Tag Archives: high school play

Battling the Stage Lights Once Again

Uneven lighting . . . ugh!

When I got an e-mail from my “twin” sistah Joyce that our high school would be presenting its excellent one-act play, “Fire in the Hole,” for everyone’s viewing pleasure, I knew I needed to attend. Especially when she said that cameras were welcome.

Normally, the play is performed during competition when no cameras or camcorders are allowed. This was a great chance to see these talented actors and actresses in action. And to do battle with the challenge of uneven lighting that our school’s auditorium loves to feature.

I had just moaned and groaned about those sometimes-blinding bulbs last week when my #1 son walked across that stage to receive a math award. And I went on and on about them in this post when many of these same kids acted in our fall school play.

As you can see from the first photo, I had to compensate for uneven lighting. Justin, on the right, is overexposed, while Grace, David (lying on the table), and Daniel (Joyce’s son) are well lit.

The lighting is better for David, ghostly Nora in the doorway, Grace, and Justin.

Overall, the stage wasn’t very dark. I had the ISO on my Nikon D700 set at 1000–1600 (of course, I used my beloved low-light champ, the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 lens). My exposure-compensation to tone down the keylights mostly was at –.7.

Daniel, Justin, and Alec look good on a different part of the stage.

When I reviewed photos on my LCD during the play and saw that some parts of the stage were too overexposed (too light), I pulled out one key photographic strategy: Avoidance! The problem area mainly was in the middle of the stage; that’s why I have few photos of the action there. I figured I would get decent pics on the left and right sides, and that’s what happened.

Brian thinks about what Daniel is asking him to do.

“Fire in the Hole,” set around a Kentucky coal mine, is one of nine one-act plays from Robert Schenkkan Jr.’s “The Kentucky Cycle.” A union organizer (Justin) encourages Mary Anne Rowen’s family  (Grace, Daniel, and David) and fellow miners into striking against the Blue Star Mining Company.

Daniel, David, and Grace discuss while Brian waits.

The school play became especially poignant with the recent West Virginia coal mining disaster when 29 miners were killed.

An angry Daniel confronts Grace, while David looks on.

Coal mining is a way of life in West Virginia, just like it was in the play. I couldn’t help but think about those miners (dead and alive) and their families, as I watched our students’ amazing performance (they almost made it to the state competition).

Much of the cast gather for one of the final scenes.

Battling those brilliant bulbs seemed so insignificant.

Looking Back at 2009, Part II

Snack time! (July 14th blog post from Seattle)

Happy one-year blogiversary! It’s hard to type while there are streamers and confetti flying all over my home office, but I’ll try my best!

Today I’m continuing to look back at my 2009 blog entries. Yesterday’s post took care of the first six months. Now let’s check out some of my favorite posts and pix from July through December.


"Palm trees" swaying in the air

I had fun taking photos on the fourth of July in our community: Fabulous Photo Fourth!

Purple hydrangeas on Bainbridge Island

Flower power was in full bloom while we vacationed in Seattle: Flower Fix.


The happy #2 son during a good round.

My #2 son competed in the disc golf world championships in Kansas City: Lessons Learned at the Disc Golf World Championships.

The #2 son and his good friend Marcus talk.

The Mister and I actually managed to embarrass our 14-year-old #2 son: Partying With the Dinosaurs—A Night at the Museum.


"You looking at me?"

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed shooting with my beloved Nikon 70-200mm lens until I used it at a disc golf tournament: Visiting With an Old Friend.

Who can resist #1’s baby blues?

A somewhat-heavy envelope addressed to my #1 son left me feeling suddenly blindsided and teary-eyed: A Large Envelope Makes Me Sad.

Our team celebrates a good block.

I shot a lot of high school sports photography this month, from cross-country (documenting my #2 son) to volleyball to football. The toughest to shoot? Volleyball! Photo Friday: Meeting the High ISO Challenge.


Christin, Cameron, and Grace take their bows at the end of the play.

Readers’ eyes probably were rolling, as I discussed using exposure compensation when shooting a high school play: The Non-Delightful Light Battle; Warning: Eyes May Glaze Over (what a long title!).

The #2 son shows off his team and seventh-place medals.

The #2 son’s high school cross-country team won its first freshman title: We Are the Champions, My Friend!


