Dancing in the Moonlight and choices…


I’ve been laid up for the past week or so with a bad back so I was a little worried about the shoot we had planned for last Sunday. A few anti- inflammatories and some pain killers managed to at least get me mobile again so we decided to crack on with the plan.

The aim was to shoot the next photograph in my ‘Lyric Project’ and this one was simple to interpret (as much of this project seems to be!). The lyric was “Dancing in the Moonlight” and my idea was to get a lovely ballet dancer to foolishly listen to me and perform some graceful loveliness in front of the Royal Crescent in Bath Spa, Somerset, UK. The shot would be completed at dusk/night (obviously) and I decided would need to be two shots comped together, one of the landscape and the other of the dancer, strobed to freeze the graceful movement of a leap. The wonderful Royal Crescent was chosen due to its grace and grandeur (suitable for ballet) and its unique crescent shape representing a new moon.

I was joined by a young and hugely talented ballet dancer, Gabrielle MacAllister and her wonderful (and equally talented teacher/mentor) Rebecca Petty-Fitzmaurice from the Dance School, FitzGraham Academy of Dance from Chippenham, Wiltshire, UK. Gabrielle is soon to attend a school in Barcelona to further perfect her trade such is her ability! I brought along my long time friend and able assistant Kev Borley to help with the lugging and to be my mobile light stand for the strobe!

We arrived too early for the shoot given there was still remaining light from a rapidly setting sun but this gave us the opportunity to munch on the sandwiches, crisps and chocolate we’d purchased on the way!  We took the short walk up to the location and were all surprised at the bitter northerly wind that bit into us in the open land in front of the Crescent. Gabrielle looked uncertain at the thought of donning the flimsy white dress we’d brought along for her ‘performance’. No joke, we were down to 3ºC with a strong bitter breeze and I realised we would have to work quickly.

We lugged all the kit to our set and I set up the tripod with my lovely 17mm tilt and shift Canon lens. 17mm was wider than I’d hoped to have to go but we were as far back from the viewpoint as we could go. I took some shots of the view on long shutter speeds and noticed the lovely blue sky full of stars above the buildings. Perfect.

Then it was Gabrielle’s moment in the flash light.With the help of “Miss Beccy”, we trialled some leaps and worked out the best technical move that captured the light correctly and made the dress ‘flow’. Once this was done, it was just down to our ‘light stand’ and me to aim and time everything correctly. Gabrielle’s performance was of course, perfect every time. We had frequent breaks to make sure our gorgeous dancer didn’t actually get hypothermia and when the teacher and light stand started to complain of being unable to feel their fingers, we decided to call it a night. As always with these things, I was totally oblivious to the time and realised we had been stood around for longer than I had anticipated.

On reviewing the images we were happy with what we had achieved and on the big screen back in the office, they looked excellent but would need some work to produce a final image due to the need to comp the different images.

I spent considerable time combining the shots to create a suitable ‘base’ image I was happy with. In the end, the final shot is 3 images blended due to the dress not being as I wanted it to be in the best action shot. Once I had created the base image the biggest problem and not one I have had for some time, presented itself. I ended up with 3 images I liked for different reasons but that themselves conjured up quite different feelings upon viewing. After much seeking of advice and ummming and aaaahing I have decided on the image below. Its unusual but I think it captures Gabrielle’s dynamism and the image has the element of fun and exuberance I was seeking. I also accept that its a bit love it or hate it but hey, that’s art isn’t it?