The Walkmen rocked a sold-out Off Broadway after the Japandroids warmed the stage. After catching the Walkmen live first at the Pitchfork Music Festival in 2006 and later in 2008, I was excited to cover their live show again armed with a trio of fast f/1.4 primes. And in the dark club they played, speed doesn't just kill, it also saves.
In a small club like Off Broadway, with standing room only on the floor and not a photo pit for miles, delivering for an assignment like this means staking out your prey for the best possible spot. Moving around isn't really an option, especially if you don't want to piss off the fans, who are already themselves shifting for the best view of the stage.
For me, photographing the Walkmen is all about singer Hamilton Leithauser's intensity, so I positioned myself to nail his great expressions. Of course, a single spot like this is ultimately a compromise to lines of sight to the full band, but one I was entirely willing to accept for Leithauser's ripping delivery.
As an aside, I want to mention that fans in the crowd were literally hugging and high-fiving in the audience after the Walkmen performed “In The New Year” as the last song in their full set before the encore. Here's a video of the band performing that song (which was/is killer live):
If you check out Hamilton's delivery, you can get an idea for some of the challenges of shooting him in a club like Off Broadway so close in. On the upside (and it's a big upside), small clubs like this have no song restrictions – another reason why I always encourage new music photographers to start out at venues similar to this one where I shot the Walkmen.
I shot with a trio of Nikon f/1.4 primes, and every lens delivered beautifully. For shoots like this, I have absolutely no problem wide open at the max aperture. All the lenses are sharp at f/1.4, so there's no problem there.
A lot of people are hesitant to shoot at wide aperture due to the shallow depth of field. In my book, the real issue is one of focus rather than depth of field. For my work, as long as I nail the focus, I'm perfectly good with a shallow depth of field.
All three lenses did beautifully, though I used the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 the most out of the set, as it provided a great field of view for how close Leithauser was to me. The Nikon 24mm f/1.4 was great for wider shots of the stage, while the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 was key for individual shots of the rest of the band members.
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