Posts Tagged ‘Black Cat’

Four recent challenges

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013


I shot four concerts in four different venues recently, and encountered four challenges which can briefly be summed up as: crappy light, crappy light, crappy light, and crappy light. Case in point: the above photo of local metal band LTW at the Black Cat backstage, the EXIF data of which reads: ISO 12800, f/1.4, 1/30s shutter.

OK, to some extent this is an exaggeration for effect. In fact, for a minute or two I got to shoot at Empire (formerly Jaxx) at ISO 400, which is utterly unheard-of. But aside from a few isolated moments, each of these four concerts had some severe challenges on the lighting side. I’m not complaining – this is pretty standard fare for concert photography – I was mostly just looking for a way to post about four completely different shows all in one post, and this is the best my feeble mind could do. In reverse chronological order, here’s a super quick recap of those four shows – one photo per band.

Last night (in descending order below): Coheed and Cambria, Between the Buried and Me and Russian Circles at the 9:30 Club. I was excited about this mostly because the last time I shot Coheed I got an unforgettable photo. But I’d forgotten how tough a shoot it was – all dim light with lots of strobes. Same deal last night, except for Russian Circles, who literally played with zero frontlight. Here’s the full set.

Coheed & Cambria

Between the Buried and Me

Russian Circles

Last Sunday: Doro, Sister Sin and A Sound of Thunder at Empire. Doro had a spotlight on her for much of the show, which was a huge surprise to me, not having shot at this venue since it was Jaxx. But the rest of her band was in the dark recesses, which made wide shots hard. The light for local openers A Sound of Thunder was pretty tremendous, though. Here’s the full set.


Sister Sin

A Sound of Thunder

Last Saturday: Duos Buke and Gase and Ahleuchatistas at DC9. The light here was actually better than I remember it, but again, super uneven light across the stage made it hard to get both performers in one nicely exposed photo. Here’s the full set.

Buke and Gase


Finally, last month was Jucifer and LTW (who are pictured at the top of this post) at the Black Cat backstage. Jucifer always plays in the dark, and LTW made things complicated by only having their drummer onstage, with the other two band members on the floor with the crowd – where, of course, there’s no light. That was a fun show, nevertheless. The below shot of Jucifer isn’t very good, but I like how it shows that Jucifer’s monstrous rig takes up literally half of the stage real estate. Here’s the full set.


On Location Portrait: Holly Miranda

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Holly Miranda

I first heard Holly Miranda opening for Tegan and Sara back in February. I enjoyed her opening set as much as, or more than, the headliners, and bought her album when it came out a few days later. I liked it enough to go back for more when Holly and her band returned to DC, this time in the much more intimate confines of the Black Cat backstage.

I did a quick portrait shoot with Holly before the show; luckily, I had the chance to take a lot of time scouting a good location and setting up a lighting treatment while the band was soundchecking. I came up with a three-light setup using a bunch of folding tables sitting in a freight elevator as my background. In this first shot, I’m nuking the ambient light with an SB-800 through a 1/4″ grid spot at camera right aimed at Holly’s face; this is more or less the main light. For fill I used an SB-600 with a shoot-through umbrella and a 1/2 CTB gel at high camera left; finally, lighting the background is an SB-600 through a blue gel (primary blue, not CTB), flagged to prevent flare into the camera lens.

Holly said, “I like creepy,” and so I also did this:

Holly Miranda

Here, I exposed to bring the ambient way up, though I still intentionally underexposed by over 2 stops and then brought it up further in post to give it a particularly gritty feel. The only strobe that’s really in play is the SB-800, which provides a bit of clean light on her face and upper body. There’s a bit of light from the background SB-600 as well to keep everything from becoming a total orange wash.

And, bonus! Holly tweeted a photo of me taking this shot. The lesson to learn from this (other than, to take interesting photos, get on the floor!): notice the roll of black gaffer’s tape on the stool next to me. This is maybe the key piece of gear at every shoot, aside from the camera and the lights. Never leave home without it!

Holly Miranda

I also shot the show, of course, and while the Black Cat’s lighting doesn’t compare to the Warner Theatre’s (I got some seriously gorgeous photos from that show), I still got some decent stuff and the performance was fantastic. I wrote a few words about it over at the City Paper.

On Location Portrait: Those Darlins

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Those Darlins

OK, that’s better. I had the chance to do a quick portrait with Nikki, Jessi and Kelley of Those Darlins before their packed-house show at the Black Cat last night. Unlike my shoot with Epica, we didn’t have to do this one outside in the miserable cold, which made things a gazillion times easier.

All three of these women were incredibly easy to work with; we looked around the club for a while trying to figure where to shoot, and discovered that the Black Cat has two, uh, black cats in its backstage area: one a huge papier-mache tiger (or something like that, I need to bone up on my big cat ID skills) hanging from the ceiling, and one a smaller statue. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t let us take down the big tiger, so we settled for the statue. This is a simple shot with essentially two key lights and a background light.

At camera left is an umbrella’d SB-800 with a quarter CTO gel at 1/16 power; camera right is an SB-600 at 1/16 power, shot through a lampshade. I seem to have misplaced my other umbrella, so some improvisation was necessary. It worked to soften the light a bit, but not quite as much as I would have liked. The background light is an SB-600 at far camera right, clamped to a chair and shot through a radiator (actually a portable space heater) at 1/8 power. Again, some improvisation just to throw a bit of a pattern on the background and make it a little more interesting than just a plain blue wall. That’s it. I shot off about 30 frames of this one look, and then we were done. And then they proceeded to blow up the backstage with their seriously high-energy, punky version of country music (I took photos of that, too).

Thanks to Nikki, Jessi, Kelley and Kellyn at 2:30 Publicity for working with me on this one.