It is always a privilege to photograph the Stone Mountain LIVE shows. Over the years I’ve come to know many of the talented musicians and behind-the-scenes staff and see the dedication and passion they bring to each show. Within the confines of not getting in the way and being as invisible as possible to the audience, I try to capture that passion.
July’s show took place on a warm Saturday evening. Special guest performers Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas performed some vivacious Scottish tunes on the fiddle and cello. The regular Stone Mountain crew, along with guest pianist Consuelo Candelaria-Barry, provided a wide variety of folk, R&B, and roots music. The evening began with a short film I produced for the show. I produced a 3-minute “music video” of the barn raising that took place on Memorial Day. Sonny Barbato provided a live piano soundtrack for the film. The film closes with some lyrics of a Carol Noonan song about the barn, which was the first song of the evening. Pretty classy. I hope to have a slightly longer version of the film published soon — we’re kicking around ideas for the music.
A complete gallery of the evening’s photographs can be found at: [url]http://smac.dmg-photography.com/SML-Jul-2010[/url]
Here are a few of my favorites from the evening along with a bit of “technical” commentary.
Summer shows at Stone Mountain start well before the sun goes down and so the floor to sky windows behind the performers create a very strong back/side light that competes with (and almost overwhelms) the stage lighting. So for the first hour there’s a lot of decisions to be made regarding exposure and composition. One of the more annoying aspects of this is that the color of the light coming from outside is very cool versus the very warm stage lighting. I decided to render the photograph above of Carol Noonan (which you can find in the gallery in color) in black&white and I think it is a stronger photograph because the contrasting colors are eliminated. That still leaves a lack of tonal balance, but I didn’t have any control over that.
It’s hard enough getting good photographs of individual performers when there is a strong backlight, but add in the complexity of two or more performers and there’s just not a lot of options left.
For the second set I changed location to backstage. While this location provides very few angles, I enjoy the vantage point it provides and affords me opportunities for images that are sometimes stronger than the normal front-stage view. When I get lucky, I get to photograph glances and postures of the performers that provides a more intimate view. It’s not quite the “musicians point of view”, but just shy of that.
All photographs were taken with a Canon 7D, 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens, handheld. ISO ranged from 1600 to 5000. Shutter speeds varied from 1/60 to 1/100 second depending on stage and background lighting, angle, etc. Aperture was typically wide-open (f/2.8).
Lightroom 3 was used to process the images. All of them had exposure tweaking as I typically underexpose the images slightly to gain a some shutter speed (the stage lighting is relatively dim and you lose another 2-3 stops when shooting from side-stage). I took advantage of the noise reduction in Lightroom 3, particularly for the ISO 5000 images. Very pleasing results.
For more information about Stone Mountain LIVE, visit the Stone Mountain Arts Center website or check out these videos I produced for the center: