I’m honored to be a photographer for the twentieth anniversary production of the world-class SF International Hip Hop Dance Fest. If you think hip hop dance is just about b-boys and b-girls, this festival will broaden your horizons to the diverse array of hip hop, from jaw-dropping acrobatics to artistic and subtly activist choreography.
As a photographer specializing in travel and cultural documentation, I love having the opportunity to capture images from a wide range of nations and cultural styles, so each year I’m eager to shoot the diverse participants in this show who come from all over the world and represent many different faces of hip hop dance.
Today’s post consists of a photo essay of a few favorite performance images from this year’s festival. Note that all of the images appearing in this post and many more can be viewed and purchased in this gallery.
First, a few notes about the making of these images:
- During dress rehearsals the photographer is free to roam about the theater, often including the backstage area, apron and wings, and even onstage with the performers. This mobility is not possible during live performances. As a result, there are more creative possibilities during the rehearsals, so that’s when I seek out the most exciting and dramatic shooting concepts. Unfortunately, this year I was traveling on assignment in Panama during the festival’s dress rehearsal dates, so I was able only to capture images from the live performances.
- When shooting fast-moving performances in very low light situations, I like to use mostly fast prime lenses coupled with a high ISO setting to allow a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the motion. In the case of these particular performances, I also needed to use a long telephoto zoom lens due to being assigned seats quite far from the stage.
- Theatrical productions often use mixed temperature lighting that can be challenging for photography because of the strange and complicated color casts that often result. Sometimes this can be fixed in post-processing, but often I choose to convert to monochrome to avoid unpleasant and unnatural color casts.
- The difference between adequate dance photography and excellent dance photography is all about the dramatic purpose. I try to adapt my shooting and post-processing style to suit the dramatic intent of each moment during the show.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this sampling of images from the remarkable SF International Hip Hop Dance Fest. It’s a challenge and a genuine joy to have the opportunity to make images of important large-scale dance productions such as this one. Thank you for reading, and please share your thoughts and questions about today’s post here.
Note that all of the images appearing in this post and many more can be viewed and purchased in this gallery.