Last night of CHSQ with Carl Cox

The series of gigs taking place in Custom House Square came to end on Sunday past with Carl Cox headlining a sold out night that had a lot of people excited from the moment it was announced. It sold out immediately which goes to show how big dance music is in N.I. with Tiesto playing to 42,000 people the day before at Vital!

 

Carl Cox still selling out festivals after 20 years

Carl Cox still selling out festivals after 20 years

Your typical dance headline night will attract a young and, shall we say enthusiastic crowd. I've spoken about other nights where the younger crowd can be hard for me to get photos of, but thankfully the age range was a lot more respectable for Carl Cox! A good mix of 18-30+ filled Custom House Square with many of them wearing sunglasses that had Carl's motto 'Oh Yes! Oh Yes' written on the lenses, many of which ended up on the ground by the end of the night.

Oh Dear Oh Dear

Oh Dear Oh Dear

the lineup for the night was another good reason why the gig attracted so much attention in the first place; local talent Schmutz and Phil Kieran no less, followed by in demand house DJ; Hot since 82. All of which would play the after party at Limelight after the show, which unsurprisingly sold out too.

Schmutz starting the crowd off

Schmutz starting the crowd off

There was a great moment I was happy to be a part of capturing; where Phil Kieran's son came on stage to see his Dad tearing up the decks to the huge crowd. Phil's partner Carla asked me beforehand that she wouldn like to get a photo of the two of them on stage. So I brought his son on stage and asked him to sneakily edge closer to his Dad mid set. 

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By the time Hot Since 82 came on stage, the crowd was fully swinging, with the venue looking packed out it allowed me to get some shots of the venue full during day light which I was thankful for. 

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I hadn't witnessed a Carl Cox set before, so I was curious to see why there was so mu/ch hype around him. I started of shooting from the photo pit which turned out to be a bad call, as you could only see the top of Carl's head due to his movement back and forth from the decks. It did allow me to shoot the crowd going nuts for him though. Especially when I finally uttered the phrase "Oh Yes! Oh Yes!" people went mad for it!

Put your phones down for 2 minutes at least

Put your phones down for 2 minutes at least

She wasn't pulling out her smart phone anytime soon

She wasn't pulling out her smart phone anytime soon

Carl Cox interacted with the crowd brilliantly, more like a radio host than a typical DJ; by which I mean, where your typical DJ might shout "Throw your hands in the air" or some cliche, Carl was talking to the crowd more personally and I definitely appreciated it.

I can see why he got such a good reception, with his track choices flowing from techno to older trance like classics which would have resonated with the older crowd. From a shooting perspective, he was great for movement and energy, but not too lively which let me shoot great facial expressions as he wouldn't go running off or jump on top of the table which you see modern EDM DJ's doing flat out. Carl is probably too old for that nonsense to be fair.

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Foy Vance @ CHSQ

On Thursday I was shooting DJ's playing hard EDM with a teenage crowd in the rain. 48 hours later I'm back in the same venue with accoustic singer/songwriters with a nice and laid back crowd in some later summer sunshine. 

Foy Vance

Foy Vance

Foy Vance had sold out the venue which was no surprise given the local artist always gets a big crowd for his homecoming shows. Support was provided by local artists David C.Clements and upcoming Ryan McMullan. Ryan coming off his support slots for Ed Sheeran earlier in the year. 

I enjoyed Ryan McMullan's set, but gained a lot more respect for him when he took to social media to thank everyone after his set. He used my photo and credited me both on Twitter and Instagram. This gesture doesn't seem like much, but to a photographer it is huge, with not only the possibility of gaining attention for your photo, but the appreciation of the artist for a lowly photographer like myself. *Tips cap*

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David C.Clements

David C.Clements

Ryan McMullan

Ryan McMullan

The last of the support was provided by Amy MacDonald who big enough in her own right, so it was almost a double headline act. I shot the first three songs and couldn't help but feel annoyed about the small addition of a water bottle on her mic stand. It was placed in such a way that it was nearly impossible to shoot her and not have the bottle in view. Who knows, maybe she signed a deal with River Rock and gets royalties for including the beverage in stage shows.

