Archive for September, 2010

Those Darlins @ 7th Street Entry

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Those Darlins

Last night I covered a show by the ever-dependably-crazy Those Darlins at the 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis. It’s a side venue attached to First Avenue, much like the Black Cat backstage in DC or the Talking Head in Baltimore, except bigger and with way, way better lights. Definitely among the best shooting conditions of clubs this size I’ve ever worked in. I was getting good shutter speeds (1/200 and up) at ISO 3200 and f/2.8.

Those Darlins

Which was good, because Those Darlins brought it, as always. They made their name by being high-energy onstage, and high-energy they were. I covered their show in DC back in January (and did a backstage portrait with them), but this one blew that show out of the water. Blame it on the famously tame DC crowds, maybe?

Those Darlins

Those Darlins

Actually, it wasn’t until after the band had gone through their setlist that things got fun. Maybe during the last song, Kelley hopped up on someone’s shoulders while playing guitar, but I idiotically managed to miss that shot (see awesome fellow Twin Cities photogs Leslie Plesser and Meredith Westin for the goods). They then did something like three encore songs that got progressively more energetic. The last song – before which I’d almost stepped out the door but then realized they were about to do one more – is where I got many of my best shots, including all of the following:

Those Darlins

Those Darlins

Those Darlins

Those Darlins

Here are many of the rest of the photos at Flickr.

The Flaming Lips (and syndication!)

Monday, September 20th, 2010

The Flaming Lips

Any smart concert photographer should never pass up an opportunity to shoot The Flaming Lips, even if their live schtick hasn’t changed year after year after year. There’s just too much craziness going on to not get some amazing shots. Granted, some of the classic shots are now completely overdone (Wayne Coyne in his hamster ball, Wayne Coyne riding the giant bear, etc etc), but there’s still great images to be made. In particular, Coyne looks like he’s having the time of his life at every Flaming Lips show I’ve seen, grinning like a madman while slinging around massive balloons and popping off confetti guns in fans’ faces.

The Flaming Lips

This show marked my first show as a shooter for Retna, a photo wire service specializing in music, event and celebrity photography. I’m obviously focusing on the former and not at all on the latter. Shooting for a wire is nice in that I never know where my photos might pop up, but it’s also a bit less satisfying than shooting for a publication in that… I never know where my photos might pop up. (If anywhere.) We’ll see how it goes, but I’m excited to be part of the Retna team.

The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips

Got some more Flaming Lips photos here, and of course check out the last time I shot these guys, about a year ago in the DC area.

Jamey Johnson in the Washington Post

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Jamey Johnson @ WMZQfest Country Throwdown

The above photo ran large on the front page of yesterday’s Washington Post Style section. Many thanks to Metal Nick for the heads-up (I can’t keep track of these things very well any more since I’m no longer in DC) and this scan of the actual page.

In terms of music writing, I have a feature article in this week’s Washington City Paper on The Muffins, a DC-based prog band who are playing this year’s amazing Sonic Circuits festival.

It’s like I never left DC!

Crooked Still at the Cedar Cultural Center

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

Crooked Still

So, here in Minneapolis I live within three blocks of at least three major live music venues, which is, you know, convenient. Last night Mary and I investigated one of these venues, the Cedar Cultural Center – a venue that reminded me a lot of the Birchmere near DC. It’s a similar size, the stage and lighting is the exact same kind of thing (minus the Birchmere’s weird painted stage backdrop), and the booking is a subset of the Birchmere’s more interesting stuff, namely the world and folk end of things. Last night’s booking was bluegrass quintet Crooked Still, a collection of fantastic musicians playing both standards and originals.

Crooked Still

The lighting was quite nice, though I did have to push up to ISO 4000 or so to get decent shutter speeds, and set a custom white balance to deal with some strangely yellow incandescent cans. The layout of the venue made shooting tough: the show was seated (and absolutely packed!) and there was no room between the front row and the stage, so I was limited to aisles and the back and extreme sides of the venues. Never did quite get the angles I wanted, but I got some decent stuff crouching in the center aisle.

Crooked Still

Unfortunately for my photos, aside from the flamboyantly expressive banjo player, the band didn’t really loosen up until well after the first three songs. Fortunately for my music appreciation, they put on an awesome show. More photos at Flickr.

Iceland Part 3: Jökulsárgljúfur National Park

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Overlooking the Jökulsá

Jökulsárgljúfur National Park is a long, narrow park in northeastern Iceland. It shares some superficial characteristics with Shenandoah National Park in the United States, except rather than running along the ridge of a mountain, it follows the path of the massive Jökulsá River, which flows south-to-north, starting at the massive Vatnajökull glacier in the southeastern part of the country. We hiked the park from its northern end to the southern tip, a modest trip totaling about 21 or 22 miles.

Photography-wise, this was not the best two days of the trip. It was fortunate for us as backpackers that we were presented with two brilliantly clear, sunny days, perfect weather for being outside. However, the constant sun for nearly 20 hours a day meant that basically all of my photos were taken in harsh, direct sunlight, hardly a recipe for great work. So while the scenery on this hike was pretty great, the photos are not – sorry about that. (My photos from our second hike are far, far better; we’ll get to those eventually.)

