Virgin Mobile FreeFest: the bands

October 19th, 2012

The Dismemberment Plan @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

In 2009, as the country struggled through the aftermath of the 2008 economic crash, the two-day Virgin Festival became a one-day FreeFest. Richard Branson and co brought big-name acts to Merriweather Post Pavilion and gave away free tickets to 50,000 people. The tradition has, remarkably, continued, and 2012’s incarnation of FreeFest felt quite a bit like 2009, albeit with a bit less gimmickry (that year featured skydivers and Branson handing out free beers with Flava Flav of Public Enemy).

There were some challenges shooting here. The fest had three stages as usual: the “pavilion stage” (Merriweather’s main stage), the “West stage,” and the dance forest. The lighting at the pavilion stage generally sucked and the pit was tiny, making it impossible to move around for the later acts. The West stage had a nice huge pit but the stage was extremely high, probably five and a half feet, and featured a big extension in center that, bizarrely, almost none of the performers used. So, wide-angle shots at this stage were generally fruitless. Finally, the dance forest also featured a very high stage, and all of the DJs stood behind a table, and we weren’t allowed onstage to shoot. For all these reasons, I’m only moderately happy with my band shots, and actually am much more excited about the crowd shots I got (some favorites of which I’ll slap up in a separate post).

Here are a few of the decent performance shots I did get, in chronological order. Local favorite The Dismemberment Plan is highlighted above.

Justin Jones (well, his drummer):

Justin Jones @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Future Islands, by far the photographic highlight:

Future Islands @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Portgual. the Man:

Portugal. The Man @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Trampled By Turtles:

Trampled By Turtles @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

The Dismemberment Plan again:

The Dismemberment Plan @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Nervo:

Nervo @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Santigold:

Santigold @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Nas:

Nas @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

ZZ Top:

ZZ Top @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

M83:

M83 @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

Skrillex, for whom we had to shoot from FOH without any raised platform:

Skrillex @ Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2012

For more photos, check out the article at the Washington City Paper. It’s a huge and unwieldy slideshow combining my photos with those of fellow WCP photog Erica Bruce, so here are direct links to each individual artist:

Pavilion Stage:
Jack White (Erica’s photos only)
ZZ Top
Alabama Shakes
Trampled By Turtles
Allen Stone
Justin Jones
West Stage:
Skrillex
M83
Nas
Santigold
The Dismemberment Plan
Portugal. the Man
Future Islands
 
Dance Forest:
Above & Beyond
Thomas Gold
Nervo
Alvin Risk
Volta Bureau

Finally, here’s a link to my full photo set on Flickr, which includes some band photos not included in the City Paper slideshow.

Evening magic in Bangladesh

October 19th, 2012

Bay of Bengal

The above might be one of my personal favorite photos, taken at twilight on the southern coast of Bangladesh, on the beach of a small village called Kuakata. It was well after sunset, and I was shooting my D700 handheld at ISO 6400, f/2.8, and 1/8 second shutter speed. What makes the photo for me is the warm colors of the woman in the photo (a Bangladeshi living in Dhaka; it was her first time seeing the ocean). She should, of course, be a completely black silhouette devoid of detail – but I was lucky enough that another person was taking a picture of her, and his autofocus assist lamp shed a tiny bit of light on her. Since I was shooting at such high sensitivity, that extremely dim lamp was enough to light her up perfectly.

Since the last time I updated this blog, I have moved back to Washington DC, gone back to shooting for the Washington City Paper, started a new day job, flown across the country to shoot a major Ultimate tournament, visited four different countries, bought a Nikon D4, broken multiple bones in my face, and taken lots of photos. Needless to say, it’s been a while. In the next few days, I’ll update the blog with some highlights from the last few months. Then next weekend I’ll shoot this year’s USA Ultimate Club Championships, which will eat up all my photo-editing time for like a month. Never a dull moment!

USA Ultimate Division III College Championships

May 21st, 2012

This past weekend I photographed USA Ultimate’s Division III College National Championships in Appleton, Wisconsin for UltiPhotos. I’m working on the photos now and it’ll take me a couple weeks to get the full sets up. For now, there are some preview galleries available for viewing at UltiPhotos. The shot above is of the University of Mary Washington’s women’s team, “Mary Massacre,” pulling to their opponent in the first round of lower bracket play on Sunday morning.

I had a great time at this tournament, although the incredibly stiff winds all weekend made for some uninspiring quality of play at times. All things considered I think I got some good shots, especially given that I once again had some problems with my 300/2.8 (I’m planning to send it in for one more round of repairs, and if that doesn’t work it’s time to shell out the cash for a new long lens). The lens mount has a stripped screw, which means that the top part of the mount doesn’t stay flush to the camera. This has two effects: one, the lens doesn’t properly engage the aperture lever on the camera, which gives an fEE error and renders it unusable. This was relatively easily fixed with a bit of gaffer tape to ensure the lens made contact with the camera aperture lever. However, the second effect was not field-fixable: the mount issue meant that the lens focal plane was ever so slightly off. As a result, the bottom halves of many of my photos are in perfect focus, but the top half is out of focus. This is terribly unfortunate because the top half of most Ultimate photos is the most important – that’s where the faces are, and that’s where the eye goes first.

By the middle of the second day I resorted to running around with only my 80-200/2.8, chasing the action where it went rather than lugging two bodies and staying relatively more stationary. I got some great shots despite the equipment issues, but I’ll be looking forward to having a reliable long lens again soon.

Stay tuned for the full sets from the tournament.

My last shoot at First Avenue: Dragonforce

May 18th, 2012

Dragonforce

I’m moving back to Washington, DC in late May (and am likely to re-start the music photography gigs I had there, albeit with a bit lesser frequency), so the show I shot at First Avenue three weeks ago was almost certainly my last time shooting there. It couldn’t have been more over-the-top awesome for photography, as the trio of power metal bands Dragonforce, Holy Grail and Huntress made it easy to get some great shots.

There’s plenty more at the full Flickr photoset, and follow me on Facebook for more of my work.

Dragonforce

Dragonforce

Dragonforce

Dragonforce

Dragonforce

Holy Grail:

Holy Grail

Holy Grail

Holy Grail

Huntress:

Huntress

Huntress

Huntress

Huntress

Huntress

Here’s the full set.

Red on Red: Turisas and Paganfest America III

April 16th, 2012

Turisas

On Friday, April 6 (I submitted my photos a while ago but am just now getting to writing about them), the third Paganfest America tour stopped in at Station 4. This was Turisas‘ first headlining tour in the States; they’re fun to shoot, but the lighting at Station 4 was awful. Adding red light to red facepaint makes dynamic photos pretty tough, and my best shots of Turisas all look like the above: dark and monochromatic red. The lighting was almost as bad for Alestorm and Arkona, better for Huntress, and weirdly, was actually kind of excellent (by Station 4 standards) for local openers Minos.

The full photoset is here, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter for more.

On to the highlights. Here are a couple more of Turisas:

Turisas

Turisas

Most of my best photos are of Huntress, largely because the lighting was better and I had pit access for their full set; I also got to do a super-quick portrait with them beforehand:

Huntress

Huntress

Huntress

Huntress

Huntress

Arkona:

Arkona

Alestorm:

Alestorm

Minos:

Minos

Minos

Obligatory fan shot:

Paganfest fans

Birthday bash with I:Scintilla

April 1st, 2012

I:Scintilla

Chicago’s I:Scintilla, who mix melodic electronic music with tinges of metal, made their first appearance in Minneapolis since 2008 on Friday night, thanks to a friend of theirs who decided to put on a great show for her 30th birthday celebration. (Thanks, Renee.) They were missing two of their members, unfortunately, but that certainly didn’t make itself evident in the music, as their set sounded great. Visually, vocalist Brittany Bindrim and guitarist Jim Cookas both have great stage presence with tons of energy, and combined with Ground Zero’s gorgeous lighting, I got some shots I’m quite happy with. Drummer Vince Grech, unfortunately, was placed extremely far back on the stage with no lights on him, so I have zero drummer shots from this show.

Beforehand, I did a backstage portrait shoot with the three band members who were present (my thanks to all three of them for the shoot). Ground Zero’s backstage area is tiny, and I tried doing some shadowy, creative lighting at first, but after a few shots it became clear that it just wasn’t working. So I slapped a softbox onto my main light, got rid of my other lights, and resorted to an incredibly basic failsafe scheme, lighting the trio nearly straight on with nice, diffuse white light.

I:Scintilla

Here’s an alternate take – both shots have elements that I like. Following are some more favorites I got from the live show. Ground Zero uses colorful LED cans for backlight and two big incandescent cans to provide nice white frontlight. Combined with judicious use of a fog machine, it’s a recipe for beautiful lighting.

If you like these, be sure to check out the full photoset at Flickr, and follow me on Facebook for more of my work.

