It's been a while. I'll not bore you with excuses.. Here are some photos from a mad weekend in June.
As much as I enjoy music gigs or festivals, it's a nice change when I get to cover something a little different. In this case, I was shooting the cycling event taking place around the north coast of Northern Ireland; The Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive. The event is open to all cyclists; from a first timer to seasoned veteran. Which is one of the things I love about these events, which I'm more familiar with as a cyclist than someone covering the event!
There were several routes available; 35, 85 and 115 miles. The 85 and 115 mile routes took in Torr Head, which is famous to locals for being an unrelenting and frankly, brutal climb. The location is incredible and has stunning views, but you won't be able to appreciate them when you're trying to tackle the climbs. Thankfully I was there to shoot images for people to remember why they did it in the first place.
My task for the day was to cover the registration, feed zones on the course, the Torr Head climb, various junctions throughout the course and the finishing cyclists of all three routes. This meant that I had around 7 different locations on the day and had to give myself a very specific window of time to cover all of the areas. Time was a crucial factor also because the bulk of traffic for each route might only come in a 15-20 minute window and either side of that would be a missed opportunity.
The weather for the day was a story of two halves; with miserable rain and wind in the morning, only to brighten up and turn into a great day later on. The first food stop was absolutely washed out, with my 2nd camera playing up something shocking, to rhe point where I couldn't use the on-screen menu. Thankfully for the riders there was shelter to hide fro the elements in an old church hall, but this meant any attempt to take photos indoors left me with a misty lens and foggy looking photos which didn't make the grade.
All weather aside, I was amazed at the high spirits of all riders and volunteers involved. Maybe they were just happy to get off the bike and have some food and drink, but it allowed me to get some great shots of people smiling and enjoying the day.
So by the time midday had arrived, all the cyclists looked a little knackered, but I was still greeted with smiles and my shouts of encouragement were always well received.
I was amazed when I travelled the course towards the coast and saw the views that riders would be taking in. The Fourth feed stop on the course was one of my stops of the day, which was situated on the coast, just outside a village called Cashendun; which I would definitely recommend a visit to. Another well stocked food stop as riders prepared for the infamous Toor Head. With many pockets getting filled to the brim with bars, gels, bananas and whatever else they could squeeze in.
Coming out of Cushendun, having taken advantage of the food stop, riders had the choice of tackling Torr Head or by taking a slightly easier route which has been dubbed 'easy street'. Now let me tell you, there was nothing easy about either choice, with both routes requiring the riders to climb out of the small village at sea level.
I drove up Torr Head to reach the summit with some pretty sketchy roads whilst attempting to safely pass a lot of cyclists struggling with the climb. At one point I met the Mechanic's van and had to reverse about 100 yards down a very steep hill, with cyclists coming up it! When I did have a clear path I still struggle due to the gradient of the climb in many places.
By the time I had reached Torr Head, I was knackered even from just watching the cyclists take on the routes; so I can only imagine how they felt. Well, I had a good idea, by the grimacing going on up Torr Head! But once those who took on the brutal climb had reached the top, there was a relatively easy decent into Balycastle where they would be greeted with medals, goody bags,a healthy serving of pasta and other refreshments. A hell of a lot more than a certain well known N.I. cycling event that shall go un-named..
Once I made it to the finish, the sun was out, the music was blaring and many family and friends were waiting at the finish to greet the riders home. Some sprinting for the finish line, others just happy to roll across knowing the job was done.
Throughout the day it was easy to get photos of peoples reactions and emotions due to the nature of the sport. Before the day I was stressing out about being able to get about , but it was such a well organised day that allowed me to smoothly travel around and know exactly where I needed to be.
I'd strongly recommend anyone new or old to the sport, to give the event a go next year. It takes in so many picturesque locations you'd think it was an ad for the tourist board. But not only that, the people who run it have got everything spot on, from food to the organisation of registration of the event and other smaller details some people might overlook.
I'll be back at this event next year for sure. Whether that is on a bike or with a camera is yet to be decided. But based on the faces of people going up Torr Head, it could be the latter.
