Oliver Endahl Brings Movement to Dance Photography

Oliver Endahl discusses Echograph in dance photography.

Interview by: Echograph Staff

Tell us a little about how your career started? How has your career evolved?

My career in photography started at the end of my dance career. I danced ballet in the San Francisco Bay Area for over a decade, and the last year I was dancing I began messing around with a Canon 30D that my brother bought. I started bringing it to ballet sometimes and taking photos of my fellow dancers. After playing around with some editing, I would upload the photos to social networking sites. My composition and editing weren’t the best at the time, but the photos were well received because the positions the dancers had achieved in the photographs was correct.

Ballet dancers train for decades to perfect the technique of the art, and often times when photographers take photos of dancers they don’t know what these “proper” dance positions look like, so having danced myself and knowing what these dance positions are supposed to look like, helps me create dance images that everyone can enjoy.


After I stopped dancing 4 years ago, I started an online photography project called “Ballet Zaida.” The project showcases photographs of ballet dancers in outdoor environments. At first I just did photoshoots with my dancer friends as a hobby and posted the photos online as I taught myself how to use various photo editing applications. But as I got better and better, the photos started receiving more and more attention. People started asking to pay me for photoshoots, and eventually I felt I became good enough that I could start charging. I now have over 100,000 fans who regularly follow the project on social networks, and travel across the country doing photoshoots with dancers from all over the world. Which I am very happy about, because I love what I do.


What were your first impressions of Echograph, the format and the app?

My first impression of Echograph was very positive. I was really intrigued by the possibility of movement within a photograph, and also by the process of creating the Echograph.


Why did you think that dance would be a great fit for Echograph?

Dance is all about movement and charisma, and you can capture and showcase both those things with Echograph.


What is the story being told in each Echograph you created?
In the Echograph of the girl in the long blue skirt at the beach, I wanted to create a dramatic atmosphere as if she was searching for something. So I framed the shot so the rocks in the ocean would be placed in the viewers line of sight, and instructed the girl to reach towards the sky.

With the 2 images of the girl jumping in the white tutu, I wanted to portray her as very powerful. As if she had the ability to levitate above the world.

In the Echograph of the girl in the long pink skirt moving her arms as she travels from one side of the Echograph to the other, the arms she does as she moves is from the classic ballet, “Swan Lake”. I wanted to experiment with various kinds of movements in Echographs and felt that the dramatic arms from this story ballet would work very well.

In the photo of the close up of the girl’s feet on her toes, I again wanted to portray the dancer as very powerful. So having her skirt move just a tiny bit at the top of the photo seemed like a good way to do so.

In the Echograph with the girl in the white tutu dancing from one end of the photo and back to the other, was the most difficult to create. For the inspiration of this shot, I really wanted to have the dancer do a combination of movements in the correct order, and then reverse the video, and in the reverse I wanted it to appear as if she was dancing different movements. So we filmed a lot of different combinations of movements, because I didn’t know what they would look like until I put them on the iPad in editing later. I was really happy with the outcome of this Echograph.

Did you manage the shoot differently knowing you would be creating Echographs?

I did manage the shoot a little differently from a regular photoshoot, because when creating an Echograph with a DSLR you use a tripod. So I had a bit more equipment with me, and also I was more a bit more cautious about using locations with a lot of people at them.


What was the reaction of the team you worked with on this shoot?

The reaction was really positive. Everyone was really interested in seeing what we could create.


How did you explain what you would be shooting?

I explained that pieces of the video would be still and some would be moving, and once everyone figured that out, I explained that we could take videos of the dancers moving, and also videos of the dancers still, with pieces of the environment moving.


Can you talk a little about the location you chose and why you picked it?

I picked the locations based on the lighting I thought we could get, and also based on if the environment moved. I wanted to use an environment that moved a little to experiment with that aspect of Echograph. With the field location, I thought the wheat would look nice if it was moving in the background, and with the ocean, I experimented with the water moving.


How did you setup the shots for Echograph?

I setup the shots by choosing what area of the environment we wanted to use, then told the dancer what to do and took the Echograph a few different times to make sure we had different versions to choose from in editing. When creating an Echograph, because it’s a video that will run constantly for a few seconds, I have to setup the shot more throughly than when taking a regular photograph.


What did you learn about shooting Echographs?
I really learned the true endless potential that Echograph has. There’s a lot of great ideas that it could bring to life.


What would you say to other professionals looking to create Echographs?

I would say try out a lot of different ideas. Sometimes an idea that you think won’t work or will be silly, will turn out amazing.


Oliver Endahl Photography for Ballet Zaida
All images created with Echograph

  • Tony

    I don’t get it. Not a good video and not a good photograph. Is this a technology in search of a purpose?

  • confused


  • fam

    it would be really cool if the ballerina was frozen in mid-air in some awesome leap/pose and just have the grass moving behind her