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Janne learns to shoot pt4 – Festivals

Summer is now officially over, and so is the festival season. Continuing my annual posts on how I’m learning to take decent pictures, I thought I might share some thoughts on festival photography. If you want to read my previous text on my process of learning how to shoot, please check out my posts on your first camera, club shooting and my rambling on outdoors night shooting with flash. But to the festival shooting [DISCLAIMER: This post is “as long as a year of famine” as we say in Swedish, so proceed at your own risk]:

1. How to get a photo pass?

Getting a photo pass is step number one, and might be tricky if you are new in the game.

Getting a photo pass is step number one, and might be tricky if you are new in the game.

If you are new to the game, this is the first and biggest hurdle. Without a big name in festival photography or the right connections, this may be tricky. Here are the steps and tricks you might take.

Get a system camera. Without one, you probably will not get access to the photo pit.

Find an outlet. Most festivals require you to register via a media outlet. If you don’t have one, check with these: local papers, student papers, music magazines, culture magazines, e-zines and websites. There are also dozens of festival photography websites around today.

Start a music blog. This is what I did. It might not get you access to the big ones, though, and it also requires a bit of journalism.

Get accreditation. Sometimes your newspaper/magazine/media will take care of this, but often it is up to you. Most festivals have an accred/media link on their websites, where you apply for a photo pass. Remember to check it out at least a month before the festival, some tend to close media accreditation quite early.

Start small. If you work on your own, don’t just try to get into the biggest festivals, seek out small ones that might accept small blogs and zines.

2. Preparations

Make a detailed list of what bands you are going to shoot. Here I have even used colour coding to mark out the different stages they play on. Might seem silly, but it's surprisingly helpful.

Make a detailed list of what bands you are going to shoot. Here I have even used colour coding to mark out the different stages they play on. Might seem silly, but it’s surprisingly helpful.

Good planning is half the work. If you show up out of the blue, it will be a mess. Plan everything in advance, all from when to arrive, what to shoot, when to take a break, when to do interviews, how to travel and sleep, what gear to bring, what clothes to wear and what additional props to bring.

Planning. On most festivals with multiple stages you won’t be able to shoot all bands, and you want to keep a lunch and coffee break at some point. Check out what you want to shoot in advance. Make a minute-by-minute timetable so you know when to be where. This makes life so much easier.

Clothing and stuff. Wear comfortable clothes. It’s well and nice to look cool in leather and stilettos, but it will take its toll on your feet, back and legs in the long run. Pack a rain poncho even if it looks sunny. Sandals are nice, but you might hurt your toes if someone steps on you in the photo pit. I always bring a small medical kit for headaches, blisters, rashes, cuts and undesired bowel reactions to festival grub, as well as some toilet paper, you never know with those portable loos. On small one-stage-festivals, I recommends some good reading material, like, you know, a book.

Transport and accommodation. Plan how you move about. Buy train or bus tickets early, and check out the layout of the city or area the festival is located in. If you decide to book a hotel, do so very early, they tend to fill up quickly. Jot down the local taxi number and keep an emergency cash stash somewhere on your person in case of pick-pockets. You don’t wanna get stranded.

3. Gear

My kit at Down By the Laituri 2012. Two cameras, four cheap lenses, and stuff.

My kit at Down By the Laituri 2012. Two cameras, four cheap lenses, and stuff.

Camera & lenses. You don’t need a full frame 6000 euro camera and top of the line lenses (although they do take better pictures). You will do fine for example with the Nikon 3000 series or the Canon 600 or 700 series. As for lenses I currently go with a three or four lens combo: 1: A good low light lens (I use a Canon 50 mm f/ 1.8, cheap and reliable). 2: A wide angle lens, great for dramatic close-ups. A fisheye can give wonderful shots, but a really wide fisheye can be very limiting in a concert situation. 3: A good tele zoom with a minimum range of 200 mm. Crucial for big stages and crowded photo pits. Currently I use two zoom lenses, one short (17-85) and one long (50-200). The shorter one I sometimes leave at home. All of the lenses I use are very affordable.

Other gear: Proper batteries, the ones that come with the cameras are often second grade. Keep spares. A battery grip is handy. Bring a battery charger. Also buy some heavy duty memory cards, you won’t get very far with 2 or 4 gigas. Always have camera cleaning and drying equipment with you; if it isn’t rainy, it will be dusty and sometimes the bands will throw or squirt or blow shit at you.

Extra: If you have a spare camera, bring it. My camera suddenly malfunctioned at Ilosaarirock this summer and I was very, very happy to have my old D400 as a backup. You can also use double cameras while shooting, so you don’t have to stop to change lenses. Don’t bring a laptop if you’re not sure you’re gonna need it. It’s a lot to carry around and internet reception is usually poor. Many festivals have computers you can use in the media area.

4. Arriving

Look up the media area. There you can usually do interviews, rest and have a cup of coffee. This picture is from Baltic Jazz Festival.

Look up the media area. There you can usually do interviews, rest and have a cup of coffee. This picture is from Baltic Jazz Festival, Radio Vega interviewing the board chairman and the festival director.

