Christopher Paul Stelling's guitar detail
Two weeks ago, New Haven's Cafe Nine was treated to a trifecta of folk groups. Read Adam's review of the show over at Surviving the Golden Age. I, of course, was there to photograph it. Here are the full sets of photos from the night, along with minimal commentary.
This was my second concert at Cafe Nine; I'd seen The Iguanas there about 12 years ago. I remembered the venue was tiny and the lighting was...difficult. We were there officially to cover the opener, Goodnight Blue Moon, a New Haven based Indie Folk band. Erik Elligers on guitar and lead vocals, Mathew Crowley on madolin and vocals, Nancy Matlack Elligers on cello and banjo, Sean Elligers on trumpet and vocals, Carl Testa on bass and Nick D'Errico on drums. It definitely was a lot of people for the tiny stage. They are playing several Connecticut shows in the upcoming months. Be sure to check out their website and catch them live.
I'd like to show you something I don't normally include on my blog: raw images straight from the camera. The light at many smaller venues is the biggest challenge. To anyone that wants to get into concert photography, be prepared to shoot in less than ideal conditions, but always keep shooting. Perhaps what sets my photography apart is the amount of time I pour into color correction in post processing. I shoot in RAW file format which really allows me to go back in and tweak the colors in light room; even my point and shoot camera has this feature. Sometimes, as in the image above, there is no salvaging the color. Bright red light isn't going away, but red light adds contrast to black and white images. In the image below, I removed a lot of the yellow light in order to restore normal skin tones. I've included the before and after comparison. I don't understand why there are so few concert photographers doing this. Sure, it added an extra four hours to the time I spent on these pictures, but I think the results are worth it. (End of rant)
The opening band usually gets the most interesting pictures of the night. This is because the crowd hasn't pushed forward all the way and I'm able to move around and change my angles. I try to pick a position where I can capture the entire band first. Without any kind of photo pit, it becomes impossible to move around unless I push my way through once the venue fills up.
This shot of Erik and Sean is one of my favorites of the night, taken with the 100mm macro lens. The bokeh on that lens never ceases to amaze me and I love using it as a portrait lens just as much as I use it for close up shots.
Christopher Paul Stelling can be described in one word: intense, and I love photographing musicians with that much passion. For the majority of his set, he was on stage alone with his acoustic guitar. His shoes pounded out the beat on the stage, while he performed some amazing finger picking. His voice reminded me of David Gray. Unfortunately, and I've been seeing this at a LOT of shows this year, the gathering crowd was talking through his entire set. Loudly. I won't get into another rant about respecting the musicians, but I will give Christopher major kudos for ignoring it and continuing with that much enthusiasm. His second album, False Cities, comes out in May. Hit up his website and check it out.
By the time the headliner, Spirit Family Reunion took the stage, there was absolutely no room to move. I did my best to maintain a decent position, but I got shifted just a bit too far to the left of the stage. I wasn't able to capture the shot I originally wanted: Maggie, Nick and Mat singing around the same mic. It happens and the best you can do is work around it and try to get something else that's dynamic. Thankfully, the band gave me plenty of opportunities.
I dropped down into a squat to change up my perspective slightly and captured my favorite shot of the night. A lot of the venues in Connecticut put you right in the face of the musicians. The stages are small and low to the ground. Since I wasn't able to move about the room anymore, I tried to find another angle to make things more interesting and dynamic.
While I couldn't get decent shots of all the vocalists, I had a great angle on drummer Peter Pezzimenti. I spoke to talk to a friend of his parents after the show who had traveled into Connecticut to see him perform. There's a lot of buzz around this band and it's great to see the excitement from people that know them.
I was determined to get a shot of washboard player, Stephen Weinheimer. He's cousins with a photographer that I met at the Ben Folds Five concert at the Capitol Theatre. Hope that works for you, Joe!
I love how everyone in the band gets into the music. Check out Stephen in the background singing his heart out.
While this was a hard concert to shoot, these are probably the most satisfying results I've had all year. It'll make the next show I shoot in a well lit venue a breeze.
As always, I leave you with shoes!