Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dancers Among Us Celebrates America

As Dancers Among Us continues to go national, the response from regional dancers is growing extraordinarily! Dedicated even over the holiday weekend, four amazing dancers traveled from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore County to participate in Dancers Among Us- Kamille Upshaw and Alexei Geronimo of Bad Boys of Dance, Rachel Bell from Dance/USA in DC, and Christina Jackson of Capitol Movement Dance Company. I was also joined by Penny Green, a lovely D.C. photographer who wanted to observe the process and take behind-the-scenes photos.

With only five hours on Saturday afternoon to capture all the shots, we first met at my in-laws' home in Towson, MD to shoot a series of "Americana" images celebrating Independence Day. Quite fortunately, their house is about as all-American as you can get. You can practically smell the apple pie from the driveway.

1:22 pm

I have always wanted a gardening photo, and this location was perfect- the American flag, dappled sunlight, and stone house are right out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Rachel Bell came up with a terrific pose, and to complete the scene I recruited my dog and 19-month-old daughter, Salish- and was that asking for trouble! I wanted them seated and focused on Rachel, but neither of them felt compelled to stick to the script.

Finally Salish sat down, looked up at Rachel and started petting the dog, who then looked back at Salish. Rachel nailed her pose as the breeze blew the flag. Perfect!

2:26 pm

The next location was the local bowling alley to shoot a favorite American pastime. I had a pretty difficult idea in mind, and I attempted to demonstrate it to Christina Jackson.

Behind-the-scenes photos by Penny Green

Usually I prefer to include passers-by in my shots, but Saturday afternoon bowlers are pretty intense. They didn't want to be distracted, so we couldn't shoot while they were focusing on their bowling. Instead, I recruited my D.C. entourage. Everyone got their own bowling ball, and we staggered the start time so all the balls would be in the lanes when Christina struck her pose. This took some serious teamwork, and I got just a little amped-up trying to coordinate everything.

I took 82 shots to make sure it was right. I probably owe Christina a visit to the chiropractor.

4:05 pm

Next stop on the Americana wagon, McDonald's! No celebration of America would be complete without a little fast food. Plus, I was in the mood for a Big Mac. The concept was simple but the execution was the tricky part. I wanted Kamille Upshaw to utilize her incredible dexterity at the drive-thru by paying with her foot. I assumed I would only have a few seconds before getting kicked out, so we practiced in the driveway.

Incredibly, I was able to capture 48 photos in two minutes as Kamille kept her leg in the air and the $20 snug between her toes. The employee kept holding out the bag, seemingly amused. Finally she ducked her head inside the window, and I braced myself for a frantic manager screaming at me about brand recognition. Instead, I ended up with a fun photograph and a stale Big Mac. It was worth the trade-off.

5:27 pm

Fishing is another cherished American pastime. I wanted a Moby-Dick shot, so we headed to the reservoir. We needed to weigh down the fishing line, and Penny generously offered her own sneaker! I asked Alexei Geronimo to give me a back bend and expression that suggested, at the very least, a small whale on the line. I demonstrated in the parking lot.

We had less than an hour to get this shot. We rented a couple of boats and hit the water.

Many things went wrong- the sneaker didn't sink, the boats were difficult to maneuver, the currents kept drifting us away from the location, the light kept changing, the geese kept begging for scraps, the line got tangled in the motor (shown in the second photo below), and Alexei almost fell out of the boat a dozen times. We managed to keep him dry and got many nice images- I am having a difficult time selecting just one. Have a favorite?

24 Hours Later

In five hours I got terrific photos of four amazing and creative dancers. But I still had a surprise waiting for me- Rachel Bell came back the next day for just one more Dancers Among Us image! On a break between class and performance, she rented another Zip Car, grabbed her boyfriend and drove an hour north to produce one of my very favorite shots of the entire series - "Love on Independence Day"!

Thank you to Penny and the wonderful Dancers Among Us for making my Independence Day weekend so memorable. From gardening, bowling, and fishing, to picnicking and the fast-food frenzy, capturing America's pastimes continues on its national quest!