Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Jerry Springer the Opera part II

So ........
Last Sunday I went to the Helix to the Jerry Springer the Opera rehearsals.
I had been asked to take a photograph of the cast and not to make it look like a school hall group shot.  It turned out to be a long day.  The rehearsal went on and on and on and on .....
Eventually at about 7pm (5 hours later) and the exhausted cast had just finished a half hour later than they were meant to, I got to set up my photo.  Hmmmm.

It was quick.  Helped by Lily Greibere, I set up two shots.  They weren't quite what I had envisaged but time wasn't on my side.  I set up a large octagon in front of the stage and set the power to give me a meter reading of f16 so as to get enough depth of field.  I was using a 24-70mm lens but couldn't be quite sure what focal length I'd be using because of the number of people that would be in the photo.
I had Lily hold a 'speedlite' set manually to a narrow angle and at a power to produce f16 to add a little extra punch to Simon Delaney (who plays Jerry Springer) who would be the centre of attention.
In addition I put two more 'speedlites' on either side at the back to give some lighting to the heads.

I asked the chorus not to look at the camera but look at Simon but to give me some attitude hence the facial expressions and the single and double-finger salutes.
The shot was not how I had envisaged it.  I had figured Simon to be more prominent in the photo and the chorus to be all behind him.  Logistically this was almost impossible in practical terms due to the number of people - luckily some of them were missing!  If I had tweaked it the way I wanted it I probably would not only have lost more the chorus but also Simon as well, but to be fair everyone was very co-operative.

Having shot the chorus, I then wanted a setup with the principals.
Again, time had its way and one principal had to leave early.  I quickly tried to set up the characters to represent something of what they did in the opera but without any help from anybody knowledgeable this was kind of sketchy.

The picture is far from perfect.  There is little dimension to it - flat lighting.  The trio on the right are much nearer to the camera than the group on the left and so dominate the photo instead of Simon.  It can be hard to manhandle people!
I did have flare from the two 'speedlites' in the shot which looked okay on the back of the camera but there was a significant gap between the one on the left and the girl which made the shot look unbalanced so I had to crop the one on the left out of the shot.

So what did I learn?
When I'm asked to do a shot like this by another group I will ask to have the shoot put in the schedule with time alloted.  I do shoots for two other companies and they always treat my photography as part of the production.  Time is needed to do the shoot and modify it until it's right.
Discuss the ideas for the shoot beforehand so that there is a definite plan of what the pictures are to achieve.
Get the producer (and maybe the choreographer) to lend assistance to organising the people.

And to finish, here are some of the other pictures I took of a previous rehearsal .....

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Jerry Springer the Opera

I've been taking photos of rehearsals for the production "Jerry Springer the Opera" over the last couple of weeks. This is a controversial 'show' based on the Jerry Springer Show that caused enough outrage in the States when it was first aired and is still generating anger amongst some since the program is still running.
The script of this show is set in Hell and there are appearances by (people playing the parts of) Jesus, Satan, God and Mary to name a few.  Needless to say the four-letter words and their relatives are sprinkled liberally throughout and even mixed in (comically) with music.

The first session was in the 'Blue Room' at the Helix.  First impressions?  There was virtually no light.  There were some lights but they seemed to directed towards the walls so the lighting on the people there was reflected.  I like to blend into the background when I photograph rehearsals and flash is out of the question.  So I was left with no choice but to shoot at high ISO speeds.  I started at 1600 ISO and found I was running out of aperture or shutter speed.  In my attempts to keep on top of the changing lighting situation I gave up shooting manual, bumped the ISO up to 6400, set the shutter speed to 1/125 sec, changed to mono (still in RAW tho') and let the aperture float.

Some of the results are below ....

This is one of my favourite shots.  I was using the mirrors to reasonably good effect but there were distortions and joints so not perfect.  I saw the cast line up in front of the mirror wall and had taken a shot from behind ...
.... that I did like but wondered what a shot from the side would look like.  Ideally I would have liked it better if the Producer (standing) and the choreographer (ironically sitting) were reversed.  This would have had more of the people, including the choregorapher, looking in my direction.  Still, I'll take what I can get.

Another shot I got involved the mirror and as far as I know the subject wasn't aware I was taking it.  The other person in the photo obviously was!
Note the tried and trusted camera hold guaranteed to assist the IS capabilities of the Canon lens.  However this requires liberal use of anti perspirant on at least one armpit!  :-)

And my last favourite shot of the producer (John Donnelly) and 'Jerry Springer' (Simon Delaney) having a laugh together.
More shots are available to view on my Facebook page.  So how would I judge my own photos?  They wouldn't do well in a competition.  Blown out highlights, blocked up blacks, high contrast, noisy.  All the technical ingredients that would put them at the bottom of the pile.  Very few would stand on their own without context.  But .... while I was taking the photos for my own portfolio, the style suited what it was - the gritty background to putting on the magic of a stage performance.  I'm glad to say that the 'style' also impressed the producer and graphic artist and a selection of photos will appear in the programme.

More photos to come.  I've done a second set of rehearsal photos and I have to take a shot of the whole cast (50+) and not make it look like a 'school hall photo'.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

It's all about me!

It's October and in the Dublin Camera Club this means the start of the Winter League where members are invited to submit 2 colour prints, 2 mono prints and 2 digital images (colour or mono) each month until February.  There are three levels - Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced.

In each month, the entries are judged by an external judge and points are awarded out of 50.  At the end of the competition the person with the most marks wins!  Simples!
The club retains the top 10% of each month for a "best of the best" in March.

The competition attracts a lot of entries and is keenly followed by all.  I have done well in the past especially when I was in the Intermediate section.  There's some new blood in the club these days and they are stirring the status quo.  It's amusing when some of the judges remark that some entries in the beginners' section would have beaten those in the advanced.

I was a bit pushed for time this month but still managed to enter in all three sections.
I had one entry in the mono section and two in the digital section.  The judging of those two sections was last Tuesday and I scored two 42s and one 47.  I wasn't overly surprised at the 42 marks but was secretly chuffed at the 47 since it was a self-portrait.

I had been in the studio waiting hopefully for my subject to turn up but, because of some communication confusion (mainly my fault), she didn't turn up so I spent a few hours tidying up the studio and 'playing' with the studio flash to educate myself.

On previous studio session I had been know to use 6 studio flashes - too complicated!  I decided I'd go back to the old army adage KISS - don't just keep it simple; Keep It Simple Stupid.
I went back to one light and a reflector.
Here's the setup ....

One Bowens unit on camera left with a 'kill-spill' reflector and a shoot-through umbrella.  On it's own there was two much shadow on the far side of my face so I set up a reflector of sorts - in this case a softbox that I positioned pretty close to my face to get the balance between the key and fill to 2 stops difference..
I kept the key light pretty close to me so that the light falloff at the white background was almost black, actually a dark grey.

I'm not advocating that everyone should adopt this as the standard to use but I'm thinking that it's not a bad place to start to build on.