Having had a golden circle ticket for the opening London show I was delighted to get an official photo pass for tonight’s show. I knew it would be a tough shoot because the photographers are being kept at the end of the runway for this tour, which is about 500-600mm range from the main stage.
On the opening night, Mick had ventured right down to the front during the first two songs but no such luck tonight. However, it was the first outing for my new lens, the unbelievable Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM lens. It is light enough to handhold right through to 600mm and as long as you’ve got enough light for f/6.3, it produces surprisingly sharp results, all for £700.
It did me proud tonight because it meant that I could get a really wide range of shots from what really was a poor shooting position. With hindsight I could have done with having time to road test it before a major gig but it certainly didn’t disappoint!
When the Rolling Stones’ latest tour was announced, I didn’t hesitate and spent a fortune on golden circle tickets for the opening London show. Who knows whether they will tour again after this and while I’ve shot a few Stones shows I’ve never been to one as a paying customer.
So the plan was to go really early and see if we could get a good spot at the front. I was amazed that we actually landed ourselves a front row spot at the end of the (very long) runway, right next to where the photographers were shooting from. The little Sony RX100 only has a 24-70mm equivalent zoom but I was delighted with a few of my shots, especially this one as I really wanted to get Mick and Keith together in a single frame like this.
Some shows are trickier than others – some work out well and some less so. Tonight was a case of less so. The stage set up was quite strange and for the majority of the first three songs, Rita was at the back of the stage walking along an elevated platform. It just meant that the angles weren’t great.
However, once she came down to the front of the stage it got a whole lot better, but unfortunately for us she hardly stayed there at all, making what could have been an awesome shoot pretty underwhelming and there weren’t many opportunities for good frames.
Three amazing guitarists doing solo shows and then a massive jam at the end. Sounds great? Yes and no. It should have been fantastic but Hammersmith Apollo is a nightmare venue to shoot in when it’s a seated audience. In the past they’ve allowed us to shoot from the front of the middle aisles crouched down out of everyone’s way and although it’s horribly uncomfortable, it’s pretty much as good as being in the pit.
Tonight, no such luck. Joe Satriani often plays to stage right so shots of him from the far side were fine. However, one of my cameras started deciding it didn’t fancy focusing at all so I was using the 300mm lens and focusing it manually which isn’t in the ‘How to Shoot a Gig Properly’ guide.
John Petrucci just played to the other side and Uli stuck to the middle, by which time we weren’t allowed closer down the side anyway, so neither set was anything to write home about photographically.
The G3 jam at the end should have been epic but again, we were banned from the middle, even at the back and trying to shoot three guitarists in a line from a side angle a long way back does not equal cool shots.
It’s hard not to love shooting Paloma Faith, and after the heavy restrictions on her previous tour, I thought this one would be well worth doing given it was back to business as usual and pit access. She always wears fabulous outfits and is a treat to photograph (even if the songs sound terrible). Tonight was more miss than hit for me. I’m not sure what to put it down to, the hideously cluttered stage background or a pit that seemed to be full to the rafters but I didn’t come away with that many shots I was happy with.
Rag ‘n’ Bone Man has been on my bucket list for a while now – I’d just never had the opportunity to go to one of his shows before.
Alexandra Palace really isn’t one of my favourite venues. The setting overlooking London is stunning, but the venue itself always seems draughty, a bit soulless and security is really badly organised.
Tonight therefore did not disappoint! Security actually was a dream until I got right up to the pit barrier having fought my way through about 5000 people only to be told I couldn’t come in! Eventually they realised I was in the right place fortunately. They hadn’t accredited many of us and I wanted something different from tonight. He’s a unique looking bloke so the usual close ups work well but shots have already started to look very similar of him. The hideously high stage (and no, you can’t use your step!) usually does us no favours here but tonight it enabled me to capture an angle I’d never usually go for – out wide at 14mm looking up in to the lights, and it worked! All I needed to do was to wait for him not to be eating the microphone which he does much of the time, which made for a really symmetrical image.
Once in a while you get a terrible job, and tonight was one of those jobs. Alt J are a big band and I’ve never shot at the Garage but my picture research told me their stage set up could be amazing and would be really worth seeing, especially in such an intimate venue.
There were only a couple of us there and it soon became apparent that the rest of the usual crew had drawn the long straw not us.
The stage set up was as basic as you could imagine and the lighting was simply dreadful. The Nikon D4S flatters but there was no front lighting on them of any use at all. Even on the widest lens I’d brought I could barely get all three of them in who, by the way, sounded terribly dull.
So it was one of those shows to forget – I did the best I could but you can’t polish a turd…
I’ve shot a lot of Steel Panther shows over the years and while they might be about as politically correct as Donald Trump, they are an amazing live act to watch and photograph. I shot the standard first three songs in the pit which was great, but I was then able to loiter in the crowd and make my way to the back of the Academy to get some wide shots. For once, no-one seemed to care – usually you get turfed out the moment the first three songs are finished.
I knew what I was after, and having shot some nice wide shots from the back with the crowd and the whole stage in, I wanted something a little different. It can be fun to shoot like this, taking the view of a camera phone and once I found the right angle, this shot worked really well for me. Maybe more of a statement about the times we are in where every other person in the crowd is filming half the show than about the artists themselves, but I got my shot at least.
It is always an absolute privilege to have Access All Areas. I’ve worked on a couple of Toby Jepson’s shows over the years and asked him if I could come along tonight to try and get something a bit different.
I shot a fair bit of the show from the pit but the best shots in these situations are inevitably taken from on stage. Toby was happy for me to shoot whatever, wherever and among a lot of images this one is my absolute favourite. I was told before the show that he would throw his guitar to his (very nervous) guitar tech at the end of the show so I stood as close to him as I could with a wide lens without risking either getting in his way or having a guitar land on my head.
The lighting conditions were very tricky so a fair bit of guess work was involved in getting this shot and I was relieved to see it came out well, even with a tiny bit of movement in the guitar! Fortunately the guitar tech caught it!
I’ve shot a few Extreme shows over the years – they’re another one of these bands that I grew up with an absolutely adore. So on the rare occasion that they tour in London I make sure I’m available to shoot their shows.
Gary Cherone is surely one of the all time great frontmen. Not only is he an amazing singer but his energy and stage presence defy his age. I figured it was worth a gamble to shoot with a fisheye lens tonight, something that I rarely do. It paid off because Gary came right up to the edge of the stage a few times and the only way to get a shot like this is on a fisheye.
They do need to sort their lighting out though. It is always fairly dark for photography and comes out a bit orange. That aside, it was a cracking show to round off the year’s gigs with.