Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Indy area toasts the great bard
with inaugural festival in Carmel

There is something going on in Carmel, Ind., this month -- Bard Fest 2015 -- that, as best as organizers know, is a first in all of Indiana -- a festival of performance and art in tribute to the great bard himself, William Shakespeare.

Several times in the years since I started photographing productions for Garfield Shakespeare Company, Joe Cook, GSC's artistic director, has mentioned aloud how he would like to see Indiana stage a Shakespeare festival. He has to be at least a little pleased with what is going on in Carmel this month, although knowing Joe, I'm sure the 74-year-old longtime theater enthusiast would have liked to have been a part of steering a festival honoring Shakespeare.

Since Oct. 1, Cook's GSC and two other theater troupes have been performing three Shakespeare plays on various days -- mostly weekends. The dramas are the focal point of Bard Fest 2015, which is staged at Carmel Theatre Company, 15 First Ave. N.E.

The Tragedy of Othello, Moor of Venice, directed by Chris Burton, was GSC's summer production this year, so it seemed natural that GSC would contribute that performance to the festival.

Also participating are First Folio Productions, which is performing As You Like It (directed by Lauren Briggeman), and Casey Ross Productions, which is contributing a very rare presentation of Timon of Athens (directed by Casey Ross), the rise-and-fall story of a beloved and generous Athens citizen. The production of Timon is so rare that it is believed even Shakespeare never saw it produced. Shakespeare wrote the play in 1607-08 with the help of another individual (believed to be English playwright and poet Thomas Middleton). The bard died in 1616, but the play wasn't published until First Folio did so in 1623, and its first known production wasn't until 1674.

There will be multiple performances of each play; Othello anchors the festival -- it was the first to show on Oct. 1, and it will conclude the festival program on Sunday evening, Oct. 18, after which there will be a reception and closing ceremonies.

But Bard Fest 2015 is about more than just theater. The festival includes magic and hypnoses shows by the Amazing Barry, fire art by Jason Hardin, trivia contests, music, and comedy from Comedy Sportz Improv (a long-running Indianapolis improvisational troupe). The lineup for Saturday, Oct. 17, is particularly eclectic -- music (including acoustic performance by Othello director Burton), magic and fire art in front of Greek Pizzeria at 120 E. Main St., just a block from the theater. Also on the bill that day will be presentations of all three Shakespeare shows. Check the full Bard Fest schedule for times and details.

I photographed the dress rehearsal of GSC's Othello in August, and First Folio Productions' Glenn Dobbs, for whom I've shot three previous productions, asked me to shoot the play-acting of the two other shows when they had their dress rehearsals last week at CTC. Shooting one play is challenging enough; shooting two on successive nights is ... well ... let's just say it's harder.

The post leads off with a photo from an early scene in As You Like It, which features humor, color and a dab of music in addition to one of the altercations depicted in the lead photo. Tyler Gordon, the actor on the far left, also appears in Othello. He is one of a half-dozen Bard Fest thespians appearing in two of the three plays -- but he is the only one of that group using Othello as one of the pair. The others are in As You Like It and Timon of Athens.

Full galleries of my shoots of As You Like It and Timon of Athens will be available at my SmugMug site soon.

Photo Geek info: I shot everything with a Canon 6D and Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L lens. All of the acting shots were taken with available light, using the camera's auto white balance and shutter priority mode. Shutter ranged from a high of 1/400 for the fight/action scenes to as low as 1/80, depending on the lighting. Most of the lighting was good enough to support a 1/250 shutter with ISOs ranging from a high of 6400 (in rare, low-light situations) to about 2000 or 2500 for most of the play. For the group shots of the cast, I placed the camera on a tripod, lowered the ISO to 250, changed the white balance to tungsten, and went to aperture priority (f/10) on the camera to ensure sharpness throughout the width and depth of the rows of people. I mounted the 6D with a Canon 580EX II flash equipped with an amber Graslon Dome diffuser to coordinate with the color of the majority of stage lights. The flash was set on manual mode, zoomed to 70mm and the power intensity set to 1/2 for the As You Like It group shot and full power for the Timon of Athens group.



Friday, September 18, 2015

Return to Avon Town Park

In 2011, the Hendricks County Parks Department devised a novel recreational fundraising activity that would pit teams against each other in a relay race in which team members took turns running legs of a 64-mile course that began in a park at one end of the county and ended in a park at the other end.

Avon Town Park was one of the town, township and county parks included in the middle of the race course. I photographed the race that year, which is how I was first acquainted with Avon Town Park. Problem was ... I didn't get a chance to be there very long or explore it the way I would have liked. Nor did I the following year, when I photographed the second annual Park2Park Relay (which also happened to be the last year race organizers used the 64-mile course. But I digress ...).

So I made a mental note to go back some day and explore the 83-acre park, and that day came Monday.

In a way, it might seem surprising that I wanted to return because my first impression of the park wasn't very positive. What jumped out at me from those quick previous visits was a considerable lack of trees around the 9-acre lake in the park's center. They also were lacking throughout a large amount of acreage beyond the lake to the north playground.

