Friday, October 19, 2012

Todd Owyoung On Backlighting Musicians

Todd Owyoung runs a really nice blog on concert photography. While Todd shoots more heavy metal and hard rock bands, as opposed to my interest in bluegrass and jam, his examples are inspirational. I'm going to shoot a local show tonight, which will include the opportunity to meet and greet the band members at a reception, and go backstage. So, I was perusing Todd's sight for some lighting tips.
(Click Here) to see a very nice post on Todd's site ( regarding backlighting.
I have been working on photographing local musicians and shows for quite a while now. I feel that I've made real progress in a few areas. First, I've gotten more comfortable interacting with the musicians. I've also improved my compositional skills, and the technical details of shooting a brightly lit stage in a dark room, or a dimly lit show under a canopy at a farmer's market. Hey, it's not all glitz and bright lights, you know. I have also improved my ability to capture those micro moments of emotion that show who the band members are.
However, when I quickly scan through my music images, one thing is clearly missing - dramatic light. There are a few venues (including the one I'm going to tonight, Franklin Park in Purcellville, VA) that offer great stage lighting. Most others around here don't. And beyond that, how am I using light in the off-stage work? I'm using "available light," which is "any damn light that's available" in a quote attributed to the master photographer W. Eugene Smith. I'm not using every lever I have to adjust and improve the quality of my shots.
I use flash reasonably often when shooting stage acts. I rarely use it when the band is off-stage. It just seems so intrusive. I need to get over that. I'm already intruding, either peeking around a corner with my lens, or asking them to stand a little closer. So, a flash or two won't hurt anything.
In his article, Todd states that carrying two speedlights (hotshoe-based strobes) is plenty for great opportunities to backlight and frontlight a band or musician. I had one Nikon SB800 already in my bag for tonight. Guess what else is going in? A second flash.
Todd also talks about how some venues backlight the performers on the stage, which we can use. Again, looking through my images, dramatic lighting is not what catches your eye. Here's one example of a nice side light on Tmony Griffin of Jake and the Burtones.
Tmony Griffin, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3, Voigtlander 75mm f2.5
iso 6400, f-stop unrecorded, 1/100 sec
I'm sure that the strong side lighting caught my eye when I took this image. But, not consciously. I need to keep directional lighting more in mind as I compose my images. And, I need to control and add to it where possible.
I think I'd better pick up some AA batteries this afternoon...