Recreating a classic | Cincinnati Ballet's Rainbow Legs Poster |

In 1981 Photographer Corson Hirschfeld & designer Dan Bittman created a classic, the Rainbow Legs poster for the Cincinnati Ballet.  The poster was a hit landing and was award winning.  This poster soon became an iconic image of the ballet. Many people recognize the poster and the legs without even being from Cincinnati or the surrounding areas. 

I have been working with the Cincinnati Ballet for 3 years now creating their advertising imagery and there has always been talk about recreating the poster but we needed a reason.  Then as the 2016/2017 season was upon us we realized it's the Creative Director Victoria Morgan's 20th year her "platinum" year.  So the planing begin.  How do we recreate the iconic image with Victoria's anniversary in mind but still tipping our cap to a classic.  Multiple ideas came to mind one using metallic colored tights and shoes so they had a reflective nature to them.  Another thought was to create the metallic look in the finishing of the prints by printing all the posters on a metallic paper.  Then after a little brainstorming session at the hardware store while I was picking up some wood and cinderblocks to build a platform for the dancers to stand on I came across insulation panels.  I have used the panels before as very large bounces but never as a background.  As I remembered the panels normally have seams, text printed on them or an unappealing texture.  As I was flipping through I came across a stack that reminded me of the same texture you find inside soft boxes. So I thought I would give it try and picked up 2 4x8 sheets.  

When I arrived back to the studio I started building the set and working though the lighting.  I knew that I need to pull the legs off such a reflective and textured background.  So right away I set up two Profoto RFi 1.0 x 4.0' Softbox to edge light the legs powered by Profoto D1 Air 500W/s Monolight.  Then I started working on the key light a Elinchrom 39" Rotalux Deep OctaBox and a the fill a Elinchrom Rotalux 59" Indirect Softbox powered by my trusty Profoto Pro-B2 1200R Ws Power Pack.  The last light didn't come until the dancers arrived.  I took plenty of test shots but with just me.  I didn't account for how 7 dancers would shadow the light and create an uneven gradient shine in the background.  So finally I pulled out the 86" Extreme Silver PLM umbrella from Paul C Buff with a old Profoto Compact 600 set on very low power right behind camera to solely create the reflection in the silver boards behind the dancers but not flatten out the legs.  

The images were captured with my Phase One DF and P45 digital back with a Schneider Kreuznach 80mm f/2.8 LS with one of those big LEE Filters Universal (Medium Wide) lens hoods to help with all the light shining back into the camera from the silver background.  Post processing and making sure all the colors of the purchased tights and the custom hand dyed shoes from the wardrobe department at the Cincinnati Ballet was handled by the Digital team at OMS Photo here in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Now after my long winded explanation here are the images.  But one more thanks to all the Cincinnati Ballet dancers the Creative Director Victoria Morgan, the great team from the ballet and everyone else who helped put this on and one more tip of the cap to Corson Hirschfeld & designer Dan Bittman, we will see if my rendition of the Rainbow Legs can stand up to the original.  

Visit Follow along as Cincinnati Ballet recreates the iconic Rainbow Legs poster in celebration of Victoria Morgan's 20th season as Artistic Director & CEO.

and a behind the scenes from the shoot with Victoria Morgan standing in the middle.