Theater Assignment – The Shoot

During a pre-rehearsal meeting, I tested the light at the edge of the stage.

I think what really separates professionals from amateurs is presence of mind. Any of us can learn how to adjust to changing conditions on the fly, but a real professional remembers to DO it.

With all the gear I brought to the Grange last night, I left behind a moderately important tool: my brain. When the shooting situations changed, I did not change with them, and the images suffered.

Specifically, I erred in my assumption that the director wanted headshots. Instead, she wanted a couple of group shots, a couple of posed action shots, a whole cast shot (and the cast was much larger than I though it would be), and then, of course, the one thing I did expect: action shots of the actual rehearsal.

A gang of four, lit by on-camera flash with a Gary Fong Lightsphere.

An insurance shot, in case I didn't get the one below. Note how this manages to lack any sense of movement or action.

For the group shots and the posed action shots, I should have brought in my lighting gear and taken the time to light and compose them as photographs. Instead, I stuck with the on-camera flash and treated them like snapshots, which is what they look like. Worse, for the cast shot, I was so concerned about the on-camera flash overcooking the middle of the frame, I shot at too wide an aperture (to accommodate the ambient light), and lost the depth of field (apparent sharpness front to back) I really needed for three rows of people.  To a very casual observer, I got away with it, but you and I know better.

Shot with on-camera flash and the Lightsphere. You can see the light fall-off at the sides. Had I shot at a smaller aperture for greater depth of field, the light would have been more uneven. I should have brought in my lighting kit.

Back in more familiar territory, I was able to capture some decent performance shots, including better images of one of the action poses we tried before rehearsal.

This has its own problems, but it's much more alive than the posed version above.

Another brain-fade occurred about halfway through the rehearsal. I’d been shooting in RAW, but seeing that my card was filling up, I switched to jpeg-fine. I did this, despite the fact that I had three more cards available. Following action across an unevenly lit stage, shooting in RAW might have helped me save under- and overexposed portions of images from the latter part of the show.

Newspapers like big subjects and interaction.

Another newspaper shot. Othello and Iago.

I got the bare minimum – a few publicity stills and a cast picture keepsake, but a bit more presence of mind would have helped me create better photographs.

1 Comment

Filed under Camera Settings, Dance and Theater, Lighting, Professional vs. Amateur

One response to “Theater Assignment – The Shoot

  1. You’re pretty hard on yourself, Dr. Z. I truly enjoy reading your thought processes, and I usually like the shots you took that you don’t care for. Keep up the great blog. It’s very helpful and insightful.

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