately (kinda) that lens is a fixed 50mm lens, not a zoom. So, the only difference in perspective that I got was when the dancers were closer to me or farther away. A benefit of such a lens was that I didn't have to screw around with zooming. In a short amount of time I could tell exactly what my frame was going to look like before I even lifted the camera to my eye. Shelton said that he can get 1/100sec shots staying on ISO-100. I had no such luck. Perhaps the Veterans' Memorial Center Theatre in Davis just isn't quite as well lit as some of the stages that Bruce and Shelton have photographed. I had to stay around 1/60sec at ISO-200... and even then many shots were underexposed and had to be brightened in post-processing. ("Post-processing" is tech speak for "editing the photo after taking it.")
Speaking of post-processing, I explored a new computer program for doing so. Photoshop is great for getting one photo JUST RIGHT, but I took 469 photos for this project, and there will be more than a couple that I'm interested in fixing up. I needed a better "workflow". Aperture is now the program for me. It only took me a few hours to go through all the photos, rate them all from one star to five, and edit them all to the point that I could create a slideshow and output some low-resolution versions for my web site. Pretty slick.
I'll probably still use Photoshop now and then when I need some particularly heavy-duty Photoshop Magic to fix up a shot, and Aperture makes it easy to do just that.