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Photographic Experience Theme

Part of my work as a visual artist is manipulating photos but I have never considered myself a photographer. Last year at the Jazz Festival, I took lots of photos of shows and I found it really difficult to get good pictures in the dark with no flash. The problem can be exemplified by this picture of Paul Plimley at the Roundhouse this year when he was playing on Saturday, June28, 2008. Even with a reasonably good camera, the length of exposure required makes it impossible to get a decent picture with a moving target.

Paul in Motion

This is an artistic photo, and I like it because it shows Paul’s musical spirit, but I always like to have control over results. [Yes, control is a deep part of my psyche — we’ll go there later …] I keep trying to get decent live pictures, and I am doing better in low light conditions than last year.

That is because earlier this year I started watching photographers to get some idea of how it was done. My first subject was Willie Cackett, photographer of the Blues and Roots scene in Vancouver, who gets some decent photos with inexpensive equipment. He has even had some shows of his work. Those are his photos on the wall behind him in my image below.

Cottage Bistro Willie C

I noticed something right away. Photographers are very still so it is really easy to take pictures of them and I can use a flash. When I told Willie I had taken photos of him, he was pleased. He told me he didn’t have many images of himself because he was always taking the pictures. So, I have found my photographic niche — to take pictures of photographers in action.

Much better photographers, with better cameras can take pictures of the show. I will take pictures of them. It is interesting too, as it fits into my idea of “watching the watcher” by standing in front of highway cams and having them video me videoing them across the country.

This is Brian Nation with the flash diffuser obscuring his face– not the best, but look how still he is in the natural light. The next one caught him preparing, so his face is visible. I used a flash, so it is blue shifted and if I was using this for pro work I would colour correct it.

Brain Nation in action Brian Nation + subject

Next, I got a picture of Laurence Svirchev, but he was standing around before the show and saw me taking it. I really like to sneak up on them while they are being very still to take a photo. Laurence is a bit out-of-focus but it’s not too bad. I noticed he had a flash diffuser too. When he saw me taking the picture, he was kind enough to show me menus to set the ASA that I didn’t know existed on my camera. He flipped through the options expertly and I was surprised that there was such a hold-over from film technology in the digital controls.


Another photographer I caught a little more unawares was Chris Cameron, the official photographer of the Jazz Festival. He was preparing his camera to shoot the Andy Bey concert at the Centre for the Performing Arts on Saturday evening. This is the best photo I took during the week. The blue shift from the flash has been colour-corrected and I left the right hand wall for a natural border. It is in focus and pretty steady for hand-held, although this Canon is an S2 with image stabilization to help me. Chris’s camera is the big, black box and to the left is Lisa, his assistant, perusing a Festival programme. I could have cropped the bottom a bit tighter, but I liked the geometry of the legs of the stool and the people.

Chris Cameron and Lisa

Later, I tried to take photos of Chris when I was capturing Vivienne and Stephen at the “Homage to Al Neil Concert” with mixed results. It is fun to take pictures of Chris because he is so concentrated on his shot that I used the longest exposure I have and he didn’t move at all. However, he crouched in the darkest part of the floor in front of the stage, so it would take some careful graphic manipulation to bring out any detail. The colours are from ambient stage lights and the massive nature of his camera is evident.

Chris Cameron at work

Chris has a sweet Triumph motard that he rides around to catch all the Jazz Festival action with and often Lisa rides on the back. I told her she was very brave as I like to be in control [issues again … lack of trust — I know] and have only been on the back once in recent memory, a brief, but overly exciting ride, on Simon’s FJ. I kept reminding myself that people don’t usually fall off the back of motorcycles or you’d read about it. I was so impressed with the power and beauty of the bike, I bought one just like it, but I am not eager to be a passenger again.

I did not get a photo of Graham Ord, who runs the sound and is an expert photographer of shows at the Ironworks where I was the crew chief. I will make it a goal for next time I see him in action because I don’t usually take my camera when I am volunteering. I don’t have time to take any photos because it is so busy and I know Graham is doing better than I could anyway. I wanted to take a picture of him playing, but it was the night of broken motorcycles and I missed my chance.

I may write more about my 2008 Festival experience if I get some video, pictures or sound clips, but for now it is a return to the regular Live More Lightly Project programming.

  1. July 12th, 2008 at 22:09 | #1

    good article!

    i too have some photos up from the festival here: http://coastaljazz.ca/index.cfm?page_id=10087

    you are correct. it is very challenging to take concert photos. even though there are stage lights, in photographic terms the light is very low.. but it’s not just technique. having the right equipment makes a huge difference.

  2. vixmusic01
    July 13th, 2008 at 21:00 | #2

    Hey Marc, I did see you taking photos at Performance Works. I will be trying to capture you to add to this series. It’s great you can take photos and do sound.

    Thanks for the look at your Jazz Festival photos.


  3. July 14th, 2008 at 18:14 | #3

    hey Victoria, are you coming to the Folk Music Fest? if you are, come say hi at stage 2 where i will be mixing (and probably grabbing a few photos ) :)

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