The Odd Couple at Summerset Theatre

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I shot The Odd Couple at Summerset Theatre in late July. It was the finale production for this summer season.

Neil Simon comedies are always interesting, and I tend to think of them as a day-in-the-life style. We have a single set – Oscar’s apartment – in which all the happenings happen.

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The general story is familiar to anyone of my generation since it formed the basis for a TV show of the same name. The TV show brought with it some of the characters from the play.

Many scenes feature the whole gang of friends as they try to deal with Felix and his angst. This made for some cool photographic compositions with everyone leaning in and reacting together.

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Sometimes it’s difficult to find an angle that shows all the faces, but that’s often a problem shooting live. Still, it’s not usually something to get hung up about.

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Other times, everyone just comes together and make the photo for you.

Lighting was not particularly challenging here, as most such plays are more dialog driven and don’t really need – or want – a fancy lighting design. As the photographer, I can pretty well set my exposure and go. There are some hot and cold spots on the set to be aware of, though.

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Being dialog driven, you have to look for the interesting photos. You find a lot of time folks are sitting and talking. But the moments are there. Some happen quickly and you might or might not catch them. Others, like the guys surrounding Felix, holding a wet towel to his head, all looking, offering their support and concern, just build in front of you. You see it, frame it up, and you have a favorite shot from the evening.

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I mentioned the leaning in. That can make such a difference in a still photo. Our brains interpret this for the interaction it represents. We sort of feel it. Lean them back and the energy totally washes away from the image. It’s really remarkable.

I can’t believe summer is nearly gone. Another season of Summerset shows is done, the Fridays on the patio at RCT are done, and Labor Day is two days away. But, that means RCT’s season is about to begin (the first show is RENT, and it opens soon), and Riverland will be working on their fall semester shows soon. I have all that to look forward to!

Lindsay and Brad

Ladies All Ready

I had the great pleasure and honor to photograph the wedding of two of my favorite people last month. We know Brad and Lindsay from theatre – where they met. They are gifted actors and incredible friends.

An outdoor wedding was planned, and while July tends to be warm and dry here, you just never know. We had rain early in the day, then it sprinkled on and off. They decided to let me shoot the portraits in the park before the ceremony. When the rain stopped, we headed outside, but I asked one of the bridesmaids to grab an umbrella just in case.

Brad's First Look

We needed it briefly, and the timing worked pretty well. Lindsay wanted Brad to see her and her gown for the first time that day, so I took Lindsay out first to photograph a few portraits of her and her attendants then had Brad come out for their meeting. Brad walked up just as the little sprinkles ended and she dropped the umbrella. Brad had this look on his face pretty much the entire day.

Together

That was it for the rain. The cloud cover gave me some terrific lighting which I supplemented here and there.

A Terrific Couple

Things would ramp up soon with lots of family and wedding party photos, but at this point, it was good to see things were coming together nicely. They could enjoy a relatively quiet moment.

Lindsay and Dad

The ceremony approached, friends gathered, and it was show time. The clouds gave way to sunshine, so I was glad we had chosen a fairly shady location for the ceremony. Some additional fullness to the tree canopy would have been nice, but we work with what we have!

Vows

The shade also helped the attendees avoid the July sun as the couple exchanged personal vows and make it all official.

Parade Chicken Dance

Brad and Lindsay have a connection to New Orleans, so there was a running NOLA theme including a fun parade of the attendees from the park setting to Rochester Civic Theatre for the reception. Leading the way was a three-piece band playing a bit of jazz and, at one point, the Chicken Dance. It was very fun!

The Parade

It was certainly the first wedding I’ve attended to have a parade.

LP and the 45s

What has also become unusual for weddings is a live band. They had the band LP and the 45s provide the music for the evening. They grace the patio stage at RCT several times during the summer, and many of the folks at the wedding – certainly the theatre crowd – know and appreciate their renditions of ’50s and ’60s rock-and-roll. (They always draw big crowds to the RCT patio!)

First Dance

After a Johnny Mango catered dinner – New Orleans style, of course – the band kicked things off with the couples’ first dance.

Cake Cutting

Prior to the wedding, I watched Lynne assemble edible magnolia blossoms (the Louisiana state flower) and lace and then build the wedding cake for the event. It turned out great and was probably the best tasting wedding cake I’ve experienced!

