My wife suggested that we go to Nasty's, a little dive bar on Guadalupe in Austin, TX, to see a couple of Rockabilly bands last night. I love taking photos of bands so I was OK with that idea even though I had kind of settled in for the night with a book by the time she asked about it. We got there just in time to see the first band, Jimmy and the Mustangs, starting their set.
Austin dive bars aren't known for having great stage light. Still, I was surprised to see that there was basically zero light on the musicians. A couple of flood lights were aimed at the wall behind the band, effectively silhouetting them. Not so good for a photographer! Right before the band was introduced, someone plugged in another flood light in front of the stage. I could now see faces and my spirits were lifted. Maybe I'd get some photos after all! My excitement was short lived. The guitarists yelled to have the light cut off. I can kind of understand. The light hanging from the low ceiling was blinding from their perspective. I started to put the camera away.
As the guys started into their first song, a weird dance club sort of light was flicked on by someone. It scattered moving multi-colored polka dots of light over the band. Ugh. Terrible, I thought at first. The band didn't seem to mind and I watched as the small circles of light danced around, occasionally illuminating the guys in interesting ways. OK...so I grabbed my camera back out of the bag and went with that.
It was too dark to autofocus so I switched to manual and I was forced to open my lens to it's widest aperture of f/1.4. My ISO was at 3200 and wanting 6400 (translation for my non-photographer readers - really shitty light!) I stuck with the lower setting. It was going to be dark either way and the silhouetted scene was growing on me. I followed front man Jimmy with manual focus as he moved energetically. As the polka dot lights happened to fall on faces or hands I snapped a frame. Keepers were few but I was getting a few shots I really liked. Anybody that reads my blog with any regularity knows I'll take dark and moody any day (or night.) Lack of sharpness and motion blur is fine as long as emotion is present.