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First dance shoot in Australia

Last December, while on family vacation in Perth, I had the opportunity to collaborate with May Yen, a really talented and beautiful dancer who grew up there but now lives in Singapore and dances for the Singapore Dance Theatre. It was my first dance photo shoot in Australia and also our first time collaborating so how cool was it to be able to create pictures in her hometown. Plus, that the shoot happened was also a bit of a miracle as our vacation days there overlapped by only a day!


For our shoot, we settled on a few well known spots in Perth and a few lesser known ones in nearby Fremantle. I always love picking locations that identify with a city, like the skyline, famous landmarks, etc. So what if they look like postcard shots, when was the last time someone bought a postcard with a beautiful ballerina in it? Besides, I know many of my viewers don’t get to travel to the places I visit so what might look common to someone may be an eye opener to someone else on the other side of the planet, a cool benefit of doing this dance photography series on a worldwide scale!


The beautiful Perth skyline at sunrise. We both had to wake up at 4am just to get to this spot in time for the sunrise at 5am. It’s probably the earliest I’ve ever woken up for a shoot!


Our next location was at a very popular spot for pre-wedding photography. I still can’t imagine why someone would build a house out on the lake like this but it sure looks awesome in pictures! However, one big challenge I encountered once we started shooting at this spot was how big the house was in practice. A dancer wearing nothing but a small dress or leotard would be totally dwarfed by the house, unlike the brides wearing huge wedding gowns who usually take pictures here. In the end, the closeup pictures taken directly on the wooden walkway facing the front of the house worked best compared to those taken from farther away where I tried to fit the whole house into the frame.


Despite the limited runway, she didn’t end up in the water for this shot. I always try to ensure that no dancer is harmed in the making of my pictures!


Something that did end up in the water though was my tripod/lightstand bag. This next spot – under an old bridge in Fremantle – was so windy that my bag, even with its contents inside, got blown off the second I put it on the ground, which unfortunately was just a narrow plank. Luckily though, it fell into the water near the edge of the river so I was able to jump in to retrieve it. However, when climbing back up, I had accidentally stepped on a broken piece of glass from what was probably a beer bottle. I’m now proud to say that this was the first photoshoot I’ve spilled blood for, literally!


“Do a pose that complements the structure!” To which May Yen gladly obliged. Me on the other hand, trying to balance on the next beam with my big camera, didn’t look half as elegant!


Another dancer friend recently remarked that Perth is a very “brown place”. True enough, when I look at the set of pictures we took that morning, there are brown hues in every one of them – the wood, the sand, heck even the light (though most people would say golden rather than brown but you get the point). So thankfully, the last location we shot at had lots of colour in it, albeit on top of lots of brown sand!


May Yen was such a trooper, doing jumps and then poses on top of burning hot sand. I couldn’t have asked for a more professional dancer to collaborate with for my first shoot here!


We ended our shoot almost an hour earlier than scheduled as Perth was experiencing a heat wave that day and we were shooting for hours in close to 40 degree C heat! But this only made the milkshakes we had after the shoot even more pleasant. Thank you so much May Yen for working with me that morning, despite having just flown in from another very exhausting trip, I really had a blast!


All images are the property of Irving Neil Kwok, Six Senses Photography and protected by international copyright laws. Any publication or distribution of images in this Blog without my express permission are strictly prohibited.


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