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It's been a while since I've gone and shot some live music. In fact, I still have to finish processing my time at Irishfest and get that up here, but since that's just a personal project it can sit on the back burner. However, the dry spell changed this week when I went back to The Club Tavern to hopefully shoot a trio of bands on Thursday night, but was instead met with a different lineup when I got there. A few cancellations and last minute substitutions meant I was now going to be seeing once again my favorite local band, Saturday Morning Cartel, for a good portion of the night. A few months ago, I was able to shoot them at this location, but it was a rather subdued event as they weren't treated to full light and stage show at the time. This night was a little different as they were given a full billing and the images are definitely better for it.
As last week's music week came to a close, I had one more event to go shoot and that was the long awaited Denim n Leather performance as they played all night while simultaneously shooting an 80's themed music video. I was only able to stay through the end of the first set, so I didn't get to see much of the recording take place. As a result I pretty much missed out on the shots I thought I would be taking, kind of a documentary style, and instead I just moved all around looking for new and interesting shots of the band.
And interesting shots is what it would have to boil down to... along with a lot of post processing. Each successive indoor place I've been at over the past few weeks has continued to get darker and darker despite the seeming increase of lights on the stage. You can see in some of the images below how many lights there are, however they're all behind the subjects. The lights that were in front were very small, and very weak. And to top it off, the person on the light board was very trigger happy on any and every light. Often turning them on and off in less than a second as if they were matching a beat. So, unless I want silhouette shots all night, ISO 12,800 f/2.8 here we come whether we like it or not. Although many may come off as bright and well lit, that's literally just the magic of the digital darkroom, of which I spent a very long time in on some of these, and ultimately even after that wound up deleting them since they just weren't working out. It's a bummer, but you can't win them all. However, I like to at least come up with somewhere in the teens for total finished shots, so below we have 18.
Last night I headed out to continue with music week and snapped a few shots of my friend Kase's first night in his new gig, Cherry Pie. Cherry Pie is a long standing and very popular cover band in Wisconsin, so this was quite the win for Kase snagging the bass position. They carry a 110 song setlist that you never know what's going to be played until the night of, so be prepared, and prepared he was. So I told him I'd definitely show up and get some shots of him on his inaugural night. It took place at Quaker Steak & Lube during their Bike Night, so it was jam packed with tons of appropriate music, Harley's and its culture to boot.
This week is shaping up to be a steady stream of live music. Last weekend started off with New Hiram Kings playing a short set at the High Noon Saloon, quadruple billed with some other bands to play both kinds of music; Country and Western.
At the last second it became known that there was going to be a bit of a small group effort to record the whole show, so I offered to throw my additional capabilities into the mix. I pretty much always carry with me a GoPro and a Tascam field recorder, should I ever need to start recording something with multiple angles and better sound quality. Well there were two other people who also brought GoPro's which were going to record wider angles from behind and in front of the stage, as well as one person also bringing a small field recorder. So I hooked my GoPro up to my Manfrotto Flex Arm attached to a Manfrotto Super Clamp hooked onto the main singer's mic stand. This provided a fairly interesting up close shot of some honky tonk guitar playing and singing with a full set of lights from behind the head to provide rim light. It also wound up not getting in the way at all and can only be seen in the final wide group shot below. I then set up my TASCAM DR-100 mkII, mounted to a GorillaPod attached to some iron beams in the center of the room. I hit record on everything and then walked around the room switching between shooting photos and video on my 5D mkIII.
To be honest, I was having a heck of a time shooting photos in this environment. It was dark! With my own eyes I had a hard time discerning detail on people at the corners of the stage. At times I had to bump the iso to 12,800 and shoot at f2.8 just to get an underexposed 1/80s-1/125s shot. This meant I was going to be bumping up shadows and just about everything else in post production or else I'd be having to create some very contrasty images. I had my work cut out for me.
Now, if the 5D was struggling with this low light, the GoPro wasn't going to fare too well either, and it didn't. That wound up being some very noisy video. After a couple days of tinkering, however, I managed to color grade it enough that it looks alright. However, cutting away to what my 5D shot, it's not even fair. Just straight out of camera that footage looks amazing, and thinking back, it should. If I was struggling to get 1/100 shutter speed exposed right for photos, I only want half that shutter speed for video which means I just doubled my light by dropping into video mode. You don't need tack sharp, freezing of the motion for video as motion blur is what helps with persistence of vision. Too bad I was too busy trying to get good photos, when I could have been getting great video. So the impromptu video side of this project took a small hit. However, it's all still coming together. I haven't seen the other footage yet and I don't know how it's going to be assembled in the end, (perhaps me eventually?) but I sent the video off to them tonight and we'll see what they want to do.