Live performance photography

The Crème de la Crème this year….

In my last post I mentioned my punk singers portrait & interview project. One copy will be auctioned for charity once it is signed by the artists. I had great fun with that project and it was really good to be working on something that meant a lot to me personally.

I also mentioned The Crème de la Crème this year….

As photographers we find genres that we enjoy. Personally I’ve always liked to look at concert & photojournalist images. I’ve also enjoyed the challenges of live performance photography.

I like the challenge of changing light and movement. If you think its easy to take concert or performance photographs, go try it; especially in smaller venues.

Along with gig photography I have somehow fallen into the genre of portraiture. This is something I did not expect when I started out and thankfully I can say there isn’t anyone I have not enjoyed photographing. I’ve had a couple of shoots where it has felt awkward and uncomfortable, even hard work but the results have made it all worth while.

I’ve even dabbled a little with photo-journalism and been published.

So, that is a little background for those that are new to my page and hopefully explains why I got excited about my latest shoot and why for me, it is The Crème de la Crème so far this year….

I was introduced to someone at The Rambert Dance Company and contacted them with regards to a college project that would include editorial style photography with some portraiture and I was hoping to include full dress rehearsal with stage lighting.

Pretty much giving me the chance to indulge in everything I’ve come to enjoy about being a photographer.

I had a tour of Rambert’s home on the Southbank; clean, organised, minimalist, modern and functional. The few people I met seemed passionate about their work and the performers were being put through their paces.

While I was walking around I could easily visualise the project I wanted to shoot.

Unfortunately they were already mid way through a production and for a number of other reasons the project had to be temporarily put on hold.

Disappointed but with no intention of abandoning the hope of shooting a project with Rambert, I had planned on approaching them later in the year to seek permissions to shoot a project.

Move forward a couple of months…. I have a few days off and I’m getting some equipment ready to shoot a gig. Two cameras cleaned, lenses cleaned and numerous batteries being charged. Then I get a text followed by a phone call and I’ve agreed to a very very short notice shoot. A shoot that ties in with the type of thing I want to do; the type of shoot I thoroughly enjoy. The type of opportunity that only a complete baffon would turn down.

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure it out but just in case you’ve not kept up, it is The Rambert Dance Company looking for a photographer to shoot their performers and senior artists from Mac Cosmetics Creative Team.

I would love to tell you that they had always planned to use me because they liked my work, were aware that I was featured as a canon showcase photographer or that a photograph taken at Illamasqua received over 10.000 hits on the internet within a few days. However, thats not the case. Yes one of the Rambert team was aware of me, they needed a photographer at short notice and I happened to be available.

I’m not going to pretend to be über cool and blasé about the call; I was very excited about it. Come on, how could I not be?!

If they like me I might get the chance to shoot a production from start to finish. If they like my work I might get the opportunity to work with them again. If Mac Cosmetics like what they see, they might even contact me at a future date.

Then the slight panic that I don’t have much of a brief, I have an idea but I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to need because I’ve had no time to plan.

Like I said, I’d like to say that it was my style and my work that made me the first person they thought of but it was actually more to do with being local and available. Yes it really was that short notice!

Right, a fixed 50mm, fixed 85mm and a 24mm – 70mm… do I take a 70-200? I didn’t but I would have used one if I had it with me. [Note to self: take the 70-200mm]

Lighting stands and modifiers; what am I going to need? There is going to be a cosmetics company so I guess they will have decent lights…. what if they don’t?

Okay, I decide I will take two flash guns and a couple of lighting mods but I’m feeling a little anxious because I’m not 100% sure what to expect when I arrive. However, I’ve got cameras, I’ve got flashes, I know what I’m doing and my job that provides my main income has taught me to be level headed and pragmatic (apparently that is also an Aries trait). I also felt quietly reassured because I know there is a local hire company that could deliver if I needed anything.

I arrive at Rambert and was greeted as warmly and friendly as the day I was shown around. I’m introduced to their team and given more of a brief.

I ask a little about the production to get an idea about lighting, they are filming so I ask if I can use flash photography and I get the go-ahead.

Due to the make up demonstration within the area I was working there was no room for light stands and modifiers so I had a couple of options with regards to lights. Thats something I have learned and something you will always read, no matter how limited you are with space, kit and options, you do have options and that is why it is important to know what and how to get the best from your equipment.

For me, shadows were going to be an issue but looking at the make up design and the fact the dancers will be under stage lighting I opted for some direct hard light and bounced light; shadows were going to be an issue so it would be best to use them and make a feature of them. Provided the client has clean well lit photographs of the performers, their photo editors would be able to easily deal with back ground shadows if they were not happy with them.

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Joshua Barwick & Dominic Skinner  ©2016 Jim Jimmy James [Marr]

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Luke Ahmet ©2016 Jim Jimmy James [Marr]

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©2016 Jim Jimmy James [Marr]

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Lucy Balfour ©2016 Jim Jimmy James [Marr]

I hope Rambert, Mac & the artists like the images. I guess I’ll only ever really know if I get invited back. I hope you like the images too.

Anyhow, I’ve seen them working hard and as professionals they made it incredibly easy work photographing them. So it seems right I should book some tickets and see the final performance to judge for myself if the lighting aesthetic of the images works with the performance & stage lights.

My night shifts start again tomorrow so tonight is my weekend. Think I might have a wee dram from The Glengoyne Distillery  and catch up with those blogs I’ve missed over the last few weeks.

As always, thank you for visiting my page & have a great weekend.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James.

Did you miss me?

Maybe? Yes – No. Probably not!

But someone did. I got a message from someone that never comments and never clicks like but follows the blog. They said that I’ve not posted in a while and they hoped everything was okay.

I read somewhere that if you are blogging and going to have a break you should announce that break. The reasons they gave were because people that follow the blog may think you’ve just given it up and remove your blog from their follow list. But also an online community is a community; that even though it is a virtual community, people will still wonder what happened to that man or woman that used to post about this that and the other. I’m very grateful for the message and I will try to remember to announce my absence in the future.

The reason I have not posted is because I have been distracted. It has all been very busy. Lots going on with life in general, work getting in the way of college and my projects. Projects and more projects. Ideas and more ideas and then work again….. I’ve been juggling so much I should apply for a job with the circus.

Actually I would love to live with and shoot a circus for a week or two. That would be pretty cool.

So, I have just finished college and am awaiting confirmation of grades but the preliminary result is a distinction for both projects.

We have some work on show at The Morley College Landing Gallery Although that does not run much longer. I believe there should be a link on there for image sales if anyone wants to check out some other photographers.

I’ve been to a few gigs and recently shot Mood Six who were/are a band made up of existing Mod bands. They have reformed after thirty years and were supported by Miles over Matter. Another old band ‘The vagabonds of psychedelia’ that have been putting themselves out there again. Both bands were excellent and it was nice to be shooting live performances again. (Note to self, when shooting concerts take ear plugs)

However, as much as photographing my punk singers book has been a massive highlight & good fun. The Crème de la Crème this year has got to be ……………. Sorry but like all good TV soaps I am going to leave you on that hanger and you’ll have to come back later in the week.

For now, here are a couple of shots from a recent gig.

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Phil Ward: Mood Six. ©2016 jim jimmy james

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Miles Davis Landesman: Jola: Steve Council: Miles over Matter. ©2016 jim jimmy james

As a side note, Miles had links to the dance company that I had the pleasure of photographing last week.

Thanks for stopping, reading, looking and thank you for the DM.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James

A very personal project

If you’ve been here before you’ll know that I have college projects to get done in very tight timeframes.

You’ll also know that I often pick assignments that could & should take months to plan and months to shoot.

I don’t make life easy for myself and friends think I am a typical aires that thrives on pressure. I’m not entirely sure I would agree.

For my next submission I could have picked product photography, landscapes and various other genres of photography but this will be a very personal project based on portraiture and the subjects, although not personal friends have influenced me in various ways over the years.

Some of the subjects will be in their mid 50’s and the eldest I hope to photograph is in his 70s.

Last night I took the first of ten to twenty portraits and I am very pleased to report that I am very happy with the result.

Everyone has a vulnerability about them and this person has an extreme confidence; for good reason as he is very talented as a performer & people display a lot of affection towards him.

As usual I did not take anywhere near as many frames as I should have but I believe I have caught more than this persons public persona and that was intended.

I was also able to confirm another two sitters that I had already spoken to. I have an idea how I’d like to light and shoot them. If I am successful I think I will capture a blend of their personal self & the personality they publicly display.

Regardless of getting good grades at the end of this project it is important for me to get this right purely because of what these people mean to me.

I also tried to get some band portraits last night with some success but as things had over run at the sound check we had a bit of a distracting audience which made things harder to direct. Added with the time constraints for the venue opening the doors to the venue it was a bit of a rush. I had hoped to get about four different images that the band would be able to use and I’m sure they’d be happy with the results but the reality is I have one that I would personally be happy to share.

The gig last night was fantastic and I made a point of not taking lots of photos. As far as I’m concerned that was a good decision. I had a cracking night and the management of the venue offered me free entry to another gig that I was planning on going to. Result!

I got to play around with the camera last night. I wanted to try some things out so that is what I did…..

The 100 club are selling a locally brewed lager which is great to see them supporting a brewery that produces a rather fine lager.IMG_0093

Do be aware though that too many pints may cause the following results…

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That was a mild attempt a humour, like me, I am sure both The 100 club & The Camden Brewery would promote ‘sensible drinking‘.

The gig was very rowdy which made it difficult to get clean shots last night but fortunately that was not what I had intended.

I like a particular female photographers work. I’m not going to mention her by name because of “Google statistical gold” or what ever its called.

(Okay, if you really want to know… follow this link)

I love the look of images caught on film but its expensive. Digital just does not produce the same texture but I thought I’d try getting the settings a little wrong and see what I could come up with.

I’ve pushed the ISO a little, selected what would be an incorrect shutter speed if I wanted to freeze motion and I opted for a depth of field appropriate to put the exposure triangle into what would ordinarily be less than perfect.

The two bands I photographed last night are energetic and pretty intense. I wanted to show that in the images by capturing some movement with only a little blurring. So no flash & I made no effort to correct the white balance in camera or in software; with the intention of making adjustments to contrast, whites, blacks & luminance.

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Info Riot – 100 Club – 18th Dec 2015

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Info Riot – 100 Club – 18th Dec 2015

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The Last Resort – 100 Club – 18th Dec 2015

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The Last Resort – 100 Club – 18th Dec 2015

I am sure that there will be some software out there that would get me closer to the intensity I wanted to produce but maybe I am just going to have to invest in a film camera, film and a home dark room!

As always, thanks for stopping and taking a peek at my images. Please feel free to comment.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James

Diversity

At college we were asked to print a large poster sized image that was going to be displayed along side images from other photographers attending the college.

It was really good to see the diversity of subjects shot. Although I think it would have also been nice if the lecturers had displayed an image that they’d taken over the year.

Anyway, I was thinking about diversity and style.

I have been told a few times by a few people that I have a consistency with my portraiture and gig photography. This is intended as a compliment and very much taken as one.

It may be true amongst my own peer group but I suspect in the wider world of photography my images would not necessarily carry a definite style that would be associated or credited directly to me. Naturally I would love someone to look at an image and say “that looks very much in the style of JJJ’s portraiture”. I’m a very long way off from that & I think it is something that just happens, we find our feet, capture what we like, when we like, how we like and then develop & process those images to our personal taste.

Some advice I was given was to do what I want to do; what I like rather than try to conform to ‘the norm’. Not to do what I think people will like or want to buy, but, to do what I do and let the people that like what I do find me.

I think this is good advice to maintain an enjoyment of photography. However, to sell images, either to cover costs of equipment and trips or time and effort, certainly to make a living, there is also a need to produce and be able to consistently produce images that a wider audience can appreciate.

Where am I going with all of this….. well, along with my class mates I took about eight images to college and had to select one for the end of year exhibition.

The image that was picked was a gig photo, black and white, high contrast with low key lighting. It was also a bit gritty with the subject being heavily tattooed and looking a bit rough & ready.

The image was selected because my peers felt that this best summed up the images they are used to seeing from me. Its not the one I intended to go with but I’m actually really pleased that its the one I had printed.

Why?

Because its the one I had the most fun getting. It was also, by far the most challenging to take.

I guess I should post it? I will.

My class were surprised at the other images I had brought along; a swan, landscape, still life…….. Its kind of nice to be pigeonholed into a particular genre and style but the truth is that I take a range of photographs in a range of styles because I think selecting a diverse subject matter will ultimately improve my images.

It would also be nice to produce images that would fit into the stock photography bracket and this is something I will have a look at towards the end of the year.

Below is the live performance photograph that was printed and displayed at college:

Oi! Roi!

Below is a still life that I did not take as one of my selections but I feel still has a slight dark and gritty element that I like.

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I wish digital photography had the same feel as film. I’d love to shoot film but its an expense that I can not justify.

Two further still life images follow. There is some further editing that should be done but I have included them just as examples of stuff I have been working on.

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A number of things could be changed in this image. I could have ironed the backdrop or dealt with the creases post production. I could have selected bananas that were more yellow and some fruits that was a little less natural without dents and marks. However, the fruit was bought to be eaten and not with the intention to be photographed.

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The cropping on this image is a little tight and there are a few other obvious little tweaks I would make. Again the food was not selected to be photographed but to be eaten. Very nice it was too.

Fortunately everything I have done around photography has been a really fun learning experience. Some of it has been a little stressed but still fun & I hope to see even more of an improvement over the next year.

As always, feel free to comment, email, add constructive criticism and thank you for stopping by.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James

You can See, Like and Comment on images at My flickr account

I need a dodge in Camden.

Well finally something I think I will enjoy is on locally. Unless I’m getting a Hackney Carriage home and he decides to take the scenic route!

Actually it was a very entertaining journey and he knocked the meter price back down to where is should’ve been.

FARE PLAY!

Sorry! Just couldn’t resist it.

So, the night begins in a mexican restaurant near to KOKO in Camden. For the older folk that have moved away, this used to be The Music Machine.

Me and my date for the night (The lucky lady has been my date for the last 27 years) walk in to a mexican restaurant to get some grub and The Urban Voodoo Machine are there chilling out. To my surprise they don’t say a word to the table of ten girls sat next to them in their net ball outfits. Not very Rock ‘n’ Roll but very gentlemanly.

I know one of them has clocked the camera (The band not the net ball team) and I feel like saying to him, relax, yes I know who you are but there is a time and a place for photos and I’m not disturbing your last hour before a gig.

Its just not the done thing…. Its not how I work. I want people I shoot to trust me. I do not want to put sneaky photos out there and I’m not going to put out anything I would consider unflattering.

Entering KOKO. “Excuse me Sir, No cameras!” What the….. You’re kidding me right?

My wife then asks rhetorically “what even though almost everyone has a phone?”……… I have to say at this point that the security chap was extremely polite and I asked for his supervisor who offered to call the manager…. Its not on the tickets that we have, nor have I noticed anything on their website stating no cameras.

So here I am, camera in hand and ready to demand a refund when the manager of the venue apologises for the situation, appears empathetic to my concerns over the safety of my kit and gives a personal reassurance that it will be looked after.

