I had an opportunity to take photographs at a new venue. Instead of the small bars offering live music to aspiring new talent, I was at the Glenn Gould Theatre in Toronto for Alejandra Ribera, a terrific jazz singer currently living in Montreal. She has this Argentina/Scottish heritage that creates wonderful blend of spanish/english music.
After agreeing, I started to have some doubts. I didn’t know if there were any restrictions for taking photographs and the theatre is quite intimate, with a low stage and a small audience – I would be visible. And unlike a rock concert, the music would not hide the noise of my shutter.
I did some research online and found the layout of the theatre. Nothing about taking photographs, though. I planned to be there two hours before the show to scout around and find some suitable locations as well as check out the lighting.
Arriving, no one knew I was coming. Not a problem as security let me go straight in and I said a quick hello to Alejandra. The theatre was even more daunting than I imagined. The stage was two steps above the floor and the seating quite close. I would be right beside the audience when taking photographs. I checked out a couple of alcoves along the walls that seemed suitable and provided some separation from the patrons. The lighting was better than I was used to, but I still used ISO 3200 with my 105mm at f4.
Eventually, I was introduced to the event manager, who wanted to get some idea of what I was going to do. I said I would stick to the sides and back, and not cross or get in front of the stage. This made her feel a little more comfortable. I was lucky I had a seat reserved as well or she was going to toss me out after the first 10 minutes.
I often shoot in aperture priority mode, but decided to go with manual this time. I’ve noticed in aperture mode that I sometimes get way underexposed photographs despite the previous shot being just fine. Little changes in my position can make a difference (the lighting, in fact is not changing during these situations, just my position). I didn’t want to take the chance of missing a good shot so I set my shutter and aperture and then, during the concert, fiddled with the shutter every now and then as the lighting changed.
I’ve included only black and white photos here with a slight warming tone, however the colour photographs turned out pretty good despite the contrasty light you get at these events and the high ISO. In all, I took just over 400 photographs, many using the continuous mode (what I used to call my motor drive). I find that blasting a number of images gives me a better chance of one of them being in focus. I switched to a wide angle zoom for a short period to get some breadth to the venue, but most of the photographs were taken with the fixed 105mm using my feet as the zoom. And yes, my shutter could be heard so I preferred louder moments and stopped just after the second half started to enjoy the rest of a very magical session.
That’s one problem with photographing great live music, you don’t get to enjoy the music as your concentration is elsewhere. That and the post processing; lots of work sorting throughout the files and making them presentable.
I encourage you to give Alejandra Ribera a listen. Her web site is: