I like to make portraits. It's always fun to spend time with interesting people. And 99% of all people are interesting. The remaining 1% is interesting by dint of not being "Interesting."

David Steakley.

Mr. Steakley is the artistic director of Zach Theatre here in Austin, Texas.  I recently had the good fortune to photograph him for the theater's public relations work. The only problem with getting the assignment to photograph Dave is that his schedule is insane. When he's not directing wonderful shows he's in New York or some other cool city looking for new projects to bring back to Texas.

For this portrait I used the new Fotodiox fluorescent light fixtures. One small one for the background, another medium bank with only half the bulbs on for the backlight, and a six bulb bank blasting through a Chimera diffusion bank as my main light.

I used the Sony a99 with the Sony 70-200mm 2.8 G lens at around f3.2 at 1/80th of a second. The focal length was 105mm.

While I often need to prompt and cajole sitters into giving me a "look" that I like Dave fell right into what he thought his role should be. I guess it comes from watching and directing actors for the better part of 20 years.... He is masterful in his direction and I've photographed images for marketing for well over 100 of his plays, including his own well received, original play, Keepin Austin Weird.

I think one of the things that makes Dave such a successful director is that he comes to each project with a vision and he is fearless about pursuing his vision for a production without compromise. In that aspect I feel he is like a mentor to me. His vigilance in his work against unnecessary compromise or capitulation pushes me to say, "No" to bad requests more often.

His current project is "Harvey." If you read the blog you know that I photographed it on Tues. It's an amazing play in that it comes almost unchanged from the 1940's but Dave has managed to craft it so that the core message of the play isn't lost in the wonderful comedic moments.

This may not be the image that the theatre finally uses but it is certainly one of my favorite portraits to come out of my studio this year. It borders on intense. And, actually, we like that.


  1. When I saw this, I thought "I'd love to talk with him". So that makes this portrait a success--it drew me in. Great photo!

  2. I love the light. The Flo's have a certain something that LED's are missing to my eye.
    Great portrait!

  3. One of the best portraits I've seen!

  4. That's a beautiful painterly look you have there Kirk.

    It's what I strive for and seldom get, maybe it's in the soft fluorescent lights you used? So maybe I just need some extra (and larger) diffusion to soften the light from my Elinchrom's a little more. I'll try it out this weekend.

    Thanks for giving me something to shoot for!

  5. Do you still use the 55-200 once in a while?

    1. Yes, see my column about photographing the "Harvey" dress rehearsal. The 55-200 is a great lens, especially for the price.

  6. Thanks for the recommendation on the fluorescent fotodiox. Just got one yesterday to try out and will be looking to grab at least one more. A lot of fun to work with. I'll be shooting some senior ambassador sessions today and can't wait to see how it works out.


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