I went down to San Diego's Historic Gaslamp Quarter the other night to shoot a band at Patrick's Pub. The band was called Myron and the Kyniptionz and they rocked! They did a great job covering a lot of jams and really had the crowd going at the pub. I had to keep my focus on the job while rockin' out to their grooves.
The pub itself was dark, poorly lit (for photos) and packed. There were pillars in the way and the band was elevated. This made for a challenging photo shoot. I used a few tactics to get the shots that I needed.
I shot a lot and checked my results every so often. I didn't check every shot, but used the LCD as a guide to see if I was on target. Using a histogram really helps (more on that in another post) since the LCD can fool you. A seemingly bright photo viewed in a dark room might be disappointingly dark when you finally import it to the computer for editing. Conditions are always changing at a performance event, lighting fluctuates and the musicians move around. Settings that worked a few moments ago might need to be adjusted on the fly.
The dark environment provided some challenges. It was hard to focus and forced me to shoot at a dangerous ISO. I know the limits of my camera and pushing it too far will get me graining and / or blurry results. Another option would have been for me to blast out all the shots with my strobe, but that often ends up with the foreground in detail but often sends the background into darkness. (a very amateur / snapshot look) I really wanted to capture the lighting and background ambience of the place so I shot manual on the camera and also adjusted the flash manually to custom balance the light to get the effect I wanted.
The narrow venue also had me hopping between lenses. Up close and wide or far away and tele. Lens choice is important in a situation like this not only in focal length, but also in speed. I brought fast lenses and often shot "wide open" to soak up as much light as my lenses would allow. I also brought a step stool to try and get some shots at a better angle.
Lastly for some of the environmental shots I used a tripod. Yes a tripod in a crowded pub. I found a couple spots where I set up my tripod at full height, but didn't spread the legs wide in the packed venue. This allowed me to shoot 3 bracketed shots that I could merge into an HDR shot. (more on this technique in another post).
Also, more about how I got the posed alley shot in another post.
Click on any example image below for a larger view.