 

Amy MacDonald *possibly* sponsored by River Rock

Amy MacDonald *possibly* sponsored by River Rock

By the time Foy Vance had joined the stage, the light had dipped so that it was well and truly night time. This wouldn't usually matter, given the headline act will get a lot more lighting than the support acts. However, the lighting on stage wasn't used to its full potential, maybe because Foy prefers a simple approach to lighting. This meant I couldn't take a wide shot from the stage with the crowd illuminated, but whilst on stage, I did get some good close ups of Foy.

He varied between standing with guitar and mic stand, to seated at the piano. I like when this happens because you get more variation of images. With some artists staying in the same spot the entire set, making the images too similar.

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Our Foy mixing it up

Our Foy mixing it up

Timmy Trumpet @ CHSQ

Timmy Trumpet was news to me when he got announced for the CHSQ lineup earlier this year. It turns out he plays Ireland shows regularly and has a big fan base here, which was made obvious when it sold out in no time at all. 

The DJ nights can be quite hectic as I've previously talked about. A big, energetic (mental) and significantly younger crowd always presents a challenge for me. Things were made a bit more awkward when the weather turned into a downpour of rain several times during the night. However, I was able to get cover and shoot some images from the side of the venue to show the rain coming down, but no one was undeterred; the crowd continuing to dance as hard as ever.

rain wasn't a problem for this crowd

rain wasn't a problem for this crowd

With two DJ's warming up for Timmy Trumpet, I was able to get closer to them and shoot the usual directly behind/directly in front of DJ images. I was starting to look forward to Timmy, with promises of him running about the stage, trumpet in hand and regular displays of pyro/Co2.

obligatory DJ hands up shot

obligatory DJ hands up shot

DJ's can sometimes bore me; this guy didn't disappoint. 

DJ's can sometimes bore me; this guy didn't disappoint. 

When Timmy came on stage he was a handful for shooting with his movement behind the decks proving tough enough as I shot the first few songs from the photo pit. This is always tough with a DJ as the decks table blocks half of the performer, with the head and maybe arms visible. So I decided to move further back in order to get a shot of the entire stage that would do more justice to the stage show. I timed it well, with timmy deciding to jump of the table. Just a shame he didn't have his trumpet in hand!

Timmy minus the trumpet

Timmy minus the trumpet

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It was arranged for me and a videographer to get access to an apartment that has a great aerial view of Custom House Square which we had done in previous years at Belsonic.

I knew we would have a limited time period on the balcony to shoot the show, so I decided to make the most of the short time slot. I brought my tripod and mounted the wide 17-40mm lens on the tripod, whilst using my 70-200mm on my second camera allowing me to capture a 4-8 second exposure on the tripod whilst simultaneously shooting with the telephoto lens. This gave me a varied selection of images in a short space of time.

200mm focal length

200mm focal length

17mm focal length

17mm focal length

CHSQ - Walking on Cars

Day 2 of CHSQ was headlined by Walking on Cars; a southern band who have been getting bigger every time I hear about them, as they recently played a sold out Limelight to about 600 people, they then went on to support slot at last years Belsonic; so it's great to see them make the jump to headline act.

They were supported by a local band; Emerald Armada. A band who I like to refer to as the Irish 'Mumford & Sons' with their lead singers vocal style and folk style of music. But it was another great sight to see the guys play one of the bigger venues, especially in their home town.

Emerald Armada

Emerald Armada

Emerald Armada

Emerald Armada

Walking on Cars were vocally on good form, however visually it wasn't a great show for us photographers. The lead singer is very active in his movements, with him generally moving left, right and then into the center. He also has a lot of hand and body movements which I think is great for getting a variety of shots. However, he was wearing a hat and that was covered by a hood, so it proved difficult to get any light on his face.

This resulted in me just occasionally spraying the shutter button and praying I caught something. I did get some shots of his face with a little bit of light, but I still can't understand why he kept the hat and hood combo on. Bloody musicians.

Walking on Cars

Walking on Cars

One of the few shots of his face

One of the few shots of his face

Property photography

The majority of blog posts thus far have talked about music photography; so I've tried to break the monotony and talk about the property photography I've done recently. It roughly accounts for 20-25% of my workload and I'm constantly trying to increase that, but it's hard to make new clients out there when you have very few contacts!

In the beginning, I had no clue how to shoot houses and spaces in general, but It's taken a few years to find a method. I now feel confident in my ability to light a property and what angles I should use. It seems like the go-to in property photography is a good wide angle lens and I'll admit it's something I rely on heavily. However, It's something you need to be careful with, as it will help make get the whole room in shot, but it can also distort the perspective of the property which isn't helpful to a potential tenant.

