Friday, June 17, 2011

Crowd control

Walking up to the stage area for the first summer concert series I knew I had a bit of a challenge in front of me.  Construction at Lincoln Park forced a venue change moving the concert series to Civic Center Plaza behind city hall.  Gone was the city's community stage replaced with a  platform for the band to play from.   Tracy native Megan Slankard was scheduled to open the concert series with a 7:00 p.m. concert.  Shadows splayed across the stage as the trees rustled in a light breeze just behind  the stage.   Hello trouble.
My biggest challenge shooting the concert would be controlling the background.  A hodgepodge of colors, brightness values, tones and exposures awaited the band as I looked for shooting angles.  Nothing looked promising, every direction I could shoot from looked like it had issues with either exposure values, or too much going on in the background.  The community trailer gave me a solid one color background while at Civic Center Plaza I was faced with trees, light poles and buildings.  It was a mess from every vantage point.  The stage had two large sets of speakers on either end which gave me a narrow opening to shoot the band.  I was getting locked into some unfavorable shooting positions.

On the bright side of things it was still daylight so i could break out the long lenses with the extender and try and get some crowd control that way.  My quickly formulated plan was to shoot with as long a lens as I could standing as close as I could and shooting the lens as wide open aperture as I could.  Hopefully that would minimize the background issues into a blur. I still had the exposure problems to consider.

Half the stage was in shadow and half was in a nice low fading light as sunset near.  The shadow area would be tinged cyan from the shade and the fading light would bring a healthy amount of yellow to this party.  I figured I would correct as best I could in Photoshop exposing for the faces and let whatever backgrounds highlights wash out as they may.

I had some harsh sidelight from the low setting sun but I managed the exposures as best I could.  I had some skin tone wash out a little but overall the exposures were decent.  I had to take into account the black stage and speakers wanted to overexpose the scene to begin with if selected a wide shot and included them.  My best shooting angle turned out to be form the right hand side of the stage with the 300 mm lens and 1.4 extender.  I tried some wider stuff with the 70-200mm to include other members of the band in the frame but the tighter the better seemed to work.  I worked the scene back and forth from left to right changing shooting positions and lenses to look for the best combination of background blur and exposure.
Of all the shots the one at the top of the page is my favorite.  I caught a nice moment as she played and the background is decent.  A little bright on the left hand edge of the frame but the low sun angle gave me no other choice.  I'll be looking back to when the move the concerts back to Lincoln Park.  The lighting was better and the community stage made for a better scene.  I worked the scene as best as I could and came up with some decent shots considering the amount of background control I had to exert.  Here's hoping my next assignment is a littler bit easier to figure out.

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