This is my third and final year volunteering as a class photographer for the girls' yearbook. Next year, the yearbook is created by staff and older students. While the girls have loved having me take photos for their classes, there have been some challenges. One night I was editing photos and Rich glanced at one of some boys and asked what they were doing. "This is what I have to put up with," was my response. Pull out a camera and, for some reason, the boys decide that they need to be in a silly pose or splayed out on the floor.
Two years ago in March, the woman who currently runs the yearbook reached out to the class photographers because she needed photos of the fifth grade play. She had attended a rehearsal performance and attempted to take photos for the yearbook but photographing a stage show had been beyond her photographic ability. She was looking for someone who knew how to use their camera in manual. I was fairly confident that my skill set would allow me to take good photos but I just couldn't do it. Life was out of control at that point. I was about to give my notice at work, my team was down several people so a few of us were doing the work of many and I'd been recovering from the flu. I just could not add one my thing to my plate.
Fast forward to this year. The night before the full dress rehearsal performances for the other students, my phone starts blowing up. The mom who was going to attend and take photos couldn't because of a sick kid and they wanted to know if I could go. Aside from a minor anxiety attack over logistics, I felt good about it. I've never photographed a play or stage show (would love to be a rock show photographer, by the way) but I have taken photos of the girls during their dance recital dress rehearsals. I have some related experience. How hard could it be?
As a photographer, I feel it's important to challenge myself. If you're never challenged, how can you grow? I was looking forward to photographing something different.
I wasn't quite sure where I would be in relation to the stage so I packed up three of my lenses: 35mm, 50mm and 105mm. Because the stage was raised, sitting right in front of the stage wasn't ideal because I would have been shooting upward. I decided to stand along the front side where I wouldn't block anyone's view of the stage. I started off with my 50mm lens but it was actually too wide. That lens is super sharp so I knew if I needed to crop to remove dead space, it wouldn't take away from the photo. And I quickly realized that I would need to crop every single photo so I switched to my 105mm lens. Bingo. This one was the winner. When you use prime lenses, you have to zoom with your feet. Standing along the side wall of the theater allowed me to zoom out (with my feet) when I needed to fit more of the cast into the frame.
You know what? I nailed those photos. Right after, I went home, uploaded, edited two and text them to the yearbook chair. She loved them. I so wish I could share them here but, obviously, I cannot. I can share with you technically how I approached taking the photos though in case you ever find yourself wanting/needing to photograph a school play or other stage show, such as a dance recital.
Aperture: I like to shoot with an f stop of 3.5. My 105mm is a 2.8 lens while the Sigma lenses are 1.4. I didn't want to shoot too wide open though because not all the cast members would be on the same plane and I didn't want too much bokeh. In other words, I wanted more in focus than I would get if I shot with an f stop wider than 3.5. If these weren't yearbook photos and I just wanted photos of my kids, I could have shot wider.
ISO: I set my ISO to 1600 and left it there.
Shutter speed: I spot metered for the shutter speed. The stage lighting here was similar to that of the stage for the girls' dance recital. It's dark in the back part of the stage and much brighter in the front. There was also a spotlight on main characters at certain times. So this is where I became smarter than my camera. If I had followed the camera's meter, faces would have been blown out (in other words, far too much light.) I found I had to meter down two stops from what the camera was telling me. The shutter speed typically ranged from 1/80 to 1/200.
Again, due to privacy rules, I can't share photos but I can tell you I'm super proud of them.
Last month, for me, is always a tough one for photography. It's so dark and cold and I quickly lose motivation. I was also bummed out over some stupid photography things - real life stuff, not the internet. We all have our highs and lows. We just need to find a way to keep moving.