Category Archives: Theatre
I didn’t intend to publish this to my blog but I really liked the way the colors pop and the sharpness of the foreground figure. It’s something I took during rehearsal of my community theatre group’s rehearsal of “The Odd Couple: Female Version.” Yours truly has a small part in it.
This didn’t seem to make as much of an impression on folks when I posted it to my Facebook page to promote the community theatre show a couple of weeks ago, but it’s one of my favorite shots out of more than 1000 that I took. I love the muted colors, almost a sepia tone, and the actor’s posture and expression. Just the barest hint of lighting on the back curtains adds to the overall effect, I think.
Leading Man by Anthony Bopp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
The last time I photographed a stage play I was pretty unhappy with the results. Oh, by shooting a few hundred exposures I was able to get 8-12 shots that were decent simply by playing the odds, but I didn’t come away from the experience feeling like I was in control of the image quality. I’ve thought long and hard about the experience since then.
Shooting a stage play is hard. The backdrop (at least for the examples I had) were black and swallow the light something fierce. Yet the subjects themselves are lit harshly and often in brilliant, primary colors – visually interesting in person but tending toward garish in a photograph. People move quickly, so it’s important to have a fast shutter speed to avoid motion blur, yet using a fill flash will often eliminate the drama of the moment, as well as flatten the subject. The stage is often unevenly lit – intentionally – as actors move from one spot on the stage to another, and move from one scene to next. So settings that are perfect for one exposure can be as much as 3-5 stops different just a few seconds later.
There simply isn’t the time to fiddle with all the different settings on your camera in real time. There are a few ways to deal with this. Take hundreds of shots, as I did, is one way but gets to be tedious quickly. It also gets to be frustrating as you see lots of great-looking thumbnails that turn out to be horribly blurred or unfocused. You can attend lots of rehearsals so that you can anticipate the shots you want and the settings you need, but who has the time to attend that many rehearsals (other than actors, of course)? Or you can pose scenes before or after a rehearsal, but there are several challenges with that. It takes a long time for actors to change into the necessary costumes for each scene you want to photograph, and posed shots always look, well, posed.
So, how to get sharp, properly exposed photographs in real time? The answer I found that worked very well was a setting on my camera I’d never used before – auto-ISO, combined with shutter priority. By letting the camera decide what ISO and aperture to use, and setting the shutter speed to 100, I was pretty well guaranteed to get images that were within a hair’s breadth of proper exposure and generally sharp. Sometimes when there was a lot of light colors on the stage I would need to choose my focus (and thus my light reading) carefully, getting my light from a lighter area of the stage so that white dresses wouldn’t get blown out. But in this way I was able to focus entirely on shooting, and never had to worry about camera settings. I knew that I would always have a wide aperture and thus a narrow depth of field, so I always tried to keep that in mind when composing my shots, but these settings gave me the freedom to concentrate on composition, putting all else aside.
In the end, I find it somewhat amusing that I gained more control over the image quality by giving up more control to the camera. I guess the lesson is to understand what it is about the shoot that needs to have your control for the best results, and give up the rest to the camera. Those needs will vary from one setting to the next, but it’s a good idea to consider what those needs are in advance.
Diva by Anthony Bopp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
One of the many things happening during the renovation project at our local theatre is the unenviable task of cleaning the ceiling. There are some vents all the way up there that, over the years, have attracted an amazing amount of dust. The dust isn’t very photogenic, but I really liked the lighting, shadows, and lines of the rest of the image.
In spare (!) time I work at a local movie theatre, as a manager/projectionist. The business is quite amazing, really. It is supported largely by community contributions, and it is more than just a theatre, it’s a community resource. Besides movies, it shows stage place thanks to a specialized system for lifting the screen, and is frequently used for community events and meetings. Awhile back I did a sort of photo essay of the Palace, which you can review here.
The latest renovation project was started in earnest today: upgrading the 12-year-old seats to more modern, comfortable seating. The first step, of course, is to empty the place of the old seats. It was a hard morning’s work, and I was able to get the managers of the Palace to take a moment to look upon what they’d already accomplished. It was a quiet moment of an uncharacteristic view of an auditorium – almost no seats!