Reluctantly I accompany him to a secure area and hand over my baby. I feel like its in safe hands but there is a niggling doubt that leaves me a little uncomfortable and somewhat diminishes my enjoyment of the show.

You know what else detracted from the show…. people holding up phones to take substandard photos and videos….. other people with DSLRs without battery grips turning their camera into portrait position and holding the camera in such a way that their elbows are poking out and obstructing other peoples views. Flashes going off… I wouldn’t have used a flash, the lighting at the venue was great, I’m always mindful of an audience that has paid good money to see a gig, nor am I recording moving images and sound, … I am not sure if this is a policy of the venue, the particular promotor or the artists? I’m disappointed.

The front man for the urban voodoo machine is our master of ceremonies, our compare…He is perfect, one or two little slip ups but does a fantastic job of keeping the evening moving. The Crunch start us off and are much better than I expected. Terry Chimes starts hammering out a rhythm accompanied by Dave Tregunna on Bass and Mickey Geggus showing us how to play an axe with attitude. On vocals and the second guitar is Sulo Karlsson.

The Crunch go on my list of bands to see again but preferably somewhere both I and my camera are welcome.

Don Letts then spun a few tunes before Chris Salewicz confidently gave a reading from his Joe Strummer biography ‘Redemption Song’. As a side note Mr. Salewicz came to the Joe Strummer underpass because he heard something was going on there one night. It was just me tinkering with my guitar… I’m very novice at guitar and most certainly do not consider myself a vocalist but if your interested it is here (Building work was going on in the subway and it was one of the most stressful things I’ve done). Intended to be just a record for me and a way of me looking back to see if I have improved. If you do decide to view it or even comment, be gentle.

I’ve no idea how Chris heard about it or what he thought was going on but none the less it was nice of him to stop and spend five minutes chatting.

Back to last night; the screening of ‘I need a dodge’ directed by Nick Hall. This was mostly in Spanish with English subtitles. It was an easy watch and at points it raised a few laughs. There was a bit of a racket from the bar area during the reading and screening; some fella that looked like Gary Bushall but surely it couldn’t of been him? He surely wouldn’t be that loud? Really THAT LOUD!

Then more music with various artists and singers. The billing from the KOKO website read….

….Cadiz Music presents Rock N Roll Cinema – The premier UK screening of ‘I need a dodge! Joe Strummer on the run’, on  Wednesday 25 March.

As well as a screening of the film, the evening will also offer an all-star band, playing The Clash and Joe Strummer songs. All Star Band with Special Guest Vocalists including… WAYNE KRAMER from MC5
CHARLEY HARPER from UK SUBS
RUTS DC
CHRIS BAILEY from THE SAINTS
NORMAN WATT-ROY from THE BLOCKHEADS & WILKO JOHNSON BAND
MARTIN CHAMBERS from THE PRETENDERS
PAUL RONNEY ANGEL from THE URBAN VOODOO MACHINE
TYMON DOGG from THE MESCALEROS + ANTONIO ARIAS from 091
RACHID TAHA & HENRY PADOVANI from THE POLICE
LARRY LOVE from ALABAMA 3 THE CRUNCH – FEAT. TERRY CHIMES from THE CLASH / MICKY GEGGUS from the COCKNEY REJECTS / DAVE TREGUNNA from SHAM 69 and SULO KARLSSON from DIAMOND DOGS Plus Don Letts perform an exclusive DJ set.

Back to me: What an awesome gig, I really do not remember when I last felt the floor move so much.

I don’t write gig reviews so I will suggest you buy Vive Le Rock magazine as I’m pretty certain they will have it covered. If not I will be seriously surprised.

I’d happily watch this set again tomorrow. I thoroughly thoroughly enjoyed the night. Missed my camera, kept feeling anxious about my camera but what a great gig.

As far as photography goes I got nothing more than a quickly snatched shot of Don Letts and Chris Salewicz.

