The Dolman Pit

The Dolman theatre pit.

It was nice to be invited by MD Cathy Metcalf to record some images of the musicians at work in the Dolman theatre pit. It’s a theatre I know very well, I’ve spent many hours working here as a musician and occasionally as an MD.going back all the way to 1978.  Although many things have changed during this time the Dolman theatre pit still has a special kind of magic. Theatre pits are  generally a bit cramped , full of wires trailing across the floor and going god know’s where. There’s microphones and all kinds of paraphernalia thats necessary to enable the musicians to undertake their work.

‘….a special kind of magic…’

Generally the theatre pits walls and floors are painted black so as not to distract the audiences gaze from the stage and overall there is an ambience of intimacy thats often reinforced by excellent comradeship and a joy of making high quality music.

Pit Orchestra Pit
The Dolman Pit

Anyone that follows my blog  will know that this the second time this year that I’ve recorded musicians working in a theatre pit. Earlier this year I enjoyed a session in Cardiff’s New Theatre capturing images of musicians working on the UK tour of ‘The Sound of Music’.[NEW THEATRE GALLERY HERE] The main difference for me was that on the New Theatre gig I only knew two musicians but on the Dolman session not only did I know all of the musicians but have worked with most of them many times before.

piccolo alto sax baritone sax theatre pit
The reeds (Stephanie and Daisy)

‘…the lowest iso setting was about 6400.’

Technically speaking, dealing with very low light levels can be a bit tricky. The answer is normally a trade off between (digital) noise and shutter speed. Personally I feel its much better to have a blur free image with a small amount of digital noise than a noise free image that has camera shake! From what i can remember the lowest iso setting was about 6400.


orchestra pit
MD Cathy Metcalf

Shutter noise was much less of an issue on this particular gig (Legally Blonde) as the band and music is naturally quite loud. It was easy to get away with a mechanical shutter most of the time. I found that I only switched to an electronic shutter when photographing during the lib parts of the show.

pit theatre gig rhythm section
Rhythm section

I had a great time taking these images. The calibre of these musicians is incredible. They manage to to turn in incredible performances night after night without missing a beat. Sincere thanks to all of them for allowing me to crawl around  and snatch some of the photos seen in this blog. If you’d like to see more visit the gallery page or click this LINK.


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I do not share personal information with third-parties nor do I store information I collect about your visit to this blog for use other than to analyze content performance. I am not responsible for the republishing of the content found on this blog on other Web sites or media without my permission. This privacy policy is subject to change without notice.

I hate shaving

Shaving….. arrrgghhh!!!

I hate shaving. It’s one of those annoying daily rituals. I shave every morning. Its amazing how consistent I am too. Before I start, I typically wash my face in hot water. I then religiously follow the same sequence of applying shaving foam, first to the right side of my face, then the left, moving on to my neck before covering my both lips  which I then draw a line through….sometimes upward like a smile, sometimes straight like a robot and sometimes downward like a frown. Mostly though I opt for the robot look.

art deco tap

Then the shaving ritual starts. I follow the same routine of dipping the razor into the hot water. Then shaving my face, right side and then the left side, nearly always choosing  to shave my neck before my upper lip. In actual fact its more detailed than this but worse still if I miss a step or try to change the sequence  it makes me feel very uncomfortable!

…more than 30 hours a year..

Anyway, all told it must take me about 5 minutes. Thats 5 minutes every day, seven days a week and not far off 365 days a year (on some rare occasions I don’t shave) totalling on average more than 30 hours a year. Incredibly thats 1 day and  6 hours of non stop shaving………….Please get in contact directly if you’d like to know more about my morning ablutions that include teeth brushing, flossing, beard and moustache trimming, eyebrow plucking, medication(s) and aftershave application.

taps and soap holder

The point here is that tall of the above represents a significant daily ritual. I stand in the same place, facing the same direction, looking at the same familiar objects that are at my ritual site and perform the same operations in the same order everyday.

looking versus seeing,

This got me thinking about looking versus seeing, just as in music there can always be a difference between hearing and listening. All of this led me to consider how well I knew and observed the site of my daily rituals.

