26th Aug 2014
I was able to secure a 'Press Pass' for the Friday and the Sunday evenings but sadly not for Tom Jones on the Saturday, the press pass enabled me to gain access to the area affectionately know as The Pit - the area immediately in front of the stage. Now while this might appear to be the best vantage point from which to photograph the acts it also comes with its downside, the bass that is pumped out from the huge speakers makes your whole body feel as if its being constantly defibrillated ........ but I'm not complaining. Far from it, I had a wonderful couple of evenings and hope this Blog gives you a taste of this great event.
The Friday evening was 80's & 90's evening with bands from that era taking us back in time by playing their old hits - remember Captain Sensible?
What a great way to start off the weekend.
I was kitted up with my trusty Canon 5D MkIII which has good weather resistance should we catch a shower or two, if more persistent rain arrived then I could quickly slip on my OpTech rainsleeve for added security. (I have included a link but I want to make it clear that I am not paid by OpTech or Wex and it is included for information purposes only).
On the front of my camera I used my 70-200mm f4 L IS lens which gave me the ability to zoom in for close up images and yet still have a wide enough angle to take in most of the stage albeit from an oblique angle. The combination was able to focus on my subjects very quickly and resulted in very few 'out of focus' images. I used a variety of settings through out the weekend as light levels changed.
I made a conscious decision about my camera settings.
1) I wanted to have a shutter speed of around 1/350 sec to ensure my images were sharp.
A tip for sharp, hand held images is to try and use a shutter speed that is at least the equivalent of the focal length being used. i.e. for a 200mm focal length lens try to use a shutter speed in excess of 1/200 sec. A lot of lenses have a form of 'image stabilisation' built into them and their effective is improving is getting better with each generation of lenses but I still like to have the safety net of a decent shutter speed. Also my subject is constantly moving around the stage so motion blur is something else I was keen to avoid, ideally I would have liked to have used a faster shutter speed as the wave of a hand or a toss of the head would still be rendered as a blur even at 1/350 sec. For me this was my most important part of my settings so I set my camera in Tv mode.
2) I wanted to use as low as ISO as low as possible to make sure I got the best quality RAW files I could. As your ISO increases, not only do we start to see an increase in digital noise but we also start to loose dynamic range in our images - simply put it reduces the contrast in our images. I knew that as the light faded I would be forced to shoot at increasingly higher ISO's to keep my shutter speed around 1/350 sec so I started out with my ISO set to Auto.
By using Tv mode and setting my ISO to Auto this allowed my camera to choose the most suitable aperture for the lighting conditions.
Now I did experiment during the evening with manual exposure settings, dialling in some exposure compensation and even went in to Av mode for a few 'creative' images. Its all about learning how your equipment behaves under different circumstances and trying something different in an attempt to get an image that is different to the other photographers.
One thing to keep in mind when photographing concerts is that the light and exposure settings will be constantly changing as different stage lights are used to illuminate the entertainers and provide visual effects. It is almost impossible to shoot entirely in 'manual mode' and get the correct exposure every time hence the need to rely on the technology built into our cameras to ensure we get the highest number of well exposed images as possible. By leaving the exposure settings to the camera it leave me free to concentrate on composition and managing the focus points of my camera.
Now speaking of focus points the 5D MIII has 61 of them for us to choose from and each one can be manually selected, this allows us to compose our image in either landscape or portrait format and then select the perfect point of focus to ensure a sharp image.
Above is a representation of the 61 AF points on the 5D MkIII, the focus point in red shows which point is selected - I wont go into detail of how to change the focus points as the procedure will differ for each camera suffice to say if you wish to try selecting different points now is the time to dig out the manual that came with your camera!
So now I am ready to go, my camera is set up and all I need to do is decide on my format - landscape or portrait, make a composition, select the focus point and fire away. Its always worth 'chimping' occasionally to see if you need to dial in some exposure compensation to ensure your images are exposed as perfectly as possible. This is difficult to get 'spot on' as there are lots of lights illuminating the performers and as they move around they move into some lights and out of others but you will soon start to get a feel for how the images will be exposed.
When you look at the image on the rear view screen of your camera try to get into the habit of assessing your images by using the histogram rather than an overall impression of the image. Often an image can look great on the rear screen but be way to dark or bright when viewed on your computer screen. It all depends on the brightness of our cameras screen. If you don't know how to view the images histogram then its another reason to dig out the camera's manual.
So what makes for a good composition?
I like to try and get on the 'open' side of the performers - if they hold the microphone in their right hand this means being on their left hand side, the reason for this is that you will usually get an uninterrupted view of their face. If you were on their right side then their right hand/arm and the microphone will usually obscure their face. Not always but quite often, so its an artistic decision you have to make as the photographer.
So I like to get my images with faces clear of arms, hands, microphones etc. This isn't always possible but it doesn't stop me trying.
I like to use a zoom lens and get in close on the performers this brings a sense of intimacy to our images, almost as if the performer is performing just for 'you' the person viewing the images. Even better if you can get some eye contact with the performer, as in the image about of *** from the group B*witched.
This can be something as simple as a dark background and an illuminated performer such as the image of Rhydian on the right or it can be something more spectacular, like capturing the performer in a unique 'action' like pose while belting out their popular songs. Some artists have traditional poses they like to adopt during or after a song so try to anticipate the action and be ready for it when it comes.
On the right is an image of Heather Small, arm raised as if to salute the crowd after one of her tracks, a wide aperture of f4 diffuses the background and helps me to give Heather an almost 3D quality.
So should you ever get the opportunity to photograph a concert then once you have set your camera up you can sit back, enjoy the evening while capturing some great images. Oh and don't forget what is going on behind you too, the audience reactions can make for some great images too. Keep in mind that the audience is not usually illuminated as well as the performers are so you will need to use high ISO's in the gloom but modern cameras have really good high ISO performance and software like Lightroom and Dfine can really reduce the noise that has captured in your Raw files. Digital noise won't really be noticeable in images that have been resized for web use, can you see any noise in the above images?
The one of Heather Small was taken at ISO 3200 and is perfectly acceptable, I would be confident of printing this image out at A3 size and even larger without the digital noise being a problem.
The image below taken during a heavy rain storm of an elderly lady waving the Union Jack flag and singing her heart out was taken at ISO 12800 again it is perfectly acceptable for web use but we are starting to reach the limit of what is deemed acceptable when printed out at A3 sizes and larger.
So unless you are taking images to print out large then my advice would be not to worry too much about using high ISO's.
To conclude this Blog post on Lytham Proms here are a few more images from the event and all I can say is "roll on next year"!
Over the next couple of weeks I will be writing a Blog post on Tatcon, the recent Tattoo Convention up at Norbreck Castle in Blackpool so check back soon.