“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
Its a world for the young, creative, and talented. I’ve stated this a few times before, but i’m reminded about this every time I see a dynamic, energetic and committed individual like Shakeil Rollock. In our brief encounters I get the impressions that Shakeil faces a competitive world with quiet aplomb. He has an enviably unflappable demeanour through any problem (and we had problems on this shoot) that must be a great asset on any set. This is my second photographic encounter with this young dancer and each time has been a pleasure.
Urban shoots are new to me. I’m a confirmed old studio photographer, and I find heading out of the comfy confines of my 4 walls and fully light controlled environment unnerving, and the the possibility of less than perfect light adds that bit of dramatic excitement (face a challenge). But the job becomes more fun when you shoot with someone that meets the challenge with this level of cool energy (oxymoron?). We got off to a late start on the shoot and had to move quickly to get some shots done before the ebbing sunlight faded away into darkness. Despite my concerns about location, light, ISO, posing etc, I was confident that I’d armed myself with knowledge from “Picture Perfect Light” from Roberto Valenzuela (all his books are awesome), Peter Coulson “One Light”, and Danny Diamond “Natural Light” RGGEDU videos, plus I’ve done enough practice to meet almost any scenario.
Our original plan to go to Graffiti Alley in Toronto wasn’t working out, but we caught sight of an alleyway while driving and decided to make a quick stop and get some shots, and we ended up not moving from that general location. I’d never seen him dance in person; but I bet he owns his stage because he looked like he owned that random alleyway and parking lot where we did our shoot. With only an audience of an apparent street resident of questionable sanity, the occasional delivery truck and passerby Shak put on an outstanding demonstration of grace and control.
As I feared, sunlight disappeared quickly, and the surroundings were plunged into darkness. But we were quietly beckoned by a sole red wall in an empty parking lot; a wall that stood like a mysterious cloaked figure emerging from the shadows . I approached with cautious optimism and I was not disappointed. This was a wall clearly meant for a greater purpose than merely guarding the back entrance to a kitchen. As if saying “Choose Me!” It stood out against a busy distracting back alley canvas like an eager and perfectly prepared backdrop debutante. It’s a go we all agreed! The wall was ready, Shak was ready, I was ready… But… I had another mishap, and like Tevye in the little town Anatevka I heard his voice saying “Why me Lord…” (Fiddler on the roof reference). What happened you ask? As if the night wasn’t bad enough, we lost my Einstein 640 to what I thought was a blown fuse. The word Abort! Echoed around my head as I saw the final shoot plans sinking into the quicksand of failure. But not so fast. I came prepared with a lifeline.
I had to resort to my backup of an unmodified speedlight which I boomed about 7-8 feet overhead (luckily I tend to over prepare). No modeling light and a dark cold night made focusing a real challenge, but I pulled my car up and used the headlights to help prefocus in order to get some jumping shots. Despite being brutally cold for a summer evening Shak delivered some great moves and I got some great shots. Thanks a lot Shak, it was good to overcome all the challenges and produce a great shoot; I definitely am a better photographer because of this night.
I’m always asked why I go through all this. The reasons are simple:
- For now I’m still learning a lot, but I think I’m getting good at this now.
- Meeting great people.
- My kids are a few years from young adulthood, and I can identify with youngsters trying to work their way to success in tough fields. I admire the drive and passion and hope my kids will work as hard to through any obstacles. I also get to understand the world of young adults better.
- I have some personal projects in my head that I am working up the courage to start. Until then I shoot as much as time allows, it will help me when I am ready to do my “statement work”.