My niece is running the London Marathon in aid of the Shine Bright Charity which was formed in memory of her sister who sadly died at the age of 32 from breast cancer. To raise funds to run the marathon she’s organised a few events. One of these is a Clubbercise  event which she asked me to photograph. I asked her why she wanted me to photograph a sandwich. When she stopped laughing she explained that it was a dance done with glow sticks thee dancers wore colourful outfits. It sounded like a bit of fun.

I did a bit of research and wonder what I’d agreed to when I discovered it was done in semi darkness with flashing lights and fast movement. How do I photograph that? If I use flash it would kill the atmosphere. If I used an high ISO the shutter speed would still be to slow and I would end up with grainy and blurred photos.

After thinking about it for a while I decided to start off by trying a bit of a compromise. I’ll shoot fully manual with a bit of flashed bounced off the ceiling and a longish exposure to record the ambient light. This would also allow me to use a reasonable ISO speed.

The venue was the Willaston Social Club and there were about 25 ladies doing the dance or should I say aerobics. The instructor was on a relatively brightly lit stage and the ladies were on a dim dance floor lit by scrobe coloured lights. I could wander around the outside of the dance floor but found the side of the stage was the best spot. I checked with everyone that they were happy for me to take some photographs for Shine Bright and they all agreed it was OK.

I started just trying a few shots using auto ISO with the camera  set manually to 1/125 at f6.3. It gave me as ISO of 12800 which gave pretty soft and grainy photos so I quickly changed to my original  plan at set the ISO to 640, the shutter speed to about 1/4 and the aperture to f6.3. I then set the flash to 1/4 power and second curtain sync so that it would fire at the end of the exposure. This means that the sensor will record the movement then the flash will fire at the end of the exposure and hopefully capture a shape image. The aperture controls the flash exposure and the shutter speed controls the ambient light. That’s the theory anyway.  To make the flash exposure more even I chose to bounce it off the low light ceiling.

The first few exposures were way out so I controlled the exposure by either changing the ISO or the flash power until they started to look reasonable. I always shoot in RAW so I can recover some highlights and shadow detail. After some trial and error I settled on an exposure of approximately 400 ISO, 1/8 sec ant f7.1. This gave me some wacky images with movement and a sharpish figure.

The problem was that the instructor was brightly lit on the stage so it was difficult to get a picture of her and the dancers both well exposed and reasonable sharp. She wouldn’t keep still so I just had to settle for some ‘creative blur’. The only way I could get a sharp photo of her was by photographing her separately with flash which spoilt the atmosphere, but got the result.

If anyone’s ever tried this kind of photography before I’d love to know how you did it. If you’ve overcome a photographic challenge before perhaps you’d like to share it with fellow members and tell us how you did it.