Last week, on my second night at Dawson City, I spent a couple of hours reliving history at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s. In case you haven’t heard of it before, this is a non-profit gambling hall named after Gertrude Lovejoy, famous for wedging a diamond between her teeth during the gold rush of the 1880s.
They have three cabaret shows a night at Gertie’s and I guess sitting halfway back down the crowded hall was not the smartest thing I did, especially since I wanted to try and get some unique photographs of the famous show.
Because I do not use a tripod, I should have headed upstairs, where I would have got a better view and where I would have been able to rest my camera on the wooden balcony to hold it rock-steady.
The problem here is the level of fitness of the dancers. They move swiftly. Yes, S W I F T L Y. Even using a quick aperture setting, I was barely able to get a shot of them without a shimmering blur.
Next time you come round, I’ll show you my shots of the opening number, where not one of my images of the brightly coloured cancans is up to scratch. But I’m glad I didn’t give up.
I did the best I could under the circumstances. Then, more than halfway through their routine, where the dancers changed costumes just as rapidly as they pirouetted and twirled, my opportunity presented itself without warning.
First, two of the dancers bent down and picked up two long, broad sashes. Then the other two did the same.
Suddenly I realised that their speed could be used to great advantage in an unusual series of photographs. The length of the sashes gave me a wonderful opportunity - and all of a sudden I realised that I was actually sitting in a great spot to make use of the lighting, the backdrop, the lightning-quick choreography and the rhythmic motion of the sashes.
Just goes to show - when you think you’re in the worst possible spot to take photographs of something you only see once in a lifetime (hey, how many times do we get to visit the Klondike as guests of Yukon Tourism?) something always comes along to give you a startling opportunity.
I guess the trick is to recognise the opportunity and make the most of it, even when things seem to be going wrong.