After a slightly unscheduled break from gig photography, I was kindly invited to photograph The Sandrunners EP launch at the 2014 Belfast Nashville festival. A great night of music with The Sandrunners ably accompanied by The White Mansions and Lazy Flies.
I enjoy gig photography – it’s not a controlled environment so you’ve got to grab as you go. But unless you’re photographing a rock concert, the lighting is never going to be on your side and even with F4 lenses and a 5Dmk2 I find I struggle to get a decent exposure. I’m not sure I’m quite ready to spend serious cash on an F2.8 though.
Whilst this site remains in a semi-dormant state, it’s not through any lack of photography. Instead I’ve found myself shooting to project briefs more and more. And to put it simply, these don’t seem “right” for the blog and to a degree had reduced the priority of this in my photography.
I think as well that my ability to discuss failures, or to ask myself questions in public has been impacted as well. When you have “clients”, it becomes second nature to act confident and knowledgeable. This leads to me internalising my questions and actually reduces my willingness to share.
I’m still enjoying my photography. Still looking for opportunities. And indeed, some personal opportunities are just around the corner.
Anyway…. enough of the self reflection and meandering.
One of the cool things about project briefs, or at least the ones I’ve picked up in the last 6 months is that they involve people. And photographing people, it turns out, is one of the most fun things I’ve found to do with a camera. Even when shooting to a timetable, when you have an amateur model who’s willing to let you experiment with lights and have a bit of fun for the camera you can get some fun photographs.
I’ll try to post more often going forward.
I was back with Nigel Fleming at the weekend for another workshop. This one focused on the sue of Off Camera Flash using flashguns rather than studio lights.
Like a lot of photographic techniques, I’ve played around with this before as part of my “have credit card – will photograph” approach to gear. However, without really knowing what I was doing I fell into the hole of simply using my strobes as studio lights without any real thought about the advantages that little portable lights can actually provide. I’d read a bit of The Strobist over the years, but I’m not a book learner and need to be physically shown for something to sink in.
Sunday was just that sort of day.
We worked through a series of lighting setups, ranging from how to get the most out of an environment without the viewer ever realising there were flashes used through to using flash to make a statement and give a photograph real punch.
Throughout it all, Nigel was helpful and forthcoming with his tips and advice – Like I’ve said before, sign up to his classes (but only after I’ve booked my spot). Complementing Nigel was Sarah, the highly talented and professional model he’d lined up, and Catherine, Nigel’s wife and professional make-up artist.
Here’s some example photographs from the day. (It’s worth pointing out that they have been post processed, but only very slightly).
Both of the above were shot using two flash heads for depth and contrast without over egging the light.
These were shot at lunchtime, in quite a bright street. Lighting here was totally controlled by the flash.
Studio Nights may be just a trend in Northern Ireland, but I suspect it’s becoming common across the UK and Ireland. I’ve been lucky to attend a few (and have posted about them before), but let me just reiterate – if you enjoy portrait photography, these nights are fantastic.
On Thursday past, I spent the evening in Dungannon with Nigel Fleming Photography. Nigel organised a fantastic evening for 6 amateur photographers, making sure everything was explained at a level we could understand and checking each of us was getting everything we could hope for from the session.
Having looked at Nigel’s photographs before going, I hoped we’d be able to see some of the tricks he uses to produce such spectacular portraiture. Not only was he thorough with his teaching, but he was eager to show us everything he does and personally checked our images to make sure we were getting good quality results. Everything was covered, from camera settings through to how each light in the setup works.
To support Nigel’s teaching, he organised a brilliant model who was patient and professional – no need for any of my stumbling direction. Nigel’s wife, a professional make-up artist, looked after the model’s styling for the evening.
The results? I think they speak for themselves.
If you have the chance to attend a studio night, give it some serious consideration. If you have the opportunity to attend one being run by Nigel, go – you won’t regret it.
The Lagan Sessions is now on summer hiatus. I’d only ever intended to go once or twice to try my hand at taking photographs in a gig setting. Instead, I found I was drawn back there week after week for the people and the music.
Every single artist I photographed over the course of the thing (something like 30 different acts) was friendly and willing to let me take their photograph while they played. As a result I learned more about low light photography than I ever could have achieved elsewhere. It’s true that if you speak to someone who’s passionate about their hobby/profession they’ll be only to happy to share it with you.
Gig photography is different, light is only one of the many things you don’t control. Instead you have to work within the bounds of the setup finding light where you can and angles which work to complement the singer and the environment (who’s idea was it to put a red fire extinguisher at the side of the stage?). You also need to be conscious people are there to see and hear the musician, not stare at your ass or watch you run around in front of the stage.
I’ve given a lot of the musicians copies of the photographs I took of them. Certainly anybody who has turned up in the Flickr album is welcome to their photographs. Some I’m not so happy with for technical reasons, others I really love, but every single one of them was a result of the musician being absolutely brilliant.
The Lagan Sessions – I went for the photography, but stayed for the music.
I went to the Lagan Sessions last year and, apart from really enjoying the music, got a great opportunity to try gig photography.
At the time I struggled – my 400D wasn’t up to the task of low light photography. ISO 400 and above was just noise and blur and nonsense. I don’t think it’s right to use flash at something like this.
Well, last night I went back with my new 5Dmk2 body. I’m still getting the hang of it – I only realised in the middle of the gig I still didn’t know how to record video… I still had some noise issues to contend with, but since I was shooting at ISO4000 I’m not going to complain.
Thanks to Steve, Dave and the artists for letting me intrude and take photographs. Photography aside, it’s a lovely way to spend a Sunday night listening to some great, original, music.
The last two posts featured a local model and where shot in the Townhouse Gallery in Belfast.
George, the owner, and Jane, the model, were brilliant – hosting a bunch of us for the evening and making sure our local lighting expert didn’t go too off page (thanks as always to Gordon for the lighting tips).
It’s the first time I’ve taken photographs like this outside either the club or a family home and it was a great experience. Having experts on hand to advise on lighting and having a model who not only understood direction but was able to translate my “uhms” and “erms” for “look this way” and “smile” or “pout” made everything make sense.
As a (very) amateur photographer, I’d been nervous of going to galleries or talking to folks outside my comfort zone. Looking back, I’m not so sure why. If you’re into photography, can I suggest you make a trip to your local gallery and have a chat – you might find someone like George who is putting evening just like this on for local photographers and it’s a great opportunity to try something fun.
Out of the evening, I think I got maybe 10 photographs I like to some degree or another.
Here’s a sample.