Stage Performance Shoot

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by Nicole, Dec 4, 2004.

  1. Nicole

    Nicole Member

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    Hi all
    I was wondering what tips/warnings you may have on shooting a ballet performance shoot on stage and candid shots backstage. This is not a setup shoot with backdrops etc...
    I have: TriX400, Delta3200,
    NPH400 for dressing rooms, Fujicolour Press 800 for on stage,
    No Flash, F90X & Hassy 501, No filters.
    I like to keep things simple.
    Look forward to your input. Thanks again everyone, always nice to hear from you!
    Kindest regards.
     
  2. Doug Bennett

    Doug Bennett Member

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    No flash? Unless it's extremely well, and brightly, lit, that's a recipe for underlit, grainy photos. If grainy is the goal, then go for it. I've shot some plays w/Delta 3200. It's a definite "look", but not what I would think of if I were to shoot ballet.

    I've done a couple of these, and my approach was to shoot at a rehearsal, or set up a special shooting time, when I could use a flash. I got on stage with a TLR and a flash w/an umbrella, and got some good stuff.
     
  3. Nicole

    Nicole Member

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    Hi Doug, thanks for the info.
    Unfortunately these are with many, many very young and older children so I won't be allowed on stage due to 101 accidental reasons that are possible.
    I really don't like the look of bright flash units and prefer the more dramatic stage look but am also desperately trying to keep the grain down low. Not the most flattering for very young ballet dancers - in this instance anyway.
    Tricky I know. But I'm sure nothing APUG can't solve... :wink:
     
  4. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Nicole

    I printed for a very succesfull stage photographer out of the UK.
    Her work was in demand world wide, when Livent was going well we produced work for Showboat, Joseph, Kiss of Spiderwoman.
    Her work was superb. HP5 rated 800 processed Microphen.
    She used 35mm with extremely fast lenses. No flash
    good luck and have fun
     
  5. Nicole

    Nicole Member

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    Thanks very much Bob. This is great!!
    In that case my 50mm 1.4 lens should work very well here. TriX 400 will have to do in this case for behind the scenes work.
    On stage they'd like colour.
     
  6. blaze-on

    blaze-on Member

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    I've done a few and they are somewhat challenging as far as the performance part, as the light levels from the stage lights are not as bright as they seem. I would attend a rehearsal to familiarize yourself with the routines/performances/lighting so that you will have a better sense of the timing for the dancers. I remember to (at times) having to push the 800 to 1600, the 1600 at times to 3200 to get 125th/sec, in order to stop action as best I could. At other times you may want the movement to show which can be very cool. I love shooting theater as it can provide some dramatic images. (I attached one of my favorites-but not sure I did it right).

    Have fun.
     
  7. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    Although I've not actually done stage work myself, it seems to me that the consistent element in the exceptional stage images I've seen has been metering/exposing for the highlights, and letting the shadows fall where they may (translation - fast glass). That, and excellent timing - where it's obvious the photographer was in sync with the rhythm of the presentation, and was thus able to capture just the right moment to convey the story behind the ballet as well as the mood/emotion of the dancers.

    Depending on where you will be located during the performance, it would be good to go there in advance to get a feel for what the compositions will include considering the lenses you'll be using. That way, you can develop at least a skeleton of a plan. Being able to at least meter the areas of the stage in advance would be helpful, too, I'd think. That way, you can set exposure based on the area of the stage being photographed, rather than having to try to meter each shot. Making a little diagram of the light-level zones might be helpful in that respect.
     
  8. Helen B

    Helen B Member

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    For dance I use either EPJ (EK 320 reversal film balanced for tungsten) normal, pushed one (hardly worth it), two or three stops (desperate measures: no latitude) depending on how much light there is on stage, or Portra 800 normal or pushed two (rating that at 2000, not 3200). I used to use Fuji NPZ before the current version of Portra 800 came out, and I rated that at 1250 or 1600 for push two. I guess that the Press 800 is going to fit into that slot. Don't pinch on the exposure if you want good colour without a blue filter.

    I sometimes use a KB6 (light blue) filter when using daylight neg film in tungsten light, but it's not always necessary. A filter does not add any light, it only takes away - so you can often get the same result by applying a 'filter factor' even though you have no filter on the lens and allowing the film's 'overexposure latitude' to look after the reds. Only when you need all the latitude you can get (eg full range of detail under contrasty lighting) is a fully-correcting filter necessary. It all depends on how you want the final images to look, of course.

    I aim for exposures in the 1/15 to 1/30 range, and an aperture of f/1.4 or f/2. As Ralph says, I expose for the highlights and let the shadows fall where they may. I normally hate the proofs and descend into a pit of despair at my complete lack of skill and talent. For some strange reason everyone else likes them and I get asked back. There's no accounting for people's taste.

    Best,
    Helen
     
  9. Nicole

    Nicole Member

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    Great to hear from you again Helen!
    I don't understand what you mean by 'pinch'.
    I'm trying to (if I can get away with it) hand hold most of the shots but if all else fails have my trusty tripod always with me.
    I find tastes have the biggest Circle of Confusion! :wink:

    Early warm seasons greetings
    Nicole
     
  10. Nicole

    Nicole Member

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    I can only shoot at the last full dress rehearsal just before the main event and not at the actual event. Therefore no room for error!
    The good thing about this is I have the freedom to move around and shoot from any location, as long as I'm not on the stage.
    Thank you very much for your thoughts and input. Most appreciated.
    Kind regards,
    Nicole
     
  11. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    Even if you can only shoot at the final dress rehersal, and from off-stage, Nicole, I think I'd try to talk to stage manager to see if you could get access to the stage, with the lights on, to do test incident metering prior to the start of the dress-rehersal performance (relating to my diagram suggestion). Also, ask if there are significant lighting changes that will occur during the performance.

    I'd think if you convey the idea that you want to stay out of their way, but want to capture the full glory of their efforts, they'd be likely to cooperate. They may start with the attitude that the photography is a nuisance they are forced to put up with, but a little ego stroking might go a long way.
     
  12. Nicole

    Nicole Member

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    Thank you Ralph, I'll give it a go.
     
  13. Wally H

    Wally H Member

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    I photograph musicians in performance. Maybe some of my approaches might be transferable to your situation, maybe not.

    *) When shooting or moving around off or on stage black clothing keeps one less of a distraction.

    *) I never use a flash. I feel it is disrespectful towards both the musicians and the audience. As a musician I feel it is very distracting, as a member of the audience I feel it is very distracting when other use flash. If I need to use flash then it needs to be a closed auditorium and shoot set up specifically for that purpose.

    *) I use slow speed film, (100 asa). If shooting digital and the end usage is small enough, I'll use a higher speed / lower resolution setting.

    *) I try to know where the spots (lights) are going to be and only shoot when the subject is in those spots, giving me enough light to shoot the slow speed film with a shutter speed that will stop the action. Shoot when the subject is there and take what the situation will give you. Most of the time when a musician is doing a lead and the expression are most expressive they tend to be highlighted with spots anyway so in my case in works out okay. Blurred motion is acceptable a lot of time, maybe even more in your situation.

    *) Study the art of the performance. For instance, as a musician I generally have a feel for when breaks in songs are going to be, leads are going to happen, etc. One can be prepared for the moments when specific light, lack of movement, climax in expression, etc, etc., all happen. Something like, "chance favors the prepared".

    *) Generally long lenses are used, 200+ (35mm)

    *) I work individuals rather than for group shots. The light is almost always too contrasty, (some musicians in spot lights, some not, some stage areas totally black, etc.), for successful overall stage images. Some larger productions may have overall lighting that might work, but most of the time not.

    *) I watch a lot thru the viewfinder. Sometimes I spend so much time behind it people think I'm doing video.
     
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  15. Nicole

    Nicole Member

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    Wally, you're a world of information!!! Thank you very much!!!
    Unfortunately I do not have a long lens and will therefore will have to work with either a 50mm 1.4 or an 85mm 1.8 on my F90X.
    I'm very suprised you use such a slow film.
    Kind regards
    Nicole
     
  16. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    Oops, forgot to mention. If you have a monopod, you might try that for flexibility, instead of a tripod. You can then leave it extended to eye level, and just whisk around. I did a fashion model shoot at night recently on "Glitter Gulch" (Fremont Street) in Las Vegas for a calendar, using only existing street light. The monopod allowed me to shoot as low as 1/15 sec on ISO 100 color film with the Noctilux on my Leica M. The other fellow was using a portable studio strobe. My shots came out, his didn't. (insert evil tee hee here)
     
  17. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    I used to shoot a lot of Classical Ballet. It is very challenging. Let me see if I can remember any tips.

    I used to use Tri-X at 1600 developed in Diafine.

    Most important. Timing is everything. Remember that when something goes up, it is motionless for a split instant before going back down. Time your exposures for the peak of the action or the tiny momentary pauses in movement. This can be difficult and takes concentration but it will make the difference between a useless blur and a tack sharp shot even with slow shutter speeds. This often defines the skill of a performance photographer.

    Practice holding the camera rock steady and releasing the shutter smoothly without moving the camera. Even if your subject is still, a tiny amount of camera movement can ruin the shot, especially when using telephotos at slow speeds.

    While it is natural for a photographer to concentrate on faces and expression, the Ballet is all about the full figure especially the feet. Don't cut them off. Concentrate on the whole frame.

    Lighting during the performance is constantly changing. There is a guy at a light board whose only job is to foil any attempts at successful photography. (not really, but it sure seems like it :sad: )

    Beware the wing lights. As dancers approach the sides of the stage they can get blasted by those d@mned things.

    While the overall stage may meter fairly dark The priciples, being followed by a spotlight can be very brightly lit. You can often run into more problems with blocked-up overexposure than too thin.

    Try to be invisible. Stay out of the way of the dancers. More than once, while concentrating too intently on the viewfinder, I've nearly been stampeded by a flock of fairies. If you are shooting from the wings, shoot with both eyes open.

    Shoot plenty of film. Some shots will inevitably be blurred or otherwise unusable. Nobody gets 100% under those difficult conditions. The successes are very satisfying though.

    Best of luck and have fun!
     
  18. Nicole

    Nicole Member

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    Neil, what great advice! You crack me up totally with the fairies story. I can just imagine, and sympathise.
    I have 400 film for the dressing rooms and 800 film for the stage. I'm hoping to get away without pushing as much as I can.
    Question: If I do have to push different frames on a film, it'll be impossible to take notes on all frames of course, what instructions do I give the lab?
     
  19. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    You can't push individual frames. You have to shoot the whole roll at the pushed speed so that it can processed to compensate. It's all or nothin'.

    I didn't notice before that you planned to shoot color during the performance. You may have problems with color balance. I don't have much experience with those films. Hopefully someone who has used those films under stage lights will tell you what to expect.
    **************
    When you watch a Ballet performance from the audience those girls seem to be lighter than air, barely brushing the ground as they float across the stage.

    When I was first backstage, I was shocked that those graceful, airy little things actually stomp around the stage like a bunch of Teamsters in a room full of cockroaches.
    A line of Snowflakes rushing off the stage at full speed in your direction is like facing a herd of stampeding buffalo. It's terrifying.
    Kind of suspends the illusion. :sad:
     
  20. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    Cute story about being trampled by that herd of faeries, Neal. And, good tip about the momentary stillness at the peak of jumps. My experience has been limited to more controlled work in the studio.

    [​IMG]

    She came prepared to do Swan Lake, but all I could afford was a rubber duck. :wink:
     
  21. clogz

    clogz Subscriber

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    So: a bathing beauty!
     
  22. johnnywalker

    johnnywalker Subscriber

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    Changing EI on the same film would be difficult if not impossible to develop proprerly I think. Personally I would just go with the fastest EI I think I might need. Also, I wouldn't take any chances on slow film. My personal choice would be Delta 3200 exposed at say 1600 for the whole evening.
    Good luck!
     
  23. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    Odette and Squeaky. :smile:
     
  24. MattCarey

    MattCarey Member

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    In a local opera company, I used to see a guy on stage taking photographs. He had 2 big advantages: (1) he worked as an extra (spear carrier) and (2) he was one of the producers. He had a third advantage that he could afford a Leica with an F 1.0 lens (with the pun name, "queen of the night").

    One suggestion I haven't seen is this--Can you go to bigger film? Would medium format allow for less grainy images? You might have to rent some gear to get fast lenses.

    Matt
     
  25. Nicole

    Nicole Member

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    Thank you all for your suggestions. The show was yesterday and all is done. I shot pretty much for 12 hours straight, that's how long the rehearsals went with around 200 performers of all ages. 10am - 10pm!!! I'll keep you posted.
     
  26. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    And you don't have anything developed and printed yet?! Sheesh. (lol)

    Long day, but I'll bet you had lots of fun with it, Nicole. And, I'm sure I'm not the only one anxious to see your results.