Borkware Photoblog

January 4, 2009

New Gallery: Casino 2008

Filed under: Aperture, CLS, D3, flash, gallery, monopod, Nik, Nikon, Photoshop — Mark Dalrymple @ 10:53 pm

solo-angel.jpg (click the picture to visit the whole gallery)

Every year, the Casino Theater in Vandergrift PA puts on a Christmas program. Sometimes it’s a musical, sometimes it’s an oratorio. This year was a smorgasbord of songs and skits.

They were kind enough to let me run around with a camera during the dress rehearsal this year. They even allowed me to use flash, which was a surprise.

These were shot with a Nikon D3, with 70-200 f/2.8 and 24-70 f/2.8 lenses. An SB-800 flash served as a master to an SB-600 slave, positioned behind an umbrella to provide extra light. I was surprised at how much light it could pump out. I used a monopod with the larger lens since the whole package (D3, SB-800, lens, extra blocks of depleted uranium) became rather heavy.

Important lesson learned: It’s better to have a very good exposure at a high ISO than a bad (under)exposure at a lower ISO. Some of the images that I had to pull out of a dark basement did not look good at all. (I know, duh!, but it’s one of those things I had to learn the hard way.)

After the images were made (~900 during the 3 hour run of the show, running up and down stairs from balcony to main floor level), I triaged the images with Aperture. 1-star for adequate sharpness and composition. Then went through and chose good shots for 2-stars, and then 3-starred the ultimate contents of the gallery.

I edited each image in Photoshop using Nik filters. This was an excuse for Extreme Photowankery™, as well as learning how to use the filters, and playing around with a basic Wacom Graphite tablet that Uncle Google gave me. The general workflow was

  • Basic ACR adjustments, white balance, etc.
  • Noise reduction with Dfine.
  • Pre-sharpening with Sharpener Pro.
  • Adjusted lighting and colors with Viveza. I love Viveza. In nearly every case I darkened the stage and brought some brightness to the actors.
  • Retouching, especially cleaning up the stage floor. The Casino stage is filthy. I am now a master of the spot healing brush and the clone-stamp tool.
  • Dodging and burning using an Overlay layer. (fill with a neutral 50% color, then paint in white to lighten and in black to darken the image.)
  • Additional filtering using Color Efx pro. “Darken/Lighten Center” was used for most of the vignetting effects. “Tonal Contrast” was frequently used, especially to bring out detail in clothing.
  • The black and white images were done with Silver Efx Pro.
  • Final sharpening with Sharpener Pro.

I’m hoping next year they’ll let me shoot again. If they do, this is what I’d do differently:

  • Attend one or two more rehearsals. I had no idea what the show was about (except that there was a Waltz of the Flowers that included Bubbas in tutus), so each scene was a total surprise, and I frequently had the wrong lens. “Big dance number! And I have the 70-200. ack!”
  • Have two speedlights, one on either side of the stage (instead of the single one on stage-right) to balance out the speedlight coverage.
  • Watch the corners of the viewfinder. (another duh!) There is a railing in the balcony that appears in a number of shots. I did not notice it (outside of using it to not fall off the balcony) until after I started processing the photos.
  • Bring the power plug for the laptop and some blank DVD medio. I ran out of power before draining the last card. A show representative also wanted some images to display in the lobby, needing the images ASAP. It would have been nice to have been able to burn a DVD of rough-cut jpegs right there.

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