Twenty Pictures From the Pittsburgh Music Scene

Though not being particularly newsworthy, I’ve put together a Facebook page dedicated to my photography. Slow hand clap. As a way to mark the “occasion”, I’ve put together a collection of twenty of my favorite live band photos from the Pittsburgh music scene, taken over the last year.

Its been quite the learning experience for me and I thought it might be interesting to share some insight on how I take images in a local live setting. This is not meant to give the impression that I am some expert on the subject, but more so to show how I go about doing things.

I mainly chose shots that convey, to me at least, the intense emotion, danger, release, joy and dissolution of self that comes with performing live on stage. While up there, time stops, senses expand, and the mind oozes into the pool of the collective unconscious. I wanted to get photos of people going through that process.

Click on any of the images below to be taken to a higher resolution version on my Flikr page. All images are copyright 2017 and may not be used without permission.

hambonesX (2 of 19)

Allison Kacmar Richards playing with Emily Rodgers Band at Hambone’s


BBTjuly (15 of 30)

Old Game reflected in the mirrored ceiling of the BBT


Horehound

Shy Kennedy and Nick Kopco of Horehound at Howlers


Curse The Son

Ron Vanacore of Curse The Son at Howlers


d-town (11 of 19)

Bradley Jenkins of Ona at The James Street Gastropub


Shooting bands in smaller venues comes with its own set of challenges. At the top of the list, Its generally too dark for a correct exposure without jacking up the ISO settings and thus adding a large amount of sensor noise into the shot. This is preferred to a blurry picture in my opinion, which is exactly what you’ll get if ISO is kept to a more sensible level and instead one uses slower shutter speeds or a wider aperture. Essentially, slightly higher ISO is the lesser of two (or three) evils.

When I go out to shows, I usually take my Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 or my Canon 17-55mm f2.8 IS USM. Both have a decent zoom range for smaller venues, meaning I can usually get “wide enough” to fit the entire stage in the shot, or zoomed in enough to do a nice head and shoulders style shot. The benefit of both lenses is the built in image stability, which allows one to take pictures at one to two stops slower without too much blur- especially at the 17mm end- where things tend to be more in focus, even at f2.8.


d-town (15 of 19)

Jeff Betten at the Misra stage, Deutschtown Music Festival


out_of_the_blue (8 of 44)

Jeremy Caywood, Mike Speranzo and Mark Lyons at Mr. Smalls


ActionCamp (17 of 17)

Action Camp album release at Club Cafe


When zoomed in for closer shots, the wide-open aperture is really taking a chance due to the extremely shallow depth of field, the low light, and a typically fast moving subject. For 35mm and especially 50mm, I very rarely  risk shooting any wider than f3.5, with f4 being preferred in a lot of cases. Unless, of course, I’ve got a lot of light and the luxury of shooting at 1/50th of a second or more.

Shooting in burst mode has really helped me out, as I can take 3-5 shots in succession and have a higher probability of getting one that is both in focus and conveys something cool. Unfortunately, this makes for a time suck on the editing end of things, as it is not uncommon for me to come home with 500 or more photos to sift through, most of which are 5-10 iterations of the same scene, shot seconds apart. The effort and time is worth it to me if I end up with shots I like.


ActionCamp (5 of 17)

Donny Donovan of Hearken at Club Cafe


BBTjuly (24 of 30)

Jenn Jannon-Fischer with The Park Plan at The BBT


BBTjuly (22 of 30)

Joe Tarowsky with The Park Plan at The BBT


Speaking of editing, shooting in RAW format has really been a boon, allowing me more freedom in Lightroom. Very often white balance is a huge issue, especially with less than optimal lighting conditions and mixed light sources. Colored stage lights and unnatural colors can look really cool, so how I handle color temperature really depends on a case by case basis.

In a lot of images, I am usually converting to black and white in the end. For one, white balance is not really an issue in monocrome and secondly, black and white can help mask noisy photos taken on the higher end of the ISO spectrum by making them look gritty and raw. I’ll usually add just a touch of noise reduction and bump up the contrast to help minimize noise as well.


Jake The Hawk

John Huxley and Jake Ferranti of Jake The Hawk at Satalios Bar


Horehound

Horehound at Howlers


Gran Gila

Gran Gila at Satalios Bar


Freedom Hawk

T.R. Morton and Mark Cave of Freedom Hawk at Satalios Bar


out_of_the_blue (30 of 44)

Liz Berlin at Mr. Smalls


As far as shooting techniques, getting to the venue early can help ensure that I can get a spot with a good view while not being in the way of other people there for the show. On that note, I am also not the type to be hanging over things or crawling around on the ground like some sort of snake with a head mounted camera just so I can get “cool angles”. I guess my shooting style is more documentarian anyways, rather than someone who is trying to augment reality with weird angles. To each their own. Maybe my style will change at some point.

I also tend to like to watch the band for one or two songs before snapping any shots. This allows me to pick up on any stage habits and get a sense of how active each member is with moving around on the stage.  Someone who moves around a lot or otherwise has a strong stage presence is going to make for a challenging, but ultimately better looking shot. I like to be able to predict what someone is going to do so I can make sure my camera is set up and ready to take the picture with appropriate settings.


ActionCamp (15 of 17)

Maura Jacob of Action Camp at Club Cafe


BBTjuly (14 of 30)

Brenda Leeds of Old Game at The BBT


out_of_the_blue (44 of 44)

Out Of The Blue at Mr. Smalls


d-town (18 of 19)

Chet Vincent at the Misra Stage, Deutschtown Music Festival


I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing some of my favorite local live band shots from the past year. Consider following this blog through email to stay up to date or like my page on Facebook to keep in touch that way. Thanks for reading.

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I’m Now on Flikr and Instagram!

Not a huge update, but I wanted to let everyone know that I started up a flikr page as the new host for all my images. I am really enjoying the service as it is easy to embed images back to my main site as well as share on other social media pages. Please check out my albums and favorite a few photos if you have a flikr account. Here are some recent photographs from a visit to the Oakland area of Pittsburgh:

Fountain

reflecting_lotus

phipps at night

locks

Not as exciting, but still worthy of note, is that I also put together a profile on Instagram. I really have no intention of posting photos that weren’t taken on my DSLR and edited, so this service is not as valuable to me as flikr. There are workarounds that make uploading images from PC a possibility, rather than strictly using the app, but they are somewhat limiting. Maybe I’ll warm up to Instagram with more use. The plus side is that there are a lot of people on there and it is really easy to interact with followers.

I have a huge back catalog of images that I’ll be going through and will be adding them to my Flikr site as I see fit. As it stands now, I could easily add a new photo every day well into next year. I am also on Facebook. Once I hit the 5000 friend cap, I might consider starting up a proper dedicated page for my music and photography. Until then, feel free to add me on my normal facebook profile.

Emily Rodgers Band on PCTV, Promote New Album

Yesterday evening Emily Rodgers Band did an in studio interview and performed three songs on PCTV’s  new television series Hugh Shows. The episode is currently being edited and will be available to view shortly. Past episodes are available to watch on PCTV’s YouTube channel. The performance and interview were in promotion of Rodgers’ third release, 2 Years, which comes out today on Misra Records. The album is currently up for streaming on the Stereo Embers Magazine website, which also includes a review. A CD release show is scheduled at Club Café on June 18, with a pre-sale ticket price of $8.

In other ER news, there was a recent article in the City paper, which can be read here. Three music videos have been released as well, embeded below.