Photographing Live Music

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by geoffdodd, May 29, 2012.

  1. geoffdodd

    geoffdodd Member

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    Hello,

    I recently got involved with a classical music fest here in Ottawa. Most of the photographers (actually, all of them) use digital. My question is what's the best film to use, aperture setting, do I need a tripod? I want to be able to print these shots in the darkroom and I want the blacks surrounding the performers to be as black as possible, So I want to avoid using ISO3200 or pushing 400 to 1600. Any thoughts??
     
  2. pstake

    pstake Member

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    Well ... I can't be of much help. Using a flash seems like your only option to stop motion if you don't want to use fast film. But others here may know another way. For what it's worth, here are some under what I imagine to be similar lighting, which I took last summer using Tmax 3200. These are scanned from the negatives, not prints ... so it's hard for me to know what's grain and what's noise.

    Also, the lens I took these with wasn't the greatest.

    For those who care, this is Bon Iver in Omaha. :smile:

    bon_iver2.jpg
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    bon_iver.jpg
     
  3. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    If you can, use a spot meter. Often the musicians are much more brightly lit than their backdrops, etc.

    Tripod if you can. This helps with using longer lenses at longer shutter speeds. With rapid hand movements and such, you might wish to find an ideal shutter speed for both freezing action as well as capturing motion if you wish. Then you can work out what type of film speed you need, based on the maximum aperture of the lens.

    I've shot stage performances using a Mamiya 645, a 300mm lens, a 2X tele-extender, and Delta 3200. The 2x extender made my lens effectively an f/11 max aperture. I pushed my film to 6400 and worked with slightly thin negatives. My shutter speeds were in the 1/8s to 1/30s depending on where on the stage they were located.
    After I get home today I'll look up a couple of the scans to show you what I was able to do from the back row of the auditorium.
     
  4. geoffdodd

    geoffdodd Member

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    Yeah, I might have to give in on my hopes for a lower speed film. I'd be happy with 400. I've shot indoors with that before. I plan on using a spot meter, just to get the exposure I'm looking for. I also plan on bringing a tripod. I might set the Mamiya up on a tripod for the wide shot and roam around with my Minolta that has more lenses.
     
  5. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Over the past 30+ years I've photographed a lot of live music and also some stage shows. Initially I usewd HP5 but once XP1 was released switched, later using XP2.

    XP2 push processes extremely well in C41 chemistry and unlike HP5 or Tri-X the contrast isn't boosted. Ilford dropped the push processing recommedations when they switched from XP1 to XP2, the reason was that XP1 needed a modified C41 colour devevepment time for normal processing and commercial labs didn't like this or the push process times, XP2 was designed to be process for the normal C41 times and no mention was made of it's ability to be push processed.

    Usually I pushed XP1 & XP2 to 1600 EI shooting with a Vivitar S1 70-210 f2.8/f4 zoom mostly at around 70-135max and one stop off the maximum aperture.

    Just to show how XP1 push processed :D

    [​IMG]

    It's amazing what C41 chemistry does to a B&W film, but the hand colouring did help :smile:

    Ian
     
  6. j-dogg

    j-dogg Subscriber

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    I shoot a lot of live music here for a living, not much of a living but it pays.

    You will want 1600 min, 800 if well lit, 1/60th on an f4 or better lens, 1/30th and second curtain flash if using one. Bounce head flash will work nice, spot meter your subject and shoot manual, cameras don't know what to do in tough lighting situations like that.

    Classical is one of the easiest things to shoot since it isn't Slayer or Metallica and hair and various other objects aren't being thrown about on stage, though the conductor might be a bit of a problem.
     
  7. geoffdodd

    geoffdodd Member

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    Thanks a lot for all this info. I feel a lot more comfortable with this situation now.
     
  8. EASmithV

    EASmithV Member

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    Delta 3200 is amazing.
     
  9. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Can't find the neg scans currently, not sure what happened to them. Last time I did this was in 2008, and I did have one DVD backup disc fail on me before I got smarter and started backing up to external hard-drive. The files could have been on that disc. If I find the negatives I'll scan a couple and post tomorrow.
     
  10. Newt_on_Swings

    Newt_on_Swings Member

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    I missed this part on the initial read through, and was scratching my head for a bit. Haha

    I had to do music events as well, one just a few weeks ago at a venue called Symphony Space. Color casts from stage lighting sucks, stick to B&W. ei of 1600 is where I am usually at, I like the 85-200mm range, f2.8 and faster (stopped down a stop or two), monopod or support is ideal for sharp shots.
     
  11. jordanstarr

    jordanstarr Member

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    What venue are you shooting in Ottawa? I've done a lot of music shooting in that city (and others) and generally have tri-x pushed to 1600 and shoot about 1/8-1/60 and f2.0-4. Those settings depend on the colour of the light that is used, intensity, movement. I kinda fly by the hip and really only meter once at the beginning of the set so I know what to play around with. I have not time to fiddle with a light meter every time the light changes colour or intensity.

    With classical music, unlike rock, you can get away with slower shutter speeds (obviously), but you might have a preference for certain effects. For example, maybe you want a shot without shadow detail and just want the effect of the light hitting a couple spots on the musician. In that case you can pump up your shutter quite a bit. Or maybe you want movement to be exaggerated by lowering the shutter speed. I often go for a mix bag depending on the lighting and the moment.
     
  12. geoffdodd

    geoffdodd Member

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    Thanks for this Jordan. I'll be at Dominion Chalmers, I believe it's on Elgin St. I've been there before, it's a gorgeous old church. I like your advise on metering once and then going from there. Plus, looking for effect within the piece, by changing the shutter speed.
     
  13. geoffdodd

    geoffdodd Member

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    This should work well for me. Thanks.
     
  14. geoffdodd

    geoffdodd Member

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    I definitely want to avoid a flash, but am certainly not entertaining any thoughts of using a slow speed film - not now! I might be able to get into rehearsals, in which case I might me able to do that then.
     
  15. jakeblues

    jakeblues Member

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    I also recommend completely ignoring the camera. I find 1/125 at f/2 and 1600 speed film works well for most well lit stages. The camera will probably recommend something really stupid that will blow out your subject (or underexpose and drown your subject in noise).

    If you can get ahold of some Neopan 1600, this is my favorite film for BW live music. Also, if you're going to be delivering or printing the images digitally, I've had great luck with desaturated Portra 800 or Pro 800z (I know this is gone now too).

    If you're shooting Medium Format, you're golden cause Delta 3200 looks great. I don't love Delta 3200 on 35mm.

    Here are some example photos with Neopan 1600 (Spotmatic and Super-Takumar 50mm at f/1.4 or f/2):
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