An ‘intimate’ gig

I’ve been to gigs by The Fraudsters before, so I wasn’t going to miss the chance of an up-close and intimate gig when they played the upstairs room of The Brook in Sale.

I have written in the past about gig photography (here, for example) and how different venues pose their own distinct problems to be factored into the photographs you take. It may be that you can’t get very close to the stage or that, having got close, the performers are above you, so you’re photographing up their noses. Sometimes it’s fairly quiet, so you have to be respectful and careful what you are doing.

Upstairs in a pub carries many of its own issues (although worrying about the noise of the camera is not one of them). For starters, if you’re not right at the front, forget it – all you’ll get are the backs of people’s heads. That in itself introduces another problem: you’re now pretty much on top of the performers and any chance of a whole band shot is pretty much out of the question. It also means that you should put any long(er) lens away because you’re going to have trouble even getting a full-length shot of one person.

With that in mind, I decided to use the ‘nifty fifty’ on the D800 to shoot this gig. (The D800 because its low light performance is streets ahead of the Olympus, which I might otherwise have used with the 25mm f/1.4.) I could have used a wide-angle but I find that looks a bit odd when photographing people.

The other big problem with gig photography in a (very) small venue is — inevitably — light. You simultaneously have both too much and too little light. Unlike a large stage, where the lights are optimally positioned, fairly distant from the action, and have good coverage, any stage lighting here is going to have issues.

On this occasion, we had some ‘stage’ lighting at one side of the room, so it was very close on that side and relatively distant to the other. You actually have to worry about the inverse square law when the lights are two feet from one performer and twelve feet from another. There is even a significant drop-off of illumination from the nearby performer’s head to his feet. Also, shadows: the performers on the opposite side to the lights are likely to be in the shadow of the others.

All of which is to say that you’ll be lucky if you get one usable image out of every ten you take in that kind of setting.

I gave a couple of pictures the black-and-white treatment:

I liked the bit of motion blur in these – it helps to give a feel for this being an active, rather than static, event.

The rest I left in colour: