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Dance Photography workshop in Santa Fe Day 2

After a spirited and insightful critique of images from the first day of the dance photograpy workshop at Santa Fe Workshops, we resumed our journey into lighting dancers in the studio.  Working off of the foundation from yesterday when we only used one light, today we worked with three.  In this demonstration with dancer Deollo Johnson, in addition to the key light, a Chimera medium Super Pro soft box, we added two Chimera Super Pro Strip lights on the left and right.  The results were dramatic in that we could separate the dancer from the background and create more depth in the picture.  And more than that, help define the muscles in the torso and left leg.  Of course because this is a demonstration, I can't take time to evolve the image as far as I would like, but clearly there was a lot more we could do had this been a personal shoot.

It was great fun to see the participants take this approach and run with it to make some wonderful images on their own.  And that is truly rewarding for me to see.

Tomorrow, after a morning critique,  we go to a wonderful primordial property outside of Santa Fe to shoot dancers on location into the early evening.  It's bound to be a great day. 


Dance photography workshop in Santa Fe Day 1

Today was the first day of the Dance Photography class at Santa Fe Workshops.  Ten participants came from all over the country to attend, and we jumped right in to creating images.

The first thing we focused on the using a single light source to create drama and depth.  Here is an image I shot as a demonstration with the talented Rulan Tangen of Dancing Earth.  The photo was made with a medium Chimera Super Pro softbox positioned overhead and slightly right of center to give some directional shadows.

Tomorrow we move on to working with multiple light sources, and it's bound to be another fun day.


Shutterbug magazine features Allen Birnbach

Writer and creative consultant Maria Piscopo interviewed me for an article in the June 2014 issue of Shutterbug Magazine.  I enjoyed her thoughtful questions and the opportunity to share my experiences and images.  To see the full article, go to the blog page of

Thanks, Maria!


Iceland Photography Workshop registration is open

I'm delighted that registration for Iceland:The Photo Hot Spot is now open.  

Of all the places I've been to, Iceland is the country that speaks to me at the deepest level.  With all but one of the world's ecosystems, there are incredible images to capture at every turn.  Registration is limited, so you'll want to sign up soon for this once in a lifetime experience.

Detailed information about the course is at the website for The Santa Fe Workshops.


Improving composition in photography

It always amazes me how the smallest changes in composition can make vast differences in photographs.  Here's a good example.  

 I was walking in the deserted park near our house and was intrigued by the shadows cast on the crisp snow by the leafless, hibernating trees.  Because the snow had fallen two days earlier, there were footprints from people who had rushed through the park in the subzero weather.  And holes in the blanket of white crystals from clumps of snow that had been resting in the silent trees, but were blown by the icy winds to the ground below.

 I pulled my Ricoh GR to my eye and shot this first image. 

I liked it, but was instantly aware of two areas.  The first was at the top right, where the two trunks of the tree overlapped each other.  To my mind, it created a very heavy presence that pulled my eye to that portion of the photograph.  The other areas was at the top left, where it felt like there was too much space between the left edge of the image, and the first tree trunk.  I decided to make another image to address those concerns.

 The change was slight, but I moved to the left.  By doing so, I opened up some space between the two trunks on the right so they no longer felt as imposing, and at the same time widened my field of view so the trees on the left moved closer to the edge of the frame.


 When I look at the second image, it is easier for my eye to go to the small branch in the snow at the bottom and its relationship to the shadows next to it.   Since that is what called me to the spot in the first place, I feel it is the more successful in portraying my intent.  And by reframing, the composition feels lighter, and more balanced. 

What do you think?