Another Day, Another Theater

Sure, the set looks like The Olive Garden, but what does The Olive Garden look like?

Despite my position as founder and president-for-life of the Anti Shakespeare Society (ASS), my antipathy toward the bard weakened recently when I viewed Al Pacino’s Looking For Richard, a documentary about Americans’ difficulty appreciating Shakespeare. I highly recommend the film, which showed me that actors who work to understand the material create a more entertaining and enlightening experience for audiences. In the past, I opposed teaching Shakespeare to young people; now I oppose letting indifferent teachers teach Shakespeare to young people.

My resolve decayed further as I photographed headshots and publicity images for the Elite Theatre Company’s upcoming run of Much Ado About Nothing. This cast gets it, and communicates the characters’ wit, jealousy and yearning heartache with great charm. Plus, the women are really pretty, and if there’s one thing this photographer enjoys, it’s a play with pretty women.

Speaking of photography, of which I am supposed to speak, I solved a headshot problem that has vexed me since I first picked up a camera (during Richard Nixon’s first term). I’ve had a devil of a time getting people’s eyes to shine, and found myself using too much fill flash just to avoid “raccoon eyes”. The solution was obvious, once I stumbled onto it. More info in the captions.

Lighting for publicity is not like lighting for art. I would have loved to craft some Rembrandt lighting for these scenes, but newspapers do a better job reproducing broad, flat light. Fortunately, the director allowed me carte blanche to set up my lights around the theater. This is two umbrella-bounced flashes, one camera left and one camera right.

A tough situation because of width and depth. You can see where the lights are positioned by the burned out highlights on the young man's face at left, and the young women's hats at right. I probably should have added a flash in the middle to even things out.

To move around stage and get closer to the action, I turned off the umbrella lights and put a Lightsphere-equipped SB800 on camera. Not optimal, but not bad either. In this case, the stage lights were quite bright, so I dialed the flash down as more of a fill.

Dig those baby blues! In the past, I was placing my lights too high, and angling them to drive shadows down. By lowering the light, I was able to get proper illumination into deep-set eyes. Hooray! Of course, now I'll need to add a hair light or a background/backlight for better separation. I was also aiming an SB600 directly at his eyes from beside the camera, but I don't see a catchlight in any of the headshots, so I'm not sure that flash was firing. The light in his eyes seems to come predominantly from the big umbrella on my left.

Big umbrella on my left, small umbrella to my right, and bare flash right beside the camera. As is my habit, I lit the women more evenly than the men, and more from the front than the side. Next time, I might move the umbrella on my right further behind her to provide a bit of crosslight, and use a third flash at camera right for fill. Did I mention that I enjoy photographing pretty women?

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Filed under Camera Gear, Dance and Theater, Lighting, Portraiture

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