The Next Dimension: Shooting 3D Dance Photography

Jennifer Jones

I’ve been working on an exciting project lately; shooting dancers with a 3D stills camera!  Just the phrase alone – 3D – is almost common now; with so many movies being produced with that effect these days, new gadgets on the rise etc etc…  But it never fails; we show an individual one of our 3D shots through the viewer and the reaction is always the same: ‘WOW!!’ or a variation of that ‘OH WOW!!’ and repeat repeat repeat.  How does this work??

The only stills camera that is made to do this still uses medium format film. It is a rather interesting looking beauty with three lenses: one for looking through and the other two right below that it shoots through, two frames at a time, one for the left eye and one for the right.

Ellison Ballet

When the transparencies are developed, you look at them through a viewer.  This separates your eyes to look at the individual images and thus fives the stereo effect.  The results are astounding.  The images pull you into them, making you look at all four corners and beyond to each piece of the picture that is, well, in relief!  For those of you used to glancing at an image for a second or two and moving on, beware.. this sucks you in and doesn’t let you put it down!

There are some challenges to this project for sure!

Janusphere Dance Company

The first is that we are shooting on film, two images just slightly different from each other,  so that there is no possibility of re-touching.  What you shoot is what you get.  Talk about analog!!

The second is that in order to creat the effect that gives the wow factor, we now have to think of the shots in 3 dimensions: we need to create depth in the dancers, background and lighting so that the images come to life.

Ellison Ballet

The third is that we have to trust in what we shoot. While we can shoot test shots that we can see on the computer screen right away, once we shoot on film we have to trust in what we are doing: that the shift in cropping is correct, that the lighting is where we want it and that the dancers look immaculate. It’s an odd feeling that took me a while to get used to, as I’m so accustomed to the immediacy of the digital world.

Andrew Silks and Brittney Feit

Thus far we have shot with some fantastic dancers who have given so generously of their time, patience and energy to the project; Brittney Feit and Andrew Silks from Tulsa Ballet; DeVon Doane with Dance Theatre of Harlem and Stacie Williams of Armitage Gone Dance; Janusphere Dance Company; the Lovely Jennifer Jones and Kristen Arnold of Skybetter and Associates; and just this past weekend the students of Ellison Ballet here in NY.

Jennifer Jones and Kristen Arnold

Ultimately our goal is to have a gallery showing of this work and we are currently seeking funding and the space for it: When you see the final images they are just ones you don’t want to keep to yourself!

Contact me to learn more about funding opportunities or suggest gallery locations.

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