New Delta photo shoot

Headed up onto the beautiful Yorkshire Moors for a photo shoot with the awesome New Delta. and a Chesterfield sofa.

Although New Delta is very much a new venture, I've known the guys in the band for years. Their previous bands (Fifteen Stories and Operator Six) feature very heavily in the early days of my portfolio. It's safe to say, the bulk of the time I was working out how to use a camera, it was pointing at these guys.

I'd been talking to these guys about a shoot for quite a while and they had a pretty clear idea of what they were after - a sofa on the moors. This was far easier to sort than it sounds, given that we live on the edge of some of the most spectacular scenery this country has to offer (I'm not gonna lie. It's ace). Getting a sofa onto said moor was equally rather simple, as one of the guys owned a rather nice leather Chesterfield 3 seater, and they had access to a van. Bosh.

Given the rather surreal nature of the shoot, I was keen for the guys to look as natural as possible. I thought this would be quite a nice contrast - three dudes, chillin' on a sofa, on the moors. Perfectly normal. To try and achieve a natural look, I kept guidance and posing to a minimum. In hindsight I probably should have engaged with the guys a bit more, but overall I'm happy with the shots.

We tried two set ups either side of a country road to try and get a bit of variety, but the Yorkshire summer weather soon put pay to that idea.

Big thanks to the boys for sitting in the rain, as well as Gaz and Becca for ably assisting, and Eddie for sniffing people inappropriately. Awkward.

Shooting Notes

Given that we were shooting next to a road in pretty crap weather, I had to keep my setup to a minimum: Two flashguns on roughly 1/8 through white brollies camera left and right, fairly low (to stop them blowing away) at roughly 45º.

New Delta are on facebook so give em a like, and have a listen to one of their tracks below. It's a bit of a belter.

In the studio with Pulled Apart By Horses

I spent a few hours at Greenmount Studios with Leeds best jumpy screamy band whilst they put the finishing touches on their third album, Blood.

Greenmount is an awesome, awesome place. I'd never heard of it before, but having done my research before the shoot, I soon found out how awesome it was. "How Awesome?" Mega awesome. The studio was set up by three guys from other awesome Leeds bands - Jamie (Mi Mye), Lee (Middleman) and Rob (The Spills) - and houses some obscenely cool and quirky analogue recording gear, without being pretentious and boutique-y. It feels homely, almost humble, and looking around the walls of the place it became clear Pulled Apart By Horses were in good hands - The Cribs, iForwardRussia!, The Vaccines and Post War Glamour Girls are just a few recognisable names on their expansive client list. A lot of bands are craving that raw tapey goodness, and at Greenmount it would appear the guys have got it just right.

I met with Jamie and Lee at the studio in advance of the band arriving to do some exploring. As it happens the place wasn't too big, so exploring was promptly superseded by coffee and chats. I gotta say, too, the coffee! I dunno where those guys their beans, but DAYUM! Don't get me wrong, this is in no way a poor reflection on the conversation (which was very intriguing and insightful) just the coffee was that good.

One by one the guys arrived, and various topics of conversations flowed - recording, writing, touring, playing Leeds Arena, the sad passing of The Fly (I first met the guys a few years back when I was assisting on a cover shoot for that mag. RIP.) and how unbe-f*cking-lievably good the coffee was. We set up a few basic shoots in the studio. Firstly in the recording room, where Tom kindly agreed to scream at me for a few shots. We then headed into the control room, before getting some shots around an old tape machine that had been used in production of the album. The shoot was finished off with a quick group portrait in the hall upstairs.

Awesome day, and good to get my first non-gig shoot for the NME done. Great banter, great hangs, and (of course) great coffee.

Thanks too to Lee and Jamie down at Greenmount - super hospitable dudes. PABH are touring again soon, so if you get chance to see them I strongly advise you head down and get your face duly torn off.

You can check out the first single from Blood below - the teeth-bending Hot Squash:

A day with The Dunwells

I caught up with The Dunwells for the grand finale of their "Light Up The Skies" Tour at Leeds Town Hall.

The grandeur of the location for the conclusion was in stark contrast to the rest of the dates - this promised to be a very special homecoming show. The guys had played to large crowds before, but not that much on this side of the pond, and certainly not in Leeds. That said, the guys seemed ridiculously calm with the situation - likely after months of touring in massive venues stateside. The only Dunwell displaying any kind of nerves was the other brother, Matt, who had booked the gig and was responsible for getting bums on seats.