Bus at Ásbyrgi

We started by hopping on a bus from Akureyri at 8:15am, which took us through the fishing village of Húsavík and then to Ásbyrgi – a bizarre geological feature at the northern end of the park. Ásbyrgi is basically an enormous horseshoe-shaped canyon, supposedly carved out in a matter of days by a massive tide of water flooding from the south after a volcanic eruption somewhere in Vatnajökull. Sheer cliffs of up to 100 meters in height were created in an otherwise featureless, flat landscape. Most day-trippers explore the canyon itself, but our hike led us up the side of the cliff to a beautiful view atop the canyon. From this vantage point I shot a fairly artless photo that I’ll post here just because it shows the scale of things (note the mass of people near the bottom of the photo):

Ásbyrgi cliff

After admiring this scenery for a while, we began the hike in earnest, heading south through a landscape that was almost completely flat, covered in low brush, grass and moss and very little other vegetation. In most of our hikes in Iceland we felt a bit like we were on the top of the world because the views were so expansive in every direction. This first day of our Jökulsárgljúfur hike was notable in that respect but not too many others, as aside from the beginning (Ásbyrgi) and end (Hljóðarklettar), the scenery was beautiful but hardly unique or mind-boggling.

But then we came to Hljóðarklettar, and we happened upon things like this:


Scale is difficult here, but this large area of the park was filled with enormous hills made up of columnar basalt formations like these: strangely geometric shapes of rather large size, resulting from the quick cooling of lava flows. I found these rather beautiful in a slightly odd way, something I could say of much of what we ended up seeing in this country. In any case, we explored Hljóðarklettar a bit but were mostly eager to make it to our first campsite, Vesturdalur, which was a developed campsite complete with running water and toilets. We paid a small fee to camp, pitched our tent in the only rainfall of the day, and fell asleep sometime during the long dusk.

The next day, our hike took us right along the edge of the cliff overlooking the Jökulsá River (see the headline shot or below). We hadn’t seen much of the river during the first day, but it became a constant companion on the second day. Weirdly, the river wasn’t so much picturesque as it was kind of disgusting – the water was an opaque milky-gray as a result of all the volcanic ash collected by the river on its way from Vatnajökull far to the south. We certainly wouldn’t be able to rely on it for drinkable water, which became an issue later in the day.

Jökulsá River

As the day wore on, the hike became more and more featureless, particularly when the trail moved away from the river into open land. We hiked for hours on one particular section in which all we could see in any direction was rock, dust, sky, and literally nothing else, with a strong wind blowing directly into our faces. When at last we came to our campsite at the southern end of the park, we were low on water and energy, and the campsite offered little comfort: shelter from the incessantly blowing wind was minimal at best, and there was no water available. The park supposedly keeps two large canisters filled for campers, but these were almost empty when we arrived, with barely half a liter of water left:

No water

There was no water source nearby that we could tell, and with only about a liter of water left for the night and the next morning, we began contemplating double-filtering and then purifying the filthy water from the Jökulsá. We pitched our tent and I went in search of water; luckily, on the trail to Dettifoss, the waterfall at the southern tip of the park, I discovered what appeared to be a rainwater pond – literally the only fresh water we’d seen in the previous 5-6 hours of hiking. The pond, though it was standing water, looked clear enough, and with our water problem solved we were finally able to relax and go check out Dettifoss…


…which was, in a word, awesome. The largest waterfall in Europe by volume, Dettifoss let off an incomprehensible roar of sound, kicked up spray that was visible a mile away, and generally dwarfed the senses when approached. We stood in awe for some time and I tried to figure out some way to capture it on camera that would do some justice to simply standing in the presence of that kind of natural power. I failed, of course, but hopefully the above photo and the others the gallery give some idea. This was far from the prettiest waterfall we saw on our trip, but it was definitely the most impressive.

And then we settled in for a miserable night’s sleep: miserable because our tent was pitched on volcanic ash that blew into the tent all night, giving our respiratory systems fits. Luckily, the next day we were just catching a bus to a nearby town, Mývatn, and so could afford a terrible night of little rest. Mývatn ended up being one of our favorite places in Iceland, and the subject of the next entry.

In the meantime, check out more photos at the updated Flickr set!

Apocalyptica and Dir En Grey

Friday, September 3rd, 2010


I interrupt the Iceland coverage to bring you my first concert shoot in almost two months… my first concert shoot in Minneapolis… my first concert shoot in a long time without the backing of a publication… which was metal cello group Apocalyptica and Japanese black metallers Dir En Grey at First Avenue. This is sort of like Minneapolis’ version of the 9:30 Club; it’s the biggest club-sized venue in town, as far as I can tell, and this bill didn’t come anywhere close to filling it up, but a respectable and enthusiastic crowd showed up and the bands put on a good show.


Having seen other photogs’ shots of Apocalyptica, I knew I was in for a treat, and they didn’t disappoint. A bunch of metal dudes headbanging over their cellos isn’t something you see every day, and while the lighting left a bit to be desired (I could have used some white light somewhere along the way, but it wasn’t to be), the drama was pretty much there on a platter. Metal bands in general tend to offer loads of opportunities for fun shots, but these guys brought up a notch.


Dir En Grey are a band I’ve heard a lot about (mostly since they signed to The End Records) but have never bothered to check out. This show will change that, as I came away awfully impressed by them: great stage presence, some seriously catchy riffs, and a pretty astounding vocalist. Of course, being an opening band in a metal show, their lighting was mostly abysmal for photography, but what else is new?

Dir En Grey

That said, later in the set when I was shooting from afar, I was able to catch some neat rimlight effects on vocalist Kyo:

Dir En Grey

The instant I walked into First Avenue – my first time in any music venue in the Twin Cities, having moved here just about a week and a half ago – I knew I was going to miss the 9:30 Club. Not that First Avenue isn’t a nice venue – my impressions were quite positive – but the 9:30 Club has an amazingly low stage for a venue its size, and I kind of took that for granted. First Avenue’s stage is probably about five feet high, which presented me with all the usual problems a high stage always comes with. I look forward to exploring the smaller venues in the area, although I suspect I’ll be at First Avenue quite a bit.

More photos from a show, including a few fan shots, are here at Flickr.