Stop me if you have heard this one before, a photographer, his girlfriend and some buddies walk into a bar… Okay so there is no actual joke there just a description of your run of the mill Friday night. What was different about this Friday night was that my buddy had a friend named Shannon, who was in a belly dancing performance at a Tractor Brewery in down town Albuquerque. I just happened to have my camera on me like that stereotypical photographer I am and so I offered to take some photos of his friend’s performance and have a couple beers… because why not.
I have seen belly dancing performances before in the past and they haven’t particularly been something that has caught my interest but this one was a bit different. It had more a burlesque sort of vibe to it which was complimentary to the scene that the show was taking place in. It turned an event for which I had low expectations for into a rather gratifying experience that was well worth having my camera out for.
Now of course like in any impromptu photo situation there is a certain amount of factors that you can’t really account for. In this case it was the lighting set up that the bar was using. Now bars normally have terrible lighting to begin with but in all fairness I pretty sure they didn’t design them with photographers in mind. The stage had a single light set up that had more blue gelling in it than anything I’ve ever experienced in my career. The light definitely went with the vibe of the activities and worked really well for the shows atmosphere but like most performance situations the lighting was not intended for photography purposes and I just have to accept that.
From the back of my cameras LCD screen there was very little to complain about when looking at the images. Even though I’m shooting in raw the camera is still presenting an internally processed image based on what ever profile settings I have punched in. I keep it on a neutral setting with contrast and saturation turned down for video purposes (It helps with color grading.) It wasn’t until I got home and brought the images into Lightroom that I notice just how drastically the lighting affected the images. The amount of saturation that the blue light casted on to the images was nothing short of insane. The only real solution I had was to bring down the saturation all together. Little did I realize that most of the exposure was coming from that blue light and as I brought down the saturation the exposure went with it. This called for a very nuanced balancing act when it came to post processing
After spending a lot of time toying with the images and figuring out what was going to work and what wasn’t I ended up with these very stylized images that almost have a black and white feel with a blue ting to them. Almost like a stylized noir type image. Normally my images aren’t too over the top with how stylized they are but given the situation I think I should be given some slack for going the direction that I did.
Now the perfectionist in me is frustrated by how these images turned out because I didn’t get the freedom to do what I wanted with the images. But the creative part of me is quite satisfied with how everything turned out because I think photography and art in general is best when you are given limitations to work in. A lot of time artist want to ignore convention and style and just create whatever they want and while that may give them artistic fulfillment the work ends up suffering from being difficult to understand or even look at. I like to work within a box and create things based on what I’ve been given and not with what I wish I have. I’m not nearly as much of a control freak when it comes to my art but at the same time I’m not just throwing buckets of paint on a wall and calling it a master piece
The impromptu nature of this shoot really did bring out the things I love about photography. The way that everything is just constantly moving and the limitations that I had to work around has a way of igniting that part of my brain that is about problem solving and wanting to do things differently than what i’m accustomed to.
So I guess what i’m trying to say is that it was a very good Friday night out.