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Some More of My Dancing Girls
Posted By: Mike Cash, 01-18-2008, 07:56 AM

While most of the girls are young (elementary school age) and adorable, there are some adults as well. We recently visited an old folks home and put on a show. Well.....they put on a show. I just took pictures. The old folks really enjoy the hell out of this sort of thing. Lots of them get into it...clapping along with the rhythm, some of them singing the words. The teacher chooses lots of songs that were popular songs 50 or more years ago and hence are very nostalgic for the geriatric audience. They get a big kick out of the music, out of having a show put on for them, and like old folks anywhere they just totally adore the cute little elementary school kids, and all the more when they're dressed up in their kimono and dancing for them. And I get a hell of a big kick out of watching them having so much fun. I haven't worked up all the photos from last week yet, but here are a few. Most are done with the DA70/2.4 Limited, but some are with the SMC-A 35-105/3.5









All were done with off-camera flash from two Pentax AF200T off stage to camera left, with one high aimed low and one ceiling bounced. There were also three ceiling-mounted floodlights at the front of the stage. All the images were processed with a orange and brown contrast/color adjustment method I invented after reading up on scanning color negatives. I think it gives a nice richness to the colors, adjusts the contrast rather well, and gives the photos a little bit of a shot-on-film look. (I need to redo the second one). The teacher is the lady in the blue kimono. When off-stage she is one of the most outgoing and vivacious people I have ever met. Onstage, butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.
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01-18-2008, 08:13 AM   #2
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sugoi!

i like the last set, she looks like she can do this in her sleep.

edit: i really like the last picture!

have you considered playing in lightroom to add more contrast or play with the "clarity" slider? it looks like you can squeeze some more umpf out of it
01-18-2008, 08:21 AM   #3
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Outstanding series Mike, that lens is razor sharp! The detail on the kimonas are staggering. If that is the 70 Limited - I want one! The lighting is bang-on too; it is helping that lens be it's best.

This sounds thereputic for all involved - the teachers, the students, the audience and (last, but not least!) the photographer.
01-18-2008, 08:36 AM   #4
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I have band-aids on my fingers from cutting them on the DA70. The stage lighting was actually such that flash wasn't really necessary at all. But I bought it and brought it so I'm damned well going to use it!

The teacher has been doing this for at least 30 years that I know of, probably longer. She can most definitely do this in her sleep. Even more fun and enlightening than watching the performances is watching her teach the students. I enjoy that even more, as I get to hear the explanations behind all the moves...and they all have meaning and are keyed to each individual song. While it is traditional Japanese dance and is somewhat bound by the strictures of that, it is also very interpretive. Getting to see the dances over and over helps me get familiar with what is coming and that helps with being in position and ready to get certain shots. The teacher and the others were all very impressed with some of the shots I got from the very beginning, wanting to know if I was familiar with Japanese dance and had shot it before. (I wasn't and I hadn't). It takes some work to catch a good pose during a fluid performance. They certainly don't stop and strike a pose for me, although we have some loose plans to set up for some studio-ish shots in the future. These performances are done in a more relaxed dress and make-up than what they do in their full-blown recital. You may notice that the ladies aren't wearing the traditional wigs and face powder. It isn't worth the extra work for a one hour performance. It takes them a full hour just to get changed from street clothes into these outfits, and that's with the adult dancers and a couple or three mothers helping out.

I haven't played with Lightroom, but I will certainly consider it when the price of Lightroom comes down to the same price as The GIMP. If anyone would like to play with editing any of the photos in their favorite app I would be glad to supply the unedited files for them to start with. Just let me know and promise that you'll post your results here so that we all can learn from them.

01-18-2008, 09:07 AM   #5
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Upon scrolling down, #s 3, 5 & 8 did it for me. The detail on the fabric [and everything] is outstanding on all.

Mike, if this neophoite [obviously in the shadow of your talent ] can offer one suggestion, that would be to be more sparing with the amount of sharpening on some of them. Though as I said #5 is one of the ones that grabbed me, there's very noticable halo'ing around the top of her head, especially on the left side. The last picture suffers from that too, though all around her on that one. (halo'ing being a thin brighter line of color between the boundary of two colors)

Finally, a question going back some. I recall your introductory thread on this location. You posted a portrait image from the back of a dancer with her head down, with the colored lights off the fabric creating a magical image. Was that one ever printed out in large format and displayed? I'd love to hear some of the comments you got back on that if so. Ever submit that/any into the Pentax Photo Gallery?

Last edited by m8o; 01-18-2008 at 07:27 PM. Reason: just noticed #8 should have read #5
01-18-2008, 09:28 AM   #6
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Yeah, I still have a lot to learn about post processing and I agree that the USM may have been a bit aggressive on some of these. I did drop it down a notch from what I usually do, but they could easily stand being knocked down another notch. I still have dozens of these to process so I'll definitely take your comment to heart when doing them.

