Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes

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Frank Carter will attract a crowd no matter where he plays or what band he's in. He brought Gallows to the forefront of punk rock and left soon after. He had a stint with Pure Love who I saw support Paramore at Belsonic 3 years ago. Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes have been going for a few years now and I saw them play Belfast last year at Voodoo Bar which was absolute carnage.

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This time round he was playing The oh Yeah Centre and many people questioned why he would play such a small venue. But the venues low stage supports Frank's tendency to venture into the crowd during the set. And to make crowd surfing easier for everyone; except photographers due to the lack of photo pit!

Not only was the lack of photo pit challenging, but the sheer amount of photographers made it harder to find a good spot at the front of the stage. I settled with stage right, standing directly beside the large speakers of course.

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When Frank finally came on stage, the front was hard to deal with, due to the crowd going ape-shit. But in the image above, the ratio of photographers to people is 3:1, this gives you a sense of how many there actually were.

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With a gig like this, the right angles don't come into your head. You just find a spot where someone isn't trying to shove into you and start shooting. Luck is obviously involved, but you need to make sure you don't get lazy and sit in the same spot or stick to the same focal length. I tried to mix it between the 50mm 1.4 for low light and sharp action shots. Then the 17-40 4.0 to capture the crowd and scale of the gig.

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Shine - Rødhåd

The last time Rødhåd came to Belfast he played AVA Festival back in June '16. I had to leave just as came on stage, so I was relieved when I heard he was to headline Shine, making up for last summer's missed opportunity. Dense & Pika warmed up Mandela Hall, who didn't blow me away, but I'll always be a fan of their stuff, especially Colt; a tune guaranteed to make me throw shapes.

Meanwhile, Schmutz were throwing it down in Bunatee to your usually sweaty crowd. My wireless triggers were playing up, due to a battery leaking in the trigger (Duracell bullshit) so I had to use on camera flash, going for stroboscopic mode for old times sake. I forgot how much fun you can have with stroboscopic mode!

Bar sub is traditionally the 3rd room at Shine and I managed to catch Miniminds in his set. However, it's always the hardest room to capture, with its sheer darkness, with the only light source coming from a backlit projector screen. I was in the process of using that as the only light source until some legend started filming with the light on their phone. This provided enough light for me to up my shutter speed and capture a few shots of the DJ. Call it lucky, but it did the trick.

When I got round to shooting Rødhåd I had no wireless triggers to use, due to the shitty (NEW) Duracell batteries that let me down big time. I shot a few images with the stage lights, but there were a lot of reds and blues that I wasn't fussed with, right up until he played a few faster-paced tracks that got the crowd going. The lights on stage then came into play and it allowed me to get a few brighter shots which I'm pretty happy with (Photo at top)

Full Resident Advisor photo set here

Denis Sulta

Denis Sulta hasn't been about for long, but he has a tune that's been doing the rounds, combined with his lively DJ sets and choice of classic techno & house tracks that draws the crowds. Friday night was no exception, with the Limelight show selling out in no time. There was support from Derry's Bekuz and another Scottish DJ; Brassica, who you might have seen remixing Bicep tracks and vice versa.

Brassica has a more laid back approach to DJ sets, subtly lining up heavier tracks that wound the atmosphere up just before Denis Sulta came on stage. As for my shooting tecnique; I decided to try and shoot most of the DJ portraits with the stage lighting and dropping down to F/1.6 or even 1.4.

But this wasn't getting me the shots I wanted, with hardly any bright stages lights being used, it was extremely hit and miss up until the headliner came on stage, which the best lighting is always held back for. So When Sulta came on, I instantly realised I couldn't rely on stages lights because he was moving about so much! So flashes had to be introduced.

I threw down a flash on either side of the DJ table on Speedlite stands, making them less inconspicuous and easier to adjust the direction, depending on where the subject was.

I couldn't resist a silhouette shot with all the hand gestures he was pulling..

I really enjoy shooting an artist that moves around a lot. It gives you such a variety of images and keeps you on your toes. But I really liked his set, some 2000's classic anthems thrown in that the crowd really appreciated, at least I know I did.

Hannah Wants @ Limelight, Belfast

Hannah Wants came to Belfast last February at Shine, where she filled the Mandela Hall, so I knew the smaller Limelight venue would have a similar atmosphere to her gig just under a year ago.  With the new wireless triggers for my flashes, I set them up either side of the DJ table, simply moving around the subject and therefore adjusting the lightings effect, without having to move the lights. 

