I have by no means mastered this; there is still a lot of trial and error happening. But seeing as the only way I have ever learnt anything photographic is through trial and error, I decided to stop worrying and start shooting.
I was pretty keen to make it to Money for Rope's album launch, as they are an incredible live band and never fail to turn it on when the chaos hits the stage. But I thought I might as well shoot it, too, so I went along with my camera and a couple of really fast rolls of film. I didn't know what to expect, and certainly there were a lot of lessons in there (read: failures). But these shots here are among the most successful and interesting. I like the dramatic lighting, I love the grain, and I think the movement visible in some of the shots works pretty well (especially the first and third shots).
What I've discovered is that when you're shooting with modest equipment, not using a flash, and only using film, you are almost completely at the mercy of the stage lighting and (of course) the performers. The lighting at Ding Dong was pretty good, though inevitably the guys at the front of the stage get more exposure in terms of light and photographs. That said, I luckily managed to capture the two drummers at times.
If I had a fancy digital camera with lots of lenses and I was possibly using a flash, I certainly would have taken very different photos. They would be crystal clear, they would be sharp, they would be probably in colour, and they would look a lot like many other great live photos that come from professional photographers shooting gigs like this. But they wouldn't have the gorgeous grain, they wouldn't have the atmospheric movement, they wouldn't have the little imperfections that film inevitably includes, and they wouldn't have the same level of character. They wouldn't look different, and they wouldn't look like my photos.
These things pop up in my photos, too, and I think that their presence makes any other descriptive properties unnecessary. This means I can take marvellously unclear photos like these, and they still very strongly convey a specific time and place.
I'm not going to write any more because, well, if I'm honest with you, I'm very tired and anything I write now will be a bit sub-par. But I want to share the photos. So here they are.
Earlier this year I met with Craig and Sarah to talk about it. I expressed my reluctance but they assured me that they knew my style, loved my style, weren't after anything too conventional, were open to experimentation, and were happy to collaborate on ideas while also leaving creative control to me. I said I wasn't comfortable taking photos during the ceremony; they told me they would ask someone else to shoot that part. I told them I didn't like the idea of taking large family portraits, or photos of all the groomsmen holding up the bride (and other tacky cliches); they said they were absolutely happy not to have those photos. So I agreed, and my first paid wedding job was essentially underway.
Having said all that, I have to confess that these first two shots were accidental! I was using a new camera for the first time and had the settings all wrong without realising. I thought they wouldn't work out at all and just wrote those ones off, but when I got them back I was thrilled and pretty amazed at the results. The complete lack of any detail gives them a gorgeous, dreamy feel. The top one especially is totally haunting. Without context, I wonder if you would even recognise it as a bride and groom? Probably just, with that full white skirt - but only just. I adore these shots and am so pleased to now know how to achieve them (intentionally).
It wasn't just accidental experimentation that took place; the rest of the images were absolutely intended to be as far as possible from your standard wedding photo.
psychedelic palm trees, but until now I had never executed it. But here it is! Excellent outcome.
Of course, I did actually take some photos where they were both fully visible. Plus a lot more than that. But in the interest of diversity, here are the experimental shots. The ones that Sarah and Craig encouraged me to take, and the ones that we all love to bits - in some cases even more than the conventional shots (you know, like the ones with their faces). I am just so grateful that it was a required part of what they wanted. It really makes me feel pretty strongly that when it comes to my photography for others, the best results come with open minds and willing collaboration.