people photography

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Last weekend I had a really fun assignment shooting a rehearsal of the musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. It will be performed May 13th and 14th in Freising by a cast of almost 300 people.

What I saw was breathtaking – a stunning performance. Even though the performers are all laymen and -women, the choreographer, director, voice coaches, etc. are all pros working pro bono – and it shows.

Here are some impressions, you can find more on my Flickr! page in the Joseph set.

Grim Brothers

Grim looking brothers - not all of which are male.

Angry brothers shout at the Narrator

Brothers crowding around and shouting their anger at the narrator.

Josephs brothers and the narrator practice dance moves.

Narrator and brothers practicing dance moves.

Colorful children.

Children practicing their color swirl dance.

In case you have been looking carefully and feel confused: there are two different narrators to cover all four performances. ๐Ÿ™‚

Within the Frame – The Journey of Photographic Vision by David duChemin may easily be the most unusual – and best – book on photography that I have read this year. It is unusual in that it manages to bridge the gap between books about photography as art and photography as technique, delivering both. In my opinion, that is what photography is about.

The first chapter is devoted to vision – what it is that you see and want to communicate. The second chapter focuses on what feeling, idea, or impression you may want to capture and what subjects may show this to the viewer. The third chapter on gear and technique required to get the image you want. I think that the focus not on creating technically perfect pictures but on how to turn something you want to communicate into a picture is spot-on. The author really nails it here!

The fourth chapter is about storytelling in pictures – how to tell a story in a single frame or in a photo essay, how to create interest in the viewer. This chapter is a must if you want to go from mere visual candy to a four-course meal.

The next chapters are about photographing people, places, and culture. I really enjoyed the chapter about people (I love photographing people and got a number of useful tips and ideas from the chapter), but found that my attention flagged halfway through the places chapter, and did not pick up to the end of the book. It seems to me that the essential message of the previous chapters are repeated a bit too often.

The pictures in the book are compelling and beautiful, the printing is of high quality. You can find a number of them on his website at if you are interested. Despite all of the pictures having been taken in what amounts to “exotic” locations for most people from Europe or North America, I would not say that it is about travel photography. Everything in the book applies to taking pictures of your home town. Maybe even more so than when you are abroad …

I feel great respect for the way David duChemin approaches his subjects as human beings, not just props in his pictures. I feel the same way and I became aware of a lot of things that I have done without ever thinking about them. I have also learned a few very useful things about how to approach people.

The same applied for his treatment of technical aspects: he makes things that I have been doing intuitively become conscious decisions, giving me much more control. For example, I wish that I had read what he has to say about lens choices much earlier, it has taught me the value of wide-angle lenses, which I rarely use. This will definitely improve my ability to show my vision to the world. (Interestingly, he apparently went through a similar development, starting with telephoto lenses and only gradually learning to use wide lenses.)

Finally, I learned ever so much from his approach of treating photography as storytelling. If this is – as to me – a closed book (pun intended), you will benefit greatly from Within the Frame.

As I mentioned before, my attention and interest flagged towards the last two chapters. Maybe it was just too much to absorb? Maybe the chapters are simply weaker than the previous ones? I do not know. But I do know that even without the last two chapters the book is definitely required reading for anyone interested in photographing people, so it gets five stars!

5 stars (out of 5)

5 stars (out of 5)

I was invited to be the official photographer covering the performance of a childrens musical. Over 130 kids performed on stage – everything else was a huge volunteer effort by the parents. It was great fun to see how enthusiastic the kids (aged 6 to about 19) were and how much fun they were having on stage!

It was also a great learning experience, since this was the first time I have done any stage photography. Out of over 1000 exposures I got about 500 that are decent and 150 that I consider good. The main lesson here: consider depth of field. It will not do to shoot several people with an aperture of f2.8 if they are not exactly the same distance from the camera.

The second lesson is that I need to sort out the model releases before, not after, the event. Now I am identifying the performers and contacting them or their parents directly for permission to publish – it would have been much easier if we had sorted this out when the kids signed up to participate.

Here are “Wolfgang 4” (Mozart as a man) with his mother:

Performers 'Wolfgang 4' and 'Mozarts Mother' in the musical.

Performers 'Wolfgang 4' and 'Mozarts Mother'.

As I get the releases straightened out, I will post more images of the event. Subscribe the RSS feed to be notified of updates.

Michael Grecco‘s Lighting and the Dramatic Portrait starts of by discussing various camera systems (35 mm, medium format, and large format) and their particular characteristics.

Then a number of pictures are presented with diagrams and text describing exactly how the lighting was set up to achieve the desired result. This is extremely useful to help understand how the picture was made. Why on earth the client contact for the picture (usually art director so-and-so) is important in this context is beyond me, however …

The remaining pictures are described without a diagram, but I had no trouble understanding the light after the previous chapter with diagrams.

I really like that Grecco not only explains the technical detail of the shot but also why he made it the way he did. Sometimes the reason is his creative vision, at other times it is a restraint that came up during the shoot (the subject objected, forย  example) or the image evolved in the process of shooting, often in collaboration with the subject.

Grecco’s method seems to involve a truckload of equipment and a horde of assistants and specialist. This should not intimidate the reader. Most of what Grecco describes can be achieved on a much lower budget using inexpensive speedlights and some tinkering (and gaffer tape ๐Ÿ˜‰ – the same principles apply as with super-expensive studio lights.

The book is strongly recommended to anyone looking to improve their lighting skills, especially when photographing people.

5 stars (out of 5)

5 stars (out of 5)

A boy and a girl are hugging their mother's belly containing their baby sibling. A girl and a boy hugging and kissing their mothers belly in anticipation of the sibling that is inside.

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