Gig photography, colour disasters and my first attempt at monochrome photos
Do you remember pubs? People used to socialise there and enjoy good drinks. Maybe we’ll do it again at some point!
We have many lovely pubs in my hometown, but the most famous one probably is DeBarra’s. It’s a typical traditional Irish pub, but it’s also a brilliant music venue and is quite famous for it. Jimi Hendrix’s old guitar hangs there, and his bass player Noel Redding lived here for many years, and played regularly in this pub. It’s an important venue during the international guitar festival, and is very appreciated by musicians.
At DeBarra’s, I’ve discovered how much I enjoy photographing gigs. The first time I photographed a concert was at an outdoor concert with Jill Johnson in Sweden 2017 and I was nicely surprised about the results. After that, despite low light conditions in most venues, I try to take some photos when I’m at gigs.
During 2019, our first year in Ireland, we went to several gigs at DeBarra’s and I brought the camera every time. The results were very mixed. I didn’t expect to produce any stellar photos because I still struggled with low light conditions – I took photos first and foremost to practice low light photography and to see what I could come up with. However, I managed to create some decent shots in there, to my own standards at least.
Stage lights can be a nightmare
DeBarra – you have a wonderful pub there but we need to talk. Blue, pink, purple stage lights? I agree that it looks cool but it’s a nightmare for an amateur photographer like myself. I’m not an expert at white balance and need to learn more about it. I normally use auto white balance and it does a great job in most situations but sometimes it can be a disaster. In some venues I haven’t been able to find any setting at all that creates produces decent colours in my images. Perhaps I should see this as a good thing – it challenges me and forces me to learn more.
Some gigs there have been fine though. I’ve managed well with auto white balance and have been able to fine tune skin tone and such in Lightroom afterwards, at least to a somewhat decent level. Colour balance is my very weakest point in post processing, and I often have difficulty to see when the colours look “normal”. I can sit for days with Lightroom and still not know when the colours look good. Getting the white balance right in camera is the very best option for me but sometimes it’s just not possible.
Here’s another stage with purple lights – and it looks quite normal, maybe because it was an outdoor stage and my camera reacts differently when there’s natural light involved (you see that I need to learn more about this!).
Despite the pink and purple lights, also at DeBarra’s I’ve managed to take some photos I’m pleased with. Here are a few of them.
Sharon Shannon is a brilliant accordion player from Galway and she normally comes regularly to play at DeBarra’s. During the pandemic she’s had regular at-home gigs streamed on Facebook, and she seems to be a lovely and cheerful person. Her at-home concerts have been overwhelmed by cats and dogs!
The above picture is from her concert at DeBarra’s in August 2019, and she came back in February 2020, on my birthday. Imagine what a wonderful way to celebrate my birthday! Well, Sharon Shannon obviously didn’t celebrate me, but she did this gig to celebrate 30 years as a professional musician, and the concert was also recorded to make a CD.
For this particular gig, the stage light setup was absolutely horrendous, and this time my Olympus camera’s auto white balance definitely couldn’t handle it. The colours were a disaster, and I didn’t manage to fix it. My RAW files have been lying around for a long time waiting for me to do something with them. I simply didn’t know what to do, and had to wait until I had learned more about colour management. Although I got some good advice from helpful people at the Micro Four Thirds forum about how to reset the white balance with the eyedropper tool, it was still very difficult to create something decent out of those photos.
However, some of the photos were quite good despite the high ISO that I had to use, and I didn’t want to give them up. Eventually I decided to make them monochrome. I’ve never been a fan of black & white photos, so I haven’t taken the time to learn the best or recommended way to do it, but wanted to give it a try. I’ve used Lightroom, switched to monochrome, and then adjusted the different sliders for the previous colour shades. This is rather tricky but I liked how much control it gave me over the different shades in the image.
I’m not sure I’m ready with these pictures yet, but I’m quite happy with the results.
As I said, I’m a beginner at monochrome, but this was fun, and I’m definitely going to do black and white photos again. I hope it will be for other reasons than colour disasters, but it definitely was a good way to save otherwise desperate photos. I’m going to learn more about creating good monochrome images, mainly in Lightroom but will probably also check out some other tools people have mentioned.
Interested in learning more about Sharon Shannon? Enjoy this, from a concert at Dolan’s pub in Limerick, in 2011.
I’m linking this post with the Weekend Coffee Share with Natalie the explorer.