Saturday, May 21, 2011

Let's get married!

A guy needs to keep on his toes. All this music photography is really amazing, but why not throw in a wedding? Cindy is an ex-coworker of mine and she approached me about shooting her wedding many months ago. I didn't know at the time I'd be doing so many concerts.

So yeah, the day after my first all night heavy metal concert shoot, I was heading down to the south shore for a 12 hour wedding shoot. haha. I must be insane.

To make matters worse, when I got home from the metal shoot the night before, I tried uploading my images and not only did my computer not recognize my camera, my crappy crap card reader broke! I shot 4 bands, no song restrictions, and used a couple of my 16GB cards.... and no way to get the images off!

One of the benefits of my new place is that I'm about 10 mins walking from one of the city's bigger camera stores. So early Saturday morning, I headed down, was first in line, and picked up a Lexar card reader. Ran back home, uploaded the images of the show, sent them to the editor at Production Iris, packed my gear, and drove out to the wedding. Why make things easy, right?

The wedding was awesome. The couple and their son were in such great spirits and were having such a great time. I always feel privileged to be chosen to capture someone's wedding day. Nothing really out of the ordinary happened for me at the wedding. The biggest challenge was the church having decided to redo their front doors....and the new ones weren't ready yet. So I had to shoot group shots in front of the church that had these giant plywood doors. hehe.

As I went through the motions of the day, I started to realize there are a lot of similarities between concerts and the way I shoot weddings when it comes to photography.
- Varying light changes
- Low light
- Loads of people you need to work around
- Tight deadlines
- Things don't always go as planned
- Always on your toes looking for the right moment

Thought I would share of few of the images of the day

Friday, May 20, 2011

Heavy.... Metal.....!!!!

Had a chance to settle in to my new place, although there are still plenty of boxes to be unpacked. Bit by bit, I'll get it done (at least, I hope I will haha)

My next gig to shoot is a local band called Beheading of a King. They are a heavy metal (death metal I think?) band, who are starting to gain some momentum. Tragedy hit them a few months ago when their lead singer committed suicide. The rest of the band members decided to carry on. This is their first show on stage since.

There were some opening acts as well, which were just as heavy, and just as interesting! First show with earplugs for this photographer, and afterwards, I can guarantee that it won't be my last.

I have to say that I'm loving shooting metal. The action, speed, emotion and energy of the shows are insane.

I had such a blast shooting these bands, I made individual galleries of their images. :)

Thrust N Thrive

End of Crisis
God Falls
Beheading of a King

For those who are interesting in knowing, my current gear that I've been shooting with are:
Canon 7D
Canon 10-22
Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS
and I recently purchased the Canon 24-70 f/2.8. My Tamron wasn't bad, but the lens is known for slow focus in the dark, and shooting shows is pretty damn dark.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A new first... pro concert shooting!

Seems that I'm enjoying firsts... first maternity shoot, first studio shoot.... now I can add a first pro concert shoot! Maybe the word "pro" is a bit of a stretch, but I have joined up with a concert photography group that work at promoting shows for local venues. The group is pretty new, but we are working out way to providing great music and event coverage. They called Production Iris and you can view the work at

My first gig was shooting Scala and Kolacny Brothers. When I signed up to shoot them, I was under the impression that they were a two man jazz group. I figured should be an interesting and pretty straight forward shoot.

A few weeks before the show, I decided to do start some preparation work and looked them up online. Turns out they are a choir of up to 25 Belgian women who sing modern songs. They have an excellent version of Radiohead’s Creep, which was actually featured as the main music for the trailer to the movie The Social Network. Their music is haunting...

To top it off, the brothers (one is the conductor, one is the pianist) wanted to review the images before they were posted. Can you say stress? How the heck am I going to make 25 women standing in 3 rows exciting and interesting? My mind got working on various shot ideas, but really, it was going to be a fly by the seat of my pants type of thing, especially considering I am only allowed to shoot 3 songs.

So fast forward to the day of. My gear is ready, I head on out to the venue, pick up my press pass, I'm feeling pretty good. Check out the stage, chat with security and the people sitting in the front row to ensure they know I won't be there for the whole show, 3 songs and out. Chat with the other photographer who is covering the event, she seems only a wee bit more confident than I am in what shots we are going to get.

Lights go down...the group make their entrance on stage. I get ready for lights on.... and bam! The entire stage is flooded in a blue light. Great for mood, but man, this is the worse light to shoot in as it totally washes out skin tones. My camera's sensor doesn't like it too much.

I spent the first 30 seconds of the first song adjusting my exposure. In order to shoot at higher ISO on a camera, you need to nail the exposure. I was struggling finding the right mix, considering the lights on stage were horrible for photography.

First song over. What?!? Already? Man, I barely got a few usable shots out of that. Alright, change lenses; go with some closer in shots. I was hoping using a longer lens would cut out some of the massive amount of blue light flooding the stage.

Second song starts. The lights are no longer blue, but a great red and pink wash. Oh joy! Shoot, shoot shoot. I'm starting to feel the stress now. I'm half way through my 3 songs and I haven't been seeing the results I was expecting.

