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Grid It

My annual shoot of CooperMorgan dance company usually is a location shoot, and this was no different. Well, sort of: the location was the new headquarters for the Jacksonville Centre of the Arts (JCA), the old Stanton Building in downtown Jacksonville.

We started shooting outside, but the rain chased us away momentarily. We used portions of the building outside, as well as the studios (which are still a work in progress). Unfortunately the City of Jacksonville has closed off perhaps the most interesting parts of the inside of the building, due to safety concerns.

Things other than the rain presented challenges.

The building was built as a school, not for a dance studio, so the studios themselves, though large, have low ceilings (drop ceilings with missing tiles at that). The one we shot in had windows, so the challenge was to incorporate them into the shot without blowing light into them (and thus back at me). The solution I opted for was to use a rather unusual modifier: Elinchrom’s square rigid reflector with a grid on it to control light. The rigid reflector acts as a punchier version of a soft box (and the fact that it is rigid makes it easier to use outside), while the grid controls the spread of light.

This image of Tabitha, with the unit in close, illustrates the column of light it produces (note the gloomy skies outside):

© Donald J. Fadel, Jr. |

CooperMorgan is a talented group of dancers, and, with the founders DeWitt Cooper and Savery Morgan, are fun, and always a pleasure to work with and photograph. The cast of characters, pre-raindrops:

© Donald J. Fadel, Jr. |

In addition to tight images, I also tried to incorporate the building itself; it was as much a character in the story as the dancers themselves. Here Julie, Natalie, Carmen, and Kaila pose against the grand old structure.

© Donald J. Fadel, Jr. |

© Donald J. Fadel, Jr. |

Again, that grid helped control the output from my strobe, channeling it and keeping spill from wandering into unwanted areas. I also used a gel to add some warmth (not much – just a quarter cut). Another light served to add some fill and create gentle highlights.

That old gal of a building has its warts, but she also has character. And those windows.

© Donald J. Fadel, Jr. |

Controlling the light was a key to maintaining the character and mood of the building, while adding direction for contrast and drama to highlight the dancers.

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