I love shooting live music. It is one of my true photographic passions. The challenge of capturing fast moving artists performing deftly through ever-fluxuating lighting conditions, the excitement of shooting quickly in a crowded pit, the joyous response of a stadium full of adoring fans screaming at the top of their lungs for their favorite rockstars and the satisfaction of capturing them in those decisive moments of divine musical exultation that drive those crowds wild...when it all works these can come together in an incredibly satisfying high of intensive photographic ecstasy.
I've been thinking a lot lately about how i will soon be putting this aspect of my career behind me. Nova Scotia will become my permanent home within the next year. Halifax is not really much of a port of call for touring bands. Not at all really. I will be trading my big bands for big skies, my loud rock 'n' roll world for quiet, rocky shorelines. While i have come to terms with this lifestyle change (it's a trade-off for sure, but one i certainly look forward to), i can't help but feel just a twinge of regret for all those great musical acts i may never get a chance to shoot.
Having an opportunity to shoot the Red Hot Chili Peppers both eased and emphasized my anxiety over this photographic lifestyle crisis to come, allowing me to register yet another notch in my gun for great live bands covered while at the same time reminding me just what i will be giving up for life in my northern coastal paradise. And the Chili Peppers did bring it to the stage at the U.S. Bank Arena last Friday. Don't ask me what they sounded like because i really couldn't tell you. When i shoot live music i don't really hear it, at least not in the same way i do as an audience member. I mean, i'm sure they were good, because if they were bad i would certainly have heard that. But when i shoot music my brain is focussed on the visuals and the action, not the aural landscape. I am watching the changing lighting and the movements of the artists, trying to time my shots with their reactions to the beat, not my own. I am concentrating on shutter speeds, aperture and ISO and doing my best to follow the action and nail my focus with every shot. The music itself becomes secondary as shape, color and decisive moment take center stage. Frankly, i don't really even need to like the music at all to have a good concert shooting experience. That's not to say that i don't like the Chili Peppers. I do have one of their albums, the obligatory Blood Sugar Sex Magik, but i would hardly call myself a fan. In the three songs they give us photogs in the pit i am sure i recognized some of the music, but if you asked me exactly what they played i really couldn't tell you.
But none of that matters because the Chili Peppers brought everything to the arena that i seek in a band as a music photographer. They were very active on stage, but perhaps even more importantly, they were interactive, both with each other and the audience. Even a beautifully lit concert experience can be a bit of a bore photographically if the band just stands in one place for the entire show. But this show had the "light fantastic" as well, that most important aspect for all photography. This light show was beautifully and tastefully designed and provided great backdrops for the high kinetic energy of this band, especially Chili Pepper bassist Flea's iconic rockstar poses. In the end shooting this show ended up being a bucket list item i did not know was on my docket. I hope to fill this year with a few more of the same before moving on to tamer and perhaps saner pastures.
I would be remiss if i did not also mention that along with the experience of shooting these shows i will sincerely miss the camaraderie of my fellow music shooters. We were a coven of 13 in the pit that night (along with the 3 videographers who were recording the show for the band), a small tactical platoon armed with Nikons, Canons and Sonys. That made for some rather close quarters for this relatively large group, often vying for the same shot at the same time in the same space. The amount of respect and cooperation that took place in that crowded pit was indeed a remarkable dance to behold. Amazingly, i know 9 of this crew really well (part of the reason we work so well together i guess) as we often find ourselves working the same pits throughout the year. All are amazingly talented photographers. This affords us the unique opportunity to regularly view the work of this immediate peer group, often from shows we have all shot together, and engage in discussion about our personal experiences and preferences. It's interesting to note that the results from our little cadre produced some very different results this night. Whether it was a matter of focal length choice, angle of view, framing or moment of capture, or the many varying ways in which photographers choose to do their post-production work, everyone's gallery of images had their own unique vision on this single, dynamic subject. And we all have an opportunity to look and learn from one another and grow in our craft in doing so. So yes, i guess i will miss this life just a little bit...
(please click on photos for an enlarged gallery view)
Photos ©David Sorcher 2017
No Unauthorized Use Permitted