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Author: Brad Moore

Update From Nashville

Ascend Amphitheater and the Nashville skyline at night
Ascend Amphitheater and the Nashville skyline

It’s been a while since I shared anything on here, so I figured I would just do a general update on life since moving to Nashville.

First off, I’m loving it here. Nashville is a pretty fantastic place to live. I’ve been wanting to live here since my days of visiting the city when I was in college. That desire has only grown stronger in the past few years with more and more friends moving here. Every time I would visit, it just felt like home.

Plus, since finishing college, I’ve lived far enough away from my family that it was always an ordeal to come visit. Now I can make a day trip to see my parents if I want. I also wanted my niece and nephew to know their Uncle Brad in person, not just over video chat. It’s nice to have that technology, but you can’t go swimming with them or play with them or snuggle up and read a bedtime story together over an iPad. So being able to see them more often is great.

Fun with Snapchat filters!

Nashville is just one of those cities that still feels like a small town, even though it’s definitely growing very rapidly. I’m currently sitting at one of MANY coffee shops here, and just across the street is an artisan chocolate company. One of the stars of the TV show Nashville came in, had a sandwich, and left completely unbothered by anyone (though it was very tempting to tell him I was a big fan, but I decided to let him enjoy his sandwich in peace). Just to paint a slice of life picture for you.

This is an incredibly creative city. There is no shortage of people making great art here, whether it be music, photography, food, videos, coffee, paintings, whiskey, or any number of other endeavors. There’s a reason there are so many coffee shops and co-work spaces in town. They’re always full of people getting caffeinated and staring at their laptops. You might walk in and think, “Why aren’t all of these people at work right now??” But they are. They’re just working for themselves. There’s also a good chance that they’re a musician, guitar tech, tour manager, bus driver or what have you that are home from tour for a few days before hitting the road again.

So yeah, this place has a certain allure that isn’t very common, which is why so many people are drawn to it. But that’s enough about Nashville. What have I been up to?

I am a full time freelancer now. What’s that mean? I work for myself, for anyone who will hire me, and I’m trying my hand at new stuff as well.

Brad Moore photo bombs a model during Scott Kelby's Shoot Like A Pro Reloaded seminar in Nashville, TN
Photo bombing during the Shoot Like A Pro seminar. Photo courtesy of @bhphotovideo on Twitter

I still work with Scott and the gang at KelbyOne quite a bit. If you’re at one of his seminars, you’ll see me there working alongside him. I’m still managing Guest Blog Wednesday and New Class Thursday for his blog, and I’ll be assisting him on a few things at Photo Plus Expo this week. Can’t wait to see everyone there! Scott and I have a great relationship (probably better than ever now that I’m not around every day to annoy him constantly 😉 ), and I’m incredibly thankful for him and his continued support.

Bear Rinehart of Needtobreathe performs on September 23, 2016 at Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville, Tennessee
Bear Rinehart of Needtobreathe performs on September 23, 2016 at Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville, Tennessee
Mat Kearney performs on September 25, 2016 at Civic Coliseum in Knoxville, Tennessee
Mat Kearney performs on September 25, 2016 at Civic Coliseum in Knoxville, Tennessee
Beck performs during Pilgrimage Festival on September 24, 2016 at The Park at Harlinsdale in Franklin, Tennessee
Beck performs during Pilgrimage Festival on September 24, 2016 at The Park at Harlinsdale in Franklin, Tennessee
Grace Potter performs during Pilgrimage Festival on September 24, 2016 at The Park at Hrlinsdale in Franklin, Tennessee
Grace Potter performs during Pilgrimage Festival on September 24, 2016 at The Park at Hrlinsdale in Franklin, Tennessee
Sunset at Pilgrimage Festival in Franklin, Tennessee
Sunset at Pilgrimage Festival in Franklin, Tennessee

I’m still shooting concerts when I can. I’m not really shooting for anyone right now, so it mostly ends up being bands I’m connected to in some way, or I find a way in through a friend who is connected. I’ll go weeks without shooting sometimes, then I’ll shoot for three days in a row. So goes the ebb and flow of the freelance life.

On location with Robby Klein and Curb Records artist Selah
On location with Robby Klein and Curb Records artist Selah
Production shot of the group photo Robby Klein shot for People Magazine before ACM Honors show at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee
Production shot of the group photo Robby Klein shot for People Magazine before ACM Honors show at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee

I’m also assisting my buddy Robby Klein from time to time when he needs an extra hand on a shoot. So far I’ve helped him on shoots for Billboard, People, ELLE, and Curb Records. It’s always helpful to see how other photographers work, as well as network with other people in the industry. Being visible helps people remember you exist and they’re more likely to think of you when they need something you can provide. And most people here are just cool people and I like getting to know cool people. So it’s a win-win!

Video contains a profanity. Check out Matt’s new album American Wilderness on iTunes and Spotify!

Speaking of networking and creativity, I’ve also started partnering up with a new friend, Phil Barnes, on video work. Phil and I met when we both showed up at our friend Matt Hires‘ concert with the idea of doing a video for Matt. We hadn’t met before that night, and it seemed silly to me that we were each going to do a video for Matt, so I asked Phil if he wanted to work on it together. He said yes, so we planned out who would shoot what, then got together to do the edit the next day. A few hours later we were finished with our first video, and that was the beginning of Phil and Brad Make Videos. We’re just getting started with this, and I’m excited to see where it goes! Here’s another one we made for another Matt, but you can watch more on Vimeo or YouTube and keep an eye out for more in the works.

And somewhere in between all of this, I decided to go check out the Grand Canyon for the first time ever. My parents were on a trip out west and said I should come meet up with them, so I booked a flight for the next morning and made the trip!

Panoramic photo of sunset at the Grand Canyon from Mather Point
Sunset at the Grand Canyon from Mather Point

So, that’s more or less what I’ve been up to. Working and networking in my favorite city, enjoying the delicious things it has to offer, making new friends, spending more time with family, and just enjoying life!

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Five Dudes And A Panda: Shooting Dude Perfect!

Cory Cotton, Coby Cotton, Cody Jones, Garrett Hilbert, and Tyler Toney of Dude Perfect

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to fly down to Texas and photograph Dude Perfect for their Fall 2016 product line launch. If you’re not familiar with Dude Perfect, they’re a group of guys who do sports trick shots and other entertaining things on their YouTube channel and have gained quite a large following. They also have a reality show on CMT that’s rather entertaining.

So, how does one go about getting hired for something like this, then execute it? Glad you asked…

It starts when you get a phone call from your friend who is the chief creative officer at Rivals Group, a creative brand strategy house based in Tampa, asking if you’re available and interested in doing the shoot after filling you in on what it is. You say yes, put together an estimate so they know what it’s going to cost, and then they hire you if they approve of your estimate.

After that, you get to work finding a local assistant, stylist, and place to rent gear. Thankfully the shoot was taking place just north of Dallas, and I have friends at WELD in Dallas who I could reach out to for help with these things. My buddy Hoyoung Lee pointed me in the right directions for these things and I was off. Assistant, check. Stylist, check. Rental house, check. Now what do I actually need to rent?

Being a location shoot and not knowing what the exact status of the building was going to be, I opted for battery powered lights rather than AC units, specifically Profoto B1 Air heads. This allowed me to set up anywhere and not worry about being near outlets or running extension cords. I also planned for having two setups, the white seamless and the lifestyle stuff, so I rented two sets of three lights (that’s six heads for you math nuts out there) so we could quickly move between setups if need be.

Dude Perfect Headquarters in Frisco, Texas, still under construction
An iPhone pano of the new Dude Perfect HQ, still being finished, from upstairs. That’s a soccer field in the back, the just-finished basketball court on the right, an in-progress putting green (that’s the gravel that serves as the base under the actual green), and in the left bottom corner the Dude Perfect Epic Cart (I have an idea for a shot I want to make involving this if I get to go back and shoot again in the future…)

The plan was to shoot at Dude Perfect’s new headquarters, which was still under construction and being moved into, but had plenty of space to set up for this. Our primary goal was to photograph all five Dudes and the Panda wearing their new products, as well as two kids for the youth line. These shots are for the online storefront and shot on white seamless. Our secondary goal was to do some lifestyle shots of the Dudes in action to add a little extra flavor to things.

Seamless paper background and studio lights set up for Dude Perfect photo shoot

For the seamless setup, I used two lights on the background, shot through umbrellas, for an even lighting, and one light up front with a 5’ octa boomed out for even lighting on the garments. This isn’t a situation for creative lighting and dark shadows; the point is to showcase the products, so you use whatever lighting best does that. And thankfully each light came with two batteries and a charger, which was vital since I was shooting at f/11 and the lights were all at full or nearly full power. We kept an eye on battery levels and swapped them out between subjects. To create two separate zones of light (so that the background lights don’t spill onto the subjects), I had everyone stand about 10 to 12 feet off the background.

Photographing one of the youth models while Chief Creative Officer Joel Cook and Stylist Ana Patiño make sure everything is looking good. Photo by Ashley Allen
Photographing one of the youth models while Chief Creative Officer Joel Cook and Stylist Ana Patiño make sure everything is looking good. Photo by Ashley Allen

Photographing Cory Cotton.  Photo by Ashley Allen
Photographing Cory Cotton.  Photo by Ashley Allen

This was all shot on a Canon 1DX with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens (thanks Canon!) and tethered into Lightroom.

A sampling of all the photos shot for the Dude Perfect Fall 2016 product line
A sampling of all the photos shot for the Dude Perfect Fall 2016 product line

In post, all the seamless setup shots were cropped square to fit the layout of the online storefront, and I used the adjustment brush to make sure the backgrounds were all completely white (the auto masking works pretty darn well for this!). Doing this part with a Wacom Intuos Pro tablet also really helps for getting into those nooks and crannies with precision.

Studio lights set up on the Dude Perfect basketball court at their headquarters in Frisco, Texas
We put cardboard down on the court underneath the light stands to ensure they didn’t damage the court since this was literally the day after it had been finished, and thus the first day anyone was on it.

For the lifestyle setup, I used two strip banks with eggcrate grids for edge lighting, and the 5’ octa again as the front light. We wound up only having time for one setup using this, but there’s definitely possibility for some cool shots in the future. I rented all the lighting and grip gear from Bolt Productions, which is conveniently located just around the corner from WELD in Dallas. For this I used a Canon 5D Mark III and 24-70mm lens.

Brad Moore photographs Dude Perfect on the basketball court at their headquarters in Frisco, Texas
This was a group shot with the youth models without Profoto lighting, but it shows the scissor lift and my position for the lifestyle shot coming up below. Photo by Ashley Allen

Cory Cotton, Coby Cotton, Cody Jones, Garrett Hilbert, and Tyler Toney of Dude Perfect
Cory Cotton, Coby Cotton, Cody Jones, Garrett Hilbert, and Tyler Toney of Dude Perfect

The one setup we did was on the new DP basketball court. They had a scissor lift on hand for the painting and various other things that were going on, so I used that to get up high and shoot down on the court. I tried to set up the edge lights so they wouldn’t be in the shot, but it was such a wide shot that it wasn’t working because they were too far away from the subjects. So I got up on the lift and shot a “plate” image, a shot of the court without the lights in it, then asked my assistant to move the lights back into position. I did some test shots to make sure everything was good to go, then brought the Dudes out for the shot.

Animated GIF showing the photographic and editing process to create the final photo of Dude Perfect
The editing process in layers: plate (clean shot of court), shot with lights in frame, using a layer mask to get rid of the lights, overall toning, color adjustment, selective brightening of faces, more toning and removing light reflections on the floor, brightening Cory’s arm and shadows on the floor, and a little more overall toning.

To create the final image, I took the plate shot and the shot with the Dudes into Photoshop and merged them together to end up with a final shot of the Dudes but no lights.

Screen shot of the Dude Perfect storefront using Brad Moore's photos

If you want to see how the shots were used, head over to the Dude Perfect Store, browse around, and place an order!

A HUGE THANKS to all of these fantastic people:

Chief Creative Officer R I V A L S / / G R P: Joel Cook
Director of Creative Brand Strategy R I V A L S / / G R P: Trevor Erickson
Stylist: Ana Patiño
Assistant: Ashley Allen

And to Dude Perfect and our youth models for being so gracious and easy to work with!

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Choosing Camera Lenses

Canon 11-24mm f/4, Canon 24-70mm f/2.8, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses

Choosing lenses can be confusing with so many things to take into consideration… Focal length, maximum aperture, weight, price, prime vs. zoom, etc. I’m going to try and break things down as best I can and hopefully give you a better understanding of all this so you can make a more informed decision on what to purchase.

What Do All Those Numbers Mean?
When looking at lenses, you’re going to see lots of different numbers. The first ones are going to be followed by mm. So, 24-70mm or 70-200mm or 16-35mm or whatever. This is the focal length. The smaller the number, the “wider” the lens, so these are called wide angle lenses. The bigger the number, the “longer” the lens, and these are called telephoto lenses once they’re 70mm or more. After these numbers, you’ll see some that start with f/. So, f/2.8, f/4, f/3.5-5.6, etc. This is the maximum f-stop or aperture (the terms are relatively interchangeable). The lower the number, the “faster” the lens, aka glass. The bigger the number, the “slower” the lens/glass. Let’s dig into these two sets of numbers a little deeper…

Zoom vs. Prime Lenses
If you see two numbers, like 24-70mm, on a lens, that means it’s a zoom lens. These lenses let you get closer to or further away from your subject without physically moving yourself to do so. If there’s only one number, like 35mm, this means it’s a fixed focal length, or “prime,” lens. So if you want to get closer or further away from your subject, you have to “zoom with your feet,” as Joe McNally says.

Fixed vs. Variable Aperture
If you see one number, like f/2.8, on a lens, that means it’s a fixed aperture lens. All prime lenses are fixed aperture, as well as some zoom lenses. This means that no matter what focal length the lens is at, your maximum aperture will remain the same. If you see two numbers, like f/3.5-5.6, then it’s a variable aperture lens. This means that as you zoom the lens in or back out, the maximum aperture is going to change. If I’m using an 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, the maximum aperture will change from f/3.5 when I’m at 18mm and then incrementally increase to f/5.6 as I zoom to 135mm.

Putting It All Together
While zoom lenses can be fast, prime lenses tend to be faster. For example, the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 is around $1750 currently. But if I wanted a faster fixed lens, I have lots of options at different price points. I can get a 35mm f/2 lens for around $600 or the original f/1.4 version for around $1000 (there’s a new version that is priced around $1800). Lots of 35mm options for Nikon shooters as well. Or I can look at the Canon 50mm lineup and go anywhere from $110 for the f/1.8 version to $350 for the f/1.4 version  or even tack on an extra grand and spend $1350 for the f/1.2 version. Again, Nikon also has various 50mm options.

But, you have to take into account what kinds of shooting situations you find yourself in most often. Can you zoom with your feet? If so, then prime lenses might be the best for you. If not and you’re in situations with limited space (say, a photo pit at a concert), then zoom lenses might be best. And what camera are you shooting with? Does it handle high ISO situations pretty well? If so, you might prefer shooting at a higher ISO with a slower lens to spending more money on a faster lens.

The “Standard” Pro Setup
A lot of working pros have what is referred to as the “trinity” of lenses. For Canon shooters, that’s the 11-24mm f/4 or 16-35mm f/2.824-70mm f/2.8, and 70-200mm f/2.8. For Nikon shooters, it’s the 14-24mm f/2.824-70mm f/2.8, and 70-200mm f/2.8.

Why these lenses? They’re going to cover you really well in most situations all the way from super wide to telephoto, and they’re all pretty fast lenses so they’re helpful if you’re shooting in low light situations. These are also high end lenses, so they’re going to put a dent in your wallet. Worth it if you need it, but…

Saving Money
Do you really need to spring for the most expensive options? Unless you’re shooting in low light situations, you probably don’t. For example, my buddy Peter Hurley does the vast majority of his work in the studio where he’s controlling the light, so he uses the Canon 70-200mm f/4 lens instead of the 70-200mm f/2.8. What’s the difference? About $1350, a stop of light, and nearly half the weight.

So, for Peter the f/4 version makes more sense because if he needs more light, he’s in his studio and can adjust the power. And he never shoots at f/2.8, so why spend all that extra money and add twice the weight to what he’s holding and carrying around in his gear bag? Nikon makes 70-200mm f/4 and 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses as well. The price difference isn’t as big as Canon’s, but $600 is still a lot of money!

But for someone like me who does concert and behind the scenes work, I need that extra stop of light that the f/2.8 version gives me. Could I get by with the f/4? A lot of the time, yes. But if I’m in a small venue with bad lighting trying to shoot a high-energy artist that doesn’t allow flash, I’m going to be hard pressed to get a single shot that isn’t blurry, even at 25,600 ISO. My wallet may be thinner and my shoulders may be a bit more sore at the end of the night, but at least the images are sharp!

Crop Sensor with Crop Lens and Full Frame Sensor with Full Frame Lens

Full Frame vs. Crop Frame
One last thing to consider is whether you’re shooting on a full frame or a crop sensor camera. Most of the lower-end DSLRs are crop sensors, meaning they are smaller than full frame sensors. Some lenses are made to only cover the size of the crop sensor, so if you use them on a full frame camera, your image will be cropped and you’ll lose some of your resolution, as you see below on the right.

Crop Sensor with Full Frame Lens and Full Frame Sensor with Crop Lens

However, if you purchase full frame lenses, you can use them on any camera without a loss of image resolution. If you do use them on a crop sensor camera, then they effectively become a “longer” lens because of the smaller sensor size. So what was a 70-200mm lens becomes an approximately 105-300mm lens, depending on the exact size of the crop sensor.

