Monday, August 25, 2014

Ten reasons music photogs need more gear

Nick Astacio, Lionfight live Sacramento 2014
lionfight, Feb 2014, 1/125 f4, Canon 60D and Sigma 70-300 at 70mm, ISO 1600, very under-exposed, low-light venue
  • There's little-to-no light in the venue and you know you really, reall need to get That Shot of the bass player doing his twirling jump, and your 50mm 1:8 only allows you to capture part of the stage, your wide-angle isn't fast enough, and you've spent far-too-many hours in the past wrestling the last drop of light out of raw images.
  • There's no light in the venue, you need to get the shot of the bass player doing his twirling jump, and the diva lead singer has stipulated that photogs must be No Closer than the sound desk which is miles away at the back of the venue behind two arches and sixty muscular beer-glass-toting six-foot-plus guys, the 70-300 5:6  mm zoom just won't cut it, but maybe a bigger, more-aggressive white zoom with a red ring on it will make people magically get out of the way, allow you a sight-line to the stage, and of course also capture more light and that image that no-one else has managed, yet.
  • You're outdoors at a festival, the darn dust is getting everywhere, so obviously you need one camera-body-per-lens to avoid switching any lenses: you rented an extra super zoom lens for the festival, and therefore you need a new 5D Mk III body to go with it.
Security staff, Aftershock 2013
Aftershock 2013 Sacramento CA, Canon 5D Mk II, Canon 24-105L at 24mm, 1/1250 f4 ISO 800
  • You need a harness that can carry four camera bodies, because you rented the lens for the festival, you only have two hands, your current harness only carries two bodies, and you swear you once saw someone with a four-body harness. Or maybe it was six?
  • You need an extra camera body because you bought a harness that can carry four, but you only have three cameras (including the one you bought to go with the rented lens,) and it's easier to carry a balanced load than unbalanced.
  • You need a new lens for the fourth camera body, because you didn't want to go for a kit and it's a new camera, so it needs a new lens, not one you've been using on the other camera bodies, even though they are compatible. It's only right that a new camera body gets its own new lens. No second-hand stuff for my kids, really.
  • The festivals are over, you're back in that club and there's REALLY no light in the venue: that 1:2 lens you rented last time did a great job, and what's the point in paying to rent something over and over again, when the rental fees would be the same as buying it if you rented it every week for three or ten years, so you might as well buy it outright, right?
Aston “Family Man” Barrett, bass, The Wailers. Ace of Spades, Sacramento, 2013
The Wailers, Feb 2013, Canon 5D Mk II, Canon 24-105L at 93mm f4 ISO 3200, underexposed, low-light venue
    • There's so little light in the venue, you totally give up and volunteer to bring in your own studio lighting setup, which of course isn't powerful enough, so obviously it's time to invest in your own a full venue lighting rig, a lighting engineer and a top-of-the-line laptop. Right?
    • You need a new truck to carry the full venue lighting rig...
    • There's now too much light in the venue, so you need some neutral density filters to reduce the amount of light.
    We all come up with some brilliant and not-so-brilliant reasoning for spending money that we don't have. But before we run out and spend it on something that's put into use once-in-a-Purple-Haze-on-the-moon, never forget: the most important things are composition, focus, anticipation of the performers' actions, and more often than we want to acnowledge, sheer luck!

    Alison Toon has been photographing musicians since the days of pushing film. For more examples of Alison's work, see and follow on Twitter: @alisontoon

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