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The Emperor’s New Clothes

I was asked to go in to the local community-theater where I often shoot and do some stuff for an upcoming show. The show is “The Emperor’s New Clothes”; a modern musical adaptation of the classic Hans Christian Anderson tale.

This is still 2-weeks before the show and I usually bring my own lights to early shoots like this. This was a good thing this time too because we weren’t even on the stage, but in an upstairs practice room with really lousy light. There was no set either, but they did manage to scrape together a few props and there were racks of miscellaneous costumes that the actors were trying out. What they did have were a couple of plain white panels (so I didn’t need to shoot the room’s doors and exit-signs in the background) and there was also a blackout curtain hanging in a corner that we could stage some stuff in front of. The objective here was to get a few things that could be used for early web-site, FB  and newspaper publicity for the show. Under these conditions the pictures really need to be tight shots of 2 or 3 actors with a minimum of background – because there isn’t any.

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Here are a couple of the actors staged in front of the blackout curtain. There were two Canon 580EX lights into reflecting umbrellas about 45-degrees left and right. The flash were fired with Cactus-V4 RF-triggers. When I shoot flash like this I almost always set both flash units and camera for full manual  mode. My default (used here) is to set the flash for ½-power. This produces a lot of light, overpowers most ambient light and lets me use lower ISO and a smaller aperture for better noise and DoF. I use ½ rather than full power however because the recycle time is significantly faster and I need the flash units to be able to keep up with me. With the light fixed, I shoot a few test shots to determine the best camera setting. The shutter speed doesn’t matter a whole lot with flash of course, so it is really just a matter of deciding what ISO and aperture I want. Since the light is fixed, nothing much needs to change after you have found the exposure sweet spot and if you do want to make a fine tuning adjustment, it is easy to do this with the camera settings rather than the light.

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Here is another sample in front of one of those blank white panels. They plan to print this as a 6-foot poster and use this as an on-stage prop as a full-sized “campaign poster”. The floor was black and looked pretty bad with his black shoes until I found an old cream-colored rug in a corner and had the actor stand on that instead.

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Here is a headshot for one of the actors. This guy had a very red, splotchy face, I suspect that it was rosacea. I did a lot of “cleanup” in post processing.

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This one is  of the other two  actors in the show, and unfortunately one of the doors in the room, but I like the way the reflection turned out.

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