Readers’ wildlife photos

August 26, 2023 • 8:15 am

Our wildlife photos today are of H. sapiens in the dancing mode, and are supplied by Doug Hayes of Richmond Virginia, creator of the “Breakfast Crew” series. Doug’s captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Just a few shots from the latest photoshoot I did for Starr Foster Dance. The photos are for use with publicity material for upcoming shows and to accompany the web site biographies of three new dancers who joined the company this month. I have been working with choreographer Starrene “Starr” Foster for the entire 20-year existence of her company. For more information on her work and the company members, visit

The dance company web site features each dancer executing a different jump, dancer’s choice:

SFD04 –   Yes, the dancer actually folded her legs under her body in mid-air at the peak of her jump. It did take several tries to catch that moment.

Costume shots for an upcoming show:

The core members of Starr Foster Dance. Three additional dancers (not shown) have joined the company this past month:

Jumps are always fun and a challenge to photograph, especially when multiple dancers are involved.

Photography info: Lighting provided by three White Lightning 800 watt-second flash units with silver umbrella reflectors, flashes triggered by a CyberSync radio controller, Sony A7R5 camera body set for daylight color temperature/ISO 320, Sony FE 24-105 zoom lens, 24’x12′ black backdrop.

Readers’ wildlife photos

March 31, 2023 • 8:30 am

Addendum:  Doug said I should add this about his heart attack, which actually was a while back:

The heart attack was almost six years ago, and the photo was taken about a year afterwards. Taking walks was part of the recovery process and photographing birds started while I was stuck at home and a neighbor asked for photo tips and lessons. She is an avid birder and despite growing up in rural Virginia, I knew almost nothing about birds! Then Covid struck and I set up the backyard bird feeders and started photographing the Breakfast Crew as something to ease the boredom of everything being locked down. I have had two heart scans since the heart attack, and everything looks fine. My energy is back to normal, and life is good! Especially since I am now retired and have time for my various hobbies.


Today’s photos are from reader Doug Hayes of Richmond, VA, who usually contributes “The breakfast crew” series of bird photos. But he also takes great photos of dancers. Today we have mostly dancers but also one bird—and a story. Doug’s captions and narrative are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

And now for something completely different. Photos from my most recent photoshoot with Starr Foster Dance and my friend Starrene Foster, artistic director and choreographer. Starr is currently working on the costumes, choreography and musical arrangements for Spitting Image II, her second show of choreography inspired by photos submitted by Richmond, VA photographers (including yours truly). Depending on the emotion evoked by each photo, the individual dances are sometimes comical, sometimes sad or a show of physical prowess and dance technique. The show will be performed at Richmond’s Firehouse Theater April 27th through April 29th (two shows). For more information about the show and the company, visit here.

Fran Beaumont (top), Shannon Comerford (middle) and Taylor-Leigh Adams (bottom).  We used this image on the postcards advertising the show. This was the first take of this particular jump. Sometimes these shots are spontaneous, or they involve phrases from a particular dance. This photo was improvised, with Taylor told to go horizontal, while the other two the dancers were instructed to leap towards the light, all on a count of three. We did one more shot, but felt we nailed it on the first try.

Molly Huey and three dancers in a large spandex bag. The bag has evolved over the years from holding one person, to being able to hold six dancers, sometimes with video projections on the surface while the dancers contort and form various shapes and configurations of bodies:

Fran Beaumont making it look effortless:

Shannon Comerford (L) and Taylor-Leigh Adams (R):

Fran Beaumont takes to the air:

Mosca Mavrophilipos-Flint, one of the guest dancers who will be performing in the Spitting Image show:

Anna Branch, one of the original members of the company:

Elana Dimitri, another guest dancer who will be performing in the Spitting Image show:

Shannon Comerford and Taylor-Leigh Adams. Three dancers are off-camera tossing the leaves. It took several tries to get this image as leaves fell in clumps or obscured the dancers’ faces. This photo was also used on the postcards advertising the show.

Mosca Mavrophilipos-Flint:

My photo which is the basis for the dance entitled “Persistence”. It is one of my favorites, taken while I was recovering from a heart attack and just getting started in bird photography:

All the photos were shot in the studios of the Richmond Ballet. Camera was the Sony A7RV set to human eye autofocus tracking, external flash mode, ISO 250 – 400, shutter speed 1/400 (mechanical shutter). Lenses: Sony 16-35 GM and Sigma Art 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM (Sony E-mount). Lighting: Multiple White Lightning 800WS monolights triggered by a Cybersync radio controller.

I asked Doug about the bird photo, and why it was called “Persistence.” His answer is below. We all wish him a speedy recovery!

