Being the festival photographer allows me access to many of the performance and I get the opportunity to take a great many photographs which will go towards helping to promote the festival in years to come.
What makes it challenging is to do it discreetly so as not to disturb the performers, or the audience.
The other main challenge is the lighting, stage lighting of various bold colours I like as they form an intergral part of the performance. Other dimly lit venues which can help in setting the atmosphere for the story, but do nothing to aid the photographer. My major dislike is modern low energy bulbs, they may be very good for the environment, but they cast an awful light.
The cameras are often set to ISO 3200 or 6400 for some venues. The story tellers are an animated bunch, they rarely stand still needing a quick shutter speed to freeze the movement in the low light.
Poor light often makes the auto focus on the camera struggle, meaning manual focussing. Apart from manual focus both shutter and aperture are both set manually. Exposure is set to try and keep the performers faces properly exposed, the in camera light meter rarely gives an accurate reading.
This year I used two cameras, my trusty Canon 5d Mark 2 and a new Canon 5d Mark 3. I used three lenses, a Canon 17mm TSE lens for some of the wide angle shots, a Canon 24-70mm f2.8L for some performance shots depending on venue, and the Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS for many of theportrait and close up photographs. The 70-200mm is a great lens, the image stabilisation helps me achieve shots with shutter speeds down to 1/30th of a second.
Great for audience response shots where the light source is often only that being reflected back from the stage.
Both cameras performed flawlessly. Needless to say the 5d Mark 3 had the edge over the 5d Mark 2, it was quicker and produced less noise when operating at high ISO setting as one might expect, but both camera produced great images.
Once taken, the raw image files are process using Capture One Pro 7. Any addition processing is undertaken using Adobe Photoshop CS5. To help isolate subjects from the background I often use a slight vignette either applied in Capture One or if I feel like being more creative, using Nik Efex filters from within Photoshop. Where digital noise is intrusive, I use Define 2, another piece of Nik software which I find useful.
After the festival is over, I take the opportunity to go through all the images that I've taken, to have a more critical look, do a bit of ruthless editing, and to pick out a few favourites.
The storytellers are by nature an expressive bunch, both in the way they speak, and the way they look.
I have included a selection in this blog post, I hope you enjoy them.
Please feel free to leave a comment, or drop me an email.