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A Dance Show to Remember

The following series of photos were taken by me few days ago featuring local dancers from Silicon Valley. I was really impressed by the stunning visuals, both in the costumes and the choreography. The red, the vibrance, and the amazing grace were all so ‘Chinese.’ While photographing, I was struck by the idea that this cool art is endowed in my heritage.


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  1. Lime
    April 11th, 2012 at 17:42 | #1

    What dance troop was this? Nice pictures by the way.

  2. April 11th, 2012 at 23:54 | #2

    Thx. The performers are all locals in Silicon Valley. Some of them are as young as 5 and other groups are probably in their 50s.

  3. Joyce Lau
    April 12th, 2012 at 04:08 | #3

    The photos are beautiful, especially the second one with the red ribbons and the girls. It’s hard to get good, sharp shots of people on stage. First of all, they’re in motion. Plus, the lighting can be difficult — very bright in the foreground, very dark in background.
    Did you use a tripod? What zoom? I noticed that you got both close-ups and faraway shots. Did you doctor the colors? Just curious.
    I also like the last one. For some reason, Chinese performances / art are rarely shot in black and white. Of course, one would like to display the bright colors. But I think b&w is pretty cool here.

  4. April 12th, 2012 at 08:22 | #4

    Thx. I used the Canon 5D Mark 2 + the 70-200mm F2.8 IS zoom lens. In theaters there’s not enough lighting, so regular consumer cameras just won’t cut it. The flash on a camera is just not powerful enough to reach out to the stage, so all it does is to disturb the performers.

    The 5D Mark 2 is a full frame camera. Even that, I had to pump ISO to 3200. The lens is obviously important.

    I didn’t use a tripod. Had a monopod with me, but the movement was too quick, so I basically hand-held all the time.

    And, yes, I postprocessed the images and boosted the colors. “doctor” might be too strong a word. These days, all professional photographers postprocess their photos. In some fashion magazines, they may trim a skinny model’s legs to make her even more skinny. In that case, I’d call it “doctoring.” 🙂

  5. Joyce Lau
    April 12th, 2012 at 10:35 | #5

    Sorry! I didn’t mean “doctored” in a bad way. I was just wondering if you boosted the colors, since they are so bright and clear. 🙂
    You’re right about the flash. When I was a college student, I tried to take photos of local music shows for articles I was writing. I didn’t realize at the time that no regular consumer camera was doing to let me do good shots of people in motion, in an oddly lit environment, shot from a distance.
    I just looked up the Canon 5D Mark 2. And wow — you’re probably pretty serious about your hobby.
    I used to be more interested in photography — I even did my own darkroom work back in the day — but I have to admit that I’ve gotten lazy recently. All I take now are terrible snapshots…

  6. April 13th, 2012 at 11:58 | #6

    Sure, no problem. Do you still write articles? Then you already know photography is very complementary. A dSLR kit is not that expensive. This summer my family is vacationing in China, so I hope to bring more images to the blog.

    You might like some other photos I have published in the past:

    http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/2011/04/a-bit-more-texture-in-my-recent-trip-to-china/

    http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/2011/04/faces-of-guilin/

    http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/2011/04/an-evening-at-zhang-yimous-folk-musical-impression-liu-sanjie/

  7. Joyce Lau
    April 13th, 2012 at 20:09 | #7

    I fondly remember your Guilin kids one from back when you posted it. I think that’s what makes a good photographer — not just technical ability to get lighting and focus right, but the ability to capture a special moment in a natural way.

    I sometimes work with photographers — and one piece of advice we give the younger ones is to not make things too “posey” — to avoid placing people in formal poses and forcing them to smile directly into the camera. In news, we call official photos the “grip and grin” — that boring image of two politicians shaking hands and forcing themselves to smile in a way they think is sincere!

    I do write articles for work, and I also blog personally (though less so these days, as work and a new baby have kept me busy). When I write, I don’t usually do the photography myself because, frankly, I’m just not that good. We either hire a professional photographer, or use photos supplied by a news wire, the PR agency or who-ever we’re working with.

    The last story I shot was (ironically) a photography festival in Shanxi Province. But I just looked back on my blog post from that time and realized that I didn’t post my photos, which is funny. I thought I did.
    http://www.joyceyland.com/2010/09/giant-photo-festival-in-shanxi-province.html

    It was an interesting experience, since I usually write about the arts from Hong Kong or, occasionally, Shanghai — and everything is so posh and expensive here. The Shanxi photo festival was huge — the biggest in the world — but really gritty. There were photos posted to trees, or shown inside abandoned factories with leaky roofs and dirt floors. Of course, it was total chaos, which is why it was fun. It was a totally different experience for me, and drives home that an image does not have to be in a formal gallery with a price tag to count as art.

    Anyway, this little exchange has inspired me to go dig out my old camera. Like I said, I’ve mostly been taking terrible family snapshots with a small digital point-and-shoot or even my iPhone. I can do better…

  8. Joyce Lau
    April 13th, 2012 at 20:15 | #8

    I use the Canon EOS 30D with a 17-85 mm zoom. I bought it about 5 years ago. I try not to use the flash if I can avoid it.
    I was lucky in Shanxi — I had wide open spaces, even natural light (when the rain cleared, it was uniformly overcast) and interesting subject matter. So I sort of lucked into good shots.
    But if I have strange lighting — like in a staged performance — I’m pretty much stuck!

  9. April 13th, 2012 at 23:09 | #9

    @Joyce Lau
    Nice. You are a media person. 🙂 And congrats on your new baby. Very cute.

    Now you have an additional reason to resuscitate your 30D. Go for the 50mm f/1.4. It’s a great value and you will love it on the 30D. Great for portraits indoors with an active baby. Go into aperture priority mode with ISO around 200 or 400. Try f/1.8, f/2.0, f/2.2 etc.. Auto-focus on the nose, eyes – you’ll love the results.

    Good coverage of the Shanxi festival. IHT is now part of NYT?

  10. Joyce Lau
    April 14th, 2012 at 00:12 | #10

    Hi yinyang, Thanks for the tip. I will take your advice. You’re right. I’m missing valueable photo ops by not making more effort to photograph her while she is young.
    Yes, the IHT is part of the NYT. Several years ago, we lost our own website, so everything we do ends up on their site now.
    But when I read blogs or post, I do it independently of work.
    I’m a regular HH reader, but not a frequent commenter. While I don’t agree with everything you guys write, I think it’s good for someone who works for a big media organization to see what criticisms other people have out there.
    Work is pretty intense. And it’s easy to get caught into just reading stuff from the same sources all the time.

  11. April 14th, 2012 at 23:46 | #11

    Since you are here, I’ll share a few more shots:






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