Lighting is incredibly important to me when shooting property. It was something I initially tried to do with natural light, in order to be honest with the lighting of the property which in hindsight was quite naive.  The reality of it is that natural light does not enter your average room well unless it's a greenhouse! So I learned that a flash is necessary to light the interiors even with the lighting of the property.

So I'll turn all of the lights on in the property when I first arrive, this allows me to see what light I have to work with and it also reminds me what rooms I've shot, as I turn the light off once I've shot that room. Call it a strange habit I've acquired, but it hasn't let me forget about a room yet. 

Finally, if you're shooting the rooms with an on-camera flash, the light will obviously be strongest in the centre of the shot and get darker towards the edges. You can counter-act this by bumping the power of the flash, but you'll always get some shadows and darker parts of the image. The way to combat this is by editing the image effectively. I edit in Adobe Lightroom and use the graduated filter to raise the lighting at the edges of the image and maybe an awkward angle of shadow that is bothering me. So that the exposure of the image is consistent thoughout.

Here I used two flashes wirelessly to light two different spaces in one shot, so that the furthest part of the image was still exposed correctly.

Here I used two flashes wirelessly to light two different spaces in one shot, so that the furthest part of the image was still exposed correctly.

So once you've shot the rooms with your wide angle it's job done, right? ..not necessarily. A smaller property won't have many defining features, but you can still try and find something noteable to highlight which breaks the cycle of wide angle shots. It could be an original fireplace, a unique set of taps or a view from the property. This is where you can raise the focal length and maybe use a portrait shot.

The challenge I love with shooting properties is that regardless of the size or quality of the space it's my task to make it look good. If it's a small and cramped space, then I need to show people that it's still a desirable property and has potential. If it's a huge house with a lot of rooms then I need to do it justice and focus on the unique traits of the house.

Inside Moves @ S13

I've been lucky to work with the folks at Inside Moves, who host DJ nights or dance music events.. whatever the correct term, it's always a good old fashioned rave.

Their latest event was taking place at a new venue in Belfast; S13. It was formally a hardware superstore, within enough square footage to house a small city. It is the new location for the crew of T13, who formally held events in the docks area of Belfast, most notably the hugely popular AVA Festival.

The venue has a ridiculously huge main hall, but also features smaller rooms which allowed Inside Moves to host this particular night, as filling that main hall would probably require thousands of people!

The room that hosted the DJ's held a couple hundred, so it was perfect to keep the atmosphere confined which is what you need for a sweaty and energetic crowd. The lighting was supplied by Guerilla Shout, who alway go above and beyond your average lighting setup, which I love, because it makes a good DJ set look so much better visually.

lighting for days

lighting for days

Kornél Kovács was the headline act, he played a good set, but what peaked my attention were some 2000's classic including Mylo. The crowd were lively as ever, with t-shirts getting hurled off and plenty of people up on others shoulders which allowed me to shoot some decent silhouettes when I moved into the crowd, as my flash was setup behind the DJ.

taps aff

taps aff

It's the first event I'd witnessed at the new S13 venue, but it's good to see a new location for Belfast to host new and diverse events. The old T13 site had some great nights and I got some great photos, but the new location is bigger and better in every sense. 

Sunno))) @ Limelight

As a music photographer, you quickly get used to several things that happen at most gigs and becomes part of your routine. This gig included none of the previous patterns any gig I've shot. Bear with me as I try to explain my unique experience in the words/images that follow.

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First three songs (no flash) is a classic which 95% of gigs abide by. This band asked that no photos are taken in the first 30 minutes of the set. This was because the first song lasted for roughly that length of time, and by song I mean; dude on stage chanting into the microphone, with NO lights on stage. Like, in the dark.

This was one of my better photos from the gig

This was one of my better photos from the gig

At a smaller gig, you will usually push the ISO on your camera to compensate for the inevitable lack of light. I found myself moving into uncharted territory with my ISO, with 4000}+ being used at the gig. For those unfamiliar with ISO, it digitally boosts the image so you can get clearer/sharper images whilst sacrificing the grain of the photo (at a normal gig I'll use ISO 1250-1600)

The crowd had a mixture of intrigue, awe and confusion 

The crowd had a mixture of intrigue, awe and confusion 

The general experience of the gig was like nothing I'd experienced as I walked into the venue in complete darkness, a large crowd watching in silence, as a man in a huge hooded cloak (basically Emperor Palpatine) who chanted at varying levels for a good 30+ minutes.

