Last Saturday, I had a chance to see a drum competition mixed into some dragon and lion dance performances. I’m pretty sure this included some dance troupes from the mainland, and needless to say all of this was impressive.
This was also a good chance for me to get better with photographing moving objects. I flipped on my AI-servo functions for the autofocus along with the continuous shutter and had a blast trying to get the performers jumping. The first image is an example of that:
While I’ve got a little bit of blur on the feet, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I do wish that I had a more neutral background with some bokeh, as my lens isn’t an f/2.8 or anything (it was at 70mm f/4.5) and since hindsight is 20/20, I could have used more zoom to fix that – this image is obviously cropped a little.
Some shots that did come out a little better is a series of jumping lions. These guys work in teams of two and have to jump on very small platforms – no more than the size of each foot. Include some acting that the “lion” must perform, and you have a very stressful situation:
I did manage to get both “parts of the lion” with their feet up in the air, but not as dramatically as I would have liked:
I think I prefer the first of the two, because you can see the concentration in the faces – some flash might have worked, but a correct exposure would’ve been tricky. I’m still getting assimilated with fill-flash on sunny days – this was a tough day to measure for.
Something that also helps me is to judge timing by the rhythm. It’s easy to tell if a lion will jump based on the sound of the gongs played by the musicians in the back. With drummers, I was able to pick up this pattern:
While I had seen dancing lions before (in Houston’s Chinatown, no less), I hadn’t had a chance to see these “lion trainers” and the act they brought. The very first picture is a shot of the first lion trainer I saw – a guy who plays with the lions with a large ball and has them do tricks. This was also done by a woman who put a lot of personality into the show as she interacted with her “animals.”
The male “lion trainer” was less interactive, but more acrobatic. The very first photo on this post shows his backflip – he landed on the back of a lion and rode it for a few seconds.
Another event which I hadn’t seen before was a dragon dance. This involved a leader which carried a ball on a stick which the dragon – handled by about 15-20 people – followed around. I was pretty impressed by the contortions needed to make the dragon do different tricks.
The above shot is one of my favorites from the day. The handlers were yelling the whole time – which, along with the drums, added to the atmosphere.
The above shot shows some of the crazy contortions needed to get a dragon to do what you want. Sure looks painful.