Broken Banjo Photography

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Barker and Her Characters, Portland, Oregon.

This is the Barker, a canine narrator, part jester, part suspense-builder, exuding emotion and weaving a tale before you.  She keeps her eyes wide and movements quick, subtly telling you when to gasp, when to cower, and when to chuckle.  Her hand rests on the shoulder of a man with a frightening story, and she stands by a gypsy with dark powers.
Cerimon House and its director, Randall Stuart, gave me full freedom in setting up these portraits, which is usually welcome (but sometimes stressful).  Given that The One You Feed was a macabre, eerie play, meant to give chills, I went for a high-contrast, deep-shadow series of images.  Two lights. On the porch outside the playhouse, at night.  Because it was nighttime, I set my aperture and shutter to a level at which the frame would be completely dark, so all light came from two small speedlights on shoot-through umbrellas.  I kept the actors about 5-6 feet away from the wall to minimize shadow-casting and, in this case, chose a narrow aperture to intentionally blur the two background actors.  This is the Barker's portrait,  The other two are props in the story she is telling.
The scene is from a play, performed last Halloween in Portland, about a werewolf and a small village full of frightened and distorted townsfolk. The One You Feed was written by J. Pizarro and performed as a partial-play, partial-salon-reading at Cerimon House, a fantastic small theater and troupe in NE Portland.  The Barker was played by Gretchen Rumbaugh, the man/werewolf is David Buttaro, and the gypsy is Cecily Overman

Cerimon House has hired me a few times to photograph their rehearsals and do some portraits; this was one of my favorites, with elaborate masks created by Portland artist Jane Clugston. There's nothing quite like taking portraits of actors who are not only in costume, but in character.  While a business portrait often takes some work to get the subject to emote, an actor often just needs to be told, "you're sad."  And then they're sad.

A few more shots of the townsfolk.  I love this series!
As you can see, the light on camera-left is brighter than the one on camera-right.  The right light is directly to the side of the actor, while the camera-left light is closer to my camera.  This allowed a shadow to be cast on the one of the actor's eyes, but the right light gives highlights to separate her from the background.  The sticks were already on the porch in a pot, and I thought, "cool, maybe that will look neat in the background!"
One of my favorites, but this one was a misfire.  Note that the camera-right light (on an optical slave) did not fire, probably due to me shooting too quickly, and it not recharging in time.  Compare the dark side of this actor with the actor in the previous image.  All dark, no highlights.  So, this image is lit with a single shoot-through umbrella, which darkened the background and made it even more eerie, as a nighttime shot should be in a town haunted by werewolves and gypsies.  I did adjust shutter speed slightly to record the candle flame.
The Sheriff. Cool masks, hm?  Lights were lowered a bit to match the level of his hat brim, so I could get light both onto his eyes and onto the top of the hat. 
Our hero/villain, the werewolf, cursed by a jealous gypsy.  A dapper man, a frightful beast, full of seriousness and nervousness.  That's not to say he was an innocent saint.  As with the first village person image, note the faint bit of light on his ear, just enough to keep a little separation from the dark background.  In post-processing, I did add a vignette to all the images, to keep in line with the over-the-top rough-and-tumble times in which the play was set.
The gypsy lives in a tree, and the town drunk has seen her.  He tries to convince the townsfolk that she's out there, but none believe him.  She is standing on a tree here, next to the porch.  I adjusted lights to that none would be shed on her feet, by feathering the camera-left light up towards her face.  Another light on the right is high up, angled down to catch the tops of their heads.  He is on his knees to make it look as if she is even higher up, but of course we had to keep them close for image integrity.  It's like a fable, an image like this, trying to convey a scene of a story by exaggerating some aspect of the tale.

1 comment:

  1. I am convinced you are the most creative, beautiful guy I know!!