Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dancers at Top of the Park

I've been working on photographing people, trying to capture something of their essence, their emotion; people doing, people being; people alone and people in community. So much of my photography is of places, things and events; details and vistas; "I saw this", "I was here". I'm uncomfortable pointing my camera at people I don't know. So, I do it; I practice. And sometimes I like the results. My hope is that this happens more and more. Even more, I hope to someday see stories like the one in my last photograph, below, as they're unfolding.

The Ann Arbor Summer Festival's Top of the Park features free concerts every night for several weeks in June. People come out to listen, to visit with their friends, to eat and drink, and to dance. I brought my camera. My camera found the dancers. I'd like to share a few of my favorites with you here.

Let's dance

It was getting kind of dark, and I had to slow down the shutter. Most of my photos from this time were hopelessly blurred, but this one caught the action of the dance. I cropped it a little and brightened the colors just a touch.

This couple was dancing gracefully, seemingly in their own bubble, as the crowd swirled around them. My challenge was to try to pull them out of the crowd photographically. To reduce the distraction of a multicolored background, I converted it to black and white. Simulating a yellow filter hightens skin tones and blends the street sign into the background. Contrast adjustment and significant edge sharpening help pull the dancers forward.

And, then there are the young folk. What they may lack in practice, they totally make it up in enthusiasm. I pumped up the orange and green here a bit, but this guy doesn't really need any extra snap.

Cadillac Cowboys at Top of the Park
Ok, he's got no form, but he's having fun!

These two girls clearly knew what they were doing. I liked the twin verticals of them with the bell tower. Again, black and white treatment helps to reduce the distracting background colors. I did lose the nice orange sunset light on the tower, but it's a reasonable trade-off. I'd like to paint out the guy in the "M" shirt, though.

This one absolutely had to be in color. This young woman's outfit took me back 40 years. She's even got a guitar slung behind her back. Of course, in 1968 we wouldn't have been dancing like that.
The photograph needed a lot of work to make the colors pop out like they appeared to do in real life. You can click through to the Flickr page to get the gory details.

i wish...
I've saved my favorite for last. It tells me a story, and it's a story that I didn't see when I was taking it. I was just trying to get a picture of the woman doing a spin with flared skirt. What I got was even better. Until I started editing the photo, I did not see the girl on the left. When I did, I realized that the picture is only peripherally about the dancers. It's really about her. It's about her wish that she could be that young woman, dancing and spinning.

To tell that story, I cropped out the man's face and part of the woman's. They're not the subjects -- they're the objects of the girl's desire. Again, black and white reduces irrelevant distracting details. Some contrast adjustment and edge sharpening help focus attention on the only complete person still in the frame, and on her longing gaze.


Amy Gibson Thomas said...

Delightful! Thanks for spending some time on this. ;-)

Anonymous said...

That last picture, with the little girl, could be a Norman Rockwell painting....

Merrillan Thomas said...

They're beautiful. I especially like the one with the little girl looking on and the one of the little boy and his shadow.

Merrillan Thomas