Archive for June, 2010


Sunday, June 20th, 2010


I’ve wanted to shoot in Baltimore’s Carroll Park for some time now. This park is in southern Baltimore and features an abandoned train, a burned-out bathhouse, a colonial mansion, and lots of gnarled trees. There’s literally too much awesome stuff there to use in a single shoot. Maryland Deathfest provided me not only with some great music and great music photos, it also provided me with a model willing to shoot in Carroll Park.

We went through a few looks, from the soft, natural-light styling shown in the headline photo to the two shots below, where Cara put her death-metal wardrobe to use and I put a couple of those gnarly trees to use. These were shot with a single SB-800 on or near full power, with no modifiers. I was at ISO LO 1.0 and a high shutter speed to underexpose the ambient as much as possible – in particular, I wanted some nice contrast in the clouds (we lucked out with a cloudy day; a sunny day would have made these photos way less interesting). The first shot is taken at 14mm, and even that wasn’t wide enough to capture the whole scene. I went a little tighter for the second shot, which is taken at 24mm.



And one last shot. This photo was something of a happy accident. I don’t actually think it’s that great of a photo, but in my post-processing I managed to make it pop like no other portrait I’ve ever done. At the root of it is an aggressive, high-contrast black & white conversion. Making Cara’s skin almost white isn’t something I’d do with most people, but it works for her, and her black hair and shirt are perfect contrasts. After the black & white conversion was some funky selective sharpening and local contrast adjustments that make the hair and eyes in particular seem to jump out of the frame. I only wish the original photo was a bit better!


There are a few more of these in this set over at Flickr.

Bamboozle Roadshow 2010

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

Cartel @ Bamboozle Roadshow

Music Festival #3 in my non-chronological recap series was Bamboozle Roadshow at Merriweather Post Pavilion. I was interested in precisely zero of the bands here, but I thought it would be a fun event to shoot, again because of both the bands and the fans. This fest caters to the high school crowd, with a slew of pop-punk and powerpop bands, maybe like a slightly less grungy Warped Tour. Two stages; at the main stage we got two songs in the pit per band, at the secondary stage we got the usual three. As the day wore on the pit became insanely packed, mostly with photographers in their teens, likely shooting for blogs and personal websites.

Some photographers take issue with this – particularly at something like Warped Tour where you have a bunch of kids with point-and-shoots in the photo pit – but while I find it annoying not to be able to move around in the pit, I also appreciate that these sorts of festivals are really giving a leg up to young photographers looking to get into music photography. My version of living this dream went down a different path – shooting underground bands at tiny, dark clubs with no pit and no photo policy – but I’m excited for these new photogs who are getting to shoot bands they love in a photo pit in front of thousands of fans. Pretty cool.

Of the bands, my favorites to shoot were Cartel (pictured in the headline shot) and Forever the Sickest Kids. By the time the last few bands rolled around, I’d gotten a bit tired of the crowded pit and of shooting bands I had no real interest in, so I started spending most of my time in the pit turned away from the stage and taking photos of fans at the barricade. Good times.

Here’s The Downtown Fiction closing their set at the second stage:

The Downtown Fiction @ Bamboozle Roadshow

The aforementioned Forever the Sickest Kids, for whom the 14-24/2.8 was a perfect tool:

Forever the Sickest Kids @ Bamboozle Roadshow

Boys Like Girls (you can tell what kind of bands these are just from their names):

Boys Like Girls @ Bamboozle Roadshow

The classic crowdsurfing shot… this is some ISO 6400 magic here:

Bamboozle Roadshow

While the kids rocked out, here’s what many of their parents did…

Bamboozle Roadshow

A quiet moment:

Bamboozle Roadshow

And finally, one more not-so-quiet fan moment.

Bamboozle Roadshow

As always, tons more photos like these are over at Flickr.

Photoshop CS5

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

If you follow me on Twitter (and you should!), you know that I just got myself a copy of Adobe Creative Suite 5 – including Photoshop, of course, but also Illustrator, InDesign and Acrobat 9 – thanks to my newfound ability to take advantage of crazy academic discounts on software.

Above is one of my favorite crowd shots from Bamboozle Roadshow, which I’ll be posting about soon. Unfortunately, it was 2-3 stops underexposed because the stage lights went out just as I was taking the photo. The version you see above is what I managed to salvage using Adobe Camera Raw 6.1, Photoshop CS5 and the latest 64-bit version of Noise Ninja. If you hover your mouse over the image and wait for a second (sorry, the files are large), you’ll see the earlier version I originally posted, processed using Nikon Capture NX2, Photoshop 7.0 and an older version of Noise Ninja.

I’m not actually sure which version I like better. With Camera Raw, I was better able to salvage the shadows while still keeping the noise at acceptable levels. I screwed up the custom white balance a bit though; I like the cooler tones of the original image better than the orangey tones of the new one. That said, the original image feels like an underexposed image to me, which bothers me; the new one feels a lot less so. It’s all personal preference of course, but I’m pretty happy to have a new tool at my disposal. When processing images that have been properly exposed and need minimal post-processing work, it might not matter much. But when trying to salvage images that I screwed up in-camera, or when I want to use artistic effects for portraits, wedding shots, etc, my options just expanded enormously.

(Also: let’s take a moment to marvel at how an ISO 3200 image can be brought up nearly 3 stops in post – boosting effective ISO to 256000 – and still be usable at all.)

