Now Playing Tracks

Rating the Lighting at Music Venues: Baby’s All Right

image

In the second installment of an ongoing series, I will complain or rave about the lighting conditions that I come across on my concert-going adventures.

Let me start this off by saying that I like this venue. It’s a nice intimate space (it holds about 200). The layout is well thought out, and the staff is rad. Not to mention that they have a pretty nice food menu.

One thing that sets ‘Baby’s’ apart from other venues is the back of the stage. Instead of a black wall at the rear of the stage, there’s a gray wall with a few hundred embedded ashtrays. The ashtrays are clear and LED lighting shines through. This is a pretty nifty idea, considering that the venue is too small to have a haze machine and beams of light behind the performers. It really adds to the ambiance.

But, just because there’s a nice lighting system, doesn’t mean that someone is going to control it in the way that it should be controlled. Take this shot of the band High Waisted. The back of the stage is lit by white lights, while the performers are drenched in purple. This should be the opposite. White light in the front, colors in the back.

image

This is how the stage was lit the entire performance. As an audience member, I don’t want to see this chick drenched in purple for 40 minutes. It looks awful. Sickly is a word I would use. As a photographer I hate how these turned out.

So, instead of making everything black and white, I used the split toning function in Lightroom to fix the skin tones and make everyone look a lot more human. Like so:

image

LED stage lighting is notoriously difficult to color correct compared to more traditional lighting. While the skin tones are fixed, other colors are compromised. Take for example this shot of La Sera’s Tod Wisenbaker and Katy Goodman:

image

Ugh, this purple lighting is fucking killing me. So, again, I go into split toning and try and get skin tones and hair color look a little more natural than the sickly purple. 

image

I think I did a pretty good job, but check out Tod’s Chicago Bears jersey. It should be dark blue. Not green. Can’t do anything about it.

Now, even though La Sera’s lighting wasn’t even close to ideal, it wasn’t nearly as bad as Worriers set:

image

Their entire set was bathed in red lighting. For one song? Fine. For 40 minutes? Fuck you. The worst part about red lighting is that all you lose a large amount of detail in photographs. And these are no exception. I shot about 2 dozen photos and gave up because I knew I was going to hate them. Sorry, Worriers. I’ll hit you up next time you play.

Verdict: Baby’s All Right has the potential to be a classic music venue. The stage design with the ashtrays in the back is iconic. People will see photographs 20 years from now and know that it’s Baby’s All RIght. That is no small feat.

If the same attention that was put into the lighting design was put into how the stage is actually lit during a performance this would be a great venue to shoot. The good news is that with some tweaks, the poor lighting can be fixed. But, considering the amount of time and work that I put into color correction for 5 bands, Baby’s All Right a pain in the ass to photograph. 
Score: 5/10

Previous: Rough Trade NYC

Rating the Lighting at Music Venues: Rough Trade NYC

image

In the first installment of an ongoing series, I will complain or rave about the lighting conditions that I come across on my concert-going adventures.

Rough Trade NYC is a pretty cool new space. Not only is it a record store, but it’s also a small-sized music venue that can hold roughly 250 people. It’s feels like mini Music Hall of WIlliamsburg.

However, like way too many music venues in the city, the stage lighting has much to be desired. Take this photo of Jessica Weiss from the Brighton shoegaze band Fear of Men taken at Rough Trade NYC in Brooklyn.

image

From a photographers perspective, the red looks like crap. Yeah, yeah. I know “Don’t you have Photoshop©  Mr. Photographer?” Why yes, I do. And, I know how to use it. Sure, I can tone down the red (using the red saturation slider and adjusting the white balance) and make it look a bit more natural, like so:

image

Or, if I’m really lazy, I can just make it black & white:

image

Yes, I can adjust it (to a degree) but that’s not the point. I want to shoot a show and not have to adjust the color thanks for poor color choices by a venue. No photographer wants to color correct all of his/her photos after a show. And no audience member wants see a band draped in red for a 40 minute set. I will never understand why so many concert venues in the New York City area insist on red fill lighting. In fact, I’m not sure why it’s used at all. How does anyone think that this looks good?

Now, some of you might think that maybe the band requested these colors?

Nope.

Indie bands at smaller venues are more concerned with sounding good than how the lighting looks. But I can assure you, unless your Devin from Diiv, no one in an indie band wants to look satanic. If they knew how it made them look, they might ask for some options.

What should the front lighting be you ask? A good rule of thumb is that any front lighting should be neutral or flesh colored. If you’re setting a mood, a blue, purple can look nice. But, again, not one color for an entire set.

You’ll notice the white backdrop in these photos. Not the prettiest thing, ever, but what’s nice about it is that it can be lit to change color. Sadly, I have seen other images of the venue and it looks like the backdrop isn’t a regular part of the stage.

Not that you need a backdrop if you are a bigger venue like this. All you need is a haze machine and some bright lamps to make some nice beams of light. Again, it can set a mood rather nicely. But more times than not, you aren’t going to have beams of light and you’re going to see the performers in red set against the black wall from the back of the stage.