So which should you buy? If you never plan on upgrading to a full-frame camera and alway sticking with a crop sensor camera, then you can save some money and only buy crop lenses. But if you think you might make the jump to a full frame camera, it’s up to you if you want to save in the short term then buy new lenses when you make the jump, or go ahead and invest now to save yourself the hassle later.

On Canon, crop lenses are indicated by the letters EF-S (full frame lenses are just EF), and Nikon indicates their crop lenses with the letters DX (full frame lenses are FX). And to find out if your camera body is full frame or crop sensor, just look up the specs online and it should be one of the first things listed. Canon crop sensors will say APS-C sensor (full frame will just say full frame), and Nikon crop sensors will say DX-Format while full frame will say FX-Format.

Conclusion
I hope this helps you when choosing which lenses to buy. When in doubt, you can always rent lenses (and other gear) from places like LensProToGoBorrow Lenses, or Lens Rentals to try them before you buy them. And once you do decide to make the purchase, using my B&H affiliate links for Canon lenses and Nikon lenses will help me keep bringing you content like this.

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Dealing With Red Light When Photographing Concerts

Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips performs in an onslaught of red light at Gasparilla Music Festival in Tampa, Florida
Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips performs in an onslaught of red light at Gasparilla Music Festival in Tampa, Florida

It’s every concert photographer’s nightmare… The dreaded red wash of light. No matter how much we despise it though, it’s something we are probably all going to have to deal with at some point. So, what’s the trick to making our photos look decent when faced with this challenge?

Our goal here is to minimize “blooming” that red light tends to produce while still maintaining the gWhether you’re processing your shots in Lightroom or Camera Raw, your first stop is going to be the Profile menu in the Camera Calibration panel. Now, what you see and choose here is going to depend on what camera(s) you have.

Camera Calibration settings in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw
Lightroom on the left, Camera Raw on the right

Generally speaking, you’re probably going to see Adobe Standard, then Camera Faithful, Landscape, Neutral, Portrait, and Standard. You may see others depending on your camera or if you have other third party profiles installed, like VSCO. The trick here is to try each profile and see how it treats your images. In this particular case, Camera Neutral works the best for me, but a different profile may work better in another instance.

Once you’ve chosen the profile that looks best, you can further make adjustments using the RGB hue/saturation sliders. The secret here is to adjust the Red sliders sparingly and stick to the Green and Blue sliders. You can try them, but they usually do more harm than good.

Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips performs in an onslaught of red light at Gasparilla Music Festival in Tampa, Florida
Here’s where we are now with the Camera Calibration settings you see above

Now that you’ve tweaked everything in the Camera Calibration panel, most of the heavy lifting is done. From here any other adjustments you make are most likely going to only make minimal changes.

Basic development adjustments in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw

Let’s go back to the Basic panel. Here we can play around with the White Balance temp/tint sliders and see if they can be of any help. Adjust to your liking, then move on to the other adjustment sliders. Increasing the Clarity can help with the red “bloom,” and decreasing the Vibrance can as well.

Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips performs in an onslaught of red light at Gasparilla Music Festival in Tampa, Florida
A few more adjustments courtesy of the Basic panel

There’s also the HSL panel… You may see some improvement with minor tweaking of the red and orange Hue sliders (just be careful not to go overboard with these). And, of course, the red and orange Saturation and Luminance sliders can help as well.

Hue color adjustments in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw

Saturation color adjustments in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw

Luminance color adjustments in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw

Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips performs in an onslaught of red light at Gasparilla Music Festival in Tampa, Florida
A few more minor adjustments via the HSL panel

Now, depending on how well (or badly) your camera handles the red light, you may either be satisfied with your image now, or it may still look terrible. If you’re in the latter scenario, it’s time to break out the secret weapon… Black and white.

Black and white photo of Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips performing during Gasparilla Music Festival in Tampa, Florida
When all else fails, tap the letter V when you’re in Lightroom, then make adjustments in the Develop module to your liking for a black and white conversion

There you have it… All of my tricks for dealing with red light. The settings and adjustments you see here were based on my example photo and not meant to be a fix-all for every right light image. You can try them on yours if you want, but your results will definitely vary from image to image. My objective here was to point you to the most useful adjustments and settings.

If you do find settings that are a useful starting point for your red light shots, you might want to create a preset so you can save time on your next edit!

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Your Calendar Isn’t Your To-Do List… It’s Who You Want To Be.

I was recently in a conversation with my pastor, Tommy, who was talking about counseling people regarding their lives and relationships. He mentioned talking with people who have these big aspirations of things they want to do with their lives… Become a pilot, get their black belt, write a book, etc. Yet when he asks if they have the steps toward doing those things on their calendar, they don’t. And that’s when he said the thing that’s stuck with me since…

“Your calendar isn’t your to-do list. It’s who you want to be. If they were serious about these things, they would be scheduling time for them. Otherwise they’re just pipe dreams.

Pastor Tommy Phillips at Watermark Tampa Church
Tommy Phillips at Watermark Tampa

Every year, Tommy and his wife Sarah map out their family calendar to be sure they make time for the important things: Date nights with each other, family time together, one on one time with each of their three kids, evenings on the porch remembering the past and discussing the future. They’re not just going about their lives and marriage haphazardly. They’re being purposeful about it and planning for the future they want together.

Screenshot of a not very well planned month on Google Calendar
A not very well planned month

So all of this got me thinking about my own life. Am I just taking things a day at a time, or am I planning and taking steps to become the person I want to be? Am I saying yes to the things I want to do and that are important to me? Am I saying no to the things that are just distractions and won’t mean anything a year from now? Have I been taking advantage of my free time and using it to better myself and accomplish the things I want to accomplish in life? Or have I been wasting it away in the vast, bottomless, never-ending (though very entertaining) vacuum that is Netflix and giving in to every distraction that pops up?

As we draw near to the end of 2015, I’m going to invite you to join me in making a plan for 2016. Grab a calendar and think about the things you want to accomplish in the next 12 months. Then figure out the steps you need to take each month, week, and day to accomplish those things and put those steps on the calendar. And along the way, say no to the things that are just distractions from accomplishing those goals. If you get to the point where you have so much on your plate that you can’t handle it all, learn to ask for help and delegate the things that don’t require your full attention to others.