Try to check out the festival area as soon as you arrive. If you don’t have to shoot the first band, skip it. You’re here on duty, so take advantage of everything the festival provides you with. Seek out the media center and check if you’re allowed in the VIP section. There will usually be a workspace, some sort of lounge, sometimes computers, internet access, coffee (for free if you’re lucky) and sometimes even free snacks. It also tends to mean shorter toilet and bar lines. Seek out the person responsible for media at the festival and get this person’s phone number and e-mail. Check out the layout of the festival area, where photo pit entrances are, is there an interview area, a media entrance and so on.

5. The photo pit

It's not always easy being a festival photographer. When Ozzy doesn't foam you, The Flaming Lips smother you with ballons, as here at Pitkä Kuuma Kesä in Helsinki 2009.

It’s not always easy being a festival photographer. When Ozzy doesn’t foam you, The Flaming Lips smother you with ballons, as here at Pitkä Kuuma Kesä in Helsinki 2009.

As a rule, photographers are allowed to shoot the three first songs of a gig from the pit. But there may be exceptions, so seek out the photo pit entrance at least five minutes before the shows starts. The entrance is usually on either side of the stage. Keep your photo pass and wristband visible for the security guards. If there are special rules, the security personnel will let you know. Obey the rules, they are often for your own safety, as some bands use pyros and other dangerous stuff.

6. Mind your manners!

There are some unwritten rules and good manners to go by in the photo pit. It can sometimes be crowded, but try and keep it civilized. 

No flash. Flash photography is usually forbidden.

No climbing. Without special permission, don’t climb the stage or scaffolding. It may be OK to step onto the crowd fence at the back of the pit.

Don’t push and shove. It may be crowded and you may lose the money shot because someone stands in your way, but pushing will ruin the shot for the other guy, may be dangerous, and it is simply rude. A gentle tap on the shoulder will do the trick.

DON'T DO THAT! Keep your elbows below your head when you shoot, or you'll block the view.

DON’T DO THAT! Keep your elbows below your head when you shoot, or you’ll block the view. This is Finntroll at Tuska in Helsinki, by the way, probably 2009 or 2010.

Keep your hands and elbows down. When standing in front of other photographers, don’t lift the camera above your head, and keep your elbows tucked in and pointing downwards. Otherwise you block everyone behind you (and it is actually better for your back and shoulders). If you need to shoot from above your head, do it from the back of the pit.

Crouch when moving. When walking sideways in the pit, crouch down so your head isn’t in the way of the other photographers.

Remove your photo bag. If it is crowded, please leave your photo bag beside the stage.

Don’t occupy the best space. If there is a very good space to shoot, don’t stay there for too long. A couple of minutes will do, then give other people a chance to get a good shot.

It’s not a competition. Yes, we all want to get the killer shot. But a nice, polite rotation will give everyone the chance to check out the best angles. We’re in this together.

7. You are the newbie

tuska_kid

You might feel small in the beginning, but watch and learn from the old guys and girls, they are usually sweet people. This one from Tuska Festival in Helsinki.

Showing up for your first festival with your cheap camera and lenses can be very intimidating. Trust me, I know, I still feel like the awkward cousin from the country with too short trousers. Everyone’s got cameras the size of footballs and lenses longer than your arm. They all know each other and chat away in little groups and look like this is just another day at the office. Someone asks about your camera and you feel a little ashamed of your small Canon 600 and don’t quite know the tech stuff, umm, it’s the … uh, the lens that came with the camera? Like 55 something?

Don’t worry. They all started out somewhere, too, and most of them tend to be pretty nice and helpful. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice if you need it, people like to be able to show off their knowledge a bit. Then there are those who like too make you feel small by pointing out that the lens you’re using really isn’t any good, but don’t mind them. Remember that it is the photographer that takes the pictures, not the gear. I have seen photographers with kits worth five times more than mine who take really boring pictures. Nice and sharp, yes, but really boring and unimaginative.

Talk to the bouncer! He is nice.

Talk to the bouncer! He is nice. From Flow Festival in Helsinki.

If you’re not sure of the drill, ask the other photographers or the personnel at the stage. Watch the other guys and learn, that’s what I still do to this day.

8. The glamour, the parties!

Sometimes you do drink beer with the artists in the VIP areas, but unless you are as well connected as Kjell Hell, that tends to be the exception rather than the rule. Warlord Nygård of Turisas, Carolus Aminoff (aka Kjell Hell) from Bob Malmström and some drum tech whose name I've forgotten at Tuska VIP area.

Sometimes you do drink beer with the artists in the VIP areas, but unless you are as well connected as Kjell Hell, that tends to be the exception rather than the rule. Warlord Nygård of Turisas, Carolus Aminoff (aka Kjell Hell) from Bob Malmström and some drum tech whose name I’ve forgotten at Tuska VIP area.

I’ve been shooting festivals for six years now, and there are a few reoccurring beliefs that I always have to debunk.

You do it to get free entrance to festivals. Wrong. I do it to get good photographs. Sure it’s nice to see great bands, but the truth is that I barely get to see more than the three songs I shoot, and when I shoot I don’t really concentrate on the music. When it comes to festivals that are not in Helsinki, I have to pay for train or bus tickets and accommodation, which sometimes means hotels. This is sometimes far more expensive than the festival ticket to some small festival in Kotka, that I would never ever go to see if it wasn’t for some band that is interesting for my blog.

