Last night, I was part of something very special. The folks at ‘Ulalena hosted what ended up being the largest tweetup in Maui history in honor of Eat Local Hawaii week, co-hosted by Edible Hawaiian Islands and Aloha Mixed Plate. In exchange for bringing a locally sourced pupu (appetizer), we were treated to a free performance of a this amazing show.
‘Ulalena is a gorgeous and unique blending of people, nature, culture and mythology, set to music and dance in a multi-million dollar venue custom built for its presentation, featuring some of Hawaii’s most distinguished musicians and performers, combining live Hawaiian music with 8-channel surround sound. The state of the art, computerized stage was built in Montreal and then transported and assembled in Lahaina piece by piece. Whether you’re a local or a visitor to Maui, this is a must-see experience.
Knowing that photography of any kind is prohibited in this venue, I asked for permission ahead of time and was privileged to be given a special okay by virtue of my being there in a professional capacity to promote the show, as long as I didn’t use a flash and I promised to share the photos with the cast and crew.I’ve always wondered why people would bother with a flash in these settings. Besides the issue of safety for the performers, the truth is, there’s no reason to use a flash in an environment like this, and it would be ineffective anyway.
A flash unit (or speedlight) has an effective range of about 6-8 feet, so unless you’re right at the edge of the stage, it’s useless. And even if you are, it probably won’t illuminate the performers positioned upstage. Also, a lot of thought and planning went into the lighting for a show like this, so you’d not only be altering the spirit of the show with lighting of your own, you’d be missing out on an opportunity to harness the gorgeous scenes the show’s producers went to such lengths to provide for your enjoyment.
Here are a few tips for shooting a theater production from your seat:
Ask for permission ahead of time. For reasons ranging from the safety of the performers to copyright of the material, photography is usually prohibited in professional theater productions. Be respectful and ask for permission ahead of time, and make sure all the ushers know you have permission. Enough said.Use fast lenses. You need to be able to shoot with a wide aperture to capture as much light as possible. For this shoot, I used an 18-50mm f/2.8 and an 85mm f/1.8. Practice changing lenses in the dark. You’ll thank yourself for putting in the effort, and everybody around you, especially the performers, will thank you for not making noise by dropping lens caps and such.
Use a high ISO setting. In order to achieve an acceptable shutter speed and gain some decent depth of field with your aperture, you’ll need to increase your ISO. I set mine to 1600 for this shoot. The unavoidable trade-off is higher noise, but the recent generation of DSLR’s do much better in that department, and the latest iterations of post-processing software, such as Adobe Lightroom, can do some amazing things too.Be mindful of your depth of field. Focus is critical in a situation like this. You’ll be shooting fairly open most of the time. Chances are, unless the lighting is bright, you won’t be able stop down the aperture enough to get everything in focus, so choose your subjects thoughtfully. I’m usually in manual mode in these situations, so I have full control at all times.
Dont shoot during quiet moments if at all possible. No matter how quiet your shutter is, it’s not silent. Try to time your clicks with something else that’s happening, such as drum beats or other loud stage noises. Above all, don’t be disruptive.