Monday, March 3, 2008

Theater group shoot complete.

The shoot for my cousin's drama group at Davis High School is a wrap, and considering the madness associated with theater the week before opening night, I think everything went very smoothly. I started right off by telling the director Gwyn that my first priority was to stay out of her way, and when she visibly relaxed, at that moment I knew we were gonna be okay. The shoot was a lot of fun, more technically challenging than I had imagined, and very educational. What worked and what didn't, along with more pictures and thoughts from the day, after the jump.

After quick introductions with the director and some of the cast and crew, they busied themselves setting up the stage and preparing lines, while I did a few quick lighting tests to see what I could get on the stage. Short answer: not enough. With two flashes shooting diagonally in towards the stage at 1/2 power, I had f/4 at ISO 800, but only if my subject had line-of sight to BOTH flashes. The light was bad, the shadows were terrible, and I was getting nothing usable at they practiced their sword fights and choreography.

Finally, in desperation, I asked one of the lighting guys if I could mount a flash in the rafters. He pointed me to the service ladder, so I grabbed a clamp and my SB-800 and headed for the catwalk above. Spent a moment finding a clean shot for the flash amongst a battery of stage lights, but once it was in position, it worked great. At 1/2 power, zoomed to 50mm, it more than doubled the light I had available on stage, and eliminated all the shadow issues. Now I was free to use the second flash for accent, rim light, etc as the flash above filled in the stage.
With my new-found lighting skills, I got some decent shots as the group went through their scenes again, and I was able to roam a bit more as the director was on stage constantly making small corrections here and there. After about two hours of rehearsal, they called break. I was informed that they would be doing smaller scenes afterwards, and this was my to be my only chance to shoot portraits.
I ran back up the ladder, grabbed my other light, and quickly set up in the corner for the best portrait background I could find on a moment's notice. Beth quickly helped me test my light, and we were on our way. She did a great job of holding the reflector, calling "Next" as they queued up for their shot, and being cute enough to relax a bunch of high schoolers.

As I have almost no experience shooting portraits, I think these came out quite well, but I would definitely value any input from some of you more experienced people photographers (Kent, Mike, hello?) I do have to share one that I screwed up, one of the tech guys Steve, who has great hair and the coolest glasses, which he even offered to take off. The umbrella was reflecting awfully in his glasses, but I was so damn sure I could find an angle where I would miss the reflection that he was called off before I finally relented. Sorry about that one, I owe you a re-shoot!


StockPhotoJourney said...

I posted this on your flickr page but will post it again here to make myself feel more important. :-)

The trick with glasses is to get the light higher (no higher than that) and then have them tilt there glasses forward/down slightly. That should give you nice clear glasses.

StockPhotoJourney said...

Oh and I think these are great! I really like the one with them acting on stage, you have a great rimlight there.

On a side note why are auditoriums always so dusty?

Anonymous said...

Very nice portraits!

JM said...

Don't have much to add that stockphotojourney didn't. So I'll just make sure to say keep up the good work, you are moving in the right direction. Great photos are wonderful, but good photos and great interaction will win any day.

The glasses tilt thing _does_ work, start to do enough portraits with glasses and it just becomes such second nature to ask them to tilt them slightly (and with 99% of people they'll stay tilted slightly) that you even forget about it.

kenteroo said...

Nice work, Nick. Solid.
The biggest things that popped out at me was the color cast. It looks a bit yellow/green. Did you use a WB measurement of any kind?
The expressions are great and it's clear you know how to interact with people.
Yeah, I'll confirm that the tilt things works with glasses.

Nick Davis said...

Hey Kent, Thanks!

That means a lot to me, coming from somebody with your experience. I really had a lot of fun with these kids. Regarding white balance, I have a lot of book knowledge on the subject, but 1) I always forget about shooting a gray card, etc, in the field and 2) My monitor is so bad that I don't have any hope of adjusting correctly by eye. Definitely need to start being more methodical about this.
How's the lighting training coming along?

kenteroo said...

Ah the training. Well...
You will understand that the demands of my day job are, how shall I say it, literally sucking the life right out of me, leaving little time for anything else, including family. Given that my priorities are Family, Friends, Photography, and other I have had to let it wait. Patiently, lol.
It WILL happen, however. I am very stubborn and this darned release can't last forever.
The WB thing took me a while to internalize on location as well. It's a timing and pacing thing.
If you're hardcore you could go back to the location and take a measurement :-)