Theater Performance Lighting

Started 4 months ago | Discussions
OP Myer Senior Member • Posts: 2,906
Re: Theater Performance Lighting

BAK wrote:

Are you sure the flash unit bouncing off the ceiling is adding any light to the dancers?

I'm having trouble seeing additional illumination in addition to what I imagine the stage lights are like.

BAK

Sorry about confusing things.

The dance photos I posted did not need flash help.

A couple were taken last year when the dramatic lighting sneaked into the equation. However, for most, the lighting was reasonable. It was last year they suddenly started this one light highlighting and think they like it.

OP Myer Senior Member • Posts: 2,906
Re: Theater Performance Lighting

Thanks for the reply.

However, as I mentioned in another post, I don't do this for a living. I'm retired and use a flash almost never.

I shoot these dress rehearsals maybe 3-4 times a year as a favor and don't charge them.

So I'm not about to make a major investment in anything I won't use again until the following year.

My equipment was purchased to cater to what I do. I go on hiking trips so want my equipment relatively light (an f2 lens might be too heavy and expensive). Near home I shoot birds in flight, horse jumping, motocross, kite boarding, polo, etc.

Michael Fryd
Michael Fryd Forum Pro • Posts: 11,265
Re: A Sampling of What I've Done

Myer wrote:

...

Michael,

I think I'll use high speed sync at 1/320 to freeze the action. For $50 I'll pick up an external battery pack for my flash to shorten the recycle time and lengthen the time between battery changes.

Keep in mind that the external flash gives you faster recycle, however there's a limit to how many pops you can take in a short period of time.  Too many flashes too quickly and the flash can overheat.  Newer models notice this, warn you, and reduce the recycle time.  I seem to recall that some older flashes would just overheat and damage themselves.   The higher the power out, the fewer shots you can take before it overheats.

If you just taking a few bursts here and there, then this may not be an issue for you.

Since I'm using both flash units for ceiling bounce I don't have to be super careful about placement. What I have to be careful about is that the slave sensor can see the master flash and fire.

I may set the slave at 1/2 power to shorten the flash recycle and lengthen the time between battery changes. I'll do some testing at the beginning to see what ISO I need and whether I can reduce the slave power somewhat.

Thanks for your help.

Keep in mind that there are motion stopping issues when you exceed the max sync speed.

Suppose there was a lot of light, and you had your shutter speed at 1/8000.   That doesn't really freeze a dancer.   Once you exceed the sync speed, you have a moving slit across the frame.  It takes time (about the sync speed) for the slit to pass from one end of the frame to the other.  At 1/8000 of a second, no part of the sensor is exposed for more than 1/8000, but not all parts are exposed at the same 1/8000.

If a dancer is flying across the frame, there may be a 1/250 difference between when the top and bottom of the frame is exposed.  This can cause the dance to appear a little skewed.  In video, this is called a "rolling shutter".

If your dancers are not moving quickly, it may not be an issue for you.  But if your dancers aren't moving quickly, you may not need to exceed the max sync speed.

More than likely, this won't be an issue for you.  However, if your dancers look skewed, slanted, etc., then this might be the cause.  If that's the case, slow the shutter down to get out of high speed sync, and rely on the flash to stop the motion.

It turns out the flash is better at stopping motion at less than full power.  As you reduce the power of your hot shoe flash, it has a shorter flash duration, with a power curve that's better suited to stopping motion.

Again, good luck.   I suspect everything will work out fine for you.  I'm just letting you know of some issues in case you run into them.

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OP Myer Senior Member • Posts: 2,906
Re: A Sampling of What I've Done

Michael Fryd wrote:

Myer wrote:

...

Michael,

I think I'll use high speed sync at 1/320 to freeze the action. For $50 I'll pick up an external battery pack for my flash to shorten the recycle time and lengthen the time between battery changes.

Keep in mind that the external flash gives you faster recycle, however there's a limit to how many pops you can take in a short period of time. Too many flashes too quickly and the flash can overheat. Newer models notice this, warn you, and reduce the recycle time. I seem to recall that some older flashes would just overheat and damage themselves. The higher the power out, the fewer shots you can take before it overheats.

If you just taking a few bursts here and there, then this may not be an issue for you.

Since I'm using both flash units for ceiling bounce I don't have to be super careful about placement. What I have to be careful about is that the slave sensor can see the master flash and fire.

I may set the slave at 1/2 power to shorten the flash recycle and lengthen the time between battery changes. I'll do some testing at the beginning to see what ISO I need and whether I can reduce the slave power somewhat.

Thanks for your help.

Keep in mind that there are motion stopping issues when you exceed the max sync speed.

Suppose there was a lot of light, and you had your shutter speed at 1/8000. That doesn't really freeze a dancer. Once you exceed the sync speed, you have a moving slit across the frame. It takes time (about the sync speed) for the slit to pass from one end of the frame to the other. At 1/8000 of a second, no part of the sensor is exposed for more than 1/8000, but not all parts are exposed at the same 1/8000.

