I have been listening to Steel Pulse for a long time. Many years ago I lived in Ashland, Oregon and used to work as a bartender at one of the biggest bars in town. We had a great crew working behind the bar and one of the reasons we got along so well was our mutual love of reggae music. We played Steel Pulse just about every day and when they played anywhere close, we made the trip to see them. Last week I got to see them again, but this time it was as a photographer. Now I have shot Steel Pulse four times previously and each time I shoot them they get more comfortable with me and the access gets better.
This recent swing through Southern California was a quick three show run; Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Diego. Due to being previously committed to shooting the UCSD Sungod festival, I was only able to shoot the Anaheim and San Diego shows.
The Anaheim House of Blues is located in the middle of Downtown Disney, which means that the venue has two sets of rules, one from the Live Nation/House of Blues and one from Disney. I have heard nightmare stories from other photographers about shooting on Disney property and the minute I started walking from my car to the HOB I seemed to have a security escort.Since it was late afternoon and I kept the camera in the bag until inside the club, I never actually had to deal with the Disney folk but they were there. They actually have to approve every act that gets to play at the HOB at downtown Disney.
The actual shooting at the show was a little difficult with no photo pit and a sold out crowd. I used the edges of the room with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens on a Nikon D700 body and shot at ISO 1600 all night. Since i was allowed to shoot for the whole show and got stage access, there are some images that were shot side stage but to stay out of the way of the fans, I still used a long lens and kept to the edges.
San Diego 5/15/2010
The band was scheduled to play at the San Diego House of Blues, a venue that I have shot at on numerous occasions, each one different. I have actually shot Steel Pulse at the San Diego House of Blues the last time they played there and new that the room could be a problem especially if there wasn’t a photo pit. Now I have no real information to back this up, just a gut feeling, but the San Diego HOB seems to feel smaller than the Anaheim HOB and with a sold out crowd expected, shooting from the floor was going to be very tight.
As luck would have it, there was a photo pit that night and with the all access / all the time shooting for me, I was able to get back into the pit after the first three songs. This was really helpful in getting some shots of David interacting with the crowd at the end of the show. The gear for this shoot was the 24-70mm f/2.8 and the 70-200mm f/2.8 Nikkor lenses and the Nikon D700 camera body. I shot most of the show at ISO 1600 and had no problem with the lights since Steel Pulse likes bright white stage lighting, a concert photographers dream.
On a side note, I got the really meet the band for the first time in San Diego. I have been standing with them backstage before and they have seen me around but introductions were never really made. It turns out that the gallery that I sent them from the Anaheim show was being viewed on the bus as they came down to the San Diego show, and so when they arrived for sound check, they had just finished looking at the images. They loved the shots and were really happy that I had captured the show. This is a perfect example of why you want to only show your best work, that which makes the performers look good. Amlak Tafari, the bass player, was so pleased with the previous shots that he wanted to get a photo of the two of us after the concert. I am not usually the one in front of the lens, but how do you say no to the band?
Once again, my thanks goes to Rich for making this all happen. As usual he made the whole thing so easy.