Last week I had the opportunity to photograph up-coming female duo, Rews, at their sold out Birmingham show. If you’ve not yet had the absolute pleasure of the aural, pop-rock assault that is Rews then you need to a) finish reading this blog and b) click here.
On the night of the gig, Rews were absolutely phenomenal. I was blown away by the fullness of sound made by just two people on stage, and how close the live track versions sound to the album. But, hey, this is not a gig review, you came here for the photography right?
Before we get to that, here are a few little bits of info about me, Mr Twig, that are relevant to this particular blog.
- I used to be a musician and have played live shows all over the place - being in a band also gave me the stage name of Twig.
- I learnt photography in the pre-digital years.
- I really love a challenge.
As an artistic person I really don't like to try to imitate other people’s work, so rarely let what other people are doing sway me in any creative direction. However, I do believe in doing my research and, looking over the various social media accounts for the band, it was apparent that Rews had been photographed live many times and had a back catalogue of typical gig-style photography. I therefore started to question what it was that I could bring to this photography catalogue, other than my distinct style of editing, that would stand out from the crowd and bring something different to the table.
One of the first things I realised was that I wanted to capture what it’s like to be on stage, or at the gig in the audience, and to capture the energy of the performance. Flash dilutes stage lights so I decided to ditch the flash gun, and rely only on the available light for this set of images.
The second decision I made was that this photography should have a classic Rock n’ Roll scrapbook feel, like you had torn out your favourite gig review from an issue of NME, circa 1970. To achieve this authentic, grainy look took only manual focus and vintage lenses, in the form of my Lensbaby composer pro with Sweet 35 and Edge 80 optics, plus three vintage lenses that gave distinct bokeh (or background blur) effects.
So, as I said earlier, I like a challenge and I had definitely set myself up with one here… sold-out gig, small venue, lowlight situation with no flash, high energy rock music and all manual focus lenses (some of which are older than I am)… yep, I definitely earned my guest-list passes (thanks BTW to the wonderful Rews for arranging).
When I arrived at the venue my plans hit an initial snag in that, unfortunately, the stage had a black back drop with very few lights - this put pay to using my vintage bokeh lenses as there really was no background to speak of that could be blurred to any real effect.
So it was the Lensbaby composer pro for most of the show - if you are unfamiliar with Lensbaby, and how each lens has its own unique way of capturing images, you can read more here. I love these little lenses, they help me create a really unique look - they do take a bit of mastering but once you get the hang of them, and find a style that suits you, they are truly awesome.
I used my Sweet 35 optic and adjusted the point of focus to give a slightly distorted, psychedelic look. This lens also gives the look of movement and energy by blurring the edges, but you are also able to freeze the action in the sweet spot.
I also used my Edge 80 to pull in closer to the on-stage action. This lens has a slash across the image area of focus that slowly blurs out - it worked great with the lowlight as I could bring the attention to certain areas when I wanted to (or when the Rews girls stayed still long enough!).
My end goal was to achieve an old-school, grainy look to the images, so I had no problem with the high ISO levels required to shoot in the lowlight situation. My biggest problem on the night was the ever-changing stage lights which would change from a nice bright red, to a dark blue, very quickly indeed.
For those interested, the camera body used was a Canon 5D MK2.
I have edited the images with a selection of my own retro/vintage presets in Lightroom to give them that final scrapbook collection look.
What do you think of the images? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.
Until next time.