Hey Michael, by the way- if you are ever interested in doing it, there is always call for local theater groups and that sort of thing. The gigs are of course usually unpaid or at best a token payment, but you do get visibility and experience that is hard to get otherwise-- and theater people are a quirky amusing bunch. As you are into the Steampunk/Ren/etc fair scene, it's pretty much that same, odd subset of folks that are the theater folks. They also tend to get really amazed and appreciative of any technical assistance on props- Making a "haunted" table jump (solenoid) and bang... that's a miracle to them, frequently. For Blithe, they needed a crystal ball to light up, but had no way to do it without a cord. I slapped a three watt power LED and a cell phone battery in the base, and it's the best thing sliced bread as far as they are concerned. Low effort, but amount of comments and accolades for it has been just silly. I haven't even done anything actually involving an Arduino yet.. but it will happen I'm sure of it.
If you give a call to the local arts groups, you will rapidly be inundated with requests.. and though not usually rewarding cash wise, it's usually very much so, amusement and challenge wise.. over the next couple of weeks I'll be doing Wizard of Oz, Annie, Blithe Spirit, and MacBeth. I'm sure there's plenty around Ayer- it occured to me after chatting at KRF that if you aren't already, you seemed the type that really ought to be well ensconced with the local theater groups.
Attached is a shot of "Charles" for "Blithe Spirit", local theater doing it. Took the press shots for the local paper last Thursday. Supposed to come across as 1940 ish British and snobby... but look at it from the Depth of Field standpoint-- that's where those lenses that you can drive a truck through really shine. No flash used, this is 100w Halogen PAR sidelit at about 6000K, hair and balance at about 2500K, 50w halogen and 20w LED. Next to it is a still from the original 1945 film, where Charles is played by Rex Harrison. The shot was taken with my Canon Rebel T2i, you can buy the camera with stock lens at Walmart for under $500. A Canon 50mm prime f1.8 is another $89, the f/1.4 (only recently purchased, the King Richard's Faire gig paid for that lens) is more like $600, and still debating whether that upcharge for that increase is really worth it. I know that you are another who takes pride in good results from minimalist equipment
Making shots like this happen is a LOT of fun
I am quite pleased with the work I did, it doesn't look out of place even next to the original cinema work. As the guy with the camera, you become the director. Getting the "Charles" look right took quite a while, but I think it came out pretty decent
. Not bad considering he's a local accountant. "Elvira" will be coming over to the house later tonight, so I can shoot some stuff with her that emphasizes that she is quite dead, while still elegant, flirty and witty. That's right, an attractive zombie.
(okay I promise no more hijacking the thread, didn't mean to get so far off track!)
OP: The thing is, I would recommend that you go and search around Craigslist or something, and see if you can buy yourself a gently used digital SLR with a basic lens (usually they come with 18-55mm or similar basic zoom lens). A Canon Rebel XT or XTi with that lens could probably be had these days used for two hundred dollars and would give you a tool that you won't regret having gotten! I'm a Canon guy myself, but Nikon and Minolta and Sony (among others!) also produce a decent entry-level digital SLR for several years now- so the secondary market is easy to shop for a bargain. Maybe try a Adorama or another well-known vendor of refurbs also.
I did a single search on ebay, and "Buy it Now", here's the first hit that came up- I am not recommending this one or anything, it's just to show it's typical pricing and setup:http://www.ebay.com/itm/Canon-EOS-Digital-Rebel-XT-350D-8-0-MP-Digital-SLR-Camera-Black-Kit-w-/161005063785?pt=Digital_Cameras&hash=item257ca64e69
It's selling for $140.. so there's going to be quite a few for the under-$200-price tag range. My Rebel XT was my first digital SLR, and it's still going strong today. Several shots for Blithe came from it.
Used for Macro, that camera and lens can do quite well. This stop-motion shot I took with the XT and 18-55mm, using Arduino to trigger a flash timed for the impact of a paint drop into a bowl: