Hoop Dancers – Grand Entrance

I had a great time shooting at the Native American World Hoop Dancing Championship held yesterday (continuing today) at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, AZ.  It was a perfect opportunity to get acquainted with the new camera (Nikon D700) and the new zoom lens (Nikon 28-300mm F/3.5-5.6G).

I was sitting about three rows back from the edge of the dance area, maybe 20 yards from the center of the ring.  The day’s festivities started with the Grand Entrance, when all the dancers lined up and paraded through the crowd and into the ring, led by three men carrying the Eagle Staff and the flags of the United States and Canada.  As they came into the ring, they formed a spiral of dancers, stirring up a small cloud of dust.  It was quite dramatic, colorful and a lot of fun to watch.

I tried to use that opportunity to practice selective focusing, selecting a specific subject in the crowd of dancers.  I set the camera to shutter-priority because I needed a fast shutter speed to capture the fast-moving dancers.  I was using a little higher ISO (320) to obtain the fast shutter speed, balanced with a little deeper depth of field.

Hoop Dancing - Grand Entrance
Single image JPG processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, Topaz Adjust / DeNoise

This shot is one of my favorite from the Grand Entrance. I was shooting in JPG mode only because I knew I was going to be shooting a LOT of images and I wasn’t sure how much memory the raw files would eat up…besides, this was just a practice run. The sun was behind me, shining directly in the face of the dancer, which caused a little loss of detail. I used Topaz Adjust selectively on the central figure to restore some of the detail back to his face and his clothing.  It still looks a little bit over-processed to me, but better than the original.

I’ll be posting a few more shots from the dancing over the next few days. I’ve posted a few straight-from-the-camera shots of the Tiny Tots division (ages 1-5) on my Facebook page which you can view here. Here’s a short video that I shot with my Blackberry so you can hear the drummers and singers who provided the Native American music for the dancers:


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The Hat – and the new Nikon

I finally got some time (and some daylight, and some warmer weather) to go out for my first shoot with the new Nikon D700.  I wanted to try out the 28-300 zoom, so I went to the Heard Museum here in Phoenix where they are hosting the Native American Hoop Dancing World Championship this weekend.

It’s the first time I’ve ever attended this event, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  You never know where they will or will not allow cameras and tripods these days.  I shouldn’t have worried.  There were more DSLRs there than I’ve ever seen in one place, most with zoom lenses, and a lot of them mounted on tripods or monopods.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a large number of women photographers my own age out there with gear similar to mine.  Suddenly I don’t feel so alone in a sea of male photographers!  I knew those ladies must be out there somewhere!

I got there early enough to get a great spot for my lawn chair with only a couple of people in front of me.  We were instructed by the event organizer that some of the dancers objected to having their picture taken, and that announcements would be made before they performed.  We were also instructed that we could only use our photos for personal use unless we got permission from the dancers.

I was there from about 9:00AM until about 2:00PM, so I got to see the Grand Entrance, along with performances by the Tiny Tot, Youth, and Teen divisions.  I took a total of 575 photos, and by that time my left arm was getting really tired.  The D700 is about twice as heavy as my D5000, and I was using a heavier lens than I’ve been using.  Guess I need to start lifting weights or shooting more photos!

All through the performance there was a lady sitting down front to the left of us who was wearing a huge hat to shade herself from the sun.  Fortunately she wasn’t in my direct line of sight for my photos, but I could still see that hat out the corner of my eye.  As I was getting ready to leave, I decided to get a shot of it.  The sun was creating some beautiful patterns on the straw, and I think it wound up being my best shot of the day:

The Hat

This shot is straight out of the camera with no processing. After looking at this and the other 574 shots, I think I’m truly going to enjoy this camera and lens!