As strange as it was, I couldn't help but grow to appreciate what was going on. The pitch of vocalswere amazing, so low I didn't even realise a person could sing at that level. When the band joined the lead vocals, the bass they produced was ridiculous, to the point where my eyesight was distorted as my eyeballs were vibrating. I'd heard stories of how nausea and other side effects were common place within the crowd at previous Sunno))) gigs. I could believe that.

The lack of light was compounded by the extreme bass you experienced at front of stage, and that was challenging enough, but just for good measure they decided to deploy at least 4 smoke machines every 30 seconds. this gave very limited opportunities where smoke cleared and lighting was working with me. So I think I came out with 12-15 images I could maybe use. A tough gig alright.

If I ever come into bother at a gig, I can always look back and think 'Sure, at least it's not a Sunno))) gig'

Belsonic Day 7 - Green Day

Billy Joe Armstrong of Green Day

Billy Joe Armstrong of Green Day

Day 7 of Belsonic got off to a strange, but pleasant start. Getting a phone call to get down to the venue early for a photo op with Green day and a load of puppies? Needless to say I cycled over in a record time.

Tre Cool of Green Day with a 12 week old pupper from ASISSI animal sanctuary

Tre Cool of Green Day with a 12 week old pupper from ASISSI animal sanctuary

ASISSI Animal Sanctuary brought down a litter of puppies that were 12 weeks old, along with 3 more mature, 12-year-old Beagles. I have to say I preferred playing with the chilled out Beagles than the hyper puppies. Members of Rancid and Green day. along with their family and friends got to hang out with the puppers and doggos, which looked to be a welcome relief from the life of touring. 

 Mike Dirnt and the staff/animals from ASISSI

 Mike Dirnt and the staff/animals from ASISSI

Once the photos were taken and the doggos had left it was time to start shooting bands with instruments and not puppies again. 

Green Day had support from the punk-rock band; Rancid. Just before they came on stage, the windy managed to pull down the band's backdrop, which made was a shame, given that I'd have a plain black backdrop instead. but thankfully the band were lovely enough that I soon forgot that.

Lars Frederiksen & Tim Armstrong of Rancid

Lars Frederiksen & Tim Armstrong of Rancid

Another day, another jump photo

Another day, another jump photo

Green Day's set started with a member of the band (maybe) running on stage in a pink bunny costume to get the crowd going.. as you do.

This one is getting added to the portfolio for sure

This one is getting added to the portfolio for sure

When the band made their way on stage they made sure to greet every side of the stage individually, showing they know how to interact and entertain the crowd, which became more apparent as the show went on.

Unusually, we were told that we could only shoot the first 2 songs, instead of 3, which had me worried about getting anything good in those 2 songs. To compound my worries, there was a walkway from the stage into the crowd and we had to choose a side before the band came on stage and you couldn't move across during.

The stage runway made for some great shots

The stage runway made for some great shots

So I decided to take the right-hand side of the stage, purely because there were fewer photographers on that side and allowed for me manoeuvring.  I was regretting my decision halfway into the first song when the lead singer (Billy Joe) started singing on the walkway, facing the left-hand side. Typical.

But thankfully he kept moving about for me to get some decent angles on the walkway. He then brought a member of the crowd on stage to sing for the band and got her to leave the stage by diving into the crowd. something All the while my memory cards were filling up fast with all of these photo opportunities.

 

Coolest way to leave the stage

Coolest way to leave the stage

All of this went down within their first song, so I had already gotten an album's worth of photos. I probably could have left there and then, so shooting the first 2 songs didn't seem as harsh. 

It was truly a pleasure to see the show, albeit a short one for me. It always makes me happy when a huge band comes and plays Belfast. If the city is worth of world class artists it makes you forget the bad stuff people can associate with Belfast.

Belsonic Day 5 - Jess Glynne

So Belsonic had its fifth headline act, and every night has been something challenging and different to shoot. Jess Glynne was supported by two DJ's, something that isn't always photogenic, but that never stops me from trying to make it look interesting ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Local radio DJ Pete Snodden

Local radio DJ Pete Snodden

Martin Jensen

Martin Jensen

He gave me some good action shots at least...

