Whatchoo Been Up To?

It's been too long since I posted here. Where to start?

It seems like I hardly put my camera down this summer, and that the summer was over in a flash. Since my last post I've worked with tons of theatres around Seattle, started shooting with fun new clients like The Seattle Symphony, picked up a few new bits for my kit, taken ten steps forward on the business side, shot a beautiful wedding, and (best of all) Wren and I traveled around the northwest and moved in together. So, I guess I do have something to show for summer 2015. 

Probably the easiest way to hit some highlights is to break this up into sections, so first let's try...


Photo courtesy of Wren Bentley

Let start with Jesus Christ Superstar for Seattle Musical Theatre. I did two shoots for this production: pre-production publicity shots and production photos. It's always fun to do a pre-production shoot because the photographer can bring more creativity to bear. For production photos, the challenge is to be ready to capture a show and think on your feet. For pre-production the challenge is to work with the client to come up with a concept, and then to make that show in the photos. With more control of the lighting and location, you have the opportunity to shape the image and tell a story. This July we used the bare stage of Seattle Musical Theatre's venue in Magnusen Park, and two of my lights to create a fun, rock-show look.  I also had the chance to break out some craft skills, and make my own crown of thornes for the actor to wear. 

Jesus Christ Superstar, Seattle Musical Theatre

Once the show was on its feet in September, I got to see the final vision and try to capture that as well. It was a very fun production to shoot, with really interesting lighting effects and use of haze. The haze and directional light made for really striking images as well as a challenge for me to stay on top of. I enjoyed the show, which is still playing until October 4. More information on the show HERE.

Orpheus Descending, Intiman Theatre

Bootycandy, Intiman Theatre 

Over the end of summer I also worked with Renton Civic Theatre on The Addams Family, and three times with Intiman Theatre Festival. First on Orpheus Descending for production photos, then to capture the fun of the John Baxter is a Switch Hitter Opening Night party, and most recently again shooting production photos for Bootycandy. I'd really recommend Bootycandy, which made me laugh out loud and is still playing until October 3. More info HERE.

All this time I've been continuing to shoot video (instead of photographs) with The 5th Avenue Theatre. Aside from being my day job, The 5th has been cranking out amazing work, and I was busy for more than a month shooting interviews with many of the special artists who were in town working on brand-new musicals during NextFest. Aside from that, I've been tracking the journey of the Von Trapp children through the child audition process. Those kids work hard, and the competition was a lot scarier than when I used to go out for roles in college. Both sets of footage will be fun to sort through and will present a new challenge when it comes to editing.


So, accidents happen. On my very last day shooting video for The 5th's NextFest, I was packing up my lights and someone kindly asked if they could help me take my things back upstairs. I said they could carry my bag for me, not thinking they would pick it up until I was packed. They went for the bag, which was unzipped, and my camera fell from the open side, crashing to the ground. Luckily it didn't fall far and when it hit, it fell squarely on the lens, which was my trusty little 50mm prime. My "Nifty Fifty" bit it. It shattered on impact. But due to it's sacrifice, the camera escaped unscathed. Luckily, even though I use this lens all the time, it's still the cheapest in my bag. It was a good chance to upgrade to the newest model of the f1.8 50mm, which is working like a charm. 


The happy couple, and bubbles!

I shot another wedding! I've been working with Bridget for more than three years, and for a good chunk of that time she was my boss. It was my pleasure to be her photographer for the occasion, and it was double the fun because it was spread over two shoots. In August we went to Scenic Beach State Park, where we took a variety of couple photos. It was a chance to do a dry-run for the wedding, and to get some more casual shots of the couple together. Plus: Bubbles. 

Then two weeks ago in September, the wedding day came. It was a long day of work, but Wren came out as both my date and second-shooter. Between the two of us we managed to be everywhere and were hopefully a help to all the friends and family putting the event together.


And finally, just for fun Wren and I planned a trip out the San Juan Island. Like I said, the end of summer has flown by, so this was our chance to slow down and soak a little more up. We'd never been there before, so we took the cameras with us and used it as a chance to see as much nature as we could. The highlight was taking a whale tour, where we suited up and went out for an afternoon on a Zodiak. The pilot was in contact with all the other tours in the area, so he new exactly where to find the Orca pods. He zoomed us around to see groups of Harbor Seals, J-Pod (the local family of Orcas, and even a Humpback Whale. We'd rented telephoto lenses, which really helped us get a good view. Especially since the tours don't go within 200 yards of the whales, which keeps them from being crowded or scared by tourists.

Keep a look out for a sister blog that's coming soon. Wren's a great designer and creative eye, so she'll be taking off on her own set of adventures. She'll still appear here regularly as we take images together, but she'll have lots of fun projects that go beyond photography, along with thoughts about creativity that she'll expand on in her own website. More on that to come. 

Shooting Together (For Business and Pleasure)

Unfortunately due to a heavy workload, I haven’t had time to finish Spider-Ken. That will have to be the subject of a future post. However, here’s something I've been meaning to post about for a while.

For most of the adventures I've posted about in this blog, I've had a silent partner. During each shoot that I've done purely for fun this month, I've had Wren Bentley with me. This has been great for two reasons. First, she’s my girlfriend and is great eye-candy. Second, and probably more important in this context, she’s been a great artistic eye with her own experience and perspective. After mostly shooting solo for the last three years, it’s been really fun to have someone else behind the camera for a few adventures.

Wren Bentley with a Canon 60d.

In my first post, about purchasing my new camera and gear (READ BELOW), there are photos of me with my 5d. These didn't magically appear. Wren and I went to a park near my house, and while I was screwing around taking pictures of birds and whatnot, she was doing what we came there for-taking great action shots with my 60d. She has her own set of photo experience to draw from, including graduating from the Art Institute where she took photography classes and worked in the camera equipment cage. From her time there she already knows what each piece of gear is and what it does. And since she’s also a professional Graphic Designer (www.wrenbentley.com), she knows what to look for with light and composition. Now that I have two cameras in my professional kit, one is in her custody to give her the chance to get a little more hands-on time, and to turn her tech knowledge into photos of her own.

Wren, feeding a goat and matching it's expression.

I've already talked about our day at the Zoo together, but I didn't really talk about what a fun date it was. Not only were we able to point out shots to each other and help with any glitches, it was really cool to do something together that’s usually so singular. I’m used to working alone when I work creatively. I paint alone, I design alone at a computer, and so far I've shot alone. I've always gotten a charge out of shooting, and to get that charge while you’re with someone else who is obviously getting it too is kind of addicting. I hope we can do more of this together.

Chilling out after shooting Josh.

Also sometimes you just need a hand. In all of the Super-Josh photos, Wren is just out of frame shaking Josh’s cape or holding a reflector. Or a creative voice. During the Spider-Ken shoot, time was a factor. We had to shoot it right and we had to shoot it FAST. It’s easy to get tunnel-visioned. That’s when it’s most valuable to have someone discreetly whisper in your ear “I like what you’re doing, but what if we tried…” We got some good angles and compositions out of that shoot because of that. It’s great to have collaboration, and it can only make the work better.

And I know for myself, there are nights like last night. I was shooting a commercial event by myself and was getting really frustrated. I had to rush around to be in three places at once, and as a result, didn't initially feel like I was doing my best work at any of them. During a quick break I texted Wren my frustrations and the reply was:

Most helpful text I could have gotten, and even better because I knew she knew what she was talking about. The rest of the night went really well, with the reminder to slow down a little, and get the shots done right. Thanks again, Wren.

What do you guys think? Do you have a collaborator that pushes you to make you better and that you support in return? More adventures soon.

Video Double-Fisting with Canon 5d and 60d

Since getting the new gear last weekend I’ve been aching to push what it can do with video. I got really lucky today. The first time I’ve taken it out for work was this morning to capture video of child auditions for The 5th Avenue Theatre’s upcoming production of The Sound of Music.

I can’t show any of the video or photos from this morning, but it was so much fun. It was a great reminder of why it was so important to me to have a life in the theatre, even if it’s not in acting or directing. It was easy to feel all of the feels watching kids march up one by one to introduce themselves and sing. Every year helping with auditions is one of my favorite things, because it draws me back to the excitement of first auditioning for shows when I was in High School and reminds me about the awesome opportunities that the theatre offers to these kids.

To shoot the 106 kids that auditioned, I used my new 5d mkIII with a 50mm prime lens on a tripod for a continuous static shot throughout the day. Since this is meant to be the main video used for some upcoming projects, I rented a shotgun microphone from Glazers and attached it to the top for better sound quality. It captured the voices really well, without being overwhelmed by the accompanist’s piano. Since there were so many kids, between each few batches of 20, I moved the camera to the opposite side of the stage. This switched up the angle of the wide shot for variety.

To fill in with more details of the performances, I shot handheld with my good old 60d. Since the 5d was on a tripod and doing its own thing, I used the other camera to find interesting close-ups that can be cut together with the full shot later. It was a nice way for me (selfishly) to get closer to the action by cropping in close. It also let me sneak in still photos here and there as the day went.

So now I’m feeling pumped up and have tons of footage to show for it. Most will wind up on the cutting room floor, but that’s cool too. Have a great weekend out there; the next post will be from a guided shoot of the Woodland Park Zoo!

My Canon 5d Mk III on a Benro tripod with a shotgun microphone attached.

New Things!

New Bag, Tripod, and (Dat da da!) Camera!

So... this weekend has been fun. I thought a good first entry to this blog would be to recap all the new additions that are going to be making an impact on my visual work from now on. My Canon 60d has been a FANTASTIC camera and has been my go-to for the last three years. Though it is, and continues to be a great sidekick, it's time level up. Saturday I picked up my new camera, the Canon 5d Mark III.

This thing is great, I've only taken it out once so far, and already I can tell it's going to be a thrill to shoot with and will make it even easier to make great images. Over time I want to really push what it can do, especially with video. Last night I was watching The Avengers, and in his commentary Director Joss Whedon talks a bit about the 5d. Apparently during the sequence where the heroes are fighting their way through New York City, there was so much to shoot that he gave out 5d's to several assistants to go out and shoot the fighting guerilla style. He pointed out several sequences, including Captain America running and gunning, that had been shot on the 5d. It's really exciting to me to have the same tool in my bag that they used to shoot that film, and a good challenge to try and create something fun.

To go with the 5d, I thought it was time to invest in a few new accessories. I've been using a bag that was really generously given to me by Rick Reil of Realife Photography in the Tri-Cities, but over the last few years its started to be the worse for wear. Both straps recently broke on a shoot, so now I've picked up a new Lowepro bag that you can see in the photos below. It's super light and has a ton of storage with room for both cameras and a ton of lenses. Attached to it is a new tripod as well, a great Benro that's super strong and light that I can hook right on and go. 

The awesome Wren Bentley and I went to the park today for a bit, and she took some great photos of the new gear in action. Check it out :)

New Canon 5d Mark III, Lowepro Bag and Benro Tripod. All photos by Wren Bentley.