Leslie and Mallory

The festivities then kicked into high gear. Even Leslie – the keyboardist – was able to dance a little.

Partying into the Night

The sun set and the party continued.

What a Day!

Weddings, no matter how well planned, have a way of bringing surprises and challenges. I’m sure there were moments that weren’t as expected or desired (there always are), but from my point of view, it was a wonderful day, two amazing people were married, many, many guests shared the day with them, and everyone had a great time.

Lindsay

Their photographer had a great time, too. I had many opportunities for taking fun photos, they were very open to suggestions, and I got to see two good friends tie the knot. It doesn’t get much better.

I wish them all the best in their future together.

Anniversary Gig

Becca and Jared

I had the pleasure of photographing a wonderful couple a few weeks ago on the occasion of their fifth anniversary. They had this fun idea of dressing up in their wedding clothes, creating a bouquet and boutonnieres, and having a couple of their close friends tag along, then having me photograph them at home and at various places around town.

Like a wedding, we had some time constraints – one of their party had to leave town. So, we shot at literally high noon. Not the ideal time of day for photography, but I told them we’d make it work. While trying to make them look their best, I also tried to keep some hints of where we were. The shot above is in front of their home, so I intentionally left the somewhat distracting window in the shot with the brown siding to add “our house” to the story.

Framily

We made a few photos at Rochester Civic Theatre, three of the four of them have performed on its stage. There’s a fun shot of them on stage, but after we got that shot, I suggested having them sit in the house seats. One of them played off that and said, let’s all have different expressions reacting to what’s on stage. It worked great! I love collaborating with performers.

Friends

A few shots in a park by a fountain were also on the agenda.

Come Along, Jared

We set up several shots to highlight their relationships with their friends.

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But fit in a few showing their relationship with each other.

A Terrific Couple

They are a great couple. Their love and respect for one another is so very apparent.

Continuing the Journey

I thoroughly enjoyed being their photographer for the occasion. I wonder what they’ll cook up for their tenth…

 

 

 

Brian DeMint Program at SMNPPA

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Our local professional photographers group, Southern Minnesota Professional Photographers Association, meets monthly with various programs, usually 2-3 hours. This month, we brought in Brian DeMint (see his work here) from Missouri. Brian brings a background of painting to his photography, shooting rather ingenious looks and adding his artistic interpretation in post.

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We had a full day of presentations and shooting with two fabulous Minnesota models, Molly Olimb and Brittany Bueckers. Brian’s wife, Dena, provides the hair and make-up. The event was at the studio of Sonja Miedtke, a country home with beautiful grounds, buildings, and various props perfect for portrait photography.

Molly Olimb

When there are lots of photographers shooting a model, one needs to try to find something a bit different. I tend to be drawn to faces – I gravitate toward closer, more intimate shots. I also played with a technique I learned at Photoshop World in Atlanta. Model shoots like this are a perfect place to play with new ideas.

Brittany Bueckers

Brittany Bueckers

Once I had found a few photos I liked, I pushed a little more in post than I’d typically do. If you’ve seen my personal projects, you know I have no problem opening Photoshop and letting its tools fly. But my general portrait work tends to be more subtle. But with a nod to Brian, I let these images speak to me and guide me onward.

Molly Olimb

Molly Olimb

I was rather surprised to find a couple photos, one of each of our models, that just wanted – or, maybe, had – to be monochrome. In fact, the photo of Molly above was the first photo I really put any effort into, and it just said monochrome. The treatment I used actually left a smidge of color, but I think the processing fits the mood of the photograph.

Others just wanted color and lots of it. The red dress was fabulous, and it was amazing against the greenery.

Brittany Bueckers

Brittany Bueckers

It was a terrific day full of ideas and inspiration. And mosquitos. But, hey, this is Minnesota, so there will be mosquitos!

God of Carnage at Summerset Theatre

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There are so many plays that take place in a single set – often a room. Occasionally, there will be side areas representing one or two other locations, but it isn’t uncommon for there to be one location.

God of Carnage takes this even further, as it takes place not just in one location but in one uninterrupted time. I don’t know how it’s represented in the script, but it is basically one long scene. Within that scene, we see the entire story laid out with four actors playing characters who develop interesting relationships to one another during that span of time.

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I shot the show this past Monday during the final dress rehearsal. The description of the play sounded familiar, and it wasn’t long before I realized I had indeed seen this show once before.

