Concert Photography: Heavy Metal vs. Classical Music

My first foray into photojournalism was concert photography. Because I was a heavy metal musician for many years, I got assigned to a lot of metal concerts. These were some of the toughest assignments because heavy metal bands like to create an ominous, theatrical atmosphere with red, purple, or blue lighting. It took me a while to adjust to such low lighting. Even though it was a challenge, I still enjoyed the process and in the end I became a much better photographer.   Recently, I was hired to photograph the East Valley Youth Symphony. From a photographer’s perspective, this environment is very different from rock n’ roll and heavy metal. At a rock concert you have the photo pit and three songs to get all your photos. However, with the symphony, you have seated guests and the musicians sit close together. Being discreet and quiet is of utmost importance. Most cameras make a noise when the shutter is released. This means you don’t want to shoot when the music is really quiet. Following a dress code is also important. Wearing black or dark colors is advised so that you don’t stick out and distract the audience from the performance. […]

Wanderlust

Before I became a photographer, I thought I wanted to be a full-time writer. In 2012, I graduated from California College of the Arts with a Masters in Creative Writing. I do love to write, but I found it could be very lonely work.   After I wrote my first novel, I decided I needed to take a break. During this break is when I started interviewing and photographing people with tattoos. I loved combining my passion for writing with photography because it gave me the best of both worlds. I’m an introvert, so I don’t necessarily hate sitting in a room by myself for hours working. However, I like how photography allows me to collaborate with other people. Plus, the process of photography is generally much faster than writing. For example, I spent three years writing my novel, whereas I could photograph and interview someone and see the results within a few hours.   Patience is indeed a virtue when you’re an artist, but sometimes it’s nice (and perhaps necessary) to see something to completion. It makes you feel like you’re moving forward in life. I still love writing fiction, but these days I’m more focussed on photojournalism.   […]

Cathy Rankin

I have had the pleasure of working with Cathy on a few shoots. This shot was taken during a shoot where we were trying to get as many different looks in one session. In just a few hours and using only natural light, we were able to get many different looks. Being resourceful is an important skill as a photographer. I chose to shoot at my parent’s house because their backyard has interesting walls and lots of greenery, which is rare in Phoenix. Overall, the shoot was a success and we both had a lot of fun.

Superhero

A couple of weekends ago, I had the honor of photographing for the band Superhero at the W Hotel in Scottsdale. Superhero often performs at major corporate and charity events, playing some of the best music from 80’s through today. The band was absolutely great, but the lighting was a definite concern for me. There was very little lighting on the singers, and a large projector screen silhouetted the musicians because there wasn’t enough light in front to balance the screen’s brightness. Because I’ve photographed so many metal bands who play on dark stages, I knew how to handle the situation. Besides adjusting aperture, ISO, and, shutter speed, the other thing that I do in this situation is wait for appropriate moments to capture a good shot. For example, I knew it was too dark to get any kind of jumping or quick movement. Instead, I waited for those moments where the musicians held a pose or weren’t moving too much. A lot of concert photography is making the most out of the situation. The lighting isn’t always going to be ideal. The venue may be so crowded that it’s hard to capture a shot of the band without fans blocking your view. […]

Amaranthe, Butcher Babies, Lullwater

Every time a I photograph a concert, I usually encounter some challenges. It’s never completely smooth sailing, which I kind of like. I look at concert photography like a game because my success depends on my ability to adapt to any situation and compose shots that others will find interesting. Amaranthe, Butcher Babies, and Lullwater are great bands ,and I highly recommend you check out their music. So this blog has nothing to do with their performances. The concert was probably my most challenging event, and it was mainly because the venue was very dark. Pub Rock is a cozy venue, and I have actually played on their stage a couple of times. If you’re there to enjoy watching a band, it’s a great venue. However, if you’re a photographer, you’re going to feel a little frustrated. For one thing, there was no photo pit. The place was packed and the only way I could get close enough to the stage was to make a deal with a couple of people near the front, that, if they just gave me the first song to get my shots, I’d stay out of their way. The second problem was that the musicians […]