If you know you have a habit of starting strong but not finishing, plan for that. If one of your goals is to get in better shape, maybe just joining a gym isn’t enough. Maybe you need to take the extra step of hiring a personal trainer or enlisting a friend who will hold you accountable. If you want to up your photography game, watch some classes and read some books, but don’t stop there. Actually schedule shoots and make time to experiment with new techniques. Explore other genres of photography outside of what you normally shoot to see what looks and techniques you can apply to your own work.

What if you’re not happy with where you are but you don’t know where you want to be? Ask the people in your life to describe you. What traits do they see when they think about you? Are you a strong leader? Do you find joy in helping people? Are you happiest when you’re working by yourself or with others? Do you like variety or repetition? Ask yourself the age old question… What would you do if you could do anything and money didn’t matter? Then figure out what steps you can take now to start working toward that.

Screenshot of a month on Google Calendar, making time for the important things, both personal and professional
Make time for the important things, both personal and professional

This isn’t a set of New Year’s resolutions that are going to be abandoned by March. Put the steps on your calendar and stick to them. Seek support through friends, family, prayer, community, and any other ways you can stay accountable to yourself. Learn to adjust to the things that life throws at you without abandoning what’s important to you. Let’s make 2016 our best year yet!

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Not Every Shoot Is A Winner

Here’s the scenario: You go do a shoot, download the images, go through the take, mark the selects, do your editing, and deliver the shots. The client loves them… But you don’t. Sure, they’re okay, but… They don’t quite send you to your happy place.

Sound familiar? If it does, I have some good news for you… You’re not alone.

Alexander and The Grapes perform at The Orpheum in Tampa, Florida
Is there anything wrong with this shot? Not technically, but it’s not winning any awards.

I would guess that most photographers go through this, even the best ones. No matter how much we try to make the best possible images we can, not every shoot is going to result in a new portfolio image. You can plan all you want, put together your shot list, research the location, research your subject, make inspiration/mood boards, clean your lenses and sensor, and carry your lucky rabbits foot; but when you do the shoot, the shots are decent but not great. The client is happy, so you’re happy that you’re getting paid, but you wanted to come away with better shots.

Graham Colton performs at State Theatre in St. Petersburg, Florida
Arrive at the venue only to find out there’s no photo pit, and you weren’t there early enough to stake out a spot up front? Better hope you brought a telephoto lens.

Sometimes your subject just isn’t great. Or the location you picked days ahead of time fell through on the day of the shoot and you had to quickly find something else that worked. Or you were unexpectedly battling the harsh sun on what was supposed to be a cloudy day. Or you just flat out had an off day of shooting and don’t know why.

Michael Tait of Newsboys performs during Winter Jam at St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Florida
Right place, right time? Not this time. When the singer takes off down the other end of the stage and you can’t get there in time, this is the result.

For me it’s concerts. There are so many things that come into play here that can make or break an image. How’s the lighting? If there’s lighting, is it always the same or changing a lot (to give variety to the shots)? Is the band doing fun and crazy stuff, or are they all just standing in one spot playing and not being very emotive? Is there so much going on that I don’t even know where to point my camera to try and capture peak moments? Can I get to the spot in the pit I want to be in, or are there twenty other photographers vying for position and I’m stuck where I’m at?

Hillsong United
Even when you’re in the perfect position to capture something you know is going to happen, things don’t always come together to capture the best moment.

I get lucky sometimes and I’m in the ideal position as the guitarist jumps off her amp in the perfect light and my camera focuses and fires and I nail the shot. Other times I see it happening out of the corner of my eye and turn to try to capture the moment from the wrong spot and there’s so little light on her that my camera can’t lock focus and I get a blurry shot. Or a lot of the time I get what are, for me, mediocre shots of the singer with their mouth open and eyes closed standing in front of a mic. It’s a perfectly fine shot that you’ve seen it a million times, but you won’t see it in my portfolio.

Brandi Carlile performs at Capitol Theatre in Clearwater, Florida
Is there ANYTHING good about this shot??
Brandi Carlile performs at Capitol Theatre in Clearwater, Florida
Keep firing shots and hopefully you’ll get one that works. Still won’t see this one in my portfolio though!

But here’s the thing… You’ve gotta keep shooting. You have to push through those bad days to get to the good ones. I once heard Jay Maisel explain it this way to a photographer who was frustrated with his photography:

“It’s like, if I’m trying to be a well built body builder… If I go to the gym on Monday next week maybe or maybe Thursday, or just when I find a day, then it’s not going to happen. You have to go to the gym and work out. I don’t go to the gym and work out as a photographer, but I do the visual push-ups everyday. If you shoot once in a while you may get some nice pictures, and if you shoot very rarely you’ll get fewer. But if you shoot all the time, the number is going to go up.”

Jack Parker of David Crowder Band performs at Countryside Christian Center in Clearwater, Florida
Is there something cool happening but you’re just not sure of the best way to capture it?
Jack Parker of David Crowder Band performs at Countryside Christian Center in Clearwater, Florida
Keep working the scene, trying different angles, and sometimes you can work through and find the shot.

So don’t let a bad shoot or two get you down. Keep doing those visual pushups so you increase your chances of finding those holy grail shots that you add to your portfolio. When you get them, we’ll rejoice with you. And if you don’t, just remember… You’re not alone!

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Canon 11-24mm f/4 Lens Field Report

Canon 11-24mm f/4 lens

Canon has had a good variety of wide angle lenses for a while, but as a HUGE fan of super wide angle zoom lenses, I’ve had an itch that was almost scratched but not quite. Now with the 11-24mm f/4, that itch has been scratched very well.

Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

As a concert photographer who is usually limited to the photo pit without a lot of room to move back and forth, zoom lenses are a life saver. That’s why I was thrilled when Canon announced this new ultra wide angle lens, and even more thrilled to try it out during a couple of recent shoots.

Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Mark Lee, David Carr, and Mac Powell of Third Day sign the tunnel at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado on June 14, 2015
Mark Lee, David Carr, and Mac Powell of Third Day sign the tunnel at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado on June 14, 2015

Is there distortion on the edges? Well, sure, a little, but it’s incredibly minimal! Check out the completely un-cropped images above, with no lens corrections, shot at 12mm. The guys on the edges would normally be stretched quite a bit more, especially in the first one, but this rectilinear lens handles them really well.

Josh Scogin of '68 performs during Warped Tour in St. Petersburg, Florida
Josh Scogin of ’68 performs during Warped Tour in St. Petersburg, Florida

I also love just how close this lens allows me to get to performers who come out to the edge of the stage or come out for some crowd interaction. The musician above looks like he’s still a decent distance from where I’m shooting from, right? Here’s an iPhone shot from the crowd where you can see me in the lower right hand corner…

Brad Moore photographs Josh Scogin of '68 with the Canon 11-24mm f/4 as he performs during Warped Tour in St. Petersburg, Florida
Photo by Alex Roberts

I’m probably a bit closer than you were expecting, right? My only complaint about the ultra-wideness of this lens is that it makes it difficult to keep the other photographers out of my shots!

 

Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

This thing is a bit of a beast though, coming in at 2.6 pounds (for comparison, another one of Canon’s wide-angle zoom lenses is 1.35 pounds), so it can add a little weight to your pack and shoulders. But for the results, it’s totally worth it to me.

I didn’t see any noticeable chromatic aberration in the images, and I have no complaints on edge to edge sharpness even its widest points.

Mac Powell of Third Day soundchecks on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Mac Powell of Third Day sound checks on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

This thing handles lens flare like a champ. Normally in a shot like the one above, with the sun beaming directly into the lens, you’d be lucky to see much of anything. But here you just get a little bit of flare near the headstock of the guitar.

As with any lens with a rounded front element, you’ll want to make sure you keep a lens cloth handy for the occasional accidental finger smudge. The built-in lens hood does help prevent that, plus it’s never going to fall off and get lost during a shoot.

Pierce The Veil perform during Warped Tour in St. Petersburg, Florida
Pierce The Veil perform during Warped Tour in St. Petersburg, Florida

So, is this lens worth it for music photographers? If you’re a fan of the ultra-wide look, then absolutely!

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Brad Takes On Red Rocks Amphitheatre with Third Day!

Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

Red Rocks Amphitheater… It’s one of the most iconic concert venues in the US, if not the world. It was on my list of places where I wanted to see a show during my lifetime, and thankfully I got to do that and more this past weekend! Here’s a rundown of what happened.

Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

A few years ago David Carr, drummer for the band Third Day, started getting into photography. He found the Kelby videos and books, and through those found some of my concert photography and saw that I had photographed them before. He reached out to me to invite me to shoot an upcoming show of theirs, and since then we’ve been buds! During that time, I’ve had the opportunity to photograph them a number of times, including at their sold-out Third Day & Friends show at Gwinnett Arena in Atlanta last year.

This year they decided to do another of these shows, not just in Atlanta, but also at Red Rocks. As soon as I found out about it, I contacted the band and told them I’d be happy to come out and cover this momentous show if they wanted. Thankfully they agreed, and out I went!

Mac Powell of Third Day sound checks on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Mac Powell of Third Day sound checks on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
David Carr of Third Day sound checks on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
David Carr of Third Day sound checks on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Mark Lee of Third Day sound checks on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Mark Lee of Third Day sound checks on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Scotty Wilbanks sound checks with Third Day on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Scotty Wilbanks sound checks with Third Day on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Brian Bunn sound checks with Third Day on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Brian Bunn sound checks with Third Day on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Tim Gibson sound checks with Third Day on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Tim Gibson sound checks with Third Day on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

As soon as you arrive, you realize this place is just breathtaking (especially if you’re going up and down the stairs a bunch)! The band took the stage for sound check, and I wondered around snapping shots without getting in their way. Over the years I’ve learned that the stage is not just a performance space, but it’s also a workplace for the band and their crew. As I am their guest, I have to be very respectful of their space and make sure I’m not doing anything/going anywhere I’m not supposed to. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to cover their shows a number of times and gotten to know the crew a bit, this becomes easier to navigate. But if it’s your first time working with a band, you want to tread lightly and triple check with the crew before doing anything.

One reason you want to make friends with the crew (besides just to be a kind, decent person) is if you want to set up a remote camera on stage…

Canon 5D Mark III with 14mm f/2.8 lens and PocketWizard Plus III set up as a remote camera on a Manfrotto variable friction Magic Arm behind Third Day's drum kit on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Canon 5D Mark III with 14mm f/2.8 lens and PocketWizard Plus III  with CM-N3-ACC cable set up as a remote camera on a Manfrotto variable friction Magic Arm and super clamp behind Third Day’s drum kit on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Canon 5D Mark III with 14mm f/2.8 lens and PocketWizard Plus III set up on a Manfrotto variable friction Magic Arm as a remote camera on a Manfrotto variable friction Magic Arm behind Third Day's drum kit on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Canon 5D Mark III with 14mm f/2.8 lens and PocketWizard Plus III  with CM-N3-ACC cable set up as a remote camera on a Manfrotto variable friction Magic Arm and super clamp behind Third Day’s drum kit on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

This is a Canon 5D MkIII with a 14mm f/2.8. On top is a PocketWizard Plus III connected with a CM-N3-ACC cable, and it’s all mounted to a Manfrotto 244 Variable Friction Magic Arm with Camera Bracket and Super Clamp. The clamp goes around the rigging for the lighting, then I positioned the rest of the arm and camera accordingly. Once everything was in place, I tightened it down and secured it with zip ties and a safety cable. Because of the wide variation of light, I set it to shoot bursts of three bracketed shots: two stops under, even, and two stops over. Auto ISO, aperture priority at f/5.6 (just for depth of field/focus safety), evaluative metering. I also focused the camera, then switched it to manual focus so it wouldn’t be focus searching during moments of low light.