Photographically, this shot is interesting to me in a few respects. The lighting is very uneven in this building, Continue reading
Another shot from the production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” performed by our local theatre group. This is a familiar face to this blog, being one of my favorite subjects to photograph. She is so expressive and confident, and nothing intimidates her. In this show she had a small role, but an important one for her ability to carry off the dance number of this character, which could have been performed by few people in this community. She approached this small role with all the seriousness and strength she brings to leading roles, and it really showed. She is expressive and dramatic, and her dance is one of the high moments of a very good show. I am honored to have been able to capture a brief moment of it here.
Our local theatre group is performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the director and cast were kind enough to allow me to be distracting with a camera during the final dress rehearsal. It’s difficult to capture a good image on stage and without any sort of fill light. All the black just seems to swallow up the light. But I did come away with this striking pose of actor playing Oberon. I was fortunate in that his presentation of the character was very slow and deliberate, so I was able to get away with a slower shutter speed that didn’t result in movement blur.
The local community theatre group is in full rehearsal for a production of Shakespear’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I used to be involved in plays myself before my life became too unpredictable to commit to a rehearsal schedule. It’s always a lot of fun.
I snapped about 300 exposures in an hour maybe as the actors are just beginning the process of discovering who their characters and where to stand at any given moment. This is one of my favorites from the evening.
It leaves a lot to be desired in many respects. It isn’t sharply in focus, and the depth of field is too narrow. But the expressions on these two young people makes up for an awful lot of photographer’s deficiencies. The rehearsal space is a dimly-lit affair and I don’t have any real flash equipment to help me compensate. There’s always a lot of movement in these rehearsals so hoping for people to be absolutely still for me so I can slow down the shutter is really not an option. Plus, the rehearsal space is very narrow, so I am not able to get far enough away from the subject to lengthen DOF.
My only option, really, was to open up the aperture and hope for the best. Many of the photos came out much better than I expected. This one is not the best technical example of the evening, but it does go to show that if the subject is interesting, the technical perfection needed for a successful photograph is minimized significantly. Not that I’m suggesting you shouldn’t strive for both.
In post-processing I dialed down the intensity of the oranges significantly, as that was the predominant color from the available lighting and everyone looked terribly orange. I fiddled with the light controls to some extent to add a little contrast. At such a high ISO, I bumped the noise reduction to about 40 or so and nudged sharpness a little around the edges. Finally, I added my trademark -10 vignette.
Later I did actually pop up flash and dialed down its intensity as much as the camera would allow. This helped me get a little better stop motion and DOF, and the lower intensity meant I didn’t get the ugly shadows on the wall behind. But it also did nevertheless tend to flatten out the subjects’ faces. One of these days I really need to get an external flash.
This is one of those photos that I may be revisiting a lot, but as it stands I think it’s one the best I’ve done in quite awhile. Again, I was challenged by getting the exposure right to bring out the cloud’s details. I also wanted to have a decent depth of field, but the sun was low in the sky and there was a really stiff wind, so there was no chance of closing the aperture and lengthening the shutter speed. One of the things I still have difficulty predicting is what I can expect from depth of field at a given aperture taking the distance of the subject into account (somewhere I have a book that explains this, but I need to hunt it down and review it). In this case it worked out very well.
I did a fair amount of post processing on this image to create a more significant contrast between the color of the ground and the sky. I also worked a lot to bring out the detail of an enormously interesting cloud formation. I may have over-sharpened it a bit but I felt the detail was important. And the color of the top of the cloud is very different depending on which of my two monitors I’m looking at it on. Blue tint in one monitor, purple in another. Yet another reason why I really need to get a monitor calibration tool.
I think there is still a lot of tweaking that can be done with this, but I love how it looks now.
One of the unique charms about the Palace Theatre is that it’s not just a movie theatre. The screen includes a hoist system that lifts it up parallel with the ceiling, and opens up a 30’x30′ stage that the local community theatre group produces plays on.
There are roughly 25 stage lights mounted above the auditorium’s balcony, ready to shine down on the actors. For this shot I felt it was important to get as much depth of field as possible, while also getting the widest possible view in a fairly tight space. So I opened the wide angle as far as it would go and just opened up the shutter for as long as I dared at the smallest aperture. Of necessity the auditorium is a dark place, so I was sure I would ever be able to get something interesting out of this, but it turned out fairly well I think.