6.26.2010

If it's Tuesday Night it must be a dress rehearsal at Zach Scott Theater.....

I love the call from Jim Reynolds that starts with, "Well, The Drowsy Chaperone is opening on Thursday and I wanted to see if it's possible to get on your schedule for Tues. night so we can have you shoot the dress rehearsal."  Like they need to twist my arm.  If you aren't shooting for a great local theater you are missing out on big fun.  Yeah, you'll get some good press because your credit will be next to fun images that go viral all over town.  And yeah, you'll get to use some of the very best stuff in your portfolio.

It doesn't hurt that the actors give you better expressions and gesture than you'll ever find in a non-actor model.  Or that highly professional costume designers are doing your wardrobe for you.  Or that set builders are making things look great.  Don't forget that you've got a lighting designer making  your images look ultra dimensional.  Did I mention that you'll be helping a group of dedicated artists fill the seats and keep working in the field that they love?  Did a I mention that theater people throw the absolutely best parties imaginable?

But the real reason to shoot for a great theater in your city is the fact that you have a front row seat for the best drama, comedy and musical performances I can imagine.  I'll tell you a secret:  Belinda and I hardly ever go to movies anymore because live stuff is so much more exciting.  A movie is the same. Over and over again. But in the theater every performance is absolutely brand new.  A different interpretation.  And every night the actors put everything on the line.  No retakes.  No retouching.
This past Tues. I dragged a bag of gear over to the theater to do the dress rehearsal for the funnest and funniest play I've seen in a long time.  It was called, "The Drowsy Chaperone".  The cast was packed with Austin's favorite actors.  Meredith McCall, Scotty Rodgers, Martin Burke, Jamie Goodwin and many more.  Even with the IS technology in several of my lenses I had a hard time holding my cameras still enough because I was laughing so much.  Amazing.  I'm getting eight tickets for next Saturday night so I can enjoy it without any distractions.  Like full CF cards.
No doubt someone will want to know how I shot it.  I took the Canon's this time.  5d2 and a the 7d.  The 24-105 on the 5 and the 70 to 200 on the 7D.  Everything on manual.  Spot metering.  Color balance set at 3000.  Most of the files were shot at medium res.  I didn't use lights and a tripod would slow me down too much.  I just paid attention to hitting focus and hitting the timing.  That and getting the exposures right on the money. (Meter caucasian skin and open up 2/3rd's of a stop.  Meter white with vague detail and open up two stops.....etc.)
I'm back to shooting the theater stuff in Jpeg because it's so much quicker of a workflow and I get so many more images on a card.  I can shoot like one of those New York fashion photographers from the 1970's who had two guys who just kept loading identical Nikon bodies with film and handing them to the "artist" as he blazed through roll after roll.  I love to shoot a couple thousand shots during the dress rehearsal.  You never know what you'll catch.  I guess if I can to two or three rehearsals I'd know what to anticipate and I'd be able to pare down the take....but who's got that kind of time?
The important thing in shooting theater is to keep your head in the game.  There's always a cute actress you'll want to fall in love with.  You always end up fascinated by the good lighting that's being done.  And for people that are moving!!!!! But you've got to keep your head in the game.  Watching the action outside the viewfinder and anticipating the blocking.  Most importantly is to watch for gesture and expression and keep remembering that the money shot for the newspaper is two or three actors, close up, interacting with lots of energy. The love scenes.  The fight scenes.  The glorious finales.
Watch the backgrounds and keep an eye open for good color contrasts.  I love white on white with silhouettes in the background.  And I love stuff that moves.


And not much beats actors on roller skates.  The moment before the kiss is more exciting than the kiss because of the anticipation.  The lead up to a punch is more exciting than the punch.  And the lead up to implied sex is better than the stage version.  There's more emotion in wanting than there is in getting....
I go to a lot of theater.  I shot this play on Tuesday evening and the night before I was shooting a Shakespeare production at Richard Garriott's place  (yeah.  I'm name dropping.  Really, Shakespeare...) but when Zachary Scott Theater pulls out all the stops and does a big production musical comedy....well, they had me and my cameras at "Hello."  If you live in Austin and don't go see this you're either on life support or you don't know the highest and best way to spent your entertainment resources.


