Thursday, 16 January 2014

Operatic Kaleidoscope

2013_Asne_F4_0100"How is Wednesday for our next shoot?" I asked.

"The forecast looks better for tomorrow than for Wednesday", she replied. "But even better on Saturday - but we decided that Saturdays are too crowded, didn't we? I guess the forecast is less than accurate a whole week in advance, though?"

"Yes. The forecast is wildly inaccurate over 4 days out." I said, knowing that with my luck, Wednesday's weather probably would suck no matter what the forecast said.

Sure enough, there was a heavy fog on Wednesday and the visual sight lines were significantly reduced. It could have been worse. It could have been pouring rain. If it had rained, we would have stayed inside and I would have had nothing to blog about.

Åsne was one of the first dancers in Oslo that worked with me on my Postcards For A Dancer project, and our first shoot was in the middle of winter when it was -10 degrees! She didn't seem to mind. She was very focused on getting the right image and we created a couple of interesting compositions as a result of her willingness to shoot despite the cold.

2012 Asne_0042

2012 Asne_0065V3

We made those images at the top of the fantastic Operahuset, and while Åsne and I have since made many images together, we never returned to the Opera House to shoot. So on that Wednesday I was surprised when it was the first place she suggested we go. I was quite skeptical, because we were re-shooting a double exposure of a hinge and butterfly leap that we had first tried at Rådhusplassen.


I have since come around to liking this image, but initially I thought that I did not control the background exposure very well. So the purpose of our shoot this time was to re-do this concept with a different background. I did not think the Opera would give me the background I needed, but it was very close to where we were. In the spirit of you never know what you will find if you don't look, we walked over.

Sure enough, it did not look very promising for the hinged butterfly. I saw issues with the background in every direction. For example, when looking out to sea, the iceberg sculpture in the harbour was just dark enough to be very distracting.


We tried a couple of shots looking the other way, but I did not like the impact of the building and the chain rail on the right. I found the windows in particular too distracting and thought it would take away from Åsne's jump.



I probably drive dancers crazy when it comes to making a photo. What they look for and what I look for in a composition is quite different. I can be ecstatic with a composition and a dancer will look at it and veto it because of a hand or foot position. On the other hand (or foot!), she may be very happy with how I captured her dance, but I may be very unhappy with some distracting details in the background.

Working with a photographer can sometimes be challenging from a dance perspective, because the criteria that the photo has to live up to are multiplied between dancer and photographer. Both will agree that the aesthetic of the picture is what’s important, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing to both people. While Scott looks for the geometrics in my poses in relation to the surroundings, I am more concerned with the dance technique being correctly shown in my leaps or poses. Also, I look for continuous lines in a pose, whereas I have come to understand that Scott looks for triangles. This has sometimes led to us disagreeing on which photos to draw out from the bunch. Which again has led to us both learning a lot from each other. And I guess that isn’t so bad.

The photo-technicalities are, of course, also a deal-breaker – like with the “hinged butterfly”. I quite liked the original, but of course, I don’t have a trained eye for such matters. Because I couldn’t see the trouble with the background exposure that seemed to be such a big deal to Scott, I was less motivated to do the reshoot than I was for the first one. I guess that was one contributing factor to my looking for other potential motives around the Opera house.

So there we were, down at the Opera and nothing was really clicking. I was about to suggest we head up to Nationaltheatret, when Åsne paused and looked at the side of the building. We were right in front of the cafe and could see the people inside having a coffee through the very large windows. But just a little further down, the windows turned into mirrors. You can see the transition in the photo above, where the windows turn lighter right around where her heel is.

We walked over and tried to see inside. I checked the building floor plan afterwards and saw that there is a storage room at this point. It must not have been in use as it was very dark inside. The effect was to turn the window into a mirror. We were clowning around taking a few snaps with Åsne's iPhone, when suddenly we realized that there could well be some interesting mirror compositions to be had.

We approached the idea from a distance at first, letting the sides of the building recede into the fog.


There is almost no colour in this image. There are yellow and red hues in Åsne's skin and hair, and a slight blue-green reflecting off the building, but otherwise this photo is almost pure black and white. I really liked that, along with how the building fades into the background.

After a few frames from this angle, I moved in closer for a kaleidoscopic composition. I just let Åsne do her thing and snapped away. The result was a series of very interesting compositions, which you can see in this series of images.







Like Scott joked right when we were about to give up and leave: “Let’s not forget whose idea it was to come here." ;-)

Yes, it was Åsne's idea to go to the Opera and that is the thing about working with fellow creatives: they often have great ideas. If you have the courage to listen to them, you can make some great art - like this snap of us performing the Nutcracker in the lobby of the Opera House.


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