Music Concert Lighting

This post is not actually for the photographers, it’s for all the lighting techs and lighting techs in training (hopefully a few lecturers will read it also). Especially for the techs at small venues.

Before I go on to the post proper, I need to explain that I totally understand the job of the lighting is to produce a show for the gig goers, the fans, the audience. There is a reason the large bands tour with huge lighting rigs and show; it is to provoke and enhance the atmosphere, to elevate beyond just a person or band standing on a stage performing. I know that. This is beyond doubt.

However before an act reaches the levels where they can afford to go on tour with their own crew and rig, the venue technician is usually the person responsible for how the act looks on stage and as that person you should have a few other considerations.

The acts you are dealing with are normally trying to establish themselves, they want or need reviews, be they on websites, bloggers, or in local or even national press, they need to get thier name out there. When it comes to reviews, pictures help, great images can grab attention, they can promote a review from a lesser spot to a more prominent one, a reader may stop and read a review based on the image.

Anyone involved in gigs knows the rules “first 3 and out, no flash”.

So put basically, if there are photographers or videographers in the house you have 3 songs to make your act look great. After the first 3 you can do everything to build the atmosphere but the first 3, why not help the artist?

(Ok I know there are artists that don’t like photographers or who want to be in the dark, to them, I refer to the paragraph above)

So how can you help?

  • Turn the lights on! Pitch black does not really help!
  • LED colour washes look really bad on camera!
  • Add a bit of white to the front, even if you have heavy back lighting or colour washes
  • Front/Side lighting works! Flat washes are boring.

What do I mean about the LED colour washes? Well put on that yellow or blue colour wash that seems to be the “flavour of the month” at the moment. Now stand where the artist will be and take a selfie on your phone? How does it look? Let’s just say not flattering! Compared to the filtered incandescent lamps of old, LED lights produce a really intense colour that might look great from the back of the room but from the pit, on camera, it’s probably one of the least flattering looks there is. Modern camera sensors have a real issue dealing with it and it’s tricky to dial out. Adding some white from the front on the artist makes all the difference and the rest of the stage still looks great from the audience.

Backlight Colour Wash – Straight from the camera
Zithulele ‘Jovi’ Zabani Nkosi of BCUC (Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness) photographed during the 40th WOMAD (World of Music arts and Dance)- It takes a LOT of effort to get it like this and its still not flattering
Kae Tempest photographed during the 40th WOMAD (World of Music arts and Dance) – A bit of front light makes ALL the difference!

You might think I’m writing this just to make my life easier in the pit. I am but because I want to produce great flattering photos. I’m not a kid, I’ve been doing this for a while and whilst there are many more experienced photographers shooting with the big names out there, I’ve been doing this in the smallest and largest venues there are for quite a while and the bottom line is, good photos help everyone in the business!

So the next time you light a venue, have a think about those first 3. Any photographers in there? Do your act and the venue that employs you a favour..

Until the next post.

J

Primed for WOMAD

Loaded and ready to go (iPhone)

If you have read this blog for a long time or if you follow me on social media you will know I ride a motorbike and do not drive a car. This means if I choose to go to a festival and camp on the bike, I need to pack carefully. Some would say, right take 2 zooms, 16-55 & the 50-140 however one of the reasons I go to WOMAD is i don’t know what I’m going to get, which acts might become more relevant to press or who will be reviewed therefore I go with no pressure, no expectation, just having the aim of producing lovely images (there is always lots of colour here).

So my packing was 2 x X-T3, a 14/2.8, the 35/1.4 , a 56/1.2 & 90/2.0

Add to that a small tent, minimal wardrobe and the MT-07 is loaded.

Fatoumata Diawara – 56/1.2

Taking prime lenses means I have to work (slightly) harder to get the images, working the angles but this makes me think and slow down and think about how I want to portray the act.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again “there is no point having fast lenses if you shoot with them closed down all the time” so probably 90% of my images are shot wide open

Japanese vocal performer Hatis Noit – 90/2.0
Japanese vocal performer Hatis Noit – 56/1.2

Japanese vocal performer Hatis Noit was a joy to shoot – bright colours, amazing shapes and lighting that shouted “play with me” and with the 90 on camera and the 56 on the other I obliged with both lenses rendering the colours (in Astia profile) really nicely with (the 56 mainly) beautiful flare.

