There is nothing I like more than lying on the floor and not having to worry about things. Maybe my nihilist approach to life does have its benefits. The angle from the floor under theatre lights does something magical for me. Living by the 45-degree rule in photography and by application the rest of my life. Finding that the 45-degree rule is 3D just opens up a new corridor of opportunity.
I’ve written a lot about the golden 45-degree rule, having the midpoint between profile and portrait that gives the depth of 3D. In showjumping I love using this angle as it gets the height of the jump, the folding of the horse and rider as well as the length of the horse in its leap. This applied in non-sport photography in my opinion isn’t as great. Portrait photos you want a portrait, or profile traditionally. Most people I’ve worked with prefer the traditional shots I’ve taken. Maybe this is due to them being within my comfort zone and therefore I excel at it. Again I need to listen to my own advice here of practice makes perfect.
Working with the university sports teams opened the door to working with the university societies. Last week I had the pleasure of working with the Nomadic Players, a drama and theatre society. Their choice of performance was A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. Being an adaptation from a book, and being a famous cult film directed by Stanley Kubrick, there is a lot of room for interpretation of the ‘Ultra Violence.’ The storyline consists of a lot of violence that was tastefully portrayed and implied by the Nomadic players, pulling the comedic roles and lines in an absurd contrast to the serious.
Cue my lying on the floor. Luckily, I was able to attend the dress rehearsal and the final performance, the dress rehearsal gave me free rein on where I could go to interact with the actors with my camera and the performance gave the actors free reign of the stage, props, and their abilities.
Although I was still working on the best settings for the constantly changing light, you can see the lower angle, it gets the whole body and action as well as the intimidating effect the actors are imposing.
The lower angle works nicely in the theatre to get the lights behind the actors and create dramatic scenes recapitulating the theatre in a still image.
Lighting is one of the essential components of the arts. Photography has to work around this art platform and utilise what it is given to produce incredible results. The contrast the theatre gives to lighting with the background, ceiling, and floor being mainly black, is incredible.
Onto the photography nitty gritty, tips and tricks, and what I’ve learned from my thespian photography immersion.
Theatre Photography Tips
Be prepared for sudden light changes from low light to bright light without a seconds notice.
Theatre lights make the scene. So the scenes will change in lighting rapidly to add effect. In this case there is alot of change of lighting up at the back and low light at the front. Or spot lights on certain points of the stage. To combat this I kept my camera on the Tv (shutter) priority function with an auto ISO setting running up to 6400 and an aperture range of f/1.8-4.0. This allowed me to focus on the shutter speed to change it quickly in this low light / high light situation.
It’s a constantly moving machine. Don’t be afraid to take a lot of shots.
Even when it is quiet, don’t worry about the noise your shutter makes. You’re there to take photos, so take them! Also don’t be afraid of using a continuous shutter in the scenes that get a bit rowdy.
It’s a full body experience.
Theatre is all about body language. Actors exude characters out of every pore. Don’t just focus on their face, as gestures add to the performance and a headshot may lose this vital aspect.
Theatre is an experiment of emotions. Don’t be afraid to experiment along the way with dynamic edits including high contrast black and white. Although black and white can either make or break an image, and ideally it is the consumer’s opinion that matters the most.
As always, enjoy yourself and don’t get stressed if it isn’t working out. Just take a breather, look over what you’re doing and start again. It’s not the end of the world. You got this.