This weekend saw thousands of Australians take to the streets of cities across the country to protest the Tony Abbott / Liberal coalition government’s cuts to Federal spending in areas like education, health, the public sector, science and the environment, as well as their stance on immigration. Sydney was no exception – and the march, starting and finishing at Hyde Park, featured a brief concert by local band The Jezabels at the conclusion of the event. I thought it was a good chance to test out the 56mm f/1.2 a bit more, and a few with the 18mm f/2 as well; but I was really enjoying the creativity of some of the signs & costumes people had made – and a few more that were added at the site, too…
Just wanted to say congratulations to Belvoir Theatre for their nominations in this year’s Helpmann Awards for their production of Angels In America, which I photographed for them last year – well, I did Part 1: Millennium Approaches, anyway!
I really loved this production a lot; oddly enough, I wound up seeing Angels two and a half times last year, having booked tickets for the full show at Belvoir before finding out I’d be photographing Part 1 as well, and when I found out it was on in Toronto a month later, I went to see that as well. I know, I got carried away – but honestly, I enjoyed everything about Belvoir’s version better: cast, costumes, set, sound design, lighting, the lot. So, I’m glad to see it make the list this week.
This was one of those times where the only opportunity to capture the show was during a schools matinee with an audience, working from a seat in the theatre without moving around; so it was a perfect time to use my Jacobsen Sound Blimp to make the camera as quiet as possible, and let both the actors and the audience focus on the show.
Here’s a few images from that shoot, including some of Robyn Nevin, who’s also nominated for Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role. Best of luck for the awards, everyone!
This one’s pretty self-explanatory – just a frosted window in the Opera House before the show the other night. Not exactly a prime example of how sharp this lens is, but an interesting shot I wanted to grab, anyway!
Lens testing part 1 is here, in case you missed it earlier.
All right, I finally bit the bullet and got the Fujinon 56mm f/1.2 lens I’d been thinking about for six months or so, to replace my 60mm f/2.4 Macro. That’s still a great lens (and I have one spare, if anyone’s looking!), I just prefer something with a little more speed & easy focusability in low light for the kinds of things I tend to use it for. I also just really like shallow depth of field – or at very least, I like having the option if I want it.
I did have the amazing Canon 85L f/1.2 a few years ago now, which almost felt like it was a light source in itself – it seemed to have the ability to actually PUT light onto a person when you could barely see them yourself – but at the time, I had camera bodies with a 1.25x crop (the 1DMkIV) which made it just a little bit too long for a lot of situations. So, I traded to the 50L f/1.2, which is also great – but now I’ve got 5DMkIII bodies, and it’s not quite as long as I’d like. So, this little (and, relatively, quite cheap!) 56mm on a 1.5x crop Fuji sensor will hopefully fill that niche nicely for me.
Ironically, the day I picked this new lens up I got a retweet from Fuji UK saying ‘look how sharp these are!’ – most of them being taken with the 60mm, of course. Well, they’ll be even sharper next time, I’m sure!
The only thing I may miss without the 60mm is this – the fact that it’s a macro lens means it can focus extremely close, so if you want to throw something completely out of focus, it goes REALLY out of focus…
(p.s. for the lens nerds like me, the camera settings in the gallery can be seen by clicking the ‘i’ at the bottom right of the images…)
So…this is a concert I went to on the weekend, featuring J-Pop superstar Kyary Pamyu Pamyu in her first Australian appearance. In fact, the first time she’d crossed the equator, she said!
I had just been intending to go and enjoy myself – I’m a bit of a fan of SBS PopAsia on a Sunday afternoon – but once I got there and started seeing the fans in costumes (who apparently had been queuing since 12:30pm for an 8pm show!), I couldn’t help getting my camera out for a bit of it…!
There were people wearing boxes, people wearing foxes, eyeball jewellery and paws with claws, a giant inflatable bear, a life-size jack in the box, a dancing bunny and a dancing bear, four masked dancers (working overtime, with no air conditioning), four costume changes…oh, look, I’m not sure I can really explain it. But it was crazy fun, trust me!
Last one! It’s the closing day of the New Zealand International Arts Festival in Wellington, so I’m wrapping up this series here. Hope it’s been interesting!
From 2004, we’ve got three events; Toi Mana, Tu Mahi Toi and the last of the Festival Picnics in Frank Kitts Park. Tu Mahi Toi was (as I recall) a schools workshop of songwriting and traditional Maori kapa haka performance, while Toi Mana was a large-scale performance on the Town Hall stage by Te Matarae i Orehu, along with Whirimako Black and a number of other performers from around the country.
Among the performers at the Festival Picnic were my old friends Tim Denton & Annie Forbes, dressed as the Festival’s kiwi mascot, and (in this instance) picking the purse of City Councillor Sue Piper…
In 2006, I was on SchoolsFest duty again, this time catching up on a student dance workshop at the Royal New Zealand Ballet studios; but on my way out, I heard that members of the Italian dance show Aterballetto had decided to learn & perform a haka on their closing night – yes, that does happen some years – so I popped in to see them rehearsing with our great friend Wharehoka Wano.
In 2010, we had the great comedy duo Frisky & Mannish playing late nights at the Festival Club, and more than a few of the Festival staff went several times to catch the show. (Okay, myself included. They’re that good, okay!?) I was pleased to catch up with them again recently, when they did a one-night-only sideshow in Sydney while here for other festivals around Australia.