Earth Day Climate Rally 2010

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

Earth Day Climate Rally

Maryland Deathfest was one of several large festival-style music events I’ve photographed in the last month and a half or so. I’m late on posting about the others but I’m going to go ahead and do it, as I’m very happy with some of the shots I got from these. Shooting at festivals is always fun not just because of the variety of bands, but also because I really enjoy taking pictures of festival-goers, who (especially at something like MDF) often make for really, really interesting people-watching.

In late April I took a gazillion photos at the Earth Day Climate Rally that took place on DC’s National Mall. This full-day event was a weird cross between a political rally and a music festival, with a massive array of speakers interspersed between brief sets of music (3-5 songs per artist). Of the speakers, I particularly enjoyed Jesse Jackson Sr. and Rep. Ed Markey, and was bummed to have gotten there too late to hear what new AFL-CIO president Rich Trumka had to say.

There was a rudimentary media tent set up – just a couple tables and chairs, no food or drink or anything like that – where various VIPs came and did interviews and photo ops. I found these photo ops bizarre and awkward. Though I’ve never shot a red carpet event, I suppose this was similar – random VIP arrives, poses for dozens of photographers in front of a cheesy pre-fab background, continues on his/her merry way. So strange. I actually preferred to wait and take photos while the VIPs were doing their interviews instead of awkwardly posing. Here’s TV personality Maria Menounos:

Maria Menounos @ Earth Day Climate Rally

Taking photos of people speaking at podiums is not a recipe for stunning art. That said, here’s my favorite such photo of the day, of the aforementioned Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.):

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) @ Earth Day Climate Rally

Oh, and there was music to be photographed, of course! This actually turned out to be a bit of a challenge. There was a nice, ample photo pit, but we were only allowed in there for two songs per performance. This wouldn’t have been a big deal, except the way the performances were structured, new performers would come out with every song. So for instance, three songs into a set, someone like Bob Weir or Joss Stone would wander onto the stage and play a song or two. So for probably about half of the big names on the performance roster, the photogs never actually got a proper chance to shoot.

The presence of a large media platform set back maybe 100 feet from the stage and raised up high was a mitigating factor. With a 300mm lens on a crop body I got some OK shots of performers I wasn’t able to shoot from the pit. But I realized that I had a better chance to get good stuff outside the pit by simply shooting from ground level in the crowd with the 300mm. A clumsy proposition at best, but the Joss Stone photo below (for example) was taken that way, and I’m perfectly happy with that shot.

So anyway, here are some pictures. First up, salsa legend Willie Colón:

Willie Colón @ Earth Day Climate Rally

Indie-rockers Passion Pit:

Passion Pit @ Earth Day Climate Rally

The Roots (who played their own set in the middle of the day and then performed as the backing band for every single performer after them):

The Roots @ Earth Day Climate Rally

Joss Stone:

Joss Stone @ Earth Day Climate Rally

Robert Randolph; this is another shoot-from-the-crowd shot:

Robert Randolph @ Earth Day Climate Rally

And finally, Mr. Headliner Man, Sting:

Sting @ Earth Day Climate Rally

I also spent some time sniping away at rally attendees using a long lens. There were a bunch of people with N’avi facepaint, and there was this strong Avatar vibe running through the whole event, thanks to the presence of the film’s director, James Cameron. I have to say, I find this Avatar fanboyism pretty inexplicable. I finally saw the film a few weeks ago and thought it was terrible. But I digress!

Earth Day Climate Rally

Earth Day Climate Rally

And finally, a view of part of the crowd, looking back from the media platform. There were a lot of people there.

Earth Day Climate Rally

Check out my full photoset here!

Maryland Deathfest VIII

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

Maryland Deathfest VIII

Last year, Maryland Deathfest VII was one of the greatest live music photography experiences I’ve ever had, what with the insanely awesome lineup, all-access, and a multitude of fascinating people to shoot between bands. Needless to say, I was excited to return for this year’s version of the biggest extreme metal festival in the United States; unfortunately, I was only able to make Friday of the three-day affair. Friday is basically a warm-up day, with fewer bands and a less immersive vibe. I took far fewer photos this year as a result – not only were there fewer bands, but for some reason I only had pit access for two songs per band (though I could still shoot for the full set, from outside the pit including backstage and onstage). I also spent most of my time between bands socializing, whereas last year I spent basically every single minute shooting something.

Still, I came away with some decent stuff. The last band to go on, D.R.I., were particularly great to shoot, especially since they were the only band to actually play with the house lights on. Every other band that played inside, I shot at ISO 6400 and the only lighting was deep blue and red (worst case, red only and I either used flash or accepted the redness as part of the ambience); D.R.I. used beautiful white light and I shot at ISO 1600 with generous shutter speeds.

Here are just a couple highlights (in order, D.R.I., Birds of Prey and Coffins); check out the full Flickr set for much more.

D.R.I. @ Maryland Deathfest VIII

Birds of Prey @ Maryland Deathfest VIII

Coffins @ Maryland Deathfest VIII

Maryland Deathfest VIII

Maryland Deathfest VIII

I’m particularly fond of that last shot, which is of the moshpit during Gorguts‘ fantastic set; check it out large. And again, there are 70+ more photos at the full photoset. For my 400+ photos from last year’s MDF, I’ve got two galleries up: Saturday and Sunday.