Here’s the second part of my belated 2012 highlights. A couple of these are out of chronological order because I forgot to include them in the earlier post. This half is more heavy on travel photography, as I began traveling a fair amount for a new job. Here’s part one if you missed it.
Archive for the ‘Retrospectives’ Category
Somewhat belatedly, here’s part 1 of 2 of my photographic highlights from last year. The past two years have been a bit slow for me on the photography front as other life events have taken priority, but I’ve still managed some good stuff I think – concerts, weddings, Ultimate Frisbee, and travel photography. Presented here without further comment, with one more post to come to wrap up the year.
Have I mentioned before that shooting dance is pretty much the best? I only got to shoot two numbers of the So You Think You Can Dance Tour, but man, that was fun.
I’ve probably posted enough Ra Ra Riot photos here for several photographers, so here’s a photo I took of one of their opening bands, Chikita Violenta. The lighting at the Varsity Theater for the two opening bands at this show was just phenomenal.
Similarly, the lighting for Nikki Yanofsky at the same venue was great, but as I posted here before, my favorite shot from this show was this out-of-focus accident. I wish I could say I did this artistic blur thing on purpose, but alas…
And then there was the Zombie Pub Crawl. Lots of people got some amazing photos from this event. This one and one or two others aside, mine weren’t so hot, just because I wasn’t quite comfortable sticking my camera into people’s faces given that I was completely not dressed up at all. Felt rather out of place among the armies of the undead.
If July was a month of transition, so was September, as I settled into life in a new city (Minneapolis) and tried to find a publication to shoot music for. Eventually I hooked up with Retna and got back into the swing of my concert photography, but it took a few weeks. Even before I was with a publication, I managed to finagle my way into a photo pass for Dir En Grey and Apocalyptica at First Avenue, and one of the best concert photos I’ve yet taken in Minneapolis came towards the end of Dir En Grey’s set, above.
A week or two later, I ventured out to a venue a couple blocks from my house and saw some pretty excellent bluegrass, Crooked Still, a show that was quite well-lit by this venue’s standards.
Then the big show of the month was a Flaming Lips gig. There are no real surprises anymore at Flaming Lips shows, but nonetheless they’re invariably a blast to shoot. I basically kept my 14-24 on my camera for the entire three songs, trying for something a little different, perspective-wise, than the majority of photographers’ shots of this band. Not sure I succeeded, but I did get several shots I’m happy with, including this jump shot that just wouldn’t have worked as well without the ultrawide perspective.
Finally, I got to shoot Those Darlins, which is always a treat because you never know quite how crazy things are going to get. Things got a bit crazy during their last song, but unfortunately, while I got a couple good series of photos, I didn’t really get one awesome photo that really pops. This one will have to stand in, but check out my original post for more.
The only photos I took in August were during a two-week trip to Iceland. I have a few posts on the early part of that trip up already, and still plan to do a few more on the latter half of the trip, particularly since the second week saw us hiking in some of the most picturesque (yet bizarre) landscapes I’ve ever encountered. For now, here are just a few favorites with very brief captions. Above is a macro shot of some rope on a rusty pier in Reykjavik.
This was the scene as we began the first of two backpacking trips, in Jökulsárgljúfur National Park. This kind of wide-open landscape would soon become a recurring theme of our surroundings. The cliffs in the distances are the main attraction of Ásbyrgi, a huge horseshoe-shaped canyon.
That trip ended at Dettifoss, Europe’s biggest waterfall. I’ve already written about it; suffice to say that it was impressive.
We spent a few days in Reykjahlíð, on Lake Mývatn, and it ended up being perhaps our favorite place in Iceland. We rented bikes for a day and biked a bit around the lake; this shot was taken from the road look back towards Reykjahlíð.
After leaving Mývatn, we took a 10-hour bus ride straight through the deserted interior highlands of the country. This was the most barren landscape imaginable. The shot above is indicative of the “scenery” we were treated to for the majority of the bus ride.
Our next hike also featured some barren stretches, although it was mitigated by plenty of beautiful scenery as well. On one stretch, though, we walked over deserted-highland style hills while encased in a pea-soup fog. Luckily for us, the trail was well-marked, or we’d have had a hell of a time navigating.
Barren gave way to beautiful at the end of our first day on this hike, as we descended to Lake Álftavatn (visible in the photo above as the big body of water in the middle), our destination for the night.
The valley in which Álftavatn nestled was a verdant green, some of the most fertile-looking land we trekked through on our trip.
We eventually made our way back to Reykjavik, where my nature photography turned to street photography. Between the wildly eclectic Icelandic fashion sense and the colorful city architecture, I got some fun shots like the above.
That was August – more of this to come, and I’ll be closing out the 2010 retrospective shortly as well.
I had a break in the concert shooting routine in June, which was shooting the wedding of two friends of mine at a beautiful old house (now a museum and event spot) north of Baltimore. I was happy with my work from this day, and more importantly, so were the bride and groom. And while formals aren’t really my strong suit, I did get this nice shot of the bride and bridesmaids – a classic “walk towards me and laugh” kind of setup, which actually worked.
Back to concerts: the clear highlight of the month was a big Taylor Swift show, the first of two sold-out nights at the Verizon Center. It was hardly a great show – for all the slick production values of her music and live show, Swift is a strangely unpolished performer and left extended breaks between songs that killed the flow of the concert – but visually it was one of the best shows I shot all year, between Swift’s sparkly guitar, her fast-moving stage presence, and a constantly shifting background of electronic screens.
After I shot a few songs of Swift’s show and stuck around for a few more, I hopped on the metro to the Black Cat for the second show of my double-header: Jucifer. The contrast was more than a little jarring, to say nothing of the fact that there were probably 20,000 fans at the Verizon Center and maybe 20 at the Black Cat. Still, Jucifer put on a predictably intense show and, as always, were great to shoot – as long as I was willing to bust out the flash. Which I did, and was rewarded with this shot of Amber Valentine in mid-headbang.
The other concert highlight was the WMZQfest Country Throwdown, about which I posted earlier. As I mentioned in that post, Eric Church was among the most photogenic of the performers; this photo taken just as he was taking the stage made it into the print edition of the Washington Post.
Metal shows were in short supply in 2010 compared to 2009, but one of my final metal shows in the DC area was a particularly memorable one. Isis have been a favorite of mine since their 2004 masterpiece Panopticon, and the summer of 2010 saw them embark on a final, “farewell” tour before they called it quits for good. They put on a tremendous set, drawing from lots of my favorite material from their older albums; photographically they were better than I expected too. One might think a band like this – which has as much in common with, say, Mogwai than with other metal bands – would just stand around lethargically, but one would be wrong. That said, my favorite shot of the night wasn’t a traditional “action” shot, but rather the above, which I got by crouching low in the pit and shooting up between two monitors directly into a backlight.
Finally, in a bit of a departure for me, I got an assignment from TBD.com to do some food photography at restaurants in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood in DC. I didn’t bother bringing lights to any of the shoots, but in almost all cases I was able to get some nice window light to set up my shots. I was particularly happy with this shot of a stuffed pepper at Tonic on Mt. Pleasant Street.
I kept busy in May by shooting tons of concerts (of course) and a wedding: my first wedding as a second shooter, which turned out to be an absolute blast. It didn’t hurt that this was definitely a portfolio wedding: a beautiful couple, a ceremony in a cavernous cathedral, and a reception in a high-end Georgetown hotel. The above shot is my favorite of many very good shots I managed from the day: a classic exit shot, with the bubbles and the warm light of the cathedral giving some nice color to the composition.
On to the concerts: the big event of the month was the Bamboozle Roadshow, an outdoor event filled with the kind of music that makes me feel like a grumpy old man. (“What is this crap the kids are listening to these days?”) Music aside, the festival was packed with high-energy bands who feed off of their fans’ endless enthusiasm, so naturally it was pretty easy to get some nice photos. I did get kind of sick of the overly-cramped pits after a while, and ended up spending much of my time taking photos of fans, but the above shot of Forever the Sickest Kids is a nice one I got before I turned around to face the barricade.
The other big concert event was Brad Paisley‘s tour, a mini-festival in and of itself. Named the “H2O Tour,” this was particularly apt for the DC date, since it was pouring rain for much of the day. That made for fun photos of fans who looked like this and this, but it also made for a slightly cold and uncomfortable day. As for the bands, well, it was a big country show, so of course the shooting was good. Above is Justin Moore rocking out early in the day on the main stage.
Back in the dark confines of the little DC rock clubs, I got another chance to see and shoot Holly Miranda, whose opening set I had enjoyed so much back in February. This time around, she was playing at the much smaller Black Cat backstage, where the lighting is never really going to make for stunning photos. So my favorite photo from this night was a portrait I did with Holly before her set, using folding tables left over from the DC Record Fair as a background. I was particularly happy with the lighting/background scheme I set up for this shoot, and described it in detail in a previous post.
