Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Scorpions @ Dodge Theatre

Does rock come any harder and more awesome than the Scorpions?? No I don't think so. When you think of the best hard rock driving song, you instantly think "Rock You Like A Hurricane"... and you'd be right. The best song to pump your fist to? Naturally you say "No One Like You". Hey, I can't argue with that logic, we're on the same page here. The greatest song to accompany your animal-based, adult comedy cartoon by the same name... while driving... and pumping your fist... "The Zoo". Of course... I just about to say that, slow down!

Yes. Needless to say, last night was a total f'ing rock fest! Right from the start. The back-lighting as drummer James Kottak climbed on stage and put his sticks in the air got the sold out crowd going nuts. Moments later, his drum kit ascends 20 feet in the air, and the rocking begins in proper top form. During my three song allotment, I didn't notice a single person sitting down. These people already knew their asses were in the process of getting rocked off... and they were glad of the pain their German freunde inflicted.

Granted, I probably sound like a pretty legit Scorpions lexicon. You're probably thinking, "This guy really knows his stuff. He's probably just as much of a rocker as they are. I can't believe his wife's luck." Go on then. But honestly, I'm actually only really familiar with the radio hits from the Scorpions. But, I am REALLY familiar with them. Except for all the lyrics... I swear it goes German on me in some parts of "Wind Of Change". But that doesn't change how hard it rocks. And that doesn't mean I can't whistle right along, and air guitar all the solos. (If you're my friend on Facebook you can check out a video I made of me playing the intro to No One Like You with a loop pedal... it was my homage to the band)((Loop pedal... meaning in take I played the opening chords, then on the same take laid down the first solo, then played the harmony right on top.))

It's been a while since I've shot from the floor at the Dodge Theatre. It seems the acts that frequent that venue tend not to like a camera right in their ear... so they usually like to push us back to the sound board. But ze Scorps didn't mind. There was no pit to speak of, but I was able to hang out on the sides of the stage, and shoot from the perimeter behind the first 5 rows of seating on the floor. It wasn't a bad deal! Oddly, well maybe not 'oddly', but there were 11 photographers last night! Generally the number of photogs tells you how legit a band is. And while it wasn't Arena... the Scorpions still managed to dominate Arizona, and "occupy" that special place inside a hard rocker's heart.

On one brief side note... the photo pass for the Scorpions was enourmous! It is AS big as the Metallica pass I got... but it's a tie. Who could possibly top that?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Justin Bieber @ Arena

Bieber fever! Last night was crazy. This was the first time I've shot a bona fide pop idol, literally at the top of their fame... and it was madness. Outside the gates of arena, the Westgate shopping center was absolutely surging with piles and piles of small young girls and their mums, in massive lines, in the 100+ degree heat, waiting to get inside and catch some Bieber.

When the lines were at their largest and craziest, Bieber could be seen causing many a panic attack as he dashed around the outside of the arena on a Segway scooter. The screaming he caused just increased over the span of the evening. Before his set, there was actually a countdown clock hovering over the sides of the stage. Random screaming would break out through the course of the countdown. Anytime a camera or a spot light was pointed at the crowd, the girls would go mental. In fact, there were no less than three girls carried out by paramedics that night for different reasons. As the countdown ended, and the lights went down, the screaming reached is most insane... the official Arena decibel-o-meter indicated 118 decibels! That's the actual sonic equivalent of splitting a cantaloupe in two. Crikey!

It should also be said that Bieber's openers also garnered their own share of screaming from the fans. Jessica Jarrell and Sean Kingston both went down a storm... even if they were lip syncing. In their defense, lots of big labels don't like sending out their younger artists without some help from a backing track. It could be catastrophic to their career if they don't deliver in front of a sold-out Bieber-sized audience.

This show ended up being pretty interesting. I've said it before... I like artist who are entertainers... who give the crowd what they want... and put on a real show. Without actually jumping into the audience and going home with the girls, I think Justin Bieber did all he could possibly do from the stage. When the lights went down at the start of the show, lasers danced around the arena, fog shot up from all around the stage, and Bieber rose up from under the stage into a large metal sphere. Behind him, giant LED screens covering the entire rear wall... cat walks on the sides of the stage that jutted out into the wings of the elevated seating... and all the while wearing a headset microphone so he could dance his way from one side to the other. From a fan's point of view, it was awesome. From a photog's point of view it was a great canvas to work with. I don't think anyone in the arena left unhappy that night... except maybe the older guy I saw seated on the far side of row #1 in section CCC. That guy might have been more at home watching a bit of football.

