Feel the Music

One of the things I've always tried to do is shoot for the feeling. I want the viewer of my photographs to share my experience. I want them to see what I saw, and most importantly, feel what I felt. That means getting close, physically or optically.

Sometimes the only way to share the experience is to place yourself into the scene with a wide angle lens. Become one with your subject. Other times, it's impossible to get close enough without the assistance of a telephoto. If I'm photographing a concert and want to see the veins popping in a performer's face, or the sweat pouring from their forehead, the only way to get that close is to reach out with a lens. But, when I want to capture the energy onstage, the gyrations of the musicians, then I want a wide angle lens for the perspective it brings to the scene so I can become one with the band.

Of course, you can't always get that close. Back in the day, photographers often would sit on stage, out of the way, to document a concert. Nobody minded. And the "three song limit?" Pffft, what three song limit, nobody cared. It was a looser time. Corporations hadn't yet taken hold of rock and roll by its throat. It was about the music and the show. Good times.

All the more reasons why I love small venues. Most cases, nobody cares. Smaller places also attract talent that is either starting their career, local bands, musicians working on new music, or on tour. Good booking agents find great talent for their venues. Most of these musicians aren't doing it for the money, many barely cover expenses, but the passion they have comes through every time they set foot on stage. For me, capturing and sharing powerful images of fellow artists is rewarding and satisfying.

Because of mirrorless technology, I'm able to photograph a performance in total silence. Now I can capture the power of operatic solo just as I can a folk troubadour and their acoustic guitar with no one hearing even a faint click. Working with the Fuji X system, I'm also carrying smaller cameras and lenses making myself less obtrusive and more agile. Smaller is better when it comes to gear. I want to work with the least amount of stuff to get the job done right. Just because I own almost every lens Fuji makes, doesn't mean I need to carry it all on every assignment.

My kit for performance work is tight. I employ two bodies, TX-3, and XT-2 (soon to be two XT-3 bodies). For lenses, I pack a Zeiss 12mm f/2.8; Fujifilm 16mm f/1.4; 23mm f/2; 50mm f/2; and 50-140 f/2.8. I've taped two rear caps together to carry the 23 and 50 stacked. I bring six extra batteries. Rarely do I need six, but I'd rather have too many than too few. A Pixel Rocket SD card holder for additional SD cards. The only other accessories I bring is a microfiber lens cloth, a small flashlight on a lanyard with a red gel covering the lens, business cards, a pen, and a small moleskin notebook. My bag of choice is the same as it has been for many years, a Domke F-6, little bit smaller bag. This modest set up allows me the ultimate in flexibility while maintaining the smallest possible footprint.

Often I'm asked, why not use the 16-55 zoom and call it a day? The main reason, I don't like the zoom. I've never connected with it, to me it just a utilitarian tool, whereas, the 16, 23, and 50mm lenses are an extension of my vision. I know what they will do before I ever reach in my bag. I see as the lens sees and go. It's a personal choice. I do like the 50-140 zoom for the flexibility it allows. When shooting a tight photo of a musician's face, the zoom lets me fill the frame as needed even when they move from one side of the stage to the other.

Bottom line, the camera, and lenses you select must work for you. Keep working with them until they become an extension of your body, mind, and soul. Make them one, and let the music flow through you. Only then can you capture and share the sight, sound, and especially the feeling, of the experience.

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