Beeping My Comfort Zone: Shooting Zawadi School of African Dance and Drum

Remember the post about coming out of your comfort zone? Well, this is what inspired it. Shooting a dance troupe is something I’ve always wanted to do. I just never worked up the confidence until recently. My family has a history with the Zawadi African Dance troop so it was a little less nerve racking. The shoot was actually challenging because I did not have the freedom I thought I would.

How I Prepped

As well as my usual prep, I got the chance to sit in on a rehearsal. I used this as an opportunity to write myself a plan of action. I got a look at the lighting and the environment. Here I learned I was really unprepared and had to rent or buy a new lens. I needed something faster than my Tamron 24-200mm f3.5-5.6 and more reach than my Nikon 85mm 1.8D.


This is very important to me. I have a simple look for events which comes from my theater background. I wear simple and neat black clothing: slacks and a button up shirt.. It helps to look neat in these situations, as it separates you from people who happened to bring a DSLR and are idly taking pictures.

Gear I Used

My camera of choice was the Nikon D700; it had everything I needed for this shoot. I carried my Nikon D90 as a backup, and three 16GB CF cards in my Lowepro Event Messenger 150, to be as low key as possible. My first Instinct was to rent a Sigma 20-200mm f2.8 which we reviewed here before. While scanning the photography store sites I stumbled upon a Tamron 28-105mm f2.8. I took a chance and bought it, it was used and a very good price. It will be reviewed later.

Settings I Used

With the test behind me, I knew to give up on setting the white balance. The lighting changed a lot. I used the camera auto white balance. Spot metering worked the best at this and kept things at a good level. I kept my shutter speed and a minimum of 1/100th of a second to capture everyone sharply. I kept my ISO around 1250. It all worked out very well.

The Actual Shooting

It was a packed house. People were standing in the back of the theater. I was basically running all over the place, trying to get shot from as many different angles as I could without being in the way. I did not want to ruin the show for any of the paying patrons.

What I Got Out of it

I learned a lot from this shoot. It was fun, a lot of running around the perimeter of the audience. The center aisles were a death trap as people kept moving in and out of their seats, and there were a lot of children that I had to be mindful of, too. I archived about 90% of what I wanted to do.

In the End

Would I do something like this again? Yes.

Would I change anything? While I like the Tamron 28-105mm, I would rent a Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 and put it into the cost of the shoot. It was not the quality of the images that was the issue, rather it’s that the that lens is heavy. I have to get used to shooting with it for long periods.

We must live life forwards and gain experience each time we use our camera. This was a great lesson.

Gear Used & Mentioned

Please Support The Phoblographer

We love to bring you guys the latest and greatest news and gear related stuff. However, we can’t keep doing that unless we have your continued support. If you would like to purchase any of the items mentioned, please do so by clicking our links first and then purchasing the items as we then get a small portion of the sale to help run the website.

Gevon Servo

Gevon Servo aka @GServo is an eclectic, NJ/NY Photographer. He’s a Nikon shooter, by choice nevertheless, will always test any piece of photography equipment. He believes that like ‘Photography’, ‘Coffee’,’Beer’ and ‘Comics Books’ and other things ‘Geek’ “You must try everything once to discover what you want to try again.