The above is perhaps my favorite from my photoset of 36 Crazyfists, Gojira and In Flames, who played at Ram’s Head Live in Baltimore last Friday. It was shot with my trusty Nikon 80-200/2.8 AF-S lens. Unfortunately, I spent most of the night shooting with a Tamron 17-50/2.8 lens, which I recently bought to fill in for my Nikon 17-55/2.8 currently undergoing repair (or maybe just sitting in a Nikon warehouse somewhere, I’m not sure). The Tamron and I did not get along. More importantly, the Tamron and my camera did not get along.
Problem: The autofocus on the lens froze up after a few seconds of use, requiring me to turn the camera off and back on (sometimes multiple times) to get it working again. I tried cleaning the AF contacts, but no dice. I would have to focus and frame a shot, take as many photos as I could while the camera-to-subject distance remained the same, and then basically reboot my camera in order to be able to refocus. Annoying to say the least, and who knows how many great shots I lost because of it. I did a little Googling after the show and it doesn’t look like this is an isolated problem – lots of users are reporting this with the new version of the Tamron 17-50, which has an internal focus motor (the old version had screw-driven AF that was apparently faster and more reliable).
The above shot is slightly out of focus because I took it without rebooting my camera. Needless to say, I’m returning this piece of junk lens. I guess I can’t do a fair assessment of it since I got a faulty copy, but even when the autofocus was working it was slow as molasses. Also, the 17mm end didn’t seem quite as wide as the 17mm end of my Nikon 17-55. I can’t evaluate sharpness since so many of my shots are slightly out of focus, but I’d be shocked if it was as sharp as the Nikon wide open (there’s that $800 price difference to account for, after all). What I did like is that the thing is tiny – smaller even than my Nikon 18-70 kit lens. Quite a relief after lugging around the beast that is the Nikon 17-55.
Oh yeah, there was a concert. I went mostly for Gojira, who are awesome. Their breakthrough record (From Mars to Sirius) is a concept album about global warming and a science fiction future involving flying whales. Their singer is a death metal growler who screams lyrics like “I had a dream/Our planet surviving” instead of the usual gore-obsessed extreme metal stuff. They are outspoken environmentalists and hippie Frenchmen. And they’re one of the absolute heaviest bands I’ve ever heard, especially live. Holy crap.
I’m not a big fan of 36 Crazyfists (metalcore) or In Flames (classic Gothenburg melodeath – they kind of started it all), but they both put on solid shows. 36 Crazyfists got the crowd to do a wall of death pit, and Gojira and In Flames were getting ridiculous amounts of people to crowdsurf. It seemed like the poor security dudes up front had to catch a crowdsurfer every five seconds. In this context the three-song limit made lots of sense: the security dudes wanted photographers out of the way as soon as possible.
That said, security was incredibly professional, competent and friendly, helping make the Ram’s Head a new favorite venue for me. After three songs, I was allowed to shoot anywhere in the venue other than in the middle of the pit. That’s a lot of freedom, since Ram’s Head has a weird layout that has two levels of balconies and all kinds of bizarre nooks and crannies, not all of which have views of the stage. There’s even this small stadium-style seating part way at the back up in the third level. So strange. Some of my favorite shots were of the crowd, taken from the uppermost balcony above and slightly behind the stage.
In fact, I spent a lot of time shooting the crowd, because Gojira wasn’t the most exciting band visually (other than their bassist who was fucking awesome) and the lighting for In Flames was atrocious. Ram’s Head has a pretty elaborate lighting setup but In Flames favored monochrome color washes, tons of backlight, and very little frontlight. Sucked. So after I got a few safe shots, rather than shooting In Flames throughout their long set, instead I took lots of pictures of fans and crowd surfers.
Wish I could have gotten a cleaner shot of this guy here; he did a nice little backflip on top of the crowd before getting tossed over to the security guys:
So that was good times, other than my lens crapping out on me of course. Hurry the hell up, Nikon repair…
Oh and one more thing: you might have noticed I have a new watermark. Looks much more professional than the old one, no? It really shouldn’t have taken me this long to get around to doing something so simple that has such a visual impact.
Full 36 Crazyfists, Gojira and In Flames photoset here. This set is not really up to my usual standards, a result of my fighting with the Tamron too much, but I still managed to get some usable stuff.