Saturday, May 03, 2008

Jeff Healey Rock Tribute

A video of Jeff Healey starts off the night.

Today's gig found me at the Sound Academy, formally known as the Docks. A bunch of musicians (and fans) gathered together to celebrate the life and music of Jeff Healey with the money generated by the event going to the Daisy's Eye Cancer Fund (finding a cure for eye cancer).

The event started at 7pm and went on until just around 2am. That's seven solid hours of music with the odd five or maybe even ten minute break between bands. Each band played about two songs and then the next band would come on. This presented a photographic challenge in that I wanted to cover everyone on stage, from the singer doing vocals all the way to the back including the ever elusive drummer in the background. Not only did I want to get a shot of the person, I wanted to get a good shot. This meant hanging on each performer while trying not to miss some other performer doing something interesting on stage.

Colin Bray of the Jeff Healey Jazz Wizards

It also meant running around. A lot. The stage was pretty wide and some people could be shot on one side of the stage while others not so much. Also depending on which instrument the person was playing determined which side was better to shoot from.

There was also the memory and battery concern. Would I have enough memory and power to shoot seven hours straight? I bought three more batteries for my cameras just in case. Roger (at Monster Records) had told me in advance that I did not want to run out of power or photo capacity before the ending. "We were making Rock and Roll history" after all.

Singer Terra Hazelton

I remember Roger first asking me to shoo the event. I said "sure". As the event date approached Roger started telling me how big it was going to be. "There's going to be Jack Bruce and Ian Gillian!". I dumbly replied "uh, who?". You have to remember that I was a computer geek in school and although I might recognize a tune or two I don't know the names of band members. Band names sure. Band members no. It wasn't until only a few years ago that I was introduced to the appreciation of AC/DC. I am a music feeb. But ask me about computer graphics pioneers like James Blinn (I named my first Hamster after him). Can we say computer graphics geek?

Anyhoo, the names Roger started blabbing off zoomed right through me. "Randy Bachman, Alan Frew, Blue Rodeo.." Oh wait. I've heard of Blue Rodeo. They were an 80s band after all. I told Roger that maybe he should not tell me how big these people are, it would just make me more nervous. "Don't screw it up, don't screw it up.", ran through my mind.

Greg Godovitz

Of course once I was standing on stage with the performers in front of me and my camera in hand everything seemed clear. Find the shot, get the shot. It didn't matter who it was in front of me, how big on the music charts they were. I've shot bands before and this was no different. I take that back, it was a bit different. There was better lighting and I had an all stage pass.

I took photos from the back of the stage, peeking up from behind the performers looking out at the audience, ran around took shots from the media pit, ran around some more to get shots from the other side of the stage. I was in photographer heaven. "Not even the media has the access you have.", Roger's words ringing through my head.

The "Don't screw it up" line was replaced by "Coverage, get coverage, find the angle, get the rock and roll pose, get reaction shots, close ups, wide, the right lighting". My brain was working overtime and my body was trying to keep up. Good thing I brought sneakers.

"Excuse me, Pardon me, sorry, can I get in for one shot?" were the words I used over and over again that night. I tried to be as much of a shadow as possible. I didn't want to stand in any one place too long for two reasons. I wanted different camera angles, and more importantly I didn't want to block anyone viewing the concert. Someone paying money would be a little pissed off if they had a camera guy standing in front of them for all of it. Same with press. You need to get the shot and so do they. It's bad photographic manners to stand in the same position if one can help it for an entire event. They should have a photographic school for good etiquette.

If I had to summarize everything to one rule it would be to be mindful of others.

Photographers are kind of like cab drivers when it comes to people's perception. We're clumped into the Paparazzi group, you know the photographers that push kids, pregnant women and elderly people aside, run around in people's back yards, intrude onto private property, block traffic, and make people lives miserable, just to get the shot.

Much like good cab drivers that actually obey traffic signs, there are some pretty good photographers out there too. My goal is to be one the the better guys. I believe it is possible to get the photo and not be a complete ass while doing so.

Rob Quail (Guitar) and Jerome Godboo (Vocals)

Alan Frew sings "Imagine"

Alannah Myles sings "Black Velvet"

Kurt Schefter

Matt Minglewood

Jimmy Bowskill

Tony Springer

Jeff's wife gives a speech thanking the audience

Blue Rodeo

Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo

Colin James (Guitar) and Dave Murphy (keyboard)

Randy Bachman

Randy Bachman and the Jeff Healey Band

David Wilcox

And then the unthinkable happened. I started running out of memory. I had two 16 gig cards, two 8 gig cards, and a single 4 gig card. I also had an 80 gig Epson hard drive reader on me. I was shooting faster than the drive could copy. In order to keep shooting, I had to switch to JPEG only mode. I was shooting NEFs (or Nikon raw files). While shooting I was extra careful to get "the good shot". Composition, singer pose, focus, shoot. Generally I'll shoot first to establish that I've got the shot, then I'll go in refining the shot, getting close ups, in both landscape and portrait. While shooting the JPEGs I just shot the final shot, no tweeking of the same angle, just shoot and go.

Jack Bruce

The hard drive died while copying the 16 gig card. I had extra batteries but it meant starting all over again (that would be another half an hour). Ugh. I thought for a brief second that I should have two hard drives or maybe more memory cards. I'll know for next time.

Dave Murphy and Jack Bruce

Ian Gillan and Dan Noordermeer

Ian Gillan

The Jeff Healey Band and Ian Gillan

Ian Gillan

The Jeff Healey Band and Ian Gillan

The grand finale

From left top right
Dan Noordermeer (guitar - Jeff Healey Band)
Ian Gillan (vocals - Deep Purple)
Colin James (guitar)
Randy Bachman (vocals, guitar - Guess who, Bachman Turner Overdrive)
Al Webster (drums - Jeff Healey Band)
Alec Fraser (behind Jack Bruce - guitar and vocals - Jeff Healey Band)
Jack Bruce (bass and vocals - Cream)
David Wilcox (guitar)
Dave Murphy (keyboard, vocals - Jeff Healey Band)

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