Kae Tempest – 56/1.2

Kae’s set was in complete contrast, more simple, stark and emotional

Fun of the fair – 35/1.4 @ F2 / 1/25th

I was sad to read the demise of regular visitor Carters Steam Fair and although the modern replacements are colourful, making lovely images, I feel they are just too brash, not meeting the the atmosphere of the festival.

Wayne Coyne – 56/1.2

The 56 is well touted as a great portrait lens – shooting wide open with eye tracking as I did for this backstage portrait of Wayne Coyne, lead singer and songwriter of the Flaming Lips, renders the background and even the hair lovely sand soft ensuring the eyes and face get all of the views attention.

Taiwanese contemporary dance troupe B.Dance – 14mm/3.6

The 14mm was useful a few times none more so that with Taiwanese contemporary dance troupe B.Dance, closing the aperture down slightly to keep them all in focus.

Im writing this on the Sunday morning before I shoot the acts of the last day, (the super efficient workflow you have been reading about 🤪 means I am totally up to date with my editing and sending) .

I think the images from the first 3 days give a good enough flavour how I use (and am inspired by the quality of) the Fuji prime lenses.

I have tried not to use the same images as I have posted on my social media channels in this post so if you do not follow me, there are links elsewhere on the page.

So, break out the primes, don’t just twist, use your feet and brain, and go create some images.. I look forward to seeing them.

More soon..

X-H2s – 4 jobs in

Ok, I know I said a few posts back “no camera reviews” , however – a few thoughts….

At the time of writing (a week or so ago), I had completed 4 “proper” jobs with the new flagship camera. Below are some images and thoughts from 3 of these jobs:

  • Kermode 3D at the BFI
  • Mabel at Somerset House
  • Bullet Train Gala

The above image is Nick, running the clips on the Kermode show at the BFI. He’s only lit by his laptop, no house lights. He is laughing (hence movement blur on the face). The camera had absolutely no problem locking onto his eyes. The technical details are below.

Face tracking and IBIS in the (very) dark
Face tracking and IBIS in the (very) dark

I’m closer this time – the eye tracking locked onto Nick’s eye despite so much of the face being covered.

The next job was Mabel performing at Somerset House. Shooting with the 90mm fully open on AF-C, face tracking. No issues with the flashing lights, dancers, fast movement or profile shots.

I’m still trying to get used to the button layout but as my camera’s are in Manual mode 90% of the time, the P-A-S-M dial is not an issue. That said I find it really annoying that in Manual mode I cannot re-assign the front command dial to roll the ISO as then it would match my X-T3’s and be far faster to adjust. When most of my lenses have aperture rings it really makes no sense to dedicate this dial to aperture!

The last of the 3 jobs was the Bullet Train UK gala screening. For this I used the X-H2s with the 100-400 for headshots. The eye tracking always found its target – tracking accurately as they walked and moved, even finding Brad Pitt’s eye on a 3/4 rear view (i.e. the dip in the profile where the eye was as he turned – i am wondering if it was the reflection on the sunglasses!)

Overall this camera is a HUGE step up from any of the other Fujifilm cameras with subject tracking that can be relied on at speed. Additionally although the CFExpress cards are expensive – seeing the RAW files download in a fraction of the time that it takes to download JPG images from the SD, the switch is positive.

Happy shooting and back to the Workflow with the next post.

Have You Meta data ? (iPad Workflow pt 4)

This post is a duplicate from one a few years ago but with some additional ideas for using collection names with a few more examples showing how flexible the system is.

From our last post we are at a point where we have exporting images from Lightroom to a collection of images in ShutterSnitch with key information (main image description) in the title field.

Note: I have totally skipped actions which ShutterSnitch may apply to arriving images at this point – if you have actions defined, for the sake of setting up the MetaData, ensure “Do Nothing” is selected. This will make sense later.

The first issue is, where do we start with our data? Can we start with Photomechanic? The answer to this is yes we can. I export the XMP from PM into Dropbox and then on the iPAD, export the file into ShutterSnitch.