You get to meet all the bands backstage and drink free booze. Wrong. With a few exceptions, the media is not allowed backstage. Sometimes there is a VIP section, but drinks are mostly the same price as any other bar at the festival. You can sometimes hook up with some artists there (Tuska is one example), but it is mostly other media types and VIP:s such as sponsors, music biz employees and minor celebrities who get freebies.

You just take some pictures and have a good time. Wrong. I am mostly on my own at small festivals that none of my friends go to. It can be tedious as hell. I’m overweight, have bad ankles and flat feet, which means sore feet, blisters and an aching back – it can be grueling sometimes. Sometimes it is blazingly hot and I get sweaty and gooey and sun-burnt, other times freezing, windy, muddy and rainy. And extremely boring at small festivals with only one stage – listening to one bland metal band after the other, just waiting and waiting for the next one to start. On big festivals I mostly run from stage to stage, as the concerts tend to start 15 or 30 minutes apart. Since there is seldom any place to sit, it is a lot of just walking and standing.

8. The good part.

The photographs. That is what it is all about. Like this one of LCMDF at Spot Festival at Aarhus,, Denmark in 2012.

The photographs. That is what it is all about. Like this one of LCMDF at Spot Festival at Aarhus,, Denmark in 2012.

Of course it isn’t just all pain, or I wouldn’t do it. Music and photography are two of my passions, and music photography maybe my number one passion. It is all about the pictures and the process. It is exciting to try and find new ways to shoot bands, to try and capture the energy of the artists onstage and hopefully be able to convey the feeling of the festival situation. It is magical to me. And for me in particular, it is about following the bands I write about in my blog – that is why I started taking music pics in the first place.

It is always nice too hook up with colleagues. Like these people from YLE at Spot Festival in Aarhus, Denmark.

It is always nice too hook up with colleagues. Like these people from YLE at Spot Festival in Aarhus, Denmark.

And of course it is nice to see friends and colleagues from time to time. The festival photography circle is a pretty closely knit one, and there are photographers I have gotten to know quite well over the years. It’s always nice to catch up and have a chat. I sometimes bump into other colleagues from the world of media or music, and we might have a beer or two – and it might even lead to wet after parties or backstage boozing, but that is certainly the exception rather than the rule. It is fun when it happens, though. But these are people I drink with anyway, so I don’t really need to go to a festival to do it.

9. The pictures

Capture the passion of the artist, like I've attempted to in this picture of Chisu at Kivenlahti Rock 2012 in Espoo, Finland.

Capture the passion of the artist, like I’ve attempted to in this picture of Chisu at Kivenlahti Rock 2012 in Espoo, Finland.

I haven’t written much about the actual photography, since it is pretty well covered in my previous blog posts. But the festival situation is a bit different from club shooting, due to the three song limit. So a few words on that as well.

Don’t shoot at random. It is tempting to try to use every single second of the three song slot. But firing off like a machine gun at everything that moves means you don’t have time to think the shots through, and will leave you with tons of bad pics to go through. Be patient with the trigger.

Catch the moments. A guy and a guitar or a head with a microphone isn’t really that fun. Watch the lights, wait for that moment when an artist does something unusual or powerful, and that’s when you pull the trigger. Explosions, energy, laughter, rage, impressive stances, facial expressions, dramatic lights, interesting angles, all these are stuff to look for.

Get to know the artists. If you have never seen the band before, take a few minutes at the beginning of the first song and try to work out what you should be focusing on. How do they move, which one of them has the charisma that registers on camera? What are the stances and mannerisms you want to catch? What makes this artist special? How does this artist make you feel? That is what you should ultimately try to capture.

Capture that right moment, like here with PMMP at Ilosaari Rock in Joensuu, Finland.

Capture that right moment, like here with PMMP at Ilosaari Rock in Joensuu, Finland.

Be systematic. Although you should always keep an open eye to what is happening, it is good to have a certain pattern to what you do. I tend to try and start out with the wide shots, since it gives me time to observe the artists, the stage and the lighting. That’s about half of the first song. Then I focus on the individual artists to see how they render in the shots. Now we’re halfway through. During the second half I try to catch the most interesting one of the artists on stage and really squeeze out that killer shot. Of course this system never works one hundred percent. Crowded pits and tall stages that obscures much of the band leaves you shooting whatever you can get – and so you try and make the best of the situation. But at least it is good to have some sort of system in the back of your mind.

10. Publishing.

Find the pics that really stand out from the mass, like when Michael Monroe lies down in front of you and looks straight into the camera at Kivenlahti Rock in Espoo, Finland.

Choose the pics that really stand out from the mass, like when Michael Monroe lies down in front of you and looks straight into the camera at Kivenlahti Rock in Espoo, Finland.

Don’t spam. If you shoot for a magazine or newspaper, you probably get one or two shots published. But most of us tend to publish online. And here the rule of thumb is (sorry Krista Siegfrids): less is more. Whether you post to Facebook, a webzine, a photo page like Flickr or Tumblr, a blog or something else, choose a few good ones. Otherwise the good pics will drown in all the mediocre ones.

