Category Archives: Stage Photography

Bettany Hughes

I was pleased to get a call recently from Haileybury College, asking me if I was available to photograph a lecture by historian Bettany Hughes. Haileybury is a public school in Hertford Heath and often stages such events for both students and members of the local community. My brief was to take a series of informal photos during a reception hosted by the History Society, followed by a lecture on Socrates in Big School. I was also asked to take a posed shot of Ms.Hughes with a handful of students.

The reception took place in a small meeting room, attended by members of the History Society, The Master and a few teachers. It was an informal drinks and nibbles affair and my role was to capture the proceedings for the school’s website and publications.

My usual approach with such events is to hover around the edge of the room with a telephoto lens looking for opportunities to capture people interacting. The idea is to be as inconspicuous as possible so as to capture nature photographs. As with all such events I never use flash and rely on the ambient lighting, in this case fluorescent tubes.

Proceedings then moved to Big School, the largest hall used for staged events such as lectures, presentations and dramatic productions. The building dates back to 1912 and offers plenty of angles and discreet positions from which to photograph events, including a gallery.

I was able to get plenty of shots of the lecture from a variety of angles, including the wide shot of the hall above, taken from the gallery. The picture also shows the space available to move down the sides of the auditorium without disturbing the audience too much.

Bettany was often quite expressive with her hands and this meant that I had to use a shutter speed appropriate for the conditions. The shot shown here was taken using a tripod and a speed of 1/40s. With such an expressive performer you have to take quite a few shots to freeze the action, whilst also being aware that you might not be the only one that can heard the shutter activating. I always make a point of trying to be as unobtrusive as possible so as not to spoil the enjoyment of others.

I spent about 90 minutes at the event and was able to submit initial images for the schools website the next day, with a CD of processed images a couple of days afterwards. I’m happy to say that shortly after I received a call from the school asking if I could cover another event in the same space, which I was more than happy to attend.

If you’re interested in finding out more about my event photography services please click here.

Sofasonic

I caught Sofasonic when they headlined Sunday Live at Hertford Corn Exchange. The locally-based four-piece are recently back from The States and have a handful of gigs lined up for the rest of the year.

I’d not seen Sofasonic before but any band with a female bassist has got to be good and they certainly didn’t disappoint, tearing through a 50 minute set.

You can find more photos on my Facebook page. You can check out the band’s website at sofasonic.co.uk.

Blithe Spirit

As the Summer draws to a close many theatre companies are starting a new season. In Hertford, The Company Of Players opened their new season this week with a production of Blithe Spirit, directed by Paul Morton.

The Company is celebrating it’s 50th year and the opening night was attended by Sir Ian McKellen, who is president of the Little Theatre Guild of Great Britain, of which The Company is a member.

I do a lot of work for CoPs, who perform in a small 63 seat theatre close to Hertford town centre. The building was originally a school house and was purchased by The Company in the sixties. The size of the theatre means that you work very close to the stage and can get some excellent angles and close-ups that would be hard to achieve in a full sized auditorium. The downside for the performers of course is that they’re more than usually aware of the photographer in their midst.

Photo Gallery: Blithe Spirit
(from The Company Of Players website – opens in a new window)

Wilkestock 2012

It was great to cover Wilkestock again this year, taking photos of the artists, activities and festivalgoers. This is one of my favourite gigs of the year with lots of opportunities to meet people and and get new likes on my Facebook page.

This year’s festival was a three day event with two stages, a cinema and two dance tents, together with an extended camping area and 360 degree bar. There’s always plenty to photograph at Wilkestock and no shortage of people willing to have their photos taken!

You can find over 300 photos from this year’s event over on my Facebook page or just click on the links below.

Wilkestock Day 1
Wilkestock Day 2
Wilkestock Day 3

If you’d like to find out more about my event photography just pop along to my main website.

Wilkestock: Official Website

Rock At The Castle

I had a great day photographing Rock At The Castle on Sunday. The event is one of the bookends of the Hertford Music Festival, this year marking the start of the three week festival with a line-up of bands that included The Ghost of Samantha, The Huxleys and Suburban Dirts.

Despite a worrying forecast of prolonged showers, the afternoon turned out to be mostly dry and sunny, with just a five minute flurry of rain.

As usual, I cast my lens around to capture the atmosphere both on stage and in the castle grounds. As a sponsor I was also able to take advantage of a backstage pass that allowed me to take shots from the back of the stage as well as in front.

You can either click on the images below to scroll through the gallery or view an on-page slideshow.

I have two more music events to photograph this year – Rockin’ The Car Park at The Farmer’s Boy in Brickendon and the fantastic Wilkestock, which this year is a three day event (after which I’ll probably need a few days off!).

To find out more about my event photography services just visit www.steve.beeston.co.uk/event-photography.asp.

