Carrying on with my theme of looking at different parts of the music industry, I decided to look within Moshville Times at people who create memories and capture breathtaking moments for every person who appreciates their music. This could be from someone that attended the gig and was looking for a memory of seeing their favourite band to someone who wished that they could have been there. I am, of course, talking about the photographers who spend what little spare cash that they have in buying their equipment, resources and their spare time in making this happen for you.
For all the people that find photographers at gigs annoying, I urge you to read this interview and see it from their perspective whose sole aim and motivation is to provide you with that memory. Thank you, Gary for your time and I wish you every success as a photographer.
First of all, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions for our readers at Moshville Times. When you started photography, what was your first interest before developing an interest in gig photography?
Well, I have always taken photos but I don’t think I became a photographer in the true sense until 2013 with my first DSLR. Just general photos of mates etc before I started taking a camera to gigs back in the early 80s with the usual flat film camera that had the snap-in film and the small cube flash.
Now that you are a photographer by profession, what advice would you give to someone wishing to start becoming a photographer?
Start out with a point and shoot (Panasonic TZ range) as I did at local venues and just snap away to get a feel of how bands move, lighting and angles etc. Once you get a feel and want to upgrade get yourself a cheap DX crop frame DSLR camera and practice shooting in manual mode, play with shutter/iso speeds etc to get a better feel. I was and still am lucky with my local venue Bannermans. I would say don’t give up with dull, even black, out of focus photos to begin with, it’s all part of the learning curve.
If someone was to take this seriously, what sort of budget would they have to set aside in your opinion and what is your most expensive piece of equipment?
If seriously then you are looking at around £3,000 for a good set up, that is about the price of one of my Nikon D750s with the Sigma Art series 50mm f1.4 lens on it along with a Nikon Battery grip and I use 2 D750s at gigs. Most expensive would probably be my D750 bodies which were £1,800 each when I got them.
Is there a piece of equipment, and don’t say the camera, that you can’t do without?
Probably my Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 lens as it is so fast and sharp.
Can you run through what happens at the night of a gig? How long are you allowed to take pictures for?
Night of the gig starts at home cleaning the lenses needed for the venue I am shooting at, checking the SD cards are ok and formatted (I use 2x 32gb cards per body set to overflow), charging batteries, rotating batteries between body and battery grip. At the larger mainstream venues, it’s normally first three songs per band then you are out though some artists are only one or two songs. With my local venues, it’s normally the whole set which I prefer as you get shots later on once the bands have warmed up that you would have missed with the three song rule.
What difficulties can you face when taking photographs at a gig?
In the larger venues with pits not much apart from dull lighting, without pits, it’s a case of getting there early so that you are at the front for the better shots and it can get a bit interesting with no pit and a bouncy crowd trying to keep your gear safe.
Do you have any pet peeves in the live environment?
Dull lighting (blue/red), bands that just stand there and don’t interact with the crowd or photographers and those ones in small venues using flash.
After you have finished taking photographs at a gig, what is the next step to getting them ready for publication?
Download the cards to my Mac and have a quick sift through them in Adobe Bridge before sorting them into sets to edit.
What piece of software do you use to edit your photographs?
Always Adobe Lightroom as it’s just an amazing piece of software.
Have you had the opportunity to exhibit your pieces of work to the public and if so, how did that feel and how did the event go?
I’ve not but it would be nice to do, I think.
With the public looking at your photographs, what thoughts or emotions would you like them to take away from your pictures?
I would just like them to go “Wow, he really caught that moment” which is what I’m always trying to do.
What would you say is the proudest moment of your career?
Tough one apart from joining the Moshville Times crew, I have no set moment, possibly being the only photographer in the Cathouse pit for Anthrax in 2015 even if the lighting was rubbish. I would just say any time a band shares your photos of them, uses them for their profile pictures etc which shows a nice love from the bands you are shooting trying to make them look as great as possible in the live environment.
Possibly impossible to answer but would you have a photograph that you are extremely proud of? Do you archive your own pictures?
No set photo I don’t think, it’s always the gig you are editing at the time and you go to yourself “That’s the shot”. I do have one I always go back to sometimes and that is of Steve Hawkins from a fantastic band called Chrome Molly at the HRH NWOBHM shows in Sheffield in 2016 as he is an awesome frontman to shoot and he had seen me in the pit and gave me this big grin and a thumbs up and I caught the shot so well.
Do you have some photographers that are your influences and have admired their work?
A lot of the team I work with are fantastic and you always get that wee bit jealous when they get a gig you would have liked to have shot. Apart from them, probably Ross Halfin as he gets all the ridiculous gigs and all area access.
What would you say you would have to do to enhance your skills to reach that of your peers?
Just keep shooting and improving as you are always learning on the job, get on a tour with bands and just get those shots no one else has.
Do you have a favourite place to shoot your photographs?
I think most people who know me will tell you it’s Bannermans in Edinburgh which I consider the best venue in the country. Christian Kimmett who runs it, as well as playing bass in Warrior Soul and Jizzy Pearl’s Love/Hate and his own band Paper Beats Rock, is just amazing as are all the staff at the venue and is actually the person who pushed me in the early days to go further than my point and shoot.
What motivates you to keep taking photographs?
Always looking for that shot even when I don’t have the cameras on me, I feel naked without my kit strapped to be.
Thank you for your time in answering these questions for Moshville Times. If there was a person or a gig past or present that you wish you would have had the opportunity to take photographs, what would it be?
Easy – Janis Joplin.
Like and view more of Gary’s photography here.