Last week I was on assignment for the Kitchissippi Times out to shoot Loudlove, who are in the middle of recording a new album here in Ottawa at the Liverpool Court Studios. I managed to slip in for a quick shoot while the band was taking a break from recording. I went in to this job blind and on short notice… which is never ideal… but luckily the guys were very accommodating. I was expecting to grab some shots of the band while they where laying down a track, but by the time I got there they where already done playing and about to work on the mixing.
I ended up lining them up behind the mixing board, which had a nice wall behind it and some cool stuff piled on the sides to create a nice frame for the image. It’s always nice to shoot a band that isn’t camera shy. They basically just goofed off for ten minutes while I snapped away, which from the short time I spent with them seemed to be their base state of being.
I’ve been asked by a few other photographers why I usually carry about three times more gear than I will ever need for a shoot… this is why. I often have no idea what I’ll need till I get there and I’ll take a sore back if it means I have what I need to get the shot. Also, people seem to take you more seriously the more gear you lug around even if you never touch most of it during a shoot… it’s one of those psychological things I don’t quite understand but am happy to take advantage of.
I ended up getting what I needed and the article will be out in the Kitchissippi Times today. If you can’t wait for the album they’re laying down now you can see Loudlove at the Ottawa Reggae Festival this Sunday at 8:00pm. You can check out my Flickr for some more shots from the shoot with Loudlove.
I find I take some of my best shots when I have nothing particular in mind to shoot. When I spent the whole day wandering downtown a couple weeks ago, my goal was actually just to blow through the roll of film quickly just to test it out. I got a 100′ bulk roll of badly expired film off a photographer on one of my forums for a song, so I rolled up a few rolls and set off not really expecting anything interesting.
The film turned out much better than I expected and so did the subject matter. This shot in particular really caught my eye. I’ve become a bit obsessed with the telephone poles full of ancient staples around the city ever since my post a while ago about a shot I took of one with my Yashica-Mat. I plan on entering this shot in an upcoming art show, we’ll see if the jury likes it as much as I do.
I think I need to start scheduling time to just wander around, my keeper rate seems to be much higher than when I’m out actively in search of a particular shot. My favorite wandering lens has always been my macro lens. Whenever I get bored of what’s available to shoot, or I feel like I’m in a photographic slump, there’s nothing better to force myself into a completely different perspective.
About a week ago I went to a three band show at Cafe Dekcuf. I originally went just to see Snowblink, you might remember them from a post I made a while ago about Luxury Pond. It’s the same pair with their roles reversed. I liked Luxury Pond and Snowblink didn’t disappoint either. I ended up sticking around for the other two bands as well. Bear Claps was enjoyable and Bruce Peninsula was amazing, although with nine band members crammed onto a tiny stage they were a bit difficult to shoot.
I like shooting Cafe Dekcuf, they do a pretty decent job of lighting the stage, although the spots aren’t always aimed appropriately and I’m left waiting for the singer to move into the light. Lighting really makes or breaks the photos… and there’s not a whole lot I can do if the light is bad. Good lighting can make anyone look like a rock star… bad lighting will make Jim Morrison look like a high school drop out playing in his parents garage.
Besides the fact that I like their music, I’ll definitely come out to shoot Snowblink/Luxury Pond next time they’re in town because they do one thing right that any band can and should do. They dress the part. I’ve said this before, but it can’t be said enough… you don’t need to go all Ziggy Stardust or show up in tuxes… but look like you put even 5 minutes of thought into what you wear on stage. And make sure all the band members look at least semi coordinated. Again… it doesn’t matter what you wear… just wear it with purpose. If your band suits ripped jeans and worn t-shirts, no problem, just make sure everyone is in on the plan.
I went to a show once, definitely a ripped jeans affair, the drummer got the note but the rest of the band missed the memo. The lead singer was in gym shorts and a baggy t-shirt, The bassist had on those adidas tearaway type workout pants and a tank top and the guy on keyboards had on slacks and a v-neck sweater. This does not project committed musicians… this projects “I just woke up… Bob just got off shift at Walmart and Joe swung by after hitting the gym”. At this point the audience is already thinking “why the hell did I pay $10 to see these guys” and you have to work doubly hard to impress them, and it does nothing to help them remember you for next time.