No identical doubles. If you have the guitar player in whole figure on five good shots: choose one and discard the rest. You have nine good face shots of the singer? Choose the best.

Don’t publish. You haven’t a single good picture of a certain band? Don’t publish any. You have no good pictures of a band, and that band is Metallica? Well … choose the least bad one and do some cropping and editing magic and publish that one. But really, no picture is better than a bad picture, unless you are especially assigned to shoot that band.  

When you get a cool angle, beautiful lighting and a good looking artist, things just fall into place like magic.

When you get a cool angle, beautiful lighting and a good looking artist, things just fall into place like magic. Here’s Night by Night at Trash Fest in Helsinki.

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Janne learns to shoot pt 3

Just a tip for anyone planning to shoot a promo pic outdoor. At night. With multiple flashes. And tinted mood lights. Get. A. Decent. Lighting. Rig. And. Radio. Triggers. Using a 1.5 meter off-shoe flash cord with one flash on a hand held monopod and the other on a mini tripod with a light activated trigger piece AND heavy duty softboxes is just plain and simple PA!N. Especially when you’ve had a couple of beers, decide to sprawl on the ground for a frog perspective, zooming while trying to hold the monopod with one hand – the off-shoe flash cord now strung out to the max threatening to rip the camera out of your other hand.  At least the band got a good laugh.

Well, the only problem is that decent tripods cost a fortune, not to mention decent radio triggers. I got a pair of cheap Chinese triggers. Did they work? F*ck. For the real stuff, like two receivers and one transmitter, you have to pay around 300-400 euros. A decent tripod is about 100 euros. On the bright side: at least I’m learning this the hard way.

Anyhow, I  got a few decent shots of garage punkers Erwin Preston – a band you just have to see live. The singer Iina kicks some serious ass (and her own ain’t all that bad looking in latex either).

Erwin Preston

Oh, and btw: sleep is for pussies. Work in two hours.

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Janne learns to shoot pt. 2

Photographing in clubs

Hey guys! Sorry about the long silence. Been a little busy with my other blog and re-organizing my chaotic flat.

EC at Club Liberté. An example of good club lighting.

In that latest entry on ZXC there’s a collection of concert photos from different gigs in Helsinki, and I thought it might be appropriate to put down a few words on photographing bands in a club situation. Once again, I’ll do this one in English. And once again: I am no expert and the REAL photographers probably laugh at these posts. I just know that I would have loved to stumble upon a blog that took me through the basic problems with band photography when I started out. These are a few thoughts and tips from a happy amateur, that’s all. I hope somone finds something of value here.

Shooting in the kind of small clubs that a small-time photographer like I do, there is a constant enemy, that has to be turned into an ally: light. Lighting at clubs simply isn’t designed with the photographer in mind. The truth is that most club owners don’t know shit about concert lighting. You might argue that the light is designed to make the band look cool to the audience, but the simple fact is that when the camera loves the light, then naked eye also tends to do the same. Hell, we photographer’s can’t change the light, so we will just have to make the best of what is on the plate.

The Casbah at Korjaamo. This may look like just blue light, but it is actaully a blend of blue, white and red light. I have pulled out the magenta and exaggerated the white.

There are three main problems that you encounter, either on their own, or in the worst case all three combined; backlight, dim light and tinted light.

A certain amount of backlight can be cool, but some clubs just have lights precisely above and behind the band, which creates a problem as soon as you have a singer that likes to stand on the monitors or a guitarist that plays solos close to the audience. Some clubs even have lights that are only pointed at the guys at the back of the stage – an arrangement that never ceases to amaze me. YK Klubi is one of those places, I tried to shoot The Wha’s there at one point, but immediately kindly asked the wardrobe to take care of my camera.

Dim light is – well, dim light. Sometimes the club just hasn’t invested in enough lights, other times they just don’t know how to use them. Good old Factory had that problem, Lepakkomies and Darkside Club are other examples of places where it’s very hard too shoot, although Leppis has upgraded their lighting somewhat lately.

In my opinion the trickiest problem to solve is tinted, or coloured, lights, simply because there’s not much you can do about it. This was a problem a last encountered when joining Bob Malmström and I Lied on tour in Estonia. Club owners tend to love to bathe the bands in red light, which is nice in a way, but when you have nothing but red light, that’s what your pictures will look like: red, red, red, red. No shades, hightlights or any other colours. Just red.

Joensuu 1865 at Flow 09. Backlight CAN create really dramatic pictures.

I started photographing bands with a Canon EOS 400D with ISO 1600 and a pretty crappy kit-lens with a maximum aperture of 3.5-5.6 (which means the more you zoom, the darker your image gets). This was a problem especially when the venue was very dark. Nevertheless, I got a few shots that I’m really proud of, just because they are a bit different from what you usually see when it comes to concert photos.

