Photo Exploration: The Guitar. January 2013

Per­form­ers on stage are, by the nature of per­form­ing, pret­ty emo­tive peo­ple. Usu­al­ly cog­nizant of every look and motion, they are con­stant­ly build­ing up a pres­ence with their eyes and hands and lips and hair and clothes and so on and so on. That makes for engag­ing and excit­ing pho­tog­ra­phy — think of the time­less imagery of Jimi Hen­drix, Jim­my Page or James Brown (acci­den­tal allit­er­a­tion, what?). Even in the midst of organ­ic and spon­ta­neous activ­i­ty, there is a con­stant per­sona pre­sent­ed to the audience.

How­ev­er, with the right envi­ron­ment and patience, occa­sion­al­ly a pho­to­graph can be tak­en that catch­es a moment of qui­et dis­trac­tion. Such as the pho­to­graph below.


Tak­en at the French Broad Brew­ery, this pho­to was one of a series and you can see the rest of the show here. But this one image stood out to me for a num­ber of rea­sons — I get a sense of soli­tude, maybe of inter­nal rehearsal, and ulti­mate­ly a sense of calm. I’ll be hon­est — I real­ly like this image. I like the col­or, the com­po­si­tion, the sub­ject. I like that it feels a lit­tle bit behind-the-stage-cur­tain. I real­ly like that it does not look like a con­cert pho­to­graph I would nor­mal­ly take.

How to get such a pho­to, and how to repro­duce? The tech­ni­cal spec’s are 1600ISO, 1/60 @ f/2. Canon 5Dmk2, 50mm f/1.4 lens. Stage light­ing (of which I had no con­trol). So we know it’s going to be a mod­er­ate­ly grainy set­up, and we know the DOF is pret­ty going to be pret­ty shal­low. And since the light­ing is com­ing from the stage lights, we can assume that it’s going to be a mish­mash of some red, yel­low and green­ish tones.

And all of which plays well with this “cur­tain for a back­drop” type of stage. If it was­n’t a top-notch craft brew­ery, you could expect PBR cans or per­haps cracked tum­blers of Old Crow for refresh­ments. For­tu­nate­ly, the beer was deli­cious (ESB for me) and the glass­es solid. 

Any­way — the main thing you have to remem­ber with these sort of envi­ron­ments is to be alert. Dis­trac­tions between songs can lead to missed oppor­tun­ties. When the singer moves away from the mic, don’t go back to the beer. Fol­low her with your cam­era and watch what’s going on. Is she get­ting some­thing out of her gui­tar case? Is she talk­ing to some­one off-stage? Is she, as in this case, chang­ing instru­ments entire­ly? All of these open up the win­dow for a pho­to that’s a bit more involved, a bit more per­son­al than the pro­tect­ed and pro­ject­ed per­son­al­i­ty of the artist.

Thanks must also go out to Chelsea Labate of Ten Cent Poet­ry for gra­cious­ly allow­ing pho­tog­ra­phy at her events.