4.08.2015

"All The Way" The LBJ play at Zach Theatre in Austin, Texas. Photographs by Kirk Tuck.

©2015 Kirk Tuck for Zach Theatre.

Zach Theatre in Austin, Texas continues to raise the bar in their productions on their Topfer Stage. Last night I went to the dress rehearsal of "All the Way" to make public relations and marketing photographs of the show. Belinda came along to see the show and keep me company. I wrote about what I packed yesterday and now I'm going to write about what I used.

I took twenty or thirty wide shots of the stage because it was really cool and well done but it was largely static and when I felt like I had good coverage I put the Nikon D610 down on the top of my bag and didn't pick it up again until the very end of the show. When you are shooting for press use and documentation your goal is typically to get tight shots of your lead actors and then lots of tight "relationship" shots and small group shots. We've learned over the years that the tighter, more graphic shots always have a better chance of being picked up in social media and traditional, non-paid, print media. 

Understanding the ever growing appeal of video on TV and the web the theater also documents the dress rehearsals with the help of a very talented videographer. His name is Eric Graham and he's usually sporting two cameras. One is set for a wide shot of the stage while the second one is equipped with a long zoom and Eric uses it to follow the action of the shows. 

If I am correct then last night he was shooting the wides on a Canon C100 with a Canon 24-105mm lens and doing the action oriented shots with a Sony FS-700 and a long range zoom. He's got the sound figured out too. He's running a cable from the sound mixing board in the theater directly into his FS700. No coughs and rustling of the audience in his audio....

Back to photography. I did the bulk of the 1,000+ images of the show with a Nikon D810 and an older (but very sharp) Nikon 80-200mm f2.8 zoom lens. It's the old "push-pull" design and it has fun stuff on it like distance limiters that you can set so the AF doesn't hunt. I set mine to 30 feet to infinity and never had an issue of the camera/lens combo failing to lock on. I find the lens to be in the "sharpness ballpark" with the newer lenses but I still have my eyes on a 70-200mm f4 because it's lighter and has vibration reduction inside.  That being said there was very little not to like about the lens I was using. 

I had the camera set to shoot medium, fine jpegs and every once in a while I'd use the 1.2X crop mode just to get a little tighter. It worked well and it comes in handy for those times when you don't have the bandwidth to crop after the fact. Some stuff goes straight to the client to be distributed ASAP. 

I used Nikon's auto white balance and was not disappointed. The D810 has an uncanny ability to nail the right WB for flesh tones and I never felt the need to override it or go to a preset. That's a big change from previous generations of cameras!

I assigned a rear button for focus. It was nice to "lock" focus by taking my finger off the button but still being able to re-compose and lock exposure. Separation of stuff. Nice. 

Looking through over a thousand shots there were less than a handful that didn't achieve sharp focus. Most of my "after the fact" corrections were aimed at opening up dark areas with Lightroom's shadow slider and occasionally brightening frames --- the D810 allows a bit of exposure correction with underexposed images and the noise (at 1600 ISO) stays polite. I'd always rather be a bit dark that lose detail in the highlights. It's a real consideration when shooting Jpegs. 

Why Jpegs? Mostly because of the need to turn the files around quickly. Shooting 36 megapixel raw files means hours of conversion after I've made a few adjustments. The 36 megapixel size is just too big. I could try the small raw but I think 9 megs is a bit too small a file if the client wants to do a bigger print size. It sure would be nice if you could shoot Nikon raw in all the sizes that are available while shooting Jpeg. Kodak at that on their full frame DSLR cameras back in 2004. 

There is also the question of storage. As it is we're taking up 22 gigabytes of storage space with our final output files.  So far, in the last 30 days we've filled an entire 4 Gb drive and it's twin brother, the back up drive (but we've done a lot of video and that makes a huge impact on storage resources....) and I'm becoming concerned about my ability to keep up with storage demands over time. But that's fodder for another blog.

The images took post processing in stride and nothing fell apart. I am delighted with the vast majority of the take and, as always, there are some I would love a "do over" on. But the first volley of selects is already on its way to a bunch of community papers, the popular alternate newspaper, the theater's web resource and into social media. 

How's the production? It's funny, sad, fabulous and amazing. Like a history lesson wrapped in drama and compelling stagecraft. Well worth your time and money.  If you are in Austin any time this month be sure to catch it. Thanks!


©2015 Kirk Tuck for Zach Theatre.

©2015 Kirk Tuck for Zach Theatre.

©2015 Kirk Tuck for Zach Theatre.

©2015 Kirk Tuck for Zach Theatre.

©2015 Kirk Tuck for Zach Theatre.

©2015 Kirk Tuck for Zach Theatre.

©2015 Kirk Tuck for Zach Theatre.

©2015 Kirk Tuck for Zach Theatre.

1 comment:

Max Rottersman said...

I had the same experience with a D600 and one of the $300 "Rokinon" 85/1.4 manual lenses https://www.flickr.com/photos/maxotics/sets/72157634891578611/ Stage lighting is easy on the eyes, but can be harsh to the camera so the more DR the better and this is where I miss the D600!

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