Another Inside Moves night took place this past Friday, with Canadian/Berlin based Jayda G on the top of the bill. She got some hype surrounding her Boiler Room set at Dekmantel music festival, where she played 70's disco/house whilst dancing like she was in the crowd and flicking her huge hair around. It was a sight to behold. Her energy was infectious on the night, with anyone in the room finding it impossible not to dance including myself.
The Inside Moves DJ's traditionally warmed up for the main act, with Conor Harding and Phillip Mellon. It;s easy enought to get the Bunatee Bar going due to the small venue filling up with 50 - 70 people. But the small crowd is always the most enthusiastic with 'taps aff' taking hold in a sea of yeo's and ceiling punching.
Due to the tight space of the venue, it limits the angle you can shoot. With such low ceilings there is no vantage point for looking down at the DJ's/crowd. But this also worked in my favour, as the ceiling had been punched through so many times, they've used metal sheeting to cover the holes, which in turn create a nice reflection for the wireless flashes I use. It gives a unique look to your average rave photos, with the cramped space adding to the rowdy atmosphere. It's not for the claustrophobic though!
As previously mentioned, I used wireless flashes on the night. It's my go-to setup for DJ nights, with it giving me a range of options in terms of lighting. I decided that I would bring my coloured gels to mix it up, as the wireless flashes are great, but I do use it a lot.
The addition of colour was a big help. With the Bunatee there aren't many static lights illuminating the DJ/crowd. So you have to provide your own.
Jayda G came in and got straight into it, with funky disco inspired tracks coming thick and fast. She was very lively in terms of movement, but thankfully she only had about 4 ft/sq to move, so I could follow the movements easily enough!
Her facial expressions were great because she was singing along to every other track, kind of how I imagine someone would DJ in their bedroom with no one looking.
I was worried about the crowd getting too lively due to the close proximity of DJ and crowd as the records occasionally skipped. But Jayda took it in good spirits, playing on regardless with the front row of the crowd realising what they had done and holding back from banging on the DJ table.
Usually, I've shot all my images half way through the last DJ's set. But I stayed until the end because it was so enjoyable watching her perform, with the crowd reacting so well to every track. I got a few videos of Jayda as her movement and energy couldn't be done justice by still images alone.
Sorry Jayda, but I couldn't stop myself from uploading this last one ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 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*
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
The last time Emeli Sandé played in Custom House Sqaure it was at Belsonic 5 years ago. That night was a washout, as I shot photos that night too and you can see the rain coming down in the photos of Emeli. It seems she doesn't have much luck with the Belfast weather, as it was a similar scene last night. There were a few heavy showers, but the rain dispersed for enough time to allow the sunset to appear.
Support for Emeli was provided by up and coming pop artist: RAY BLK. An artist who I thought I had no clue of until her last few songs. It turns out I recognised most of them ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Those songs that you subconsciously listen to on the radio, but end up sticking in the back of your head because they're so damn catchy.
In between RAY BLK and Emeli Sandé was a very intense rain shower, which proved getting social shots impossible during and after, as everyone was wearing the most unflattering selection of rain ponchos. Aw well, I don't think I could have been helped and the rain subsided long enough to get some photos of those not in ponchos!
So the crowd and I had been well and truly soaked, but it didn't stop people getting excited to see the band come on stage with Emeli. We did the usual 3 songs and I was very happy with the shots I came out with. Her powerful voice results in a lot of intense facial expressions and the stage had no shortage of lighting.
I then venutred into the crowd and got some wide shots for a couple of songs, only to make my way out and for the heavens to open once more.
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.
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.
CHSQ is the new name for the Festival held in Custom House Square; formally where Belsonic took place up until last year. As Belsonic already took place at Ormeau Park back in June, this is now a separate event with just as an eclectic range of performances.
The 9 different nights will take place during this month (August 2017) and spread out over 3 weeks, with the usual break of nights to accommodate those going to see DJ Tiesto and Muse at Vital.
CHSQ's lineup varies from DJ specific artists like Above & Beyond, Timmy Trumpet and Carl Cox; I never thought I would be mentioning these artists in the same breath, given the sheer difference in their DJ sets. Then you have some for the pop fans with Walking on Cars and Emeli Sande. Then somewhere in the middle of rock and pop, you have Kasabian. Foy Vance is one night I'm looking forward to because of his voice, but also because it's forecast to be sunny. Finally, there are Ocean Colour Scene who will draw a big crowd and Stiff Little Fingers who have already sold out!
