If you saw my post on shooting swimwear, well this is the next progression in my art of photography, delving into the world of music photography. Sometimes life, relationships and opportunities come about and one changes direction in trying to define who they are as an artist.
In September of 2005, I received a call from Gigi White, she is the wife of Alan White of the mega group Yes and played drums on the John Lennon Imagine album. She’s a friend of my Aunts and Alan and his band White was performing at a Katrina benefit concert in Seattle and wanted a photographer to shoot the show. I hadn’t shot any live shows like that, but I thought it would be a great opportunity and so I said yes. At that same show was a band called the Clever Bastards with two original members of the band Heart, guitarist Roger Fisher and Steve Fossen and former drummer Mike Derosier. By this time I was shooting digital and had a great night shooting and showed Roger some of the photos, not knowing he was a rock and roll legend. I asked if I could email him a couple of shots and this started a friendship that he and his family and his brother Mike I still have to this day.
I started following a few local bands and met some musicians through Roger and his friends, and soon I was shooting a couple of shows a week and then not long after these shows took over my social life. Just like shooting swimwear, I started hanging out with other music photographers and tapped their knowledge to learn little techniques to shoot better. In all my experience being around other photographers, it’s like a brotherhood where we are all in this together. Maybe it’s my attitude, and I don’t feel like we compete with each other, but are just passionate about what we do.
Throughout this time I was shooting on a regular basis, I took some photos that I was super proud of, but to this day I am probably most proud of the photo above. Randy Hansen was performing at the Tulalip Casino in Marysville, Washington. Randy Hansen is an American guitarist, best known for his “Rock Tribute Act” honoring Jimi Hendrix, he channels Jimi better than anyone I have seen. At this point, there were more and more people showing up with cameras at this venue, and it was getting a bit difficult to shoot. All the photographers were standing in front taking photos, shutters firing off at blazing speeds to capture the moment. My style of shooting is more of waiting for a moment, and then a single click and I’m done. One photographer told me that he shot over 1,200 photos that night, looking back, I shot less than 150.
So I stepped over to the side of the stage and just watched Randy through the viewfinder, and then he leaned his head back slightly, closed his eyes and click, I got the shot. I knew at that moment I was done for the night and I didn’t need another photo.
Of all the performers I have taken photos of, he is the one that I have enjoyed capturing the most. Below are just a few of the images throughout the years of shooting Randy.
Super Geek League
Super Geek League is part band and part entertainment, and as you can see by the photo above, they have a ton of fun onstage. I had only shot them one time before, but there was something about this night at the King Kat Theatre (Now Closed) that was over the top. Sometimes the crowd enthusiasm can make such a difference on how a band approached their show. I was smiling the whole time I was shooting this and a few more photos below of that night.
There are a lot more images.. but
So the SGL show above was fantastic and there, of course, are a lot more images. But I think my philosophy about posting is to edit real tight. Just because you have a ton of pictures, doesn’t mean the world wants to see them all. I have a good friend that was posting 400 photos of a show on FB, and maybe five were good. He splashed a huge watermark over the middle of each photo, and it just distracted from what he was trying to accomplish. Just a quick check of his Facebook page and he now only posts 50-100 per show. Still, less than before, but way too much in my mind.
A couple of my thoughts when shooting performers:
- Always make sure you make the musician look good
- Capture Emotion
- Shoot Less
- Edit Tighter
- Experiment with angles and editing
Speaking of Experimenting
I use Photoshop to edit my images, and every once in awhile, I like to experiment with filters and editing styles to see where I can take my art. The photo above of Roger Fisher was edited quite a bit. I removed a lot of the background distractions, and if I remember, correctly there was a mike stand to the left. So I took this image down to a clean and straightforward shot and then added some of the lighting effects in Photoshop. A few other experiments below with slow shutter speeds, over editing, etc.
Behind the scenes with Musicians
After A few years, I was shooting a lot and meeting new people and making a ton of friends. In fact, many of these musicians are still great friends to this day. I started getting invited to bigger show and even went to the NAMM convention two years in a row, rooming with Randy Piper of W.A.S.P for a few days. These friendships, of course, give you an inside look at the personality of musicians and the stories you hear from years back are a look at rock and roll history. The one common thread in all of this, they are passionate about what they do and the music they create.
Here’s a look at some of the social and behind the scenes side of music photography biz.
Shooting For Artists
A few artists saw my work and asked if I could do some shots for their marketing efforts, and I have to say that the Prophets of Addiction was probably my favorite. When lead singer Lesli Sanders contacted me, I said: “hell ya let’s do this.” We spent the day in Seattle just shooting around the different alleys and looking for backgrounds that fit the look of the band. I probably should have done more shoots like this, but I think ultimately I liked the live shows even more.
Hitting my Stride and Feeling Good About Shooting
Eventually, I hit the point where I could walk into a venue and feel good about what I could accomplish. Sometimes lighting was terrible or lots of people or I needed to move around to get that one of a kind shot. Each time I shot, I gained more confidence and was creating what I thought were some wow moments and images. Here are a few below that I thought made the final edit.
And then it all ended
So you might ask, why did shooting performers end? I think in my mind it was a combination of things. My tour business started getting busy, and I was spending so much time doing local tours. But even more so, photography has just exploded, and so many people were showing up to shows with their cameras that I think it frustrated me a bit. I might go to a show with 5 or 6 other shooters being there, some running on stage during performances, using flashes, etc. I just said I was done; I didn’t want to be part of that circus anymore. I think the distractions this created, really took away from the performance and wasn’t the best for the audience to see shooters running around everywhere. I always tried to shoot from the shadows more, but maybe I learned the etiquette as time went on, so it was time to move on. I still have some wonderful friends that I created with during this journey and if you want to see the best music photographer in the business, check out my friend Mike Savoia’s work, he is the best Rock and Roll photographer on the West Coast. (He’s the bald guy in the photo above)
Today I run a successful travel company that takes people to Africa on Photo Safari’s called Shutter Tours.
I also started posting travel photos on my travel blog called Travel Fanatical.