After the heart attack I was pretty weak and started walking every day to build my strength back up. I had just started photographing birds and decided to take my camera and telephoto lens with me – a pretty heavy load at the time. My regular route was to walk down to the lake in Forest Hill Park and back, roughly a two mile hike. On the day I took the picture, it had started to snow heavily. I was debating whether to go on my walk leaving the camera at home. Then I started to talk myself out of going walking at all as it was cold and the snow had not let up. I didn’t want this to happen again, so I went online and started to search for weatherproof covers for cameras and lenses. After a few minutes of research, I saw how simple the construction of the covers was. A few minutes later I was making a cover for my camera and lens out of sheet plastic and electrical tape. So, now I had no excuse to put off my walk. When I reached the lake, there were no birds around except for this solitary Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), covered with snow, wading in the shallows looking for fish. I watched and photographed him (or her) for a while and the bird’s persistence paid off as it snagged several small fish.

The Elect at Princeton University decide that ballet is racist, sexist, white supremacist, and thoroughly problematic

January 27, 2022 • 11:30 am

People might beef because the article below not only appeared in The American Conservative, but was written by arch-conservative Rod Dreher. For those who ignore reports from such sources, you might skip this and see the post from the Guardian above, but I pity such folks for refusing to engage with Right-wing sources, for those sources are almost the sole documentors of the woke shenanigans that may bring Republicans back to power.

To satisfy those who can’t stand to read Rod Dreher, I’ve quoted only his sources, with the rest of the post being the words of the censorious and ultra-Woke Elect Princeton University. It turns out that Princeton is going after ballet, having decided that that genre of dance is racist, white supremacist, and “ableist”. It also needs land acknowledgments before every performance!

Before I start, let me say that I’m not much of a ballet fan, but I do see the beauty in some virtuoso performances. And although it’s traditionally white, like much dance, that barrier is being broken down by people like Misty Copeland and the advent of black ballet companies. What concerns me more, knowing that ballet will inevitably become more diverse, is the credible claim that ballerinas are pressured to maintain a slender image, which may cause them to develop eating disorders. I’m not sure how common this is, but it’s a concern. But it’s impossible to do “traditional” ballet if you can’t jump around onstage, which requires at least an absence of obesity.

Click on the screenshot to read:

Here’s Dreher’s introduction. I’ve omitted his fulminations, which you can read at the site:

A source at Princeton University passed to me two documents sent out by the president of Princeton University Ballet (the student-run recreational ballet club), regarding the club’s diversity, equity, and inclusivity initiatives. I quote them both below, in full. The first was written by the club leaders, who in it affirm that “we are all entering this space with a mindset that what we see as perfect is a white standard” and “we aim to decolonize our practice of ballet, even as ballet remains an imperialist, colonialist, and white supremacist art form.” (Gosh, better not tell these woke dingbats about Alicia Alonso, the Cuban prima ballerina, founder of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, and ardent Castroite.)

The second document is about “Action Plan Guidelines”. I am told that it was not written by the students, but by Princeton alumni who led the “EDI Circuit.” The document was given to all the clubs that participated. The source says, “I don’t think it was mandatory for all the performing arts groups. Still, it was organized by the University’s offices, namely the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and the Lewis Center for the Arts.”

I’ll quote only bits from the first document, and assume that it’s genuine.  I was going to bold parts to emphasize them, but really, the whole screed needs bolding. This is only part of that first document:

Ballet is rooted in white supremacy and perfectionism. We are all entering this space with a mindset that what we see as perfect is a white standard. Unlearning that will be difficult but rewarding. Before we begin detailing our action plan, we want to acknowledge that our leadership and those who composed this plan are all white.

Firstly we would like to add land acknowledgement to our shows, in addition to historical context in our programs. We rarely shed light on the problematic history of our art form, and want to bring it to the forefront of our performances.

We aim to decolonize our practice of ballet, even as ballet remains an imperialist, colonialist, and white supremacist art form. We realize our distinct freedoms as a college run dance group, which is that we do not report back to any sort of board or funding programs that would restrict our choices. In selecting new members and cultivating our style, we want to centralize artistry instead of technique, in the hopes of maintaining our core purpose as a ballet company but doing away with some of the stringent and exclusive standards that pervade the art form. As this is particularly important during auditions, we will be prefacing audition discussions with a frank recognition and repudiation of our own biases. . .

. . . We hope to take steps to ensure that PUB membership, not just leadership, requires a commitment to EDI work. As such, we have decided that participation in service and outreach to local communities will become a requirement of every company member. We partner with an organization that members can sign up to volunteer with, but there are numerous other opportunities for dance service on campus. Even though we cannot change some of the biases and prejudices that exist in ballet off campus, we can dedicate ourselves to combating that exclusivity in our local communities and for the next generation.