It's all worth it to see the reigning master of Austin theater, Meredith McCall, as.........The Drowsy Chaperone.

If you fancy yourself to be a photographer.  If you want more exposure.  If you need some other art in your life.  Find a theater to support.  They'll thank you, but.....you'll thank yourself.  

( I love the shot just above.  It's not my shot.  It's the best collaboration of a marketing director, a photographer, a prop master, a costume person, a lighting designer, a set designer and a great acting talent.  Beats sitting at home.)

15 comments:

Kurt Shoens said...

I love the gesture of the third, the foreground/background color pop of the seventh, and of course, the last one. If I ever took a picture like the last one, I'd probably quit photography to leave on a high note.

While I appreciate that last picture, I don't understand the challenge, "Try that sitting alone in the dark dorking around with PhotoShop." Is it either/or? Nothing more to do in Photoshop?

The theater environment appears to present photographic problems. For example, Meredith McCall's costume wants to blow out the red channel. The high contrast lighting looks good to human eyes but makes exposure tricky. The light color is somewhat elusive.

Hard stuff. I admire your willingness to shoot it jpeg.

Mark Coons said...

I agree Kirk. I have been photographing summer theatre for a number of years and just love it. It's a great way to give back to your community too!

kirk tuck said...

Hi Kurt. Of course it's never "either/or" but so often, from clients and other photographers, I hear, "We'll add it in PS, we'll fix it in PS, We can just add that in PS". And the reality is that good photos shouldn't require a look of fixing. Also, if you get into the habit of playing with everything in PhotoShop you get out of the habit of venturing out into the real world finding fun things to shoot.

The color of light changes in the theater a lot. But it's a fun challenge to shoot it Jpeg....

Alex Solla said...

Kirk- This may be taboo to talk about, but would you be willing to talk about the financial end of things in one of your posts? How do you charge your clients? By the shoot, by the hour? What do you give them at the end of the project? Prints, digital files? What do you use in contractual terms that allows you to continue using the images at a later date?

An aside: I am in the middle of my second re-read of your Commercial Photography book. Suffice to say: Damn good book!

kirk tuck said...

Alex. There are no taboos and I'll write what you ask but I know of no quicker way to start a flame war on the internet. Probably more contentious to talk about the money than to talk about Mac versus PC. (And by the way, Mac's rule.....) (For the highly literal and binary thinkers: the jab about Mac versus PC was not meant to be a relative analysis of their attributes or value. It was added to accentuate the idea that arguments on the web can get out of hand. I understand that PC's have, indeed caught up with Mac's as far as hardware specifications go. As to GUI and ROI and good design go, I can only say------Vista! And what's that computer Dell designed just for girls?????

Kurt Shoens said...

Ironically, the most explosive disagreements revolve around the least important distinctions like Mac/PC, Nikon/Canon, fixed focal length/zoom, raw/jpeg, 8/16 bit. Even film/digital, given you can make spectacular images with each.

If it's a pointless issue, your friends outside the specialty will roll their eyes when you talk about it. If you're really brave, talk about it with your significant other!

kirk tuck said...

So True. Maybe we'll just dispense with computer talk from now on since regardless of format it is so ubiquitous.

John Krumm said...

That last one is indeed a beauty, Kirk.

Dave Elfering Photography said...

Looks like the Canon jpegs turned out pretty well. Olympus has spoiled me to a degree and now I find myself slightly irritated by the jpeg output on my Nikon. Great stuff Kirk (as always).

DD said...

Loved it all-the photos and the tips!

Bold Photography said...

Kirk - will I get thrown out if I show up with my camera?

kirk tuck said...

Bernard, If you are talking about showing up at a regular performance? Even I would get thrown out. The plays are covered by pretty strict union and copyright protections. The way to go is to volunteer to shoot dress rehearsals.

Bold Photography said...

That's an interesting idea. However, I have too much respect for you to try to shoot the same event you're at without invitations written in gold.

That being said - have you found the Canons to have any 'soul'?

kirk tuck said...

As to Canon's having soul.....some.....but one serious flaw. Stay tuned.

Scott Hone said...

Hi Kirk,
Had I have known you existed when we were in Austin in January last year with the circus (Circus Oz), I would have invited you to our tech run.

Next time.

Loved Austin too.
Cheers,
Scott