It was a good opportunity for me to catch up with the guys as I'd not seen them for a few months, and quite a bit had changed - The band was now a four-piece, and Johnny was now a very proud Dad. I got down to the venue nice and early to catch the guys getting the venue ready - wheeling in amps and cabs, tweaking lighting rigs, tuning snare drums - it was great camera fodder for me.

I mingled in amongst the band and the techs to get some nice reportage stuff, as well as being my typical guitar-geek self, chatting to Dave about his collection of interesting Seymour-Duncan-modded Schecter guitars. It was also good to finally meet the bands manager, Kevin, who had flown over from the US for the gig.

I was pleased to see my buddies Man Can't Fly down as main support for the evening, as the guys had put a lot of work in over the past few months - I was gutted to miss their EP launch at the Cockpit last year. This was the first time I'd seen them perform with vocalist A Girl Called Ruth, who I had a good natter to about cameras - she'd recently acquired a Fuji X100s (of which I am very jealous) and I gave her a quick crash course in how to use it. Now I want one. Damn.

The gig itself was really tough to shoot, as it was totally seated (much like the Daughter gig I covered there last year). I was mindful that I'm not the easiest person to look around so I had to be as unobtrusive as possible to the crowd, shooting mainly from the aisles and empty seats.Having seen these guys grow over the past year or so, it was great to see them get such a response in an ambitious large venue, although to many it was probably never in doubt. Hectic US schedules have blessed the guys with a meticulous natural performance, and by the close of the set the crowd was on their feet singing along to the beautiful harmonies. I don't think the guys could have asked for it to go any better.

As is the norm, I scarpered before the encore to ensure I didn't obstruct the climax of the evening for any of the punters, after quickly saying my farewells to Johnny, Rob and Dave in the interval. It was a fantastic night, and I'm proud to have been there to document it. 

Check out the full gallery, or the slideshow below:

First day of summer

So last week saw the first bank holiday weekend of the year, and with it came glorious weather. As is customary in Britain, I headed into the garden with a disposable BBQ, meat and beer. Oh, and my camera. And my dog.

This was a great opportunity to have my first real play-around with my X20. The hound proved a trusting model to start - albeit bribed with a chew - before testing out the macro mode on a curious Ladybird.

Still amazed how bright and colourful this little camera is - using a compact camera in a similar way to an SLR is still quite alien to me, but I'm absolutely loving getting used to it.

Revista Mock Feature

So it turns out I've been listed as one of the "Top 10 Contemporary International Rock Photographers" as part of a cool feature on Argentinian music website Revista Mock.

The list - put together by the awesome Argentinian photographer Matías Altbach - features many of the people I looked up to when I first started out as a music photographer: Danny North, Todd OwyoungDaniel BoudGuy EppelDean Chalkley and Andy Willsher all feature, and to see my name listed alongside those people is pretty mindblowing!

You can check out the article here, although I should probably point out it is in Spanish. Alternatively, there's a badly-translated extract below:

Danny is another Englishman who does an outstanding job. Impeccable at reading lights, speed and clarity to capture the right moments. In his own words, his best quality is to be at the time and place for each capture. What feature can you not miss as a photographer? "Instinct is key" he tells us "being able to second-guess what a band is going to do means you can get in position to take advantage of it. This really helps capture the moments that other photographers miss, and set you apart from the crowd". Reflecting on his best experience, being asked to work at the NME was very important, Getting a picture published in Rolling Stone Magazine was also a massive achievement, but my favourite photographing experience was joining Elbow on stage when they headlined at Latitude Festival 2012." Regarding the least favourite part, he tells us that the contracts managers insist photographers sign are increasingly unreasonable, and casts a gloomy picture: "I forsee a day when very few people can make a living out of music photography".

Massive thank you to Matias and to the guys at Revista Mock for the recognition - turns out I'm building a fan base in Latin America!

Sigma 50mm f1.4 DG HSM

I raised an eyebrow when Sigma announced the next lens in it's rejuvenated arsenal of high-class 'Art' glass. And today I raised my other eyebrow at the price...

This new lens' older brother - the 35mm f1.4 DG HSM - converted me back from the traditional "L series only" attitude I'd developed over the last few years. As it happened, the 35mm was released around the time I realised I wanted to invest my money in prime lenses, and for the money it was perfect. A fantastic focal length for small venues, great for dramatic wide group portraits, and ridiculously sharp. I'll make no bones about it, I LOVE the 35mm f1.4 - it is my favourite lens.

