For my first concert photo shoot of 2012, I ventured out to the Mexicali Live in Teaneck, NJ on February 10th to see three bands. Escape Directors were the topliners of the night, preceded by Mitchell Grey and The Jay Everett Band.
For newcomers, a little background on the venue: Mexicali is a dinner club kind of thing. They have live music most every night of the week, and they serve dinner all night, too. Depending on the act, the place can be all tables and people sitting down to eat and watch a show, or all people standing up and filling the open floor.
This was a younger crowd for younger bands, all there to hear the music and not eat so much. In other words, it was standing room only. As a photographer, of course, this means I have two options to choose from. First, take a spot right up front by the stage and shoot close up and try not to get in anyone’s way. Or, stand back a little bit, use a longer lens, and use my height (I’m 6’4”) to shoot over everyone’s heads. The stage sits up a couple of feet, so I can play that card pretty easily.
I’m naturally a little too shy, anyway, so I took the latter option to start the show, and shot the Jay Everett Band from about 15 feet away from the stage, standing up against the side wall. I used mostly the 85mm lens, which was enough to get close-ups on the band. The crowd was relatively sparse that early in the night, but it seemed very young, with many brandishing their cell phones and video cameras. There were even three or four other photographers there with DSLRs. One had her flash attached to the camera, but (thankfully) never used it. Another appeared to have a kit lens, but he wasn’t using flash either, so I guess it was something better than that.
The band was young. Heck, I was surprised to see they had wristbands on that would get them alcohol from the bar. But, then, I’m 35 now. Anyone younger than 30 looks like a teenager to me automatically.
Back to the photography: I had problems with my camera, and I’m still not sure what was going on. The focus was playing games with me. Perhaps I was standing too far away to get enough line for the contrast detection autofocus to work its best? Maybe there’s something wrong with my camera? Maybe I was just asking too much of my camera? While there were spotlights in front of the stage, it was a relatively dark stage. I pushed the camera to ISO 4000, hoping to buy myself a faster shutter speed. At 85mm, I wanted to go with 1/160s for starters. It was never enough. The focus was all over the place and the lighting was so bad that the shutter speed never seemed to be enough.
It was both frustrating and worrying.
The worst part of the night was probably my own fault. I didn’t move from my spot. I wanted to concentrate on figuring out what was wrong with the focus (yeah, I know, I should use Nikon) and fixing what I had before I moved around. So I wound up with 400 pictures with little variety and lots of awful lighting and focusing.
But, there were a few decent shots in there, so I’ll share them here and hope to learn from the experience to move around more. That might have fixed my issues, too. The light is always better closer up, right?
Next: Mitchell Grey
More pics after the break: