Social Ice 2015

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The Social Ice event is becoming a regular happening in Rochester during winter. Apparently, it was moved a bit later in February in the hopes of a bit more moderate cold, but that wind last night – whew!

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The highlight is always the remarkable ice sculptures which decorate the Peace Plaza. Various restaurants each have a bar with a theme. Some of them include backdrops like a huge poster showing a pyramid to match an Egyptian theme.

 

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I was wandering around with a pair of gloves which could allow me to control the camera but which were woefully inadequate for keeping my fingers warm. My fingers seem to be overly sensitive to the cold and have been for many years. Not sure if maybe I got them a little too cold at some point.

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But I’m fascinated not only by all the many people who come out and brave the cold – and the place was jammed! – but also by those who spend the evening there behind the bars working.

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Some of them are dressed in costumes of one sort or another – matching the theme, of course.

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But all of them are spending a lot of time in the cold. I suppose if it weren’t for my very cold fingers, it would have not been too bad. I do, after all, have winter clothing to handle even colder temps. You have to do so in Minnesota!

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And there were heaters everywhere, and everywhere there were heaters, there were people! I drove down just after sunset. I wanted to photograph the artwork with the lighting provided, but I also thought going early would mean a somewhat smaller crowd.

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Well, not so much. While there were spaces here and there with fewer than 10 people per square yard, the bars were nearly all crowded as were the heaters, as I mentioned.

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Many of the bars were serving warm beverages, but I think I saw as many folks walking by with a can of something cold, too.

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It’s a Minnesota thing, I suppose. Braving the winter weather is just something the folks here do.

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A couple years ago, my daughter treated me to a beer tasting event around the time of my birthday up in St. Paul. It was, of course, all outside. In January.

Social Ice ran from Thursday to Saturday – last night. And, for certain, there was no real concern about the ice artwork melting. Judging by the Saturday night crowd, I’d say this will continue as long as the organizers want to do it. There are many activities to draw folks downtown in the summer, so it’s great to see these winter events, too.

Miss Nelson

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Friday was opening night at Rochester Civic Theatre for Miss Nelson is Missing. It’s a family-friendly show based on a children’s book. Most of the actors are teenagers, and I think they have all been involved in the theatre and its various theatre education classes for a while.

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They bring a ton of energy to the stage. That, along with the relatively short length, should make it play well to younger audiences. Melissa, who plays the teachers, Miss Nelson and Miss Swamp, has been on the RCT stage several times now, and she plays a teacher in real life. Should be interesting to find out what her students think of the show!

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I shot this during the final dress rehearsal before preview, last Wednesday. I settled into the first half which used pretty good general lighting with a few spots where the light drops off. You sort of learn how to deal with that.

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But then as the hunt for Miss Nelson commences, we go all low-light! I have my preferred settings – in fact, they’re dialed into one of the custom settings positions on the mode wheel – but a few times I had to bump the ISO even beyond where I like.

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And, shooting live, there’s lots of movement. And, with this cast, there’s lots and lots of movement. So, it’s sort of a balancing act between shutter speed and ISO and keeping enough depth of field. Timing can be important. You also just expect you’ll have a little blur here and there, and there will be a few shots that are a background with a haze where a person was.

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Sometimes I walk away from a shoot wondering did I get some reasonable shots? Then I scroll through them on the computer and realize, yes, it’s okay. I can relax!

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I’ve done my first culling pass, but I have a lot more work to do. I did scan for a handful that I thought highlight the show to pass along to RCT for posting and promotion. And, I grabbed them to put here as well.

The show has only one more weekend to run, so don’t procrastinate!

Promo shots

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Next up at Rochester Civic Theatre is Miss Nelson is Missing. It’s a show for kids that opens in a week. I’ll be shooting the show at rehearsal next week, but I was there the other evening taking a few fun photos for the theatre to use for marketing.

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The Post Bulletin photographer was there as well getting a shot they will use in their story. I believe that will be in the paper’s 507 magazine insert today.

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For these promo shots, we usually pose the actors in some way, try to use a bit of the set, and provide a little flavor of the show. We’re shooting under stage lights, so I just dial in my show-photo settings. The only real challenge is the lack of a completed set. These need to be taken well before the show, so costumes and sets are incomplete. There may be many costumes still in the works, but we only need one or two, and don’t necessarily need the whole cast – especially for large casts. The set can really be a work-in-progress. A lot depends on how long before opening we do the promo shots. The focus is on the actors, so the objective is to try to avoid background distractions.

We don’t always do these shoots, but they can be fun – for me and for the actors!

Miracle on 34th Street at RCT

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Rochester Civic Theatre’s holiday show this year was The Musical Miracle on 34th Street, a musical adaptation of the classic story adapted by Greg Miller, the RCT artistic director. It was also my last theatre shoot of 2014!

