Don Toothaker Dancing with Creativity

Don Toothaker is a Massachusetts photographer who covers a wide range of subject matter. He also conducts classes at New England Photo Workshops. In his own words, Don was willing to take the time to address creativity, light, and how he executed the below photo.

©Don Toothaker

©Don Toothaker

Creativity is a powerful thing. As a photographer, too often I struggle with expressing myself from a different perspective. I know my camera equipment, I feel confident in my compositions, and I am secure photographing a variety of subjects but, despite all of that, creativity remains a personal nemesis.

Every Tuesday night my son takes hip-hop lessons at a local dance studio. The second story studio is large, but like many studios, is mostly bare. Sitting one night watching the class I was struck by the open expanse of the studio, the many windows, and one particular door. I loved the way light spilled into the room each time the door was opened. Looking at the door, the light, and the windows I was inspired to create a particular image. All I needed was a ballet dancer. All I needed was some creativity.

Creativity can impact your life dramatically. Warmer, colorful days should inspire us to be active and creative in all that we do. Reshape your gardens, paint your bedroom a bold color, cook a daring new meal, or, like Kayla Scott, just dance. I was introduced to Kayla at the studio and instantly knew she was the right person to pose for my vision of a dancer practicing in a dimly lit studio. Kayla is a junior at Northern Essex Community College but, dancing for her has been a creative outlet since she was three years old. Today, at 21, she is a beautiful young lady with poise and quiet energy. Despite her gentle demeanor, it takes strength and fortitude to be a dancer. Kayla practices, continually, to hone her movements and pinpoint her positioning. Music stirs her impulse to dance and create a flow of movement that enhances the rhythms, as well as her own emotional connection to the sounds. I asked her to humor my creativity with some of her own.

Creativity comes from within, but inspiration to be creative surrounds us every day. The trick, I think, is to welcome inspiration whenever possible but, act upon it with patience and clarity. Too often we rush to complete something instead of ensuring it is done to the best of our abilities. I struggle with creativity but, every now and again, I get a hint of how powerful it can be in my life. I need it; I welcome it. The accompanying image was a vision in my head long before I pressed the shutter. For a moment, I was creative and it felt wonderful.

Photograph what you feel.

Gear used:

  • Nikon D800
  • Nikon 85mm 1.8 lens
  • ISO: 400
  • APT: f/4.5

I used two Nikon SB910 flashes for this image. One mounted SB910 was shot as a bare speedlite from the hallway and aimed through the open door. I set this flash to full power to make sure the spread of light would reach deep into the studio. The open door created a triangular pattern of light that would illuminate the dancer. The other Nikon SB910 was mounted and fired through a Lastolite stripbox for edge light to the right of the dancer. Both were triggered using PocketWizard’s AC3 ZoneController, MiniTT1, and FlexTT5 transceivers. The image was not possible without them.


See more of Don Toothaker’s work at his site and at his photography workshop site. He is also a sales associate and staff photographer for Hunts Photo and Video.


All images and quotes in this post are used with permission and ©Don Toothaker, all rights reserved; story is ©PocketWizard. Please respect and support photographers’ rights. Feel free to link to this blog post, but please do not replicate or repost elsewhere without written permission.

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One Response to “Don Toothaker Dancing with Creativity”

  1. Jewel Bunch III says:

    Amazing artistic shoots very beautiful love the shadows and the Highlights