Note: If starting from a Photomechanic template, the variables will need replacing as the syntax is different.

Select file in DropBox / Export / Copy to Shutter / Create a Preset

The i Icon on the top toolbar switches ShutterSnitch to the Metadata Editor.

The Metadata Editor

As shown in the above images there are a number of options along the lower screen. The left-most tool is the Preset Editor

The choices are just to select a preset or use the Edit button to edit the presets available (the usual iOS left swipe to delete) or click to edit. Hold down to duplicate an existing preset.

First a basic preset of mine (from a Kermode 3D show) where the caption is automatically built from the Title (as added in Lightroom) and a number of other fields. For this show I know the location and all the other details. The only things that change are the subject/person. In the image (Title) and the Date.

The blue circle tick to the right indicates wether the field is applied in the preset, so as we are using the title field from Lightroom this is unticked next to the Title/Object. Notice the %%titleObject%% – this is a variable .

There are far fewer in ShutterSnitch. They may be accessed from the tool hi-lighted above. Below is a typical preset driven by the Title/Object Name field with the date automatically added also.

Headline, Caption, Keywords and other metadata in the preset.

And the next example is the template I used at Glastonbury this year. Note. That I have brought the %%colname%% variable into play (Collection name). This gave me the simple solution for ever changing locations (or events), multiple image collections, one for each stage or location, sending images from Lightroom direct into the correct collection building a complex caption.

Hint: As we are driving the Title / Object Name from Lightroom, all of the above preset(s) could be applied to all images when selected and a quick check as you flick through will reveal all of the fields set. Alternatively they could be applied through an action automatically as the image(s) arrive from Lightroom (hint!)

Once the preset is created, other tools are available in the editor. Quick select strings (which are field sensitive, so create them in the Title field if that is where you plan to insert them) may be created and selected.

This enables a list to be built, maybe copying and pasting from a website before the event

Use Split Screen on the iPAD to Copy/Paste into Quick Select Strings

The final options are Shortcodes.

Press and hold to edit the available lists. Creating new Sets and editing are fairly straightforward.

In use Shortcodes are slightly less usable than in Photomechanic as after entering the code (however many letters you use), the Icon (tee-shirt) needs a quick click for the software to expand the code to it’s full length. Shortcodes do, however save on spelling errors and incorrectly titled subjects.

Once the metadata is added the images can be sent (most likely using FTP ). The next post will look at configuring the FTP before we start putting it all together in an action that automates the whole process.

More Soon. As ever – let me know what you think.

I’ve seen posts declaring “Fuji is loosing it’s soul”

A slight intrusion into the workflow posts because the number of posts I have seen with this “loosing their soul” comment is making me smile. I do wonder why people are so blinkered nowadays and feel that “change is bad” or “this works for me so I cannot see why it does not work for everyone”

Top View X-H2S

The thing that has upset everyone is the change in the top-plate dials. Gone are the separate shutter speed and iso dials and in their place, a PSAM dial & secondary display.

As you readers know, I’m a press photographer – I drive my cameras hard and need to change settings fast all of the time (I say this just to hilight I am not a studio photographer where the settings on the camera can be stable for the whole shoot).

I switched to Fuji with the X-T1 for work because I loved the colours in the images, the lightness and it was obvious that mirrorless was the way forward. I also loved the look, the feel and the dials – especially the aperture ring but to be honest – wonderful as these dials are – they are just not fast enough – in my world i need to be able to change the settings – all the settings – without removing the camera from the eye. My current X-T3’s are both set with the ISO on’A’ (so it can be adjusted with the front command dial) and the Shutter on ‘T’ (rear command dial), with the aperture on the lens ring.

If you are designing a camera that is all about speed (X-H2S – the clue is in the S) then having the default way of using to be the way I have my X-T’s set up makes sense, in which case, from a designers point of view, (logically speaking) what is the point of the dials? If the dials are of no use, then why have them? It’s just another possible location of a water ingress or other failure. Lets use that space for something else (when I used the X-H1 I loved being able see the state of the batteries without turning the camera on).

