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Getting Lit

Shooting covers for our free weekly entertainment guide Atomictown is one of my favorite assignments. They’re not always fun, and seldom easy, but they give me a chance to work on my lighting skills. The covers we shoot are usually local theater productions. The stage lighting isn’t always adequate since they are so high overhead and tend to create ugly eye-socket shadows, so if I have the time, I like to pack up our studio lighting kit.The three flash heads in the kit give me a few more lighting options, which is helpful when trying to convey a sense of drama, as was the case when Katrina Carlson and Korry Watkins starred in the Richland Players' production of Rabbit Hole:

I wish I would have addressed the abrupt ending of the blue light behind Katrina, but I ended up being more preoccupied with finessing the light on the subjects while working on different expressions with them. There’s a surprising amount of details for one person to pay attention to and just like when I’m packing up after a visit to my parents’, one thing usually gets left behind. In this case, it was adjusting the lights to remove glare in the picture frames that left me with that hard-edged shadow. And if that dead space in the upper right is bugging you and you feel like the pictures should be better balanced, you’d be right, except that while shooting for these covers I have to compose with design in mind, leaving room for copy editor and designer Jeremy Dutton to add the AT logo and other text:

More recently, I brought the studio lights out for Richland Light Opera's production of Miss Saigon. While trying to figure out my lighting setup with leads Sam Purvine and Cassandra Dicken, I kept them loosely in position and told them not to worry about the lighting test shots. Most people just carry on their conversations, but Sam and Cassandra took the opportunity to goof off in lieu of rehearsal:

I never quite got the lighting exactly as I wanted, but I was pretty happy with the resulting cover shot:

I should have thrown a little more rim light on Sam, and kept the light on the left of the frame from spilling onto my background, but even though I liked this setup the best, I had to spend time making some safer shots in case I couldn’t sell the darker and moodier shot for fear of bad repro, and director Jo Brodzinski was on a tight rehearsal schedule.

Most recently, I went out to Chiawana High School for its first major production, Grease. Having toured the fancy new high school and seen their state-of-the-art theater, I opted to leave the cumbersome studio lights behind to see what they had to offer. I knew they wouldn’t be able to offer me the same dramatic lighting options, but Grease really didn’t need that. I started out with stars Emily Nelson and Ky Burton and popped a little flash to fill in some shadows and create some catch lights:

Then I shot a couple of scenes with the Pink Ladies:

And took the T-Birds outside, using Chiawana’s Black Box Theatre bleachers, which they rolled out for the shoot:

I often wonder how the actors feel when I spend so much time on the cover shot and quickly work through the secondary ones. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough space to run these shots inside, which isn’t terribly uncommon and one of the reasons I spend far less time on the inside shots. With the upcoming launch of our redesigned entertainment site, we should have a more permanent home for some of these other shots.

And you won’t have to wade through my ramblings to see them.


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