Photos from the dress rehearsal of, "The Great Society." The second interesting play about LBJ's legacy. We're three cameras deep in this one....

A photograph from Zach Theatre's, "The Great Society." 

As you might know I've spent quality time over the last 28 years documenting almost every single production Zach Theatre has done in that span. I've used at least 30 different cameras and hundreds of different lenses and I've enjoyed watching somewhere between 350-450 performances. I know a lot about theater, I just don't know what I like... Just kidding. I know exactly what I like.

I like plays that challenge my view of life, make me laugh, make me cry, etc. But most of all I like plays that are fun to shoot. That doesn't always mean comedies or musicals; it means any play that is well staged, beautifully lit, powerfully acted and, in some way accessible to me. Having literally photographed thousands of hours of material (both content on the stage and set-up advertising shots in the my studio, or a temporary studio at Zach Theatre; on the stages at Live Oak Theatre, The Paramount Theater, the State Theater, The Rollins Stage at the Long Center, and the rehearsal stage at the Austin Lyric Opera) I think I finally know a thing or two about how to photograph plays and operas, and just how my photographs will be used. The photographs I share here on my blog are not necessarily the ones I, or the marketing people from the theaters, think are the perfect ones to use for mass market communications, they are the ones I like from the shows --- for one reason or another. 

You would think that, over time, I would become a bit jaded and, more or less, just photograph productions on auto pilot by now but you would be wrong. This year I decided I needed to up my game a bit, mostly for my own enjoyment and for the challenge of making better works. A constant push for me and for my clients, and especially for the actors who commit so much time and energy to make their art work.

To this end I've started going to rehearsals and digging into the look and feel of the content while trying to better understand what the artistic directors are trying to do in their interpretations of the material. 

For "The Great Society" ( a drama about the second term of LBJ's presidency) I started my research by going to an early rehearsal and mostly watching the blocking while reading over the script. I came back a week later and we set up some lighting and used an a6300 to record three video interviews with key actors. About a week before the design rehearsal (the first rehearsal with full costumes and fully finished sets) I came by just to sit for a while and look at the set on the stage. It was also a nice chance to talk with the lighting designer for the play and try to understand the way she would use lighting to help drive the drama. 

I came to the design rehearsal which pretty much gave me the run of the house for photographs. This is where I got a lot of the closer, wider shots which I like very much. It was also the first time I was able to see a production run all the way through the script. It's great to know where the action builds and when there might be "reveals" that are important. This play is in three acts with two intermissions so there is a lot of action to remember and to prepare for. 

For the design rehearsal I brought along "the twins." The RX10ii and the RX10iii. Don't know why I did it that way but I liked it. A lot. I used the 2 for most of the close stuff and

Packing always drives me a little nuts. A new backpack always seems like the right thing to try. Here's my latest....

It's obvious to everyone now that you really don't want to check your cameras and lens in as luggage when you fly. The risk of damage and/or loss is just too great, and if you have a job waiting at the other end of the trip it'll make you crazy to arrive without the tools you need to get the work done. I have to confess something here; I am a very nervous flyer when it comes to work. I routinely get to our local airport at least two and a half hours before my scheduled flight. I have anxiety about getting the gear from the car to the Skycaps. If the lines are long I am indecisive about whether I should wait at the curbside check-in or take my chances with the agents inside the terminal. When traveling I am very much like James Thurber character (nervous to a fault) and, at 61, I've given up trying to make massive changes to my own travel psychology. 

Since that is the case I just concentrate on trying to control what I usually can. My upcoming trip to the Toronto area is a classic example. I'm videotaping interviews on location there, and also taking photographs. When we did our first in this series of videos we shot here in the Austin area I had the luxury of brining along everything I even remotely thought I might need. Or want. I had one case full of cameras and lenses. All the good stuff along with back-up cameras and lenses for every possibility. We could easily have done a nice, four camera shoot. I hauled along two big video tripods as well as a shoulder mount and a monopod. 

If we needed light stands in our interior locations we had five stout Manfrotto ten footers, with a couple of C-Stands riding along as contingency support. Lights?