Concert Photography with The Rusty Spring Syncopators and Valgargrad at the Vanguard
I have recently been looking at a lot of Daniel Boud’s work especially his work with musicians both portraiture and at concerts. I lave always loved music and as most photographers and designers know, music can be a very big part of our work flow. I have never done concert photography so I have spent some weeks reading tips from various concert photographers on advice they have given and any insights possible. I shoot a lot of sport which has the similarity with music that things happen quickly and you need to react fast.
One of my friends had a gig recently at The Vanguard and I took the opportunity to try my hand at concert photography, and what better way then to throw yourself into the deep end and give it a go. The night was a brilliant experience for me and I got some terrific photos that I am very proud of (I even got a couple of very strong portraits that will be entered into some competitions.)
My other favourite photo from the night, lead singer Jacek of Vulgargrad in the perfect position he was just relaxing, just asked him not to move as the surrounds were perfect
(Canon 40D with 24-70mm, ISO 1250 f5.6 1/80th sec, 580EX MkII bouncing off the celling)
I made sure that I arrived with me friend and the rest of his band The Rusty Spring Syncopators and saw their sound check as well as giving me an opportunity to check out the venue that I had never been too and also hang out with the band and document as much as I could. This worked quite well for me as I got to hang out with both of the bands before the show and get to know the individual band members as well as listen to an impromptu jam session which was brilliant.
Both of the bands were very interesting characters and very much had their own style which flowed into their music, The Rusty Spring Syncopators for example have a very ‘crusty blues’, jazz sound which would be at home in Probation era Mississippi or Louisiana. The style of the boys very much represents that in the way that they dress where you could very easily confuse them for tripping straight out of the 1920′s. Vugargrad who’s style is very soviet russian era thieves songs and songs of the slums. Both bands put on a brilliant show and the music was terrific. playing with the same gritty energy of both their style and their music.
Photography wise I went on a very steep learning curve to adapt to my new environment, I had packed quite a large bag as I did not know what to expect but I am sure that I could pack a lot lighter next time I was at the Vanguard. My bags consisted of:
- Canon 40D
- Canon 24-70mm f2.8
- Canon 70-200mm f2.8
- Canon 50mm f1.4
- Canon 580EX MkII
- Fujifilm X-E1
- Fujinon 35mm f1.4
- Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8
- Super-Takumar 135mm f3.5
As you can see from above both a DSLR and the Mirrorless went with me to this event, it was very interesting seeing how both cameras reacted to the systems and what the main differences and similarities were throughout the night. I have gotten into the habit of shooting with the DSLR on one shoulder and the Mirrorless on the other, you certainly get some interesting looks but I have gotten quite used to it and I have become quite efficient going between the two and their very different styles. My set up for using both cameras is to make sure the focal lengths differ between the two cameras, for example I was photographing the last round of the WNBL with the 24-70 on the 40D and the 135mm on the Fuji, my theory is not to use a prime lens where that focal length is covered by one of the zoom lenses. In this case I was using the 70-200 on the 40D and the 35 on the Fuji as this gave me a good range of focal lengths for the situation.
Lighting was low in the venue as I expected so I was shooting at very hight ISO topping out at 3200 with very different results between the two cameras, The Rusty Spring Syncopators also had two Burlesque dancers as part of their act who were in front of the stage with very minimal lighting which made photographing them quite difficult but some interesting and cool shots did happen. I must say that I actually enjoyed shooting with the X-E1 more than the 40D, as I found it was easier to handle, produced some very nice images and made me relatively un-noticed when photographing in the artists room while the bands were jamming.
One of the Burlesque dancers Porcelain Alice dancing along to one of the songs
(Fujifilm X-E1 with 35mm, ISO 3200 f2.0 1/60th sec)
I must make note though that the X-E1 refused to auto focus in the dark conditions which I expected as I have shot using just club lighting before and experienced the same thing, the main problem I think is the focus detection of the Fuji which doesn’t enjoy the very different lighting in these types of venues. Having to use manual focus on the X-E1 was not a problem for me and I quite enjoyed the added challenge, only very few shots were missed due to focus issued and those that were slightly out still looked good as they weren’t that far off. The 40D focused as you would expect a DSLR with fast glass on the front, quick and without fuss as expected.
The high ISO on the X-E1 was beautiful even at 3200 and all images would be perfectly usable which was a vast difference to the 40D at its high end of 3200 which was amazingly noisy and instantly noticeable when looking at the photos, it really detracts from the images and I am quite amazed between ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 on the 40D. So their were both advantages and disadvantages for both systems, terrific high ISO performance but no autofocus for the Fuji or autofocus but very, very noisy photos from the Canon. I would take no autofocus any day of the week.
It should be noted that I am aware that the 40D is an old camera and newer models are much better at high ISO but this is just my opinion on the equipment that I am using, if anyone has a problem with me bagging the high ISO of the 40D please feel free to buy me a 6D or 5D Mk III.
I am very pleased with a lot of the photos from the show and quite enjoyed concert photography, I am going to go to a few more local gigs and still work on my craft in some different environments and at different venues. Below are some of my favourite photos from the night and also make sure you check out both of the bands as they both put on a terrific show.