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.