Thursday, August 30, 2012
Just a few quick pictures of my August concert. I went to a free concert on the green in Bridgeport on a Friday night. The sign says Downtown Thursdays, but this show had been rained out from a previous Thursday, so they held it on a Friday night. It was a tribute to Soul Train's 30th anniversary. My friends and I stayed for one band, Sage, an all female jazz band.
Mia cheering them on. They performed a cover of Loving You and when the first OHHHHHHH, the band dropped out and let the crowd sing it. It was a scene straight out of South Park, with the entire crowd straining to hit the impossibly high notes. Everyone cracked up.
Fan giving the thumbs up.
And of course, shoes.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Internet, I give you: Shirtless Old Guy That Walks Laps Around My Office Building
He's on a completely random schedule that only he knows. He walks around the office building parking lot for about a half an hour, his white socks standing proudly. Sometimes he wears a hat. Sometimes he does not. He is not an employee in any of the offices in the five story building in Shelton, Connecticut. He is always without a shirt.
Some people would choose the safety of an air conditioned mall for their daily exercise. Not Shirtless Old Guy, no!
Once again, here he is, in all his shirtless, majestic glory.
Internet, the ball is now in your court.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
My third shoot at Fairfield Theater Company's Stage One was The English Beat. By this time, I was completely familiar with the venue. Or so I thought.
When I first started taking pictures for the newspaper, nearly everything was a learning experience. One that stands out was an election shoot. It was a primary race for mayor in the town of Stratford, which had never had a mayor before. There were a lot of primary races that night, so I was given one. I remember feeling completely out of place and unprepared for what I thought was a huge assignment. I was stressed all week long and the pictures that I managed to get were horribly boring. I turned them into my photo editor in such a foul mood, explaining that I was a hack. I told him I should stick to puppies and babies because you didn't need any skill to make those pictures look good. He smiled at me and replied, "I'm glad you feel overwhelmed and that you think that you've f-cked up. Next time, when it's actually important, you'll be ready." I'm pretty sure I punched him in the arm as a response and stormed back to my desk, but he was right. Failure teaches you more than any success can, as long as you learn from it.
Back to The English Beat. I knew ahead of time that the musical style wasn't one that I care for, but I thought it would be a good challenge for myself. You don't always get to photograph what you like, yet you still have to hand in strong images. I also knew that this band sold out quickly every time they played Stage One, so the venue started booking them for two nights. I arrived early to procure a clear view of the stage, but that went out the window as soon as the band took the stage. In general, I like to stay out of the way as much as possible so I'm not blocking anyone's view, but I had to move forward to get clear shots.
Problem number one was that the stage lights were bright red. Red light is not ideal for color photography and is a horror to try to correct in post processing. As you can see, the red light was focused on lead singer Dave Wakeling.
Problem number two was that there was NO LIGHT the right side of the stage. The band moves around a lot, which helped a little. Still, you can see the extreme differences in skin tones. Multiple stops. I was either going to blow out Dave's face or lose Antonee First Class in the background.
It looks slightly better as a black and white, but we needed a color shot for the front page.
Saxophone player Matt Morrish was out of this world.
I liked that fans felt comfortable enough to go right up to the stage to snap their own photos. Stage One is such a relaxed venue.
Bass player Wayne Lothian got his groove on.
I love the woman in the Union Jack shirt in the front row.
Problem three was that the band invited the fans up to the stage to dance during their opening song. I was given three songs to shoot, hadn't figured out what to do with my lighting issues and now people were going to be in my shots. Gahhhhhhhhhhh!
I decided to go with it. We wanted to showcase how intimate a venue Stage One is, so why not get right down in the thick of things? I popped my wide angle lens on and found a space along the side of the stage where I could capture the band and the fans dancing.
Then I was elbowed right in the lens. I'm guessing you've never been elbowed with a camera pressed against your face. Needless to say, it's painful. The fan immediately and profusely apologized, which I really appreciated, but I quickly moved to a safer spot. At least I was rewarded for my effort: my editor saw the above shot and decided instantly this would be our lead.
The entire band was so appreciative of the fan interaction, which I thought was great.
With some creative cropping, I was still able to get usable shots, even though I was highly flustered at this point. I switched to solo shots instead of band interactions and pulled out a few more keepers.
As I've stated before, I like to give each band member his due. I was drawn to Wayne's easy going smile time after time.
I've separated myself from the pictures for almost two months now, which helps ease my hypercritical nature. I do tend to judge my own work much more harshly than anyone else. They're not my best work by far, but they're not as horrible as I initially feared. I learned to remain calm and above all else, keep shooting.
Lastly, their shoes.
All in all, this was a great experience for me. I never thought I'd be satisfied with the three and done rule of shooting, but I found that I was capable of getting a good variety of shots within that time frame. This was also a wonderful introduction to my new camera; it was everything I'd hoped for. The higher ISOs look amazing. At times, with the exception of The English Beat, it felt too easy. It's beyond fulfilling to finally have a real camera and lenses at a concert.
As I stated at the beginning of this post, these assignments at Stage One were a chance for me to learn and grow as a photographer. The real test for me is coming up very soon. I'm ready.
Monday, August 27, 2012
When I took my camera out at James' birthday party over the weekend, he looked at me very seriously and said, "Audra, I just want to let you know, there is no flash photography at this event." I don't know where he comes up with this stuff! My nephew has always been quite the character, and the faces he makes when he knows I'm taking a picture never fail to bring a smile to my face.
But sometimes it's the ones he makes when he doesn't know I'm there that make my heart swell just a little bit more.
The coolest aunt of all time status has been renewed for at least another year. Sorry the picture is so soft, but it was a no flash photography event. I didn't want to get kicked out!
Happy Birthday to my favorite little guy!
Sunday, August 26, 2012
I've been thinking about my grandmother a lot this week. I went outside to look at the butterfly bush that we took from her house when she passed away, and found it was full of butterflies. Every inch of her house was decorated with butterflies and she loved the color purple.
This one's for you, Gramma Soup.
Friday, August 24, 2012
Part Two of my Fairfield Theatre Company shoots: Noam Pikelny and Friends. This concert was the reason behind the whole assignment. I'd see the Punch Brothers at Town Hall and Clearwater Festival and I was dying to get a real camera in to take pictures. I was absolutely blown away by their combined talent as a band, and each member is a virtuoso on their own. Noam, or "Pickles" as his band mates call him, is one of the most talented banjo players that has ever lived. What's most impressive to me is how effortless he makes it look.
I know bluegrass isn't for everyone. I have an irrational fondness for banjos, but I'm not alone in this. When I talk to other people my age, they say the same thing. While I'm still contemplating this topic for another post, I have an idea of who's responsible:
When the Punch Brothers aren't touring as a unit, they break off into their side projects and play smaller venues. Guitarist Chris "Critter" Eldridge plays with Pikelny while Gabe Witcher plays with Chris Thile. I was much more relaxed the second time heading into Stage One. The lighting was more even, so I was able to dial down my ISO to 12,000.
One of the things I love about these musicians is how smoothly they play off of one another. Each member will watch the soloist intensely and add to it.
There were more than a few moments where Pickles grinned on stage. He's usually so serious and stoic.
Critter appreciating the round of applause during his solo. I was in awe of his skills on guitar. Few people can rock that hard at all, let alone on acoustic guitar.
Folk singer Aofie O'Donovan came out to sing a few songs with the guys.
It was a very different audience at the Tuesday night show. Stage One was packed, but everyone remained seated for the show. It was much easier for me to get clear shots. Stage One doesn't have a designated area for photographers besides aisles and the stadium seating doesn't give much of a height advantage.
Pickles' deep bass voice addressed the crowd multiple times throughout the night. Although the band leader, he doesn't sing. I caught a couple of big smiles as the guys bantered back and forth.
This shot was the one we used for the paper and one of my favorites of the night. I think it captures his effortless talent.
The next series literally cracked me up. If you've seen the Punch Brothers play before, you'll know that mandolinist Chris Thile makes all sorts of faces and bounces around the stage when he plays. I can't say for certain if that's what these faces are about, but it was a great moment of interaction.
The last shot is up there for one of my favorites that I've taken this year. I love being able to photograph moments like this.
Critter and Aofie shared lead vocals in a song. Although he sings back up in the Punch Brothers, I'm going to start a campaign for him to get lead vocals on at least one track on their next album.
Similar to the show at Town Hall, the band unplugged and stepped off the stage for the final song of the night, an Earl Scruggs cover. I quickly changed to my fastest lens and highest ISO because the only light on them was from the stage, behind them. Yes, the Canon 5D Mark III can shoot in the dark. Such an amazing camera! I was thrilled to be able to capture these images, still without a distracting flash. You can really see how small Stage One is.
Another one of my favorites.
And of course, Noam's shoes.
I had an absolute blast at this show. My musical tastes cover quite a lot of styles, but I think what I am drawn to more than anything is the amount of passion the musicians have. I hope that comes through in the pictures.