The Coach House,
San Juan Capistrano, CA
Ok remember in my last post (Ted Nugent) how I said that The Grove of Anaheim was a great place to shoot concerts because the lighting is so professional? Well The Coach House, where Soul Asylum played a great high energy set this week, is the exact opposite. I was shooting here one night after The Grove shoot and I thought it would be an interesting contrast in conditions and how to deal with them.
The Coach House is, shall we say, challenging for photographers. This is nothing against the atmosphere of the venue, it is an awesome place to see a concert, and I personally love watching a show there. But the lighting is always very dark and usually the lighting is simply set to one color scheme per song. And to make it even more fun there is no photo pit, so you are always shooting from the audience and usually shooting at a pretty far distance from the stage. But we as photographers love a challenge right?
So do these Soul Asylum pictures look technically as good as the Ted Nugent photos in the previous post? No, of course not. But I think even though the lighting was very difficult to work with they still hold up well. Ted Nugent had $1,000,000 worth of indoor illumination lighting up his stage like it was the 4th of July. Soul Asylum were basically playing by candlelight (well to a camera lens anyway) with one color scheme per song, no spotlights and no on stage lighting. And to much to their credit Soul Asylum put on a GREAT concert, playing in an intimate venue to an appreciative crowd.
So how do we as photographers overcome these challenges and hopefully get some nice pictures? This is how I do it. First I would recommend having some fast glass, I shot these with a 70-200mm 2.8 telephoto lens. If you don't have a fast lens don't let that stop you, SHOOT WITH THE LENS YOU DO HAVE. Trust me the guy next to you always seems to have a better camera or a better lens than you do. However he (or she) may not get better pictures than you. I captured many wonderful photos with slower lenses before I was able to purchase faster ones. Next you will have to bump up your ISO, this will vary with your camera and will introduce some noise (grain) into the shots. Don't sweat a little noise, heck sometimes I actually add noise into my shots because it can be a cool effect. For most of these shots I had my ISO set at 4000 which allowed me a fighting chance to get some good images. Next open up you aperture as wide as your lens will allow to let in maximum light. Additionally you may have to slow your shutter speed down a little bit. These pictures were done a 1/160-1/200. I don't recommend going too slow on shutter speed because usually at a rock concert your subject is jumping or running all over the stage. Hey I said we like a challenge.
As with all photography getting the best shot possible is a compromise dictated by shooting conditions and your gear, and as you shoot more you will be able to judge those conditions and adapt to get some great shots no matter the conditions. Different venues will offer different challenges, the key is adapting to them. And if we're really lucky the music will always be good no matter the lighting!