Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Performing Arts Photography and Extending Opportunities To Others

Director Robert Chuter invited me along to the play The Death of Peter Pan a story about love, young people, intolerance, persecution and shared suicide. Certainly a grim story, but an awesome photographic opportunity with the actors dressed in clothes from the 1920's set in a variety of scenes, London, Paris, Scotland etc.

The challenge for the photographer is that all the varied scenes are based around a simple flat stage and three objects. A Chesterfield chair, a dining table and a gramophone. The lighting and music along with your imagination filled in the rest. The brief from Robert was to watch the play along with fellow photographer George Darsas then come back for a special session to photograph the cast in action without annoying the audience with our clicking and moving around. This was an awesome opportunity and one I highly appreciated. The play was excellent and well worth seeing, I congratulate you if you did. The story reflects so much that is relevant in today's society. We haven't come very far forward at all in 100 years.

While this was an awesome opportunity for myself and George, I stretched Robert's hospitality a little and asked if I could bring some more photographers extending the opportunity to some other members of the Melbourne Photowalkers Google+ community. It's really important to me personally to generate opportunities for members of the community. I started in photography and grew because other people shared their opportunities and mentor-ship with me. Now it's my turn to pay them back. I know that some of the people I mentor and guide will do the same for new people perpetuating our hobby, craft and yes, even art.

The choice was really hard to make, Robert and I had settled on ten as a manageable number of people. As it happens we finalised with twelve on the day. How to pick 10 people out of 500 or so community members? I needed a balance of photographers who could deliver for Robert and the cast but also people who could use the opportunity to learn, perhaps even fail then workshop into an experience. George and I agonised over the choices and finally settled on a list and started to make contact. We were on.

The scenes were powerful and varied, ranging from every aspect of lighting imaginable. The low light as always was massively challenging and high ISO was necessary. High ISO combined with the atmospherics lead to noise that had to be dealt with. Fortunately, not too bad and LR 5 was more than up to the task of cleaning up.

Often it was possible to take advantage of the situation to craft images such as the steamy one above which while not that useful to the play cast made me happy!

Thanks to the wonderful cast and crew for putting on the show just for the photographers and putting up with our needing to flit in and out of their scenes and to move things around to capture the best possible light.

Very low light is the enemy of the photographer, you need a fast shutter to freeze motion or perhaps capture just the right blur and maintain an adequate depth of field. These needs really don't gel all that well with low light. Using flash is generally unacceptable and in smoke haze environments such as this won't work anyway. You need to work with the lighting you've got. Move with it. Where the colouring doesn't suit your taste monochrome might be the answer.

As always I'm interested in more performing arts opportunities. Please make contact via comments if you're interested in having me along to your play.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Orbalicious - The Photography of All Things Orby

Good friend +Charles Strebor introduced me to the wonderful world of photographing with things. Things change your photography, they introduce a new creative element that is fun to pursue. They change what you do and how you think.

In this series, I'm exploring a glass 80mm spherical orb purchased from the auction site of the moment for the princely sum of $10 including shipping from the poeple's republic.

Many people when they try this shoot only the orb and not what is in it or beyond it. I want to use it to explore the world of form and texture. To bring those things into a new focus and new creative imagery not possible without the introduction of the orb.

The image above captures the flames of the Eternal Flame at Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance.

Using the orb to enhance an existing form can be a lot of fun, in this shot above I've used the orb to contrast with the hand chipped granite blocks and used it to bring lighting from the harsh tungsten lights overhead and to the right onto one of the blocks giving further contrast and interest to the image. The flare of light from the ball while a little distracting centres the eye letting it rove out again into the image.

The final image of the blog again makes use of the granite of the block work giving a harsh appearance and contrast to the smoothness of the ball. The impressive edifice of the shrine is present reflected from the far side of the orb as is the city skyline in the bottom of the ball.

Photographing with orbs can be a little tricky, for reflective shots you need to focus within the orb on the object you wish to see and ensure there is adequate depth of field to show or hide the surrounding features as your creativity wants.

I've seen people making fun of the orb shots community members are generating, this really doesn't bother me. They've yet to take the first steps out of the slime pool of documentary photographer into the more interesting and fun times of creative photographer. Dare I say even artist.

There is a small Google+ community called Orbaliciousness where people portray their achievements. It's a lot of fun go take a look and perhaps join in.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Light, Patterns, Textures, Flows and Creativity

Everywhere around us there is light. The light reveals patterns, textures and flows in everything. We can add to the light and we can use the patterns and textures. We can represent the flows as a moment in time or as a time frame through long exposure.

Recently I started to play with glass spherical orbs, I've got several different sizes and colours. They are a lot of fun and you can really unleash some creativity with them. They can be shot with themselves as the subject and a part of the composition as I have above where the orb rests on the granite edifice of a building. The harsh tungsten lighting thrown from right of camera highlights the shape and form of the granite and is relit by the light cascading from the orb itself. I really enjoy the contrast between the harsh hand chipped rock wall blocks and the smoothness of the orb.

Moving away from the orb for a moment, we come to flows. At Monash University I found a small stepped fountain lit from under the water. I spent some time with this small flow of water - you're looking at around a 10cm drop in height with a very gentle cascade barely able to promote any bubbles. Grubbing around on the floor with my lens just about in the water got me the angle and appreciation of the light I was looking for. This gentle golden flow is reminiscent of many things from beer through a bubbling stream. When I first posted it on g+ people were guessing what it was for quite a while. This to me is the mark of a successful abstract. It's part of a greater whole or context but when this small unrecognisable part is removed from that context it becomes abstract.

Still with the flows and textures is another image I've shared on Google+ which kept people guessing for most of a Saturday. A harmless game encouraging people to recognise what is going on. At the time of posting this image no-one has figured out yet that this is the result of a laser beam being shot into an acrylic block. The shape, flow, form and texture is amazing. It reminds me of a rocket climbing into the sky or the water blast of a powerful fountain. Shortly people will read this and know what it is. How do I know? Too many late night stints on Discovery Channel and Discovery Science. When a laser is built for a laser cutter the laser generator is tested and tuned using acrylic blocks as they allow the test engineer to see the beam and how it's focused and directed.

There are wonderful textures and shapes everywhere, while walking through Melbourne Observatory with some friends late one night we found this interesting orb of dark material with stainless steel bands. Spectacular. Capturing the texture at night was an interesting experience. I tried to balance the depth of field to capture the spots dots and fingerprints of curious children from during the day with the need to capture the feel and colours overall.

These stainless steel roof panels were suspended on tight cables with an interesting wave pattern over head. The panels interlock and provide protection from the sun and during the day are somewhat mundane - but at night - a whole new magic. Each panel is sitting differently to its neighbor so the qualities of the light and reflection are different on each. Good fun. While this is still a traditional thirds type of composition it moves away from the regular thirds using the diagonals to break the image up. The central star attracts the eye away from the brightest and darkest areas and holds it captive.

So the point of this blog entry? It pays to look all around you including up in the quest for light, patterns, textures and flows. Use them to help with your creative thinking, your ability to see something that others don't. You are a photographer, your role is to find the interesting within the mundane and expose it to other people. Good luck with your quest.

As always, write and comment if the mood strikes you. All feedback and criticism is welcome.