Photographing the artists of The Seagull Project at ACT – A Contemporary Theatre
In this first image, Ian Spires and I are taking the time to discuss the crop of the shot I wanted while the cast and designers patiently wait. What was particularly challenging at this point in the shoot was to keep from going too wide on the shot – I didn’t want any lens distortion or lens flare from the lights. But I did need to get wide enough to include all 11 actors, a piano, chair and area rug comfortably. The answer was: Test shots. Communicate the design. Adjust props. Modify placement of actors. Fine-tune our light set up.
This was the first time I got to work directly on a project with Seattle’s talented Scenic Designer, Jennifer Zeyl who helped me with art direction. We showed up to an empty set: just a black floor installed on the carpet. Possibilities for the set had been discussed via email in the weeks leading up to the shoot, so we quickly communicated what resources we had from ACT’s prop rooms. Jenn pulled together the perfect pieces to make the scene come to life with style.
Another talented women I got to work with was Costume Designer, Doris Black. She created and emailed a color palette board to the actors in advance, and had them bring in a variety of clothing in a specific style. When all 11 actors arrived, Doris efficiently put together the entire wardrobe for the set so that all the pieces were complimentary for the final promotional image. As soon as the actors were in general placement, she and I discussed the over all color scheme of each wardrobe piece, then moved the individuals to best placement for the scene. It sounds easy, but it takes a highly trained eye to look at the smallest details that can make a big difference. For example, we did not want two actors wearing gray standing next to each other, we wanted to balance the red pieces (scarf, shirt, chair) of the scene, black attire needed to be closer to the lights, etc.
Earlier this week, a photographer asked me, “do you touch people when you photograph them?” This is not the first time I’ve been asked this question, but it always surprises me. I am constantly touching people, it’s just part of who I am as a human being. Human touch is an amazing way of being friendly and building a personable rapport with people and I often extend a gentle hand to people’s arm or shoulder when meeting them, during a shoot and when parting. Most of the time during a shoot, I touch people to fix their clothing, accessories or hair. It is ingrained in me from almost 15 years of shooting weddings: fussing with dresses, jewelry, ties and cuff links are a part of the job and you better get used to excelling at these details in a polite and tactful manner straight away. (Image below left: me fixing Julie Briskman’s hair)
Oh yes, people I adore get hugs! On and off the set. So if I know you, just always be prepared for one 🙂
Photographer Ben Jadron is always a blast to work with. Besides his great eye for photography, lighting and details, he is constantly smiling and bringing good, fun energy to the set. (p.s. photography buddies, yes this is “Eddie” my 3 Legged Thing tripod!)
Hold on. Let me re-check that last one. Zoom in on the back of the camera. Any blinks? Nope. Everyone in perfect character? Yes. Poses? Rad. Lighting perfect? Yup.
Ian and I confirm to the gang that “WE GOT IT!”
Set change up. Re-position lights. Re-style actors.
Yet another fabulous lady I was thrilled to work with on this set was, Megan Tuschhoff our Props Master. Megan procured all the props and made sure I had details in my shoot and went as far to write on old journal paper in script, tearing it up and wrinkling it into a big pile on the floor for me. She takes any prop challenge and produces the most amazing pieces, and always with a bright, happy smile. I absolutely loved working with her!
Final image of The Seagull Project in The Seattle Times, January 18, 2013.
Go see “The Seagull” at ACT Theatre
Ten Actors, Nine Months, One Play
An ensemble of veteran Seattle actors, The Seagull Project has rehearsed Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull for nine months, and presents this magnificent play in an all-new production at ACT Theatre in Seattle, January 23 – February 10, 2013. Directed by John Langs.
Nikon 18-70mm 3.5-4.5 – Aperture: f/4.5 – Shutter: 1/200 – ISO: 200
Off camera strobes