Merrill Beth Nisker, a.k.a. Peaches, is a musical warrior. I have been a fan of hers ever since I heard her song-that-shall-not-be-named from one of my all time favorite movies, Lost in Translation. She sings, raps, and spins her own beats on stage, while also changing in-out of crazy costumes and spraying champagne on the crowd. She absolutely KILLS it, and doesn’t pause to apologize for her lyrics. It’s pure, unadulterated, offensive, punk-electro-rock genius. And oh by the way, her beats are awesome and she can actually sing. So when I had the chance to see her live, and take pictures, I jumped at the opportunity. Check out the pics, then I’ll tell you what I learned from the experience after the jump (it was a pain in the butt to shoot).
I did my research ahead of time, as every event photographer should do. I knew two things going in: (1) there was no place to shoot from, and (2) Peaches seemed to enjoy spitting champagne on the crowd.
Turns out, there was a place to shoot from, and it was a 2-foot wide “pit” that had no business calling itself a photographers pit. Holding the pit from collapsing forward were a series of trash cans, which prevented me from moving side-to-side more than a few feet. And once I fought through the crowd (who, as per usual, acted like the photographers are all jerks), and got into the pit, there was no way I was getting out until the show was over. Sometimes, you just have to do the best you can with what you got.
To make it more interesting, Peaches was either right above me, literally, or behind a giant wooden dj platform. And… now you know why all my pics are up her nose, or blocked by a platform. I did my best to pop up and shoot, or hold the camera above my head, without blocking the audience’s view for more than a second or two, (and I had the sore quads to prove it). In situations like this, it’s a good idea to pack some knee pads, too, because standing/kneeling on a concrete floor for 2hrs is nooo fun. As difficult as it was to shoot, though, it was a helluva lot of fun. No one had a better spot to experience the show than I did.
I managed to get a few pics of the champagne shenanigans, but I was ready and snapped those REAL quick, before dropping into a ball, trying to keep my gear dry. Had I been a little better prepared, I would have put the rain cover over my bag. My gear and I escaped unharmed, though my back and head got pretty doused. This is one instance in which having a rugged camera body and L-series lenses was important, because of weather sealing. Oh, and make sure you have wet and dry lens cleaner with you, because it can save your life.
I must admit that I’m not a seasoned pro, because I only shoot concerts once in a while, but I am starting to realize the benefits of shooting in “manual mode.” Normally, I use “aperture priority” with the ISO cranked high and the aperture set to 2.8. When I’m going for motion blur, I switch over to “shutter priority” and set the speed at .5 (minimal blur) to 2 seconds (for zoom blur or dragging the shutter after a speedlight burst). I gave manual mode a go during this shoot, and although it didn’t work out most of the time, I did nail a few shots that I might otherwise have missed. I still question the pros that insist on shooting in Manual exclusively, because sometime the lighting in a show changes too fast for you to adjust, but it’s definitely a good weapon to have in your arsenal.
One more bit of advice, if you’re planning on shooting concerts… get better ear plugs. The set that I had were normal, every-day ear plugs, and the bass went right through those puppies. I’m never again leaving home for a shoot without a set Music-safe ear plugs!