Can you undertake "too much" pre-production? I'm inclined to say, "no."

Yeah. I did it again. I walked around downtown this afternoon, looking at stuff and spending time operating the controls on my camera. 

Yesterday I talked about practice. I wrote about going to a rehearsal at the theater and trying my hand (for the thousandth time) at shooting in the dark. Well, I was in the dark but the actors were in little pools of light... And they moved from pool to pool as they talked and gestured and, well, acted. And some of the pools of light were eddies of warm light while others were gelled cool. All the pools were different exposures. All the backgrounds black.  I processed the imagines this morning and assessed them while I ate a cinnamon roll I'd baked and drank so-so coffee that sprang from a Keurig machine. From start to finish the images got technically better and better. It was a lesson reinforced. Practice is not good, it's essential.

Yesterday's rehearsal was for the production of "Santaland Diaries." It will be performed on the smaller, stage, in the round, at Zach, but our big money-maker for the holiday season will be a very rock+contemporary culture inflected version of "A Christmas Carol." It's a big production on our large, Topfer stage and it's a complex musical with lots and lots of moving parts. 

This morning it occurred to me that I could better serve my client on Tuesday, at the official dress rehearsal, if I knew the progression of the show, the actions that lead up to big crescendos of action and poses, etc. With a bit of judicious scouting I'd know when to shift and when to shoot and how the lighting cues will affect my photography. Photography that will be used across a lot of media to drive traffic to the play over the course of a month. 

I sent an early Sunday afternoon e-mail to the stage manager asking if it would be okay for me to drop by and attend the tech rehearsal this evening. It's the last rehearsal without an audience and while it may stop and start it will give me ample opportunity to survey "the lay of the land." I pushed a bit and also got permission to photograph. A way of taking visual notes ahead of the official, assigned shoot on Tues. 

Now, this is hardly a burden since I love this particular production, enjoy the music, and am a big fan of many people in the cast. I'm heading over right after supper and should be ready to watch at 7:30 pm, when the curtain opens. 

I'm taking along the Sony A7ii and the 70-200mm f4.0 G lens and I'm intent on getting some shots from angles I won't have ready access to with a full house on Tues. Am I getting paid to spend my Sunday evening doing research/pre-production for a job? Not in money, no. But I'm guessing that my pre-knowledge of the blocking, lighting and timing in the show will make my images much better --- or at least more efficient, on Tues. 

I don't mind going the extra mile because I am less motivated by immediate financial gain and more motivated to push the quality of my meager interpretation of my chosen art to as high a level as possible in the belief that I'll get several wonderful photographs for my portfolio. This is a good strategy for me since I have, sprinkled through my website and my portfolio, images created for the theater five, ten and even fifteen years ago. They are some of my favorites. Short term investment in pre-production, and on site research, in order to create art that can represent me well down the road. 

Besides, I'll get paid for Tuesday's shoot and that's what the client originally budgeted for and signed up for. How I end up getting the stuff right is totally on me. 

Today's free equipment fascination (free because I already own it) is with the Sony A7ii, the cheap grip and a Contax/Zeiss lens. The image above shows the 45mm lens I shot with downtown today. Focused carefully and shot at f5.6 or f8.0 the lens creates sharp and sparkly images that I like. 
How's that for a short review? 


Wolfgang Lonien said...

Wow - love that first image, Kirk!

Kirk Tuck said...

Thanks Wolfgang. Much appreciated.

Alex said...

"Practice is not good, it's essential."
Ofcourse, buying the latest and best equipment shortens and smoothens this stony path considerably.;)
I still benefit from having started a long time ago, with TX or HP5 in the camera. And cant bring myself to make hundrds of shots one one subjects, when significant fewer will do so too. Never understood the people who spend a weekend with a camera and bragg about the 3000+ pictures they took at this occassion.
Digital makes it easier to try different settings, yes, but the EVF reduces this again by seeing the result beforehand, too.