Friday 4 November 2011

Tori Amos Gig Photography

Tori Amos
HMV Apollo, Hammersith

Yesterday I was treated to a lovely surprise night out by my better half. I knew it was going to be somewhere in London and I knew it was going to be a gig by a female artist but that was all I knew.

So it was, we arrived a the Hammersmith Apollo, sorry, the HMV Apollo, Hammersmith, for the second London night with Tori Amos. Now I have to say, I'm not very familiar with her music, unlike my other half, who has long enjoyed listening to her albums but I was going to listen with interest, as was I going to try some more gig photography with interest. Not with my "You're not allowed in here with that!" DSLR but with my pocket camera.

Now, since my last gig venture with Bell X1 back in May, I have upgraded my point and shoot to the desired, Canon G12 and I have been putting it through its paces ever since. My hope was for a vast improvement over the 'not too bad' results from May but the first major obstacle this time was distance. Unlike the small venue of La Scala where I was in relative proximity to the stage, being way up in the Circle at the Apollo put me into 'max digital zoom only' zone - something I pointed out only last week, that I would only do if there was no alternative.
There was no alternative. So I set out to see what could be made from this situation.

Clearly I was not going to get the stunning close-up portrait pictures of a musician in mid-performance. Instead, this would be an exercise in recording the artist and event whilst providing a sense of place and atmosphere. By including the audience in the foreground of the image above, it gave more of a sense of the moment, rather than the 'publicity-style' images (1&2) shown before. Here she is clearly singing to her fans who had moved to the front, reinforcing her interatction with the audience.

The lighting was a constantly changing show, creating both atmosphere and difficulties with exposure but rather than fighting it, it was fun to find ways of making it work. Here, the radiating rays from an audience-facing spot, beautifully silhouetted and rim-lit a member of the audience. Due to the shallow depth of field offered by these lighting conditions, it rendered Tori Amos and her string quartet as an out of focus backdrop but the sharpness of the person helps us to consider the overall event.

The final image produces a dynamic between the audience and performer with the movement adding to the moment of the curtain call. This sort of image would not be complete without the light of the mini-media screens, glowing back to those behind. A glowing screen was something I was keen to avoid in an attempt to 1. Not draw attention to myself 2. Not annoy those around me. Thankfully, this was easily achievable as the screen on the G12 rotates shut, thus rendering it turned off. The 'old fasioned' view-finder, the presence of which was an important factor when choosing the camera, allowed continuation of composition. However, having the screen 'off' meant that it was actually impossible to review the images, but I could afford to take a chance with these 'trial' images. After all, these images were just for pleasure on this occasion.

So how do these compare with the images from May- using the factors from before.
1. P&S is still the way at events like this as generally, DSLRs aren't allowed, but if I get asked to photograph a gig then that is a different matter, and the DSLR would my camera of choice.
2. Camera support- no room for a tripod and with no alternative available support, all shots had to be hand held, and yes there were blurred reject shots.
3. More pixels now, so the chance of a clearer image
4. With the automatically selected ISO at 1600 the G12 gave more chance of hand-held images. Grain is far less of an issue in conditions such as these unlike the sharpness required for wildlife shots. However, grain with the G12 is dealt with far better than with my old p&s.
5. Flash, but of course not! Although there were those in the audience who failed to recognise the ineffective nature of it at times like this and still persisted in deploying flash.

Conclusion. Some acceptable record shots, but nothing worthy of being used commercially as they are just too distant and unclear. Some burning out of highlights but that could be an issue with almost any camera. Now just waiting for the opportunity to be up-front for some great close-up shots.

Of the camera- I take a little of my previous criticism back as the G12 tried really hard.
Of Tori Amos- must listen to more of her albums now.
Of the venue- I now know what it is like to be an insect on a sticky trap. Countless pints of beer spilled from the plastic cups, needlessly allowed into the auditorium had made the carpet into one big sticky ugh and I was glad to get outside onto the rainy pavement to cleanse my soles!

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