Tag Archives: Stone Mountain LIVE

Stone Mountain LIVE – July 2010

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.

Technical stuff:

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:

Stone Mountain LIVE – June 2010

Due to other commitments we arrived at the show about halfway through the first set and, so as to not disturb the folks we were seated near, didn’t break out the cameras until the second set — so the photos from this show are a bit thin.  Add to this that the stage was, for some reason, very (and I mean VERY) dimly lit, made shooting a real challenge.

The full set of selects from the show is available on my SMAC gallery:  [url]http://smac.dmg-photography.com/SML-Jun-2010[/url]

The June show was a great mix of guest musicians in addition to the fantastic regulars at Stone Mountain Arts Center.  Miss Tess was there, but we missed her performance.  The last time Kenny White (with Cheryl Wheeler) was there he blew the audience away with some stunning performances.  This night was a bit more subdued, but he played some new works including a great New York blues piece that went over well.  Rounding out the evening was Boston’s mandolin man, Jimmy Ryan.  Jimmy has played at SMAC a few times and fits right into the fun and musicianship that is the hallmark of this place.

Here are a few more pictures from the evening and the technical notes follow.

Jimmy Ryan backed by the Stone Mountain Boys:

JJimmy Ryan with Duke Levine:

Miss Tess and Jimmy Ryan belting out a tune:

Did I mention how much I dislike microphone stands?  Here’s another great concept that almost came together:

Curtain call: Sonny Barbato, Carol Noonan, Katy Noonan, Duke Levine, Miss Tess, Kevin Barry, Richard Gates (hidden), Kenny White, Jimmy Ryan, and Billy MacGillivray.

Technical notes:

This show was the debut of my new camera, a Canon 7D (so new I haven’t even attached a strap to it yet).  The wide shots were taken with the Canon 5D Mark II and a 24-70 f/2.8L lens.  The closeups were with the Canon 7D with the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens strapped on.  Both cameras were set to ISO 2500 and barely managed to grab the images at 1/60 second at f/2.8.   I bumped up the exposure in Lightroom, sometimes by nearly a full stop, so there’s probably a bit more noise in these images than you normally see from my concert images.   How dark was it?  It was so dark that I took some photos of candles using the same settings and they were perfectly exposed. It was so dark that I had to lower the white balance by nearly 800 kelvins so people’s faces didn’t look like they were sunburned (the dim tungsten lights were pushing further towards the red end of the spectrum).

Stone Mountain LIVE with Bill Kirchen

Saturday’s Stone Mountain LIVE show was subtitled “The Guitar Gods” show and it was almost more like sitting in on a roots guitar master class than a regular night out on the town.  The Stone Mountain LIVE house band is headed up by Duke Levine and Kevin Barry, two very fine guitar players.  The band is rounded out with Sonny Barbato on keys, Richard Gates on bass, Billy MacGillivray on drums, and Chris Cote on vocals.  Most folks would be happy if they just played all night — but they keep inviting great guests, the most recent being Bill Kirchen.

Bill Kirchen is often referred to as an “elder statesman” in guitar circles.  He’s a master of the Fender Telecaster and is best known for the song “Hot Rod Lincoln” when he was with Commander Cody back in the 70’s. (I can still remember listening to that on the radio on the Giannetti’s back porch.)  Honky-Tonk and “Dieselbilly” is the corner of roots guitar music that he is the master of and putting him on stage with Duke and the gang was to watch pure genius at work. Bill is also one of the nicest people you could meet — quite the ambassador for Austin, Texas.

Bill performs his version of “Hot Rod Lincoln” that includes a medley of musical vignettes that is simply jaw-dropping.  He and the band effortlessly recalled the riffs of (in order): Johnny Cash, Duane Eddy, Roy Orbison, Johnny Rivers, Marty Robbins, Buck Owens, Merle Travis, Merle Haggard, Bob Willis, Hank Sugarfoot Garland, Earl Scruggs, Iggy Pop, The Ventures, Bo Diddly, Chuck Berry, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Alvino Rey, Stevie Ray,  Freddy King, BB King, Albert King, Ben E King, Billy Jean King, Elvis Presley, Cream, Deep Purple, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Sex Pistols, and Jimmy Hendrix (and I’m sure I missed a couple of them).

