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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