Show director Susan Yeaw, whose production opened last weekend at Studio 15 in Carmel, invited me to shoot the dress rehearsal on Oct. 20, and since then I've been turning around and delivering images to the troupe and Carmel Theatre Company so they can promote the two weekends of shows. First Folio has used several of my images on social media (Facebook, Twitter). Just today, I completed processing the last of the images, so I thought I'd try to get a post up on Photo Porpourri to help spread the word.
This shoot was the most difficult of the dozen or so theatrical productions I've photographed since 2010, primarily because of the frequent and dramatic stage lighting shifts between scenes. One moment, lighting would be what I would describe as relatively normal then shift to pitch black with little time to adjust camera settings to be prepared.
In pursuit of optimum-quality images, I was bouncing back and forth between shooting at available light with high ISOs for the better-lighted scenes, to diffused on-camera flash for the all-dark scenes, the latter using a Canon 580EX II strobe.
Fortunately, my Canon 6D camera had the quality ISO levels to deliver presentable images at most of the ISO settings I turned to, and the Graslon Insight flat amber diffuser (pictured at right) I used on the 580EX II did a great job of lighting my subjects even though I did need to tinker with the intensity and zoom levels periodically.
If you're new to this blog, I wrote two posts mentioning the Graslon diffusers in 2013; the link in the previous clause takes you to the second of the two. Just revert to the post immediately before that one to find the first post. I own Graslon's Insight (flat) and Prodigy (dome) diffusers in both white and amber, and I own a Graslon white Spark that slides onto the hot shoe of my Canon 7D to diffuse light from that camera's pop-up flash. The Insight and Prodigy slip over the flash heads of an on-camera flash. If you need professional light but don't have the time to set up stands and strobes, or because of logistics (such as plays on stage), these Graslons -- especially the Insight and Prodigy -- with a wonderful mirror redistribution light system for on-camera flashes do a great job of delivering the next-best thing.
I was also changing my ISO levels between the high zones for available light to much lower noise levels for flash. I also was changing my shutter speeds between the two lighting sources, going higher in available light (mostly 1/180 to 1/200) to stop action as much as I could, and lower speeds (usually 1/80) for flash to allow for greater background detail to be included when I could. Flash stops most action at speeds of 1/60 or faster anyway. My main concern in switching back and forth so much was that I would forget to remember to return the shutter to the higher speeds when going from flash to available light.
And, alas, that did happen when I started shooting a crucial fight scene near the end. When processing the images at home, I was tossing out a lot of frames because of unwanted blur, although I did preserve a few in which the blur seemed to work.
"Macbeth" can be seen at 8 p.m. this Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Studio 15 is at 15 First Ave. N.E., a block north of Main Street in the heart of Carmel's Arts and Design District.
For the lead-off images, I chose something from a very early scene, the dramatic entrance onto stage of the play's three witches. The dramatic lighting and coloring you see is as exactly as you would view it if you were sitting in the audience. The witches reappear in two later scenes, as shown in the first series of images below, including the dramatic opening scenes of the second act when they are joined by John Mortell, who does a splendid job portraying the title character.
A full gallery of images from the dress rehearsal shoot can be found at my site at SmugMug.
Above and next several below: John Mortell displaying the many sides of Macbeth, beginning with the loving, testy and reflective ones while interacting with Lady Macbeth, played by Sally Carter.
Above and next several below: Carter in her turn as Lady Macbeth. For the last shot of Carter in the series, I elected not to use flash and shoot available light to exploit interesting, dramatic (but very low) blue and purple lighting. It might not have been the right call. I boosted my ISO to the max -- 28,000 -- then treated it in noise-reduction software afterward. Even that didn't get me what I had hoped for. But ... at least I know now to avoid ISO 28,000 if I can possibly do so.
Above and next two below: The slaying of Lord Banquo, Macbeth's onetime ally, by thugs at Macbeth's beckoning partly fails in that Banquo's son, Fleance, also targeted in the slayings, escapes. Macbeth had ordered the killings after the witches told him that Banquo's lineage, and not Macbeth's, would one day rule the kingdom. One of the thugs reports to Macbeth after the assaults.
Above and below: Macbeth's first of two major hallucinations, one of which included seeing the ghost of the vanquished Banquo.
Above and below: An increasingly paranoid Macbeth, also irked by warnings by the witches to beware of Macduff but also insulted that Lord Macduff did not attend his inauguration, hires thugs to kill Lady Macduff and her children both to send a message to Macduff that subjects must support the new king ... and to ensure there is no lineage in the Macduff family to threaten Macbeth's lineage's claim to the throne.
Above: Macduff, played by Kirk Fields, learns of the slayings of his wife and children.
Above and next several below: Macbeth prepares to launch into his final paranoid/hallucinatory episode, after intimidating his messenger.
Above: Macduff finally confronts Macbeth in the play's denouement. A knife fight ensues, and Macduff comes out as the only man standing ... and breathing.