Because of the size and uniqueness of the venue, I wanted to set up a remote camera at the top/back as well (also so I wouldn’t have to be going all the way up and back down throughout the show and missing up-close moments).

Canon 5D Mark III with 8-15mm fisheye lens and PocketWizard Plus III set up as a remote camera on a Manfrotto variable friction Magic Arm at the back corner of Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Canon 5D Mark III with 8-15mm f/4 fisheye lens and PocketWizard Plus III with CM-N3-ACC cable set up as a remote camera on a Manfrotto variable friction Magic Arm and Super Clamp at the back corner of Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

This is the same setup as on stage, but with the 8-15mm f/4 fisheye lens at 15mm, also set to f/5.6. The fisheye allowed me to capture the full rock on the left side of the image all the way over to the stage on the right, as well as some of the landscape beyond that, which you’ll see later. I triggered both of these remotes with a third Pocket Wizard Plus III that I kept with me and fired by hand instead of putting it on one of the cameras I had on me. I did it this way because the moments I would be shooting with the cameras I had on me wouldn’t necessarily be the moments I wanted to capture with the remote cameras. The remotes were more about the crowd than the stage, so I had to wait for moments where the crowd was lit up and not just the stage.

Third Day hang backstage in their green room on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day hang backstage in their green room on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

After sound check, there’s a good bit of time to set up the above remote cameras, chill, and grab food before the show starts. Of course even the dressing rooms in this venue are amazing because the venue is built around the natural rock formations!

The first half of the show was the “Friends” portion featuring Warren Barfield, Peter Furler, Phil Wickham, Brandon Heath, and Matt Maher. During this portion, the acts alternated between performing on the main stage and a secondary stage that was set up above the front of house sound area in the middle of the crowd.

Warren Barfield performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Warren Barfield performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Warren Barfield performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Warren Barfield performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Peter Furler performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Peter Furler performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Peter Furler performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Peter Furler performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Phil Wickham performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Phil Wickham performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Brandon Heath performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Brandon Heath performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Matt Maher performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Matt Maher performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Matt Maher performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Matt Maher performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Fans look on as Brandon Heath performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Fans look on as Brandon Heath performs on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

To cover the show, I had two Canon 1DX bodies on me set to auto ISO with a 1/250 minimum shutter speed, aperture priority, and spot metering. One had the 70-200mm f/2.8 and the other switched between my new favorite lens ever, the 11-24mm f/4, and the not as favorite but still very useful 24-70mm f/2.8, all shot wide open at f/2.8 or f/4.

After the Friends all performed, there was intermission, so I retreated back to the band’s dressing room to snap some candids of them getting ready.

David Carr and Scotty Wilbanks of Third Day get ready backstage on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
David Carr and Scotty Wilbanks of Third Day get ready backstage on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
David Carr of Third Day gets his in-ear monitors ready on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
David Carr of Third Day gets his in-ear monitors ready on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Scotty Wilbanks, David Carr, Tim Gibson, Mac Powell, Mark Lee, and Brian Bunn of Third Day pose backstage on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Scotty Wilbanks, David Carr, Tim Gibson, Mac Powell, Mark Lee, and Brian Bunn of Third Day pose backstage on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

Just before they took the stage, they took a minute to go sign the iconic tunnel that leads from backstage, underneath the seating area, and up to the front of house sound area…

The underground tunnel from backstage to front of house on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
The underground tunnel from backstage to front of house on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Mark Lee, David Carr, and Mac Powell of Third Day sign the tunnel on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Mark Lee, David Carr, and Mac Powell of Third Day sign the tunnel on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

Pretty much everyone who plays at Red Rocks signs the tunnel, so it’s covered in legendary names. You could spend hours searching for your favorite musicians if you wanted!

With that rite of passage under their belts, the band took the stage for their sold-out show!

Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Mac Powell of Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Mac Powell of Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

As the band performed, I shot from on stage, in front of the stage, side stage, the front of house sound area, and anywhere else I could find a decent vantage point. And all along the way I kept an eye on the crowd waiting for moments where it was lit up, then laying down on the remote trigger and hoping for the best.

Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Peter Furler plays drums as David Carr of Third Day watches on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Peter Furler plays drums as David Carr of Third Day watches on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

I learned a lesson about remotes that are a decent distance away from you in large crowds of people that night… Theoretically every time I hit the trigger, both cameras should have fired, thus having pretty close to the same number of shots by the end of the show. But that was not the case… The on stage camera fired over 3,300 shots, while the one at the back of the venue only fired around 500 shots.

When I set them up, I tested the trigger distance, and it worked from the back of the venue all the way to the stage. But my guess is that once the venue filled up, all of the cell phone and radio frequencies caused interference. Since I was much closer to the stage throughout the show, that remote fired more reliably than the one at the back. Should I do another similar setup in the future, the remedy to this would be to set up another PocketWizard Plus III halfway back in the venue to serve as a “repeater.” This would receive the signal from the trigger, then relay it on to the remote with a stronger signal to ensure it fires reliably.

Fans watch as Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Fans watch as Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Peter Furler plays drums as David Carr of Third Day watches on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Peter Furler plays drums as David Carr of Third Day watches on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Third Day perform on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Brian Bunn performs with Third Day on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Brian Bunn performs with Third Day on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

At the end of the show, the band took a bow, then I ran out to get a shot of them facing me with the crowd in the background.

Scotty Wilbanks, Mark Lee, Matt Maher, Mac Powell, Brandon Heath, Brian Bunn, and Tim Gibson take a bow at the end of Third Day's set on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Scotty Wilbanks, Mark Lee, Matt Maher, Mac Powell, Brandon Heath, Brian Bunn, and Tim Gibson take a bow at the end of Third Day’s set on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Brian Bunn, Tim Gibson, Brandon Heath, Mac Powell, Matt Maher, David Carr, Scotty Wilbanks, and Mark Lee at the end of Third Day's set on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
Brian Bunn, Tim Gibson, Brandon Heath, Mac Powell, Matt Maher, David Carr, Scotty Wilbanks, and Mark Lee at the end of Third Day’s set on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

And that was that! It was an amazing experience, one that I won’t soon forget. A HUGE thanks to the band for bringing me out to the show and letting me have a dream come true experience!