Two hard-rock bands at the 9:30 Club were the highlights of the latter part of the month. I shot Flyleaf for the City Paper and, while I expected the lion’s share of the good shots to be of singer Lacey Mosley, my two favorites were actually jump shots courtesy of the band’s bassist. Neither are particularly dramatic jumps since he didn’t really kick his legs up, but I’m still pretty happy with them especially given the incredibly challenging lighting for this show. The second shot is of Coheed and Cambria, who I covered for the Post. Claudio Sanchez was banging his head at regular points in the song, so I crouched down directly beneath him with my 14-24 racked out to full wide angle, waited for him to do it again, and got this as a payoff.
Maryland Deathfest was the final concert event of the month. I was only able to go to one of the three days of the festival, unfortunately; however, I did get to do a fun shoot with a regular festgoer, Cara, before the music started on Friday. We tried a few shots near the abandoned train at Baltimore’s Carroll Park, but the best thing we tried was juxtaposing her next to some gnarly trees. I got some awesome, dramatic shots there, which I described in a separate post; the one above is a simpler but still edgy shot from the same shoot.
MDF itself was a bit of a letdown after the 2009 incarnation of the festival, probably because Friday is really just a warm-up for the main weekend event. Still, I managed some decent shots, like this one of Japan’s Coffins that I shot from backstage. I discussed MDF 2010 in a bit more detail in this post.
In an indication that I probably didn’t do enough spur-of-the-moment photography in 2010, my favorite photo from this month was a completely spontaneous shot that I took after covering a nice concert by Vijay Iyer at the Mansion at Strathmore. The parking garage above is just outside the Grosvenor-Strathmore metro stop, and the contrast between its incandescent lighting and the deep blue twilight sky was irresistible. Needless to say, I’m glad I took a few seconds to take all my gear out of my bag and shoot this scene.
In the middle of the month I did a hired shoot for a new Baltimore-area metal band, Sometimes They Come Back, who had an intriguing tech-death sound that I liked quite a bit. They were missing a band member at this show but I did a really quick portrait with them anyway, which turned out really nicely – again because of the deep blue sky, which I emphasized by using tungsten white balance and CTO gels.
I did a model shoot with Jamie in Fredericksburg, out of which a few good shots came, including this one, which is a really simple shot using a single White Lightning X1600 through a large softbox. I really enjoy using this studio light when appropriate, but I usually find myself more creatively inspired when using the more flexible speedlights; I was happy to come away from this shoot with some good creative photos using the monolight. And there’s apparently a theme this month: yet again, the deep blue twilight sky is a huge part of this shot.
The big concert event of the month was the big Earth Day Climate Rally, which gave me the opportunity to shoot various speakers, bands and celebrities. I’ve already posted about this one, so I won’t go into more detail, but this quirky photo of the frontman of indie-rockers Passion Pit is a particular favorite.
The opportunity to shoot one of my longtime favorite bands, the Cowboy Junkies, in a venue with usually great lighting (the State Theater in northern Virginia), was too good to pass up despite it coming at an incredibly busy time. Although the band was, predictably, pretty static on stage and not the most exciting visually, the bouquet of flowers in front of vocalist Margo Timmins made for a nice element in some of my photos of her, and the lighting didn’t disappoint.
Finally, here’s one shot that’s appeared on the blog before, but it was one of the only great shots I got out of my trusty f/0.75 lens this year. I took this one at Prince William Forest Park in Virginia – a simple leaf, backlit by the sun with some nice shadows adding a touch of complexity to the composition. A small white balance tweak brought out some more orange in the background sunlight.
Probably will be a little while before my next “best of 2010” update, as I’m traveling a bit. But in any case, still lots more to come!
On the first day of March, I left an evening engagement early to drive all the way out to George Mason University and shoot Muse for the Post. It was worth the trip: we had to shoot from the back of the venue at floor level, but this turned out to be a close to ideal spot given the scale of Muse’s stage show. The above shot headlined the Post‘s online review of the show, and it kind of tells the story: Muse went BIG, both visually and musically. I would shoot them in Minneapolis a few months later and be sorely disappointed that they, for some reason, dropped the lasers from their visual production.
Another neat concert highlight was getting to see/shoot Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq, who performed at National Geographic with two avant-jazz musicians, guitarist G.E. Stinson (Shadowfax, various Cryptogramophone-label projects) and drummer Scott Amendola (Nels Cline Singers, much more). Tagaq had some incredibly powerful moments that more than made up for her rather banal attempts at improvised spoken word poetry, and she was an emotional firecracker onstage, which of course made for some great photos like the above.
