Back to the Ballet

This weekend it was my great pleasure to work once again with the Sylvia Bebb School of Ballet and Theatre Arts. I first came into contact with the school back in the 90's, when students would from time to time pose as portrait models for the local camera club. At the time I was taking the City & Guilds Photography course and contacted Sylvia with a view to covering her bi-annual show as the 'photo essay' segment of my course work. The resulting piece not only won me a distinction in the C & G, but some of the pictures were also used in 'Bedford Today', a book complied by Bedford Community Arts to commemorate the millennium.

Fast forward to 2012, and I felt a hankering for another fix of showbiz, so volunteered my services to cover this year's show. I'd forgotten what a huge challenge stage photography is - I could write an essay on coping with the lighting alone, black backgrounds and spotlit performers are enough to defy any auto-exposure setting. Then there's the fact that everything is moving - fast. You need the reflexes of a panther, and a talent for anticipating what's coming next so you can be ready for the shot. Well, I try.

A lot has changed in the decade since I last covered the show. Back then I was using film and I recall the uneasy feeling of not really knowing whether I'd got anything at all until the reels came back from the lab. It was a nightmare co-ordinating orders for prints. Today I'm blessed with a high-end digital SLR, which has the big plus of bringing it all within my own control. The downside is many hours in front of Photoshop coaxing the best from each picture.

One thing has not changed - the energy, vitality and sheer talent of Sylvia's students is still dazzling, I feel privileged to have been a small part of the event. I still have a red nose from pressing it firmly to the back of my camera for 9 hours over the weekend. My feet however are still tapping.