A Night At The Opera - Lighting Lessons From Mozart

on July 16, 2015

Did goe to the opera house last night and was greatley entertained. The subversive opera " Marriage Of Figaro " by some Austrian individual was sung and played by a number of local artists - to the entire satisfaction of the audience.

A note about the audience - as with many music things that you go to, I noticed that they were all on drugs. Of course, given that this was a Mozart opera sung in Italian, the drugs were chiefly Mogadon, Lasix, and Metamucil...

But back to the stage. Going to any presentation is a good chance for photographers to see what stage light designers do with their resources. Their gear may not be exactly what we use in the studio or out in the field, but the stage light designer does have the brief to illuminate and to emphasise - and this is certainly applicable to our efforts.

If we are doing it in studio we can observe where they have placed their stage floods and spots and see if the faces and figures look good - then do the same with strobes. Think of our reflector strobes and soft box strobes as the spot and flood of stage work. Our strip strobes also are sometimes seen on the stage - in fact last night I was particularly attentive to strips off-stage allowing some spill from behind the flats as the backdrop sheets on stage were rippled - it gave the effect of a forest waving in the night.

We can also look carefully to see if gels are doing their job on stage - or whether they are a hindrance and distraction. Last night was pretty good in as far as the gels were not excessive. Those of us who shoot middle eastern dances or burlesque can sometimes be working in some pretty vile colour washes and the photos we get from this sort of illumination is equally vile. White balance is nigh on impossible unless there is some white somewhere...

Finally - nearly all stages are illuminated from above - that is the nature of the stage. Some have additional footlights - His Majesty's has good ones. These are wonderful in supplying a good look to the bottom part of the actors and I would earnestly recommend that studio shooters think of adding a set of them at the front of their sets. You don't need big stuff and some of the screw-in strobes are wonderful - you can even get the holders for them in Bunnings.

PS: Figaro and Susanna did succeed in the end. Mozart won.