As was the case for a couple other recent shows I’ve shot, this play had pretty consistent and reasonably good lighting. And the box set provides one basic layout and palette from which to work. Two couples interact – one couple’s son hit the other couple’s son in the face with a stick. As it begins, everyone is trying to get along, you might say, acting like adults. They sit fairly quietly discussing the events.

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Meanwhile, there isn’t a lot to photograph! Four people sitting quietly does not make for impactful photos! But that soon changes with bursts of action and lots of movement with some face-to-face confrontations.

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The gloves metaphorically come off as the show progresses. The attempts to be diplomatic give way to expressions of the characters’ true feelings and thoughts, somewhat spurred on by the rum that is eventually consumed.

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I had plenty to photograph as you might expect. It’s fun to manage to capture certain key moments like a cell phone, having been dunked in the tulip water, being retrieved and sending water drops all over. Other physical interplay provided similar moments to be grabbed.

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I spend my time moving from one side to the other, looking for the best angle for grabbing a particular shot. Often, all four are there and spread out, each talking to all of the other three. There’s a possible wide shot of the group, but those photos tend to be less compelling and serve more to just document that moment. I work to isolate to one or two when I can, or to encompass three or four in a way that provides a good composition. But not every shot ends up as a keeper.

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The cast of four did great. I love watching and shooting expressions that are honest and give the characters life.

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Summerset Theatre in Austin does a great job providing a diverse set of three shows during the summer. This was a huge departure from Fiddler last month, and the next show will be The Odd Couple at the end of July. A big musical, a drama, and a Neil Simon comedy. And each of them gives me different challenges to photograph!

Black and White Ilford HP5+

Silver Lake Bridge

I shot another couple rolls of black and white film recently with my old Canon F1. I’ve been trying a variety of different film types – fast, slow, Kodak, and Ilford. I shot the faster films first. These were shot on Ilford HP5 Plus, a 400 ISO film. It can be pushed to higher speeds, but I used it and processed it for its standard 400.

Peace Plaza

One interesting aspect of shooting various black and white films is studying the grain. Anyone who shot film seriously back in the day knows that as we push to higher speeds, the grain becomes more prominent. It’s loosely akin to the digital noise we see today, but the reason and mechanism is quite different.

In front of the Mayo Gonda building

In front of the Mayo Gonda building

Once I moved into SLR cameras, I actually shot very little black and white. I loved color and settled into shooting slides – some Ektachrome and a lot of Kodachrome. The grain behavior of those films seemed to be quite different from what I’m seeing in these black and white films. I don’t know how much effect the scanning process has, but I remember BW prints looking pretty much like what I’m seeing now, so I think the scanner is doing reasonably well.

In front of the Mayo Gonda building

In front of the Mayo Gonda building

Kodachrome was wonderful film, but it was relatively slow including the beautiful Kodachrome 25. I never shot a lot of that – it was just too slow for most of my needs. But grain was just not very apparent. On BW film, it tends to be front and center. Now that I’m into faster, 400 speed film, it’s rather hard to miss.

Downtown Rochester

It’s also something of the allure of these films. It produces an image that has character. We now use various postprocessing filters to add in some grain to help de-industrialize our digital images. Add in this character. Done well, it works. Part of my reason for shooting these rolls of film is to study the characteristics to help me use such filters with a better eye.

Bulldozer

For a few of the shots here, I’ve toned them either cool or warm. In the past, toning would be done to the prints. Now we can do it on the computer. I generally like the effect, and it’s good to match the temperature of the toning to the subject of the photo. While I tend to lean toward warm colors, some of the metal objects I photographed tell me they need a cool treatment. It works.

Bulldozer

When you shoot black and white, whether using black and white film or using a DSLR with the intent of creating a black and white image, it’s best if you can wrap your mind around that and try to see in black and white. That means looking for textures, contrast, lines, patterns. Bright colors become irrelevant, and you must see past them. As humans, color can overwhelm us.

Geese

While I sometimes look at an image and think, this would look good as black and white, those that are planned as BW from the start as I held the viewfinder to my eye usually have an edge. I really do love color, but there are moments that just need the simplicity of black and white. If the color doesn’t help to tell the story – even more importantly, if the color distracts from the story – a monochromatic image may be just what is needed.

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