14 December 2015

Duran Duran at Bournemouth BIC

Over the last few years I've been fortunate enough to photography many of my favourite 80's bands, and finally here was my chance to shoot one of the biggest bands of the era. 

Or was it?

When I left home a mid afternoon all I had was a ticket for a seat up in the gods of the BIC.  Normally I have no problem sneaking my smallest Olympus camera in, but I wanted to shoot them properly. 

The confirmation came just 3 hours before the doors opened.  I had a photo pass!  Happy days!

Arriving at the venue early I found myself again with "rock star parking", although the scraping of the vans aerial on the roof of the low ceilinged car park was a little worrying while parking.

The warm up act was the Bloom Twins, but due to my love affair with all things Ukraine, they'll get a blog post of their own.

The stage was one of the best lit I've ever seen - bright lights everywhere.  No need to push the camera to its ISO limits here or fast prime lens, which made for a welcome change from some of the smaller venues I've shot at this year.

As normal we got just the first 3 songs to shoot.  These were Paper Gods (a kind of forgettable new song), Wild Boys (it's not easy to sing along and photograph at the same time!), and Hungry Like The Wolf.

Simon Le Bon with his skinny white jeans was on fine voice, and didn't look or sound a bit of his 57 years.  At times he was so close to the edge of the stage I could have reached out and touched his shoe - although I didn't.

I stood just off to the side of the stage for the rest of the concert - the security staff didn't seem to mind at all.  Other than when the paper canon shot its load, and during the mobile phone lights of Save A Prayer I just enjoyed the show.

At nearly two hours long they were excellent value for money and I stayed until the arena lights went up.

17 November 2015

Photographing the biggest fitness competition in the UK!

As I said in a Facebook post the day after the biggest WBFF UK event to date, and quite possibly their biggest ever one day event with around 300 competitors on stage, it really is a huge privilege to be in the position of the only photographer allowed to shoot backstage.

After the attacks in Paris the night before, security around the O2 was as you'd expect that little bit more in-your-face than normal.

Despite the self titled "grumpy photographer" persona I do always try and be as helpful as I can at these events, whether that's getting the tv monitors turned on in the competitors changing area upstairs, helping one of the competitors get into the venue because her name wasn't on the list, recovering a mislaid phone, telling someone they should probably be changed into their themewear by now, to randomly photo bombing photos....! It's all part of the service.

It's a tough event to shoot, with so many people, scattered around different floors of the venue and a show that lasts over 6 hours. Just like the competitors however I'm always trying to improve on the service I provide. I ended up with nearly twice as many photos as for the previous WBFF UK event, which of course means an explosion of likes and comments on social media.

I normally take more photos of the women, not just for the more obvious reasons, but because I know they are much more likely to purchase the images after the event. This was something that Paul Dillett touched on in the athletes meeting - that the women are much more likely to do a photoshoot etc than the guys. He's so right. I've shot 5 WBFF events now, and as yet not one guy has bought any of the images. I took lots more of the guys at this event, so lets see if that statistic changes at all. So far though it's looking like status quo, and I'll revert back to photographing the girls more at the next event. This isn't me being grumpy, just a casual observation.

** Update - one of the guys has just purchased two images!

The backstage team, lead by James Conci-Mitchell really are quite brilliant at making the show as slick as it always is. I've seen how big shows can go badly wrong, with one in Canada not finishing until 3am, by which time everyone was like, just give the damn prizes to someone, we really don't care any more....!

Getting on the WBFF stage (arguably the best stage in the business) doesn't come cheap, so I both respect and thank everyone who does support what I do by purchasing my photos. You allow me to keep doing what I love.

To everyone else who shares my images, while cropping out my logo and / or not crediting me....   Not cool.  Not cool at all.  May your next spray tan come up all blotchy!

My backstage images are all available to buy at just £15 each (£10 each if you want more than 5).

Having been called a "fun and bubbly person" by one of the competitors I'm clearly going to need to work harder at being "the grumpy photographer" more next year!

On that note I shall be trying very hard to get myself to the WBFF World Championships in Toronto towards the end of August. As well as having some good friends in the city and being that much closer to England, it's a much better choice for me because you can actually be outside without self-combusting from the extreme desert heat you normally get that time of year in Las Vegas. As I specialise in shooting outside, this is very good for me, and I look forward to doing lots of shoots on the beaches in Toronto this summer.

Thank you for reading, and thank you Team WBFF UK for letting play a small part in your amazing events.

Oh, all of the competitor shots can be found over on my Facebook page.

