Evening at the Oasis

Evening at the Oasis

When you have the opportunity to photograph a fundraiser consisting of a number of different belly dance groups you can't turn it down. I mean, it's a tough job but somebody has to do it. And since my wife and daughter were at a Bruno Mars concert I didn't feel too bad about it.

These dancers run the gamut from amateur to professional and include belly dance instructors also (as you can see by the audience participation in one of the frames). They're all very talented and they have quite a following of family and friends that come for the show. Many different styles of belly dancing we're represented and the costumes, as you can see, were great.

Photographing these dancers is very similar to photographing a concert. You have dark backgrounds and various colored stage lighting to contend with. Since the lighting changes during each act and the spots are scattered across the stage you're not going to get away with manual exposure mode, especially with the dancers moving around. You also need to crank up your shutter speed a bit higher than the average rock concert since the dancers are, well, moving.

I use the Auto-ISO feature on my camera for this type of event and, looking at the exposure setting for all of these shots, I ranged from 1600 to 6400 ISO. I was shooting wide open at f/2.8 and was able to use shutter speeds between 1/320 and 1/500 sec. These shutter speeds were a little slower than what I prefer but you have to go with the light you have. Could I have used a flash? Sure, but that would have killed the ambiance of the stage lighting and produced well-lit, but flat and boring photos. Luckily, my 50-140mm lens has image stabilization so that helped somewhat. 

When photographing  any type of dance in low light I try to shoot at the peak of the action or when the movement pauses temporarily. This will help cut down on motion blur. Also, gesture is everything in dance photos so look for expressive movements. You'll sometimes get great facial expressions, especially from the seasoned dancers so watch out for these.

Finally, you want to shoot with a longish lens to get away from the stage (assuming they're performing on a stage). At a rock concert you're at the foot of the stage shooting upward and this angle looks cool. For dancers, not so much. You want to shoot them straight on because you want to get their whole body without angular distortion.

Have fun.

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