push it (push it good)

So I've been trying my hand at live photography lately, as you would have gathered if you read my last post, and it's been quite the challenge. This is largely because when shooting dark environments like those on a stage, it can be very difficult to get enough light through the lens; if you don't, you can end up with a black mass rather than an actual image.

There are several ways to do this, all of which I am still exploring. There are long exposures, which lets a lot more light in, but unless you have a very motionless subject you'll get little more than a blurry mess. That can sometimes be a good thing, but it's not a viable solution across the board, especially when performers tend to move. A lot. There's fast lenses (that allow you to shoot at really wide apertures), which are fantastic but, unfortunately, lenses are damn expensive so I don't have a never-ending supply. Besides which, a fast lens will only get you so far.

The final option (at least, as far as I understand) is the film. Fast films are much more forgiving in dark conditions. But if you find you still can't make it work with a fast film, you can always push it.

Pushing film is something I always meant to experiment with but for some reason never got around to until recently. It involves simply 'tricking' your camera by telling it that the film you're using is faster than it actually is, then processing the negatives according to the faster speed. The result is more grain, higher contrast and more light on the film. When I began looking at live photography, this seemed the perfect time to try it out. And the fact that I love high contrast and big grain was a bonus. The first time I tried it was when I shot Saskwatch live for the first time, but I'll post those photos separately another time. The results were mixed, but promising, with some gorgeous, exciting results. The same could be said for the above shots, which I took when Boomgates launched their album at the John Curtin Hotel late last year. I used two different types of film, which you can probably tell from the shots, and pushed both of them. While there were a lot of shots that didn't work so well, I think the above images are pretty interesting. They capture various aspects of the performance, and they look different to most live photography.

A friend of mine asked me to shoot his new band, Farrow, at The Workers Club a couple of weeks ago, so I took along a roll of colour film and, again, pushed it to make sure I could capture enough light. The lighting at the Workers is evidently pretty good (only a few dark corners), so the results were for the most part successful. While they are perhaps less unusual than the Boomgates shots thanks to the venues' respective lighting demands, they are still quite unique, with that glorious grain and contrast.

This is one of my favourite films to shoot with, and it's perfect for live stuff because it's super fast. Despite being extraordinarily tired after the night of my life at (and with) Sharon Jones the night before (more on that in an upcoming post), I took my camera along to New Gods' first Melbourne headline show at the Northcote Social Club. Again, there were some less successful results, but among them were some really interesting shots, such as those above. I particularly like those of Sam, the drummer, as the dramatic lighting on his profile is extremely evocative. I also adore the way this film makes any direct lighting glow.

And there you have it - my adventures in live photography and pushing film thus far. There are some misses, for sure, but there are also plenty of hits - or at least the promise of many more hits to come.

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