Theatre photography : A night in the pit.

This is an environment I know very well but as a musician and not a photographer. Theatre photography is an area I’ve always wanted to try. I’ve worked in many theatres in Wales and England as gigging ‘pit’ musician during the last 40 years or so. It can be a very special place, intimate, occasionally intense nearly always business like and focused. Pit musicians have to be able to turn on a great performance, instantly and sometimes after long periods of doing very little. Theatre work is quite a craft and there’s often a great sense of camaraderie. I’d often thought that I’d really enjoy a three hour theatre photography session documenting some of the moments that typically happen in the orchestra pit.

‘…a very special place, intimate, occasionally intense nearly always business like…’

On Tour

When I discovered that a good friend of mine was on a UK tour with The Sound of Music I asked her if she could approach the music director to see if he’d grant permission for me to sit amongst the musicians and take photographs.I was delighted when he agreed. Here was my chance!

The Maestro
Be Prepared

I arrived at the theatre in plenty of time to find some of the best locations to shoot from but also to meet all of the musicians, firstly to thank them and to explain what I was doing and secondly to tell them to ignore me. Shooting in an orchestra pit environment can pose some very special problems for the photographer. Low light and camera noise are certainly at the top of my list.

‘The Fuji XT2 was incredible and performed brilliantly.’

Up close


Fuji XT2 Camera

.This was the first time I’d used my new Fuji X T2 camera n this type of situation. Technically the Fuji offered  some big advantages. Many Fuji lenses have Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) and this is implemented brilliantly. Also the camera has two basic ways of operating the shutter, mechanically or electronically. In this latter mode its quite possible to set the camera up to be able to shoot completely silently. I mean completely silent!!

Silence is golden

The only disadvantage using the electronic shutter can happen under certain lighting conditions. This shows up as a strobing effect. The Fuji XT2 was incredible and performed brilliantly. I managed to use both types of shutter mechanisms during the performance. The mechanical shutter during loud passages of music and the electronic (silent) shutter during periods of no musical activity.

Dynamic ISO

The newly developed Fuji X CMOS cropped frame sensor is incredible. It’s also worth mentioning that camera implements a dynamic ISO setting. This can optimise the shutter speed against a higher ISO setting. This was really useful and even when operating at 12500 ISO, great results can still be had.

Stage Right

Lenses used were a Fuji X 10mm-24mm a Fuji X 50mm F1.2 and even a Fuji X 100mm-400mm zoom (hand held!)

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