Joy of the Waters

Joy of the Waters

My wife and I recently visited the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, and I brought my D7100 + 50mm lens to see if I could get any decent shots. This one here illustrates both the utility as well as the limitations of the setup, and while there is plenty I wish I could change about the image I am also quite pleased with it overall. To wit: a 50mm lens on a crop sensor camera is quite impractical when your primary location is a mostly indoor art museum. The focal length is better suited for medium-to-tight portraits, and other types of pictures you might see here on this blog–very few of which are indoors. Even so, I like to make the best out of any situation and I knew there would be some limitations with that setup in a museum but I did it anyway for a challenge.

After an hour of walking through the museum we came across this bronze sculpture by Harriet Whitney Frismuth titled “Joy of the Waters,” and noticed something quite extraordinary: this little girl, caught up in the beauty and dynamic energy of the bronze woman behind her, started imitating the work of art by dancing around on the floor. Through a series of twirls and pirouettes she brought the work of art to life, and while all manner of adults might simply look at it and marvel at its beauty this little girl expressed it in a whole new manner. She didn’t care if anyone was watching, and just spent a minute dancing her cares away, and if the woman in bronze had been able to jump to life at that very moment I am sure she would have joined right in.

As for shooting the actual photo, I had very little time to compose the shot and also didn’t want to interrupt the girl. Thankfully my equipment, though a bit limiting, did allow me to get what you see here. I had three goals here:

1. capture the girl dancing…
2. with the figure in the background…
3. with as little blur as possible.

That meant a fast shutter and, given the subdued lighting conditions, a wide aperture and high ISO in order to make the best use of the light available to me. I had to back way up and through a doorway (hence the stair railing on the left side) in order to get everything in the shot, and the high ISO of 3200 gave me a bit more grain than I would have preferred, but the blur-free movement of the girl was exactly what I was hoping to get. A super wide lens like my buddy Ryan’s Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 would have been awesome, but alas, I don’t have one of those and it’s another item on my ever-growing shopping list of camera stuff to buy…


  1. Love the shot and I feel that the railing on the side actually leads one in to the rest of the scene! Oh to be an uninhibited child again!!

    • Thank you, Deanie! And I know what you mean about childish freedom. I spend way too much time wondering what other people think of me, particularly if I’m out taking photographs, and I think we all could learn a thing or two from this girl and other children who are too busy enjoying life to worry what anyone else thinks :)

  2. Very interesting. Great article. Super picture—you did well to capture the young girl’s delight.
    On the subject of obtaining an approval from the girl/her family to take the picture, how did you handle that? Presumably the shot was taken in a private gallery. I am always quite nervous of capturing images of children and had one nasty incident recently where the parents accosted me and shouted pedophile!!
    Again well done and a great shot…..

    • Thanks for asking, Chris. I didn’t get permission, in fact. Though as I think back on this perhaps I should have. If you’re in a public space and photography is not specifically prohibited, you have the legal right to take pictures:

      I generally shy away from taking pictures of kids other than my own for the reasons you mention, and I certainly don’t want to give anyone the wrong impression, which is why most of the photos you see here and on my Flickr page are of adults or inanimate objects :)

  3. Simon —
    What a pleasant way to begin the day! Looking at the photo of the little girl dancing brought back memories to me of my girls when they were young. This photo has an interesting mixture of elements: a. The still statue in the background; b. The moving little girl dancing in the middle; and, c. The out of focus handrail in the foreground. There are many beautiful things our Lord has given us to look at and enjoy!
    I have put my 50mm on my D7100 and am headed to the office. What might I find?

    • Thank you David! You’re right–the beauty of creation is all around us, we sometimes have to just open our eyes a bit and be willing to see it :)

      Good luck with your D7100 and 50mm lens today! I’m sure you will find something interesting to photograph!

  4. This is very impressive, Simon! An excellent shot!

    • Thanks Tom! I’m picturing you just out of the frame, with your acoustic guitar on your lap, singing songs of days gone by…

  5. The shadows on the wall beside the statue are what caught my eye. They are from the statue but don’t look the same as the statue. Do you see that?

    • Now that’s interesting, Marea. I have looked at this photo many times but honestly did not consider the shadows behind the statue very much. They almost look like they are being cast from an entirely different sculpture. Whoever set up the lighting in this display certainly knew what they were doing!

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