Sunday, 30 June 2013

Shooting the Mays Hounds


I was at Henriksberg's yesterday, to shoot Mays Hounds. Mays Hounds is a blues/classic rock band with a southern rock/country twist. Their own description. Me, I just enjoy the sound.

Johan Wikström: Electric and acoustic Bass
Shooting a band in a club poses some interesting challenges. First of all, it's pretty dark. This means you need to bring your own lights, unless you want blurry and grainy. (Actually, sometimes I do, but most of the time, I don't.)

Second, what light there is, is there to create mood as much as preventing people from stumbling around and bumping into things. At close range, a flash can easily overpower the lighting on stage. That means the pictures can easily get flat and ugly. Also, blasting a flash into the eyes of the people on stage is a concern, at least if you want to be friends with band members and nightclub bouncers.

The thing to do, is to take advantage of the light that is already there, and use whatever light you bring to push in the same direction. Sounds reasonable, but how, exactly, do you accomplish that?

At Henriksberg, there were several red spotlights, and one or two blue ones. While checking out the stage before the show, I decided to use a gel to color the flash. That way, the light from the flash would be close to the color of the spotlights. I didn't have a gel that matched the spotlights exactly, but my full CTO (Color Temperature Orange) gel was close enough to do.

Because of the CTO gel, I could not put a softbox on the flash. Instead, I used a Honl Speed Snoot as a reflector, to create a slightly large light source than a bare flash.

I also knew from my little scouting mission that it would be possible to line up one of the back spotlights, a performer, and my camera. That would, I hoped, give me a nice rim of red light framing the people. All I needed was the teensiest bit of luck.

As you can see in the photo of Johan Wikström above, the idea worked pretty well.

Maria Ekstrand: Lead vocals
Because I worked with a single hotshoe flash, I could not light the whole five person band at the same time. Especially since I had the flash on quarter power in order to not blow out the spotlights.

However, I could make the presence of a band explicit by framing shots so that one person would be visible in the foreground, and another in the background. You can see the result in the shot of Maria Ekstrand above. The blurry guy in the background is Anders Sandberg, who plays lead and rythm guitars.

Anders Sandberg: Lead & rhythm guitars
 With flash, small differences in distance makes a big difference in brightness, so I had to vary the flash power depending on how far back a band member stood on the stage.

Hasse Kosonen: Drums & percussion
In the case of Hasse Kosonen, who was very far back, I opted to increase the ISO setting to 800 instead. I got a bit more noise, but I could also preserve more of the color from the spotlights, because I could keep the flash power low.

I framed the shot with the guitar in the foreground to help create a sense of depth, and to imply the presence of the whole band.
Lotta Wästfelt: Backing vocals and percussion
Lotta Wästfeldt is very energetic on stage. The challenge was showing that off. I got several shots where she uses her tambourine, to provide a sense of motion and energy.

Magnus Stålhandske: Piano, Fender Rhodes, keyboards
Neither Magnus Stålhandske nor Hasse Kosonen were backlit by the rear spotlights. Magnus was close enought to shoot at ISO 400 though. I shot at 1/60s, f8, so I could have opened the aperture a bit to get more ambient light. That would have reduced the depth of field though. Since focusing was difficult enough in the dark, I opted for f8.

Mays Hounds has a few songs on ReverbNation. Check them out. My favorite is Voodoo River. What's yours?

Update: Found a couple of music videos:

Voodoo River
Goodbye Sweet Security