Ainsley VanHook - Ballet - Stephen Jennings Photography

Ainsley VanHook - Ballet

Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm - Woodburn, Oregon 04/04/16


A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of working with Ainsley VanHook on a ballet shoot at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm. I'm not a ballet photographer, or a sports photographer; indeed I'd never attempted anything quite like this before. But a few months ago I had someone inquire about a ballet themed shoot and began my process of compiling images, following dancers on IG, and figuring how I'd go about creating an interesting setup for a ballet shoot. Well they cancelled, and after a few "maybe I can maybe I can't" it fell through entirely. I developed somewhat of a fascination with ballet (and dancing in general) photography. It's unique, like a hidden niche of photography that isn't exploited like you'd think it would be. Athletic men and women in peak physical condition, true athletes, that can perform maneuvers and bends that in photography is prized above all forms of composition (called Arabesque .. a fluid motion throughout an image).

I really wanted to do this, to photograph a ballerina. Ainsley was one of the accounts I followed on IG (@ainslou_) that really stuck out of the crowd to me. I think you can actually tell a lot about someone by viewing a collection of images of them, or what's important to them. Athletically gifted, a dedicated following, a fun personality, and red hair of course! I knew instantly where I wanted to photograph her.. the tulip fields in Woodburn Oregon. This is a farm with about 40 acres and hundreds of varieties of tulips that holds a festival every year where photographers and families flock to photograph rows upon rows of tulips. I presented my idea, Ainsley and her mother Amy agreed (for which I'm grateful, it was terribly random of me to message out of nowhere haha).

Bad news though.... rain. It was to be a cold stormy day when we chose to shoot. I don't have a lot of free days, I couldn't change it, and frankly my gear is mostly water "resistant" anyways so ballerina in the rain it is. When we arrived I witnessed something I've never seen in the many times I've been to wooden shoe. 1: the place was nearly empty because of the weather, people stayed away. 2: Peak Bloom - this is when all the flowers are at their peak health, fully bloomed nearly all at once.. a truly astonishing sight, and one that doesn't last very long. And the weather? Cleared, providing an amazing sunset for our photos. It was still very cold, poor Ainsley, I felt so bad! 

When I envisioned this shoot I had one idea specifically that I wanted.. a shot of a ballerina with some kind of sheer skirt/dress/whatever its called in front of the setting sun with the rows of tulips surrounding her. I'm pretty excited about what we achieved, and I look forward to more shoots with Ainsley around the Portland Metro area in the future! Enjoy the photos.


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