For those who know me well, you will not be surprised to hear me say that I am quite shy and that I don’t like to talk about myself. That’s why blogging is such a challenge … and one I am slowly struggling to overcome.
Sometimes I am dragged out of my comfort zone by others – and asked to a favour. This was one of those times … being interviewed for the Metal As Fuck website.
Here’s the interview:
Metal as Fuck www.metalasfuck.net
1. How did you get into metal music photojournalism?
I’ve always loved music. I have eclectic taste –metal is only one area of music that I enjoy. In addition, I love photography. It was a natural progression, the two combined and I started taking my camera into the mosh pit. Soon I was being asked to submit photos for Melbourne street press BEAT magazine and I became a regular contributor. I subsequently also became a regular contributor to www.blistering.com which specialises in metal!
2. What is the first thing you learned, in dealing with high movement and low light at shows?
Not to panic! Work with the light that you have, slow down shutter speed –but not too much, and adjust your aperture accordingly.
3. What techniques do you believe are absolutely essential to have nailed, if you shoot a lot of shows of all different sizes?
Dealing with high movement and low light is the key. Learn to work without flash – even if you are able to use flash in some of the smaller venues, flash tends to flatten the subjects and doesn’t capture the essence of the show. Experiment – especially when you have quality white light at a show –try different ISO settings, shutter speeds, spot metering –know your camera.
4. What are the key differences between shooting festivals and medium-large gigs?
There are pros and cons to each.
Festivals at the Melbourne Showgrounds or Flemington Racecourse, as opposed to medium-large gigs at Rod Laver Arena or Hisense Arena, are a mad rush. You must be at the front of the stage for the first three songs of each band so if the stages are far, you have trouble running from one side of the showgrounds or the racecourse to the other in time for the first three songs of the next band you want to shoot. A lot of planning is needed but even the best laid plans don’t foresee crowds of people you need to get through, no access to the front so you need to carry all your cameras and equipment through the mosh, and security that tell you you must go all the way round to the right hand side entrance!
Medium-large gigs are easy. You have direct access to the photo pit so have space to move around and frame the shots exactly how you want them, and you usually have great lighting conditions to work with too. Nice white light!
Personally, rather than festivals or medium-large gigs, I prefer smaller gigs because of the crowds. Though metal audiences are energetic and forceful wherever the gig is held, the closeness of the smaller gigs, say at the Hifi Bar or Corner Hotel, with the audience and the band is thrilling. Both crowd and band enjoy the proximity. The adrenaline is contagious.
5. What’s the best show you’ve shot, and why?
Cannibal Corpse in Thessaloniki, Greece in 2003. The band had been banned in Australia for years so I’d never seen them and always wanted to. They were dynamic and did not disappoint. And I enjoyed the atmosphere. It was casual as fuck!! I was allowed to sit on the side of the stage for the whole show. I can’t see that ever happening in Melbourne –though the Corner Hotel are great in allowing me to take shots from side of stage and from the back of the stage for different angles and mood.
Cannibal Corpse was also one of the first shows I reviewed, so that was fun.
6. What’s been the worst show you’ve shot, and why?
Probably The Tea Party at Festival Hall, about 1997. The lighting was terrible – all blues and reds. I only ended up getting three or four shots that I could use –and that I liked! The audience was feral and was moshing violently even during the slow numbers –and I got kicked in the head by one of the heavier crowd surfers! Yes, worst gig!!
7. Can just anybody be a metal photojournalist?
As long as one loves the music and the art of photography, they too can become a metal photojournalist. It’s all about capturing the moment. They shouldn’t just do it if they think it is a way to meet the bands – there are other avenues for that.
8. Is having a great deal of PhotoShop knowledge essential?
No, it is not essential but due to the difficult working conditions, sometimes it helps. PhotoShop can assist with adjusting the colour balance and contrast. Be careful not to manipulate your images too much because it is obvious.
9. What does your standard kit contain, and what do you never shoot a gig without?
Bodies: NIKON D80 & D200, NIKON F80
Lenses: Nikkor 55mm & Nikkor 70-300mm
Extra memory cards, film (400ASA, 800ASA, 1600ASA, XP2), batteries.
10. Have technology changes meant that you work differently now from when you started, and how hard is it to keep up with changes in technology?
I was very stubborn giving up film. I still haven’t given it up completely. But I do admit that digital is quicker and cheaper. As the magazine I work for doesn’t pay for live photographs, I opt for digital. Digital also allows you to edit and manipulate the images if needed. Digital is also less time-consuming when working to a deadline. On a personal level, I still prefer film.
Additional material please:
Please provide a Top 10 of the skills you believe are essential for doing your job.
- Passion – you really must love the music and the art of photography.
- Technical – must be able to shoot in low light / fast speed conditions.
- Learn to work without flash. Chances are flash won’t be allowed anyway -the general rule with shooting gigs is: first three songs, no flash. However, even if you are allowed to use flash, keep in mind that flash tends to flatten out not only the subject but also the atmosphere of your pic.
- Ensure knowledge of your camera.
- Ensure knowledge of where everything is in your camera bag because you might just need that spare battery or memory card when the singer is stage jumping!
- Position – where are you taking your pics from? If possible choose your distance, your angle, “your spot”. Explore the area you have to work within –and keep in mind there are other photographers in the pit area too –don’t ruin their shots by walking in front of them.
Tips 7, 8 & 9 interconnect …
7. Visualise – what do you hope to capture? Of course there are always surprises but is there a particular image this band represents for you?
8. Timing – anticipate what will happen next. Knowing the music helps here. If you know there is a sudden shift in melody or tempo, then it is likely at those certain moments the band members are going to be jumping in the air, making devil horns or executing perfect cock rock poses.
9. Capturing the moment. Many would disagree here but don’t just keep shooting because you are worried that you will miss that crucial moment. Even with the fast shutter speeds, there is still time delay between one shot to the next. That time delay could make you miss the moment you wanted. Wait, anticipate, and shoot.
10. Etiquette & Have Fun! Everyone is there to enjoy the act. When there is no photo pit and already a crowd at the front of the stage, I generally find people to be understanding and let you through – explain that it is only for three songs. If they don’t let you through, there’s always the zoom lens packed ready in your camera bag. Take your shots, grab a JD & Coke and enjoy.