Such Is Life, 18 August 2011

“Two out of three ain’t bad,” Meat Loaf once sang to Jim Steinman’s tune.

We’ll get back to that tomorrow. . .

28mm, f/2.0, ISO 3200, 1/200th second

Last Thursday night, I traveled back to the Mexicali Live in Teaneck for a show with three unsigned acts.  I contacted each of them ahead of time to get their permission to shoot their sets, got the OKs, and paid my own way in.  (It was a $10 ticket. I didn’t feel ripped off here.)

The last time I visited Mexicali, Jake Shimabukuro played a sold out show.  The venue is a dinner club, of sorts.  There’s general admission, but there’s also a layout of tables, for which you can reserve a seat, have dinner, and stick around for the show.  From the people I’ve talked to there, the seating layout changes from show to show, to best reflect the crowd.  With Shimabukuro, it was tables from wall to wall, a nice selection of families and fans who came for dinner and a show.  It would have been standing room only if there was any room to stand.

With this trio of acts that I knew in advanced hadn’t sold out, I expected fewer tables and more open floor.  That’s what I got.  Eight or ten tables stood about ten feet away from the stage, with an open area in front for those who might want to stand there.

As a photographer, this made me happy — lots of room to move around in, no worries about getting in anyone’s way, etc.  Go nuts.

Such Is Life started off the night. They’re a four piece band, so it was easy to get good angles on them.  The guys with guitars line up across the front, with a drummer behind them.  As usual, the drummer is the tricky one to get, but there’s a clear view of him from the side of the stage, which is wide open.  I took advantage of that.

Being able to roam the floor freely, I was able to get a variety of angles on everyone up front, including horizontal and vertical orientations, two shots, and even three shots.  The only limiting factor was that, even at ISO 2500, I was stuck at f/1.8 to get in enough light to let me shoot between 1/160th and 1/200th.  I had some shots in mind that just weren’t possible due to depth of field issues.  I walked that razor’s edge all night: You want more dynamic shots where someone is standing at an angle to you, but then you realize that you can focus on the one hand on the guitar and the other will be wildly out of focus a couple of feet behind that due to the f/1.8 aperture.

I did some rack focusing of shots, trying to get each person in focus in turn on two- and three-shots.  Maybe I can do something in Photoshop and composite one image with everyone’s in focus shot pasted together?  I’m not sure how I feel about that yet, but it’d be a worthy experiment.

The band was great, by the way.  They did play a couple of covers, but stuck mostly to their own creations.  I was partial to the song that featured the keyboard, but that’s my personal preference towards piano music over everything in music being guitar-driven these days.  (Thanks, Beatles.  Thanks a whole bunch.  Ugh.)

Did I mention they’re a group of high school kids?  You might have noticed it in the pictures already.  That part blows me away.  I’m at that stage of my life where I no longer think of high school and college as that time just a couple years back.  I’m looking down the barrel of a 20th high school reunion in a couple of years.  Yikes.  But I wasn’t nearly that good at any one particular thing at that age.  It blows me away that they can pull off a gig at a place like that at this stage in their lives.  That’s awesome and, judging from what I heard that night, well-deserved.

Tomorrow: A surprise fifth band member plays an encore, and the reason for the Meat Loaf tune above is made clear.

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