First XV: Angels In America Part 1: Millennium Approaches at Belvoir (2013)

[#12 in a series of my favourite images, from my first 15 years as a professional photographer.]

This image marks a new beginning in my career to date, as it's the first production photography I did in Australia after relocating to Sydney in December 2012; fortunately for me, it was also a really great production, both in terms of how it looked in the images, and how it played out on stage...!

Belvoir's production of Angels In America is one I've written about before, and one I'm always happy to have another look at; so it's not so surprising that this image is one of my favourites from that year. Really, the hard part was choosing just one moment from the show!

Luke Mullins as Prior Walter in Angels In America Part 1: Millennium Approaches at Belvoir (2013) (click the image to embiggen)

This was a bit of a difficult one to photograph, as it turned out - I was originally booked for the dress rehearsal, then cancelled about 2h before I was due to start; a couple of weeks passed, before I got a call to come in for a schools matinee, which of course meant I was going to be surrounded by an audience while working!

Because I have a sound blimp, it wasn't going to be too big a problem, at least in terms of noise; but, that limited my options in a number of ways.

Once the camera's in the blimp, I can't change any settings apart from zoom & focus - I can't even review the images on the back of the screen as I go - so I've got to trust the camera's metering and white balance to adapt for the lighting on stage (or trust my ability to edit the RAW files, without them falling apart), and trust that whatever shutter speed, I've chosen at the start of Act I will work until intermission.

Also, I've got to pick a single lens for the whole act - I can change at interval, but no sooner. I usually work with two cameras, so I can switch between wide angle and a longer zoom quickly, but in this case I'd be limited to using one of them when there was enough noise to cover the sound of the shutter.

I'd also recently got two new cameras - a pair of Canon 5D Mark III bodies - so this was their first real test! Looking back at the image files, I see what I did was put my long zoom (the 70-200mm) in the blimp, and just use my wider lens occasionally; and at interval, I switched the bodies over so that if there was some kind of undiscovered problem with one of them, I'd have one half of the show on each body to spread the risk that way.

All that aside - they were both completely reliable, and behaved perfectly in the blimp. Looking at the images, you'd never know there was an audience around me, or that I was compromised in any technical way. (Okay, normally I'd have moved around the theatre more - but other than THAT...)

And, four years later, I'm still really pleased with how these turned out - none more so than this particular image, though it was a tough decision to choose just one.

It's got a lot of things I like in a production image - clean, simple lines, leading to a single point of interest, a bit of mystery. If you know the show, you know what's happening - but if not, it makes you want to find out.

Next week, another year - 2014!