Photographing Actor Rachael Taylor
I was fortunate to photograph actor Rachael Taylor while working as a stills photographer on the Australian motion picture film Summer Coda in and around the regional city of Mildura in Australia. Here are my impressions of working with this accomplished Australian actor.
The image at the top of this post shows Rachael Taylor acting our a moment from the film for me to photograph.
Despite oppressive heat, and at the end of a difficult scene, Rachael got straight back into character which enabled me to make a series of images of her character, Heidi, with her violin.
Summer Coda | The Making Of
Summer Coda was filmed predominantly in and around Mildura, in north west Victoria during December 2009. Over the years I’ve created numerous posts from the film illustrated with images of the crew and the local landscape.
While I found working on the film to be an enjoyable and uplifting experience, Summer Coda was made with a very small budget and under very difficult conditions. I was extremely impressed with the way actors and crew alike met those challenges.
Oppressive summer temperatures were faced by all and, in addition, others had their own, unique problems to manage as best they could.
It's a credit to the professionalism of all involved that the work came first and, as a result, the finished product shines under the direction of Hollywood based, Australian film-maker Richard Gray.
Candid Photography | Real or Contrived
I found Rachael to be a generous and engaging person aware of the needs of the stills photographer.
As well as being required to make numerous stills during or immediately after the filming of certain scenes, I was also asked to photograph a range of candid moments, of actors and crew alike, on and around set.
This was particularly important to director Richard Gray, who also wrote the script, so I did my very best to make a series of images that helped tell the story of the making of Summer Coda.
photographers Must Respect The People They Photograph
This image of Rachael Taylor’s character Heidi playing the violin was made with the aid of window light which provided a large, soft light source by which to shape the face and highlight the warm color of the violin.
There are some actors, with whom I've worked in the past, who simply do not want to be photographed off set. There are numerous reasons why this is important to them and/or the management group with which they’re involved.
Image is important to all actors and it's not unreasonable that they would want to try and protect their image by controlling what and when they are photographed.
Off set, as public figures, this is clearly hard to achieve. The dreaded and vile paparazzi make sure of that. On set I had to balance the views of actor with the needs of my employer.
Off camera and around the set I wouldn't dream of photographing anyone who doesn't want to be photographed. I simply make the point that, as I'm only interested in making positive, life-affirming images, that it's their loss as much as mine.
If I can't photograph them then they will be missing from the body of work I produce which tells the story of the making of the film. Personally I think that's tragic but, whether I agree with their rational or not, I absolutely respect their decision.
In Rachael's case I had no such problem. Due to her very hectic schedule on set there really was little time to photographer her off camera, other than during meal breaks or between wardrobe changes.
I do my best to keep clear of actors during those time, assuming they need space and quiet between scenes. Of course it's always a good feeling when you get a chance to sit and chat with any member of the team, whether cast or crew.
Summer Coda | The Journey
The above photo illustrates one of the many walking/travelling scenes Rachael Taylor performed telling the story of her journey from the US to the orange orchards of Mildura.
For these scenes I positioned myself as close to the Director Of Photography, Greg de Marigny, as possible without getting in the way or having the sound of my shutter being picked up by the audio guys.
I'm not what you would call a candid photographer, preferring to work in an interactive way with my subject. However, the nature of this project required the recording of certain candid moments. Right from the beginning Rachael seemed fine with this.
I'm not the type of photographer who hides in the bushes with a big telephoto zoom lens. Rather I'd stand back, out of the way and, when an opportunity arises for a candid moment (e.g., laughter, banter, interaction with director, etc) I'II make the image.
But only if it's likely to be a good one. I really have no interest in rendering anyone in a demeaning manner, unless they choose to ham it up for the camera. And even then I'd be careful who sees such photos.
Low Light Photography | A Minimalist Approach
As many of the scenes from Summer Coda were filmed indoors or outside at night a lot of low light photography was involved.
I frequently had to employ what, in those days, was considered high ISO (e.g., 800 or 1600) in addition to slow shutter speeds (e.g., 1/8 second handheld) and fast lenses (e.g., 85 mm f/1.2) to be able to record the moment as close as possible to how it would appear on the big screen.
As I said, right from the get go, Rachael was fine with this type of candid approach. I was aware, right from the first time, that she'd wait until I'd released the shutter until she moved.
Rachael even sent the faintest type of wink towards me as if to say, "No worries, hope you got a good one". I'II never forget that, particularly after arriving for my first day on set, some way into the project, with the temperature reaching 47 degrees Celsius.
Any opportunities to photograph Rachael Taylor were a real highlight for me. Rachel has an enchanting smile and amazing skin, as is evident in this black and white portrait of Rachael with Australian actor Alex Dimitriades.
Photography is largely about light and Rachael and light have an incredible relationship. Rather than light reflecting off her skin, it seemed to radiate outwards.
This luminous quality is what I try to achieve in all my photography. With Rachael its just there and, as such, it was a joy to photographer her.