After years of concert photography via the best seats that I (or a generous friend) could afford, using one of the best point and shoot cameras allowed into most venues - the Canon G15, (Most venues do not allow the public in with pro cameras and detachable lenses) Life has finally given me the pits - The Photo Pit that is! That somewhat enviable position where for the first 3 songs of a given performer you can shoot to your “Hearts” content with your high-powered camera of choice. In my case the Canon 6D with a 28 -135 USM lens, with a 70-200 waiting in the wings.
How did this all come about? Well, I have tried writing to venues and promoters myself many times to no avail. Typically, you must be shooting for a media outlet to have this privilege. So one day after noticing a few non-pro images in the KSHE concert gallery, I sent an e-mail to throw my hat in the ring in case they ever needed a photographer and music junkie to stand-in. This is where I believe all the former efforts and range of shows previously shot finally had a big payoff . Because, I heard back in short order and was informed that a request would be made for a photo pass to the Rock Hall, Three For All - Cheap Trick, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts and Heart. Well the day before the show I learned that I would have a pass for Heart and Cheap Trick, but Joan Jett prefers her own photog only.
Upon parking at Riverport, now Hollywood Casino Ampitheatre, with my sweetheart, we got our photo in front of the giant KSHE sweetmeat inflatable stereo. She could not resist an opportunity to see a good show, and quickly went to find her friends and her ticket as I sauntered over to the line. Well, it was quite a trip to show up at the gates with a bag full of gear and not be strip searched or laughed at. The special Photo Pass sticker was proudly stuck to my chest and they kindly pointed me to the place where odd characters enter and gave me another pass of some sort and checked my name off of the cool kids list.
So, I arrived and stood in the pit LONG before I needed to be there and got to chat with security and hear a few tips and tricks. There was no air movement down near the stage and I was quickly sweating my (photo) passes off - so I wrapped it on a photo tag and clipped it to my shirt so I wouldn’t lose it and be sent to the corner. The other photographers arrived closer to show time, but I was glad to have a primo spot right in front of a speaker monitor that later reminded me to bring earplugs next time. When Cheap Trick hit the stage it was still daylight, so I could shoot away with 200 ISO. I will never forget the energy that they hit the stage with, and witnessing the backstage antics that were visible from this vantage point. Well, three songs is over in a moment and due to the stage protrusion there was minimal movement possible.
I like to watch for interaction between the performers and the audience and in this case feature as many cool guitars as Rick could produce in the time allotted. I also had to resist the urge to dive for guitar picks as they were slung around. http://www.kshe95.com/media/concerts/cheap-trick-july-16-2016
And then your out of the pit and feel like once again you have no purpose in life, just kidding. But, there is a whiplash effect and the downside is that some performers / venues do not want you shooting from anywhere "the mix" after the initial time. This depends on who you talk to and security told me one thing, other photographers told me another, so I resolved to err on the side of caution and tied my shutter arm in a gordian knot and went to look for the gang. When I found the crowd on the lawn and sat for a minute -
I immediately got a call to come to a secret location and sign some top secret document that they had not given me previously. Here I got to meet the cool folks who work for the station and sign an agreement that was required by Cheap Trick. The document basically said that I cannot go and buy a bunch of crazy guitars and start another band named Cheap Trick and that I promise to SURRENDER all rights to whoever for how long and sing Dream Police in my head for the next 2 weeks - which turned out to be easy! (since they live inside of my head)
In the past I have captured more complete shows from the audience, and the best moments aren’t always in the first 3 songs, but I’m still thrilled for this chance whenever it becomes possible. After grabbing a complimentary beverage, I went back to the lawn and managed to run into 2 former coworkers from CPI in a space of 3 seconds. The universe must have planned this mini-reunion with these fun folks as we wondered where the rest of the CPI losers were who did not respond to the universe’s memo. We took a quick selfie then I rushed to sit down as Joan Jett started her set. I enjoyed sitting and chilling and taking it all in and getting a bit of sustenance before going back down for Heart’s set.
When Heart hit the stage it was finally dark enough to be a lighting challenge and ISO quickly needed to jump. It was a challenge to get Ann and Nancy Wilson in the same shot as they were working different areas of the stage. I was thrilled to have Nancy pose right in front of me and look me right in the lens. They played one of their new songs "Beautiful Broken," and it had all the raw sound that they are most known for, so I was so pumped to be shooting this song in action!
Well, after that I returned to the lawn to enjoy the rest of the show, which was good though maybe cut a bit short due to what seemed some vocal challenges that Ann was having. We discussed how easy it is to take her incredible sound for granted. Maybe she is human after all? But, nothing could spoil this night, not even an hour long wait to get out of the place...stshy.