'Music Photography' Category

Breaking the ‘First Three Song’ Rule with Erik Voake

In time, most photographers turn to video as the next logical step in their careers. Not so with Los Angeles-based Erik Voake. In fact, he did the opposite. At 19 he was already directing and producing indie films and videos about off-road racing, skiing, freestyle motocross, snowmobiling, snowboarding, and other action sports.

Other professional accomplishments he’s amassed include being a co-Producer and Director of Photography on the Lionsgate film “A Day in the Life”, a film dubbed a “hip hopera” staring Mekhi Phifer, Omar Epps, Michael Rapaport, and directed by Sticky Fingaz from ONYX. He was also DP on Larry Clark’s ‘Impaled’, a documentary about the effects of pornography on youths’ sex lives, and he recently produced and filmed a documentary titled “Jonathon” that was screened at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris.

Mac Demarco - Performance

‘Mac Demarco’ – Copyright Erik Voake / Red Bull Content Pool

 

On TV, Voake created the cable reality series “Crusty’s Dirt Demons” a show about the exploits of motocross riders that aired for two seasons on FUSE Networks. But despite his success in the motion picture and TV universe, something was amiss.

Flume - Performance

‘Flume’  – Copyright Erik Voake / Red Bull Content Pool

 

In 2006, not long after seeing the James Nachtwey film documentary – ‘War Photographer’, Voake was offered the opportunity to travel to Bagdad and shoot a documentary on the first deployment of the ‘Band of Brothers’ since World War II (a.k.a. the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, US Army). Sponsored by Sony, it also gave Erik an opportunity to follow the advice of his friend and mentor, photographer Larry Clark, who was urging him to always carry a camera with him because of all of the places he travels and the people he meets. According to Erik, Clark’s advice changed his life.

The still images he captured in Iraq resulted in his first gallery show, which he scrambled to assemble after selling the gallery owner on the idea of a show about the fabled Roxy Theatre. (The gallery owner loved the pictures from Iraq but doubted they were the kinds of images his clientele would want to hang on their walls.)

Smashing Pumpkins - Performance

‘Smashing Pumpkins’ – Copyright Erik Voake / Red Bull Content Pool

 

It was during this time Voake began appreciating the value of traveling light and nimble. Backstage venues are dark, which means you need light, but too much light can be intimidating when you’re trying to gain the trust and confidence of musicians and the lot.

About a week after posting a picture he shot of a band named ‘Chelsea Girl’ on Flickr, Erik got a call from Spin Magazine. They wanted to buy the picture. One thing led to another and before he knew it, Voake had talked them into an assignment photographing a music festival in nearby Michigan, which in turn led to a gig shooting Lollapalooza and the South-by-Southwest music festival. That was in 2009 and Erik Voake has been a music shooter ever since.

EVoake_PocketWizard_4959

Copyright Erik Voake / Red Bull Content Pool

 

“I’m a photographer – not a director, not a producer, I’m a photographer – I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. My mom was an art teacher, and she told me when I started taking pictures, I finally came into my own. When I picked up a camera… I became Erik Voake.”

Voake began shooting portraits of many of the performers he met along the way. His lighting style is of the ‘less is more’ school and he tends to minimize his lights to a ring light or for larger, softer swaths of light, a beauty dish (“Nothing beats a beauty dish”).

EVoake_PocketWizard_7235

Copyright Erik Voake / Red Bull Content Pool

 

For backstage shooting he relies on Canon Speedlites. And for syncing his cameras and lights, Erik Voake relies on his PocketWizard Plus II radio triggers. “PocketWizards radio triggers are all I use and all I need. They work every time. Period.” (Note: The Plus II has been replaced by the Plus III Transceiver)

One of Voakes niftier gigs these days is being an official photographer for all of the Red Bull Music Concerts, which feature some of the biggest bands around. A particularly cool thing about working directly for Red Bull is that he has the run of the arena, and in particular, a green light to set up lights around the stage pre-show rather than have to deal with on-camera flash, or more troubling stage lighting, which can change quickly, wildly, and flippantly.

