Tap Attack - Studio Lighting on Location

Over the last few months I have been lucky enough to work with the talented and dedicated group of young people that make up the Tap Attack tap dance team who are representing England at the IDO World Dance Championships in Germany from 30 November to 4 December 2010.

Earlier in November I travelled to Reading to photograph the team at their annual fund-raiser. The brief was simple; full length and head shots of all 27 + team members and coaches, and you've got about an hour to do it, excluding set-up time!!!

What follows are some of the images and how I designed on lighting set for two totally different shots, all on a white background that could be used without resorting to too much post-production.

  1. 9 foot white background paper roll.
  2. 200J Multiblitz monobloc flash head - 1/2 power, 100J plus Rosco Cinegel #3008: Tough Frost. Giving an effective output of 50J. Both equidistant from background roll and centre line. 
  3. 200J Multiblitz monobloc flash head - 1/2 power, 40inch silver brolly. 
  4. Rosco Cinegel #3830: Spun Silver, 4 feet wide by 6 feet high.
  5. 200J Multiblitz monobloc flash head - 1/3 power, 66.66J reflected into bright silver side of this double sided material.
  6. Dancer.

I chose to use a paper background rather than one made from a more durable material due the damage inflicted by the hard metal taps of the heals and toes of the dancers shoes. Had I used a plastic or cloth background the material would have been damaged beyond repair. Here all I had to do was remove and recycle the damaged part of the paper roll.

The use of Rosco Cinegel #3830: Spun Silver  to camera left enabled me to create a broad  and tall light with some specular edge to it (one of the dancers is 6' 4" + ), rather than the softer light from a white reflector or diffuser. Silver is also a more efficient reflector than white. Reflecting an undiffused monobloc flash with standard reflector enabled me to maintain a relatively short recycle time and give me the vertical and horizontal coverage required when shooting moving dancers. The silver brolly to camera right gives a strong fill light reducing the harsh edge of the key light to camera left.

I could have set this lighting the other way around, but for the head shots I needed to show the logo on the new team track suits. As you can see from the above shots, with some thought and planning you can create a lighting scheme that will allow you to shoot both full and head shots on the same set.

The flash to camera left was triggered with a radio trigger and the remaining lights triggered using the Multiblitz inbuilt photo electric/optical triggers. There are two reasons for not using a cable to trigger the lights 1. I do not know the trigger voltage of the lights as they are over 10 years old and 2. Trailing cables make a great trip hazard when you've a load of dancers sculling around a set.

The two lights on the background are in the region of 25 years old and have two power settings full and half power, so if you want a lower power setting you need to use either an ND gel to reduce the output with altering the quality of the light, or some other modification, control or diffusion. Even the 25J 1/8th power setting on my more modern Profilites can be too powerful, which is why when I'm not shooting so many frames in a short space of time I will use Speedlites. Mains power will always be more reliable when shooting a heap of shots quickly.

Camera settings: f11, 1/125th sec, 200 ISO, manual exposure. Auto focus all focus points.


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