Decisive moments at a pub gig

As a change from water-based activities, I photographed a performance by a local veteran-rock band in a public bar. This brought its own set of challenges, some of which are illustrated by this image. The challenges fall into three main types.


Space: The venue is not designed for performances, so the band is crammed into a small space at one end. The two musicians in the back row (drummer and bass guitar) are obscured by the front row. The bar itself was crowded, so I had limited freedom to move around (I eventually found three vantage points I could move between without annoying too many of the audience) It is also necessary to consider the visual clutter of music stands, mikes and speakers.

Lighting: There is no ‘stage lighting’ and the general pub lighting is rather dim and designed for visibility rather than effect. The singer/lead guitarist stands below and slightly behind a ceiling light, there is bright light on a white painted alcove at the rear left and, for the early part of the evening, there is light from a window. All three sources have different colour temperatures. I dealt with this partly by avoiding the alcove and window where possible and partly by tone control and partial desaturation in Lightroom. The camera is a Pentax K-1, mostly used at ISO25600 which I regard as magic in comparison with the low-light ‘performance’ of my previous cameras.

Subject: It was necessary to watch the performers carefully to pick my decisive moments. Although they tend to stand in one place, there is a lot of body movement. Facial expressions change rapidly, and a singer can make some rather grotesque expressions. Also, for some reason, musicians tend to shut their eyes while performing.

In this set of images, I have isolated each performer in a sort of environmental portrait. Exposures were between 1/15s and 1/50s at apertures between f/2.8 and f/5.6. The most difficult capture was the drummer as I had to wait for the front-row performers to move out of the way and give me a clear shot. In attempting to find a typical pose, I had to observe and analyse each man’s movements to decide what constitutes a ‘typical pose’, then to anticipate and shoot it.

Of course, the whole point of a band is that the musicians are performing together. The final set of images in this posting each show two or more band members and, in my opinion, convey the atmosphere of the evening.



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