This takes us to problem 1: Backlight. When faced with backlight you tend to lose the facial features of the band members, since the light is directed from the back. If you’re lucky, the lights are in the ceiling. Then you just have to wait for the singer or other band member to step back, they will eventually do it, just have patience. The other solution is to try and find a spot somewhere along the sidelines if the stage or even behind the stage, if that is possible. Mind you NEVER EVER go onstage without talking with the band beforehand. That will cut your career as a rock photographer short. Anyway, just be sure to mind the other photographers, the audience and of course, the band. The point is: move around, find the spots where the light hits the band in a nice way. The other solution is possible only if you have a good camera + lens. That is to pull up both ISO, aperture and pull down the shutter speed. Start with aperture – it’s much better to have and aperture of 1.8 than an ISO speed of 6400. High ISO speeds in dark surrondings tend to make for very noisy pictures. Always try and keep the ISO as low as possible. Now with backlight this is not always the best solution, since you will blow out the background when trying to get a good picture of the band’s faces. The third, and often very dramatic, solution is to just go along with the light and shoot silhouettes. This can be very effective, but you seldom want a whole picture set with just those kinds of images. The best way is probably to experiment a bit and try to do a bit of all the above mentioned.

I Lied in Estonia. Backlight + tinted light works 1 times out of 100. This required tons of photoshopping.

Problem 2: Dim light. In a way very similar problems as backlight. The advantage with backlight is that there IS good light, it is just misdirected. But sometimes the light is well directed and might even look fine to the naked eye, then when you try and shoot it, you end up with a kind of blackish-grayish-brownish slush. An often stated rule of photograpy is that a good picture has a bit of bright light and a bit of black, and some shades in between. When shooting in colour, you want your colours to be bright. The first aid to dim light is very simple: switch your camera setting to black-and-white. That will allow you to shoot very dark images without getting the annoying faded brownish colours and it will remove a lot of potential colour noise. When working out the camera settings, I find that the first thing I do is to use as big an aperture as possible. If you have just bought a camera, you will most likely have a lens that has an aperture of about 3,5-5.6. I highly recommend buying a static 50 mm lens with a max aperture of 1.8. The Canon version you can get for 99 euros, and the Nikon version is just a little bit more expensive, around 130 euros. There are 1.4 versions of the lenses too, but they cost a little more. You’d get close to 300 euros.

Söder om Söder at Lepakkomies. Searching for that one spot where Gregge's face would be lit led me to this guru-like rendition of the punk icon - a pic I would never have thought of if the light had been good.

This lens will save you in almost any light. It takes a bit of training to get used to the static 50 mm focal length, and in small crowded clubs they are a bit tricky to use. Personally I find that I end up with a lot of head shots that all look pretty much the same, so it takes a bit of creative thinking to make the images interesting. Another problem is that it can be difficult to get sharp photos with such a large aperture – almost impossible to shoot a moving musician with manual focus and when using automatic focus the camera often decides to focus on the wall behind the stage rather than on the band. But if you can live with going through a few pics that are out of focus, this will give you some really nice shots with great colours even in a rather dim light. After opening up the lens as much as possible, I pull down the shutter speed, mostly to about 80. At that speed you never need to worry about motion blur. And not until then I start to pull up the ISO speed. I leave the ISO speed last because a high ISO will most likely render your pictures a lot of noise. A lot of photographers are a bit effy about even going above 800, I am personally happy with 1600, since I like my pictures to have a slightly rugged feel anyway. If I have to go above 3200 to get a decent shot, I’d rather not shoot at all. And even if your pictures are slightly under-exposed, don’t worry, there’s always the magic of Photoshop (or Gimp, which I use). But as mentioned earlier, when shooting in really dark conditions, if you still need to tweak the contrast with Photoshop to get decent light, I highly recommend B/W-settings.

Häxjesus at Factory. This is what happens when you only have one colour to go with.

The third and in my opinion most annoying problem is tinted light. It is great when used sparsely and combined with white light, but a lot of clubs use only coloured lights. If two or more colours are used, you can often get a few nice and very psychedelic pictures with the help of a little photoshopping, but if there’s only one single colour you’re screwed. In my experience the only salvation here is to shoot in black-and-white. The problem is that the camera doesn’t pick up the other colours in the shot in the same way as the eye does. Even though you might SEE that the singer is wearing a blue shirt in red light, the camera won’t, since it operates with light. If you’re lucky, the shirt will turn purple in the shot, but most likely it will become deep rep. A single coloured light will make the shots flat and boring. You won’t get any whites, since there is no white light.

Opaque Buff at Manala. A good example of how nice two different colours + white light can look, even when the light is rather dim. Pretty heavily photoshopped, I pulled out all magenta and most of the yellow.

But when using B/W-settings, you might actually be able to turn the brightest parts of the image into white in Photoshop. Of course, you CAN shoot in colour and then convert to grayscale in Photoshop, but there are two issues here. One: If you know you’re gonna convert the pics into grayscale, you’ll save some work and time shooting in B/W. Two: When shooting in B/W it’s a lot easier to see how the shots will turn out once you’re going to edit them. And shooting in dark, tinted light calls for a bit of different thinking and different settings than shooting in colour. You’re operating with contrasts, rather than with colours.

Crazy Lixx at On the Rocks. This shot is taken from behind the stage. Sometimes the feeling of a concert is even better described from the back.

I personally find that it is mostly a lot more fun to work in difficult lighting than in perfect conditions, since you have to think a bit more about what you’re doing. You have to keep moving about, stay alert and really look for the angles that will work and it’s such a great feeling when you are able to catch that one exact moment when the frontman steps right into that one single ray of light shining on the stage.

Wow, that was a long post. Sorry for all the rambling.

Crystal Rain at Lepakkomies. Club gigs give you the opportunity to get up close and personal-

The Dogshit Boys at Lepakkomies. An impossible shot if it were in colour. But dim lighting photographes in black-and-white along with some heavy contrast-tweaking in Photoshop can lead to pretty powerful pictures.

Vanity Ink at On the Rocks. Surprising angles can make up for the lack of good light.

Bob Malmström in Estonia. Difficult colours can be made very dramatic with the help of contrasts and shadows.

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Janne learns to shoot pt1

Ok folks, I’m going to write this in English, in case some of my photographing friends who don’t speak Swedish might want to read it. And if you’re just google-stumbling in on it: This is not a tutorial blog on shooting, just a few thoughts and experiences from an amateur, but maybe someone picking up photography as a hobby might find something useful. Now, here’s a first advice for someone who wants to take up photography: Your first camera should be a fairly cheap one. And I’ll get to the reason later.

The first thing my mom did was teach me how to pose.

People often ask me how long I’ve been taking pictures and I tend to answer ”a couple of years”, since photographing started as an active hobby of mine as recently as 2009. That’s when I started the ZXC website and realized I had to get a proper digital camera. But actually, that’s a lot of bullshit.

My first camera was one of those all automatic plastic little pocket cameras that everyone had before the digital era. And I took hundreds and hundreds of pictures with that one. Mostly your standard holiday pics and things like that, but looking back now I’m amazed at how nicely some of them turned out.

Kim in Lapland. Taken with my plastic pocket thingy.

I suppose photography has always been in my blood somehow. My grandfather, who recently passed away, was a great photographer, he had his own darkroom kit and all, but sadly had to give up the hobby before I was old enough share it with him. But he passed on the passion to my mother, who I suppose must have gotten me interested in pictures and graphics. She has sadly more or less stopped shooting now because of her fear of the digital world, but if there is anything good in my eye, I suppose I have her to thank for that. She is my harshest critic and I value all feedback she gives me.

Well, anyway, some fifteen years back, or so, she bought one of these semi-digital pocket cameras that were around for a while. Real film, but the cameras were sort of half digital. It took great pictures and I borrowed it whenever I could. I still used it some 4-5 years ago. Then I got my grandfather’s old camera, but the leap from pocket to system camera was to big for me at the time and I never really got the hang of it. It also had a few kinks that I never came to master.

This pic of hungover photographer Timo Kirves would have been taken with that semi-digital cam.

 

My real school of photography was my summer job at Åbo Underrättelser, the local newspaper for the Turku region, where I worked four summers. When I first arrived they had these strange half static, half system cameras. Later they upgraded themselves to real Nikons, I think. But that was where I really got my first lessons in photography. The standard at the place was not that high, though. There was no photographer working for the paper, so the journalists had to do all of the shooting themselves. The rule was mostly ”If it’s not out of focus, we’ll use it on the front page”. Later they started taking in trainees from the local school of photography during summers and I learned a lot from watching them work. And then I bought my own system film camera, a Canon 300, from my friend Mats who sold it along with a couple of lenses and other stuff for a bargain price. I still use the Tamron zoom lense he sold me. In journalism school I also got in contact with both film and digital cameras, did the short course in press photography and then landed positions as editor of a couple of student magazines, where I started to learn the mysteries of digital images and photoshop. My first digital system camera of my own was the now obsolete Canon EOS 400D, a camera with which I have taken some of my greatest pictures. I recently upgraded that to an EOS 50D – mostly because it shoots better picturs in dim lighting.

Venice. Taken with my film camera Canon 300 (which I still have).

I just heard of a guy who bought a Canon 7D as his first camera (with a standard lense, that’s 2000 euros). That is just plain stupidity. Your first camera is like your first car. It’s supposed to be cheap, simple and crappy. Because then you will get no technical help and just have to learn the dynamics of light, motion and timing. Because of its technical limits, it will lead you to experiment and take pictures from angles you would never have thought of, or play with the light to create small artworks instead of just a standard picture. When talking about system cameras, a ”lesser” camera will force you to use the manual controls ans step out of the boundaries of what would generally be looked upon as ”a good picture”. Shadows, motion blurs, searching for that one spot with decent light will render your pictures a personal feel. You have to learn the craft, instead of just letting the auto setting do it all for you.

If there is anything good in my pictures today, it’s all thanks to the journey I’ve had from my little plastic pocket camera through various semi-systematic cameras, film, semi-digital, digital pocket cameras and now to my mid-range 50D. And I’m still just a novice, I am currently starting to build up my first flash kit, tonight I’ll experiment some with multiple flashes down at Wäiski, taking new shots of Opaque Buff with their new drummer. It’s probably going to be a mess. But this is all a part of a journey I love. It’s exciting, fun, experimental. And that feeling you get when standing with a bunch of guys sporting equipment for 5000 euros, and you’re there with your 500 euro 400D kit, then reading the papers the next morning discovering you bested the lot with your pic.

Cats on Fire. Shot with my 400D.

So when people ask me what system camera they should get for their first equipment, I always say a Canon 1000D or 550D (which should be the equivalent of the obsolete 400D today). If you start off with the sportscar model, you’ll miss all the fun of getting your hands dirty beneath the hood. And you won’t know shit about how the engine works.

