Doug Morley talks about his experiences of shooting live dance performances in low light
Mission: To capture people performing on stage
Photographer: Douglas Morley
Location : British Columbia, Canada
Kit: Nikon D610, 24-120mm f/4, 70-200mm f/2.8
My interest in shooting dance, and in particular ballet, came from my love of classical music. I don’t live far from the recently built Chilliwack Cultural Centre in British Columbia, which has an extremely good stage with gorgeous auditorium lighting. I was aware that Ballet Victoria from BC’s provincial capital would be visiting for a performance of Tchaikovsky’s
Nutcracker. So I emailed both the ballet company and the Cultural Centre to ask for photography permission during rehearsals. There were strict protocols to adhere to: no flash, no distractions etc (I’d done some homework already), and that I would submit any images to the ballet company for approval before publishing or putting them into the public domain. I agreed and arranged a date to shoot.
I came to the performance dress rehearsal. I set up my D610 on a tripod with a 70-200mm f/2.8 attached, but kept a D700 in reserve. This new-found subject of photography was exciting and very challenging. The lighting, with its many changes and complexity, meant that my 70-200mm was at f/2.8 all the time and ISO was always very
high (I shot in Program mode with Auto ISO). Choosing when to fire the shutter was hit and miss at first, but gradually I managed to judge moments in a way that I was satisfied with. My shot with dancers dressed in teal  was one such moment (a pas de deux between two principal dancers). Two hours of hard work later and I’d taken plenty of shots to browse through. There were lots of failures, a few successes and a steep learning curve, but photographing this beautiful performance of Tchaikovsky’s
Nutcracker was a rewarding experience.
With one shoot under my belt I ventured to take on another rehearsal. This time at the same venue but with Canada’s Ballet Jorgen from Toronto. They were touring with Sleeping
Beauty. I got a cracking photo from this shoot, an image of the Lilac Fairy on pointe , from the story, and another of two students  with Chilliwack’s Creative Outlet Studio performing in their own amateur, but remarkable, production of the Nutcracker.
Sleeping Beauty Nikon D610, 24-120mm f/4, 1/200 sec, f/4, ISO4500
Student dancers Nikon D610, 24-120mm f/4, 1/200 sec, f/4, ISO1000