The amazing quality of the 35mm f1.4 really whet my appetite for Sigma's new range, and I'd given serious consideration to replacing my L series glass with it (over time). For example, the 120-300mm f2.8 is a fantastic option for sports, large festivals and arena shoots. Similarly, the prospect of a 24-70mm f2.0 is bound to sway a few people looking at Nikon and Canon's standard zooms - especially fellow gig photographers for whom that extra speed would come in useful.

12 months on from the release of the 35mm, and the 50mm is dued. Many, like me, awaited the price with baited breath. I tried to second guess using the 35mm as a guide, but that wasn't easy. The Canon L equivalent of the 35mm was nearly twice the price, but Canon don't currently do an L series equivalent of the 50mm - the nearest equivalent would be the 50mm 1.2L. Using that logic, the faster, flagship Canon L lens retails at around £1200. So I'd expected the Sigma to retail at around £600. Sadly I'm mistaken...

The price for the new Sigma 50mm f1.4 DG HSM is a WHOPPING £850.

I'm not in a position to question whether the lens is worth it or not - going on my experience of the 35mm it may well be - but when grey imports or second hand Canon 50mm f1.2L can be picked up for around £900, I may struggle to justify the expense. This is a bit of a shame, as I could really do with adding a decent 50mm to my kitbag. I could pick up the Canon standard equivalent for less than a third of the cost, but this is renowned for being a bit flakey. Alternatively I could save a bit more and get the f1.2L.

That said, the lens must be that price for a reason, and all the reviews are suggesting that it might even be BETTER than the flagship Canon prime. With comparisons being drawn to Zeiss glass, and a price tag that seems very high, you can only assume that this lens really is a world beater - I just wish I could afford to find out myself! 

Best start saving... 

65daysofstatic

Caught up with the guys from 65dos the other week for a feature shoot for the awesome Loud And Quiet magazine. It was pretty cool to chat with the guys about their upcoming 10th anniversary gig over a brew in their rather cosy rehearsal room.

I started out with an indoor shoot in an empty unit near the guys practice room. I had (half) an idea in mind that would require some post-processing and playing around with layers to give a ghosting affect, and the derelict-looking unit felt perfect for that. I used a tripod set up, and a remote flash through a shoot-through camera left, and took several individual shots of the guys with the intention of sticking them back in photoshop afterwards:

As we had quite a bit of time allotted for the shoot, I took the opportunity to try out a few alternatives. One idea I was really keen to work with involved playing around with perspectives, and the long pathway down the side of their rehearsal room fit the bill quite nicely. It was a very bright day, but this path was nicely shaded to allow me to get a consistent exposure across all the guys faces: 

We then pottered down the road to an interesting caged walkway that ran alongside the river. Again keen to emphasis perspective, this cage thingy helped give the shots something a bit different:

You can see my shot of 65dos in this months edition of Loud and Quiet magazine. It's free, so no excuses!

Massive thank you to my good pal Gary Wolstenholme, who kindly came down to assist and brought with him loads of useful paraphernalia. Post shoot we caught up over a very greasy butty in a VERY very greasy spoon. Winning. You can check out his work here

New Toy - Fujifilm X20

I've been in the market for a new compact camera for quite a while now, and having read several reviews, I took the plunge on the Fujifilm X20. It was a great decision.

Since taking up photography, I've struggled to re-adapt to consumer cameras. I often struggle with automatic models, and regularly found myself getting frustrated at not being able to adjust settings as I'd wish. Ideally, I wanted something that gave me similar flexibility to my SLRs, but smaller. And cheaper.

This 12 megapixel, retro-styled compact has a 2/3-inch X-Trans CMOS sensor, and an equivalent zoom of 28mm - 112mm. Most importantly, it has also packs a lot of the features I'm used to with my Canon SLRs, including shooting in RAW format.

As is the norm with these things, I decided to give it a trial run with my favourite test subject - my dog:

In all honesty, I was amazed with the ease of use of the camera, and the quality of images. I was a little nervous when I bought it that it may only be suitable for holiday snaps, but having played around with it a bit I'm sure it'll come in handy when an SLR isn't practical. Watch this space...

A sad day

Genuinely gutted to be writing this. As of last Friday, The Fly magazine closed it's doors for the final time, having delivered cutting-edge music journalism for the past 15 years.