Arabian Nights

Another theatrical assignment at Hertford Theatre! Last night I photographer the dress rehearsal of Arabian Nights, presented by the young wing of Hertford Dramatic & Operatic Society.

This is an annual presentation by the group, known as the Young Idea, and gives the performers valuable experience working on a professional theatre and in front of a paying public. The production is staged for four nights, plus a matinee on Saturday.

As well as photographing the production for HDOS I also provide prints and photo CDs for cast, crew and proud parents.

Black Comedy

Earlier in the week I photographed a production of Black Comedy, a farce by Peter Shaffer. The play centres on the events that take place in a flat during a power cut, and features a reverse lighting plot. This is to say that the stage is lit only when the action takes place in darkness. The play opens with a darkened stage and the first few minutes of action take place as if the lighting were normal. However, a few minutes into the show there is a short circuit, and the stage is illuminated to reveal the characters in a “blackout”. So, the first challenge for the photographer is the almost complete lack of stage lighting!

Luckily there is a moment where there’s virtually no movement and I was able to capture this shot, which is a 2 second exposure at F4.5 ISO800. You can actually see more in this shot than you could with the naked eye!

Thankfully, most of the rest of the production is well lit, the only other challenge being a raised upstairs bedroom area (seen at the top of the stairs in the picture above). I had to photograph these scenes from the top of the raked seating towards the back of the auditorium to get a good angle.

Otherwise, there were plenty of visual moments to capture as the characters groped their way around the stage.

If you like to find out more about the theatrical photography services I offer, please visit www.stevebeeston.co.uk.

Fawlty Towers

It’s been a busy month for theatrical photography. Earlier in the week I photographed three episodes of Fawlty Towers at Hertford Theatre. The three acts features The Hotel Inspector, The Germans and The Kipper and The Corpse.

Many productions have their own special challenges and this was no exception. The first and obvious challenge is that the action comes thick and fast. This is partly offset by the fact that the plotlines are well known, but the principal characters are quite animated, so there’s lots of movement (with the exception of The Major, Miss Tibbs and Miss Gatsby of course). So, relatively fast shutter speeds are the order of the day, and this means wide apertures and/or high ISOs. Given that the lighting was in general very good, I took a risk and chose ISO400 and shot in Aperture Priority. This typically gave me speeds of around 160th or 250th. I might have chosen ISO800 or even 1600 but I wanted to minimise noise, albeit at the risk of a few blurry photos!

The second challenge was the set. The action of Fawlty Towers takes place in a number of locations, including the lobby, dining room, bar and bedrooms. In this production, all of these locations were incorporated into a single set, using zones for each room.

Photo of the set for Fawlty Towers at Hertford Theatre

The centre of the stage represented the lobby, whilst the bar and dining room were set to the left and right, with view of the kitchen beyond the dining room. Cleverly, the bedrooms were quite literally on the first floor. All of this made for some interesting sightlines, not to mention giving the lighting technicians a few challenges.

I shot the bedroom scenes from the top of the raked seating at the back of the auditorium using a 55-200mm lens (APS crop-factor of 1.5 and a 35mm equivalent of 300mm). This gave me an adequate view of the staging, which is probably more than could be said for the audience in the front row.

Some of the bar and dining room scenes presented issues due to the restricted space and lighting at the very edge of the stage, but I was able to capture some perfectly good groupings nonetheless..

There was also a short scene set in the kitchen, where only the characters heads are visible. This again, was shot from halfway up the raked seating, allowing views over the top of the saloon doors. Unfortunately I didn’t get an ideal view as I should probably have been a little further up.

I find that setting the colour balance to tungsten often works well for stage lighting. The lighting angles during this scene created some quite strong shadows so I used Photoshop to raise the levels a little. The green cast represents the way the scene was lit.

If you like to find out more about the theatrical photography services I offer, please visit www.stevebeeston.co.uk.

The Killing Of Sister George

Yesterday evening I photographed a production of The Killing Of Sister George by Frank Marcus, presented by The Company Of Players at The Little Theatre in Bengeo.

Intimate theatres like this allow you to get much closer to the action, although fixed seating can present an obstacle and limit your angles. Luckily, The Little Theatre has removable seating, so there’s plently of flexibility. You can shoot from the back of the small auditorium or practically get on stage with the performers!

Theatrical Photography: The Producers

S7AAPXPS47UX Yesterday I photographed a production of The Producers, presented by Hertford Dramatic & Operatic Society. This was the final dress rehearsal before the opening night and despite the technical challenges, the cast and crew didn’t let the last minute hitches distract from what is clearly going to be an excellent show.

From a photographic point of view there were lots of excellent shots to be had, with lots of movement and physical comedy.

The show was well lit, which is always a help when there’s lots of movement, especially during the dance numbers.

There were also lots of opportunities for close-ups and facial expressions.

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