. . . We would also like to open a conversation about body image and take steps to heal and deconstruct the harmful and racialized ideas about body image that many of PUB’s members enter the company with just by virtue of being a ballet dancer. Historically, PUB has been neutral on this issue, and while body neutrality is something some may strive for individually, it is not realistic or helpful for a group of ballet dancers who have internalized damaging ideas about how they should eat and what they should look like. We are hoping to bring someone in from outside the company to train the officers or the company as a whole on how to talk about body image and how to create an environment where we feel comfortable talking about our struggles with body image while also helping to deconstruct our assumptions about it.

The last paragraph does have a point, but the aesthetics of an athletic, healthy body is essential for ballet, as it is for sports. But the pressure to develop a thin and graceful body type does not seem to be “racialized” to me. All ballerinas, black or white (and there are now many of the former, including entire companies) will have to deal with the need to be athletic in a way that makes the performance aesthetically appealing.

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 1, 2021 • 8:00 am

I’m constantly expanding the definition of “wildlife”; now it includes the behavior and nature of the primate Homo sapiens. Today’s contributor, Doug Hayes of Richmond, Virginia, will be familiar to you as the photographer of the “Breakfast Crew” series of birds at his feeders.  Today he has photos of dance. His narrative is indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

Now for something completely different. For almost 20 years I have been shooting video and still photos for Starr Foster Dance, a Richmond-based modern dance company. Choreographer Starrene Foster and I collaborate on these photos, which are derived from specific moments in her dances and recreated in the studio by her company of talented performers. In addition to choreography, Starrene also designs and sews all the costumes and collaborates on lighting design for her company performances. She also teaches modern and ballet technique at the Richmond Ballet and the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Richmond.

Camera info: Sony A7RIV and A1 camera bodies, Sony 24-105, Sony 16-35 and Canon 55mm + Sigma FE to Sony E-mount adapter. Lighting is with multiple White Lightning and Alien Bees monolights (600 watt seconds each) triggered by a Cybersync wireless transmitter. ISO 400, f/11 – 16, flash sync shutter speed on the A7RIV is 1/250th; flash sync shutter speed on the A1 is 1/400.

Christopher Walken dances to “Come and Get Your Love”

September 8, 2020 • 2:30 pm

UPDATE: The original song that Walken was dancing to wasn’t “Come and Get your Love,” but “Weapon of Choice” by Fatboy Slim. The original video is here, and I’ve also embedded it below. Walken’s dancing is even more on the mark with the original song.

Still, I love the Redbone song, and have left it in.  I wonder how they got Walken to do the dancing.


This video absolutely freaks me out, but what do you expect with Christopher Walken? I didn’t know the man even danced, but I recall that when a reader posted the video in the comments not long ago, they added that Walken was once a dancer. Indeed, Wikipedia notes that  “Walken initially trained as a dancer at the Washington Dance Studio before moving on to dramatic stage roles and then film.”

And what a song to make the man move his bones! Yes, there are stunt doubles in there, but most of the hoofing is done by Walken himself.

I had forgotten who did that song, which really is a toe-tapper, so I looked it up, finding that it was done in 1974 by Redbone, the first Native American band to have a big hit (this song went to the top 4 on Billboard). Here’s a live performance of “Come and Get Your Love“, written by two of the band members, Pat and Lolly Vegas (Lolly is the lead singer, Pat on bass). Oddly, it starts with 45 seconds of an Indian dance.  The lyrics are strange and enigmatic, but the tune and performance are great, which of course is why Walken danced to it.

Readers’ photos

August 18, 2020 • 7:45 am

Remember that I will consider photos of nearly every subject, so long as they’re good. I count everything on the planet as “honorary wildlife.”

The wildlife in this post are specimens of Homo sapiens, again photographed by Joe Routon. His notes are indented:

When I carry my camera, I’m always looking for something that’s beautiful. There’s so much ugliness and turmoil in the world today—I need beauty to maintain my sanity. A favorite subject of mine is the dance, one of the most beautiful and inspiring art forms in the world.

Through ballet, the human body is transformed magically into a thing of great beauty.

In my travels, I look for opportunities to photograph dancers, usually folk dancers in foreign countries. This is a traditional folk dancer I photographed in Thailand.
Here are two Malaysian dancers I photographed.
Here is a folk dancer from the Ballet Folklórico whom I photographed in Mexico City.
This photo shows folk dancers I photographed in India. I was not able to ascertain the meaning or this dance, which was unlike anything I’d ever seen.
In today’s hectic world, we need to be mindful and aware of the beauty around us. It’s there—we just have to take the time to see it.

An optical illusion dance

April 8, 2013 • 12:19 pm

Matthew Cobb sent me this, demanding that I post it.  Since he’s a good contributor here, I bow to his wishes:

You have to admit that it’s quite clever—and disconcerting. According to Dr. Cobb, there are others like this on YouTube. I’ll take his word for it.