The first night wasn't an easy introduction to CHSQ as there was a sold out crowd, but a DJ night no less. The DJ gigs always draw a big and crazy crowd, so it works for and against me. The photos will come thick and fast, as the crowd is younger and want nothing more than their photo taken, but just dealing with and navigating the crowd can be pretty damn hard.
Above and Beyond have played Belfast a lot recently, as I've covered them 4 times in as many years. So I'm familiar with their set and stage setup which helped a lot.
About halfway through their set, they will play a song entitled King for a Day which seems quite appropriate. They choose someone from the crowd to get on stage and kind of, I guess, pretend to be a DJ? It's essentially the crowd member(s) standing in front of the DJ decks and going nuts. They get to quickly meet the guys from A&B and it's always good for a few photo
This time they chose two women who were at the front of the crowd since the gig opened around 4 hours previous, which seems fair given that commitment! I got some great shots of the jumping around and clearly loving life with their temporary role as guest DJ's.
Ben Klock most the most recent headline DJ to play Shine and is one of many strong lineups over the coming months; with Daniel Avery, Hot Since 82, Mall Grab, Joseph Capriati, Fatima Yahama all playing dates in Belfast in the near future.
This Shine featured a techno orientated lineup to cater to those coming to see Ben Klock and maybe it’s just me, but the techno nights are always slightly louder than any other, my ears always take a little longer to get back to normal and it’s always a little bit sweatier too.
The main stage in Mandela had some extra lighting rigs which was great, because I’m there so often, it’s nice to see a change of lighting in order to make my photos slightly different than last time. There were 4 lighting rigs behind the DJ’s on the stage and they had spotlights than paired with another 4 or 5 spotlights in front of the DJ. This created a great visual effect of all the spotlights moving in sync:
Amongst the strong lineup was the local contingent of Schmutz, BEKUZ and JC Williams that makes Shine so great. They have always championed the local talent and gave them a platform for playing to the most enthusiastic crowds around.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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'
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Another shift in genre and performer with The Chainsmokers headlining Belsonic on 26th June. I thought I hadn't heard many of their songs, but 3-4 tracks into their Spotify playlist, I soon found out I knew pretty much all of their back catalogue without realising.
Lost Kings were the first support act, playing a DJ set and doing plenty of jumping around to keep me happy. They did a great job of raising the energy levels on a pretty grim and overcast day in Belfast.
I was happy to see that the second support act was a singer with accompanied band. So I wouldn't just be shooting DJ's that night. She was another lively performer running up and down the stage with her photogenic singing style. I honestly don' think I took a bad photo of her, which is only because of her talent, not mine.
When The Chainsmokers first took to the stage it looked great, with pyro going off and all the lights and noise you could imagine. However, it was not great from the photo pit for shooting. There was so much smoke in front of the stage, you could barely see them up on the DJ table.
I had to actually move into the crowd to get a decent angle and it's those kinds of situations where I have to appreciate that I can get access to the stage where I did get some great shots.
It wasn't a traditional DJ set where they will play tracks and put their hands in the air when the song drops. They were running up and down the stage and actually sang some of their songs believe it or not, which is a lot more than you'll see your average EDM DJ do.
They had clearly perfected the art of an EDM show, combining live vocals and stage presence, but not having to rely on their incredible stage show. The only downside to the whole thing was that I left 15 minutes before the end to go to another job, only to hear a crazy amount of fireworks going off after I left. You can't win 'em all I guess.
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)_/¯
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
The EDM nights at Belsonic have their good and bad sides; the good side being the lighting, Co2 cannons, fireworks, lazers etc. The bad part is that they generally attract a really young crowd which can be tough when you're trying to take social images of said crowd.
But they always sell well, so it's good to fill the venue, I just make sure I take the shots from far away!
Warming up the crowd before Martin Garrix were Justin Mylo and Don Diablo. Now, admittedly I had no idea who they were, they were lively and interacted with the crowd well. I was able to shoot Justin Mylo without any hassle but then was told I had to shoot from behind Don Diablo during his set. Generally I'll try and avoid the typical above the DJ's head, looking into the crowd. But I got lucky with the timing on this one:
Just before Martin Garrix came on stage, he was doing a meet and greet with competition winners, and I have to say that he came across as a nice, and grounded kind of guy. He happily madr conversation with the star-struck fans and posed for all the selfies they could manage.
