Concert photography counterintuition

Newsong frontman Russ Lee performs at Winter Jam 2011 in Rupp Arena. Nikon D80, Tamron 28-75 mm lens; ISO 1600, 1/250 sec, f 2.8.

The last time I shot a show at Rupp Arena, I came away really unhappy with my work. When I took a little time to assess that shoot, January’s Nightmare After Christmas tour featuring Avenged Sevenfold, I figured out the main problem: I was running around trying to keep up with the bands.

Newsboys' lead singer Michael Tait performed on the catwalk on the Winter Jam stage in Rupp Arena. Nikon D80, Nikkor 17-35 mm lens; ISO 1600, 1/200 sec, f 2.8.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know photographers should be moving around and trying to see what they are shooting from different angles with different glass. But there’s a difference between that and trying to keep up with M. Shadows as he sprints around the stage and trying to get a good shot. The former is a recipe for just missing a lot of shots – and probably annoying your fellow photographers in the pit. With a highly mobile act, a better strategy is to find a spot and let the show come to you – it will. That’s not to say spend all of a song allotment anchored to one spot. But if you find a good spot to plant and compose for a verse or two, chances are something will happen like the guitar and bass player stepping in front of your midrange zoom and jamming, and maybe a few other things will transpire before you go look for a new angle.

Funny thing is, I often find it’s the sedate stand-and-sing acts that make me hustle more because they aren’t offering a whole lot of different looks, so I need to find them.

So Saturday night I went to shoot the Winter Jam Christian rock tour – very different night from Avenged – at Rupp with the words “wait for it” etched upon my brain. I did, and right off the bat, I got some shots I really liked of Newsong frontman Russ Lee. At the end of the night, I hung at the end of the catwalk, waiting for Newsboys frontman Michael Tait to come my way, which he did, again and again.

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