Concert Photography: A Study of White Balance

I really love going to concerts. Besides the fact that I’m a musician and I’m completely obsessed with music, I love the raw energy I feel from a rock concert. Anything can happen, and usually, it does. However, sometimes the elements that attract me most to concerts, are the things that are hardest for me to capture in photography. For example, many bands use dramatic lighting, where the entire stage is saturated with red or blue lighting. I tend to get blown out colors in my photos, like someone dropped blue or red ink all over the image. The saturation is out of control. Post processing has usually mitigated the damage, but I haven’t always been able to get the clarity that I look for in my photography. Up until recently, I’ve always set my WHITE BALANCE to auto because I never knew what kind of lighting I was going to get. For the most part my images came out well, or, I was able to correct the color balance in post. However, at the Red & Adelita’s Way concert at the Marquee theater this summer, I noticed my photos were not coming out the way I wanted. I ran […]

Tattle Tales: Session Two

I met music producer Larry Elyea when I joined his fiance’s all girl rock band The Heathers. Larry is the owner of Mind’s Eye Digital Recording Studio, and his work is well known throughout the valley. He has worked with local Phoenix musicians as well as major label artists like Five Finger Death Punch and Corey Taylor from Slipknot. While I was in The Heathers, I didn’t really have a chance get to know Larry, but the few times that I saw him, I always noticed the vibrant ink on his right arm. So naturally when I decided to do this project, I thought Larry’s portrait would be an awesome addition. During the session, Larry told me the story of how he found out he had a Staph infection. One of the tattoos was not healing properly. He eventually got extremely sick and that’s when they diagnosed him. As it turned out, his house had previously suffered severe roof damage. As a result, his house was riddled with black mold, which was compromising his immune system and thus, preventing his tattoos from healing properly. Fortunately, he fully recovered from the infection and is no longer enduring a house filled with […]

Concert Photography

Last week I had my first assignment for Cryptic Rock Magazine. While I have photographed many concerts, this was actually my first time taking pictures at the Marquee Theater. Even though I ran into some challenges with low lighting and color saturation, I really enjoyed taking photos at this venue. The biggest reason was that there was an area gated off just for the photographers and security. I have an expensive camera, and my biggest fear when I photograph rock concerts is that my equipment will get trashed or damaged from the mosh pit. When I’m photographing I have a tendency to be so focused on what is in my view finder that I’ll be completely oblivious to my surroundings. For each band, I had three songs to get all my photos, which proved to be enough time. In addition to taking photos my job also included writing a review for Red’s “Beauty and Rage” tour. You can check out my article and photos by clicking the link below. The above photos are of a local band called While She Waits. http://crypticrock.com/red-take-breath-away-marquee-theatre-tempe-az-6-4-5-w-adelitas-way-bad-seed-rising-mcclinton/

ELEMENT A440 DOMINATE AT THEIR TOUR KICKOFF

This week I’m doing something a little different. Last Friday I had the opportunity to photograph Element A440. So today I’m  giving you a concert review for one of Phoenix’s recognized industrial metal bands. Element has been around the Phoenix music scene for several years, demonstrating a level of tenacity that would make most bands blush. I have seen a couple of their shows over the last four years, and, every time I see them, they somehow manage to push themselves musically and theatrically. When you see an Element show, you’re not just going to see a band. They pull you into their world; a world that is dark, sexy, and very bloody. Light-hearted Vaudeville-like acts added humor to an otherwise intense set. Where other bands have failed to intersperse such acts into their sets, these additional performers kept their acts short and sweet. The momentum continued with Halo’s screaming vocals and emotionally-packed lyrics, while his band mates, Graven, Animal, and Kat, captivated the audience with their playing as well as with their body language and spewing of fake blood. One of Element’s strength is their ability to connect with their audience. Halo was always near the edge of the […]

Let There Be Light (or not)

Last week I photographed Recoil and the LA based band Spence at the Rogue Bar in Scottsdale, AZ. For 90% of the show, the stage was completely illuminated with either all blue or all red lighting, making my subjects resemble blueberries or raspberries. This can be very frustrating because, without enough light, my camera can’t take a picture. Even when I bump up the ISO, drop the shutter speed (I don’t like to go below 150 because there’s too much movement), and increase the aperture, it sometimes still not enough. I refuse to use flash because it distracts performers, and I feel that as a photographer, my goal is to capture the moment, not disrupt it. For this particular show, my only recourse was to move around until my camera registered that there was enough light to capture an image. On the bright side, I did manage to get quite a few photos, but many were too blurry, slightly noisy, and completely washed in blue or red hues. I did my best to repair the images in Lightroom, but I wouldn’t call these my best photos. Even though I enjoy photographing musicians, the primary reason that I keep putting myself […]