Tag Archives: dance

International Festival, 2014, Pearland, TX

Last weekend I had the awesome opportunity to shoot as a volunteer photographer for the 2014 Pearland International Festival in Pearland, TX – my new home since returning from Taiwan. The event featured acts from throughout the Houston area and was a great chance to practice my concert and cultural photography.

Above: youth members of Mariachi Calmecec, a Houston-based mariachi group.

A dancer from Grupo Folkorico Raices De Panama, a Panamanian dance group.

A singer performs with Galaxy Band, a Houston-based reggae band.

A performance of Grease by Pearland Theatre Guild.

A “flying” Bollywood dancer.

Indian classical dancers.

Mango Punch, a Houston-based salsa band.

Le Calma, a Norteño/Tejano band from San Antonio.

 

Single Shot: Javanese Kuda Lumping Dancer

Kuda Lumping is a Javanese traditional dance employing a horse made of woven bamboo. The dancers are sometimes in a trance, during which time they do remarkable or unusual things like eating glass or being whipped. While we didn’t see either of these while watching these dancers a Prambanan, it was an interesting facet of Javanese culture to learn about.

Here’s a Wiki about this style of dance.

Reprocessed Shot: Jhubei Lion Dancer

As I improve my postprocessing in Aperture 3, I try to go back to old RAW files and see what I can do to improve some of my favorite shots. One of these is a dragon “handler” from mainland China who was taking part in a cross-strait Chinese cultural festival in Jhubei last year. The original post can be found here. You’ll notice that the images aren’t resized to my new blog format – I’ll get to doing that later for that post as it was one of my personal favorite days of shooting.

Since I like the after shot more, here it is first:

…and the before:

The most obvious difference, and what I thought was the most important, was the crop. The second shot has an awkward non 3:2 or 5:4 look to it. Since my camera is a cropped-sensor, it uses the 3:2 format, which I use 95% or 99% of the time. For some reason, I’ve noticed that that natural crop is more appealing. I also changed it by lightening up the eyes (not by too much) and messing with the sharpness, contrast, and color temperature (white balance) to get a more appealing, less yellow look.

What do you think? Does it work?

Jhubei Tibet Festival: Golden Dancers

These dancers, which took some stylistic inspiration from the Buddhist “1,000 Hands Dance” – a mostly Chinese phenomenon – recently performed at a Tibetan Culture Festival here in Jhubei. While this dance is not Tibetan, it was the first time I saw such a performance.

For the posed shots, the 35mm f/1.8 was great. I mixed it with an upward-pointing SB-600 to get a sort of glow and kept it from being used directly. The 70-300 without the flash was useful for the actual dance.

  

  

Apsara Dancers, Siem Reap

Apsara, the traditional Cambodian ballet which dates back thousands of years, is a dance form which is a bit of a mainstay of southeast Asian culture. Many people associate the dance form with Thailand, but Cambodia and Thailand probably share this form as a result of their Hindu-influenced strains of Buddhism.

We saw this performance in a pretty luxurious hotel (which we didn’t stay at) which offered a dance and a dinner for about $25 – a fortune for a meal in Cambodia. Also included was a form of Cambodian folk dance.

While we were seated near the front and I soon noticed photos were OK, I had trouble with the stage lights being unpredictable, not wanting to use flash (though others did), and the movement of the dancers being much quicker than I had realized.

  

  

Left: I included this image from Angkor Wat to show you how similar these dancers are. They could be apsaras or devatas, and I’m am not 100% certain.

Above: a representation of the killing of a demon. I believe this relates to the Hindu story of the Ramayana, detailing the stealing away of an Indian princess named Sita and the rescue of her by Rama, an avatar of Vishnu.

More from the Jhubei Dragon/Lion Dance

These are some more photos from the Jhubei Dragon/Lion Dance Festival back in December. I posted photos and had a very productive, fun day that afternoon – all of this taking place about a block away from my apartment.

In fact, it was productive enough that I got some photos that I never did post here.

Hsinchu City: Freestyle Dance-off

With a long weekend, I’ve been able to take some time exploring Wulai (more photos from that coming) and Taipei.  Since I don’t want to be too busy with my time off, I decided to play it easy yesterday, spending my afternoon in Hsinchu City where I came across yet another hip-hop dance competition.

