Category Archives: Stage Photography

Wilkestock 2011

I spent last weekend covering Wilkestock, a two-day boutique festival that takes place deep in the Hertfordshire countryside. The event features a main stage with live music, a dance tent, chill-out teepees, the Wilkestock Lodge bar area and a campsite.

Having attended the festival last least I was pretty clear about what I wanted to achieve in covering the event and the challenges. It’s about capturing the performances, the audience and the setting, both on and around the stage as well as the wider environment.

Weatherwise the festival was gifted with warm sunny weather and with a southwesterly facing stage, lighting during the day was not going to be a problem. The layout of the stage area also makes it easy to get near the front, so a 55-200mm zoom lens was perfectly adequate.

Having once been a drummer in a couple of bands I always try and get a few shots of the man (or woman) at the back. Whilst angles can always be a bit tricky here but I was happy with what was able to achieve.

The audience at Wilkestock is predominantly young and more than happy to demonstarte how much of a good time they’re having. I frequently had people coming up to me asking if I would take their photos.

As daylight fell the lighting conditions on stage changed of course, as daylight was replaced by stage lighting. The strong colours can sometimes be hard to catch and it’s best at this point to disable AWB (Auto White Balance) and choose a suitable setting. I find that either tungsten or cloudy setting works just fine.

As well as shots close to the stage I also got some very good pictures further back, showing the audience and wider stage environment.

For many of the evening shots I used a fast f1.8 lens, although this is only suitable for front-on shots. Given the narrow depth of field at the wider aperture it’s not suitable for shots from the side of the stage unless you can closely crop the image, which of course depends on the suitability of the composition.

I took over 1500 images at Wilkestock and posted over 200 on my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/stevebeestonphotography. There are two galleries – Gallery 1 and Gallery 2.

Rockin’ The Car Park

The Farmer’s Boy in Brickendon staged a charity festival in their car park at the weekend. This was the third year that the public house have held the event, which features local bands, real ale and a hog roast.

The bands perform on the trailer of an articulated lorry, kitted out with rudimentary lighting, amps and monitors. Whilst the set-up allows for some good angles the lighting can be a bit tricky, especially towards the end of the day.

Another downside of the staging is that the backdrop can be quite ugly. No amount of bokeh is going to hide an unpleasant background so close behind a performer. However, this isn’t a problem with closely cropped shots such as the one below.

Opportunities to capture a whole band are also limited by the angles and staging, given the low height of the trailer.

Despite the limitations there are opportunities for plenty of good shots at such events, not to mention the great music.

Rockin’ The Car Park is held in aid of the NSCPP.

If you’d like to know more about the event photography services I offer, please visit www.stevebeeston.co.uk//event-photography.asp.

Hertford Music Festival

As a sponsor of Hertford Music Festival, I am providing photographic services for the five week event, covering the opening Musical Mystery Tour, through other performances up to the highlight of the festival, Rock At The Castle in August.

The Musical Mystery Tour sees over a hundred musicians performing at various venues around the town centre, with the centre of activity outside The White Hart in Salisbury Square.

Continue reading Hertford Music Festival

Tomb With A View

My second job at Hertford Theatre this month, photographing Hertford Dramatic & Operatic Society‘s production of Tomb With a View by Norman Robbins.

The action takes place in the library of the family home, the gothic Monument House, represented by a box set.

The first and last acts are set during the evening, with the lighting reflecting the colour temperature and characteristics of artificial light. The second act is set during the day, and is both brighter and cooler.

There’s plenty in this production to keep the photographer busy, with eccentric characters and costumes and plenty of drama.

Godfrey Marriott as Marcus Tomb and Keith Morbey as family solicitor Hamilton Penworthy
Davina Foster plays Freda Mountjoy
Jim Markey as Perry, listens in on a conversation between family solicitor Hamilton Penworthy and nurse Anne Franklin
The late Septimus Tomb’s will is not to everyone’s liking

Continue reading Tomb With A View

Theatrical Lighting

Theatrical lighting can present the photographer with huge challenges. A dramatic lighting plot can typically feature strong colours and highly contrasting areas of localised light. Sometimes the action will take place in areas of subdued lighting or feature highly animated characters. All of these conspire against the camera’s metering system to the point where the photographer has to make decisions that are outside the cameras designed remit.

