Posts Tagged ‘Jaxx’

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: Epica

Thursday, January 28th, 2010


(Left to right: guest keyboardist Oliver Palotai, guitarist Isaac Delahaye, guitarist/vocalist Mark Jansen, bassist Yves Huts, drummer Ariën van Weesenbeek, vocalist Simone Simons.)

On Tuesday, Dutch symphonic metal band Epica kicked off their U.S. tour at Jaxx. They were nice enough to do a quick portrait shoot with me despite the hectic schedule of the first day of the tour. Unfortunately, Jaxx has no backstage and literally no place inside where we could do a shoot, and so we had to do it outside, where it was really way too cold for this kind of nonsense.

I had scouted the venue a bit and only found one really interesting spot for a shoot: an awesomely beat-up back door covered in band stickers and such. Unfortunately, when the time came to do this portrait, one of the opening bands was in the middle of loading out through that door. So, lacking other options, I set up my lights in the middle of the parking lot: boring, but at least not a totally obvious cliche, like if I’d used the brick wall of the club.

When the time came to do the shoot it was so cold that I felt bad and just grabbed a couple frames and then let the band go do their thing. With limited time, six band members and no interesting environment to work with, inspiration was running low. All I managed was the above; the only interesting thing here is that Simone Simons, the lead singer of the group, is highlighted a bit with warmer light than the rest of the band.  It works well, I think: the color of her jacket and hair really stand out compared to the other five, who are rendered almost monochrome.

Key lighting was an SB-600 through an umbrella, camera left, at 1/16th power. The rim light is coming from camera left behind the band, a bare SB-600 also at 1/16th. This light serves not only to provide some definition to the band members, especially those on the left, but also gives that splash of light on the ground to give some context to the shot. Finally, I set up an SB-800, gelled with a full and quarter CTO, at camera right, with a 1/4″ grid, aimed at Simons on the end and fired at 1/32nd power. This is what gives her that splash of color that’s lacking from the rest of the shot.

There are all kinds of things I would have liked to have done better with this shot, but the simplest would have been an additional rim light on the right side. Also, a bit of wide-angle distortion is evident here as Simons is rendered a bit, er, wider than she is in real life. Taking a step back would have mitigated that issue.

I’ve hopefully got a few more on-location portrait shoots lined up with musicians coming to town soon. I think I’ll do better with them: the combination of the cold and a lack of a good background to work with really hamstrung me on this one.

Many thanks to the band for being willing to do this, and to their tour manager Vikki for coordinating. Also to one of Jaxx’s managers, Marie, who held my key light to keep it from blowing over in the wind. That’s an important job!