I'm truly honoured to have been part of the team for the past couple of years - turning up to shoot gigs and festivals saying "I'm Danny Payne from The Fly" always gave me a great sense of pride, a pride shared by everyone who contributed, a pride that was evident on every page of every single issue. To produce such a consistently high quality periodical for such a prolonged amount of time was a fantastic achievement.

I've been lucky enough to work with/for some fantastic people, and shoot some truly outstanding bands.

Good luck to everyone connected with the mag.

New Website

So I've finally got round to sorting my website out!

I've been toying with trying various website solutions over the past few years. Whilst I was happy with the design of my old site, it wasn't easy to manage. All the standard pages were hard coded html, with the blog built in Wordpress. The complicated process of updating my site meant it rarely happened, and it wasn't a true reflection of the work I was doing.

I'd considered several options - bespoke Wordpress solutions, DPG, 500px, Smugmug. All were totally viable, but were either too expensive or not flexible enough. I wanted something that I host with my existing provider, and something I could easily customise to really make it my own. Then, I stumbled across Koken.

Koken?

What is Koken? It's awesome, that's what it is. It's a Content Management System developed specifically for photographers/artists that is currently at beta, and was near enough the perfect solution for me:

Customisable - one of the key drivers behind my choice of solution was the need to make it my own. I didn't want it to just look like another Wordpress/SmugMug website. Whilst it does come with a selection of off-the-shelf templates to get you started, their is also a wealth of documentation online to help you develop your own themes.

Responsive - One area in particular that really let my old site down was the experience for mobile device users. In other words, it was pretty crap on iPhone. All the off-the-shelf Koken templates render differently on different devices to ensure your visitors have the best possible experience, as well as providing super high-res images for your visitors who are fortunate enough to own a device with a Retina display.

Extendable - Koken comes with a load of plugins to make live easier. Social media integration, watermarking, right-protection, and Lightroom link-up all make life so much easier.

FREE - yeah. For now, anyways.

So once settled upon a solution, I spent MONTHS going back through my catalogue and reprocessing my old shots to build up my archive - Thankfully my web host have a generous allowance with no traffic restrictions, so I was free to upload my images in high quality! 

I've also gone back through my old Wordpress blog posts and transferred them across (which also took ages). However, with the introduction of the 'archive', I'm no longer going to be blogging about every gig I shoot. There are several reasons behind this, mainly

  1. I'm not convinced many folk actually read them, and
  2. they were getting a bit repetitive and boring. "I shot [x] and the lighting was good/crap/indifferent" 

So, from now on my blog is going to focus on other stuff. Interesting, relevant stuff. Not sure what yet, though. 

Anyway, feel free to have a look around :) 

Warpaint @ O2 Academy, Leeds

I've shot some tough gigs in the past, but this has to be amongst the toughest.

I shot Warpaint for the first time a few years back at Leeds Festival, and on that occasion they were quite difficult to cover - lots of ambient light, but not much on the actual subjects. This experience would stand me in good stead for what was waiting for me down at the Academy.

It sounds a bit daft, but Warpaint SOUND like the sort of band that are difficult to photograph. Don't get me wrong - they're amazing - but their pychadelic-post-prog sound is perfectly complimented by dramatic, moody lighting. In light (boom boom) of this, I packed all my prime lenses as I feared the worst. This turned out to be justified. 

the band were arranged in a horse-shoe shape around the stage, with centre stage left vacant. The two main vocalists - Theresa and Emily - were right at either edge of the stage, in front of drummer Stella and bassist Jenny. The former of which was the only member of the band with any real light on her. 

By the end of the first song it became evident that - even with the high ISO range of the 5D MarkIII - that my standard 24-70mm f2.8 lens wasn't going to cut it, so I gave my 85mm f1.4 prime lens it's first gig run out. This gave me much more flexibility with my exposures, and whilst I may have been hampered in terms of focal range, I was happy to sacrifice variety of compositions in favour of some sharp, correctly exposed shots. 

So yeah, it was certainly a tough one. It's nice to have a challenge every now and then, though. 

London Grammar @ O2 Academy, Leeds

Another band championed by 6music, London Grammar are fast building a strong reputation as the next significant UK ambient-trip-hop act. These guys did a mammoth festival effort last summer and I tried to catch them on various occasions. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, I didn't have any success.

I was expecting this to be a tough shoot, but things got a lot more 'interesting' when the pit restrictions were revealed: "Three songs, no flash, and you cannot move". Fairly standard. Wait - wut?