Don't get me wrong, I've shot concerts before. I've shot in dimly light bars. I pulled off some nice things, on a pretty consistent basis. The difference? I had the entire set! Not the 12 minutes from 3 songs and out, but more like 30-60 minutes.

Towards the end of the second song, I started feeling the grove. You know how athletes need to warm up before their sport? Same for a photographer (or at least for me), I need some time before getting into the grove.

Third song starts. I make the mistake and change lenses in the middle of the song. Bad idea, as the 10 seconds it takes to change lenses, I'm not shooting! I know I had some wide shots, some close shots, so I focus on more angled shots and getting shots of the pianist, one of the brothers, who wasn't there for the first two songs.

Third song done. The other photographer and I make our way to the back. As I’m in the back of the venue near the bar, I get a great view of the entire stage. I lift my camera, smile at the bouncer (a great and friendly guy) he just smiles. I manage to get off some shots of the entire group from afar. I wanted group shots, but going from the front of the stage to the second floor or the back kills precious shooting time. I got lucky I guess. I like to think I networked for it. ;)

At the end of the show, I had some slight adrenaline running in my veins. It was pretty intense. I didn't want to look at my images, I wasn't happy with how things unfolded. I texted a friend a few times about the experience on my way home.

I uploaded the images on my PC and started working on them right away as I need to turn them around asap, as the buzz of the show runs out quick, so you need to turn images quickly or you miss the boat.

Here are some of the images that were sent to the group.

I got good comments from the editor of Production Iris. A few days pass and I hear back from the group and they loved the images. They ended up buying some of the images to be used in their press section, which are offered to general press writing stories about the group and who need images to accompany the stories.

Made me feel pretty damn good.

Here is a quick list of do's and don’ts that I had to learn quickly:

- research your client ahead of time
- network with staff and security at the venue
- keep on shooting even if you aren't feeling it
- have a game plan for the shoot, but be ready to switch it up
- have appropriate gear to produce good images. Gear doesn't make the photographer, and shouldn't stop you from shooting a gig, but be aware that higher end gear will make it that much easier.

- change lenses during a song
- get too worked up about what others are doing; focus on you and your images
- think you own the front of the stage. There are other photographers and paying customers there.

I learned a lot and keep on learning. I've shot a few more shows since then and things are going smoother.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Francouverte - last minute anyone?

I'm in the midst of moving. Sold my house on the south shore of Montreal and moving back to the city. Things are pretty hectic.

So a few days after my first pro level shoot for Production Iris, I was called at around 3:00pm by the editor asking if I was free to shoot on the same night. He was feeling under the weather and was looking for someone to take his place. Why not?

Francouverte is a local talent competition that looks at promoting up and coming talent. This was the finals, featuring 3 acts. I picked up my gear and headed off once again to the Club Soda.

The lighting this time around was much simpler. I guess they couldn't get too funky as they didn't have the time for various setups due to the 3 acts. So they kept it simple, which was fine by me as I'm still getting used to adjusting on the fly.

The 56 images are up in a gallery on my website. Check 'em out!

I'm trying to really focus on composition. I've already been used to shooting in Manual mode with my camera, so other than the adjusting quickly when the lighting changes, I'm good at nailing my exposures. I'm really trying to capture the emotion of the bands. Easier to do when you know the songs and the people, a lot more difficult when you don't really know what to expect!

I must say that the talent was amazing. I need to remember that I'm there to work, get my images, and THEN listen to the songs. No restrictions for shooting here as they wanted images of all 3 finalists.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Going Pro?

I was recently contacted by a local web media company to start being a contributor to their concert / culture website. A friend of a friend already shoots for them and asked me to send some examples of my work. They liked it. I'm in.

My first gig under Production Iris was a group called Scala & Kolacny Brothers at Montreal's Club Soda.

I had honestly never heard of them, but I was imagining a jazz duo. A few days before the show, I youtube them to get an idea of what they do and man, was I mistaken. They are a choir of 20 or so Belgian women, conducted and led by the Kolacny brothers. Ok... kind of different than what I thought. They are actually a very interesting group to listen to. Their version of Radiohead's Creep is actually the intro song for the The Social Network movie trailer.

This was my first gig with a 3 songs and out rule, which is typical for concert photography. I was also mandated to produce 15 images that would be presented to the group prior to publication on the website. Pressure was on!

I had a rough time with the gig. The stage was washed with a blue light for the majority of the first songs, which I quickly figured out causes havoc on my sensor and totally dilutes skin tones and textures. In other words, my images were mush.

I started to freak out a bit as I was struggling with getting a decent image by the time the first song was over. In the end however, I managed to get the 15 images, although I was disappointed with my overall output. I wanted more. But I did learn a lot from my first concert, so that's a bonus. I'll hopefully be able to carry my new knowledge on and into the next show.

The group actually loved the images and they ended up purchasing 5 of them! Not too shabby me thinks for my first time going pro.

The gallery is up on my website if you want to check it out. Click here