So have they lost their soul? Have Fuji abandoned their roots? I will argue no. My argument is not based on the dials, not based on going after financial rewards or entering difficult markets, it’s based on one fact.

The camera features a 26.1MP BSI X-Trans 5 stacked sensor. Not a bayer sensor, an X-Trans sensor! Its the sensor that is responsible for the look of the images that Fuji produce that we love so much, and having that sensor in this camera indicates, to me, that Fuji has without doubt not changed it’s path. The image is everything.

This is a professionals camera, a tool, that enables Fuji to operate in a market that it was not able to. We have to remember that the camera interface is just like everything else in the world. One size does not fit all.

More workflow stuff next week.

New Way Forward (and Cannes)

It’s fairly obvious I have been neglecting this blog. Actually thats not true. I have not been neglecting it, I have been avoiding it. The question is why and what do I want to do about it?

I might be a poor writer but I do enjoy it (it took me 5 or 6 attempts to pass what was the English Langage ‘O’ level when I was at school (scraping through as I took my final ‘A’ levels). I also enjoy passing on knowledge.

When I started this page, it was the early days of the Fujifilm X-System, the early days of mirrorless and this place seemed the ideal place to put down my thoughts and experiences, passing these on so others (you dear reader) can learn from my errors and not make the same mistakes. Well that was something like 8 years ago and the technology world has changed as has the camera market with most of the manufactures having mirrorless products. Online review sites have exploded with video review sites getting far more views (and influence) than written sites with the actual experience of the reviewer seeming to be way less important to both the manufacturers and viewers.

Fujifilm has just announced the X-H2, it sounds like a very capable camera which I have not seen. The reviews are promising and so I have one on back-order with my supplier and if what I read is true, it will put us X-system users back on a more level playing field when it comes to Auto-Focus performance. However, when I get it, I wont review it. I might comment on some technology that makes my life easier but I will no longer review any product because basically, what interests me is what makes my job easier, faster etc.

If you want reviews stick to the sites that make reviewing part of their business. They get large follower counts, large followings means free review kit and good advertising revenue. How good they are as photographers, how deep their experience of photography and the “sharp end” of the photography business has very little to do with a good review site (and as far as the manufacturers are concerned, the only real measure is the number of followers). If this sounds like a gripe, it’s not. I get it. Who cares that I (or other photography writers) shoot more images in a month (or maybe even a week) and get them published around the world. That does not matter if only a few hundred of people know.

So I am going to stick with the “sharp end”, what counts. How do I work? What are my business practices? Can I improve how I (and you) work?

The next few posts will be about my new mobile workflow and the use of (the rather fast) M1 iPad Pro . In the meantime, here are a few of teh 6000 images I sent out from 10 days in Cannes, all shot on Fujifilm and edited/sent from the iPad.

Why am I drawing, Not Photographing?

I’m scared of keep repeating myself., of producing the same shit over & over whereas every drawing is different – maybe because my emotions have more impact…

More later…

Meanwhile here is a mini project I shot in my studio in Worthing this weekend, all on an X-T2 with the 35/1.4 in Acros.

I’ve been trying to work out why I’m drawing so much and not photographing so much (street / news etc) and walking across waterloo bridge just now I think I got it… Seeing that view that I love I wanted to pull.put my camera but then thought “what’s the point, I’ve shot it so much” and then it hit me…

I’m scared of keep repeating myself., of producing the same shit over & over whereas every drawing is different – maybe because my emotions have more impact…

More later…

Meanwhile here is a mini project I shot in my studio in Worthing this weekend, all on an X-T2 with the 35/1.4 in Acros.

A post (card) from Venice

Hopefully you have noticed that I have started posting a little more often – I am trying to get back into the “write every Monday” habit. It’s not quite there yet but I am making more of an effort.

I am writing this in the press room at Venice Film Festival (those of you that follow my social media will have seen I have been here since the 2nd). I planned the trip as a quick smash and grab; come over for a busy part of the festival, get some shots and go home before the end. Yesterday and today are a little respite before my final day tomorrow and trip home.

