Don't take me writing these blog posts as me expecting that anyone will actually read them.
The idea to have a blog on this site originally came because I figured I should have a backup for all the reviews I'm writing for various publications in case anything happens to them. But then I thought it might also be interesting to write down the random thoughts I can remember about each show that I've worked for the historical record. Waste of time? Remains to be seen. Smart move from an SEO content standpoint? Maybe?
(Just in case, 'celebrity photographer', 'Chicago celebrity photographer', 'personal photographer to the rich and famous')
Hey, speaking of Chicago celebrities, the first "official" show I ever got approved for was Sincere Engineer back in January at the Bottom Lounge. To say a lot of the best things in my life wouldn't have been/be possible without my wife would be an understatement, and that includes this show. We didn't get word of approval until a few hours before doors opened the day of the show. So not only did my wife have to watch our then six and a half month old son for a good chunk of the night by herself, but he was also sick. And we were smack dab in the middle of attending the 2023 Cubs Convention, so she would have to do it all from a hotel room. She is a champ and the absolute best and I'm very lucky she does so much that allows me to dabble in this hobby.
Because I was already downtown when I got word that I could shoot the show that night, I was going to have to roll into the show with what I had on me: a 35mm prime lens and a 70-200mm zoom. A bit of an awkward pairing for a place like Bottom Lounge - a 700 capacity club with a stage that's elevated about thigh-height. Something like a 24-70mm lens would be perfect. It's a small enough space where you don't really need a ton of zoom if you've got access to a photo pit.
But I had what I had, so I figured I could 'zoom with my feet' with the fixed lens and really lean into the 1.4 aperture in the Lounge's low lighting, and then hang in the back of the crowd with the zoom to round out my set (or get some crazy close shots from the pit if the situation presented itself).
Opening for Sincere Engineer was a band called Fluorescents who I feel like I owe a lot to. When I shot this show, my entire portfolio was:
- One concert I shot in March of 2022 at a bar where anyone can bring a camera in and I had to stand in one spot all night.
- A bunch of pictures I took with a cheap point and shoot from the crowd at Riot Fest 2022.
- One concert I shot in November of 2022 at a bar where anyone can bring in a camera (but I did have more room to move around the space)
So not exactly bursting at the seams with amazing content. The reason I feel like I owe a lot to Fluorescents is because they put on a hell of a show and do so wearing a number of bright colors while using a ton of fog and a wide variety of lighting colors. And they move around a ton while they perform. It's literally a photographer's dream. I really believe that a lot of the pics I got of them during their set were what let me book a number of the shows I booked over the next month or so.
Both the pictures above were taken with a Sigma 35mm lens, the one on the left from about the middle of the crowd, and the one on the right from in the photo pit. When there's a barricade up, Bottom Lounge is an awesome place to shoot. The stage is high enough to create some dynamic separation between you and the band, but not so high that you get a lot of 'up the nose' shots. Plus, only having a 35mm lens to work with in the pit (since the 70-200 would be way too close for anything other than a portrait shot), the amount of space I had to move around and being basically as close as I wanted to be to the band let me get a lot of decent coverage.
Also, I hate hate hate not getting an entire subject in frame. That pic on the right is one of my favorites I've taken all year and I will forever kick myself that the hair is cut off at the top of the frame. Am I glad that I cut the hair off and got his entire hand at the bottom rather than the other way around? Yes. But it's still going to bother me basically forever.
Yeah, not sure how to get those pics to be like...the same size. But just wanted to give more examples of how spoiled I was having the first band I 'officially' cover with a 'real' photo pit and 'real' photo pass bringing so much color and energy to the stage. Go check out their music and if they're playing near you, go see them. They're rad as hell.
Sincere Engineer was a blast to shoot. They led off with my favorite song of theirs. They brought a lot of energy to the stage. From a technical standpoint it wasn't too hard to get some good pictures of them. The hardest thing I had to fight with was after the show, where most of the pictures I took fell into one of two categories (as you can see above): heavy on the oranges, washing out a lot of detail, or super blue/purple, which can recover more detail as long as you're willing to have the skin of the people in the picture look like they're Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining. Looking at these pics, I feel like I might be able to do a better job at color correcting if I go back and give it another whirl, so maybe that's in the cards now that I have SO MUCH MORE EXPERIENCE (9 whole months more).
Yeah, lots of blue and lots of orange. Which also means lots of black and white when you like a certain pic, but you can't get the colors to cooperate. Like this one:
That was one of the few pics that I took using the 70-200mm from the photo pit, but it ended up with one of my favorite portraits of the year so far. From the metadata it looks like I was zoomed in to about 159mm for this pic. Makes sense. That's not too far off from 135mm, which is one of my favorite "I'll bring it if I have the space in my bag just in case I'm in that sweet spot where it's useful" lenses.
This show was also the beginning of my obsession taking pictures of the instruments onstage before the band comes on, and also of taking pics of band members sound checking their own instruments.
Oh hey! A picture I took of this show was also the first time a picture of mine was used in an advertisement:
The pic. And the ad:
For a European show to boot! That makes it like, at least 5x classier.
I think that's all I have for now. Hard to know what else to say about a show that was 9 months ago. Hopefully I'll find things along the way as I do more of these. Any questions, feel free to send 'em my way either through this site or over Instagram.