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February Hafla – Azyra and Aliceanna

Feb 10, 2020

Azyra, the subject of by far my favorite Hafla shot so far, made a return appearance. She did not disappoint. The shots included here will be added to my growing collection on her. I'll confess to really enjoying the challenge of trying to capture images that manage to represent how good she really is, and looks. While none of these quite manages to measure up to my favorite from last year, I had over a dozen that I couldn't manage to trim down to a reasonable number and had to call Nan in to do her "no, eliminate that one because she wouldn't like it" thing.

The intro shot above is one I did some experimenting on, pushing the envelope a little extra – I liked it in spite of some serious issues. Like a little motion blur and heads obscuring the bottom of the exposure. In the end the effect is kinda cool, or hot depending on one's perspective. Below are five, yes five more, of Azyra. Nan did her best, but just couldn't cut my selection down any more – and she can be brutal. That says a lot:


Like Azyra, Aliceanna is out of Baltimore – coming all the way to Havre de Grace to perform! And once again I had to call Nan in to be brutal and cut the number of images I worked into B&W down a little. It's not usually that difficult.

There was an unexpected difficulty with a large number of the shots of Aliceanna. They look great in color – but the deep blue veil that she sported through most of her dance wanted to translate disastrously to B&W. I wound up losing some of my selections. And the ones I saved took a lot of work, rendering the veil as anything but black against the black background of the Black Box. The first is my favorite:

When I finish with this Hafla I'll include these postings in my Hafla Album on the Blog Album page. That should be along with the final posting, where I'm going to have to try and squeeze in the remaining three or four dancers. It was an evening of great dancing.


I prefer shooting live performance to the admittedly fine craft of setting up a shot that reflects a performance. It's real, alive, challenging and with so much that can go wrong. It's pretty much of an on-edge experience – nothing is planned and you're never all that sure as to what you have. It's life.

The Moonshine Haflas at the Opera House are probably my biggest challenge photographing locally here in Havre de Grace. The space is small and crowded. I'm fortunate to, often, be able to take the space just by the entrance door – from there I get a view directly down the middle aisle and can focus on dancers as they move through and past the center. Otherwise, there are heads in the way (which can occasionally be removed in processing the image). Then how often is it that I get what I want and their eyes are closed – sometimes ok but not the best.

Of course, when dancers need someone to take a video of their performance, I need to step back from the only really good vantage point (unless you are six foot four or so) – this is what gave me the idea I voiced last posting to set up a remotely controlled iPhone on the front edge of that door.

On top of that, darkness prevails – filled by constantly changing color lights. Too much blue can be very bad but too much magenta completely washes out light skin tones. If it is all magenta, it can have a blurry, out of focus effect. Things are moving far to fast for manual focus at the shallow depth of field needed, so auto-focus, preferably with face/eye recognition, is necessary. I'm slowly getting better at manipulating this – try that it on a spinning dancer. I'm actually looking forward to trying out some new techniques on the next Hafla.

If I were to advise someone as to how to prepare to shoot something like this, I would submit the following: use a good lens the equivalent of a 70-200 F-2.8 and shoot wide open. Set your shutter on 1/250 – a necessary compromise. Set ISO on auto – the light will change constantly and instantly. I'm finding face/eye detection on continuous focus helps some. And, a relatively slow (maybe five or six frames per second) burst setting helps.