A Tog’s POV Of A Gig: Dean Feltimo Shoots A Day

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2009, at an open air concert in Berkshire, I photographed The Quotes for my first time. Then again in 2010, and 2011.

They, The Quotes, are not one of the easiest bands to photograph as their lead singer, Ben Smith, has so much energy he moves non-stop around the stage. This, coupled with the less than great lighting – usually – can make harder an already difficult job.

Following a few discussions on various social networking sites, I was invited to document the event that would set the bar, in terms of quality, for future gigs to reach.

Firestation Arts Centre, Windsor – 29th April 2011 – 11AM

I make my way through the groups of people milling around, pulling various wires, and carrying boxes of material, and go through the doors that lead to the theatre where the show is to take place. Straight away, I know this is going to be different. This is something a bit special. The first thing I notice are the swathes of white material covering the front of the stage like a sea of silk, and lovingly draped from the ceiling towards the rear of the stage. Lights, hundreds of small bright lights twinkling like stars are hidden behind the material creating a whole new dimension to the set.

inspired by Nirvanna Unplugged as suggested by Liam Barnes

I introduce myself to the stage and lighting designers, Joe Atkins and Terry Tiffin, and start to upack my gear. I start by taking a few detail shots, record shots, for future use. These are the things that people don’t always see during the show, things that are often only a small part of a whole set. I use the word “set”, as this is more than just a stage, this is theatre.

great theatre

it's rock and roll

 

I take photos of the tall chromed pillars that breathe fire from the top, and the 2 gilded busts that flank the set floor and then look upwards.

 

 

 

When I first walked into the theatre, only a few lights were on, so I pardoned myself for not noticing it sooner, but, hanging majestically from the ceiling is the most beautiful chandelier, dressed with what seems like a thousand crystals, each catching the bright light and scattering small prisms into the seating area.

the infamous chandelier

I quickly change cameras and grab some shots of the centerpiece.

I stand at the back of the hall to look at the set as a whole. Although the set has a long way to go, it looks stunning.

the set at 11am

The smoke machine gently feeds light, white smoke onto the set, creating a calm feel, then solid beams of pure white light cut through the smoke like stone columns. The chandelier is lit up, and the tiny fairy lights glisten.

This is perfect, oh so camp, but perfect. Liberace would have been so proud.

 

getting the 370 lilies prepared

 

 

After an hour or so the gig producer, Melanie Gow, arrives with what looks like a never ending supply of white Stargazer lilies and sets about snipping the stamens from each open flower with the kids of the crew. I capture this happening, but this time, I use my iPhone. I want to capture the whole day, using as many different forms of media as I have at my disposal.

 

A phone rings, it’s the band. They are outside, about to enter the theatre for the first time.

First glimpse

taking in the set

The house lights are lowered to stage manage their entrance. I point my camera at the door, take a meter reading and stand, ready to fire, as the boys walk through the door into, what is to be their wonderland for the rest of the day. I fire away, their mouths wide open, and Cheshire cat grins, the band are amazed at the transformation.

After a quick meet and greet with the band, I return home to get washed, changed, and ready for the evening.

The Firestation Arts Centre, Windsor -29th April 2011 – 6PM

Arriving back at the centre, it is my first chance to see the set complete with the hundreds of lilies. If the set looked good before I left, it now looks amazing. The forest of lilies adding an organic feel that compliments the ethereal lighting.

The sweet smell from the lilies take the audience through to another dimension, a first for any event I’ve photographed.

My mission for the night, is to capture the performance as close to real life as possible. Not just the band, but everything else that is happening around them.

Shannon Wardrop

 

Support act for the night, is another favourite perfomer of mine. Shannon Wardrop. Shannon stands center stage with just a guitar and her voice. Single beams of light highlight her as she stuns the audience with her vocal range.

I shoot away, trying to capture an almost innocent look of vulnerability as she makes her way through a well-chosen set of self-penned songs and covers.

Shannon leaves to rapturous applause, and then we get ready for the main event.

 

Ben Smith, lead singer and guitar

 

 

I nestle among the aptly named “Stargazer” lilies and aim my glass towards the stage.

Ben walks on stage, picks up his semi-acoustic guitar and strums the first chords of an event that is giong to make history.

I fire off a few frames and check in the rear of the camera that my exposure and focus is spot on.

 

 

 

 

 

The rest of the band walk onto the set one by one, and join Ben to continue the song. The lighting is so good, my worries about exposure are put to rest.

The Quotes, L-R James Ashby, Ben Smith, Liam Barnes

Each song played has lighting that is perfectly choreographed for it. Beams of white light split the whispy smoke, as multi-coloured gobos dance in the foreground. Like the gobos, my fingers dance on the controls of my camera, constantly changing settings.

I push buttons and turn dials almost in time to the music.

Liam Barnes

I’m constantly looking for shots that show the band in the best possible light. Coloured spots swing round and back-light Liam’s Rock and Roll mane, I notice this, turn, and shoot. The shot’s in the bag.

I change cameras to get pictures of the whole band.

Nice wide angle shots are notoriously difficult at normal gigs because of the ‘wild’ lighting.

The lighting here is different, it’s balanced and almost reads my thoughts. “I would love a light to go here” ….  it happens like magic.

The Quotes Unplugged, 29th April 2011, Firestation Arts Centre, photography by Dean Feltimo

The shots look well lit, exposed and focused on the back of the camera.

James Ashby, second guitar

Ben Smith, lead singer and guitar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Quotes, Gypsy Man

Dan Western, drums

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I continue the rest of the night shooting the band, but still getting the chance to enjoy the show, which is rare when you normally have so much to think about.

Were you there?

I finish the night taking some shots on my iPhone. I know they aren’t as polished as shots from my ‘pro gear’, and I wouldn’t expect them to be, but it’s now fun time. The shots of the night are in the bag, I can settle down with a drink and good company to relax.

It’s a wrap!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dean Feltimo is a photographer from Maidenhead, he is married to Caroline and they have three children.

 

Find more about Dean Feltimo here.

He Twitters as @DinoFeltimo

Dean Feltimo photographed Kiss Me Goodbye on the night

Find more about The Quotes here

Their single, Gypsy Man, is available to download from iTunes

Find more about the Lighting Designer Joe Atkins here

Find more about the set designer Terry Tiffin here

Produced by Glow Productions, whose produced Kiss Me Goodbye, from an original idea by Melanie Gow, for the Windsor Festival in The Theatre Royal

 

With thanks to Mark Burnett at Stage Electrics for the lighting

 This article first appeared in Beat Magazine

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