I mention all of the above because the very first photograph that had a real impact on me was of something that was very familiar to me.It was something I’d seen and used many times without giving it any real consideration.The object in question was an old GPO telephone door handle. I’ve mentioned this before on this site that the photographer had made me focus, not least of which by excluding any other distracting objects and had managed to make me look and really see that there was something here worth looking at. The way that the photographer had framed and composed the image, the limited depth of field highlighting  certain points of interest had somehow managed to captivate me.

The highly polished, chrome handle simply looked fantastic. The image was beautifully printed in monochrome with deep rich blacks , brilliant whites and a rang of tones inbetween. Remembering all of this I decided to undertake a photo study of my ritual site. I was surprised by the result. The images had made me see elements of familiar and unfamiliar shapes and design.

The ritual site

To take a high resolution look at the images please navigate to the gallery or click here.




Texture, Light and isolation.

Texture, Light and isolation

Sometimes it’s possible to miss the interesting, to walk right past something that has  a real and unique quality and yet pay it no attention. Often this can be because this object (this thing) has been seen but never really looked at. Occasionally it might be because the lighting, direction of light and time of day may not compliment the subject.

..a real and unique quality…

Perhaps this blog’s title should have been reordered to read Light, texture and isolation as light is always the most important factor in photography. Depending on the quality, direction and colour temperature of the light so much can be achieved. The image below is a perfect example. The surface of the rock pictured here is so interesting when examined closely. There are wonderful natural patterns, veins, cracks and faults that are all the more visible when the light falling on it comes from the side. The soft light also brought out the subtle blue and grey colours of the stone. Depending on the framing its possible to isolate the subject so,as in this case, a sense of scale is hard to understand. In this particular image the real scale or size is about 18 inches wide by about 10 inches tall.

Light, texture and isolation

Rock face, side lighting

All of the images in this blog were recorded more or less in the same location, no more than about five or ten feet from one another. This next example uses similar techniques to isolate the image from its context. I selected this particular section of rock because of the direction of light and the textures that it shows. The same forces of nature have been at work here as in the previous example, waves, wind and erosion but because of the geological differences in the rock, those same forces have yielded a different result.

…isolate the image from its context.

Rough textured tidal rock

Although you couldn’t say that the images seen here are abstract (they’re very obviously images of rock or stone) what the camera can do, is to make the viewer see the specific subject outside of its context i.e the family one metre away eating ice creams on the beach. I find this particular ability of the photographic process fascinating. You, the photographer can make your viewer and audience see the subject exactly how you want them to see it. Of course, how they interpret it is another thing all together. Its probably worth stating the obvious by mentioning that your choice of lens, exposure, depth of field and framing also contributes massively to the end result.

..make the viewer see the specific subject outside of its context..

This next images starts to venture a little towards the abstract but only a little. It’s an image of stones and rocks recorded in a fast flowing fresh water stream. The scene is in constant motion. The surface of the water is constantly changing. The light is always in motion reflecting from the water surface in an unpredictable way. It’s not an ‘intelligent’ image in as much that I couldn’t predict the exact result but for me that doesn’t matter. Taking multiple shots from the same angle produces very different results. The process though, allows you to take multiple images and select the the one(s) that produce the best or desired result.

…light is always the most important factor in photography.

Stream stones underwater.

The final example here is of the remains of a steel handrail that has been eroded by the sea, sand and a great deal of time. For me it makes a contrast in terms of textures and most importantly colour. Its easier to see the scale in terms of size but the contrast of the ‘man made’ as opposed to the naturalness  of the stone is appealing to me.

Rusty steel bar in stone.

To see more example please navigate to the Galleries menu or click HERE

Privacy Policy

I do not share personal information with third-parties nor do I store information I collect about your visit to this blog for use other than to analyze content performance. I am not responsible for the republishing of the content found on this blog on other Web sites or media without my permission. This privacy policy is subject to change without notice.