I:Scintilla

I:Scintilla

I:Scintilla

I:Scintilla

I:Scintilla

I:Scintilla

Local opener Thought Thieves, on the other hand, played in the dark for almost their entire set. They filled the venue with fog and then barely used any lights at all – not even any backlights, so I couldn’t get any silhouette shots. Eventually the fog cleared and the backlights came on, and I was able to get a couple shots towards the end of the set. My favorite is this one:

Thought Thieves

And finally, openers Cwn Annwn had the more typical gorgeous Ground Zero lighting treatment, and I definitely got some great shots of them. They play a kind of melodic metal that was a bit incongruous to the rest of the show (they closed out with a cover of Rush‘s “Subdivisions,” which was unexpected and wouldn’t have been my first choice for a Rush cover, but they did it well). Regardless, the unusual combination worked, and seemed to go over well with the crowd.

Cwn Annwn

Lots more photos over at Flickr.

The Joy Formidable at Fine Line Music Café

March 24th, 2012

The Joy Formidable

One of my favorite shows of last year was The Joy Formidable‘s set at 7th Street Entry. I knew exactly what to expect this time around, and the band’s setlist hasn’t changed too much from a year ago (their new album is forthcoming, but only one song from this show was drawn from it), but they nevertheless didn’t disappoint. As a bonus, Fine Line Music Café has exponentially better lighting than the Entry, although it was still a relatively challenging show to shoot. Much like last year, I had a hard time pointing my lens at anything but Ritzy Bryan, which is reflected in the selection of favorite shots below.

Many more photos from the show, including some of the excellent openers Exitmusic and A Place to Bury Strangers, are on Flickr here. Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook to keep up with my work!

The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable

Many more shots here.

Carly & Marc’s rock-star wedding

March 15th, 2012

Carly & Marc's Wedding

Back in early February, I shot a pretty unique wedding: the processional was basically a performance piece, with the bride and groom doing a duet with her singing and him on guitar. It was a perfect fit for the picturesque Como Park Conservatory. Also, on the long and somewhat drunken limo ride from ceremony to reception, the wedding party took a detour to a… big-box home improvement store. Good times were had by all.

I didn’t do the getting ready photos for this wedding, just the ceremony and reception (well, and limo ride). Had a blast; here are a few highlights. For the above shot, I set up a couple lights to make sure I could get that beautiful blue sky – there’s a flash behind Carly, and another way up (as high as my lightstand would go) above and behind the camera, zoomed to 200mm. Here’s a vertical of more or less the same shot; I can’t decide which I like better.

A few more shots are on Flickr here. Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook to keep up with my work!

Carly & Marc's Wedding

Carly & Marc's Wedding

Limo Ride

Carly & Marc's Wedding

Carly & Marc's Wedding

Carly & Marc's Wedding

Last show of Emilie Autumn’s “Fight Like a Girl” tour

February 28th, 2012

Emilie Autumn

The last stop of Emilie Autumn‘s latest tour was the Triple Rock Social Club here in Minneapolis. EA’s trademark theatrical stage show and hyper-enthusiastic fan base were in full effect last Sunday night, and it’s always fun to shoot a performance as heavy on visuals as this one was. That said, the Triple Rock seemed like a pretty unfortunate choice of venue to me; the stage was rather small for all the performance-art antics, for one thing; for another, and more importantly for me, the lighting at this venue was totally inappropriate for this kind of show. The Triple Rock’s lighting setup consists of eight static LED cans, for tonight’s show emitting a steady magenta glow and nothing else. This was the kind of show that really called for a dynamic lighting rig, including a spotlight tracking EA or whoever the center of the action was at any given time.

I shot at ISO 6400 and f/1.4 for much of the show, using my 50/1.4 and 85/1.4 for the most part, in order to get fast enough shutter speeds to freeze the action. In post-processing I went really heavy on green adjustments to correct for the magenta color cast. Also, the Triple Rock has no pit, so I was all the way off to one side of the stage for the entire show. The performance was choreographed such that most of the visuals were best viewed from the center, so that was a bit of a bummer – but I’m still really happy with a bunch of the shots I got from this angle, including the headline shot above.

Here are some of my favorites from the show, and here’s the full set. As always, “like” me on Facebook to keep up with my work!

Emilie Autumn

Emilie Autumn

Emilie Autumn

Emilie Autumn

Emilie Autumn

Emilie Autumn

Emilie Autumn

Tearsheets: USA Ultimate magazine, Winter 2011

February 28th, 2012

This came out months ago, but I only just recently saw it. The Winter 2011 issue of the USA Ultimate magazine features my coverage from Club Championships in Sarasota, way back last October. Here are just a few low-res tearsheets of some of the pages that feature my photos. In all of these except for the last, all the photos are mine; on the table of contents page, the three shots on the left side are mine.

Thanks to Kevin Leclaire of Ultiphotos, Andy Lee of USA Ultimate, and Brian Canniff, the other Ultiphotos photographer who got tons of coverage in the magazine, including the cover shot.