If a dancer is flying across the frame, there may be a 1/250 difference between when the top and bottom of the frame is exposed. This can cause the dance to appear a little skewed. In video, this is called a "rolling shutter".

If your dancers are not moving quickly, it may not be an issue for you. But if your dancers aren't moving quickly, you may not need to exceed the max sync speed.

More than likely, this won't be an issue for you. However, if your dancers look skewed, slanted, etc., then this might be the cause. If that's the case, slow the shutter down to get out of high speed sync, and rely on the flash to stop the motion.

It turns out the flash is better at stopping motion at less than full power. As you reduce the power of your hot shoe flash, it has a shorter flash duration, with a power curve that's better suited to stopping motion.

Again, good luck. I suspect everything will work out fine for you. I'm just letting you know of some issues in case you run into them.

I'll do some testing before I start.

My guess is that I'll most likely use 1/320 sec. If the setup looks slightly over exposed I'll either reduce the ISO a bit or speed up the shutter speed.

Thanks again.

(unknown member) Contributing Member • Posts: 873
Re: A Sampling of What I've Done
1

Myer wrote:

This is a sample of some of the shots I've taken. However, last year they went to the lighting I described above. So I would like to be prepared and assume they'll do this again.

These two examples have apertures of f9 and f13 respectively.  Good grief!  What sort of exposure are you using?  In theater, manual is your friend.  So are f2.8 and f4.  A used Tamron 28-75/2.8 isn't expensive or heavy.

I photograph a Jazz Company that loves to dance in the dark. I deal with it.

And I use lots of flash in studio. Big bag of speedlights.  Big bag of monolights. Even a big bag of tungsten fresnels.

But the stage is already lit.  A couple of speed lights are A. Dangerous to dancers and  B. of little use, power packs or no.

Nionyn Senior Member • Posts: 2,028
Re: A Sampling of What I've Done
1

Brooke Meyer wrote:

These two examples have apertures of f9 and f13 respectively. Good grief! What sort of exposure are you using? In theater, manual is your friend. So are f2.8 and f4. A used Tamron 28-75/2.8 isn't expensive or heavy.

Yes. ^This.^

I photograph a Jazz Company that loves to dance in the dark. I deal with it.

Again, yes.
Theatre lighting is not designed for photographers, nor should it be. That is not what it is for.
Photographers should photograph what is there in these circumstances, not light the performers for themselves (unless that is what they have specifically been asked to do by the company). It is not their "vision", it is that of the production's director, designer and lighting designer.

That's a fantastic photo! I absolutely love it.

And I use lots of flash in studio. Big bag of speedlights. Big bag of monolights. Even a big bag of tungsten fresnels.

But the stage is already lit. A couple of speed lights are A. Dangerous to dancers and B. of little use, power packs or no.

Never a truer word.

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Nionyn Senior Member • Posts: 2,028
Lovely photos!

Brooke Meyer wrote:

Here are examples for Ballet: Spring Nutcracker

Here are examples of a Ballet Professional Training Program

Here are examples for Jazz: Spring & Fall

I hadn't previously looked at the photos in those galleries. My bad.

You have many absolutely stunning photos there.

Thanks for the links, seriously.

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OP Myer Senior Member • Posts: 2,906
Re: A Sampling of What I've Done

The live effect they want and how they want the photos to look may be very different.

BAK Forum Pro • Posts: 24,646
Should we re-start this thread

I've completely lost track, and I know how to use flash.

Lurkers must be really confused.

But if we re-started and the photos illustrating a post were taken under the conditions described in the post, maybe thread-readers could follow along.

I have looked unsuccessfully for a dancer on stage lit by a flash bouncing off a ceiling, with the camera and flash set with shutter faster/shorter than sync speed, and with the flash actually contributing to the exposure. Does this picture exist?

SHOULD MYER START THE THREAD AGAIN?

BAK

OP Myer Senior Member • Posts: 2,906
Re: Should we re-start this thread

BAK wrote:

I've completely lost track, and I know how to use flash.

Lurkers must be really confused.

But if we re-started and the photos illustrating a post were taken under the conditions described in the post, maybe thread-readers could follow along.

I have looked unsuccessfully for a dancer on stage lit by a flash bouncing off a ceiling, with the camera and flash set with shutter faster/shorter than sync speed, and with the flash actually contributing to the exposure. Does this picture exist?

SHOULD MYER START THE THREAD AGAIN?

BAK

The photos of dance that I posted were taken prior to last year. Last year was when they changed their lighting style to a harsh, one highlight effect making it impossible to shoot decent photos.

The next dance show will be in a little over a month and I want to be prepared should they use the same style of lighting. I expect they will.

I did photograph two of their recent performances (Chicago and Annie) using bounce flash. I tried normal sync for one and High Speed Sync for the other. Each had pros and cons. I did not use a second flash to increase the power but we may recognize some of the pros and cons. I can explain what I found and why I will try doing what I decided upon.

There were a few dance numbers in them so over the next couple of days I'll post a few of each.

(unknown member) Contributing Member • Posts: 873
Re: A Sampling of What I've Done

Myer wrote:

The live effect they want and how they want the photos to look may be very different.

