Thing with feathers

This past week I went and photographed the rehearsal of Thing with Feathers at the ADC Theatre here in Cambridge. It is a physical theatre piece with lots of different things going on at the same time on stage. Very entertaining to watch. I particularly liked the airplane that was created out of the bed at the end, also the air acrobatics was very impressive. They must have spent a lot of time planning the visual design.

As I wrote in an earlier post I have recently switched to full manual mode on my camera, which is good for consistency because you know what you get, as long as the light stays the same. This evening they were rehearsing while testing the lights, which meant that the light levels changed drastically between scenes, and strong spot lights were turned on and off at random times. I was sticking with manual mode, frantically turning the ISO dial as the scene suddenly got flooded with light to make sure I had a good exposure. Towards the end I decided to switch back to auto-iso, with a bit of negative exposure compensation, and it was such a relief not having to worry about that bit. I guess there is a time and place for full-manual, and other times when it is good to rely in part on your camera’s automatic settings to let you instead focus on other things.

In retrospect, it would have been good to arrive a bit earlier to have a quick chat with the cast. There were plenty of outages, when they were checking something technical and the cast was waiting to continue. I would have liked to have had a bit more rapport with the cast during those moments, although I did manage to get some good shots, there were plenty of opportunities where they were goofing off partly out of view, hiding from the camera.

I had two lenses with me, and switched to the 50 mm towards the end. Given that I was somewhat restricted in my movements, a zoom lens would have allowed me to quickly switch between photographing the entire stage, or capturing a closeup of a sudden laugh. Getting a good 24-70 f2.8 lens that could handle low light conditions costs a small fortune, so for now I make do with my prime lenses. Time went really fast, and before I knew it two hours had passed and the cast needed to hand off the stage to another group.

Air acrobatics
Joanna Vymeris performing air acrobatics. To me that position looks almost impossible. Adjusting the light was a bit of a balance in this shot, because the black tights almost disappeared against the dark background.
Josie Wastell during one of the outages. I shot this in portrait, but felt it was too tightly cropped, so the white sheet you see extending to the right has been elongated in post production, and a lot of black space was added to the top right.
Red silk
This is my favourite shot from the evening. I like the clean design with the red silk dominating and leading the viewer down to the dead man. The pillow on the side is a nice touch. To me it feels very much like a theatre poster, with a bit of mystery.
Lottie Franklin and Olivia Stamp after finishing the well choreographed puppet-master-like flying scene. Here I removed the distracting lamps and wires that were hanging from the roof and the red and blue spotlights at the bottom. I then added a bit of vignetting.

Finally a note on post-processing. Some of the photos I took had distracting cords and light bulbs showing in the frame. To get rid of those I used content-aware fill. You just select the content-aware brush and paint over the region that you want replaced. Photoshop then looks at the rest of the photo and tries to find bits that fit with the surrounding areas of the deleted region. Magic! I also removed the red and blue lamps at the bottom of the frame in the same way. Click the image to see it in full size. Another problem was the lamp on the bedside table that was interfering with the shape of the arm. Here the content-aware  brush failed, creating a gradient from skin colour to purple. Instead I had to resort to the clone stamp, which resulted in a sharp edge between the arm and the background. This was then retouched with the content aware fill brush. For the gold ribbon I used a hard brush to carefully whittle down the bright edge that resulted after the initial clone stamping over the lamp stand. The final edited image is at the bottom of the picture.

An example of what I do in post processing, you can see the elements that I found distracting and see how I removed them. I had to re-edit this image to do the how-to screenshots in case you were wondering why there are differences between this photo and the “final” photo shown above and on facebook. I was considering removing the bedside table also, but let it remain.

For those eager to see the play, the last chance is tonight! Check the ADC Theatre webpage.

 /Johannes

Reviews: Varsity (3/5), The Cambridge Student (7/10), The Tab

Cast

Hannah Calascione, Lottie Franklin, Hazel Lawrence, Selena Lv, Freya Mead, Shikha Pahari, Rosie Skan, Tara Thean, Alex Thompson, Joanna Vymeris, Josie Wastell, James White, Olivia Stamp

Production Team
Producer – Tony Dent
Stage Manager – Matteo Mirolo
Deputy Stage Manager – Jess Baker
Assistant Stage Manager – Thea Dunne
Lighting Designer – Jon French
Set Design Assistant – Zach Brubert
Costume Assistant – Danni White
Director and Designer – Connie Harper
Costume Assistant – Georgia Kandunias
Co-Technical Director – Sam Payne, Lydia Clark
Devising Contributor – Tris Hobson
Production Photographer – Johannes Hjorth

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