Photographing Circus performances at Wise Fool
One of the things I didn’t mention in my roundup of the three years’ of photography since my previous post was some of the photo work I’ve done for Wise Fool New Mexico. They are an awesome group of circus performers who use teaching and performing circus arts to be a great force for good in the Santa Fe community and beyond.
My daughter Miss F’s been attending their summer camps for years, learning trapeze, stilt-walking and unicycling as well as less tangible but even more important things such as confidence, bravery and collaboration. After 2 weeks of camp where the kids also learn acrobatics, clowning and puppetry, they put on a performance for parents and friends.
I started photographing Miss F’s shows as in interested parent, but after I shared the images with the folks at Wise Fool, they asked me to photograph some of the other camps too. And I’m happy to volunteer my time to them, not just because the shows are great fun to shoot, but because I support their work and mission wholeheartedly. To see the great strides the children make as they help each other face their fears and overcome challenges to create these amazing performances is so impressive.
Wise Fool runs programs to offer access to its empowering classes to teens and children who might not otherwise be able to take advantage of them, and one of the performances I photographed was for the TeenBUST program for middle school girls.
Wise Fool share the images I produce with the parents of the participants and also use them for their website and busy social media accounts. I’m delighted to be able to help them out – and to have the privilege of photographing these amazing events.
(Quick technical note – most of these images are made with the Fuji XT-1 and either the 56mm f/1.2 lens for the individual shots or close-ups, or the 23mm f/1.4 for the wider images. The performance space is pretty dark (as it should be), so I tend to be shooting close to wide-open to give me fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action. The good news is I tend to get to sit literally right in front of the performers, so I get uninterrupted views and don’t need a big telephoto lens. For the aerial skills like trapeze or fabric, one key thing is to anticipate the culmination of the skill the kids are doing.
There’s normally one moment they’ve been aiming for, where the final arm movement comes up, or the head is lifted – the pose that gets the audience cheering. The trouble can be when there are two or three performers on stage at once you have to keep trying to work out who’s going to be ready next, and switch from one to the other. The clowning photos are fun too – it can look a lot like chaos with kids chasing around everywhere, but when they form instant groups, interacting with one performer with exaggerated facial expressions, that’s the shot to get.)