I grew up in Los Angeles (born in Torrance, CA in 1977). Sometimes I realize that I take for granted the world famous landmarks that played such an important roll in the history of Hard Rock and Metal. As a teenager, my friends and I (we are still friends 20-30 years later), would take the bus to Hollywood and sometimes make the trek to West Hollywood (where the strip is located) after our stop at Tower Records on Sunset Blvd.
Today, these venues are my regular stomping grounds as I immerse myself in the music, fashion, and culture of a genre that many claim to be dead. I assure you that it is alive and well. Are the lines blocks long like in the mid eighties? No, of course not. However, Rock was never meant to be mainstream. At any given night I must chose between 3-5 shows to attend (sometimes as a photographer).
My normal days are smoking a cigarette between sets in front of the pay phone used to call 911 during River Phoenix's last moments in front of the Viper Room, or saying hello to Kim at the Rainbow Bar and Grill who taught me that a real Lemmy is made with Wild Turkey and Cola, or shooting next to legendary rock photographer Jack Lue (Guns N' Roses photographer during the early days) at The Whisky a Go Go. The shine has not dulled one bit. The true rockers to the core, still walk these streets, still ride their Harley's, wear their leather, and still rock until late into the night.
Shooting concerts means constantly being subjected to extremely loud music. I used to use ear plugs only on rare occasions. As a rock/metal fan, I want to hear the different instruments. However, this of course, is highly irresponsible and very risky. I carry regular orange sponge material ear plugs that you can pick up at your local drug store for less than $10. I do not particularly like using these because of the loss of fidelity.
Recently however, a friend of mine, not only recommended the DUBS EAR PLUGS by Doppler Labs, but actually gave me a pair as a gift. This is after all, not a paid advertisement, or sponsored review. Since my first paid was a gift, I didn't search the price (around $25) and actually believed that they were electronic like in-ear monitors. They are not; which only makes them even more remarkable. I won't get into the details of the physical appearance of the DUBS, as I hate unboxing videos. What I will do however, is get to the bottom line.
These things ROCK! Cheap pun, I know. You immediately experience lower volume, however, the fidelity of the sound stays in tact (for the most part). With regular earplugs vocals are the first thing to disappear; not so with the DUBS. You can still hear the different instruments, and get this: you can hear when someone is talking to you. I'm glad I came across this product and highly recommend it.
Even in the fast paced setting of Concert Photography, composition is key to a great shot. I only shoot with primes because my style is a "portrait" style shot (plus I get twice the light than I would with the standard 2.8 zoom). This may or may not appeal to everyone, but I figure people want to see their idols up close; which is why you won's see too many wide angle shots in my work. This approach requires body movement in composing the shot as opposed to zooming. For example, in this shot of Jill Janus, I wanted to ensure that the blue light was behind her head and not in the frame. To accomplish this, I had to crouch down and time the shot until the rays of light were in the direction I wanted. See, there is a method to my madness.
The photo below took weeks to create. I was working on the seventh floor of a ten story building just west of downtown about a block from Loyola Law School. The skyscraper on the left side of the image is 1100 Wilshire, and it was vacant at the time. The lights were therefore always off. When the sun would set and night fell, my photos of the skyline were cursed with 1100 being completely dark. Through weeks of observing and writing down the times of the sunset and dusk, I determined that I had only a five minute window to get the shot you now see.
The shot started in my mind, in my dreams, many years prior. When the time was right, I rushed to the roof with my Nikon N80, my trusty 50mm 1.8 AFD, and a Manfrotto Tripod. In all, I had only about $400 worth of equipment, plus a roll of FujiFilm Sensia. Even though I have been blessed with now being able to have much more expensive, and sophisticated gear, it is this shot that constantly reminds me that my best equipment is my mind, my vision, and God's talent.