Friday, March 27, 2009

Billy Joel / Elton John @ US Airways Center

Wow. This was a pretty big deal. This had the makings of a big show. I was excited to shoot, even tho we'd be shooting from the middle of the arena... I figured there'd be some good lighting. I didn't know what to expect. Billy and Sir Elton walk out, shake hands, hug, and say hello under a cascade of spot lights, then go sit down at their respective pianos. Essentially, as soon as they sat down, the lights dimmed to just spot lights on the singer/songwriters... and nothing else. This made shooting difficult, and shooting anything "interesting" basically impossible. The thing is... spot lights are just that... basically, all the camera will see is what is under the spot light. So that meant, not even the piano would show up in the pictures... since there was no light on them. But I suppose you could say it was just supposed to be about THEM... and nothing else.

That said, for the 2 songs I got to sort-of hear while I scrounged for shots... they put on a good show. They took turns singing each others hits "Your Song" and "Just The Way You Are." If I recall correctly, Billy sang the first few lines of "Your Song" and Sir Elton sang the first few of "Just The Way You Are" which made the crowd quietly erupt when they eventually sang their own lines. (Boy, that's confusing)

In a nut shell, the crowd was quite happy. Well, except for the people who were yelling at the photographers for having to stand up in front of them. I mean, who STANDS UP at a concert!!?? One photog apparently got punched in the back and was told to "sit the F down!" Classy. At a Billy Joel/Elton John show?? Really? The most negative response I ever received was an empty plastic beer bottle thrown at me while shooting Hatebreed. Well, that and being spit on by Slash. But some people would write a book about a thing like that.

All in all, without the 100-400mm and extra camera body I borrowed, I would have been pretty empty handed after this show. I still don't fully understand why certain performers don't put on an entertaining light show when they are being photographed. I mean, I could see them on the screen in the lobby when I was leaving... the show looked great! Me and another photog were joking about taking pictures of the TV screen just to have something more interesting to show!

Lastly, I thought I'd post a pic of the 'holding cell' where the photographers are kept before and during the show. This is where we flex our muscles and try to psych each other out.

PS. If your name happens to be Mike Vallone, click here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


So I've been hearing how great "HDR" photos are. So I decided to investigate. Basically, layman's terms here... HDR is the name for the method of putting your camera on a tripod... taking multiple photos of the same object/subject, each with different exposures... then blending them together... and using a program to 'tone map' them. Technically, you can use as many different exposures as you want... with as many in between steps as you like.

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. And it's just that... you get a proper exposed photo, then an underexposed photo, and an overexposed photo... to cover the range of all the different possible bright lights and shadows in the scene. Since your camera can't interpret shadows and bright light the way your eye (brain) does... HDR allows you to blend them to your liking. If taken to extremes, you can get some pretty wacky/processed/fake looking photos. See Flickr for examples. But that can be fun too. I just wanted to post a few of my tests.

The top photo is the most recent. I was trying to blend the light in a way that it represented what I actually was seeing... but I wanted to add a little bit of drama to it with the colors. Also, I decided to put the camera on a timer and get myself in the photo. :)

The one of my kitchen and my wolf is one that balances the bright light outside... the natural light in the kitchen... and the dark shadows around the floor. The wolf is named Pippi

The third is Cardinal's Stadium. Or U of P Stadium. I saw this picture being set up as I drove home... so I went and grabbed my camera and tripod and managed to snap a few as the sun was going down. This one is a bit more "processed" than I tend to like. But again. I was just doing tests.

The photos say "Photomatix" on them because I am using a trial of the tone mapping software named "Photomatix"... imagine that!
Below are the 3 "pre-blend" photos for each HDR image referenced above. Enjoy!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Jimmy Eat World @ Marquee Theatre

The 10 year anniversary of the album "Clarity" brought Jimmy Eat World back to Phoenix last night, to a sold-out show at the Marquee Theatre. This was a calm crowd, but they were happy to have their band back. It was fairly cool outside by the time the show started, so the interior of the Marquee wasn't as moist and sweaty smelling as it could have been. The band started things slow, getting the crowd revved up little by little.

There was only a small barricade for this show. Meaning, not much room to move around in... and the barricade actually had a step on the front side for security to stand on. This just meant the photogs couldn't stand up to shoot. We were all sort of squatting right in front of the people in the front row. Moving from side to side, I could hear all kids singing along to the songs in my ear.

As I was setting up my camera preshow, I looked at the light setup. It was all the normal Marquee lights, and a bunch of extra automated lights peppered in. Which were being tested as I was looking at them. I was quite excited, thinking there would be some great lights for this shoot. But alas, not during the first 3 songs. Actually, due to a medley, and security not catching it... we got to shoot 4 songs. Which really helped, because the light was really dim in the first few songs.

I started the set with a 70-200mm f2.8 set at ISO-800. But a few minutes in, I had to bump it up to 1600. My shutter was much too slow to not blur. While I don't like shooting at 1600, sometimes you have to. Better to get the shot and have it be slightly noisy than to miss it completely.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Slipknot @

This was a fun show to shoot. Lots of light and animated characters. I only wish I had a little more time to shoot. I spent a lot of time, probably too much, trying to get great shots of Corey Taylor... #8... the lead singer. His white mask sort of messed with me. I could get wonderfully exposed photos, but his mask would be washed out. It was reflecting too much light. So with that, I probably missed some other cool stuff. But I was really set on getting some good shots of him.

The band was pretty great. I'm not a fan, don't really know their stuff actually... but I left thinking I could dig it. Lots of people on stage doing different stuff. Right as the photogs were being escorted out, the 2 drummers on the sides of the stage lifted up into the air on scissor lifts. It was pretty cool. Again... I wish I had more time.

Camera wise... I was set at ISO 800 again, I always start there to be safe and then fiddle with the shutter speeds. Which varied from about 1/50 to 1/250 depending on who I was shooting. I again got to borrow a 70-200mm f/2.8 for the first song. Such a fun lense.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Pretenders @ Dodge Theatre

Last night was Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders at the Dodge Theatre. It was an interesting show...the band was solid, the crowd was tame but having a good time, and the stage set up did little to distract your eye from just watching the band play. The over all sound felt a little small in that large venue... like you were listening to them in a small club. Kind of neat.

Photogs were allowed to shoot during songs 3, 4, and 5. So we at least got the abnormal treat of actually getting to watch and listen to a song or two before being rushed out. And when its someone of Chrissie Hynde's icon status, its a very welcome change.

Lighting wise, it could have been loads better. It was a pretty stripped down stage. But to an extent, I'm sure some bands don't feel they need all the frills. Its about the music right? It was sufficiently dark... I kept my ISO at 800 and and clicked between about 1/25 and 1/80 shutter speeds. I used my 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 for this show entirely.