By rigging the stage and syncing through his PocketWizard radio triggers, Erik is able to guarantee his results. And that’s not easy to do on the concert circuit.

'Tapioca and the Flea'

‘Tapioca and the Flea’ – Copyright Erik Voake / Red Bull Content Pool

 

Another noteworthy detail about shooting the Red Bull Concerts, is that since Red Bull was a private sponsor and was paying the bills, Voake was able to break the number one rule of concert photography, specifically –  ‘No flash for the first three songs!’

As Erik Voake summed it up, “We made music history. We were able to break the ‘first three song rule’, and we got some amazing pictures along the way. At first everybody was ‘Hey, what’s up?’, but it all settled rather quickly and everyone including the musicians notice the difference in lighting quality. And he gives much credit to his PocketWizard wireless triggers for pulling it all off.”

To see more of Erik Voake’s photographic work visit his website.

All images, videos, and quotes in this post are used with permission and © Erik Voake, all rights reserved; story is ©PocketWizard. Please respect and support photographers’ rights. Feel free to link to this blog post, but please do not replicate or repost elsewhere without written permission.

 

 

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For Drew Gurian it’s not just Rock and Roll

imgresFor Drew Gurian, it’s not just rock and roll – it’s what he does for a living.  Though he doesn’t currently play in a rock band (He was  a drummer in a Philadelphia-based rock band for almost seven years), he’s made a name for himself photographing many well-known bands on the road as well as in the studio.

Based in New York City, a town in which if you specialize in portraiture you better have a specialty and be good at it, Drew Gurian’s niche for the last decade has been in the music and entertainment industry. 

 

Backstage portrait of 'Soulive', a NYC-based soul/funk band (Nikon D800, 24-70 f2.8 lens, Elinchrom Ranger, Elinchrom 74" Octabank, triggered by a Pocket Wizard Plus II

Backstage portrait of ‘Soulive’, a NYC-based soul/funk band
(Nikon D800, 24-70 f2.8 lens, Elinchrom Ranger, Elinchrom 74″ Octabank, triggered by a PocketWizard Plus II)

 

To date Drew has photographed over 300 artists and musicians on and off-stage for a variety of editorial and commercial clients including Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and Red Bull. His work has also appeared in PDN, Billboard, Bass Player, Kerrang!, USA Today, and other domestic and international publications as a contracted photographer for the Associated Press.

Candid portrait of former Dispatch singer/solo artist, 'Pete Francis', Solo Artist & former member of 'Dispatch' (Leica M Type 240, 35mm f/2 lens, Nikon SB900 Speedlight, Lastolite 24" Joe McNally Ezybox triggered by a Pocket Wizard Plus II)

‘Pete Francis’, Solo Artist & former member of ‘Dispatch’
(Leica M Type 240, 35mm f/2 lens, Nikon SB900 Speedlight, Lastolite 24″ Joe McNally Ezybox, PocketWizard Plus II)

 

More than a stage shooter, many of Drew Gurian’s best images were captured in studio settings or outdoors under controlled lighting conditions. Even when photographing live performances, Gurian takes the time and effort to make sure the lights are just right and everything goes as planned.

Dubai recording artist 'Fatiniza' (Leica M Monochrom, 35mm f/2 lens, Nikon SB900 Speedlight, Lastolite 24" Joe McNally Ezybox triggered by a Pocket Wizard Plus II)

Dubai recording artist ‘Fatiniza’
(Leica M Monochrom, 35mm f/2 lens, Nikon SB900 Speedlight, Lastolite 24″ Joe McNally Ezybox, PocketWizard Plus II)

 

Capturing the action from more than one angle at a live event requires planning and experience, and after a five-year stint as first assistant to world-renowned photographer Joe McNally, Drew has learned a thing or two about getting the job done under the most challenging conditions. (He once shot a studio portrait of a major rock band in 18-seconds flat!)