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Along with a quick shot of my knee. Yep my knee!

In my day job I quickly learnt not to kneel and that every situation presents something to learn from…… in this case it was do not kneel.

Yes I made the school boy error of kneeling down in a venue and ended up with a patch on my knee that smells like vomit.

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So thats that.

A very unsuccessful gig shoot.

Until next time, thanks for stopping and reading.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James.

Travelling light…with a light!

This is a follow up from my previous post regarding traveling light.

A recent visit to Barcelona left me thinking I should have brought more lenses with me.

After asking what the best set up is for a photographer to travel light, a few people have suggested a 35mm lens for street style photography and it is looking increasingly like a prime 35 is going to find its way into my kit bag.

However, sometimes its about taking an image that is further away and needing at least a 200mm focal length.

I also found that in some places I wished I’d had a tripod. Huh! I actually took one away with me but then I didn’t want to carry it around everywhere.

So moving on from the holiday snaps to gig photography. When I read about concert photography it seems to me that the ideal set up is two cameras with two different focal length lenses. After all there are numerous reasons you don’t really want to be changing lenses in front of a stage.

At gigs the light ranges from less than ideal to total crap and in many mid to large sized venues the general rule is “Three songs – No flash”. Non the less I have learned a valuable lesson…… Take a bloody flash with you!

When do you get invited back stage to hang out with a band?

When do you get an opportunity to photograph a band getting ready back stage?

When do you get a chance to get a good back stage portrait?

Not often but it can and did happen…. The Adicts are a punk band that have been around for years. I am in my mid 40s and I remember some of their songs since my late-ish teenage years.

I’ve always said that until I started learning to play bass and guitar that I was blinkered in my music taste and preferred old ska, two tone and the more heavy punk bands such as The Anti-Nowhere and so on.

I only really knew The Adicts from songs on the radio, friends mix tapes (Mix Tapes a thing of the past!) and one or two compilation albums. I liked their stuff but unfortunately they were never on my radar as a band I had to see.

I say unfortunately because I have missed out on years of great showmanship. A friend recently asked me to go and see them at The 100 club in London but I couldn’t make it. So I first watched them perform live in Berlin this year and was blown away. Musically tight, a bunch of lads on stage looking like they were loving every minute of it and visually…. How do I describe them visually?

A mix of clockwork orange and the joker, with a hint of mardi gras they were colorful and theatrical. Maybe it would be best described as comedia dell’arte.

I didn’t take many photos because I was so distracted I just wanted to watch the show unfold. Simply Brilliant!

I’ve been keeping an eye out for them performing in London since that first live show… Nothing.

So, my wife and I had some time off, we had plans to see a bit more of Germany at sometime and The Adicts were playing in Wiesbaden. That was it. We didn’t need another reason, tickets booked and off we went.

The venue was heaving and I had no chance of making my way along the front of the stage to try and get any images. As with the previous gig, the lively crowed were all singing along and the show was spectacularly spectacular.

There was of course the added bonus of being invited back stage with permission to take some images….. Great but guess what? I was travelling light with no bloody flash!!!!!

I took a handful of images back stage but the light was so dim it required a high ISO setting which left the images extremely noisy. Some could be saved with a quick black and white conversion but others will require a bit more practice with the post processing fine tuning.

I managed to get a few reasonable shots of the gig but it was difficult not to put the camera down and go and join in the fun with the audience. I have to say that I will definitely be seeing The Adicts perform again and they are at the top of my list of bands as a “Must See Band”.

Back stage with The Adicts. The only half decent light was over a broken seat.

Back stage with The Adicts. The only half decent light was over a broken seat.

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On a personal note, they couldn’t have been more friendly, welcoming and engaging.

Sincere and warm hearted thanks to Monkey and the rest of The Adicts for their hospitality.

(Gents, if you happen to see this and you need a UK based photographer….)

Lesson learned: Travel light but take a light!

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James.