A view of the sold out crowd on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
A view of the sold out crowd on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
A view of the sold out crowd on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
A view of the sold out crowd on June 14, 2015 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado
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Lecrae at House of Blues Orlando

This past weekend I was able to shoot hip-hop artist Lecrae’s sold-out concert at House of Blues in Orlando. He’s out on tour supporting his latest album, Anomaly, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 when it released in September. Thankfully, I have some friends who have been working with Lecrae and his label, Reach Records, for a while now and were able to hook me up with an all-access pass to cover the show! I figured I would take this opportunity to share some of the shots with you, along with my thought process for covering the show and some post processing tips.

Lecrae performs at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida
Lecrae performs on November 15, 2014 at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida

I started the set in the photo pit, the space between the stage and the crowd barricade. The stage at HoB is pretty high, so I always try to start from the sides and shoot tight to get those shots out of the way.

Lecrae performs at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida
Lecrae performs on November 15, 2014 at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida

With a high-energy show, which hip-hop tends to be, there’s a lot of movement on stage, so I usually shoot a lot more wide shots than tight. While I still move back and forth in the pit to try and follow the action, shooting wide keeps me from having to move too much. There’s plenty of stuff to trip on in the pit, as well as the other photographers who are all trying to maneuver around each other, so the less back and forth there is, the less chance for bumping into someone.

Lecrae performs at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida
Lecrae performs on November 15, 2014 at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida

This is one of my favorite shots from the show because it’s obviously a peak action moment with Lecrae flying high, but then there’s also the subtle background element of his backup singer also getting some air at the same time.

Lecrae performs at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida
Lecrae performs on November 15, 2014 at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida

Needless to say, there was a lot of jumping.

Lecrae performs at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida
Lecrae performs on November 15, 2014 at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida

Not always though.

Lecrae performs at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida
Lecrae performs on November 15, 2014 at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida

There were even some quiet moments, which I took advantage of by getting in nice and close while he was at the edge of the stage.

Lecrae performs at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida
Lecrae performs on November 15, 2014 at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida

But then there was more jumping! I liked the black and white edit of this shot more than the color version (below). I feel like not having the blue color of the lights and the red color of the screens intersecting his body below the arms makes it less distracting. Which do you prefer?

Lecrae performs at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida
Lecrae performs on November 15, 2014 at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida

B&W PROCESSING TIP: One thing to keep in mind if you’re converting images to black and white in Lightroom or Camera Raw is that the color sliders still matter! Once you convert it to black and white, go back to your white balance sliders and tweak them. You’ll be surprised at how big a difference in light and contrast those adjustments will make.

Don’t stop there either. Head to the HSL sliders and you’ll see color sliders that will help you adjust your black and white mix. Depending on the colors in your photo, some of them might not do much of anything, but the ones that do affect the image will make a huge difference. It’s also a great way to selectively darken/brighten elements in your images.

And if you want more fine-tuning, head to the Camera Calibration sliders and see what you can do with those as well.

Lecrae performs at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida
Lecrae performs on November 15, 2014 at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida

COLOR PROCESSING TIP: One thing I try to achieve in my color images is a nice contrast of colors. The main way I achieve this is also with the white balance sliders. Sometimes it’s a big move of the slider, and sometimes it’s the tiniest tweak. But I always try to find that sweet spot where the colors (in the case of the image above, red, blue, and purple) all pop the best. Then I’ll move down to the vibrance slider and see if pumping it up or, surprisingly, pulling back on it helps the image the most. In this case (and most of the shots from this show), dialing it back to -10 or so gave me the look I liked best.

Lecrae performs at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida
Lecrae performs on November 15, 2014 at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida

After I was done in the photo pit, I moved up to a room upstairs and to the side of the stage that I had always wanted to shoot from but couldn’t because I didn’t have the access needed for it. This time I did, so up I went.

I only shot from here for a short time because there were already other people in the room, and I asked one of them if I could stand where they were for about 30 seconds just to get a few shots. I shot till I knew I had gotten a few shots with decent light and a good gesture, then moved back out to the main balcony.

Lecrae performs at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida
Lecrae performs on November 15, 2014 at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida

From here I was able to get some shots of the whole stage from a different vantage point. And they broke out the lasers! Who doesn’t like lasers?

Lecrae performs at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida
Lecrae performs on November 15, 2014 at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida

Apparently everyone loves lasers, because they turned them up to 11 and added a disco ball in as well. Because, well, why not?

Lecrae performs at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida
Lecrae performs on November 15, 2014 at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida

While the crowd was blinded by the light (revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night), Lecrae snuck off stage and made his way into the crowd like the rule-breaking rebel he is (note the sign behind him).

Lecrae performs at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida
Lecrae performs on November 15, 2014 at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida

I never am sure which shows certain moments better, tight shots like the first one, or wide shots like this one. In the first one, you can clearly see who it is and you have enough people around him that you can tell he’s in the middle of a crowd. But the second one shows the size of the crowd and the excitement of the people closest to him, and gives a bit more context by showing the stage and lights. What do you think?

Lecrae performs at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida
Lecrae prepares to take the stage for his encore on November 15, 2014 at House of Blues in Orlando, Florida

During the last song of his regular set, my friends and I made our way backstage. Lecrae came off the stage for a short break while the crowd cheered for him to come back out, and I was lucky enough to grab this moment of him getting ready to take the stage for his encore. While it’s not the most exciting moment, it’s one of those things that few people get to see. So being able to capture it and share it with others is exciting for me.

I hope you like the images, that I was able to give a little insight into shooting strategy, and that the post processing tips were helpful! If you have any questions or input, leave a comment and I’ll get to you as soon as I can.

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