Now, to be fair, it wasn’t all bad. While red was the primary color, at least it was bright (unlike a certain concert venue a few blocks away). Brighter lights definitely help with a camera’s auto-focus.

And, not only was it bright but, occasionally, the front lighting was a different color other than red. Sometimes it was purple or even neutral (which was perfect). Now, there’s nothing wrong with draping a band in one color for part or all of a song, but for the majority of a set, it’s laaaaazy.

Verdict: While the red didn’t help with making the band look good visually, the overall brightness of the lighting made it slightly easier to photograph the band. Bright red lighting (as long as it’s not too bright) is better than dim red lighting anyway. But it still looks like crap. Score: 5.5/10

Next: Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn

Waiting for Cam’ron at 285 Kent (10/15/2013)

image

So, there was supposedly a secret show featuring Cam’ron and AraabMuzik that was supposed to take place at 285 Kent. Unfortunately, there were never more than 100 people there. At 1:30, I got a text saying that Araab was “on his way”, but at that point, there were maybe 50 people waiting around and Araab was probably told not to bother. There were supposedly members of the Dipset crew there so people held out hope that something was going to happen.

Sadly, nothing ever did. Personally, I think that the promoter (who was also DJing at one point) was full of shit. Regardless, I got to hang with the usual suspects and ultimately had a good time. Anyway, click through to see a bunch of pics.

Read More

Laura Stevenson / Owen / Field Mouse @ Bowery Ballroom - May 24th, 2013

Last month, Laura Stevenson and her band headlined Bowery Ballroom. I’ve seen Laura perform 13 times and counting (and shot her 12 of those times) so, yeah, you can say I’m a fan. Besides that Laura, Alex, Dave, Michael, & Peter are some of the nicest people I’ve met on my music photography adventures. It’s always a pleasure hang with them.

On the night of the show, I didn’t have a working digital camera and, besides, it was their biggest headlining show to date and I thought it might be cool to shoot it on film. I used Kodak Portra 800 and hoped for the best, lighting-wise. I also took some shots of Field Mouse and Owen (aka Mike Kensilla).

Laura Stevenson

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

Owen

image

Field Mouse

image

image

image

image

image

"Yeah Yeah Ye—- No NO NOOOOO!!!" - Camera Issues of the Worst Kind

Yeah Yeah Yeahs @ Webster Hall - April 7th, 2013

Two months ago, I had tickets to one of my very favorite live acts, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Every single time I see them, there is an electricity on the stage that is rarely matched by their counterparts. Long story short, I only had a ticket and not a photo pass. The publication who eventually gave me the assignment couldn’t secure a ticket for entry of their photographer and I was their plan B.

To make it count, I waited for 5 hours in line before the show to get a prime spot at the front of the stage (There were actual people in line well before my arrival). Upon entering the venue, I was at the stage, front and center. It was the perfect spot. My plan was to shoot the first couple of YYYs songs, enjoy myself, and then head to the back and get wide shots of the band’s encore.

Xray Eyeballs was the opener and it was a departure to see and shoot them outside of Death By Audio or an equally small venue. Unusually, the lighting design was really on-point and I was pretty happy with it. Not only was there some great back-lighting, but there were bright spots on each of the 4 band members. Was a breeze to shoot. If the opener has good lighting, this bodes well for the headliner. I was pretty stoked to shoot YYYs.

Now, my normal workflow is to switch memory cards after I’m done shooting a band and prep for the next band. When I inserted a new card, it wasn’t reading properly. There were no numbers on the counter on the LCD. I figured the card failed and I switched to another. By this time, my Nikon D300 was acting very strange. It wasn’t reading or writing to the card, and eventually, the camera wasn’t responding. The camera was even ignoring my power down with the on/off switch. I had about 30 minutes to try and find an answer on my smartphone. Would I find the answer to my immediate problem and get to shoot one of the best live bands?

Nope.

Yeah, I never found a way to get things working. Sadly, I left my film camera at home because I was trying to travel a little lighter. Had I not left it at home, I would have had some pretty cool 3200 ISO Ilford b&w and some Kodak Portra Color 800 shots. I’m really kicking myself over the decision to leave it home.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs @ Webster Hall - April 7th, 2013

So, instead, I had my Fuji Instax and decided to shoot with the last 6 remaining shots in the cartridge. I was desperate. 

Yeah Yeah Yeahs @ Webster Hall - April 7th, 2013

So, what the hell happened, St. Clair? 

Only 5 of the 6 Instax photos came out well. I also further confirmed that the camera on my Droid Bionic is absolutely worthless. Even with bright stage lighting. I tried to take 2 or 3 shots and gave up. Never buy from Motorola. Ever. Garbage.

In the end, the publication didn’t have enough images to warrant a gallery (I didn’t expect them to, and seriously who could blame them).

Okay, but what about the camera itself?

From what I can surmise, the CF card shorted out the card input which affected the power supply. I’ve had issues with SanDisk cards in the past (lost data, corrupted), but never this severe.

