Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The English Beat at Stage One 07.07.12

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.

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