Camera metering systems are designed to deal with “average” scenes. These are typically situations where the average of colour and light amount to a mid grey. The job of a lighting designer on the other hand is to produce a spectacle that is far from average. The human eye has an enormous capacity to deal with differing levels of light and white balance within a scene, much more than most cameras. The challenge to the photographer is to make decisions about exposure and white balance that best reflects what the eye sees on the stage.

Faced with this challenge, the theatrical photographer has a couple of options. The first is to allow the camera to make decisions about exposure and white balance. This can work in some situations, but not others. The alternative is to take control and override the camera’s automatic settings and choose the aperture and shutter speed yourself.

Allowing the camera to make all the decisions can work in some circumstances where lighting is less dramatic. However, if you’re faced with bright and dark areas on the stage you may need to change metering modes.

Continue reading Theatrical Lighting

Carousel

Ware Operatic Society stage a major production every year at the Hertford Theatre. This year’s presentation is Rogers & Hammerstein’s Carousel, directed by John Hedben.

The society’s productions are always of a high calibre, with excellent performances from talented singers, as well as colourful sets and lighting – a gift to the theatrical photographer!

Fiona Wilkie and Craig Berry as Julie Jordan and Billy Bigelow
Mick Wilson and Izzy Bates as Jigger and Carrie
David Ronco plays God
Katy Bovaird and supporting cast

Continue reading Carousel

Yes, Prime Minister

I was at the Gielgud Theatre in London’s West End on Friday, taking photos of Yes, Prime Minister. The show is an updated script by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, based on the popular TV comedy.

This was a dress rehearsal for the understudies, who have to be able to go on at any time and therefore have to be fully up to speed with their performances

I was lucky enough to have the run of the entire auditorium, including the stalls, circle and boxes, which gave me a wide range of angles to shoot from. However, I always prefer to shoot from the front of the stalls as this gives the best angle for facial expressions and body language.

As it wasn’t a technical rehearsal I was also able to shoot with the stage fully lit in a photographer-friendly configuration.

Shooting in a West End theatre is little different from any other theatre, apart from the splendid surroundings and the more acute angles offered by the circle.

Yes, Prime Minister is playing at The Gieldgud Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, until 15th January 2011. The show then goes on a national tour until June.

Festival Roundup

During the Summer I attended a number of local music festivals, including The Westmill Farm Festival, Bramfield Music and Beer Festival and Wilkestock.

I love photographing festivals. When you’re right up at the front the music completely surrounds you and the energy levels are fantastic. It’s great to be able to capture some of that atmosphere and the energy of the musicians.

The Bodells' Credence Pym

As well as the performers I also like to focus on the audience. There are some great shots to be had of people enjoying themselves. If they know you’re taking photos of them they will often be keen to let you know just how much fun they’re having!

Most local festivals feature a couple of stages so there is rarely any let-up in the workload. No sooner has one band finished their set on one stage than another starts on the second stage. Often, the smaller stage will feature solo or acoustic acts, who fill in between the main bands.

Christina Novelli

The long Summer days also ensure that there is plenty of light well into the evening, although as the sun sets, the limitations of the lighting rig can present it’s challenges. This was not an issue at Wilkestock where organisers invested in a highly sophisticated lighting operation.

Luckily the weather was good at for all the festivals, with only The Westmill Farm Festival suffering a couple of torrential downpours, although they were shortlived. The showers however were a gift to the beer tent, where demand increased dramatically.

 

The Bramfield Music and Beer Festival takes place annually on Bramfield Village Green and is organised by The Grandison.

Westmill Farm Festival takes place over two days at Westmill Farm just north of Ware.

Wilkestock is organised by Tom and Ollie Wilkes and takes place in their back garden at Old Hall, just south of Stevenage.

The Herbal Bed

This photo shows Gavin Palmer as Barnabus Goche in The Company Of Players production of The Herbal Bed by Peter Whelan, performed at The Company’s own Little Theatre.

The production was directed by Jan Palmer Sayer and performed in the round. This is always a challenge for the photographer as seating and other parts of the auditorium can show up in the background.

Gavin Palmer Barnabus Goche