What now?

I have a semi-professional camera body that is dead in the water. So for April and May, I only shot three shows. Marnie Stern @ Music Hall of Williamsburg, Beach Day (also at Music Hall), and Laura Stevenson @ Bowery Ballroom. All of which, I shot on film with my Nikon F100. I’m still waiting to develop the last two, Probably in the next week or so.

But, this has a happy ending of sorts. My dad completely surprised me by picking me up a Nikon D600. He saw how unhappy I was about the whole situation and told me he “owed me for the last few Christmases”. I told him that he didn’t have to and his girlfriend (who is practically my stepmom) told me that he wasn’t going to take no for an answer and to just “go with it”. And I did and I’m very, very grateful.

As for my busted D300, I’m eventually taking my camera into Phototech to get an estimate on the damage, but at this point it’s probably not worth it. I’ve already put in a few hundred dollars to replace the shutter. I’m not sure that it’s worth pouring more money into. It would be nice to have a backup, but I’ll have to figure that out in the coming months. I’d rather put my money into better glass.

PHOTOS: Vivian Girls / Widowspeak / Eternal Summers / Heliotropes @ Music Hall of Williamsburg (2/15/2013)

image

The Vivian Girls played a rare show this week at Music Hall of Williamsburg. The last time they performed in NYC was in the freezing cold last year at a Kate Spade pop-up shop in the meat packing district

The photos and my review have been posted over on TheWildHoneyPie.com, but here’s some additional thoughts/notes. 

Photo notes:

As many New York City venues are wont to do, most of the performers sets were bathed in a harsh wash of red light. Which I hate. It makes everyone look like the devil. Not to mention that it’s murder on my camera’s auto focus. So, if you see a black and white shot in the photo set, it’s because it looks better than the red. Widowspeak mostly played in the dark, with the exception of singer Molly Hamilton, who was fairly well lit.

Heliotropes
image 

image

 

Eternal Summers
image

Widowspeakimage

Vivian Girlsimage

image

I walked into Music Hall with one specific shot in mind that I absolutely had to have. A shot of Cassie, Katy, and Ali rocking out together. Not just a wide shot of the 3 on stage. That would be easy (and not as effective of a shot). So, I waited for Cassie and Katy to walk towards each other. The first time, Cassie’s back was facing the audience and it didn’t work for me. The second time, Cassie and Katy were facing each other, but they were bobbing their heads and their hair was covering their faces. This was pretty much the moment I was looking for. They look like they are rocking out. Of course, they were, but this photo captures the vibe perfectly.

image

Once I felt like I got all the shots I wanted from the crowd’s perspective, I snuck onto the stage to get some shots of Vivian Girls from the back and to get a different angle of Ali on the drums.

image

Protip: If you plan on shooting from the stage, you should always try and be as inconspicuous as possible, not to mention to get permission from the band or a tour manager. I tend to wear dark clothes as to not distract from what the band is doing on-stage. I’ll also duck behind an amp or stay to the extreme side of the stage. While I was kneeling on the stairs to the stage entrance, Katy walked up the stairs to say ‘Hi’, it was a surprise and a first for me. I’ve had shout outs from bands on stage, but never someone walking up to me in the middle of a song.

Focus Issues in Dark Venues - Vol. 1

image

image

When you end up not using the the AF assist light or the infra red focus grid from your speedlight in a dark venue, you’re going to miss some shots. This happens to me the most at 285 Kent. The autofocus sees the black & white graffiti on the wall and focuses in on it. Notice that the detail on the wall is sharp, while Elias from Iceage is not. Sadly, I blew a bunch of shots from that night. Kind of a bummer.

End of Year Post: 2012

image

This year, I celebrated my third anniversary as a music photographer. Overall, it was a fun year. I feel like I’ve done some of my best work, yet. It’s a great feeling to nail the shots you were looking to get. On the other hand, I went to a bunch of shows without my camera and acted like a normal person. What follows are some stats, memories, and special thanks.

Read More

Music Photographer Andrew St. Clair shows us his best live music shots of 2012

iheartchaos:

image

We asked photographer and IHCer Andrew St. Clair to choose twenty of his favorite live music photos from 2012.

Read More

It was fun going through my photos from the last year. There’s a few shots that either have never been seen until now or haven’t been published (some of them were supposed to, but are just sitting in someone’s inbox). So, check them out and let me know what you think.

Sleigh Bells @ The Capitol Theatre (10/05/2012)

Last Friday, Animal Collective cancelled their show at the last minute. So, I scrambled to get a photo pass for Sleigh Bells at the gorgeous Capitol Theatre in Port Chester.

Shooting Sleigh Bells is not easy. The band brings strobes and other lighting with them. The stage is pretty dark until the strobes are fired off. it’s probably best to get the shot while those lights are on. But to make things more challenging, the 3 of them are constantly moving back and forth around the stage. All at once. So getting the shots you want is like playing “Duck Hunt” for the NES. You’re gonna miss quite a few ducks. 

Read More

We make Tumblr themes