An Oddball Christmas Pageant & Midnight Mass

It was a fun time.

It was a necessary escape from the holiday stress.

The Donner Vixens' singers Kenna Kettrick, left, Kate Chapman, with percussionist Tyson Lynn.

The music was good and the performers colorful, satirical, shocking, gross, and funny. The gathering crowd at the Blue Moon Tavern in Seattle was fun and friendly. Everyone was having a good time.

For Christmas Eve, I had this assignment to shoot the 7th Annual Christmas Pageant and Midnight Mass for Seattle Weekly. It was quite the experience.

I arrived early to organize my gear and check out the venue. Sorta what I expected, but at the same time, completely unexpected. This will definitely be a challenge.

Death's Three Sisters lead singer Jen "Toots" Stinespring

The lighting was horrible. But what can you do. You make the best of it.

Et Cetera frontman Don Cetera

The stage was lit by only two small spotlights and the spillover from the bar’s overhead lights. What little there was, I had to work with, or add some fill flash. Or, in some cases, do both. “Improvise, Adapt, Overcome.”

The key to using fill flash in ambient light is balancing the colors. You can do this one of two ways.

You can use filters on the overhead lights to make them balance with your strobe, or use a filter over your strobe to balance with the overheads.

Jesus (Jason "J.J." Josephes of Seattle ) and Satan (Stubby Abbot) trade insults

Since filtering your strobe is easier and costs much less, a simple Daylight to Tungsten filter taped to your flash will make post processing much easier. Even if the color temps are off by ±100° K , the color shift is minimal. Unless you’re a tech guru, you won’t even notice.

The Donner Vixens ukelele player Kate Chapman

Unfortunately, I had forgotten my strobes filters.

Looking over the stage, I pondered my lighting options. Busting out my trusty light meter, I took some ambient readings and just shook my head in disbelief.

"Buffy the Trickslayer"

“Wow. 1/15 at f/2.8 using 1600,” I said to myself, “I’ve shot dungeons that were brighter than this.”

So I set my cameras to the what I needed: following my light meter minus one stop so I can catch some action. Using only my 17-35 f/2.8 and my 85 f/1.8 lenses, I took some test shots.

“Not bad lighting,” I thought, “if the performers act like mannequins.”

As noisy as the bar was beginning to get, it was still peaceful. I think it was the fact I was out in my element shooting and not sitting around the house twiddling my thumbs.

It is one of the best stress relievers I have ever known.

Photography calms my nerves and soothes my soul.

Alter boy Stubby Abbot, right, prays as Rev. Darnell Jenkins prepares for the Midnight Mass

The line up for the show consisted of several bands, a visit by the Birthday Boy himself, Jesus, and Midnight Mass performed by Rev. Darnell Jenkins.

What a show indeed.

And I was NOT prepared for some of the future freakness I would witness.

The Virgin Mary, played by Danielle Dupree, watches as The Rev. Darnell Jenkins preaches his sermon

Death’s Three Sisters started the proceedings with a bang. Then Et Cetera moved the show along with renditions of songs by Chicago.

The Rev. Darnell Jenkins preaches the sermon

Jesus and Satan kept the crowd laughing with their jibber jabber pointed sarcasm at each other. Buffy the Trickslayer rapped her way onto the stage with her songs about streetwalking and cash grabbing. It was a great show.

Billy the Fridge filled the stage next. Yep, filled the stage. He is a big man and the big man engaged the crowd with a healthy dose of his food inspired rap songs. All the while dressed as Santa.

Then along came The Donner Vixens prancing their way onto the stage and with their upbeat music got the crowd dancing like their feet were on hot coals. Great music and fun lyrics.

The pièce de résistance was the Rev. Darnell Jenkins conducting of the Midnight Mass. A true spectacle with a bizarre, and somewhat en-“gross”-ing ending.

With all the shows, this turned out to be one Christmas Eve I won’t soon forget.

The Rev. Darnell Jenkins and Stubby Abbott "engross" the crowd during Midnight Mass.

For more photos of the performers, visit my gallery titled Blue Moon Christmas Pageant.


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