How to shoot professional ballerinas on the streets of the National Slovak Theater

By on August 13, 2012

BTS by Erwan Cloarec

As part of our Von Wong does Europe tour we were given the privilege to work with Ana Beschia and a group of dancers of the National Slovak Theatre. We were given full creative liberty for this photoshoot so Ana and I set about planning for the photoshoot through a series of skype calls and facebook messages.

One thing I’ve noticed is that a random ballerina in a public location can make for some amazing imagery such as those created by the ballerina project. That being said though, I’ve always been more of an epic-large scale shooter so I wanted to challenge myself to create something similar… with more dancers.

While planning this photoshoot with Ana, we wanted to keep the looks very simple and classical for the outdoor half of our photoshoot. Guys in leggings, girls in tutus with slight variations but still in the very recognizable white elegance of a ballerina. By keeping a classic look in a historically rich environment, we were certain that we could come up with some striking imagery.

The day of our photoshoot, we were presented with a gorgeous cloudy sky. This was great news for us since the dancers were all in radiant white clothing and direct sunlight would have made our life quite complicated. The cloudy skies meant that we would not be needing to overpower the sun so we left our Linkstar studio strobes & Innovatronix battery packs in the car and decided to travel with nothing more than a four way flash bracket, speedlights, Undfned fany pack and Sirui Tripod.

We met up bright and early around 9 AM at a coffee shop in the main square of Bratislava, which we converted into a temporary home base for hair, makeup and clothing. While the dancers were arriving, waking up and getting ready, Ana and I did a quick scouting of the surrounding area and planned out the first two shots that we wanted to achieve. The first, to have the dancers climb on top of a statue of Napolean.

For this shot, I had my camera mounted on my Sirui Tripod with a 70-200mm lens. For those of you who are curious, the reason I used a longer lens was to compress my perspective as much as possible to make the dancers look like they were on a similar plane. I used the marble of a fountain located in the centre of the square to add an odd reflection on the lower left corner of the image and shot the images in bracketing mode to compensate for the movement of the clouds.

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On the second shot, we used the foursquare flash bracket to add a little bit of light to fill in the shadows since our dancers were slightly hidden in the shadows. This shot was mildly more challenging as people kept constantly passing through! Thankfully though, the dancers were able to quickly reset and adapt between shots.

Vonwong arch ballerina national slovak theater

From there, we found an old rustic street that was extremely cute. Since this street had a distinct european traditional flavor to it, we thought that it would be interesting to add a little splash of contemporary colour to the surrounding area so we proceeded to get the dancers changed up and hopping on the streets. Since I knew that it would be highly improbable to be able to capture all dancers in the perfect moment as my motion capture skills are nowhere near as amazing as those of Lois Greenfield , I threw down my tripod and locked down my focus so that if necessary, I could cut and paste the perfect position of each dancer from a variety of images. Once again, tourists were a constant struggle (see video!) but despite it all… we still managed to pull off our shot.

Colorful ballet bratislava von wong

We then walked to the side of the Danube river and placed our gorgeous dancers on the ledge. After taking a couple shots with only the dancers, we realized that the shot could be enhanced just a little bit if we could throw in a cute couple to sit on the bench facing the dancers so we captured an old pair of tourist and invited them to participate in our photograph! The result? This photograph was actually shot 3 stops underexposed to make sure that we had a beautiful sky and soft even lighting… and then recovered in lightroom.

Old love ballerina cute vonwong couple

Finally, we had the dancers do some crazy acrobatics with a lamp post despite the protests of a public security officer. Although he did attempt to stop us a couple times, we pretended not to understand and simply forged ahead. He wasn’t very intimidating in his tricycle!

Ballerinas on a lamppost vonwong

Special thanks to those who helped us make this shoot possible:

Partners:

Special Gear used:

  • Video: Erwan Cloarec Visuals
  • Assistant: Alistair Stewart
  • Dancers: Ana Beschia, Alice White, Alexandra Walton, Bethan Smith, Martin Anderson, Dominik Slavkovský

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