Look before you leap.


One the most exciting projects last year was working on a book for The Northern Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) and frankly it got a bit out of hand. It all started with a conversation along the lines of “Wouldn’t it be nice to have some good dance images…” And then “we don’t just do dance, we cover the performing arts, that’s drama and musical theatre too” so to cut a long story short a designer, Dominic Frary, who has worked for the National Ballet got involved and the next thing we knew we had an eighty page book on our hands.

The book has caught the eye of many people including my preferred lighting company Profoto. They asked if they could feature some of my work on their blog. This coincided with them releasing the Profoto B4 pack, the fastest, most versatile generator on the market. I had to check this baby out. On the roof.

There seemed little point in playing safe when I had a very flexible bit of kit at my disposal. No mains power? No problem. Freezing action? No problem. Over ambitious? Erm…

Having done a rece I thought the flat roof was large enough and the architecture interesting enough to get an eye catching image, but could we get a sense of drama?  My original idea was to create a parkour inspired image, run along and off a pitched roof, it was safe in every sense of the word. “Why don’t we jump off the roof?” They replied “well if you’re sure…”

So, five dancers, two B4 packs, three ProHead Plus heads, magnum reflectors and a soft light reflector and away we went.

Although the generator is capable of several frames per second I still prefer to use my camera like a rifle rather than a machine gun, anticipate and pick your spot. I spent three months working in Canada in the early nineties and met an experienced rodeo photographer who always preferred to shoot this way, he said “if you see it through the viewfinder, you’ve missed it”.

One of the biggest challenges on this shoot was one I hadn’t anticipated if I’m honest. I knew I wanted to over power the sun with the flash but because it was such a bright day it was  tricky balancing the power of the flash with exposure settings that reduced the daylight sufficiently. Turn the power up too high and the flash duration would be too long, and outside a focal plane shutter meant that there was a limit on the shutter speed. With hindsight a leaf shutter would be the answer.. or retreat to the safety of a studio.

But where’s the fun in that?

Thanks to Danielle, Leah, Max, Olivia, and Paige for looking before leaping, to Hannah for choreography and keeping it real, Matt from Profoto and the ever excellent film maker Jonathan for making me sound vaguely articulate.






bts montage

Behind the scenes images, ©Matt Wilson from Profoto.

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10 comments in “Look before you leap.”

  1. Peter Ogle says:

    Brilliant photos Mark

  2. Savi says:

    Great photos Mark, very dramatic.

  3. Mark Stennett says:

    Fantastic photos, and a brilliant insight into behind the scenes.

  4. Rob Durston says:

    Hi Mark
    Some great stuff there, love the skies and the saturation. I did a similar shoot a few months ago with ballerinas, Profoto Acute B600s and HSS.

  5. Van says:

    Nice project and shots. I was curious how did you connect to the iPad for viewing of the shots. I don’t see a connection from the camera to the iPad. I shoot Nikon, is this connection also compatible?

  6. markkensett says:

    Its a Camranger, uses a local wireless network, I’m sure you can use it with Nikon.

  7. Edu López says:

    Hi Mark,
    How do you do to work with the ipad? You know, maybe with Wi-Fi cards?

  8. markkensett says:

    No it’s a Camranger, creates a local wifi network.

  9. Moon says:

    Great Shots! The timing is so perfect, sometimes I can not catch the moment@ BTW what lens are you using? Two different lens?

  10. markkensett says:

    Hi Moon, yes 2 lenses, 24mm shift lens for most of them, 24-70 for the other.

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