Sunday, April 10, 2011

A very strange affair


No, wait, I can explain.

Some very good friends of mine have – for years – been working with an organization called the Bakerloo Theatre Project. Based in upstate New York, Bakerloo has strong ties (not to mention many members) here in Pittsburgh. This weekend they threw a fundraising event, and I was volunteered to take photos.

Now, I’m not a big fan of Event Photography. There is nothing wrong with it, mind you; but given the choice it’s not my favorite kind of pictures to take. So; a few discussions later it was decided that I could set up a little gear in a corner and have a place where guests could come and have their portraits taken. And, being the technocrat that I am – I even shot tethered to my laptop, which was connected to a photo printer; so guests could take home a little 4” by 6” of their picture.

When I arrived at the venue, they had a little nook set up for me with a makeshift painted background. I put together a very simple setup: just one AB1600 with a Wescott 25” softbox (note: I would have preferred to use the 55” for the inevitable group shots, but there just wasn’t the room). I was also pleasantly surprised to see a giant box was on the floor filled with hats, wigs, masks, and the various detritus that gets inevitably collected by any theatre company. Oh, and there was going to be an open bar; so, you can pretty much figure out the rest.
I have to admit, I was a little nervous about shooting this thing. I’ve mentioned this before;  a good half of photography is strictly technical. You know, your f speeds and your shutter ISOs. All well and good. But the other half – and equally important – is making a connection with the people your directing all that gear towards. They’re the ones in crosshairs; and if you can’t manage the personal (or perhaps it’s interpersonal) part… well, then your probably doomed.
I’m lucky in that I get to shoot my friends  - a lot. And when I’m doing that probably the last thing I’m thinking about is how they are handling all my ridiculous nonsense. But out in the world; well, I just never know how the “normals” are going to react. Example: like at a wedding, no one wants to be the first on the dance floor. Same thing here. The first 45 minutes of the event was all thumb-twiddling; until my friends Robin & Colin let me take their picture. That let everyone know that the camera doesn’t, in fact, steal souls; and that it was ok to come on over. After that (and no doubt also to the open bar) the rest of the evening was all uninterrupted workface.
Shot and got to meet a lot of different people. And they were a fun group (which isn’t surprising considering they were mostly theatre folks). People had a blast going through the box of props, and being silly in front of the camera. For the bulk of the evening I stuck with my basic setup – but for the last hour or so I decided to change things up a little. Loose the softbox and the funny hats; switch to B&W and grid-spots. Everyone was super kind and patient, and overlooked a lot of my mistakes. By the time I broke my gear down, had almost 60 portraits. And a fun night.



Yes Virginia, there is a Ms. Batman.




The Bakerloo family.
End of line.

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