When I photograph live music performances I try to do two things: 1) capture the emotional power of the performance from the audience’s side, and 2) get a glimpse into the what goes into the performance from the artists’ side – those quick glances between band members, the look of concentration as they work through a song, and the smiles when they just know it is “coming together”.

For the first half of the show I was taking the audience perspective, but for the second half I shot mostly from just off-stage providing a more intimate set of angles and, for my money, much better lighting (Carol even had a “hair light” now and then!)

I hope you enjoyed seeing some shots of these “guitar gods” in action.   I think Bill is now an honorary Stone Mountain Boy (he should consider moving up to Maine for the summers — it gets hot down there in Texas!)   A gallery of close to 70 images from the performance is available at:


Here are a few more of my favorites shots from the evening:

My thanks to Carol and Jeff at the Stone Mountain Arts Center, and to Bill Kirchen and all the performers for allowing me to photograph the show.

Stone Mountain LIVE Christmas 2009

Photos from the December 19th, 2009 Stone Mountain LIVE Christmas show. This was one of 5 shows that spanned two weekends and are the final Stone Mountain LIVE shows for 2009.

More photos from the evening can be found at: [url]http://smac.dmg-photography.com/SML-Christmas-2009/[/url]

Special guest performers for this evening were the Burns Sisters, from Ithaca, NY. Marie, Annie, and Jeannie Burns sang a number of holiday tunes – some familiar, some not.

The Stone Mountain Boys were in fine form with a number of powerful instrumental interludes. Here Duke Levine, Kevin Barry, and Richard Gates jam on a holiday song behind a sea of mike stands. (Also performing, but not pictured are Sonny Barbato on piano/accordian and Billy MacGillivray on drums.)

Chris Cote, the Stone Mountain Boy’s vocal powerhouse, belted out some exciting and hilarious holiday tunes.

Carol, Chris, and the Burns Sisters performing “Blue Christmas”


Technical: Canon 40D at ISO 1600 with a 70-200mm f/2.8L IS handheld. Exposures were typically 1/60 to 1/40 second, wide open at f/2.8 — and these were generally underexposed by at least 1/3 stop. Canon 1D Mark 2 at ISO 1600 with a 24-70mm f/2.8L handheld. Exposures centered around 1/60 second, but varied more than the telephoto shots.

Stone Mountain LIVE Portraits

Every month or so the Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield, Maine hosts a concert with some of the best musicians around.  October’s show was on Halloween night and there was certainly a bit of fun with the theme (it also provided the perfect context/excuse for numerous death ballads…)  Special guest for the evening was Kathy Mattea, accompanied by Bill Cooley.  Also sitting in with the Stone Mountain Boys, direct from Ireland, was Frank Gallagher.   I’m privileged to have permission to photograph these shows.

Photos from the show can be found on my SMAC gallery page.

The SMAC stage isn’t brightly lit, so photography is always a challenge.  Through a combination of planning and good fortune I was able to move a bit during the show (normally I’m very much stuck in one spot) and that allowed for some angles I’ve never been able to shoot from before.  (With all of the music stands, it was the only way to get pictures of some of the band.)  During my review of the photos from the show a number of them were calling out to me to live as black and white images.  Some worked in both color and black&white, but for a few the presence of color was just a distraction.

A few of my favorite portraits of these wonderful artists in action are here and you can see the full set (just over 20 photographs): Stone Mountain LIVE Artist Portraits

I hope you enjoy this slightly different take on the evening’s performances.

That’s Duke Levine and Kevin Barry at the top of the page followed by Duke’s Telecaster.

By far my favorite photo of the evening was this picture of Frank Gallagher playing the violin.  Bill Cooley’s guitar caught my eye.

Kathy Mattea and Bill Cooley.

Kathy Mattea and Chris Cote.

SMAC’s owner and host for the evening, Carol Noonan.

As always my thanks to Carol for allowing me to photograph the show, to the SMAC staff for sitting me in my preferred perch, to the band and artists for a great night of music, and finally to Kathy Mattea for her kind permission to photograph her performance at SMAC.