Head back­stage with a rock pho­tog­ra­pher

Mu­sic shooter Kevin Nixon got up close and per­sonal when he fol­lowed Aussie rock band Air­bourne be­hind the scenes of their lat­est tour

NPhoto - - Contents - See more of Kevin’s por­traits and gig pho­tos at www.knixon.co.uk

Clas­sic Rock mag­a­zine com­mis­sioned me to shoot an ‘ac­cess all ar­eas’ se­ries of the Aus­tralian heavy rock band Air­bourne, to ac­com­pany an in­ter­view that would show a typ­i­cal day on the road with them. A jour­nal­ist came on the trip and we worked to­gether dur­ing the day to en­sure that we cov­ered all of the as­pects that the mag­a­zine was look­ing for. Ul­ti­mately, they wanted a be­hind-the-scenes look at the en­ergy and crazi­ness of an Air­bourne gig.

This gig was in Au­gust 2016 at the Lime­light in Belfast on the band’s cur­rent world tour. It’s a much smaller venue than they nor­mally play and that al­lowed me to get very close to them. I flew over from Lon­don in the morn­ing. Once at the venue, I ar­ranged a quick por­trait sit­ting with them, then shot the sound­check, the gig and them in their dress­ing room af­ter­wards.

Be­fore I started shoot­ing I did a quick recce of the venue, which was pretty vis­ually unin­spir­ing to say the least! To get round this I shot them against a wall back­stage, and then in front of their kit on the stage. Quite of­ten in this sce­nario you only have min­utes to grab the shot, so there’s rarely time to ex­per­i­ment with dif­fer­ent light­ing set-ups. It is def­i­nitely a case of think­ing on your feet – keep it sim­ple and don’t panic!

The light­ing on the night wasn’t great, but it was good enough to get the shots. For por­traits, I nor­mally use a quick off-cam­era flash set-up, but on this oc­ca­sion there were some time con­straints. I only had a few min­utes to shoot the band, which se­ri­ously lim­ited my cre­ative in­put.

I used a Nikon D4 and Nikon 24mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom lenses, as this was a rel­a­tively small venue and the stage wasn’t too high. As al­ways, I shot in RAW and in Man­ual mode. Auto set­tings don’t re­ally cut it for live mu­sic be­cause the strobes and lights can send the cam­era me­ter hay­wire. I started with my cam­era set­tings at 1/250 sec, f/3.2 and ISO3200, ad­just­ing from there de­pend­ing on the qual­ity of the light avail­able. For bands that move around a lot I’ll shoot with a min­i­mum shut­ter speed of 1/400 sec.

I knew from ex­pe­ri­ence that Joel O’Ke­effe, the lead singer, breaks cans of lager open against his head mid-set, caus­ing the beer to spray all over the stage and the au­di­ence. I re­ally wanted to cap­ture this event close-up and man­aged to get a se­ries of shots, although my cam­era (and clothes) got ab­so­lutely drenched in the process. It was worth the sticky lager shower, though, as my favourite shot ended up be­ing used as the lead im­age for the mag­a­zine fea­ture. I spent a fair amount of time work­ing up this im­age in post-pro­duc­tion, mainly us­ing Light­room and oc­ca­sion­ally Pho­to­shop.

Meet­ing the brief

I knew from ex­pe­ri­ence that the lead singer breaks cans of lager open against his head mid-set, caus­ing the beer to spray all over the au­di­ence

In the whole day I shot over 1,100 im­ages, which I edited down to around 125 re­touched pic­tures. I con­verted the por­traits to black and white, along with the oc­ca­sional live shot if it added some­thing. I think rock and roll im­ages have a time­less qual­ity in mono.

I think I cap­tured the essence, ex­cite­ment and pure fun of an Air­bourne gig. I didn’t know the band per­son­ally, but had shot them live sev­eral times be­fore. They’re very en­er­getic on stage and great fun to shoot. I was work­ing with a brief in mind, and the band and their man­age­ment were re­ally co­op­er­a­tive in sort­ing this out. They were great guys, to­tally up for it. Even back in their dress­ing room after the gig, when they were sat­u­rated with sweat and beer, they still had time to pose for a few shots.

1 1 rock hard Kevin had ac­cess to shoot the whole gig. Be­fore meet­ing up with the band, he scouted out the lo­ca­tion to find a se­lec­tion of suit­able back­drops for the group por­traits 2 tough gig Light lev­els were low at the gig, so Kevin had to boost the ISO to 5000 in some im­ages 3 Spray AND PRAY This was Kevin’s favourite shot of the night, and it was used as the lead im­age in the mag­a­zine fea­ture

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