It has been a while since I did some concert photography for the fun of it. We were up at our favorite place for live music, the Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield, Maine, for the second in their “Barn Burner” series of music there. Held in their lobby barn instead of the main hall and it’s a lot closer to a club feel. Pizza, beer, and dancing are the order of the day. The Iodine Brothers, one of Dennis Brennan‘s ongoing bands, rocked the hall with ballads across several genres and, of course, the amazing backing of Duke Levine and Kevin Barry on guitar, Billy Beard on drums and Richard Gates on bass.
If you’d like to see a short series of photographs from the evening head on over to my SMAC gallery. If you’d like to read a bit about how the photographs were made, read on.
After a rousing first set I thought it would be fun to capture the feel of the barn burner shows and the image above is what I was after. The band said it was OK to take a few shots so I grabbed my 5D Mark II, cranked it up to ISO 3200, opened the iris and hoped for the best (there is NO stage lighting — just the dimmed overhead lights and some christmas tree lights). I headed to the back the room, grabbed a bar stool and, while co-ower Jeff Flagg spotted me, I climbed up and grabbed a few shots with a 16mm lens. This is more or less a straight shot, not much Lightroom tweaking to speak of. (Not so for the rest of these.)
The hands of Duke Levine on guitar.
That’s Richard Gates on bass and Billy Beard on drums.
Dennis Brennan is well-known in the roots rock-and-roll circuits around Boston with a solo career stretching back to the early 90′s. His band used to play all the time here in Maynard at the Sit ‘N Bull (which I walked by every day for years on my way to work but, sadly, didn’t head in because while I like great music I hate cigarette smoke even more… sigh)
With no stage lighting the only source of light were the colored christmas lights ringing the stage (I think they were six inches from his head). I like color but for this photograph of Dennis they were competing, so I went with a black and white version. Frankly, Dennis feels more like a black&white photograph kind of guy anyway.
Duke Levine. Another great example of using black and white to extract a decent photograph from an otherwise useless file: the process of pulling detail out of the shadows, coupled with the saturated lighting looks horrific in color but attenuates nicely once you throw that out…) Like the other black and white images here I added grain with Lightroom to give it a bit more “grittier” feel.
Kevin Barry (seen recently on television with Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs). Go Kevin!
I’m shooting at 1/30th of a second so motion blur is a constant factor with musicians doing their thing. The 5DMk2′s auto focus is nearly useless in low light — making this especially challenging. If this was something more than a casual shoot I would have attached my viewfinder and used the electronic viewer to manually focus.
This was subtly tweaked in Photoshop. The primary lighting are the hanging fixtures along the ceiling. To create more emphasis on the stage I added a neutral density filter just above the beam, darkening the upper half of the image by a half stop.
All images were taken with a Canon 5D Mark II at ISO 3200, 16-35mm f/2.8L or 70-200mm f/2.8L IS. All handheld. All wide open. Between 1/25 and 1/40 second — and that was underexposing a 1/3 stop. At ISO 3200 you really can’t under expose much more or the resulting image will have too much noise. It’s still a frickin’ miracle.
My thanks to Dennis Brennan and his band for allowing me to photograph them, and to Carol Noonan and Jeff Flagg for their support and bringing great live music to everyone. If you haven’t been to Stone Mountain Arts Center you are missing something special.
In case you were wondering why there haven’t been as many photos coming from Stone Mountain LIVE shos the past year, I’m working on a video project with SMAC and that has seriously cut into the still shooting. But we’re not filming the June show so I’m looking forward to finding those moments while behind the shutter again.