Monday, March 29, 2010

Paul McCartney @ Arena

Part 2 of my double header day. After lugging my gear across the street from Cardinal's Stadium to I was geared up to shoot Paul McCartney. My back up camera, a Canon 20D, took a dump on me at Wrestlemania. From what I read on the forums, it sounds like my shutter killed itself... it just keeps snapping itself open and closed, even with the power off. For Paul, I knew we were shooting from the soundboard so I wouldn't NEED a wide lens... but when I have the massive 100-400mm attached to a monopod, it's difficult to change lenses... especially in the dark and in a crowd of photographers. Which is why I love having the 20D. More on that later, maybe.

So, the "throw", as they say in the biz, was even farther than we thought. BEHIND the sound board was an elevated platform with about 6 or 7 rows of seating. The photogs were placed behind that. So we were, very realistically, almost at the other end of the floor of the arena. I just relied on the 5D's massive sensor and high resolution to get the nice pics and I could crop if I needed.

I would like to state... I hate cropping my photos. To me, it appears like the photo was taken incorrectly... and it feels like I'm just cheating. I like to frame a shot and have that BE the photo. I don't like to cut corners, as it were.

All that boring photo business aside... The show was great. I only got to catch the first song which was a short medley of Venus and Mars/Rockshow/Jet, and then the first half of "All My Loving" before I was shooed out. But giant screens from floor to ceiling, lots of lights, amazing musicians, and that catalog of music... you really can't ask for a much better show. Plus, the man is a BEATLE! I heard from my writer at the New Times that he played for over 3 hours. You just can't ask for more.

WWE Wrestlemania XXVI @ Cardinals Stadium

Yesterday was a double header for me... I shot the Wrestlemania show at Cardinals Stadium (University of Phoenix Stadium) from 3:30pm - 7:15pm, then hauled my gear across the street to Glendale Arena ( to shoot Paul McCartney. Which do you think was the better show? I'll post two separate blogs... read and see what I thought.

To start off, I used to watch WWF with my dad... but it was always just for a laugh. I mean, who could take Ric Flair and the Macho Man serious? There was never any question (to me) as to the "real or fake" question... I'd just watch it to be entertained. So I can sort of understand where the crazy fans come from... all 72,000+ of them that burrowed into Cardinal Stadium.

This show was nuts... and the people were nuts. I couldn't believe how many die-hard fans there were... grown human adults and kids alike... and even the occasional odd female girl lady. The fans had made their own signs, t-shirts, title belts, and even replica costumes. It was a lot like a Sci-fi convention, but less interesting.

I don't think I could win an argument saying that it wasn't entertaining. But by that logic, I'd probably lose the same argument when it comes to Nascar or New Kids On The Block. It sort of started to bother me how uncoordinated some of the matches were... especially the ladder match. The object is to climb a ladder and grab a case full of money and win... but there are 8 or 10 people in the ring at the same time. You can imagine the hilarity. But at one point, there was only one guy in the ring, he climbed to the top of the ladder... and pretended to not be able to grab the case. He just sort of clawed at it and looked around to see if someone was going to knock him down. Then someone realized "right, that's MY cue!"... smacked him in the stomach, and he flew off the ladder!

Something else I remembered from my high school days... I had a friend who was STILL into WWF in high school... and he would buy the shirts and the watch all the shows... but he'd also collect photos of the WWF "Ladies". At the show last night, they had the new crew, which they call the call the "WWE Divas". Basically, scantly clad women in a ring throwing each other around. I have to say, this match at least proved that the men in the audience were still mannish. It was actually hard to get decent photos because a lot of people in the audience were standing up to watch the fight... which, was actually more high-speed than the guy wrestlers. So kudos to the ladies, it was a great way to break up a lot of sweaty men in their underwear play slapping each other.

One bizarre thing you might not know about a live WWE show is that there is no sound. When the matches are going on, there is no play-by-play, and there is no mic over the ring. So all you can hear during the matches is the hooping and hollering from the people in your section, with the intermittent sound of someone landing on the spring board mat.

From a shooting point of view it was pretty easy. I cranked my ISO up to 5000 so I could have my shutter super quick to catch the flying action. I had it as high as 1/1000 at some points. On the other hand, there were about 30 or so photographers, and we had an elevated platform to shoot from... which got very crowded. But we were able to run around the arena as long as we stayed out of people's way. At one point I was getting heckled by a group of people who shouted "I paid seven fitty for these seats!"

It was definitely an event. There was a lot of time spent in preproduction and camera gear. I mean, this is the real deal when it comes to live events. I had a fun time watching all the camera gear be passed around. Lots of people with ARRI pro gear on steadicams, dollys, cranes, shoulder mounts... it was fascinating to see it all in action. I'm glad I got to shoot it, it really was something else. The roar of the crowd and passion of the fans was surely something to behold. It's just too bad its fake wrestling they're all there to see.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Frank and Derol @ The Phix

On their way from LA to SXSW, the alt-pop band Frank and Derol made a stop in Phoenix at a club downtown called The Phix. Helmed by Codi Caraco on lead vocals and Brandi Cyrus on guitar, the foursome took the stage and brought the venue back down from scream rock to a nice laid back alternative vibe.

My younger sister turned me on to the band, having heard of them through Brandi's sister Miley, she had seen them before in Phoenix and in LA, and I've been waiting for the chance to check them out and get some photographs. The band was very relaxed on and off stage, encouraging people to dance and to stop by after the show and talk. They were very engaging, even to the slightly cow-eyed Monday night crowd.

There were roughly 8 bands on the bill this night, including fellow LA residents, The Colourists. Who reminded me of a lighter and poppier version of Bloc Party. The two bands are on the road together at the moment, on their way to the South By Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, TX... which is a crazy monster of an event by which 100's of venues in Austin, from snappy modern bars to street corners, open their doors to bands of all stature. The event is massive, and can be a promising band's ticket into the industry.

From a lighting point of view, it was dark. I relied heavily on my 50mm f1.8 lens. With an aperture like that, you can pretty much shoot anywhere. Everyone should have one of these in their camera arsenal.

After the show, me and my group hung out with the band, snapped a few photos, and talked about the idea of shooting a music video together. Hopefully, we can work something out! All in all, it was a good night of music for $10. Please come and support The Phix and owner Lee Berger... it's a neat venue, and a great outlet for creative music.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Flying Blanket Compilation CD release party @ Martini Ranch

Beloved local record producer Bob Hoag hosted a CD release show Friday night for a compilation of band's he and his studio, Flying Blanket Recording, worked with over the last year. On the bill for the show were, presumably, his favorites: Dear and the Headlights, The Love Me Nots, Black Carl, Sister Cities, Kinch, and Gospel Claws.

I showed up just as Sister Cities were finishing their set. And by the sound of it, the crowd was loving it... chanting for one more song. I basically ran in snapped a few photos and they were off the stage. It was so quick, I really can't even comment as to their sound or performance.

Black Carl was up next, and I was again, distracted from the band's performance... having to run out of the venue after I got a few pics... I needed to grab another lens. As the night went on, the venue became more and more packed, and the need for two lenses became apparent. I needed a zoom and a wide angle.

By the time The Love Me Nots took the stage, I had elbowed my way (asked politely) up to the front of the stage and got myself into position. I had shot them before and knew they put on a great show. I started their set with my 17-40mm (which I didn't have with me the first time I shot them) to get some incredible wide shots, and the band did not disappoint.

Whether they were amping it up for the camera or the crowd, their set was very high energy and their presence really outshined the rest of the acts on the bill. Love Me Nots lead singer Nicole Laurenne turns animalistic when the music starts, throwing herself wildly around the stage, clawing at her fellow band mate Michael Johnny Walker on guitar, and nearly thrusting her signature Farfisa organ into bassist Kyle Rose Stokes... while host Bob Hoag smashes the skins as the bands drummer.

Last time I reviewed the band I was perhaps a little critical, but I thoroughly enjoyed their set this time. Sandwiched between bands, they really stand out on their own.

Dear And The Headlights ended the show. They are probably the better known band of the evening, and in fact, one of the better known Phoenix bands period. They definitely drew in the crowd... their acoustic based, semi-laid back indie sound was easy to swallow.

Bob Hoag was once again on stage, this time with a suitcase full of percussive instruments. On his website he calls himself a "wicked tambourine player", and he brought the fire to the stage... flinging his glasses to the ground playing two tambs at once, he brought some life to the otherwise fairly tame band.

It was a good night of shooting. The light was decent... but the 5D always just makes things that much easier... being able to shoot at ISO 5000 really helps in these smaller sized clubs.