Bec Reid Photography

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Follow the pretty lights...

If I mentioned colour in my last post, this one can be about lights.

I love lights at a concert. They create such different effects. Even the most boring band, with the least stage presence, can look interesting in a photo, if there's some lights involved. Sometimes it's not the musician's fault, they're stuck behind a drum kit (hardly ever lit up! Must talk to some lighting people about this...) or a keyboard. My example;

[Hungry Kids of Hungary, The HiFi, Brisbane, May 2011] Good band, but heck, how much can you really do with a keyboard player? Well...that.

Having shot at a few different venues now, I can tell you now...not all lighting people (engineers? designers?) are created equal. One venue in Brisbane seems to think a couple of light bulbs and a red spotlight are all that's required. Um, no. Not for the poor photographers, anyway! Not that red can't be cool, if there's enough LIGHT. My example; my opinion it's fairly cool. [Rapture Ruckus, Easterfest, Toowoomba April 2011]

So just about any colour can look awesome, providing there is enough LIGHT. How to get the light? Well, if it's just a dark venue and you gotta work with what's available, make sure you have the right gear. I chose Nikon based on the low-light performances of both my D90 and the D700. Of course the D700 is by far the better of the two, being a full-frame and all. D3s would have been my first choice, but I like having two kidneys.

Then it's about lenses. No point in having the best body if you stick a kit lens on it. That said, I started off with kit lenses, but I was lucky in that my first gig was a large music festival, one with PLENTY of lighting. Thus enabling me to use a faster shutter, etc.

Basically don't go for any number bigger than f2.8. I use three lenses in my music photography; Sigma 50mm f1.4, Sigma 70-200 f2.8 and Nikkor 24-70 f2.8. I definitely notice if I go from the 50mm to either of my zooms... in fact I often first think "Somethings wrong with my camera!"*shame* then I remember...'Oh yeah....f1.4 - > f2.8...duh'

So you've got your gear, at the venue, band is up. How to get the light? For me it's a mixture of trial + error, patience and luck. Mostly luck, I think. Watch the lights, see where they pan, when they flash. Try to time your click with it. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. That's the great thing about digital isn't it? Take as many shots as you like! In the 3-song window, of course.

Of course, if you shoot at the same venues a lot, you can get to know the 'pattern' most often used, and the locations of the spotlights. I'm down with the HiFi in West End now. I know what they got, and where the lights go.

[Paul Colman, playing with Peter Furler at Easterfest, Toowoomba, April 2011.]

 Not the best shot of Paul, but a good example of the awesome lighting available that night. There was also a ring-style thing. I think I have a shot...

[Michael Paynter, Easterfest, Toowoomba, April 2011]

See that metal rig behind him? Lots of cool lights later on that day (it was barely dark when I took that photo)

So many cool effects can be done with lights. I love this one;

[Paul Colman again]

Notice how all my 'cool lights' shots are from Easterfest? They used the best lighting people, in my opinion. Wish they could do every gig I shoot!

Some photogs use an external flash. I don't, not in live music. It's been recommended to me, I just don't believe it's relaying the true performance with a flash, if you know what I mean. It dulls colours and looks boring, 'set up'. 

That's my take on it, anyway. 

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