When it comes to concert photography, an element of near equal importance to the artist’s performance is the venue at which the performance is taking place. This is true on both a musical level (is the artist playing the right kind of venue from a visual perspective?) as well as a technical one (what obstacles might present themselves when shooting photos at this venue?). Today I’m going to discuss the latter.
I’ve talked before about the challenges of shooting from the crowd as opposed to the photo pit, as well as how these challenges can be mitigated with some strategy. Building said strategy is easy when you’ve been to the venue before and have a familiarly of the space. It’s a different, more anxiety-inducing process when you’re going to the venue for the first time. You have to build your strategy on the fly. Such was the case when I made my way to Bushwick to catch D.R.U.G.S., Varials, The Callous Daoboys, and 156/Silence at The Meadows.
Upon my arrival to the venue, I was greeted by a line of fans stretching down the block. This was not exactly an ideal sight considering that there was no photo pit. If there were the many people in line outside, how many were already inside? Suddenly, I was eager to get inside myself. The feeling intensified when the building began to shake with the muffled sounds of metal, as it became apparent that 156/Silence had begun their set. This was much to the dismay of a number of people behind me who commented that they’d come specifically to see the band.
Once I made it in, I was relieved to find that there were still a few areas where I could stand with a good view of the stage. I started shooting but was quick to discover another challenge: the lighting. The stage lights were low and unchanging, and I’d need to blow out my settings just to get a shot that would be semi-decent at best. It was then that I remembered that I had my speed light with me.
If you’ve read some of my past articles, you know that shooting photos from the crowd already makes me anxious. I don’t want my photo-taking to ruin a fan’s enjoyment of the show. Needless to say, adding a flash to this equation made me squirm a bit.
The use of flash at a show can be tricky. Most bands will explicitly state no flash, and in venues large enough to have photo pits, it’s generally understood that you’re not to use one. In smaller venues, speed lights are generally allowed and are often necessary. That is to say that me using a speed light wasn’t abnormal, but I still worried it would be intrusive to the band or the crowd around me.
I angled my flash to fire up so that the light would bounce off the ceiling, and a few test shots gave me confidence that I wasn’t blasting the people around me with light. The test shots themselves showed me that the speed light was going to make a world of difference. Now I could turn my focus to 156/Silence.
156/Silence did not waste a single second of their set. The band blasted through their songs with purpose, taking only brief moments to offer pleasantries before launching into another face-melter. At one point during the set, I caught sight of the fans I’d overheard in line behind me, happily head banging along to the band they’d come to see. All was right in the world.
156/Silence finished their set with “Say The Phrase”, ending on a high and heavy note and setting the bar equally high for the evening. I took advantage of the break between sets to reposition myself for a better vantage point for The Callous Daoboys.
I came across The Callous Daoboys late last year while listening to Spotify’s All New Metal playlist. Their song “Violent Astrology” had me hooked instantly, and I’ve had their latest album, “Celebrity Therapist” on rotation ever since.
The band has a commanding stage presence, both in a literal sense (fitting seven musicians onto a small stage doesn’t leave much wiggle room), as well in their shared determination to leave it all on the stage with their performance. The Callous Daoboys made it their job to blow everyone’s mind, and they came ready to clock in.
Although I was close to the stage, I used my 70-200mm for the majority of the show. It served me well for the most part, but there were times that I had to hustle to throw the 24-70mm back on or just accept that I wouldn’t be able to switch lenses in time. Vocalist Carson Pace did a couple unexpected stage dives, and while I was able to get shots with the 70-200, I wish I’d been able to get a wider view.
Varials were next, and with them came a more elaborate lighting setup and a few video screens. The added light was welcomed, and I was able to switch the speed light off at times to capture the more dynamic lighting offered by the stage.
Vocalist Mitchell Rogers commanded the stage with his performance. He demanded the attention of the crowd and they gave it to him undivided. Rogers’ energy was matched by the musical prowess of his bandmates, who delivered heavy riffs abound and set the circle pits in motion. Varials delivered the type of set where the photos take themselves. It required no photographic sleight of hand to capture the strength of the band’s performance – all I had to do was point and shoot.
The band’s set featured a handful of songs from their latest album, “Scars For You To Remember”: an album that packs a heavy punch from start to finish. The album served as my introduction to the band, and I’m excited to visit their back catalogue, especially after having a blast watching them live.
By the time D.R.U.G.S. hit the stage, the venue was packed. The band opened with “If You Think This Song Is About You, It Probably Is“, and to say that the crowd knew every word is an understatement. Vocalist Craig Owens’ passionate delivery was returned by the fans as they sang along with equalled emotion – it was clear that they felt these songs to their core.
The lighting for D.R.U.G.S.’ performance was the most elaborate of the evening, and I was again able to turn off my speed light at times. I tried to get a lot of shots that included the crowd in attempts to artfully capture their excited participation. Owens provided no shortage of opportunities for shots, his constant interaction with the crowd providing a variety of “poses” for me to capture.
D.R.U.G.S.’ set wrapped up a killer night of music. Every band brought their ‘A’ game and I hope that I was able to channel that through the images shared above and below.