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Helping the Viewer See

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These images are from the show Keep by Francesca Pazniokas, directed by Stephanie C. Cunningham and produced by Wide Eyed Productions and Mastodon Theatre Company.

Keep looks at the relationships of four sisters who have traversed a difficult childhood into adulthood with more or less success (depending on how you measure success).  It takes place in the cluttered home of one of the sisters, Nicola.  By cluttered, we’re talking hoarder.  While it makes of a visually interesting set, it also makes it very hard to guide the eye to what is important.  To help the viewer, I made use of radial and graduated filters to give make certain areas subtly brighter and therefore catch the eye.

Dealing With New Technology or I’ve Been LED Astray!

More and more I’m finding LED lighting being used in small budget theatre.  I get the appeal — one instrument can give multiple color looks, as opposed to gelling lights, where you would need multiple instruments giving one look each.  Plus you’re saving on gels and you never don’t have the color you want.  Lots of plusses.

But they can drive photographers crazy!  Take a look at this photo of the usually lovely Elizabeth Inghram in I Knew It! from Nylon Fusion’s This Round’s On Us short play festival. Of 11 plays using the same lights, only a couple had such a marked effect, but what do you do with this?!?

LED Trouble-01

Well, you desaturate and pull down the highlights.  And you’ve got this:
LED Trouble-02
Salvageable, but not great.

The problem seems to be most visible with highly saturated colors at high levels.  Some photographers report that lower shutter speeds seem to help the issue — which is counter intuitive, since it seems to happen when the lights are brighter.  The thought is that the issue is caused by pulse-width modulation (PWM).  Basically, there are two ways to control the brightness of an LED — analogue and PWM.  The former is a regulation of how much power goes to the LED.  It is inefficient, power-wise, and can result in inaccuracies color.  PWM essentially turns the LED on and off at high speed.  If your light is at full, it spends all the time on.  At 50%, it’s cycling on and off so it is on half the time.  At 10% it’s on 10% of the time and off 90%.  This can result in a visible flicker to the LED, so with multiple LEDs in an instrument, you would ensure that the LEDs are not cycling together, so some are on while others are off.

But here’s where it gets more complicated.  With an RGB LED instrument you have red, green and blue LEDs combining to make all the different colors of the rainbow and each primary color will be at a different power level, to combine and make the desired color.  Take this swatch, for instance:


This lovely blue has an RGB value of 60/40/200, respectively.  Now these are values out of 255, so percentage wise, we’re talking red being on 26% of the time, green on 16% of the time and blue on 78% of the time. That’s at full.  If we want that color at 75%, we’re getting into algebra.  Now each set of LEDs are hopefully working to prevent flicker amongst themselves, but who can say at the moment in time when the shutter clicks how many of which LEDs are actually on.  But now you can see how a longer exposure would help average things out.

If anyone can poke holes in any of my assumptions (and there are a lot of them!), please reach out on Facebook.  I’d love to be more confident when I see LED instruments that I won’t have hours of post-processing ahead of me.



Several months ago my friend, Jessica Browne-White approached me about a shoot incorporating several masks that she had created.  She’s an amazing visual and performing artist whose work with art pianos I’ve shot before (see Sing for Hope 2013 Pianos Gala).  We finally nailed down a date and collected a couple of models from our friends and off to Central Park we went.

Yes, Central Park in January.  This January. The one with all the snow in it.  Jessi and I arrived on “set” first.  We found a great spot just off the East 76th Street entrance.  We had been considering the Alice in Wonderland statue and the Hans Christian Andersen statue, but on the way there we found a great spot with some expanses of snow, some exposed rock and an amazing tree that had been bowed to the ground, split open and looked like a natural gateway in the snow.  We got to work and shot a couple of masks with Jessi as model until Beth and Virginia arrived.

Once we were all there we started shooting in earnest.  Jessi had [7?] masks and we gave each its own story and location, using snow, trees, rocks and the Alice statue to play off the mood of the mask.

Finally, we shot some images of the three ladies together for an upcoming theatre project they are creating.

I learned a lot from this shoot.  The big one was how much I want to get some lighting tools to be able to craft the light the way I want it to be.  Steps have been taken!  See [gala] for the update.  I learned how much I have to learn about posing.  I was lucky to have three very photogenic models who are very conversant with the instruments of their bodies, but I still had some moments of struggling to express what I wanted.  Jessi and I have a date for spring, when it is warmer and drier, to do some more work together.  Oh, and there’s another piano on the way!

Better late than never!

I’ve been having some technical issues with the behind the scenes of my website lately, which has prevented me from posting my latest shows.  Hopefully, we’re past it now, so some new posts will be coming soon!

A New Look

Welcome to my updated photography site.  This marks a big shift for me.  For years I’ve been my own coder and I will continue to maintain my theatrical site myself — I do like control!  But for my photography, I knew I wanted a site that would hit some specific marks:

  1. Easy to create, aesthetically pleasing galleries
  2. Blog features so I can write about my shoots and include a gallery
  3. Free up my time to shoot, edit and deliver the important stuff: the pictures

After helping out my friends Paul Peers and Tina Mitchell from Chopt Logic set up their website on WordPress, I knew I was going to go that route.  Some further research brought me to the folks at Photocrati, who do a great theme with strong gallery support.

And here we are.

I’m going to be back-filling some shows I’ve shot recently and talk about my experiences.  I hope I can be a resource for others as much as I’ve taken from the folks out there already.