In one bizarre surprise, Shaq popped up on stage to present Justin with a Teen Choice award in the form of a white surfboard. Interesting. Bieber feigned surprise, then asked Shaq to hold onto it for him till after the show. His Shaqness obliged. In a funny side note, as we photographers were being escorted to the exit on the side of the stage, Shaq and his posse nearly tackled one of our photogs. Shaq was on his way out to boogie on the side of the stage. This is a giant man. His boogie was enormous. (That's not innuendo)

From my point of view, a 6-foot tall photographer, the shooting circumstances were nearly ideal. Loads of light, an interesting and animated subject, and I was up close. My only possible gripe was how crowded the pit area was. It was very narrow, only one person could really fit at any section of the stage. But during Bieber's set there were two film crews shooting the performance and crowd's reactions. So there were 4 press photogs, 6 security guards, 2 large TV cameras, 1 guy with a light for the camera, one guy with a mic for crowd noise, and one guy running cable. It was a bit of a mess... I tend to enjoy running around the stage and shooting from different angles to keep the photos interesting. For Bieber it was a bit of a struggle to move. Plus, the stage was nearly 6-foot tall... so even for me, I felt a bit like a small child at Subway... not quite tall enough to see all the toppings. Sure, your mom can TELL you what you're missing... but it's not the same. I like to see how fresh the tomatoes are before I have them put on.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

On Day At Work - An experiment in boredom

This was just some testing for an upcoming timelapse project I'll be working on. I bought a timer for my 5D and hadn't had any time at home to really give it a good run through. So bring it to work why not?

Anyways... this is just my typical day at my typical day job. Do Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Robert Plant @ Dodge Theatre

Sometimes I think I'm the only person, or at least the only pseudo-musician, in the world who doesn't love Led Zeppelin. I'm not about to slag them off or anything, but I've just never had a connection with them. That aside, I was still jazzed to shoot Robert Plant last night at the Dodge Theatre. The man is an icon of rock, you have to give him that.

Excitement waned a touch, as it does, when I was told to "bring a long lens". (In nerd world, that means we would be shooting from far away... most photogs need to know in advance so they can rent a ridiculous lens to get them closer in.) ((And as a point of fact, they are actually physically long as well. And heavy to boot.)) But we're all seasoned veterans of the bring a long lens world... it's nothing new. Sir Plant is getting on in years and doesn't want a telephoto lens shoved in his face. Fair enough. However, upon arrival I was told we'd be actually now be shooting from the balcony of Dodge Theatre. Just imagine the very back of 5,000 capacity venue... then go up in the air 50 feet.

Needless to say, the photos weren't about to be anything remarkable. Then add to that a real lack of light on stage and it's sort of a shite sandwich from a photog's point of view. But you know... that's part of the game of it. I heard all the other photogs griping during the set... some of them with fairly low-end gear. And I'm not taking the piss with that comment. To be fair, in a situation like last night, the inexpensive gear really couldn't cut the mustard. With my 5D, I was shooting at ISO6000! My 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 was balanced on a monopod, which was leaning on the balcony railing, and I propped my body up against the piece of glass that separated the VIP suites... it's about AS stable as one can make it. I still had to have my shutter as low as 1/20 of a sec at times. That is a long time for a shutter to be open. Any judder on my part, or a twitch on stage, and the photo is blown. I'd like to imagine the experience is akin to hunting a small animal with a sniper rifle. Slow breaths, track the movement, learn your prey, then breathe out and squeeze the trigger... pray to Jebus you got the shot.

In the end... after our three songs we're up, I was at least fairly confident I got all that was possible to get. This thought was confirmed on the whinging-photographer packed elevator ride down from the top floor down to the lobby. I try not to complain in public, or at least not in front of my contemporaries... but apathy isn't very attractive. And fitting in is what it's all about right?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Kings Of Leon @ Cricket Pavilion

Kings of Leon, what can I say? They are a sensation right now. A fact that was supported by the near capacity crowd at Cricket Pavilion on Saturday night. It was a muggy, hot evening... and the crowd was getting ancy by the time KOL took the stage.

Right from the get go it felt like I was at a Mariah Carey concert. "No shooting the lead singer straight on"... "Stay on either side of center stage"... "No changing sides is allowed"... "Don't stand on 1-ft tall concrete riser to get a better shot". Being sweaty, covered in camera gear, and told how much I was not allowed to do made this a pretty unexciting show to shoot. On top of that, I left my two nice CF cards at home, and only had a small 512k card to work with. So none of the photos were shot in RAW format, and I only had a few shots to work with.

I managed to skate by and get some decent shots. But you can tell from these photos how difficult it was to get any nice angles. I was positioned in front of the bass player, so I was able to shoot him all night and get neat photos with interesting lights and LED screens behind him. But getting the lead singer meant getting a stage wall as the backdrop. Again... why do bands make their photos suffer?