2012 saw NZTrio giving a concert called Dreamscapes in the Ilott Theatre, accompanied by Lenny Sakofsky and Jeremy Fitzsimons on percussion; I was only able to stay for some of their rehearsal, but that meant I could get up on stage with them (which obviously I wouldn’t normally do DURING a concert!) and get quite close in on each of them, which was nice. They’re a great bunch of folks – not sure I know a more hilarious group of classical musicians, actually.
And closing out 2012 – and this look back at the Festivals I’ve covered – is James Thiérrée’s Raoul, a beautifully designed and performed piece of work. He’s an incredible physical performer, but also has a great sense of theatre; it’s perfect for kids, but without ever being pandering to them. I’d somehow missed his Junebug Symphony and Bright Abyss in previous years, so this one really struck me – and that makes it a fitting close to this series, really!
Almost there – only one day left of this look back at the New Zealand Festival over the past decade or so. Of course, the Festivals we’re looking back at were winding up too, so today we’ve got more people than shows, as naturally there were fewer & fewer rehearsals for me to attend & photograph as the shows came to an end.
In 2004, Technical Director Ian Nicholls was leading a group of students around the venues and back to the Festival office, and I happened to catch up with him there as he introduced them to some of the paperwork involved in being ready when a show arrives – lighting plans, technical lists, and so on. Ian’s a great guy, and has possibly worked on every Festival since they started in 1988. (It wouldn’t surprise me, anyway!)
2006 saw a semi-staged production of Wagner’s Parsifal, which of course (being 5h long) I couldn’t cover all of; but the parts I did see were great, and featured some of the best of New Zealand’s opera talent, brought back from all over the world. It was rare enough to have tenor Simon O’Neill in town, but to have great Wagnerian bass-baritone Sir Donald MacIntyre performing was a treat indeed. Margaret Medlyn, Paul Whelan, Martin Snell, Jenny Wollerman and Madeleine Pierard also appeared.
One of the final shows of the Festival in 2008 was La Vie, from Les Sept Doigts De La Main from Montreal. Well, when I say final, it had been on for a while, but I was only able to get there in the last couple of days – which is a shame, because it was great! Not that they needed my help to sell tickets, mind you – word had got out early about that one…
And to wrap up today, we’ve got a few images from around the St James Theatre in ’08: front of house before an afternoon show, I ran into Festival Director Lissa Twomey chatting with Deirdre Tarrant from Footnote Dance, and CEO Dave Inns, both looking pretty relaxed now that they’d nearly made it through another one. Backstage, venue manager Jenn Ryan was into a serious game of foosball with the crew, and who should I find but Ian Nicholls again – now working for the venue.
And last but not least, a quick glimpse of the autographs in the elevator of the St James – and there’s The Overcoat again…!
Wow, we’re getting towards the end of the Festival, aren’t we! Well, there’s still time for a few more shows – this one’s Hone Kouka’s play The Prophet from 2004, by Taki Rua Theatre; and a rare example of when I had to do an actual ‘photo call’ for a show, rather than being able to cover a rehearsal or show. I always resist doing that if I can, because I don’t think you get the same emotional honesty in the images by getting actors to perform a quick bite of the show just for the camera; but sometimes, it’s the only option.
As I recall, we did this one after an evening performance, so at least they’d just been through the show and could get back to those moments fairly easily – but I’d always prefer they come naturally out of how the show progresses than do a stop-start ‘okay, next scene’ cue-to-cue sort of thing. It does mean I have to keep up with their pace, but that’s the kind of challenge I enjoy!
Next is the Revolt of the Mannequins, an outdoor installation (of sorts) that ran for ten days all over shop windows in Wellington. Very cleverly done, it showed a series of vignettes that changed daily showing different stories of mannequins taking over the shop fronts, breaking out – and even making it to the roof, in some cases…
There’s one image at the end that shows the workshop where it all got made – not giving too much away, but there were a LOT of mannequin parts!
Today’s images are brought to you by the letter T: first, Tuwhare, the concert tribute to the great New Zealand poet Hone Tuwhare. Following on from Baxter in the 2000 Festival, songwriters were invited to create a new work using one of Tuwhare’s poems, and an album and concert were created from those.
It was great to see – and hear – some of the country’s best paying tribute to Hone, and it’s interesting to note the longevity of some of the songs. (I’m pretty sure, when Don McGlashan & Dave Dobbyn played Sydney recently, they each did one – Dave’s Song Of The Years from Baxter, and Don’s Rain from this show.)
T.E.O.R.E.M.A.T. – easier to say than type – was another in the great theatre lineup at the 2010 Festival, this one from Polish director Grzegorz Jarzyna – neither easy to type, nor say. Visually amazing, I was glad to have a chance to photograph it, even for a short period one afternoon during a tech rehearsal.
One thing that struck me about it was, being at the TSB Arena, it was a very contrasting use of the space to the show that preceded it, The Sound of Silence. While the design of the Latvian show was quite shallow and wide, running across the front of the seating block but having very little depth, showing a series of small apartments next to each other, this was the opposite – incredibly deep, and fairly narrow (as I recall it), neither of which is something you see often on stage in New Zealand.
It’s interesting to wonder what some more flexible theatre spaces in NZ would bring out in terms of set & lighting design; and it’s surprising to see what designers in other countries think is going to be easy to tour!