I am so fortunate to be able to work with a beautiful ballerina, Kirsty. I have photographed her a few times over the last couple of years, in the studio and out in the landscape. This time Kirsty's stage set was Cathedral Cavern in Little Langdale. It proved to be a stunning backdrop for a ballerina.
The cave has an amazing column in the centre, a water pool and an opening that let in the most incredible light.
It is relatively dark in the cave and I wanted to capture Kirsty in natural light. She would be leaping and it was important to capture her as sharply as possible with the fast shutter speed, therefore I had to increase the ISO.
The images I took have ISO settings between 800 and 2000, depending on how much of the natural light was available for her position. High ISO used to be an issue, but with modern cameras you don't need to be scared to up your ISO to keep your shutter speed working fast. My shutter speed was around 250th of a second up to 500th of a second and my aperture was open, usually around f/4-5/5.6.
I had the camera set to high speed continuous, ensuring I started taking images well before she reached mid leap. Focusing was also important when working with a relatively shallow depth of field. I focused at the point where the jump would be at the highest and Kirsty would be mid split.
But as she was dancing I had to keep adjusting the settings. I also wanted to work quickly as Kirsty was just in a leotard and it was a very cold day.
As a photographer it is important to remember the comfort of your subject when you are working with people. Plenty of breaks to allow Kirsty to wrap up and warm up were essential to make sure her muscles didn't get cold, especially while I changed lens or adjust camera and position.
The key goals of the shoot were:
We spent around an hour and half during this photoshoot, using the objects in the cave to create a variety of images.
Kirsty and I are thrilled with the final images, using this dramatic backdrop has provided such a different and creative selection of images.
In the end we had 500 images, a very cold ballerina and a ruined pair of ballet shoes. But it was so much fun and wonderful to work with Kirsty again.
The tiny ballerina
Kirsty looks so small against the magnificent column of Cathedral Cavern. You can add drama to your shots by including a person in the big landscape to show the scale.
Kirsty jumps are amazing and she gets incredible height. She took her run up and leapt so she would be highlighted by the light from the opening in the cave. This meant I could also capture her reflection in the water. She had to take several leaps to get this right, getting the shutter speed fast enough was key.
Positioning Kirsty in the fallen rocks with the green vine falling from the soft light, creates a fantasy style image.