A typical EDM gig at Belsonic will require come creative angles to capture the DJ at work. However, it was a pleasant surprise that Martin was positioned front and centre on the stage. This allowed the photographers to use the photo pit and get some closeups of the man himself.
Unfortunately I wasn't allowed on stage, so I made it through the crowd in one piece to the lighting tower, where I got a great view of the pyrotechnics and light show. It was another incredibly warm day and there was a nice contrast from the lighting of the stage to the blue skies above, with the sun just disappearing midway through his set. An unreal stage show, with regular Co2 and fireworks going off throughout the set.
But the real show was to come at the end of the last song; where a good 30-45 seconds of fireworks would go off from the top of the stage. Definitely worth the wait!
Cream Classics was the first of several dance artists, but not your typical rave. A 50 piece orchestra accompanies vocalists and DJ's to cover various club classics from the last 30 years, which attracted a varied crowd.
DJ's from years gone by warmed up, with Tall Paul and Judge Jules drawing in a decent crowd before the orchestra made it on stage. However, with the DJ's playing at the back of the stage it did loose the interaction between crowd and DJ. It also proved tough to shoot, as there was no lighting for the DJ, just a lot of sun blaring in their face.
The crowd were in good spirits given that it was extremely warm that night, with temperatures going past 20; something Belfast doesn't experience a lot. And there were plenty of 'taps aff' as you would come to expect.
When The orchestra began their set it was still bright and sunny, so the light show and lazers had to wait a while until people could appreciate the visual aspect. So I decided to go on stage and get close-ups of the performers, with the photo pit not offering any useful angles of the seated orchestra and with the non-seated performers at the back of the stage.
When the sun eventually made its way round the back of the trees, the light show came into full swing and show really came alive. With lazers and lights to accompany all the dance classics. The set sounded great and the orchestra, but visually it definitely needed the light show to keep people interested.
This was one I was excited to hear about when it was announced, being a fan of the band and having a chance to shoot a second world class band in as many days. I've shot them in Belfast twice before and I've loved the energy Matty Healy (lead singer) provides. It's challenging to do justice to the performance, even more so with the wall of screaming teenagers sitting 3 feet behind you.
Support for The 1975 is always good to discover artists that will be big in the future; with Wolf Alice supporting the last 1975 gig in Ulster Hall, when most people, including myself, hadn't a clue who they were.
Pale Waves were the first support with a synth 80's style sound I would highly recommend a listen, as The 1975 produced their current single 'There's a Honey'. They also had the flair of a band that would have been headlining, which I'm sure won't be far away.
Picture This were next on stage, with a pop rock sound, slightly subdued when compared with the first band, but the crowd seemed to be into it, maybe the dreamy looks of the main singer appealed to the teenage girls more than me.. who knows. But I'm sure they're also set for big things, as they've secured a support slot for one of the biggest bands in the world, only 2 years after forming!
Inevitably when The 1975 walked on stage all hell broke loose, with girls screaming as if someone had unleashed a lion into the crowd. Matty Healy has a swagger that comes with being in a band as big as his, with his movement on stage completely random and great for photos.
There was a moment early on in the set, where he pointed to some of the photographers and started pulling Madonna Vogue-esque poses and I'm just glad I had the right lens on and was paying attention, as it was over as soon as it had begun. Another example of why they're so great to shoot. You wouldn't get this from Noel Gallagher,
I often get asked 'I suppose you get to see all the band for free then?'. but it doesn;t quite work like that, I find myself too immersed in predicting what is going to happen next and generally shooting the gig, that I can't be a punter and just enjoy the gig.
So whenever the third song had finished, I had edited/uploaded some images, I made myself into the crowd to shoot some wide shots. I was able to get into the lighting tent which is positioned in the crowd and has three levels. The third of which was not being used and provided the best seat in the house. It was only then I was able to put my camera down for one song and truly enjoy the show, when they just happened to play my favourite song of theirs; 'Me'.