Not everyone can say they ran away from home and joined the Circus. In a way, I can.
Unfortunately my one-handed clapping act didn’t make the bill on stage, but I did get a pretty ripper opportunity to photograph acts from all over the world performing in The Great Moscow Circus at the Marina Bay Sands Event Space in Singapore.
To be completely honest, this was a really challenging shoot. The light restrictions due to performer safety & total light capacity of the tent made things really tough. Flash photography was out of the question & most performers needed translation. This blog is going to be a little bit technical for the shooters out there who are interested, so buckle in! I was also lucky enough to have Mark Williams taking some behind the scenes shots. Cheers mate!
The first act I shot was called the Cat Walk, which had acrobats jumping off the roof onto trampolines and performing all kinds of backflips, twists & turns in the process, adding in their own playful charm throughout the act. The speeds at which everything was happening was intense, I chose to shoot this job on my Canon 5D Mark IV and my Canon 16-35 F4 for the majority. When I wasn’t kitted up with that, I was using my Canon 70-200, Sigma 50 & 85 mm Prime lenses. “Use a 1DX” You might say - I considered it, I also considered using a 5DSR, I opted for using my own baby, mostly because I needed a blend of both. The application of these images is to be on Billboards, posters, flyers, massive print applications. It was sort of like the Goldilocks approach, one was too hot, one was too cold, my 5D4 was just right.
Getting the most amount of light was imperative, but getting them in still motion was more important to me than having a bit of grain.
You might think I’d be shooting free hand, but I shot the whole thing tethered to a laptop with a local assistant Shawn Paul Tan (Attic Digital, if you ever need a digi in Singapore, give him a ring! He’ll sort you out).
Shooting tethered meant I knew exactly when I had the shot and didn’t have to second guess, I came out of every shoot with at least one image I was pleased with, which was what the brief needed.
This particular act needed me to get IN the catwalk and shoot upwards to get the right angle… the video of me getting in there is embarrassing to say the least, but worth a laugh.
After this, we shot the Run Track. A series of acrobats running down a gymnastics track… These guys all spoke Russian but were more than happy to repeat some tricks as much as possible to get the right shot, I couldn’t get them away from my assistant as they peered over his shoulder to see the photos. I took a rather precarious position… see below.
So what’s a Circus without a little bit of danger? I thought the same, but it was mostly fear for my gear.
This Circus is animal cruelty free, so there was no risk of a Sigfried and Roy scenario, but I did shoot the loud roar of 4 motor cycles circling around a dome in synchronisation. My major issue with this part of the shoot was capturing the performers through the dome. Shooting at 35 & 50mm, the subjects inside were completely unapparent. I managed to get a few close in depth of field style shots on stationary performers, but that was about it.
The only way to do this right was to put my 16-35 right up against the dome in the crack (that the motorbikes drove over) to get a clear shot. It was one of the most disturbing shooting experiences, the noise from the bikes was deafening as I felt the whoosh of the bikes blow into my hands. Yikes.
The force of the bikes on the dome literally had me shaking - as you can see from the video above. The shots were worth it.
The pace of the day was extremely quick, we had thirteen acts to shoot over 2 days, each act had approximately 45 minutes to get the shots… but most could only perform their act so many times before becoming too fatigued (another trying consideration I had to work with).
I also photographed two live shows and the tent from just about every angle inside & out. I also spent a day and a half before & after the event organising the shoot, having meetings and inspecting the application platforms + renting equipment. I had to pick up a 300mm in country and it proved to be quite an ordeal…
With that in mind, you can understand why we didn’t manage to get behind the scenes images of everything. None the less, here are some of my favourite images from the rest of the shoot, featuring an incredible double rotating wheel, aerialists, clowns & contortionists.
That just about wraps it up… in my 5 days in Singapore I didn’t manage to see a single thing other than this site.
Alas, The Show Must Go On.