On November 3rd, Grizzly Bear brought their year-and-a-half long tour home the the Wordless Music Series at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. The show was, in a word, breathtaking. After composer Michael Harrison spellbound the audience with his performance on piano, the Brooklyn-based quintet played a long set of tracks from Yellow House and their Friend EP to a sold-out crowd that included the legendary Paul Simon (whose songs the band is known to cover).
Grizzly Bear's live performance was both more subtle and much more powerful than their album might suggest. When the camera was not in front of my face, I found that what my eyes saw and my ears heard were often at odds with each other. The band (Chris Taylor and Ed Droste in particular) moved so quickly between numerous instruments that I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
I'm looking forward to shooting the Grizzly Bear again and can only hope that the band comes out of hibernation soon.
For a wonderful review by John Melillo, who does this show immeasurably more justice than I can, visit The Line of Best Fit.
Unlike many of the shows I shoot, this was was sit-down - as in there was no photo pit and I was sitting on the floor. Though my knees were mad at me the next morning, the lack of pit did not present as big a problem as one might imagine. Luckily, the stage was less than three feet high allowing me to shoot from a loosely crouched position. With the blessing of the concert's organizer, Ronen Givony, I had no song limit.
The shooting in the auditorium of the Society for Ethical Culture is a lot like shooting a wedding in a church. As a photographer, you want to stay out of the way as much as possible and try not to disturb the guests.
The lighting at the Society for Ethical Culture is about what you'd find at a church, which is means it's mediocre at best. When the lights were on, the band was lit harshly from the sides by sets of red, blue and yellow spotlights positioned high on the side walls. What little front lighting there was came from a long bank of spotlights above the balcony facing the stage. Unfortunately for me, these lights saw little use.
With such a great difference in the temperature of the lighting from one side of the stage to the other, I immediately abandoned any attempt to find a neutral white balance. In addition, the pin-drop silence of the venue compelled me to switch the 1D3 to "silent mode" in an effort to lessen my impact on the audience members whose feet I was directly beneath.
In silent mode, the camera stops the slapping sound made by the mirror by opening and closing the shutter when the button is pressed and slowly lowering the mirror when the button is released. Though barely audible in the presence of normal conversation, the venue was so quiet that I was extremely conscious of the shutter release even with silent shooting engaged. As a result, I restricted my shooting to moments when the music was loudest. I think the concert produced a nice set of images despite the lower number of clicks.
The lighting was weak enough to warrant an ISO setting of 6400 at f/2.8 and 1/60 for much of the set.
Though the Canon 24-70mm f2.8 L saw some use, the combined factors of my crouched position and the band's distance from the front of the stage allowed the short end of the 70-200mm L to shine. The image stabilization at 1/60 certainly didn't hurt either.