I've no idea what that means. In my case, I explain to non photographers all the time about what is and isn't feasible.

OP Myer Senior Member • Posts: 2,906
Re: A Sampling of What I've Done

I tried explaining the difference between dramatic lighting in motion and freezing it in a photo.

(unknown member) Contributing Member • Posts: 873
Re: A Sampling of What I've Done

Myer wrote:

I tried explaining the difference between dramatic lighting in motion and freezing it in a photo.

Ah! Like this?

(unknown member) Contributing Member • Posts: 873
Re: Should we re-start this thread

Myer wrote:

The photos of dance that I posted were taken prior to last year. Last year was when they changed their lighting style to a harsh, one highlight effect making it impossible to shoot decent photos.

Impossible?  Maybe not

OP Myer Senior Member • Posts: 2,906
Re: Should we re-start this thread

Brooke Meyer wrote:

Myer wrote:

The photos of dance that I posted were taken prior to last year. Last year was when they changed their lighting style to a harsh, one highlight effect making it impossible to shoot decent photos.

Impossible? Maybe not

I think we may have a difference of opinion as to what is decent and what isn't.

I might like the above in motion or as a video but not frozen as a photo.

OP Myer Senior Member • Posts: 2,906
Re: Should we re-start this thread - Inserted Photo

The above was taken with the 550EX flash at full power bounced off the ceiling.

It was the very end of the number and they had stopped moving.

1/250 sec was fine as they were still. ISO3200 was also ok. f5.6.

With motion I'm not sure I would be happy with the shutter speed. So I would have to use High Speed Sync to get to 1/320 sec. That would cut the power approximately in half. With 1 flash unit I'd probably have to move up to ISO6400. I could do that but I'd like to stay somewhat lower.

I'm ok with moving up to ISO4000 so what I'm planning on doing is using the on-board flash as a Master and adding another 550EX flash unit as a Slave.

These stage lights were pretty tame. But I expect the dance performance to be at least a little more dramatic. Even though the flash is coming from the ceiling I find the light distribution to be pleasant.

OP Myer Senior Member • Posts: 2,906
Re: A Sampling of What I've Done

Brooke Meyer wrote:

Myer wrote:

I tried explaining the difference between dramatic lighting in motion and freezing it in a photo.

Ah! Like this?

This is great live and might also be as a video but for me, not as a frozen photo.

Note all the light is concentrated on the top of the heads with a little on the female's front. The legs are almost too dark to make out.

In my opinion I'd like to see the above with a 30-40% bounce added. Enough to make the legs visible and to provide some separation from the background. Just my opinion and what I would like.

OP Myer Senior Member • Posts: 2,906
Re: A Sampling of What I've Done

You have f3.2 which I don't. You're shooting at ISO6400 which I could do but would rather not. And not using a flash you could just up the speed to 1/320 sec.

But for me, it's not only too dark but too much contrast between the top of the heads and the bottom half of the bodies.

I was at another show just watching the performance and they had a main highlight but also several lower power lights from the front and both sides as well as to light the background a little.

Maybe not the dramatic effect but made for much nicer photos I imagine.

Nionyn Senior Member • Posts: 2,028
Do you need to calibrate your monitor?
1

Myer wrote:

Brooke Meyer wrote:

Myer wrote:

I tried explaining the difference between dramatic lighting in motion and freezing it in a photo.

Ah! Like this?

This is great live and might also be as a video but for me, not as a frozen photo.

Note all the light is concentrated on the top of the heads with a little on the female's front. The legs are almost too dark to make out.

In my opinion I'd like to see the above with a 30-40% bounce added. Enough to make the legs visible and to provide some separation from the background. Just my opinion and what I would like.

This is getting ridiculous.
I 'm starting to find it difficult to tell if you are being serious or if you're taking the proverbial.

If you honestly see this photo as you describe it you desperately need to hardware-calibrate your monitor. If you don't you could be seeing pretty much anything here.

The legs and all other parts of the dancers are perfectly visible and well lit, with lovely definition of their limbs from the warm sidelight from Stage Left (our right) and slightly cooler sidelight from Stage Right (our left).
The dancers are perfectly well separated from the background by the blue top/backlight on them.
Are you honestly not seeing any of this?

Bounced fill flash would be not only totally unnecessary but would kill this photo.
It is lovely exactly as it is - and, what's more, it's a record of what actually was seen on stage.

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Nionyn Senior Member • Posts: 2,028
Re: Should we re-start this thread
1

Myer wrote:

Brooke Meyer wrote:

Myer wrote:

The photos of dance that I posted were taken prior to last year. Last year was when they changed their lighting style to a harsh, one highlight effect making it impossible to shoot decent photos.

Impossible? Maybe not

I think we may have a difference of opinion as to what is decent and what isn't.

Wow. I can't believe you just went there. That's totally out of order.

I might like the above in motion or as a video but not frozen as a

photo.

It's an accurate record of a performance.
That is what is important, not whether or not you like it as a photo.

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