The support came in the form of two individual DJ's, allowing me to nail my lighting for when Hannah came on-stage. Cue the silhouettes:

I always anticipate the DJ's hand movements, which came in came in the form of air-drumming and I got lucky with strobe lights, providing a stroboscopic effect.

It's always hard to make a DJ night look different when it's in the same venue, but I ventured into the crowd to trigger the lights on stage. I ran the risk of getting asked to take a photo, only to have both of my flashes on stage. Having to explain to people in a dark and loud nightclub why I don't have a flash has become a challenge. 

I then went back on stage to shoot some images of Hannah, and with the crowd reaching fever pitch I made sure to point my lights at the crowd to get them going nuts. What I'm most pleased with from the night, is that all the images I've posted kept the lights in the same location. I simply changed the order of flashes used, to completely change the look of the image as I've posted below:

Flash on left and right side of subject:

No flashes, just house lights

One flash, stage right:

Trivium @ Limelight, Belfast

Trivium are a band that hadn't played Belfast in nearly a decade as far as I can see, so there was a bit of hysteria when they announced to play Dublin/Belfast back-to-back. It was sold out soon enough, which makes my job harder when I'm trying to get about the venue for social shots and just general performer shots. But if you didn't have a packed out crowd, then the atmosphere and overall experience would be dampened, so it goes both ways in that sense.

But I guess it's a photographer's job to complain; if it wasn't the large crowd, it would inevitably go to the lighting. Whilst we're on the subject, I was spoiled with light for Trivium, with bright stage-facing lights allowing me to boost the shutter speed all the way up to 1/1250 very briefly! And when you combine the ability to shoot a high shutter speed with varied colours you can get some cool effects.

Another small issue was a number of people crowd surfing; which I have no problem with, in fact I encourage it! Images of crowd surfing is a great indication of atmosphere. However, the photo pit was 3-4 feet deep, with at least 4 photographers fighting for space, 3 security men and a barrage of flying limbs and feet due to the crowd surfers getting passed to the front, it certainly made concentrating quite hard!

Frightened Rabbit @ Limelight

Last time these guys came to Belfast, I was shooting them at Belsonic. However, it was a wet and pretty quiet night, so thankfully the circumstances were very different this time round; with the gig being indoors and a (nearly) full house. The crowd was really up for it, with huge cheers for every song, it was almost as if everyone was trying to make up for the last time they came to town.

FR are a band I've seen a few times now, and it always strikes me how closely they sound to their recorded material, which I guess is a testament to the vocalist; Scott Hutchison. 

The lights for the gig started with blue light and strobes (not good), but then things picked up just before the end of the 3rd song when we all pack up and go. Although, I can never stop myself from going into the crowd and shooting a wide shot..

I uploaded most of the shots onto my Flickr page

First Shine of 2017

In a year that looks like another big one for electronic music in N.I., the year's 1st Shine event took place on Saturday past. Dusky headlined the night, with a strong line-up featuring Danny Daze, Peggy Gou, Truncate, Chris Hanna, Kapoor and Schmutz playing 2 different rooms in the one night!

Now, to be honest, I was only familiar with half the acts, but my standout set was Peggy Gou in the famously rowdy; Bunatee Bar.  Plus the fact she is stunningly beautiful (especially compared to your average DJ) which always makes a photographer's job a lot easier  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

On the technical side of things, I stuck to my usual setup for Shine; 2 x Speedlite flashes on light stands, wirelessly triggered from my Canon ST-E2 trigger. With one on either side of the main stage. I threw in some coloured gels for most of the DJ portraits, which is always good to keep things fresh for two reasons; the bright white flash gets a bit boring after a while and it allows you to be in creative control of the light.

 If you rely on the events lighting it will be more luck that comes into play, although the lighting tech did help me out a lot by turning off the smoke machine for the DJ shots.

Here I used an orange gel in the background, with blue in the foreground. I realised in post-production, that it just looks like natural flash so I don't think I'll bother next time, as you could get the same effects by adjusted white balance.

Here is a link to the Resident Advisor photo album - click me pls

All in all, it was a great night for varied artists and a good crowd to match. Next up comes Denis Sulta in Limelight, followed by Kolsch the next day in Shine!