"You cannot move"?! EH?! I've come across some pretty stringent restrictions in the past - particularly for bigger bands - but this was certainly a first. Essentially, we were expected to pick a 'spot' in the photopit, and not move from it. Bizarre. If we were shooting an established Diva I'd maybe understand it (that's a lie. Even for an established Diva I'd consider it bonkers) but for a new British band, who'd previously been touring small venues and clubs, this just sounded totally crazy. LG aren't the most animated of bands, so obviously the variety of my shots was going to suffer, but I was more bothered by the whole principle of this in the first place. So many questions! I mean, who was going to police it? What constitutes 'movement'? What if security need to get passed us to escort an incoming crowd-surfer out of the pit? But most importantly, WHY?!

Grumblings aside, the gig was fairly tricky to shoot. Thankfully I'd been given a tip-off about the aforementioned restrictions so I got in the pit nice and early to pick my spot and give myself the best change of coming away with anything half decent. There wasn't much in the way of light, and the band didn't move a great deal, so as I feared my shots were lacking much variety.

Ah well. Least I can say I've shot them now.

Phoenix @ Manchester Academy

Phoenix are one of those bands I've not really made that much attention to, if I'm honest. It's not that I dislike them - quite the opposite - I'd just never really given them chance. They've been getting quite a bit of 6music airtime of late, and have been steadily building a substantial fanbase in the UK.

I have photographed the French quartet once before, when they headlined the Radio 1/NME stage at Leeds Festival a few years back. On that occasion it was a total shit-heap to shoot, so I was hoping for a bit more luck on this tour.

An interesting (and possibly well known) fact about Phoenix - Guitarist Laurent Brancowitz was previously in a band called Darlin' alongside Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, who went on to become Daft Punk. Cool, eh? I digress..

Unlike most gigs these days we weren't restricted on the number of songs we could shoot, which did make a refreshing change. Whilst it was great to have the run of more songs - which consequently had different lighting, giving my shots a bit more variety - it also meant there was less pressure to get the shots, which is something I enjoy.

Probably the highlight of the 7-8 songs I shot was when frontman Thomas Mars made his way down to the crowd for a few high-fives. Made for great tog fodder.

"Thou shalt spell the word Phoenix P-H-E-O-N-I-X, not P-H-O-E-N-I-X regardless of what the Oxford English Dictionary Tells you"
Scroobius Pip

Frank Turner @ Phones 4U Arena, Manchester

So far, gigs in 2014 haven't come as thick and fast as previous years for me, so this was a perfect opportunity to get back in the swing of things with a big, well lit Arena show.

I'd shot Frank Turner a couple of times in the past at a couple of festivals, but I'd never previously been that impressed with the shots I'd got - for whatever reason, they didn't seem to do his live show justice. They were fine in terms of standard editorial shots, but were lacking character a bit. Time to make amends.

Having seen some shots from other dates on the tour, I was a bit apprehensive about what lighting to expect. Thankfully, I had no reason to worry - the light was fantastic for the bulk of my three song allocation, giving me the perfect opportunity to try and capture something a bit more 'iconic'.

It was nice to receive an email the following day from Frank - he's a bloody nice bloke, you know. 

Stephen Malkmus @ Manchester Gorilla

90s indie icon back in Manc.

Was chuffed to bits when the NME asked me to cover this one – I’ve been really getting into early 90s grunge/lo-fi rock of late, and it’s a sound thats making a bit of a resurgence at the minute. Pavement and Sonic Youth have been two particular highlights of this era for me, so the opportunity to photograph the former’s iconic frontman’s current outfit was not to be sniffed at.

This was my first time shooting at Gorilla in Manchester. It’d played host to a few gigs over the past 12 months that I fancied shooting, but for whatever reason it hadn’t happened. I’d not heard great things, though (from a photographers point of view). In a few ways, it’s quite similar to The Cockpit in Leeds – It’s under a train station for one, has no photopit, has a similar capacity, and has a very similar arched ceiling. The one at Gorilla, however, is predominantly painted black. This was going to be a tough night.

Given the lack of photo pit I had to get their early to stand if I was to stand any chance of getting near the front. Thankfully, the crowds hadn’t amassed too much during support Joanna Gruesome (who were amazing) and I tactfully made my way though the onlookers to collar a decent spot. During the changeover it became clear that Mr. Malkmus wasn’t going to be stood centre stage, so further manoeuvring was required to get stage right. So, my first challenge was addressed fairly quickly and hassle free. My next issue was going to be the lighting. The house setup at Gorilla isn’t fantastic, but stage right in particular was dark. I was packing a flashgun, so could fill in to a degree, but with nothing to bounce a flash off this proved quite tricky. I persevered, trying a few different options whilst constantly doing my best to remain courteous/not p*ss off onlookers around me. It was tough.

