Live music photography

Our band Beige Shelter performs gigs in and around Toronto. Sometimes I take my camera with me to practice live music photography and share my photos with the artists to help with their own promo material. I love supporting local music.

Lately, I’ve been trying to capture more subtle moments in performance. I used to try and capture the highest emotional moments (singers with their mouths wide open), but I’m finding the space to add a variety of shots where the energy is perhaps less but there’s also a sense of a performer being focused and “in the zone”.

For these photos, I shoot with my Nikon 85mm F1.8 prime lens on my crop body Nikon D7000 camera. I always shoot wide open and under-expose to get the sharpest photos.

Here’s some photos I took at two shows, at Spot One in Brampton, and Folly Brewpub in Toronto.

Song Studio Student Showcase Photos

I attended the Song Studio Student Showcase at Hugh’s Room in Toronto this year. Song Studio is a week-long songwriting camp in Toronto, hosted by Blair Packham and others. I know several songwriters who have attended and they all say it’s an amazing experience.

For the week’s grand finale, the students put on a show with a stellar backup band featuring Rik Emmett of Canadian rock band Triumph on lead guitar. The students hand over lead sheets containing chords, lyrics and the structure for their original song. The band haven’t practiced or heard the songs before, but within about two measures, they lay down a backing groove like they’ve been performing it for years.

It was a joy to watch the performances, hear the original songs, and cheer on some of my friends. I had my camera in tow, and took a few snaps. My friend David St. Bernard used my phone to shoot a video of the incredibly entertaining closing song by Matt Gerber.

Congrats to the students and faculty for a tremendous show!

Blair Packham and the Jitters show photography

I went to the album release party for Blair Packham, a top Canadian singer-songwriter who was the frontman for The Jitters a short while ago. He continues to write catchy, clever, and thoughtful songs and he also teaches songwriters at Song Studio in Toronto. I know Blair from his numerous appearances on Song Talk Radio (some of our best shows, thanks to Blair’s articulate insights into songwriting).

For this show at the Pilot, Blair performed songs from his new album Unpopular Pop with his band The Impossible Dream, and then took the stage with his old band The Jitters. I had a eureka moment when they played Last of the Red Hot Fools, as I recall that song being on the radio when I was a teenager, but I never lined up Blair (or the Jitters) with the song.

I’m glad I took my camera, as Blair really dug the photos (“Wow! Pictures of me that I don’t hate!”) I’ve been listening incessantly to the Jitters and Unpopular Pop since…

Cherry Blossoms 2017: The Shadow Side

I always look forward to the arrival of the cherry blossoms at High Park. I don’t make it ever year, but each time go I try to think of a different way to capture their fleeting beauty. In 2011, I arrived with a photographer’s meetup at sunrise, in 2012, I focused on the people, and in 2015 I tried out daytime time-lapsed photography.

This time, I wasn’t sure what I was going to try, but after a few photos I decided it might be interesting to only shoot the blossoms on their shadow sides. Perhaps it was because the barrage of people shooting with their backs to the setting sun made it crowded to shoot from the sunny side—who knows?

In any case, I did find myself wanting to step around and turn direction to get the blossoms with direct sunlight many times. It’s easy to argue direct light makes for better photos. Each time, I managed to keep myself in the shadows.

There’s something about the translucency of the blossom petals that make shooting from this side interesting. Of course, this works best when the sun is low; I was shooting during the hour before sunset.

Every photo in this gallery except the first one was shot from the shadow side.

Melanie J. Fishbane website design

I worked closely with young adult novelist and writer Melanie J. Fishbane to develop her new author website in preparation for the launch of her debut novel, Maud.

Melanie is a bone fide Anne of Green Gables and Lucy Maud Montgomery expert. Her first novel is about the teenage years of the famous Anne author—her trials and tribulations of becoming a writer, her love interests, and family dramas.

I presented Melanie with a few design options, including a variety of colour schemes, backgrounds, and general look and feel. We settled on a template, and I continued to refine the style to her taste and the appeal of her audience, which includes readers, teachers, and other writers.

Check out the website at melaniefishbane.com.

One-stop shop

I also helped Mel with photography. We set up a classic typewriter with some of Mel’s Anne-flavoured memorabilia and miscellaneous stuff for her main homepage banner. I also took the photos for a few other banners and items for the website and accompanying media (e.g. bookmarks).

I appreciate that Mel refuses to use stock photography, preferring to instead use her own photos and memorabilia. This gives her website a very personal and intimate presentation. She invites her audience into her personal and professional life, and we even got her cat Merlin in on the action!

I also provided technical support, set up her domain name and a new email address, web hosting, and imported her previous blog into the new website.

Melanie also needed assistance with a small social media campaign. In preparation for the book launch, she selected seven quotes from the novel. I created social media cards which she posted each day for a week until the launch day. I used elements from the cover design to give her campaign a consistent look.

BS Fridays Radio Showcase photography

I was invited to take photos of a singer-songwriter showcase put on by BS Fridays in Toronto on April 7, 2017. The event took place at the Cameron House, and the organizers put on a great show of talented performers.

LHSC FMESS Year in Review

While at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), I developed a Year in Review for the new portfolio of Facilities Management, Environmental and Support Services (FMESS). The new portfolio encompassed many departments and support service areas. I focused on the changes over the 2016-17 year, the great work being done, and visions for the future. We also included friendly congratulations and recognition for staff members who played vital roles throughout the year. The Year in Review was intended for a general audience, both at LHSC and outside the organization.

I worked closely with the Vice-President to develop the framework, with other staff to conduct research and develop the content, and compiled and wrote the content for the report. I also took many photos, profiling the human dimension of support services as much as possible. I designed the final layout in a package suitable for offset printing and online distribution.

Download the FMESS Year in Review 2016-17.

Nashville-style singer-songwriters in the round

Once again, I attended a night of talented singer-songwriters in a Nashville-style round, where four performers do four songs each in turn. What makes this kind of setup amazing is when the performers backup each other with guitar or harmony vocals.

The performers for the February 9 show at the 120 Diner in Toronto were:

  • Chase Stevens
  • John Chris Ford
  • Bruce Harrott
  • Annie Bonsignore

As before, I took some photos of the performers and shared the hi-res copies with them.

Nashville style singer-songwriters in the round photos

Once again, I attended a night of fantastic original music at the 120 Diner in Toronto. I was invited by two of the performers, Sherry Jacoby and Lora Ryan. The show was hosted by Annie Bonsignore and Roger Beckett from A&R Productions.

The great thing about the Nashville-style setup is the interplay between the artists. In particular, Augusta Ray lent her sweet country voice to other performers on stage. As well, Paul Malysa prompted the audience for random key words and improvised a song on the fly, with backup vocals by Augusta. It was a fun night and a privilege to hear such talented singers and songwriters.

I took photos of the performers, and offered to share high-resolution copies with the artists.

Live music photography

I recently purchased a new medium telephoto lens for my camera and put it to the test with photographing a couple of live music events. I enjoyed a “songwriters in the round” event at 120 Diner in Toronto. I already knew three of the performers, and got to meet and hear several new ones.

Beige Shelter was playing a show at Skeaky Dee’s, and I took photos of bands The Thick, The Cashews, and singer-songwriter David Dino White. For this show, the stage was bathed in a very bad blue light, so I converted the photos to black and white in post-production.

For another Beige Shelter show, I took photos of supporting acts Brian Sasaki and Wilson & The Castaways. The show was a great success at the Amsterdam Bicycle Club in Toronto.

The new lens is great for capturing sharp photos in low light. I find the keys to great photos on stage are using spot metering and adjusting the focus point as you shoot. I like to capture high emotional moments in the performances and where possible, get them with their eyes open. Framing with odd angles also adds a cool dynamic.