1.16.2019

A fun, silly, crazy, wonderful afternoon spent at Esther's Follies; Austin's premier comedy and political commentary venue. Right in the middle of Sixth St.


"Would you like to come over on Wednesday afternoon and make many zany promotional photographs with us at Esther's Follies?" Yes. As much as I would like my bank to give me free samples of one hundred dollar bills. Esther's Follies is a comedy nightclub that's existed in the center of downtown Austin for over thirty years. Democrat or Republican, your party is sure to get equal time as the butt of a never ending series of skits, musical numbers, jokes and other forms of political commentary. But Esther's doesn't just do politics they also excoriate weird Texas stuff. They riff on Whole Foods Market and Amazon. They filet the latest Austin trend: Austin has become the #1 national destination for bachelorette parties. Imagine limos full of just post teenage brides-to-be and their entourages drinking until they throw up on their own shoes and then going back for more.....

In short, Esther's is bawdy, biting and right on target. The continuously funniest live show I've ever seen.  Just my cup of tea. I've been going to their shows for years and one Summer even did a Comedy Driver Training course there to get a speeding ticket expunged from my permanent record....

So, I've been photographing for their marketing materials almost forever; since the beginning of the new century, and I've always had a blast. These folks can bang out irreverent comedy at the drop of a hat. And they do it on a tight schedule with weekly additions and modifications to their routines. Some parts of their shows change almost daily!  I show up, set up three or four electronic flashes with umbrellas and sufficient kick to flood the stage with enough light to get me f5.6 or 7.1 @ ISO 400 and then we just sail through routine change after costume change and half the time I have trouble focusing because I'm laughing so hard...

Today I headed down to Sixth St. for a fresh dose of humor and photographs. I parked in one of the close by garages and dragged my equipment over on my multi-cart. I set up three of my Neewer battery powered monolights ( which kick out up to 300 watt seconds for 700+ flashes via their lithium batteries..) put a big umbrella in the light on the left side the stage, a medium sized umbrella on the right of center light, and another medium umbrella on the far right side of the stage. The main light comes from the big umbrella on the left and its monolight was set at half power. The other two monolights were set at one quarter power. Altogether they provided a nice wash of light across the stage with a bit of directionality. More importantly they froze the action and helped me absolutely nail the color balance.

I used one of the new Fuji XH1 cameras and the 18-55mm XF lens for the entire shoot. Everyone in all the different format camps can theorize about quality all they want but I know that when I zoom in to one hundred percent I'm seeing super sharp eyelashes and striations in the actors' irises, and I don't know how the troupe can use better than that. At ISO 400 the files (when shot correctly=exposure and color balance) are razor sharp and noiseless. 

The system nailed focus on about 98% of all 1200+ shots from our session. The 2% that weren't tack sharp were plagued by operator error as I laughed and waved the camera around instead of being tightly disciplined. It was a great way to get a large number of almost perfect shots in a short span of time. 

I was still laughing as I dragged the cart into the elevator of the parking garage.... too good.


If you spend much time in downtown Austin on weekends you'll not be able to avoid the onslaught of drunken bachelorettes. They're as invasive as electric scooters. I think Esther's has this particular subject matter down pat....


At the end of a marketing photo session we always do a group shot. Here's the one we'll use to start out the new year and the new season. A different way to shoot theater than the way we do it at Zach Theatre. Viva la Difference!

Let me tell you about shooting opera sometime......