Dancers in Motion Revisited

Some creative concepts are worth revisiting, especially when they involve collaboration with other artists and a style that results in new looks with every frame. I’ve grown to love painting with motion in long exposures, and dancers are a perfect fit for the genre.

One of the beauties of capturing blurred motion is though it’s not unique and has been done by many, every shot you take is unique in its own way. The choice of outfit, motion, expressive pose, length of exposure, intensity of light, etc. all play into what gets painted onto your sensor. I recently offered this topic as a hands on shooting event at our monthly UC Photo Group events at the studio.

Mixing light sources is a great way to get the blur of motion from constant lights, then the strobe will freeze the subject in one or more poses however you see fit. I like to hold the trigger in my hand and fire the strobe(s) at what I think are key points in the movement. This is again where it is a collaborative effort with the dancer or whoever is moving in the frame. Usually it requires many takes on a specific movement to see what will look best in a frozen moment along with the movement.

There are advantages to leaving the trigger on camera and choosing a rear curtain sync as this ends the exposure right on the moment of flash. Ending the exposure then makes it so there is none of the blurred motion happening in front of your model. My Canon 5D Mark III does not allow for rear curtain sync with a third party trigger though, so I prefer to go with the manual exposure approach along with the creative choices it gives me.

Mixing light sources is not required though of course, and often the abstract feel of long exposures without any moment frozen by flash is beautiful. The name of the game here is experimentation, and once you find something you like go down that path for awhile and refine the results.

I really enjoy collaborating with new artists, including the dancers and other photographers. Often they will see or think of new things that vary from what I’ve done in the past, introducing great new ideas. This particular shoot was set up with Mike Julian, Brianne Robison and Kenzie Brotherson. All great talents and all with wonderful ideas. It takes a lot of patience to keep repeating the same motion over and over as we photographers tune in the timing of the cameras and strobes in sync with the beautiful movement dancers are presenting.

I’m grateful to have the opportunity to work with talented people and hope to do many more in this theme.