This time around, the competition in question was a freestyle dance-off, where two competing groups of three would go up against each other.  The crowd in this tiny space was HUGE.  They were energetic as well, swelling up when a move was performed and going nutso when someone did something amazing like a backflip.

I started out with the 70-300, but eventually pulled out the 18-55 to get the context and energy of the crowd.

Hsinchu Dance-Off, 30 (365 Day 6: 2011-02-27)

Beginning is my favorite photo of the day and my “365” photo for 2-27.  Stretching out to 18mm worked well here, though I didn’t realize until after I had taken the shot that there was a small amount of fog on my lens!  Apparently the humidity in the camera bag was different.  I took this thinking I would throw it out, but liked how it worked when I wad one in postprocessing.

I spent most of the day using fill-flash at a super-low ISO to get things done.  This worked pretty well, and I liked the tones it brought out when different white balances were applied.  Flash in general is something that I’m always striving to learn more about, so it was nice to get great results from the SB-600.

Hsinchu Dance-Off, 12

   

Hsinchu Dance-Off, 19

Hsinchu Dance-Off, 4

Looking over a shoulder – no extra light on this one for obvious reasons.

Hsinchu Dance-Off, 35

This was hard to get sitting so close since the two sides had their backs to the crowd the whole time.  I liked how the composition worked out.

Hsinchu Dance-Off, 39

See some of my previous work with these competitions here, here and here.

Chinese Opera – Hsinchu Market

Short post today as I just got back from a school field trip.  The field trip was my reason for not posting at my normal time – I’m sure the world will forgive me :)

This shot was taken last weekend at the Hsinchu market.  These Chinese opera shows are very popular and quite common – I was happy to sneak to the side for a different perspective this time.

(Another) Hip Hop Competition, Hsinchu

During New Year’s weekend, I went to Hsinchu to check out yet another hip hop competition and was blown away by the size of the event.  It seemed to be a regional performance and included mostly high school-aged kids competing for their spot at the top.

It’s interested that this has almost become a category of my photography – I never thought that would happen when I left the US.

Dragon/Lion Dances and Drum Competition

Last Saturday, I had a chance to see a drum competition mixed into some dragon and lion dance performances.  I’m pretty sure this included some dance troupes from the mainland, and needless to say all of this was impressive.

This was also a good chance for me to get better with photographing moving objects.  I flipped on my AI-servo functions for the autofocus along with the continuous shutter and had a blast trying to get the performers jumping.  The first image is an example of that:

While I’ve got a little bit of blur on the feet, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.  I do wish that I had a more neutral background with some bokeh, as my lens isn’t an f/2.8 or anything (it was at 70mm f/4.5) and since hindsight is 20/20, I could have used more zoom to fix that – this image is obviously cropped a little.

Some shots that did come out a little better is a series of jumping lions.  These guys work in teams of two and have to jump on very small platforms – no more than the size of each foot.  Include some acting that the “lion” must perform, and you have a very stressful situation:

I did manage to get both “parts of the lion” with their feet up in the air, but not as dramatically as I would have liked:

I think I prefer the first of the two, because you can see the concentration in the faces – some flash might have worked, but a correct exposure would’ve been tricky.  I’m still getting assimilated with fill-flash on sunny days – this was a tough day to measure for.

Something that also helps me is to judge timing by the rhythm.  It’s easy to tell if a lion will jump based on the sound of the gongs played by the musicians in the back.  With drummers, I was able to pick up this pattern:

While I had seen dancing lions before (in Houston’s Chinatown, no less), I hadn’t had a chance to see these “lion trainers” and the act they brought.  The very first picture is a shot of the first lion trainer I saw – a guy who plays with the lions with a large ball and has them do tricks.  This was also done by a woman who put a lot of personality into the show as she interacted with her “animals.”

The male “lion trainer” was less interactive, but more acrobatic.  The very first photo on this post shows his backflip – he landed on the back of a lion and rode it for a few seconds.

Another event which I hadn’t seen before was a dragon dance.  This involved a leader which carried a ball on a stick which the dragon – handled by about 15-20 people – followed around.  I was pretty impressed by the contortions needed to make the dragon do different tricks.

The above shot is one of my favorites from the day.  The handlers were yelling the whole time – which, along with the drums, added to the atmosphere.

The above shot shows some of the crazy contortions needed to get a dragon to do what you want.  Sure looks painful.