Anne-Sofie Østergaard

A creative dance shoot with Kit, Dan and Sofie at the NSCD.


This is a follow-on shoot with Kit King from the Northern School of Comtemporary Dance, Leeds. When we had to leave the Lighting Studio I had taken this photograph.

creative dance kit king

Even though I was pleased with it, I wanted to see if I could place the shadow almost beneath Kit's body like it is in the photograph that inspired me to take this one. All you have to do is put the flashgun above and slightly behind the dancer's back.

With Kit in this shoot were James (who was not very well and spent most of the time lying on his front), Dan Lukehurst and Anne-Sofie Østergaard (who took the inspiring shot)

The shoot

At first, the flashgun was attached to the end of my monopod and Dan held it above Kit's head. This did not work very well. The shadow was not brilliant. We then tried it with Dan sitting on the step ladder in the room (see photo).

kit king dan lukehurst nscd

In the end we used a studio clamp to suspend it from the ceiling over the spot of the jump. We got this shot.

creative dance kit king

1. Kit is framed in the top right-hand corner so his arms create a triangle with the edges of the photograph. The shadow is sharp and clean. ISO 200, f/5 and 1/800s.

creative dance dan lukehurst

2. I encouraged Dan to have a go. Two shots later we bagged this. The light flare in the left-hand region creates a bit of interest to the darkness. ISO 200, f/5 and 1/800s.

There you go Sofie, I took your idea and ran with it. I hope you like the end result.

I asked Kit if he could pull one handed hand stands that that break dancers pull-off. He is one classy dancer! I have been wanted shots like this for my portfolio for a while. I love it when you ask a dancer, "Can you do this?" and they just do it. Then it is up to me to photograph is in best light possible.

creative dance kit king

3. With the framing, I was trying to create a diagonal line of interest from the top left corner to the bottom right. OH YEAH! ISO 200, f/5 and 1/800 s.

creative dance kit king

4. A slight variation of the previous, but I tilted the camera so the diagonal is stronger. ISO 200, f/5 and 1/800s.

creative dance kit king

5. Again, creating a line of interest from the top left to the bottom right. More of a split kick. ISO 200, f/5 and 1/800s.

Dan is doing a hand stand a day to raise money for cancer research so we took this one in aid of that.

Dan Lukehurst creative dance

6. I was really please how his feet were so close to the light. This was the second attempt. ISO 200, f/5 and 1/800s.

Anne-Sofie Østergaard creative dance

7. I roped Sofie into this shot. Start off with something simple and go from there. The light is an LED torch I bought for £1.50. ISO 200, f/11 and 1.6s.

I have wanted to do shots like this for a while, but concept shoots tend to run over time. I had the torches in my bag during the last one. I tend to have more ideas up my sleaves than I actually use during one shoot.

After the first shot, I allowed Sofie to pull whatever moves she felt was best. This is what she did. There was some input from the other dancers. I try to encourage this. I love it when creative minds from two different disciplines of art mix their ideas together. The end results tend to be surprising.

Anne-Sofie Østergaard creative dance

8. From one light to two. I love the curved "Z" shape that Sofie created with the light trail and her arms. The motion blur was made by using an overhead spotlight. Sofie could not raise her left arm above her shoulder because of an injury. (At least she is wearing matching socks - in joke). ISO 200, f/11 and 1.6s.

Anne-Sofie Østergaard creative dance

9. Kit came up with the idea of turning up the bottom of Sofie's trousers and putting a torch in there pointing upwards. We will find a better way of doing it next time.

Post processing

Most of the post processing involved a bit of cropping, adjusting the exposure and ensuring the background was an even black. The hard work is done at the moment the photograph is taken rather than sat behind a computer. A bit of 'dodging' and 'burning' (lightening/darkening) was used to bring out the details.

I use Lightroom for to make changes to the whole or large parts of the photograph and then Photoshop to even out the black background. The light flare in the background has been lightened to bring out the rays, but has not be altered in any other way.

Technical details

A full-frame camera with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens was used throughout. The camera and flashguns were in manual mode set at 1/4 power for most of the shoot. The ceiling flashgun was set to 1/3 power to cover the increased distance to the subject. Three flashguns were used for photos 1-6 and one thereafter.

Forty-nine shots were taken over the two hour period of the shoot. That works out to two rolls of twenty-four exposure film in old money (you can squeeze up to 26 exposures out of them). Most of the time was taken up trying to perfect the shadow on the ground. Everything else was much quicker to take. The useable shot hit rate was over thirty percent (that is really good for a concept shoot).

Final thoughts and thanks

A massive "Thank you!" to Kit once again for booking the room and being such a talented dancer. To Sofie for her idea and creative imagination. To Dan for just being amazing and so passionate about his art. James, I hope you are feeling better and have a bit more energy. I hope you all enjoyed the pistachio cake. There is plenty more where that came from.

If you look at my dance photographs, you will notice they are all about the dancer's skill, form, shape and movement. I will only add extra elements if they add to the overall feel of the photograph rather than be a distraction. So, the backgrounds and surroundings are very plain and simple. There is nothing to distract you from subject i.e. a very skilled and hard working dancer.

Update 9th June 2016

Sofie was nursing an injury when we did this shoot. Having seen her perform recently, I would like to work with her especially pulling off one particular move that requires her to pull a funny face.

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Your thoughts


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