Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Photographing the magic in a dance performance February 29, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:09 AM
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SATURDAY AFTERNOON I found myself kneeling on the floor of the Faribo West Mall to shoot photos of young dancers performing.

If my orthopedic surgeon had observed the way I crouched and bent my hip, he would have scolded me, even warned me that I could pop my 3 ½-year-old artificial right hip right out of place. Such an admonition would be well-deserved.

But in those photographic moments, I forget about the health consequences and pursue shots from a perspective that best tells the story. With kids, that typically means I get down on their level, on the floor. Now getting back up, well, that can be more of a challenge.

Let me show you three photos from that dance performance. They’re not your typical “proud parent” type shots and I’m certain more than one parent questioned why I was scooting around on the floor of the mall.

You won’t see the dancers’ faces. Rather, you’ll notice the stance, the clasp of hands and other details that tell a story from a broader perspective. See for yourself and read how, with my minor photo editing skills, I tweaked each photo.

It is the pose of this little girl, holding her hands close, eyes fixed on the older dancer, that show her admiration, her "I want to dance just like her someday," wonderment. In photo editing, I cropped the image just a wee on the left to cut out a distracting red EXIT sign. I sharpened the photo slightly and lowered the saturation of the yellow. While an entire crowd of onlookers ringed the two dancers, in this frame I opted to focus solely on the two dancers to emphasize the magic I saw between them. It was as if they were all alone in the mall, at a private dance lesson.

Here I crouched as low as I could without lying on the floor to capture this moment. This scene takes in all aspects of the performance from performer to the audience to those two little girls who look forward to someday dancing solo. The only editing change was a minor sharpening of the photo.

When the older girls took to the mall dance floor, I wanted to showcase the movement to tell their story and to truly engage you, the reader. So I set a slower shutter speed and focused on their legs. I cropped the frame on the right and then edited the distracting colors from the image. The sepia tone adds to the dreamy, artsy quality of the photo.

AFTER THE PHOTO shoot of the dancers, I stopped by my local public library where I found a photography guidebook that I’d highly recommend, Expressive Photography: The Shutter Sisters’ Guide to Shooting from the Heart.

Check out the Shutter Sisters’ photography blog by clicking here.

Their book is packed with tips about lighting, perspective, photo editing, composition and more. It’s one of the best photography books I’ve read.

And don’t you just love the cover?

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


13 Responses to “Photographing the magic in a dance performance”

  1. Fancy foot photos!

  2. Lisa Says:

    I absolutely love the last photo. My little girls are in dance from time to time and I just love it. They’re not competitive or anything: I just want them to enjoy it.

    Anyway, thank you for the tips on photography. It’s something that I really need to work on with my blog. I keep wondering if it’s me or just my camera, so I just keep looking.

    Thank you for sharing.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I love that your daughters dance for the fun of it.

      As far as photos, the more you shoot, the more confident you’ll become. I don’t think the camera matters as much as your skill set and how you approach a subject. I’m always seeking the different angle or perspective, the details that will set an image apart. I want a photo to tell a story. Studying the work of other photographers and reading books certainly helps also.

      For me, photography has become a passion and I hope that shows in my work. I’m not all that tech savvy, but I think my artistic side makes up for that.

  3. Love the sepia one – very cool! You were having fun, weren’t you?!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I always have fun when I’m photographing. Always. Except maybe when photographing weddings, which I won’t do any more. Way too stressful.

      • Oh, my gosh, I can’t imagine how stressful that would be! My dad used to do weddings. Then he’d develop and print them in the darkroom he added on to our house. That is a smell I will never forget!!!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        I’ve only done a few weddings for family members. I have great respect for professional wedding photographers like your dad. Enough said.

      • He was only semi-pro! And I don’t think he misses it…but the money was nice!

  4. Dorothy Bowman Says:

    Audrey, one of the Shutter Sisters is a friend of ours. We were neighbors with her parents when our kids were growing up. Meredith Winn is Grants age and they grew up together in Summit. Meredith was here for an overnite within the past year. You can look at her blog on “Shutter Sisters” and look under her name. Great site. Dorothy

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I remember you telling me about Meredith. And, yes, I’ve been to the Shutter Sisters’ website and I love it.

  5. audrey, it’s great to meet you here! (and to discover both our loves of photography… our connection through family, no doubt) i love these images you took, capturing the moments between dancers. i really enjoy reading about your process as well, how you describe the moment. that last image is absolutely beautiful, when you remove color it really aids in imaginative storytelling!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you, Meredith. Moving into digital photography several years ago truly opened the doors to creative photography for me. I can shoot to my heart’s content and experiment. Well, you know.

      When I cover an event, visit a place, etc., I view the entire scene in the mindset of a story to tell. And that story is told via overall and detailed shots.

      One of my favorite new ways to shoot is to place my camera on the ground or floor, angle it up a bit and click the shutter button. I never know quite what I’ll get, but typically I am pleasantly surprised. I learned this “trick” from a local sports photographer when I saw him shooting at a vintage baseball game. I love how we can all learn from one another.

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