Hard rock/metal arena show in Baltimore. Pit was a fucking zoo, between the dozen photogs and the line of burly security guys keeping the crowdsurfers from bashing their heads into the floor. (You can see how full it was in this video, or this one.) Some of the photographers seemed incredibly unprofessional, but then I have this weird idea about standards of behavior in the photo pit. Basically, I don’t think it’s appropriate to act like a fan in the photo pit. Is that just totally silly? I don’t know. I feel like, it you’re in the pit, you have a job to do, and you’re supposed to be taking the photos, not getting in them. A little headbanging, ok, but fist-bumping a band member seems like it crosses some kind of line. I dunno. At venues with no pit I don’t have the same ideas; in fact, when I shoot at a place like Jaxx I feel out of place if I don’t act like a fan as well as a photog.
Also, a pet peeve: if a show is supposed to be a no-flash show, please please please turn off your autofocus assist lamp. That thing can be as annoying as a flash, since it comes on every time the camera tries to refocus. And for god’s sake turn off the automatic LCD preview (to be fair, I haven’t seen any concert photos in the pit with that on).
The gig itself wasn’t the greatest to shoot. Except for Disturbed (who had an awesome stage setup, as above), the lighting tended to be monochromatic, deep color washes, that annoying kind of light where proper exposure gives you ugly, deep shadows and overexposure completely blows out individual channels. Ugh. The biggest problem, though, was the height of the stage. The stage floor was at about neck-height on me, which meant that the monitors were above my head. So most of my shots are unflattering up-angled crap. It threw me off a little more than it should have, I think; my instinctive compositional tricks just don’t really work as well when I’m pointing my camera at a 45 degree angle upwards.
A lot of concert photogs just have a single subject in the frame for most of their shots, keeping things as simple as possible. My style is pretty different: I like to have at least two things going on in my shots. That could be two or more performers, but it doesn’t have to be – it could be a performer and some interesting background lighting, or a performer and the crowd, or a performer and some kind of prop. A lot of the times I achieve this effect by shooting wide, keeping the primary subject on one side of the frame with something else going on elsewhere in the shot. Turns out, with a super high stage, this is a hell of a lot harder to pull off.
Also, random minor disappointment: Killswitch Engage has a tall, goofy-looking guitarist (on the right in the photo above) who just goes crazy while performing, literally running back and forth from one side of the stage to the other for the whole set. During the second song something went wrong with his guitar and he left the stage. Then, while the band bantered a bit before the third song, he leaned into the mic and said, “So we’re Killswitch Engage from Massachusetts. And you must be Baltimore. So this funny thing happened – my guitar won’t work. So instead of playing, I’m just going to rage. I’m gonna rage.”
I think he kept muttering “I’m gonna rage” several more times, too, at which point I was planning on doing nothing but following this crazy mofo around with my camera for the third song. But then, the damn techs seemed to get his guitar fixed, and instead of “raging,” he just played. Running back and forth and pretending to kiss his bandmate and doing other crazy stuff, but I was still disappointed. I wanted him to rage.
Finally, before shooting the show, I interviewed Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil (above), and the transcript can be read at the City Paper.
More photos here.