I didn't know at the time that the expansive open areas were developed that way on purpose: They are part of an 18-hole disc golf course. I'm embarrassed to admit that I had only vague knowledge of disc golf until I came home from Monday's trip and looked up the sport on the Internet. And by "vague," I mean I essentially had no clue what it was.

Thanks to YouTube (where you can find many videos about the sport), I've acclimated myself to the basics of disc golf. For those unfamiliar, it's similar to regular golf, except that instead of using clubs to strike a small round ball toward a below-surface hole, disc golfers fling a round disc -- think Frisbee, only slightly smaller -- toward and into a circular, above- ground receptacle (right).

That's one aspect of the park I became acquainted with Monday. Another was one of two trails that branch off in either direction (east and west) from the park's central section, trails I didn't realize existed in 2011 and 2012. I hit upon the eastern trail early on, following it past Sycamore Lake (where, unfortunately, dead fish lay along the trail side of the shoreline) to the terminus, which is where the park meets Avon-Washington Township Public Library and Loretta Court in the Sycamore Creek subdivision.

At that point, displayed on a large board, was a park map (left), which showed me I could reconnect with the park at the north end if I followed the Sycamore Creek streets northwest to Ophelia Drive in the adjacent Stratford of Avon subdivision (where all the streets are named for Shakespearean characters, by the way). What little time I spent in the park while shooting the Park2Park was at that north end, because that's where runners entered the grounds, so on Monday I wanted to start there and work my way south.

It was during this portion of my stroll that I came upon the disc golf course, a picturesque horse barn (pictured in the photo leading off the post) and, on the west side of the grounds, the Hendricks County Angel of Hope monument, a place where people who have lost children can come for comfort and solace. The monument is pictured at right.

When I shot the picture of the monument, a woman accompanied by two dogs was seated on a bench there across from the monument. She told me she had lost a child and that she comes there often because it helped.

To learn more about monument, click on this link or view a timeline video about it on YouTube. The video says the monument in Avon, dedicated in December 2008, was the 93rd Angel of Hope in the United States.

There are two vehicle accesses to the park, which is at 6570 E. U.S. 36. One, at the north end, is from Ophelia Drive in the Stratford of Avon subdivision. The other, at the sound end, is off U.S. 36, which also is the access to town hall itself and the town police department. The park is on the west side of Avon, a short jaunt east of Washington Township Park on the other side of U.S. 36.

A gallery of images from the entire shoot can be found at my site at SmugMug.

Photo geek info: For the entire shoot, I used my Canon 6D and Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD lens, which was equipped with a Tiffen 67mm polarizing filter. I hand-held all my shots and bracketed three exposures for each scene. For most shots, the 6D was set in aperture mode (f/9), using varying shutter speeds to effect bracketing. For most shots, I used 200 ISO; in photos taken in very dark conditions (e.g., the shot of the path in wooded terrain), I boosted the ISO to 800. In post-processing, three images were melded into one for each composition using Photomatix (version 5.0.5a) high-dynamic range (HDR) software. Note: The combination of Tamron's VC (vibration compensation) lens technology and the accuracy of Photomatix version 5's deghosting tool makes hand-holding when exposure bracketing a very doable thing. 

An overview of the park's open space in the background (above), taken from a hill near the park's maintenance barn on the east side of the grounds. At the bottom of the foreground hill and to the right, a wooded trail begins (bottom). 

Above and next two below: Dead fish floating near the shoreline along the trail, a bird house along the trail and a reflection off Sycamore Lake 30 yards or so from where I came upon the fish.

Above: The splayed shadows on this shed behind a home in the Sycamore Creek subdivision near the park trail caught my eye.

Above: I re-entered the park at the north end from Ophelia Drive in the Stratford of Avon subdivision, coming upon this playground and paved trail. 

Above: The gravel area in the distance, as I recall, was the entrance to the west trail, which I never made it to.

One of my ongoing photography subjects are benches. Above, I managed to compose to include a primary bench in the foreground and a secondary in the background. Moments after photographing this, I walked away, turned around and photographed this woman and her dogs walking past the bench above.

Above and below: Two more walkers in the park Monday afternoon.

Above and below: Two more looks at the horse barn, including the one below that I converted to monochrome just because it seemed to cry out for the treatment. There was nothing wrong with the original color version.

Above and below: Two views of the 9-acre lake ... the one above benefits from a point of elevation and looks south toward town hall. It nicely depicts the paved path system in the park. The one below looks north and was taken behind town hall. It includes the horse barn in the upper left.  

Above: Looking through iron fence spokes above the dam at the park's south end.

Above: Avon incorporated as a town in 1995, so it is observing its 20th year anniversary this year. Indiana became a state in 1816, so it will mark its bicentennial next year. This institutional art is at the lake's south end near Town Hall.  

Above: I used one of the zeros in the 200 artwork to frame this view of the lake. If you click on the photo to bring up a larger version, look closely above the treeline, and you can spot a white horizontal fleck. That's an eastbound plane, presumably headed toward Indianapolis International Airport.

Above: The side of town hall facing the 9-acre lake.

Above: There are two memorials at the south end of the park. This one is for those who served community and country. Another memorial, in a small landscaped area in a nearby parking lot, features trees planted in memory of those who lost their lives in 9/11.