Photographers are reflected in the glass doors of the The Palazzo del Cinema before the Premiere of SUNDOWN during the 78th Venice International Film Festival on Sunday 5 September 2021 at The Palazzo del Cinema, Lido di Venezia, Venice. Picture by Julie Edwards

I always say that we (photographers) are paid to wait till that moment we can make the image. Sometimes the wait can be long.

This is now the 3rd trip I have made away in these interesting times (covid times); Cannes a few months ago and Venice a year ago. It’s fascinating to see how things have changed in the past year.

A year ago we had masks and 2M distancing for photographers working on the carpet but no other measures. (The wearing of masks generally over here seems very well adhered to, especially on public transport). Now we have not only masks but also attendees need a Green Pass, which in Italy is either proof of double vaccination or a proof of a negative test within 48 hours. There seems to be more responsibility placed on the individual though, whereas I have been used to (in the UK and France) to need to show this pass before entering, here they reply on spot checks and social responsibility, which means things flow far more smoothly.

Line 20: From Venice to The Palazzo del Cinema, Lido di Venezia.

I stay in the main city of Venice, taking the Line 20 from St Marks to Lido twice a day. The Vaporetto (water busses) are mostly old and noisy but its a lovely 20 minute ride, especially if I manage to get the rear facing outside seats giving the view above.

Anya Taylor-Joy poses on the red carpet for LAST NIGHT IN SOHO during the 78th Venice International Film Festival. Picture by Julie Edwards.

With red carpet events being few and far between over the past 18 months it seems a few photographers were a little more “vocal” than normal when Anya hit the carpet for the well-received Last Night in Soho, so much so that she walked away for a while after asking for a bit more calm. I like to think I would have done the same. I have often heard the argument that the person on the carpet should not get upset because its their job but I always counter how would you feel if if were your daughter or partner being shouted out like that?

Very few photographers in the media positions have been the other side, walking the carpet and to be honest, its horrible (even if its not you thats being photographed), the lights and the shouting has to be experienced to be understood. It might be their job but it is almost impossible to look at every photographer and besides, the skill of the photographer is actually catching that split second, or as in this case, making an image that does not need it. It should not be a case of Who can shout the loudest.

Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac poses on the red carpet for SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE during the 78th Venice International Film Festival on Saturday 4 September 2021 at The Palazzo del Cinema, Lido di Venezia, Venice. . Picture by Julie Edwards.

I started this post with no plan, I was not really sure what I was going to write about. It’s always interesting how the thoughts and words flow and sometimes you just have to go with it to see where it leads; hopefully it’s a worthwhile exercise.

More soon.

Julie

Cannes, Covid & Brexit

Covering Cannes this year provided a couple of firsts for me. 

  • It was the first full-on red carpet event since the start of the pandemic (Although I was in Venice last August, I cant really count it as a full-on event as the restrictions compared to normal were quite extreme (justifiably).
  • It was the first travel time traveling into the EU since the UK finally left it.

As you can imagine – both of these points had a significant impact on working the event, all around COIVD-19.

During the 74th Cannes International Film Festival on Wednesday 7 July 2021 at Palais des festivals, Cannes. Covid-19 test results or proof of double vaccinations being checked as a requirement to enter the Palais. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon.

For anyone to access the event, COVID-19 status (Vaccination or Negative PCR test) had to be proved (a type of COVID-19 passport that is currently under debate in the UK), this had to be proved using the French app (TousAntiCovid ) or a printed QR code . This is where we experienced the first real impact of Brexit, the TousAntiCovid system does not recognise non-EU vaccination records. This meant that all non-EU nationals had to undergo testing every 48 hours whereas EU nationals did not.

During the 74th Cannes International Film Festival on Wednesday 7 July 2021 at Palais des festivals, Cannes. The Covid-19 testing site provided for festival attendees free of charge. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon.

For all of the Festival, good anti covid measures were in place, distancing, cleaning, mandatory masks.

Festival attendees in masks at the “Benedetta” Red Carpet during the 74th Cannes International Film Festival on Friday 9 July 2021 at Palais des festivals, Cannes. All attendees to the festival are required to wear masks in the Palais des festivals including on the red carpet. They are removed for photographs to be taken. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon.

