I had noticed this lighting scheme earlier in the song and missed it, focusing elsewhere. But when guitarist Brendt Allman went into his solo, I waited to see if it would happen again. Sure enough, it did. EOS-1D Mark IV, EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS II. ISO 3200, 1/200 f/2.8.

I had noticed this lighting scheme earlier in the song and missed it, focusing elsewhere. But when guitarist Brendt Allman went into his solo, I waited to see if it would happen again. Sure enough, it did. EOS-1D Mark IV, EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS II. ISO 3200, 1/200 f/2.8.

A few years ago, I managed to start working with one of my favorite groups of musicians, a progressive heavy metal band from Pennsylvania called Shadow Gallery.  This has led to me collaborating with them in a number of ways.  I did some publicity photos for them, shot a music video (in another first for me) that ended up getting play on MTV in Europe, and in what I consider a career highlight, shot my first concert performance- which also happened to be their first concert performance.

Having never shot a live performance, I didn’t know what to expect.  I knew the venue was a small local place, so I had no idea what the lighting would be like. I came prepared with two lenses, an EF 24-105 f/4L and EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS II, as well as a 580EX II speedlite. I wasn’t sure the speedlites would be allowed, and even if they were, felt they would limit my shooting since I’d have to wait for the recycle. I used two cameras- a Canon EOS 7D and a Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. Both are capable of relatively high ISO’s, which I knew I’d be using in a dimly lit concert venue. By raising the ISO, it minimized how hard the flash would have to work.  I experimented starting at ISO 800, and finally settled on ISO 3200 a song or two into the show.

The great thing about musical performances is the lighting is generally pretty

This shot was early in the show, and I was experimenting with flash for my exposures. I used the built-in flash on the EOS 7D, and set the flash exposure compensation to -1 so as not to overpower the ambient. The result was good fill on his face, while the stage lighting created a nice backlight. The slower shutter speed of 1/100 allowed some motion blur in the hair, but that adds to the energy of the image. ISO was only 800 here, as it was the first song and I was still experimenting.

This shot was early in the show, and I was experimenting with flash for my exposures. I used the built-in flash on the EOS 7D, and set the flash exposure compensation to -1 so as not to overpower the ambient. The result was good fill on his face, while the stage lighting created a nice backlight. The slower shutter speed of 1/100 allowed some motion blur in the hair, but that adds to the energy of the image. ISO was only 800 here, as it was the first song and I was still experimenting.

interesting, if not all that bright.  What I wanted to do was figure out, when the lights were at their brightest, what my exposure should be.  I had the luxury of an opening act to shoot some tests. In addition, I wasn’t limited to just three songs like you might be with more well-known performers. I had an entire two hour show, so I took the first two songs to really nail my exposure down.

Even when using flash, I wanted to balance the flash with ambient light, not overpower the ambient lighting.  To do this, I shot in Manual mode.  I set my aperture wide open at f/2.8 or f/4 depending on the camera.  I wanted a shutter speed fast enough to stop any movement on stage, so I ended up settling on 1/200 for the most part. Knowing the 7D would be a bit noisier at the high ISOs due to the smaller sensor, and that the lens I was using was a stop slower, I put the 24-105 on that camera and shot it at 1/100 at f/4 to give it an extra stop of exposure.  That allowed some motion blur to creep in, but for the most part I lost very shots due to motion blur.

The constantly changing lighting meant that some shots just vanished as I pressed the shutter button.  The lighting was frantic and pulsing and constantly changing. But after a song or two, it got easier to predict the patterns, as well as see where the band members liked to stand so I could plan for a shot. After a time I ditched

the flash and opted to shoot sequences at 8 and 10 frames per second to be sure I caught a good expression or peak action. In some cases, I’d catch great lighting for an instant, and then wait to see if the lighting sequence repeated and I could catch it again.

Overall, it was a great experience, one I hope to repeat again some time. It was the perfect combination for me- great music and photography.

After a while I turned off the flash and raised the ISO up. Shooting using only the ambient light created some dramatic lighting situations. EOS 7D, EF 24-105 f/4L IS/ ISO 3200, 1/100, f/4.

After a while I turned off the flash and raised the ISO up. Shooting using only the ambient light created some dramatic lighting situations. EOS 7D, EF 24-105 f/4L IS/ ISO 3200, 1/100, f/4.