Victor tries to outjump the defender for a potential winning touchdown pass.

My sons’ high school football team almost won its first game amid the distractions of Homecoming: The Many Facets of a High School Homecoming Football Game (yet another long title!).

There's my boy!

This was the first of a three-day series about giving thanks. Here I was very thankful that my #1 son has a part-time job at the public library: Giving Thanks, Part 1.


Snow in my backyard.

Holy cow! It snowed here in the Houston area; that’s a rare occurrence (it was only the third time my sons had seen the white stuff): Let It Snow . . . For Real!

Both sons smile at the halfway point of Chanukah.

Chanukah lasts eight nights, and I was able to squeeze five blog posts out of the holiday! This one was the second of those five: At the Halfway Mark.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this sentimental journey as much as I have. I really had fun blogging in 2009, and I’m looking forward to even more random snippets and apertures in 2010!

The Non-Delightful Light Battle; Warning: Eyes May Glaze Over


Back in May I wrote about my trials and tribulations with shooting our high school’s dance show in the school’s auditorium. Saturday night found me back in that same location trying to take decent photos of our high school’s play, “Laughing Stock.”

The #1 son and my “third” son Chase wanted to see the play (#1 was determined not to laugh during it), and I decided to tag along (because really what high school senior doesn’t want his mom hanging around with him?). I knew several of the actors, which meant I knew that their moms would like good photos that are impossible to take with a point and shoot.


I tried my best to sit as far away from other people in the audience, because, well, my camera’s shutter is very loud. Especially in a quiet auditorium. Plus I knew I would need to chimp (e.g., check my LCD) periodically to make sure my settings were correct. Those lighted cell phone screens that are annoying in the dark? Well, my LCD monitor looks like a torch in comparison!

I remembered from taking pix of the dance show that the lighting is funky on stage. That’s where exposure compensation comes into play. Exposure compensation (the +/- button) lets you add or subtract light without changing your aperture; it allows you to adjust for the bright lights that are on stage, as well as backlighting outdoors.

Eyes glazing over? Sorry!

I was using my Nikon D700 (which does a wonderful job with high ISOs with Noise Ninja’s help, of course) and beloved Nikon f/1.4 85mm lens to let in as much light as possible (no flash photography necessary). My ISOs ran from 1000 to 2500 when it was pretty dark. At first I tried a mild exposure compensation of –.33 but quickly went to –.7 and –1 to try to darken the effect of the overwhelming overhead stage lights.

Too much light despite an exposure compensation of -1.33.

Too much light despite an exposure compensation of –1.33.

An exposure compensation of –1.33 worked pretty well, but as you can see above, sometimes the photo still was blown out. In this case I quickly chimped and reset the e-c to –1.67.

Alec at -1.67

Alec at –1.67

Wow, what a difference!

The cast works on a scene from "Charley's Aunt."

The cast works on a scene from "Charley's Aunt."

Once I finally got the e-c set to either –1.33 or –1.67, the photos looked pretty good, and I could just snap away.

Christin is somewhere within the smoke.

Christin is somewhere within the smoke.

The negative exposure compensation even worked well when there was smoke on stage.

Trey "kills" Dracul (Cameron) in a coffin as Jonathan (left) and Alec watch.

Trey "kills" Dracul (Cameron) in a coffin as Jonathan (left) and Alec watch.

Photoshop did play a role in getting the best quality out of these photos. Sometimes I had to add more light, while other times I had to darken a little using Levels. Photoshop wins the award for best supporting actor!

Brian is silhouetted by the actors taking their "Hamlet" bows behind him.

Brian is silhouetted by the actors taking their "Hamlet" bows behind him.

“Laughing Stock” is a comedic play about actors who rehearse/perform three summer stock plays (“Dracul,” “Charley’s Aunt,” and “Hamlet”) in a barn in New Hampshire. During the play, the cast performed “Hamlet” in the background behind a mesh screen. It made for interesting photos!

Christin, Cameron, and Grace take their bows at the end of the play.

Christin, Cameron, and Grace take their bows at the end of the play.

All of the actors were extremely talented and put on a very funny performance.

The cast applauds the audience.

The cast applauds the audience.

I’m sure I would’ve really enjoyed the play . . . if I hadn’t been busy compensating for my photographic exposure!