He gave me some good action shots at least...

Jess Glynne's set was a mixed bag for shooting. She positioned herself quite far back on the stage and was wearing a baseball cap that limited the light on her face. Not sure why she seemed like she was hiding from the photographers, but it made it challenging at least. 

Jess Glynne

Jess Glynne

The upside to the stage show was the large LCD screens behind Jess Glynne and the band. This provided some varied patterns and colours to shoot against. It didn't help the lighting at the front, but it did look good in some shots.

Alter Bridge @ Ulster Hall

Myles Kennedy & Mark Tremonti of Alter Bridge

Myles Kennedy & Mark Tremonti of Alter Bridge

These guys were a welcome break from Belsonic, with the gig taking place @ The Ulster Hall, it allowed me to mix up my routine of shooting the festival. Not that I don't enjoy it, but creatively you need to change your scenery every row and then to keep yourself motivated.

The gig was long sold out and created such a demand that they announced another Belfast gig for October the day after. Which is pretty crazy when you look at the bands touring schedule; They finish their European tour in July, then go to North America a few weeks later, and then onto South America, only to return to the UK the month after that! 

Red Sun Rising warming up the crowd

Red Sun Rising warming up the crowd

Alter Bridge were supported by another American rock band; Red Sun Rising. The lead singer was so active, he was hard to keep in focus for their set, but unfortunately, with support bands, comes poor lighting. The lead singer would often get right down to our level and sing into the crowd, however, the lack of forward facing light ruined any potential shot. 

I did get some good shots of these guys, my favourite coming from the back of the venue after the first 3 songs in the pit. Which often happens when the artists get into their performance and tend to loosen up after 3-4 songs. 

Can't beat a good jumping shot

Can't beat a good jumping shot

I always get the impression that the 'seasoned' rock bands are usually the nicest. Alter Bridge will regularly hold a meet and greet session before the gig. They also host guitar classes with legendary guitarist Mark Tremonti, which is something I've never heard of any other musician or band do. Something that would be great to see other artists pick up on.

Myles Kennedy

Myles Kennedy

We were operating a strict rule of first 3, then out you go. So there was no opportunity for side shots from the back of the venue. Which I kind of like, because it makes you concentrate harder for those 3 songs, knowing you don't have a fall back if you don't getting any good shots from the photo pit. But thankfully, I think I got some that weren't terrible.

Belsonic Day 1 - Arcade Fire

Win Butler of Arcade Fire

Win Butler of Arcade Fire

The first night of Belsonic 2017 was one of it's biggest artists yet, with Arcade Fire headlining the opening night. Belsonic has moved around venues in the last few years; with Titanic Belfast hosting the festival last year. It is currently taking place in Ormeau Park, located near the centre of Belfast. The new surrounding of trees and grass is much better for atmosphere than the exposed setting of the docks.

 

Luke Pritchard of The Kooks

Luke Pritchard of The Kooks

The Kooks opened the night to a pretty decent crowd, showing that they still have a strong 10 years on from their peak as a band. But the lead singer was in good form and was active enough to let me get plenty of different shots, which can be hard for a support band at a festival, as they don't have a stage show in comparison with the headliners.

 

Belsonic's stage in the heart of Ormeau Park

Belsonic's stage in the heart of Ormeau Park

Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire

A new feature I appreciated was the small extension of the stage in the centre, which allowed performers to come out from the main stage platform and therefore allowed closer shots of the artist. Being 6'4 it came in handy with the platform, as I could just reach the top of the stage with my wide angle (see below)

 

It's always great to see a world class act come to Belfast and witness the quality of their stage production whether it's the lighting rigs they'll provide or the vast array of unique instruments; specifically a glass mosaic set of bongo drums, or a chrome piano..

 

Instrumental bling

Instrumental bling

It's great for me to tick off Arcade Fire on my list of artists I've shot, I was just sad I couldn't stay longer than 4-5 songs even though I'm not the biggest fan. Hearing them play their back catalogue with a crowd belting out their lyrics back to them, it was a great atmosphere. Especially when  Régine Chassagne of the band came to the extended platform and danced her way through 'Haiti'

 

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