When I was confident I had enough material for the mag, I decided to go for a wander to see what else I could find – I’d been given AAA, and in the past I’d been guilty of not making the most of it. I’d spotted a hatch at the back of the stage that looked promising, so I set off trying to find it. A few security guards pointed me in the right direction, before I was presented with a door with a combination lock on it. At this point I thought my luck had run out, until a member of staff spied my wristband and kindly popped the code in for me. Success! I had access to the hatch I’d been scouting for! I spent the remainder of the set waiting for Malkmus to turn and face the drummer or the bassist (Gary ‘Crib’ Jarman’s wife) so I could get a decent shot of him and the crowd, of which there were a couple of nice opportunities.

The guy finished their set and prepared for the encore, so I decided it was time to make a move. However, upon leaving the secret hatch room I (literally) bumped into the band discussing what tracks to play. I interupted – bit rude, in hindsight – to tell Mr. Malkmus they’d played a great set, and also managed to grab this sweet reportage-style portrait:

All in all the night was a success, considering so much could have gone wrong. I shaln’t lie, Gorilla certainly isn’t my favourite venue to shoot but wasn’t half as bad as I’d expected, and it was a fantastic gig!

Brand New Analogues @ The Exchange, Keighley

Pottered down to The Exchange last week to bid farewell to one of Keighley’s longest running and most successful rock bands, Brand New Analogues. After 12 years of relentless riffs, rhythm and ale, the guys decided to call it a day with one last show.

BNA have been a mainstay of the local music scene for as long as I can remember. They’ve built a solid reputation on top of their own brand of catchy riff-laden gritty rock n roll and being genuinely nice guys. I’ve never met anyone who’s had a bad word to say about them, and for a long time it was widely considered that, if anyone from Keighley was going to make it, it was going to be these guys. Although the dream of filling Arenas never really materialised, their achievements should be greatly admired – relentless touring, festival appearances, and even getting a track featured on the popular “Rock Band” video game – and will always be considered one of Keighley’s finest exports.

The evening kicked off with a gentle introduction from virtuoso guitarist (and heartbroken post-Nahki Wells Bradford City fan) Luke Hirst, who kicked his set off with an early Noughties pop-punk acoustic medley that raised a few eyebrows, before drawing the evening to a close with an epic instrumental number.

Next up were local post-hardcore punk heroes Sounds of Swami, who duly blasted out any cobwebs with a typically ferocious set, before paying tribute to BNA with a well delivered cover of “Screamer”.

With the venue now packed for the main event, honorary Keighleyite Nige Mason took the microphone to introduce BNA for one last time, to rapturous applause. The guys proceeded to then power through a “best of” setlist that had everybody dancing, finishing with a rip-roaring rendition of early favourite “Hello Stranger”. I doubt the night could have gone any better, and seemed like the perfect end to 12 years of unbelievably high quality rock music.

The guys have also put their entire back catalogue out to download for free!

Gaz, Phil and JT – cheers, lads.

Luke Hirst

Sounds of Swami

Brand New Analogues

Latest Published Work – Jan 2014

Quick squizz at some of my published work from the past few months.

Jay-Z – The Observer / The Independent, October 2013

Managed to sell quite a few shots to the national papers over the past few months, but one of my personal highlights was getting a massive shot from the first date of Mr Carter’s “Magna Carta” UK tour in Manchester into The Observer:

Jay-Z in The Observer

as well as a reasonably sized shot from the same gig in The Independent a few days later:

Jay-Z in The Independent

Lorelle Meets The Obsolete – The Fly, November 2013

Nice landmark – had my first portrait for The Fly published. Whilst I have had portraits published in national magazines before, having this one feature in The Fly was a little bit extra-special as I know how good their other portrait photographers are. I’m amongst some great company with this one.

Lorelle Meets The Obsolete, The Fly Nov 2013

Quickfire Q&A feature – Photography Week, November 2013

The lovely people over at Photography Week magazine approached me back in October to run a feature on me, which was pretty cool. Always feels a bit surreal to be interviewed about what I do, as I still don’t see it as much of a big deal, but it’s always nice to see your name in magazines. Sadly for me, this magazine was only available digitally on the iPad, so I’ve not actually seen it first hand. Still chuffed, mind!