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Språk och demokrati

The språkpolis strikes again. Nänå okej, jag har diskuterat där här med fredriklindströmsk språkfilosofi versus en restriktiv traditionsbunden språkfilosofi. Den fredriklindströmska doktrinen går ju ut på det enkla antagandet om att ”används ett ord, så finns det”. Detsamma gäller i stor utsträckning ordanvändning; om ett ord börjar användas i en ny kontext, ta till exempel ordet ”spendera”, så är det rätt och riktigt att dess nya betydelse accepteras, snarare än att man skulle försöka motarbeta felanvändningen.

Språket utvecklas och förändras, det förstår till och med jag och det är klart att det måste finnas flexibilitet i reglerna för att språket ska kunna följa med hur kulturen och samhället utvecklas. Men jag ser ändå en fara i att i allt för hög utsträckning låta språket leva som det vill utan någon form av toppstyrning och regelverk. Låt språket förändras, för all del, men innan en ny språkkutym antas, måste det föregås av att en uppsjö av språkpoliser påpekar ett nytt uttrycks felaktighet. Nya ord har jag i sig inget emot, men jag gillar inte att vedertagna uttryck förvrängs, får nya betydelser och används i fel kontext.

Varför? Jo, bortsett från rent akademiska och estetiska invändingar, finns det också en demokratisk aspekt på det hela. Låt för guds skull folk tala som de vill, men se till att människor kan skriva ett korrekt språk – inte bara korrekt för att regelboken säger så, utan ett språk som är universellt och där ord och uttryck har klara, entydiga betydelser. Om det blir en allt mer utbredd policy att språk helt enkelt är vad man gör av det, och att betydelser och använding varierar regionalt, åldersmässigt och kulturellt, kan det få flera olika negativa följder. För det första är det fråga om barns och ungas inställning till språk. Unga människor har alltid skapat ett eget språk för att differentiera sig från sina föräldrars generation. Just nu är det kanske mer uppenbart än någonsin med textmeddelandenas och twitters kortspråk, som dessvärre börjar breda ut sig också i annan skrift. Unga i dag får också ta del av allt mer okontrollerad och felskriven text via internet, där man kanske ännu för 50 år sedan kunde lita på att merparten av den skrivna text som en människa utsattes för hade kontrollerats av en förläggare, redaktör eller övrig person som hade koll på språk. Det är farligt om skolan blir den sista bastionen för korrekt språk, eftersom det knappast ses som motiverande att pränta in grammatikaliska regler om man lever i en värld där sådana ändå inte följs. Dessutom kan det leda till en allmän slapphet då det gäller språk. Innebörden blir det viktiga och sättet som saker och ting uttrycks på får sekundär betydelse. Det igen leder till att man inom olika instanser som medier, myndigheter etc får allt fler möjligheter att uttrycka saker och ting som man vill uttrycka dem, och kanske frestas till att börja mynta alldeles egna uttryck och fraser.

Slutresultatet blir ett samhälle med en befolkning som inte längre bryr sig om att lära sig korrekt språk ”så länge som folk förstår vad man menar” och en allt mer splittrad språkfilosofi från auktoritetshåll. Det här ger företag och myndigheter möjlighet att dupera, vilseleda och gömma saker och ting i och bakom språk som i princip är helt korrekt, men som inte längre bär någon betydelse för den vanliga läsaren. När det inte längre finns strikta regler för vilken betydelse vissa ord och uttryck har, blir det lätt att i lagtexter, kontrakt och dylikt skriva om saker och ting så att till exempel företag och kommuner kan avsäga sig ansvar eller tolka texter på ett för kunden ofördelaktigt sätt. Hur mycket tolkningar betyder i juridiska sammanhang har vi bara i år sett till exempel i fråga om utlänningslagen och Karleby-frågan, där det uttryckligen varit fråga om språkliga tolkningar av lagtexter.

Det här kan skapa en ännu större klyfta till exempel mellan hög- och lågutbildade och speciellt riskabelt kan det till exempel bli för folk som har annat modersmål än majoritetsbefolkningen. Finlandssvenskar till exempel kan komma i kläm om vi plötsligt får en situation där intresset för svenskan är så slappt att inte ens lagskrivarna längre kan hålla i sär äpplen och päron, och hur ska då en lekman göra det? För invandrare blir det en riktig soppa.

Därför gnäller jag om att man ska använda ett korrekt språk där orden betyder det som de är avsedda att betyda, och därför retar jag upp mig på grammatikfel och särskrivningar. Speciellt då det gäller myndigheter och medier, för det är de som anlägger tonen för inställningen till språket.

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Språkbråk

Jag återvänder till ett av mina favoritämnen: språkbråk. Ja, jag är en språkpolis och jag skäms inte för det. Felstavningar, prepositionsmissar, sär skrivningar och fel använda ord hoppar mig i ögonen.

