It's not often that you get to photograph a band that has meant a lot to you and had an impact on your life. When I found out that Y&F were coming all the way from Australia to a church near where I lived, I began to see what I could do to get authorization to photograph the event.
I had friends at Northview Church and a friend attending Hillsong College, and was able to secure permission to shoot photographs. I asked if I could come early to observe rehearsal and get familiar with the room, and my request was granted.
They're a group that just seems to have a lot of fun together.
I had an embarrassing moment backstage between rehearsal and the actual event.
Food was provided for the band and for all the volunteers working the event, and the band was in a different room from where I was eating. I thought, this is a chance to ask some of those questions I've had about their music, like software instrument setups or track rigs...so I mustered up the courage to wander in there. I sat down at a table where it looked like a nice conversation was mid-way. Alex Pappas, who was talking, stopped talking abruptly and looked at me. I looked behind me and saw another table of people who were clearly engaged in whatever he had previously been saying, and realized that I had come and sat directly between him and his story-telling audience. I don't remember what happened next--I think that I just apologized and got up and left.
Maybe I'll ask about that track rig next time! haha...
Anyway, showtime finally came aound and it was really fun for me to watch the process of seeing the band rehearse somewhat casually, just mic-checking, and then to see them come out on the same stage a while later with an energy that matched the anticipation in the room.
I had intended to start the evening right in front of the stage with a wide-angle for some immersive, up-close shots, but I was no match for the enthusiasm of the people who had gotten there early enough to secure close seats. As soon as the lights went down people crowded up close to the stage. I didn't feel great about trying to make people move just because I was a photographer...if I could do it over again, I'd have planted myself right in front of the stage fifteen minutes before they came out.
I took a few from where I was and then moved around to the side of the stage where I could go up on stage and see over the crowd.
Taya's joy was uncontainable and inspiring.
She was introduced to the world on Hillsong United's focused and powerful "Oceans", but when it's time to have fun she's the most energetic one on the stage.
I hustled to the back of the room and went up the stairs to the first balcony and took some shots there. Because I was shooting a band I liked it was easy for me to want to stop and stay in one place to just watch and listen for a while, but I wanted to make a concerted effort to come away with a variety of angles and types of shots.
I made my way to the other corner of the stage and was shooting video from this spot, enjoying the effect of the yellow lens flare as a moving LED would cross my camera lens every so often, when it crossed my mind that I could capture that in a photo as well.
Shooting in live view mode is a great way to watch how lens flares move across your frame; once you've seen what's happening you can go back into the viewfinder and compose your shot having a better idea of what to expect from the light. Another thing that I'd do differently if I could do this again is to spend more time experimenting with letting the colorful LEDs flare through my lens on more shots.
"Go on out there!"
Their media manager implored me to venture out to the middle of the stage during the last song, an encore of "Alive". I was pretty intimidated, mostly by what my friends would think of me making my way onstage during a performance by one of my favorite bands. Also I didn't want to freak out the band members themselves by just showing up out of nowhere...things get pretty chaotic onstage during "Alive". I was also worried that I'd be tempted to dance and sing with them. Not even joking. But I kept my cool and made my way out there slowly, staying very near the back line risers like a scared little mouse.
I wish I could have another go at it. I was playing scared and not thinking clearly. So much was happening at once and I wasn't checking my shots--I wish I would have because I would have seen that my shutter was too low. I'd been able to drop it to 1/60th during the previous song because no one was moving, but now they were running and jumping again and my shots were blurry. Plus the lights that had back-lit them all night were now front-lighting them since I was on the other side of them now...so they were over-exposed as well.
I brought my shutter speed up to 1/250th or 1/500th, somewhere in there, and finally started getting some shots that looked good as the previews were coming up on my camera screen.
I loved the opportunity to get angles like this next one, from the middle of the stage, looking out at everyone and showing what the band had been seeing all night.
In the "Alive" music video, song leader Alex Pappas stood on top of the kick drum and jumped off of it towards the end of the song. I wondered if he'd do it again for this performance, and as he headed towards the drums towards the end of the song I began to focus solely on him, not wanting to miss the jump.
In retrospect I wish I'd come out in front of him, or behind him...but from the side with just that blank screen in the background, the shot is really missing a lot of color and energy. I probably picked the worst possible angle.
He stood up, raised his arms and shouted, and I got frustrated because there was no light on him and the shot was way too dark.
About that time an LED passed over that area and lit him up a bit, and since I was camping on him and ready I started snapping away, and I caught some shots of him lit up. Victory!
He did his big jump from the drum and I got a couple decent shots that were in focus.
When he landed he shouted something into the microphone before turning and laughing with the drummer as he danced right off the stage.
Afterwards they asked me to film a short announcement video for them with my dslr, which was cool to see posted on their FB page the next day.
It was a fun night of interaction and celebration with a group of people who have impacted me from design, musical, and spiritual perspectives, and I'm super grateful that it happened.