It’s even worse when I get asked to shoot a band and that’s what they look like when I show up… I just have to hope to god the lighting is good or I’m going to have to get REALLY creative to make them look good. Fortunately this night I was treated to three good looking bands. You can see the rest of the night on my Flickr.
As long as it’s available I can’t see myself every giving up shooting film. Digital photography has been a godsend when it comes to events where a quick turn around and hundreds of shots are required, but film has qualities you just can’t duplicate digitally. With digital I have be very carefull with exposure, and I don’t have nearly as much play with it in post processing. For the most part, in decent even light, film is like horseshoes and hand grenades… close is good enough. Highlights don’t blow out as easy and shadow grain looks so much nicer than digital noise. It really lets me concentrate on the image instead of all the technical stuff.
Anyways… this isn’t a digital versus film rant… that horse has been flogged sufficiently. Both sides of the argument seem to have called an armistice and have grudgingly agreed that both photographic mediums have their own time and place. Film has seen a huge resurgence among younger photographers and a lot of the old guard have gone fully or partially digital.
This shot was of a telephone pole in downtown Ottawa. There’s many that have so many staples, that over the years they’ve developed up to an inch of rusted staple and poster paper armor. This one had a nice balance of wood and metal textures. I was also surprised at how well the Rolleinar close up filters for my Yashica Mat-124G worked. Originally made for Rolleiflex cameras, they’ll fit on most TLR’s with the same filter size. I was worried that another layer of glass might introduce some softness or distortion like most of the modern accessory lenses, but I can’t see any degradation at all, gotta love 70 year old German glass.
One unexpected bonus I’ve found to shooting film is how I’m perceived. When I walk down the street taking pictures of random stuff with a big lens on a DSLR, some people have come up with some very imaginative and devious uses I must be using those pictures for. Walking around with an archaic box with two lenses and all kinds of knobs and fiddly bits seems to scream “artist” and people generally leave me alone or take a positive interest in what I’m doing. For more of my film captures you can check out the film section of my Flickr.
I love working in the Byward Market. Everyday I walk around at lunch and there’s never a shortage of things to shoot. Summer is busker season and the market attracts professional street performers from all over the world. The man in the photo was from Australia, he comes to Canada most summers and busks his way across the country.
The nice thing about the Byward Market is that it’s full of tourists with cameras so no one thinks twice about someone taking their picture. Unfortunately there seems to be a stigma attached to street photography in some peoples eyes. They’ll go to galleries and admire the work of Bresson or Capa, but give a dirty look when someone takes their picture on the street. Street photographers record the mood and culture of the times in a raw and unscripted fashion… giving a true face to period of history. Reading the history books is great but it can be hard to sort out fact from propaganda and pop culture.
Luckily, living in Canada I haven’t encountered the type of harassment photographers in the UK and the US have to deal with; being accosted by security guards or police for taking pictures in subways or bus stations. It’s gotten so bad in the UK that photographers have banded together to try and bring attention to the almost police state mentality that’s sprung up concerning photography. Visit Not A Crime to see what I’m talking about. It’s getting pretty scary to be a photographer in some countries and unfortunately its historic record that will suffer the most in the end.
You can see more of my street photography on Flickr.
This was my first time at this festival and it was a lot of fun. Tons of things to shoot, from street performers, clowns, musicians and art galleries to the people watching it all. I must have taken a dozen or more shots of the clown show on the left alone.
The main thing I like about shooting festivals is that you can walk around with a big camera and no one will pay attention to you because they’ve seen ten other people in the same get up. People are expecting to get caught in photos so they’re more relaxed around cameras and usually having too much fun to even realize they’re under the lens. A great time for candid street shooting.
I regret I was only carrying one camera; I really could have used my medium format gear that day… oh well… there’s always next year.
I also regret missing The Acorn performing on the last day of the festival, but thunderstorms loomed and I really thought the Sunday night show would be rained out for the second year in a row. More from Westfest 2009 can be seen on my Flickr.