Photography Weekly Quickfire Q&A Feature

Kurt Vile & The Violators – NME Magazine, January 2014

Great start to 2014, getting my first shot run in the NME. Fingers crossed I’ll be doing a few more gigs for these guys in the future.

Kurt Vile & The Violators - NME Magazine

Bruce Springsteen – This is Y 2014 Magazine, January 2013

Given I’m a proud Yorkshireman, this was a particularly big deal for me. I was approached by Welcome To Yorkshire (the tourist board for God’s own county) last year, as they wanted to use one of my shots of The Boss on the cover of their 2014 trade magazine. Honoured.
“Yoooooooooooooooooooorkshire!!”

Bruce Springsteen - This is Y Magazine

Kurt Vile @ The Brudenell, Leeds

In the run up to Christmas I was surprised to receive a very awesome email from the people at the NME inviting me to take some pictures for them. Obviously I jumped at the chance, and within a couple of days I was at the Brud ready to shoot my first commission – Kurt Vile.

Having shot The Brud many times before I was fairly confident approaching the gig, although it was in no way an easy gig to shoot. I had a specific shot brief, and waiting for Kurt to move into position was often tricky. That said, I managed to get a fairly varied range of shots. Given the magnitude of the gig for me, I had to make sure I had the shots I needed so I decided to stick around a bit longer than normal, but left a few songs from the end to give the crowd some time without my flashgun ruining their night.

Modo Stare Phootshoot

If you’ve not heard of Modo Stare, then I’ll forgive you. Actually, scratch that. I shaln’t forgive you – I’ll pity you. Pity you HARD. If you are into electro-ambient music, you need this band in your life. There is no simpler way to put it.

Yes, I’m a bit biased ‘cos they’re from Bradford and I’m (pretty much) from Bradford(ish), but when I was first put onto them by my hawk-eared journo buddy Kate Wellham, I was amazed. Admittedly I’m not in touch with the Bradford music scene as much as I should be, but I hadn’t heard of a ‘Bratfud’ band with such a fresh sound since Alt Track (who are equally awesome. You should see them, too).

I was asked to do a shoot with the guys for local music mag Vibrations. Initially, we’d planned on being quite intricate with the shoot, planning things out and doing a ‘proper’ job of it. However we had to cut the planning in favour of a quick, last minute job when two of the guys found out they needed to fly home to Australia for a few weeks.

Desperately scampering for a venue at short notice, the lovely guys at the New Bradford Playhouse Theatre came to my rescue. Recently renovated and reopened, the quirkly little space in Bradford’s trendy Little Germany was perfect. Several different rooms with different themes, as well as a tiered Theatre.

Having gone through out options, we settled on two set ups – one in the theatre seats, and one in an empty white room on the top floor. Probably the biggest task of all was managing to get 7 people in a shot without too many faces being overly out of focus, shadowed. It certainly made checking for blinkers that bit trickier, too! We only had a couple of hours to fire through the shoot, and I managed to come away with a handful of half decent shots for the feature.

If you want to sample some of Modo Stare’s awesome sound, head over to their Soundcloud page or use this fancy gizmo thing:

2013 review

I was really keen to improve the quality of my images in 2013. At the start of the year, I was aware that a few of my live shots were starting to look a bit samey – I’d been paying more attention to getting my shots sharp, and the creativity of my compositions had suffered as a result. I had to raise the bar if I wanted to progress any further, and to do so I decided I needed better tools for the job. In January, I invested in my first full frame camera – a Canon 5D MarkIII – and I was instantly impressed with the sharpness of my shots and the quality of images taken in low light conditions. If I was going to improve my images, this new piece of kit certainly stood me in good stead.

My first few gigs of the year were all very well lit – Paloma Faith, Jake Bugg and Two Door Cinema Club at Leeds Academy and Example at Sheffield Arena:

The new gear got it’s first real test when I got a pass to shoot the awesome Frightened Rabbit at Leeds Met which was a much tougher gig, and the 5D MkIII held it’s own really well:

At the end of February I made my first trip of the year across The Pennines to shoot one of my favourite live bands – The Joy Formidable – in Manchester. Here’s my favourite shot of Ritzy at the Ritz:

March saw my first big gigs of 2013. Being a massive Biffy Clyro fan, I was keen to get in to shoot their first full UK Arena tour. So much so, that I got photo passes for both the Manchester and Sheffield dates:

