I have been fortunate enough to have been asked to photograph many different plays and musicals, produced by Sheffield University Performing Arts Society (SUPAS) and Sheffield University Theatre Company (SUTCo) over the past few years. Some productions I photographed the dress rehearsal, but for others I photographed the full development from early rehearsals all the way to the dress run. Below are a selection from each production in chronological order.
This was my first time photographing theatre, with a camera I had only recently acquired. Thankfully I was fortunate enough to get a cleanly lit production, and was able to take some photos I was, and still am, very proud of. The biggest challenge was having less than 14 hours from the end of the dress run, to when they wanted the finished photos, so they could put them on display for the audience’s arrival.
Urinetown was much more challenging due to significantly lower light levels, and more intense colours. I also took far too many photos making the editing process, which I still only had 14 hours for, much harder than it needed to be. I was rather dissatisfied with my results at the time, and it was only when I went back a few months later and re-edited them, taking more time and with a much increased knowledge of Lightroom that I was truly happy with them.
Oliver was produced over 24 hours for charity. It has been my most physically demanding, although most enjoyable, task as I had 30 minutes of sleep over the period, and was editing photos as time progressed so they could be used for marketing. Keeping concentration over the period was a challenge, along with photographing in rooms with very poor and unflattering lighting.
Here is a selection from the smaller, segmented rehearsals spread throughout the building, mostly using meeting rooms and offices.
These are from the dress run which happened in the afternoon, and which I managed to edit the first act before the show began that night, the second act had to wait until the entire production had finished.
This went back to a more traditional show, similar to Evita and Urinetown, in that I had 14 hours to edit the dress run’s photos and that it took place back in the University’s Drama Studio.
I was involved with this Shakespeare play earlier than anything else up to this point, and was asked to take rehearsal photos, show photos and cast headshots, which were used for publicity. I attended at least 5 rehearsals, which really helped as it allowed the cast get used to being photographed and me to get used to the performance, both allowing me to get closer and get more satisfying photos as the process went on.
The first selection below are from the rehearsals.
Twelfth Night was performed in a public park, free for all, so as such didn’t have a traditional dress rehearsal, so the photos below are from the second of the their two performances. This was a really interesting challenge as I couldn’t move from the picnic blanket I was sitting on in the audience, on the front row. This forced me to think creatively on how to frame is, and used my knowledge of the performance to preempt the performances and select appropriate lenses for the moment.
My Mate Dave Died
Similar to Twelfth Night, I was brought in reasonably early in the process to photograph the rehearsals and take headshots of the cast and crew.
Below are the photos from the rehearsals.
These are the photos from the dress run, back in the University’s drama studio.
The 39 Steps
The 39 steps was a very last minute request, so I had absolutely no idea what it was going to be like in the slightest. I enjoyed the use of the room, which I’m now familiar with, and the productions small cast. This was one of the most time consuming editing process as I was asked to remove all of the markings on the floor, as it was very tough for the stage crew, because of the sheer number of props.
Fiddler on the Roof
This is another SUPAS production in the Drama Studio which was very brightly lit on the whole, although a couple of the sequences had some interesting contrast challenges!
I photographed some publicity photos, some rehearsal photos and the dress photos for this production and got to love the production. The rehearsal was done in a small classroom in a basement but the slow pace of the play gave me time to change lenses and experiment. I was able to use my 14mm lens and get really close to the scenes which I thought worked really well.
The set was built in an old workshop and was beautiful but very challenging to photograph in. It was lit mainly from one source behind the audience meaning that I couldn’t shoot directly into the set, I always had to be at an angle. It was also very dimly lit restricting my lens choice to primes and a very shallow depth of field. I loved the experience though and I was very happy with the results.
This was the first SUTCo play of 2018 and was interesting as the play was several smaller plays linked together so a lot of variety to shoot. Unfortunately the rehearsal room I photographed in was one of the worst being very dark and dingy.
Using the Drama Studio again the set was a huge structure that I don’t think I captured very well, but was very spectacular. It was challenging to show the geography of the stage, while also focusing on the characters. The bark chippings added an interesting dynamic to the whole space too.
Hound of the Baskervilles
This is the first play I photographed that I actually knew the plot in advance which made my job a lot easier as I was able to look at the correct characters ahead of time in the rehearsal room, let alone the dress run. It was very pleasant to be able to shoot the first half of the play in daylight for a change.
This SUTCo play was yet again in the Drama Studio with two distinct areas on stage. At the rear of the stage was an interior set which was very pleasant and filled with details. In front of that was a drape which would be lowered and then projected onto for the outdoor scenes.
Memories of a Clockmaker
This original piece written by the director was a really interesting show to shoot. It had some dance sequences in it and some very intense emotional scenes giving a good contrast to photograph.
It was performed at the Theatre Deli in Sheffield in a very compact space with the audience either side. Moving around the space without colliding with the numerous clocks was a fun challenge, especially when following the performers dancing around the intensely lit set.
The first musical by SUTCo in a decade was very fun to be a part of. The size of the production was very large which thankfully meant a very large rehearsal room which was a very nice change to shoot in!
The show was in the Drama Studio again with a very minimalist set, just a large tree on a raised floor, with chairs bought in when needed. This meant a lot of the changes were shown through the fantastic and varied lighting, that was challenging to photograph occasionally, added so much to the atmosphere of the very emotional show.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
This was another outdoor performance, but unlike Twelfth Night, there was an outdoor dress rehearsal I was able to photograph which was a lot of fun. I decided to use a shallow depth of field to create interesting shots as there wasn’t a distinct set or artificial lights. It is always nice to shoot in bright outdoor light, and not a warm dark theatre! The turnaround time was very tight on this show, I finished editing the photos in a matter of hours following the dress runs completion.