I'm not implying any level of quality or lack of it by using the word "snapshot" rather I'm making a point that photos are snapshots in time. They can be boring, interesting, active, scary,..........lots of things depending on when you press the shutter and your lens perspective. In my own work, I spend more time studying the audience than looking through the camera. I find where the action is, and I hunt just like in my childhood hunting with a gun. I wait, watch for that special moment and I pull the trigger so to speak. I practice this all the time, looking for special moments. I fail more times than I succeed but I continue to get better. I don't dwell on my mistakes, but try and learn from them. Usually it is a matter of timing and familiarity which have to be learned through experience. Photography requires good observation skills, knowing the moment. Others call it "the art of seeing" and it's a life long journey. This is all background for understanding the selections for this blog of images at a blues jam.
Let's start with the setup. Three lights, one aimed diagonally on each side of the stage and one at the back of the stage aimed at the microphone of the singer. Each light is set to manual 1/4 power. No modifier on the light, no diffuser so all hard light. I want edges on the subject(s). I normally shoot with a Nikon 24mm/1.4 lens on a Nikon D800E and a 50mm/2.0 Summicron on a Leica M9. With the Leica I can a focal plane dialed in and shoot away without having to worry about auto focus hunting. I will say the Nikon combo I use locks in pretty easily except in extreme low light conditions. Because I separate the flash from the camera, my photography is not intruding on the action. No one really knows I'm shooting, the lights go off all over the place and with no personal ID to me and my camera, I'm pretty much ignored which I like. Having a big flash on your camera draws a lot of attention which inhibits capture not to mention the quality of the light. So now let's crank up the music.
I start with a context shot. I don't always make this my first one, but I get it at the right time. It really just illustrates the place and crowd. Another point -- the crowd for me is just as important as the performers. The interaction between the performers and the audience is key to great images. It's not always easy to get and in this venue with the layout, it's very difficult. Even when I don't have a chance to grab this kind of image, I still keep looking for it. So this shot shows the crowd, size and stage setup.
Getting closer, the house band, and the beginning. Now you can see the impact of the lighting and light placement.
Another slightly different crowd view.
And sometimes you get lucky with a little lens flare. Still on the same performers, just a bit different.
And the final image on the house band which is a clean straight on image with everyone identified. And the moment represents a lot of interaction.
Now comes a whole series of images using the same lighting, different angles, crowd interaction, etc. I'm just moving around waiting for something to happen that can be seen in a snapshot, looks interesting or tells some piece of a story.
Same image as above but with some audience participation.
There are times I see indiviuals that I want to focus in on because they look interesting. I have done this on tons of blues musicians but less and less of recent because I have become more interested in the interaction between the musicans and the audience. However, there was a player that was very interesting at this gig. So I took the time to dial in a portrait.
But for the most part, I stick with the interaction of band and audience.
In my head, the perfect image is one with lots of facial expressions and movement implied, from both the band and audience(dancers). I often will dial in the camera, hold it over my head until I see just what I want and then snap. It takes some practice to hold the camera over your head but think view camera, you are just waiting for that moment. For me it's easier to see with my peripheral vision than looking through a lens.
I do at times isolate the band if the interaction is interesting.
The next image was the featured musician of the night. A legendary, long time touring blues harp player and singer, who I have photographed many times. This was a new venue, so I decided to go outside and photograph him through the window. Sort of like you were walking by and could see in. I was thinking of Bourbon Street in New Orleans back in the day when people would peek in to see who was singing. Only in this case, I had big picture window to see through. It also added a bit of funkiness to the image that I liked. So, here you are looking through the window.
I also liked the fact others were taking pictures, video, and dancing as he performed and thought that was interesting, so I waited for the opportunity.
I also wanted to get some images of him performing while his CD's wre being sold.
And here's one of the closeups of him performing in black and white. I experiment with color and black and white, mostly depends on my mood to which I like the best. In the case, the color wins.
You can double click on any image to see it larger. So you can see how the lights play an important role in creating a stage for the musicians adding drama and environment to an otherwise pretty sterile look. For post processing, I use Lightroom 5, Photoshop and Nik. I do all the lighting adjustments in Photoshop, the contrast adjustments in Lightroom, and color saturation controls in Nik. Because I'm creating high resolution files, I want the detail to show and pop. I experiment to my visual taste, going back and forth between Lightroom and Photoshop. I spend the bulk of my time on looking for the right image without post processing considerations. This process allows me to finish rather quickly an entire shoot. I don't waste time on image recovery and I do crop often. Cropping is a luxury with the Nikon D800E and the big files.
So that's about it for Snapshots at a Blues Music Jam