Are you referring to this image?



None of these have been printed at larger than A4, since that is the largest my printer can handle. Someday I'll get an A3 printer, but it will be late this year or maybe next year.

I've only submitted one of these to Pentax Gallery, and it was summarily rejected:



Fortunately for me, the folks in the photos and their families are not nearly so discerning as my fellow photographers and they are pretty much universally tickled to death with all of the photos, bless their hearts.
01-18-2008, 10:01 AM   #7
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Yes, that first one! I think you should submit that one. I'll definitely vote (+) when I come upon it and I imagine many others will too. Personally, I could imagine that as a six foot / 2 meter tall banner hanging off the building on a pole in front of the place, or a bit smaller poster in their front window; you get the idea.

Your previous PPG submission is a fabulous image conveying the realism of the moment. And it's that that I can imagine did not translating well to 600px on the short side for voting, and even much smaller when displayed in the gallery afterwards as portrait shots are only about 400px or 500px high on the long side once accepted. The realism in that instance was muted colors, and real skin tone. Generally speaking, I believe it's images with high contrast / high saturation which do the best there (again, just generally speaking; images with mist that I'm always a sucker for or other special-case 'low contrast' images notwithstanding). That's why I believe the 1st image would 'sell well' and get you deservingly in the gallery. I sure hope I'm not wrong... I hate rejection too!

edit: ah, what I meant in asking about a large print (not necessarily 6foot, but poster sized), was taking a CD with the image to a photo store having large format printers, or uploading it to the likes of Fotki or Kodak, and ordering a large print online from there. Admittedly, I don't know if there are any issues brought on by international boundaries with those services, but I'm imagining no.


Last edited by m8o; 01-18-2008 at 10:15 AM.
01-18-2008, 10:19 AM   #8
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There are similar services available here, but I'm not paying the freight on them. The teacher and the students have mentioned having some of the recital shots from last year blown up and displaying them in the lobby area during this year's recital (coming in November). Whether they actually do it or not when they see what it will cost is another matter entirely. I'm mostly just happy when the parents and grandparents get to have something nicer than a snapshot of their loved one's performance as a remembrance.

That last photo, of the two girls together, is one of my favorite photos. For me it is one of those where you vividly remember seeing the scene and capturing it. Anybody who wants to can see and enjoy the photo later on, but only the photographer gets to experience that aspect of photography. For me it is a perfect illustration of what makes photography both a shared and an intensely solitary experience at the same time.
01-18-2008, 03:21 PM   #9
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Mike was gracious to send me the raw file for this to fiddle around with

i used adobe lightroom and started off by clicking both exposure and WB to auto and then started to fiddle around from there

raked the clarity bar to about half,

bumped up the black and fill light setting for a little more umpf

desaturated a notch

using the tonal curve setting i dropped the lights by 30 points and upped the darks by 20 points

played with the colour settings to get the kimono colour to blue, altho it seems the original colour was borderline purple and/or faded blue

then i raked the lightroom noise reduction to about half, and also fiddled with the sharpening settings a bit

then i reloded the jpeg in CS3 and did one tiny bit of sharpening more but it didnt do anything much, here is the result, for better or for worse, i think they are both great.

funny thing is i could not duplicate the way Mike originaly developed the picture, hehehe.





also i just wanted to throw this in there, my favorite Photoshop filter, "poster edge"

01-18-2008, 03:52 PM   #10
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also this is the complete original, i applied to it a preset that i have, it originaly started as a sepia preset that mutated into.... whatever it is, but i use it alot to develop most of my shots, esp of people indoors,

01-18-2008, 04:06 PM   #11
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Mike, images like this sort are always pleasure to view through.

You capture some of the essence of these types of dances. They are subtle and sophisticated and you did not well to bring the atmosphere out.

I had a few attempts with this sort of shots and none of them were worth posting at all. Your post processing skil brings the sentiment element out very well
01-18-2008, 07:24 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Gooshin Quote
...raked the clarity bar to about half...
I didn't think about it much but if Lightroom's Clarity isn't my favorite option it's #2 or #3. Nice job cook'n that to a JPG.

James does have a point at the same time. The hi contrast edge boundry notwithstanding, Mike's treatment is 'edgier' with a different character that has its attraction in another way; showing that there's something to be said for 'not as clean'. Interesting.

Last edited by m8o; 01-18-2008 at 07:35 PM.
01-18-2008, 08:13 PM   #13
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Amazing pictures Mike. I think we're witnessing Mike's developing style, in his picture taking and pp work.
What a great relationship you guys have forged. The teachers and students are documented by a very talented photographer who in turn has a chance to hone his craft with them as willing subjects. Very very cool.
01-18-2008, 08:15 PM   #14
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What a great series Mike. I really like all the pictures presented here. I do agree with M80 that the sharpening is a touch heavy but overall the texture and colours of the series is really great. Nice story to go with it as well.
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