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Shooting metal shows is a lot like photographing wildlife in a dishwasher in the dark

February 12, 2015

To some of you, it's no surprise that I love heavy music, especially heavy metal. I don't want to go through the reasons why it's an awesome genre of music and way of life, but it is. Lots of the bands I follow are charismatic stage performers and the shows are always high energy. Many of the same skills and tools that I have honed photographing wildlife are oddly applicable to shooting metal heads like Skeletonwitch from Georgia or a theatric black mass like Ghost.

For one, you have to know your subject to get a compelling image. Not only do I spend time studying the animals that I love, I also listen to the music I love to shoot. Knowing the song or the artist does help a lot. If you know that the song will migrate into an 'elephants marching' riff, you should also expect the guitar players and others to start moving with the music in sync. If their lighting guy is worth anything at all, the lights will probably pulse with the music, leaving you a very small, but predictable window of bright lights in an otherwise dark cave of a venue.

 

 

Don't focus too much on being in the very front row. Without some of the crowd in your shots, it looks like an awkward performance in your living room. Just you and Papa Emeritus gazing longingly into your eyes. Instead, put on a small lens (or better yet, use one of the small high speed hybrid cameras like the Sony a6000) step back, protect your gear, and shoot like mad!

 

Play the odds! You're never going to get a good shot unless you shoot. There are things that happen so quickly at a concert you can never plan for. I saw Papa Emeritus swinging this crucifix around, but there was no way to frame the shot with all the chaos going on around me. Instead of worrying too much, I just laid on the shutter and hoped for the best. By using the highest frame rate possible and utilizing my d600s relatively large buffer, I increased the odds of success by taking a lot of images in a burst.

 

To make these images I used:

Nikon d600 camera body

Nikkor 50mm f/1.8

Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8 VR (older VR version)

Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8

 

I would have used the Sony a7s if I had to do it all over again. If you don't believe me, all you need to know is that the a7s can shoot up to ISO 102,400. No, that's not a typo. It could revolutionize the concert photography "industry". Now, if you can find a way to make money off of shooting metal shows, please contact me immediately.

 

See the rest of the images here or in the tab above

They were also published online:

Skeletonwitch on Invisible Oranges

Ghost on Invisible Oranges

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