Following the Biffy arena dates I shot a handful of awesome smaller gigs, including Peace at Manchester Club Academy and Pure Love at 53° Preston, before heading back over to Manchester at the beginning of May to pay my first visit to my my favourite venue – The Apollo – to scratch the Yeah Yeah Yeahs from my bucket list:

May also saw me shoot my first festival of 2013, as part of the official photo team for Live at Leeds. This was the usual slog of marching around Leeds to shoot as many bands as physically possible, and I manage to catch some awesome acts throughout the day. Tribes, Lone Wolf, Hawkeyes, These Monsters, Alunageorge, Everything Everything and Mercury-nominee Laura Mvula were all on my list:

And the May bank holiday weekend was drawn to a close in emphatic style, with The Vaccines putting in a well received shift in Millennium Square:

May went on to be a fairly busy month for me, with further landmark gigs. Firstly, Mercury-holding Leeds University Alumni Alt-J returned to “Yooooooorkshiiiiire” for a sold-out date at Leeds Academy. I then popped over to Manchester to cover cult-icons The Postal Service do their first gig in ten years.

Had my first major promo shoot of the year in May, too. I spent a very sunny saturday with the local legends The Sunshine Underground to get some shots for their upcoming single release and tour:

The summer of 2013 brought with it my greatest photographic achievement yet – shooting Leeds’ biggest gig for decades. I was one of a handful awarded a photopass for Bruce Springsteen’s ‘test-run’ of Leeds’ brand new Arena:

Festivals came thick and fast in the Summer, too – first up was Y Not? Festival in Derby – holder of the Best Small Festival award, and sporting a lineup that featured The Cribs, The Darkness, The 1975, The Horrors, Drenge, Swim Deep and Mystery Jets, but my favourite shot of the weekend was of legendary Northern Irish trio Ash:

Next on my festival calendar was the rapidly-growing Hipster weekender, Beacons Festival. Egyptian Hip-Hop, Lulu James, Stealing Sheep, Ghostpoet, Dutch Uncles, Local Natives, Gold Panda, Django Django and Savages all contributed to a line up that had the festival punching successfullly above it’s weight:

The weather wasn’t particularly ideal for festivals this summer, and this was no more apparent than at Leeds Festival, which was a veritable mud swamp:

Weather aside, the weekend was great to shoot – Headline performances by Biffy Clyro, Eminem and Green Day were all fantastic, with sets by System of A Down, Deap Vally, Deftones, Editors and Foals being particular highlights:

My final festival of the summer came in September at Bingley Music Live. The lineup for Bingley was a lot stronger this year, with Chic feat. Nile Rodgers, Primal Scream, The Fratellis, Wilko Johnson, Katy B and Tinchy Stryder, as well as Wakefield heroes The Cribs, who I was lucky enough to join on stage:

September saw the end of my Festival Season, and before I knew it Gig Season was well underway. To kick things off, the Kaiser Chiefs headlined at Leeds Arena:

September also provided a landmark for me – my first portrait commission for The Fly magazine. I was tasked with doing a quick shoot with Mexican Psychedelia-grunge duo Lorelle Meets The Obsolete:

Probably the biggest act I photographed in the Autumn was Hip Hop icon Jay-Z, when he kicked off his Holy Grail tour at Manchester Arena:

With gig season in full swing, I photographed Ellie Goulding in Manchester and Johnny Marr in Leeds, before getting the call to shoot one of the most challenging gigs I’ve ever covered – Daughter at Leeds Town Hall:

Arctic Monkeys’ AM tour as well as 90’s legends Travis and Suede filled the rest of my calendar for October, and a very busy November featured Vampire Weekend, Placebo, bucket-list occupants Depeche Mode and Queens of The Stone Age, one of my favourite bands of recent years – The National:

but probably my favourite shot from November was from the Leeds Arena debut of one of my favourite bands of my late teens and twenties, Welsh legends Stereophonics:

As winter drew in, I made the trip over to the west coast of shoot recently-announce Glastonbury headliners Arcade Fire perform their Reflektors show at the Empress Ballrooms..

December kicked off with a trip over to Preston for The Darkness who are a music photographers wet dream, before shooting Peace for the third time this year at Leeds Met SU. I was back at The Met a few days later for my penultimate gig of the year: LA havoc-wreaking sisters Haim:

My final gig of 2013 was at Leeds Academy, for the first of two festive “Cribsmas” dates:

So, those were my highlights for 2013. I think I managed to get a bit more variety in my shots to previous years, and hopefully I’ve increased the calibre of my work enough to make the next step up. Fingers crossed..