10 November 2015

Southsea seafront

Even on a nice sunny day I find Southsea funfare a rather sad and depressing place.  The afternoon I was there was far from that.  It was stupidly windy, and most of the "attractions" were closed.

Unless I'm in a big city, or travelling abroad I rarely take photos in an urban environment.  This is something that I probably need to change.

So I started in Southsea.

Joe Satriani at the Portsmouth Guildhall

Before going into the Joe Satriani concert I didn't know anything other than what Joe looked like and that he was clearly a very popular musician (2.8 million likes on Facebook).  Like so many of the other recent gigs I've photographed I hadn't heard any of Joe's music before.

First though, a little rant about the appallingly high parking prices in Portsmouth.  Arriving at 5pm (food at a pub before the gig), and leaving at around 11pm, the parking cost would have been £12, which to me is simply taking the piss.  It's enough to make me consider not going to any more gigs in Portsmouth.  I get that they want you to leave your car at home, but travelling back home at around 11pm either means leaving the gig half an hour early, or waiting around half an hour after and then not arriving back into Southampton until half past midnight, by which time there would of course be no buses to take you home.  Portsmouth City Council, you should be trying to promote your city and get people to come in.  Your parking pricing policy is doing the opposite.  Stop it.

As a venue I actually quite like Portsmouth Guildhall.  There was no queue, the ticket desk was easily accessible, the sound is actually quite good, there are lots of ways into the auditorium, all of the seats are reasonably cost to the stage, there are a couple of decent sized bars (with lots of seats), and they only charge £1.20 for a cup of tea.

The concert was all seating, which means no pit, which means shooting from the sides or the back.  Not ideal, but with only two other photographers to contend with, really quite workable.

Stage lighting was, as you'd expect for a big name artist, pretty damn good.  No lighting dead-spots as I've seen at a few smaller venues of late.  Clearly artist and lighting technician understand each other.  Having a decent budget probably also helps.

This is the first instrumental concert I've ever been to (I'm not sure you can count the garbled few verses in one of the encore songs), which of course was a surprise to me not knowing Joe's music.  However with Joe's ability to make his guitars sing, three other most excellent musicians with him on stage, the excellent lighting, and a sound system that nearly made my ears bleed.  It all equalled a hell of a show.

At times I've been moved emotionally by music, but this time I was moved physically by it.  By that I mean the bass was turned up to 11 and even sitting in the back row as I was after the first three songs, I still managed to "feel" it.  Earplugs at least for me were essential for the whole gig - health and safety levels thrown out of the window with the volume turned up to insanely loud.

Projected onto the screens at the back of the stage were several excellent timelapse videos.  My favourite, of one of my very favourite places on earth, was of Monument Valley.  It made me want to go back there.  Road trip anyone?

One of the advantages of the Olympus OM-D is the ability to use the articulating screen to take photos.  Which is just what I sneakily did through the latter stages of the gig - getting some of my favourite images as a result.

All images taken with the Olympus OM-D EM-1 with 40-150 f2.8 lens (and a few with the 1.4x converter)

Thank you for an excellent evening of music Joe!

06 November 2015

Ella Eyre at O2 Guildhall Southampton

Just like many of the recent musicians I've had the privilege of photographing I went into the concert without having heard any of Ella Eyre's music.  As I've said before I kinda like it that way.  I have no preconceptions as to what the concert will be like, and I walk into the venue with a very open mind.

Ella kept the audience waiting until she made her appearance at 21:30, but she was well worth the wait.  She leapt onto the stage with a huge amount of energy and dance.  The first three songs went by quickly as the photographers in the pit struggled a bit to keep up with her.

There was so much action that one of my fellow photographers, a chap from the local rag, forgot for a moment pit etiquette and at one point pushed his camera into mine making me miss a shot.   Sorry mister local rag photographer, that's not how pit photography works.  Sometimes you find yourself in the right position to get the shot, sometimes you don't.  I kinda wonder if he'd have treated me the same if I'd have had a full sized DSLR like everyone else and not my much smaller Olympus system....?

While perhaps not quite my taste in music, her performance on stage was quite brilliant.  As with most concert photography gigs I only got to see the first 3 songs, but I assumed she kept up the pace until the end of the gig.   Most excellent.

I'd noticed the balcony at the back of the venue, and after the third song while I probably should have been leaving the venue, I made my way up there and grabbed a couple of shots from the very back row.  I was really rather pleased that I did.   I tweeted one of those shots to @EllaEyre after the gig, and she reshared it.  It went onto get lots of likes and retweets.  Thanks Ella!  

I hope to have the honour of shooting this lady again one day soon.