Broken Strings

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A week or two ago I provided the lead-in to this post. In Swift Street and Lower Pandora I showed pictures from along the route I walked from my car to the bar where I was going to hear local cover band the Broken Strings. The sun was beginning to set, and I had timed my arrival to  get something to eat, and to snag a good seat before the band went on. I was meeting friends there; both were from out of town. The venue was the Canoe Brew Pub at the bottom of Swift Street where live music can be heard several nights a week – their food is very good, and the beer, brewed on site, is excellent.

Broken Strings plays every week at the Canoe and frequently are found at other bars around town, weddings, parties and so on. They seem very busy. If you are interested to hear some of the Broken Strings covers then you can find them here on SoundCloud. I am not a music critic, or musical, so won’t offer any critique here other than to say that they are very good band well received by the bar patrons. My friends who came with me enjoyed themselves (one of them is a professional musician and he liked the band, and was especially impressed with the vocals). The band also takes care of the sound quality in this difficult space – some other bands I have listened to here have had a sound akin to auditory Pablum thanks to a lousy mix, but the Broken Strings got things well set up during the first song or two and sounded good for the rest of the evening.

On the night I took these picture the band included: Adam Kittredge acoustic guitar and vocals, Antonia Freybe-Smith vocals and occasional keys, Ryan Clayton electric guitar, Evan Middleton drums and new band members Jeff Scotney bass and Hugh Mackie keyboards. All of these musicians play in other bands where they write and perform original music. For instance, Adam and Antonia are members of the well-known (in Canada) Jets Overhead.

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Photographing a band is something I have rarely done. This outing was complicated because at first it was quite bright as the sun was setting and shining in a wall of windows that face west. As the evening progressed it became dark except for the stage lighting. The colour shots in this series are all from when the band was setting up and there was still some sunlight on the stage area.

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I had not really dealt with stage lighting before, different bright colours from unexpected directions and changing all the time. The solution was to convert to black and white and hope there were not too many strange effects, such as when a face is lit on one side in red and the other in blue, which can leave an interesting line at the overlap upon conversion.

I started the night with my fast 50mm lens, set at f1.4 the entire time. Later I switched to the 24mm at f2.8 in trying to get shots that showed the entire band.

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With this lens combination I could only get a good closeup of the keyboardist as he was closeest to the edge of the stage.

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The drummer, as often must be the case, gets the short end of the stick (ha ha) since he is at the back and often obscured behind band mates.

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To view larger versions of the photos in the gallery click on any thumbnail below, navigate with the arrows and escape to return to this page.

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The ISO crept up during the evening from 640 to 4000 when trying to keep a minimum shutter speed of around 1/60th for the 50mm lens and 1/30th for the 24mm. The 24 is an old manual focus Nikkor lens, and I found it very difficult to use in the low light so many shots were not as crisp as I wanted. At the end I cranked the ISO a bit more and shot at f5.6 or so get more in focus. The EXIF data in the gallery above is not accurate for aperture when using the 24mm lens as the camera does not record the manual settings. The adapter chip programming has gone off as well (it is always supposed to read f2.8).

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19 thoughts on “Broken Strings

  1. Pingback: Broken Strings II | burnt embers

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  4. What a great series, I have yet had the pleasure to photograph a band…yet. Hopefully this will change over the next year as a good friend of mine is forming one. 🙂 Thanks for the info and for the images, looks like you had a great night.

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    • Thanks David. It was a good time, the music was very good. I have sneaked a shot or two of my son into this series too, but am not owning up to who it might be. I only mention it because you show a lot of your son, and I don’t have that privilege most of the time.

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    • Thanks so much Toad! I have a few favourites in this set too. Some of them I used in the main body of the post, and others are buried in the gallery, tending to be the lower numbered images as captioned in the gallery. Favourites include ones of the keyboardist – I know him well; he is a very nice young man and an excellent musician too. He is using that image in the main body of the post (with the X behind his head) as his Facebook image these days, so I guess he likes the shot too! He and the bass player are also in another local band called Quoia which you may have heard of.

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  5. These pics vividly capture the orderly confusion of a working band on stage in a pub scene. The colour portrait of the elec guitarist is specially striking.

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    • Thank you Geomack! The colour portraits were done with the addition of golden sunset light, like a wash of magic elixir. And the guitarist is wonderfully photogenic, which sure doesn’t hurt.

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  6. This is a really nice set of images of the band. And black and white is a good choice when there is mixed color temperature lighting which can lead to unpleasant results. It doesn’t look like that was the case in your color shots, though. One thing I have done in the past is to try to set the overall color temp of the file as best I could and use the adjustment brush to brush in correction on areas that needed different corrections. It’s a technique that works sometimes but may not work all the time.

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    • Hi Ken. Thanks for the tip, I will have to try that, I think I can do it in some of the topaz software I have now (in lightroom this would not work too well, as the colour control in the brush is limited). I did have to use the adjustment brush quite a bit for differential brightness.

      The colour shots I included are all when the setting sun light was still making it into the stage area and balanced the light out pretty well. Later on it was very difficult. But, black and white worked, so I am not complaining.

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    • Hi Mike – glad you like this series. I don’t think most bands mind being photographed, I see it going on quite a bit in this tourist town. Guys with big DSLRs and foreign accents. I felt a tad self conscious, but since we ended up sitting at the band table (or rather the band’s partners and some friends ended up at my table since I had a good one all to myself while waiting for my friends and they asked if I could spare some space). I think people must have thought I was with the band. It was a fun evening.

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      • I guess it’s good news for them to be photographed well and published on the internet. That sounds a good situation – I was thinking of the much larger venues with a large crowd where I find it hard to exist, let alone take pictures.

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      • I don’t go to venues like that very much, I find it hard to exist in them too. However, concentrating on taking pictures, looking through the eyepiece, can change that kind of experience – it somehow makes the crowds diminish, or vanish, for moments here and there. And you can still hear the music. So, probably worth a try if you can get close enough to the stage.

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