As I noted in previous Big Apple Circus reviews in 2013 and 2014 one of the unexpected benefits of parenthood is discovering fun events for the kids…that parents actually enjoy. Big Apple Circus has been an annual event in our family for the past nine years, one that my wife and I look forward to as much as our daughter. The circus is held every year in New York City at a tent at Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center. The venue is cozy, with only 16 rows of seats surrounding the ring and no seat more than 50 feet from ringside. I posted photos of the Saturday after Thanksgiving evening performance on my photography website notmydayjobphotography.com.
Each season has a theme. This year’s theme is The Grand Tour set in the 1920s featuring acts from the four corners of the globe. Ships, trains, automobiles, and airplanes serve as the backdrop for 17 segments including jugglers, acrobats, animals, and hula hoop artists. My favorite act of the evening was The Wheel of Wonder with Erick and Jayson Dominquez. The Wheel is a giant apparatus, basically large straight pipes with rotating circles at each end, with the brothers on opposite sides in the cylinders. The brothers provide the energy to rotate the large contraption. When spinning, the brothers perform various stunts inside the cylinder and on top, including rope jumping high above the ground with no safety devices. A wild and dangerous ride.
I also enjoyed Chiara Anastasini, a ninth generation hula hoop artist from Italy, keeping countless number of hoops in the air with her hips and hands. At the end, she must have had several dozen hoops around her hips.
Alexander Koblikov put on a great juggling act. Alexander, a graduate of the National Circus Academy in Kiev, Ukraine, was a sailor, juggling countless balls; he entered the Guinness Book of World Records juggling 14 balls together! I couldn’t count all of the balls he had in the air that evening. Also innovative was that he used his feet extensively and balanced balls on his sailor hat.
Acrobats Hongyang Gao, Jing Wang, and Yuhao Wu, are The Energy Trio from China’s Flag Circus. They performed numerous difficult handstands and various balances on a multi-pedestal sphere. My favorite is the top photo.
John Kennedy returned from last year as the Ringleader with Jenny Vidbel on the animal acts. Joel Jeske and Brent McBeth were in fine form as clowns as they led the audience through their journey.
Photography access is a challenge for amateur photographers at many events. At major league football, basketball, baseball games, photography is allowed, but it is difficult to get close to the action. At other events such as dance or Broadway shows, it is possible to sit close to the stage, but photography is not allowed (unless you can swing an invitation to a dress rehearsal. See my post on dance photography.)
The Big Apple Circus is an ideal setting for an amateur photographer because all seats are at most 50 feet from the stage and photography is allowed (flash is not). The photographs I took this year were from the first row of the outer ring, off to the side. I had great coverage with a Canon 70-200mm f4.0 lens (112-320mm considering the 1.6 crop factor of my camera). I used a Canon T2i DSLR, a consumer camera from 2011. Given the sometimes dim light, I used 3200 ISO, shutter preferred at 1/640 of a second to stop the action. I shot RAW rather than JPEG (more on that in a future post), which gave me more control processing in LIghtroom. I underexposed all images by one stop.
I was generally happy with the results. Much of the action in the circus is slow-moving, particularly the jugglers and hula hoop artists. However, the camera was challenged by the Wheel of Wonder, which was fast-moving in dim light. The autofocus struggled a bit, although some of the fast-moving acrobats were frozen reasonably well.