However consider how working red carpet photographers have to operate; spacing measures just cannot be implemented. Photocalls and Red Carpet events had us standing shoulder to shoulder and pushing like in the good old days, for hours at a time. Black masks were mandatory (to tie in with the evening dress code) but let’s be honest, most masks are not really adequate in this situation.

Palais des festivals, Cannes, France. 9 July 2021. Photographers working at “Benedetta” Red Carpet. Photographers working on the Red Carpet are in close proximity to each other and are required to wear masks. Picture by Julie Edwards

If you are planning to work in the EU, it might be an idea to consider the following (assuming where you are working might have the same regulations):

If an EU national had caught COVID-19 (still possible even with double vaccinations), due to the proximity of other photographers at events it would have spread. The EU nationals , with their vaccination passports would continue to work (untested) while the non-EU nationals, when tested would be found to be positive and unable to work.

The bottom line is – in modern times, the UK being an island is only a physical attribute. For so many , our work is cross border and for work of any kind to be able to continue whilst COVID-19 is still a factor, a world-wide passport system needs to be developed.

Palais des festivals, Cannes, France. 11 July 2021. Bella Hadid attends the “Three Floors” Red Carpet. . Picture by Julie Edwards

The next post will talk more about actually shooting the festival on the X-T2 & X-T3’s . 

More Soon.

J

The Internet is making us lazy

I’m starting this essay with the background knowledge that it may upset some people. Thats ok though, if it makes one or two think then I have achieved something.

So what to I mean by my title “The Internet is making us lazy” ?

Take a step back, take a sip of your coffee and think about the resource you have in front of you. If the internet did not exist you would not be reading this (I would not have written it), you would have probably found a far better resource of information, something far more useful to spend your time doing, however I digress. What I want you to think about are all the images you have seen on the internet, all the places, all of the inspiration for your work (I am assuming you are a photographer or artist).

Think about those images, on instagram now or if you have been around a few years, on Flickr or other photo sharing sites. Now extend that thought to the comments below “Great Capture”, “Inspired” etc… If the photograph was great or unusual it would not be far down the comments that the first “What Camera” question would occur, closely followed by “What lens?” “Aperture?”, “Shutter speed?”, “Why don’t you open up your exif data?”. The equivalent questions can be applied to many subjects but I’m a photographer and artist so I will stick to this realm.

In the garden studying a book of Terry O’Neill’s work through the years.

When I first see a photograph that excites me, once the initial “joy” has ebbed away I start asking myself “how was this done?”, “how would I have done this?”. Once I have worked this out I start to question “why was it done this way?” .

Think how different that process is compared to just asking the creator how they did it. What do we learn if we are handed all of the settings on a plate ? Other than at that moment, at that place, with that equipment a person made an image in that way; thats not learning. If this information is taken and used in exactly the same way to create work, these works are not unique creations, they are copies!

Photography is an art, so lets cast our minds back to learning about art at school, college or university. Teachers led the way, examples and inspirations shown and discussed, the way forward was shown but the student had to find the way, make the mistakes and learn.

Some people say no, photography is not an Art, it’s a science! How about science lessons then? The theory was thought, a method for proof was explained and the student would be helped through the experiment to learn for themselves and understand the proof.

Take a look at the 10 Rules for Students, Teachers, and Life by Sister Corita Kent (yep you can find it yourself in the true spirt of research). When it comes to all creativity Rule 4 is the key.

I probably should have written this nearer the beginning of lockdown. I’ll admit whilst I know I should have been documenting these difficult times with a camera, for various reasons I have been studying, learning and creating with pen, paint and ink as well as video (take a look at https://julieedwardsvisuals.com for a hint of what I have done).

I started my JEX photography blog as a resource to help photographers using Fuji cameras and mobile workflow, it holds a lot of information but I always try to write in a way that guides the way as opposed to detailing every press.

There are a lot of resources out there for us all, (not all of it trustworthy!) If used in the right way it could fuel a generation of great creatives, however at the moment I am worried that its mostly fuelling a lot of copyists….

“Nothing is a mistake, there’s no win and no fail. There’s only make”
– Sister Corita Kent

Stay Safe
Julie