Shooting At Extremes –Photographing Backstage
By Duane Cassone
I like to push the limits and photography is no exception. From dark sky star trails, to drag racing, to backstage at the ballet. I recently shot a ballet production, and although it was definitely a challenge it resulted in arresting rewards.
Here, I had the chance to capture special backstage moments as opposed to the typical shots as seen from the audience. I've always been keen on alternative points of view where special access is required to even have the chance at creating an image with a different point of view. Well, here it was!
I have fond memories of my grandmother taking me backstage during plays at a local theater. I remember the hustle and bustle as performers silently yet expeditiously prepared for their parts. There were the scene changes, coordination, the curtains, and of course – the lights. What a challenge the lights are to work with. Harsh, random, ever changing in-your-face-lights! Impossible to keep up with, the lights made exposure control a real challenge.
Matrix metering, with function buttons set to override to spot meter on demand, made amazing images possible in these extreme lighting conditions. The High ISO opportunities on my Nikon D800 gave low light with no flash a real viable chance to succeed. I shot with the Nikon 70-200mm 2.8, 50mm 1.4, 85mm 1.8, and (believe it or not) 300mm 2.8.
This was truly an exercise of equipment and skills and not nearly as possible without quality lenses, a good camera body, and some sense of how to execute these shots. I also realized the limits of the 4 frames /sec limit on the D800 and quickly envied those other bodies with up to 12 fps.
It’s interesting how the perspective from side stage is so different from the audience view. Performers are trained to engage the audience, and not the photographer on the sidelines. The dynamic is different and I had to think about capturing people moments, not show moments.
The largest take-away was how much I had to push my camera to its extreme to capture as many decent images as I did. Hmmm… perhaps it’s time I share my tricks with a course on Extreme Photography! Interested?
*For more images, visit https://www.facebook.com/CassonePhotography
**Duane is leading our upcoming Star Trails & Creative Night Photography workshop at Joshua Tree. Click here to check it out. He'll also be teaching a workshop on Creative Vintage Portraits, and you can read more about that by clicking here.