Growing steadily since the first event in 2005, PLUG has been the largest awards event annually celebrating independent music. This year’s show was hosted by comedian Patton Oswalt and featured performances by Bat for Lashes, White Denim, The Forms, St. Vincent, Dizzee Rascal, Jose Gonzalez, and last but not least, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

St. Vincent

Dizzee Rascal

Bat for Lashes

Patton Oswalt


White Denim

The Forms

Seth Jabour (Les Savy Fav)



Terminal 5, for all of its problems as a performance venue, is perfectly suited for an awards show that features live performance. The awards, presented by Patton Oswalt and a host of others (from SNL stars to indie music folks) were interspersed with short 2 or 3 song sets by the acts above. This seemed to work out well for the most part.

I arrived at 5:30PM, which was just enough time to say hello to most of my photography friends and to catch a few quick snaps of attending indie-rock luminaries doing the red carpet thing.

Originally, photography was restricted to the back of the second floor balcony, which, for anyone who knows Terminal 5 is a bloody hell of a long way off. Night of, all of the photographers I knew were shooting from the floor. Though I had rented a large telephoto lens for the occasion, I decided to join the rest of herd.

Normally, Terminal 5 has a large photo pit that extends the length of the stage. That night, the photo area was occupied by the TV crew. Choosing the next best thing, I got into position just behind the barrier slightly house right. This turned out to be a mixed blessing.

There were two runways on which I assumed the awards would be presented. I had an unobstructed view of the runway to my left and hoped that at least half of the action would take place there. I was dead wrong. All of the awards were presented on runway to my right. This meant that I spent most of the night looking at Patton Oswalt’s ass. It also meant that I had no angle on the presenters, the acceptances and sadly Jose Gonzalez.

The decision came down to this:

Shooting from the barrier, I got good shots of almost all of the performances and a couple decent shots of the awards.

Shooting from the balcony, I’m guessing that I would have had usable but uninteresting shots of everything, and nothing great.


The lighting for this shoot wasn’t wonderful but it was fairly straight forward. As I’ve come to expect from Terminal 5, nearly all of the performances used heavy red and blue backlighting with white waterhazers and a lesser amount of neutral front lighting for fill. The biggest problem for a photographer with this type of setup is lens flare. Sometimes it ruins shots, sometimes it creates awesome.


I shot the entire set with the Canon EOS-1D Mark III with either the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L or the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS. Since I was stuck in one spot, further back that normal, the 70-200mm saw a lot of action.


My exposure stayed around ISO 3200 and f/2.8 at between 1/100 – 1/200 sec.

  1. Those low back lights really worked out wonderfully for you. They don’t seem to cast a haze over the shots like they some times tend to do when they’re problematic. Great stuff Chris.

  2. chris

    Hey Paul, thanks for the comment. The low backlights were totally fine for Nick Cave. There wasn’t any problem with the contrast or black levels.

    They were a huge problem for St. Vincent unfortunately. All of the shots from that set were very low contrast resulting in my pulling the blacks up in post.

    It all came down to the positions of the artists on stage in relation to the lights.

  3. This looks like a really tricky shoot, considering the positioning you mention, though I think it worked out well for the performances.

    I see you got a little of the Marilyn Manson lights for this one — a little less menacing when there’s frontlighting. That shot of The Forms’ bassist looks great.

    Spotlights in the balcony? Looks great for Terminal 5.

  4. chris

    Thanks for the comment Todd. This was a sort of win/lose situation for position. Though I think I made the right choice in the end, the ideal angle was blocked completely by the runway.

    I can’t actually remember exactly where the spotlights where, but they were high and far off, it was nice for a change.

  5. chris,
    great shots…I’m not a photographer but I designed and built the award trophies…blown away that Nock Cave is actually holding one…

  6. chris,
    great shots…I’m not a photographer, but designed and made the award trophies…LOVE the shot of Patton O. kneeling down to present it to Nick Cave!!

  7. Just blowing some in between class time on Digg and I found your entry. Not typically what I like to read about, but it was definitely worth my time. Thanks.