It was the non-concert stuff that proved to be the highlights from March, though. I did a promo shoot with Hotspur in Georgetown that was a lot of fun; the above shot was my favorite and was really simple to do: a single speedlight on-axis with a shoot-through umbrella, with the frame exposed for the ceiling lights. Neato.
Also in March – and I suppose this is concert photography of a sort – I covered the annual Shamrock Fest at RFK Stadium, a ridiculous drunk-fest in which young white people (I’m merely making a demographic statement here, nothing more or less) go get really drunk and act really stupid. Unfortunately, the weather was rainy and cold, which seemed to prevent people from acting really dumb, but it was still kind of fun to wander around and see how people would react to having someone point a camera at them. (Hint: the above photo is pretty mild.) There was also some music to be photographed, most of it really bad cover bands (and Train) but with some good stuff mixed in, most notably The Roots.
Since it opened, the U Street Music Hall has been a favorite new venue in DC for dance/electronic music aficionados, with a legendary sound system and a comfortable space in the heart of the U Street area. The Washington City Paper sent me to cover its opening night, but after learning that the venue was permanently closed to all photography during events, I settled for a portrait of the two owners, DJs Will Eastman (left) and Jesse Tittsworth (right). As I explained in a previous post, I lit these guys with a single bare speedlight at high camera right, giving me some nice defined shadows on the floor with the venue’s logo lit up in the background. I took this shot from on top of a tall stepladder that was conveniently sitting in the middle of the floor. The availability of the stepladder was huge: this photo would have been pretty mediocre shot at ground level.
The first and only time I shot Ultimate Frisbee in 2010 was the YHB Invite in March, in Northern Virginia. I just shot one day of the tournament and didn’t come away with any images I’d count as among my best Ultimate photographs, but still had a good time. I also managed to get myself taken out on the sideline, cameras flying everywhere: Kevin Leclaire, my fellow photographer who has really turned his passion for shooting Ultimate into a business, awesomely caught the whole episode on camera. (Yes, the cameras and all humans involved were OK!)
Finally, as the weather started turning nice, I did a great shoot with Crystal, a model in central Virginia, outdoors in a small-town environment. The local train station had some neat features that we used to offset and/or complement Crystal’s strikingly colorful hair, and I put my 35/1.8 DX lens to good use. I love how this lens is so sharp in the middle, and how the sharpness falls off towards the edges not only because of the limited depth of field at f/1.8 but also because of the fact that I’m using the lens on a full-frame camera, and the image circle (and area of optimal image quality) doesn’t extend all the way to the edges.
The story of February in DC was snow, snow and more snow. I had at least five potential assignments canceled because of the multiple feet of snow that got dumped on DC over the course of two major storms in one week. The first snowstorm was pleasant – tons of fluffy snow but not windy or bitterly cold. I stayed up until 3 in the morning the night of that first snow, shooting nighttime scenes in the city, and then got up the next morning to do an all-day outdoor shoot with Margot MacDonald. While there were some unique challenges with shooting in this weather, lighting was not one of them: the entire outdoor world was aglow in beautiful, soft white sunlight, and taking advantage of it was the formula for success. I did get a bit more creative as the sun went down, but my favorite shots were simple, natural light ones, like the one above. Also: Margot was apparently immune to cold while a camera was pointed at her. Impressive to say the least.
A few days after that first snowstorm, the big one hit. This one was accompanied by massive wind gusts and frigid temperatures, and unlike the first storm the conditions outside were exceedingly uncomfortable. (Even Margot probably would have looked cold if we’d tried doing our photoshoot in the middle of this storm.) Despite the National Weather Service’s warnings about “life-threatening blizzard conditions,” I ventured out to take a few photos in the whiteout. I spent an hour or two outside walking around, and got no photos as entertaining as the above.
Aside from the snow shoots, February was still a successful concert photography month. One of my favorite shows was a set by Holly Miranda, opening for Tegan and Sara; her atmospheric music, combined with the gorgeous light at the Warner Theater, really captured my imagination. The photo above is of her guitarist bathed in that fantastic lighting treatment. Some more February highlights are below: a fantastic performance from Hotspur, who later hired me to do some promo shots for them, at the 9:30 Club; a terrible show by the Black Eyed Peas at the Verizon Center that was nevertheless a visual feast; and yet another great show by St. Vincent (her fifth show in the DC area in less than two years) at the 9:30 Club.
More to come…