Sunday, October 21, 2012

Photo Feature: Kirk R. Tuck on Capturing Images of 'Ragtime' at the Zach Theatre

Kirk R. Tuck writes about photographing preview performances of Ragtime at the Zach Theatre (1800 images!), in his blog The Visual Science Lab, October 20:

I've spent two evenings at the theater this week. Both times I was watching RAGTIME in the new, Topfer Theatre building. It's a brand new 400 seat theater that's pretty much state of the art. Beautifully design, great bars, and a large percentage of the stage lighting is done with state of the art LED lighting fixtures. For those of you who've never seen RAGTIME it's a play set at the turn of the century in the United States and it deals with issues of racism, how Americans at the time dealt with immigration from nearly everywhere and, issues of personal morality and our responsibility to our fellow humans. The play is held together with eerily beautiful Ragtime music. Enough about content of the play, I want to write about shooting in the new space. It's going to be challenging and I'm still coping with all the changes but that's what makes this career so much fun. Just when I get everything figured out for shooting on a small and intimate space we get to change gears and shoot BIG.

Ragtime, Zach Theatre, Austin Texas
(image: Kirk R. Tuck)

Since RAGTIME is an enormous production we were tight on schedule. The costumes and scenery weren't quite finished for our usual dress rehearsal and marketing wanted to ramp up attendance quickly. Both nights I attended there was an audience in the house which meant that I didn't the usual leisure of moving around to get the best angles and elevations. It also meant that I couldn't work in close to the stage as I have for years at the other two theaters.

Ragtime Zach Theatre Austin Texas Kirk R. Tuck
(image: Kirk R. Tuck)

I went the first night without a camera in order to concentrate on the run of the play. It was like scouting. I wanted to see where the lighting cues came in. What the action and choreography looked like. How the stage was blocked out. I did discover two interesting things that would affect my photography. One is that most of the stage lighting was set as approximately a 3700k color temperature but the follow spots were set up as daylight fixtures. This meant that there would be a color split depending on which light sources had dominance. I would have to set two different color balances and then be able to "see" the changes and to toggle between the two color settings.

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