I was hired by the band Vicinity to cover their recent concert at Rockheim. I’m fairly used to cover musical events after shooting a range of choir concerts, but this was the first time I was to cover a metal-band. The challenge was on!
First of all, they wanted new group shots as they had a new band member that was not included on any of their previous promotional photographs. We did not have much time to get the shots done as the audience was supposed to be let into the room we were shooting in. We did get several shots done however, and the band seemed pleased with the end results.
For this shot I simply set up a single key light flash on a flash stand along with a white umbrella diffuser. The stand was set rather high up, maybe three meters, pointing slightly down towards the band. The lighting proved a bit difficult because of some pretty strong spotlights coming from the stage to the right (notice the hard shadows on the floor pointing to the left from their legs). This resulted in a rather difficult circumstances that made it a bit difficult to evenly light all the members. In retrospect I wish I had brought one more flash stand to put my second flash on the other side, and ask the stage technicians to dim out the stage lights. On later shots I took my second flash and simply put on the ground to try even out the lights a bit, but my small SpeedLite 420EX II was no match for the strong spotlights from the stage. Another slight issue was that they had previously had a lot of stage smoke in the room and it hadn’t dissipated away yet. The remaining smoke was somewhat lit by the flashguns and gave a sort of blurred light over some of the shots.[Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art @ 35mm, f/1.4, 1/320sec, 400 ISO] I’m rather happy with this shot because of the timing. The guy was doing some hefty headbanging, tossing his hair around, and I noticed the moving lights around. I quickly positioned myself to where I anticipated his head would be when the light pointed towards me, and was lucky in both the timing, as well as the camera’s focus. A problem when trying to get this right is that when using an aperture as large as f/1.4, the depth of field is so narrow that there is always a risk. The risk is that the short time between when the camera has found focus and the shot is captured, the subject may have moved enough farther away or closer that it gets slightly out of focus. The trick here in just this scenario was to make the camera focus when he was on top of his headbang cycle, and wait until he had done one more cycle before shooting. [Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art @ 35mm, f/1.4, 1/640 sec, 400 ISO] Another example of examining the lights’ movement and anticipating where they will be, waiting for that moment where they are pointing where I want them to point. This gives a nice and dramatic flare. I also like how the light is blue in front of him, and red behind him. He is basically a barrier between the two colours. I also like how we can noticeably see the shadows in the smoke from him and his guitar. [Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art @ 35mm, f/2.8, 1/160sec, 640 ISO] Again the guitarist. The simple, intense, red light here made the shot very dramatic. I also twisted the camera for a sort of abnormal angle that – to me – added a certain “not as you would see it if you had been there” feel to the shot. I don’t like that the sound equipment in the background to the left shines out so clearly, sort of disrupting the continuity of the red mist. I could have attempted to remove this in photoshop, but because of the irregularly lit fog there was always a risk that it would show. At least to me who knew what I had done. [Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM @ 42mm, f/2.8, 1/80 sec, 1600 ISO] The lead vocals picked up his mic stand and started simulating an awesome guitar solo on his mic stand. It looked cool, and even more so in black and white. The primary reason to make this photo black and white however was that the backlight pointed too much towards the camera and blurred out the colours of the exposure. It wasn’t really bad per se, but it just had a better feel to it in black and white. [Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art @ 35mm, 1/400sec, f/1.4, 400 ISO] Yet another example of where I timed the shot so the lights behind him would give the subject almost an aura. The camera exposure of course compensates for this and his face is therefore very underexposed. In this shot because of the hard light behind him, it really works, but to add a certain “artistic” feel to it, it seemed very fitting to have also this image put in black and white. It’s a nifty little lesson. If the shot seems good, but doesn’t feel right, try it in black and white before you decide not to use it!
All in all, the shoot went rather well. I missed not having a lens with an even wider focal width (like 10 or 12 mm. for example). Lenses like that often give a sort of fisheye effect that I don’t care much for in normal settings, but right here in this setting it could have given a really nice feel to the shots. Concert images are often just as much artistic as they are documentations because they are supposed to capture a certain feel. Looking at photos from a concert is supposed to give off emotion, just as the band’s performance is supposed to do. Not quite the same intensity of course, but still.
I also noticed a kind of weakness my Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 lens has, and that is in dealing with intense backlights. Where my 35mm f/1.4 did quite nicely, the 24-70mm just got unflattering lens blurs (ie. it almost looks as if the lens has become dirty or something, giving the look of an over exposed shot).