Missförstå mig rätt: Alla är vi inte begåvade med ett starkt sinne för språk och liksom med alla andra gåvor i livet har också denna fördelats ojämnt. Om man som privatperson har svårt att stava rätt, tar jag det inte som en personlig förolämpning. Dyslektiker har kämpat mer än någon annan med att lära sig skriva korrekt och deras insatser värda att högaktas trots att det ibland ramlar med felaktigheter. Alla gör vi dessutom misstag, antingen på grund av okunskap eller slarv, inte minst jag själv, som fick med två grova slarvfel i förra numret av Ny Tid.

Nej, det som stör mig är framför allt då representanter för officiella instanser, som stat, kommun, institutioner, muséer, teatrar, medier, etc slarvar med språket. Och det här är något som blivit allt vanligare sedan dessa instanser gått ut i sociala media. Speciellt har jag retat upp mig på Radio X3M:s bulletiner på Facebook. Hur det är möjligt för en journalist att i en enda mening göra fyra olika språkfel går över mitt förstånd. Okej, säger nån, men det är ju bara Facebook. Struntprat. ”Bara Facebook” är det om man skriver i eget namn och då får man göra precis hur många språkfel man vill. Skriver man som företrädare för till exempel en radiokanal eller en teater, är det fråga om ett officiellt meddelande som representerar den instans man arbetar för, och då ska man hålla sig med ett språk som representerar arbetsgivaren.

För det första är det att nedvärdera sina kunder, klienter eller invånare att slarva med språket. För det andra ger man en dålig bild av sin uppdragsgivare och för det tredje statuerar man dåligt exempel. Vet man att man har ett dåligt språk, kan man språkkolla med nån som har ett bra språk. Och speciellt som journalist då man har språket som det viktigaste arbetsredskapet, gör man helt enkelt ett dåligt jobb. Är man journalist och har ett dåligt språk är man antingen i fel bransch eller så behöver man mer övning och läsning.

Nu senast var det ett enkelt och vanligt språkfel som jag snubblade över i ett meddelande från Svenska Teatern. Jag minns knappt vad meddelandet handlade om, jag bara minns att avsändaren skrivit ”alla STUDERANDEN” med versaler. Jag vet inte hur många gånger jag påpekat att pluralformen av studerande är ”studerande”. En studerande, flera studerande. Åtminstone i mitt fall gjorde det här meddelandet mig bara sur och jag struntar i vad det handlade om.

Orsaken till att det inte böjs ”studeranden” i plural är ju så enkel att studerande är ett en-ord, vilket betyder att det i singularis bestämd form får ändelsen -n, liksom alla en-ord, ”den kaktuseN, den korveN”. Därför kan inte en-ord böjas med -n på slutet i pluralis. Det samma gäller ord som teve, radio och video. Dessa kan man visserligen böja som tevear, radior eller videor, men eftersom det låter idiotiskt, rekommenderas teveapparater eller videofilmer.

 

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How to tour in a band or whatever

This must be one of the best lists of advice ever. Great for any band, tight group of people working together … or whatever.

1. Don’t Complain.  Bitching, moaning, whining is tour cancer. If something is wrong, fix it or shut the fuck up you fucking dick. Goddamn.
2. If you fart, claim it.
3. Don’t Lose shit. Everybody loses shit. Don’t fucking do it. Asshole.
4. Don’t fuck anyone in the band. There are tons of people to fuck who are not in this band. Dumbass.
5. If you feel like shit all the time, drink less beer at the gig. You will play better & feel better. What are you…..a child? Some have the endurance for self abuse. Most don’t.
6. Remember the soundman’s name. He will do a better job.
7. Eat oranges. Cures constipation & prevents colds.
8. Masturbate, duh… Where & when? Be creative. You’re an artist right?
9. If YOU cant carry your suitcase 3 blocks, it’s too goddamn big.
10. Respect public space in the van. Don’t clutter, you Fuck.

The author


11. If you borrow something, return it. Not Fucked Up.
12. Do Not let the promoter dick you or talk you out of the guarantee. If there were not enough people there, it’s their fault.
13. Driver picks the music.
14. One navigator only (usually sitting shotgun). Everyone else, shut the fuck up.
15. Soundcheck is for checking sounds. Shut the fuck up while everyone else is checking.
16. Don’t wander off. Let someone know where you are.
17. Clean up after yourself. What are you…a goddamn toddler?
18. Touring makes everyone bi-polar. Ride the waves as best you can, and remember, moods pass, so don’t make any snap decisions or declarations when you are drunk or insane.
19. Fast food is Poison.
20. The guestlist is for friends, family & people you might want to fuck. Everyone else can pay. They have day jobs.
21. Dont evaluate your whole life while you’re sitting in a janitor closet waiting to go on. You think you’re above having shitty days at work? Shut up & do your goddamn job.

This list was written under the influence of lots of esspresso & anti-depressants while on tour w/ such greats as Shearwater, Swans, Smog, Lisa Germano, Angels of Light, Bill Callahan, & many more. I hope this list will help you get along w/ your co-workers whatever your job is. Contributions to the list by Jordan Geiger, Kimberly Burke, Brian Orloff, Brian Phillips Celebrity Gang Bang, Kevin Schneider, Jonathan Meiburg, Michael Gira and some other folks.

Amanda

Humppe’s edit: This list was actually written by Angels of Light drummer Thor, and I ripped it from Amanda Palmer’s blog. Apparently it was written way back in -04 and is considered as a classic. 😉

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