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The show followed the well known story with various holiday songs – some familiar and some not so much – sprinkled throughout. It certainly played well for the season and, I believe, all the performances were sold out. And that’s a great thing for the theatre.

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I shot this show live, as has become my preference, during the final dress rehearsal. The set was colorful as were many of the costumes. And lighting was pretty much what I expect for most musicals. Some evenly lit scenes, some stronger gels with moodier lighting, and lots of use of the spots. The spots can make the photography more challenging, but it’s what you have to handle if you are shooting a stage performance and especially musicals.

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Looking through my shots, I had several I wanted to post. There’s some good variety in the lighting, the angle, the emotion. So, I’ve included a few more than I usually do. I think. I don’t really have a usual.

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Ha! Well, no, I don’t usually count, but this felt like more than usual.

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But I wanted to make sure I included Fred and Doris and Susan. And Santa, of course. That’s Denny, who’s been on the RCT stage many times, as Santa and, yes, that’s a real white beard.

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Lynne was on stage for this performance in the ensemble. So, I’d get regular updates regarding how rehearsals were going.

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And how much work was going into the dances. Folks who aren’t intimately connected to musical theatre can only guess how much work is expended to build a show. There are weeks of rehearsals, and most of the players either work or attend school. It’s truly amazing.

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And the performance level is consistently top-notch. We really have a talented community in and around Rochester!

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I’m happy that I get to be involved in my own way. And try to make some art from their art.

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If you read my theatre shoot posts, I probably sound repetitive, but I am looking for angles and shots that help capture – and tell – some of the story being portrayed. When it works, it can be a lot of fun for me.

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I’m usually looking for tighter shots, but sometimes you need to include more to get to the story – like the courtroom scene. Or I just want to include some good shots of the big numbers.

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Megan, the choreographer for the show, was a model for my I Dance personal photography project a while back. We thought it would be fun to use one of those shots for her “head shot” displayed in the theatre during the show. That didn’t work out, but I can certainly include it here! She did a tap number in RCT’s Chicago production which inspired this shot.

With 2014 coming to a close, I wish all of you a happy, healthy, and creative 2015. Smile and make some art!

Tutorial Tuesday – My Exposure Tutorial

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I have been asked a few times about exposure – how do you set it, what do the settings mean, why take the effort to select any particular settings rather than just letting the camera do its thing by itself. At its core, it’s pretty easy to grasp. We can pretty easily tell when a photo is too dark or too light. The controls which determine exposure help us achieve the level of brightness we want in a photo, but they also play an important role in creating a mood and conveying to the viewer the image we have in our mind.

I started to write a blog post about exposure, but I didn’t finish it. Sometime later, I again attempted to write such a post. And again, I left it unfinished. I like my posts to present something you can quickly peruse and spend just a few minutes reading and (hopefully) enjoying. And I like to sprinkle in some tidbits about the craft as I see it.

However, it turns out that just doesn’t work in this case. Exposure is a central component to the art of photography. It’s something every photographer should understand, at least to some level. And I just decided I couldn’t do it justice here in the blog. So I scrapped that idea and decided to write something more comprehensive.

I took some time, took a handful of photos specifically to help explain the concepts visually, and wrote what I referred to myself as an eBook. But, it’s not all that long – only 11 pages – so I guess it’s more of an eEssay!

I enjoyed putting this together, and perhaps if folks find it useful, I’ll tackle one of the other core concepts. With Christmas coming, and the possibility of a camera under the tree, I hope this will be timely information.

Go to the page here to download the PDF!

Fright at the Farm 2014

Welcome!

Once again, Rochester Horror is presenting their Fright at the Farm at the History Center of Olmsted County on West Circle Drive. It seems each year, they expand, now covering most of the barn main and lower levels and lots of the grounds around it.

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Each area includes live actors performing as you’re guided from one “set” to the next.

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I’ve shot these in the past, and each year I try to find a way to light the scenes while keeping the feel of the scene intact. I tend to use gels to mix with the existing lighting. Unlike stage lighting, these scenes are dimly lit generally, so I’m trying to boost that, get some light on faces and enhance what’s there.

This year, I used two to three speedlites for most of my shots (all off-camera, of course). The skeletal pirate in the cave was one of my favorites. I matched the existing red light in the back with a gel’d speedlite and balanced a bit of CTO gel from the front.

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As we were leaving, the misty graveyard with it’s spooky mausoleum was looking pretty cool, so we stopped and shot a few frames. Here, I left the ghost to its own lighting and adjusted the exposure as needed.

They’ll be there one more weekend. It’s a fun way to spend a cool evening!

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