'DJ Jay Daniel', Brooklyn, New York Leica M Type 240), 35mm f/2 lens, Nikon SB900 Speedlight, Westcott shoot-through umbrella, Pocket Wizard Plus II

‘DJ Jay Daniel’, Brooklyn, New York
(Leica M Type 240, 35mm f/2 lens, Nikon SB900 Speedlight, Westcott shoot-through umbrella, PocketWizard Plus II)

 

Gurian is personable, which enables him to better connect with his subjects and develop their trust, which goes a long way when you shoot portraits for a living. This comfort level is reflected in many of the casual and more formal portraits in his portfolio.

Depending on the assignment, Gurian’s choice of lights range from Nikon Speedlights to Rosco LEDs, to Profoto and Elinchrom studio lights. Same can be said for his camera choices, which are currently the Leica M (Type 240) rangefinder, and Nikon’s D4 and D800. Regardless of which lights and cameras he’s using, Drew Gurian always packs his PocketWizard Plus IIs and Plus IIIs.

Unlike press photographers who are typically restricted to shooting the first three songs from the photo pit, Drew strives for full access to the venue, which enables him to secure secondary cameras to one or more positions above, to the side, or anywhere around the stage for that matter.Time permitting, his unlimited access makes it possible to test his lights and cameras before the lights dim and the show begins.

The three images below show Gurian setting up during a 2011 Dispatch Reunion Tour show. In addition to matching Nikon D3s  bodies at his side in the photo pit, he also secured a remote camera onto a vertical lighting truss off to the right side of the stage to simultaneously capture secondary wide-field images of the action. To ensure all three cameras worked in concert with one another, each were  equipped with PocketWizard Plus II Transceivers.

Securing remote cameras in place at one of the stops on the 2011 Dispatch Reunion Tour. Nikon D3s, 14-24 f/2.8 lens, Pocket Wizard Plus III (visible in Drew's right hand)

Securing remote cameras in place at one of the stops on the 2011 Dispatch Reunion Tour.
(Nikon D3s, 14-24 f/2.8 lens, PocketWizard Plus II (visible in Drew’s right hand)

Both cameras I had with me in the photo pit had PocketWizard Plus III's mounted on them, so every time I took a photo, the camera I mounted on-stage was also triggered. Nikon D3s, 24-70 f/2.8 lens

Both cameras I had with me in the photo pit had PocketWizard Plus II’s mounted on them, so every time I took a photo, the camera I mounted on-stage was also triggered.

As Gurian captured shot from the photo pit, the PocketWizard-equipped remote camera that Drew mounted onto a vertical lighting truss earlier captured secondary wide-field stills of the same scene. If you look in the photo pit, just in front of the band, you can actually see me taking that last photo. Nikon D3s, 14-24 f/2.8 lens, Pocket Wizard Plus III

As Gurian captured the shot from the photo pit, the PocketWizard-equipped remote camera that he mounted onto a vertical lighting truss earlier, captured secondary wide-field stills of the same scene. If you look in the photo pit, just in front of the band, you can actually see me taking that last photo.
(Nikon D3s, 14-24 f/2.8 lens, PocketWizard Plus II)

 

As you can tell from the pictures, everything worked as planned.

Partly as a result of his shooting successes over the past decade, Drew has had several speaking engagements, and has taught workshops in the US, Asia, and the Middle East.Aside from the fun-factor of meeting new faces and interacting with others in the field, these seminars have given him an opportunity to mentor others as others have mentored him in the past.

To see more of Drew Gurian’s work visit his website. 

 All images, videos, and quotes in this post are used with permission and ©Drew Gurian, all rights reserved; story is ©PocketWizard. Please respect and support photographers’ rights. Feel free to link to this blog post, but please do not replicate or repost elsewhere without written permission.

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