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the twang

August 4, 2007

I woke up this morning to find a strange message… “I wish that the twang didn’t exist.. my apologies if you’re a fan!”

The Twang?.. pardon?… Oh yes, this is a new indie band from Birmingham which I had recently photographed, just few months ago, in a gig here in Leeds and then uploaded those pictures online.

It didn’t take long to find out that there’s quite an impressive polarisation going on about this band right now. On one side, raving critiques for what NME describes as “swaggering, big hearted rock’n’roll mischief from Birmingham.” They write songs, Time Out claims, “better, more exciting and fresher […] than anyone else.” Just check their myspace profile. By the way, they were hailed by NME as Britain’s best new band And were second in BBC News website’s Sound of 2007.

On the other hand, it also seems that something in their music, or their street-smart lyrics and a reputation for rowdiness have created few.. haters for the ‘Brummie lads’ as well. Well, as frontman Phil Etheridge points out in the BBC websiteI ain’t going to sing about rivers, man, I don’t live by a river – I live by a canal and there’s bikes in it” and we just have a laugh, and obviously sometimes that might be a little bit more rowdy than you and your friends having a dinner party, but it’s only done in jest.”

I remember the gig in Leeds quite well (and that’s already a positive remark). It was fun and enjoyed it. Although, I also remember been convinced at some point that my camera and lenses will meet the end of their short life soon… getting baptised in those flying pints of beer in the air by excited party-goers!… Here’s some photos from The Twang at the Faversham, Leeds, 4 March 2007 (© Christos Stavrou. All Rights Reserved)

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The passion and energy shown by frontman Phil Etheridge was captivating. I used a telephoto lens and a high 1600 ISO to capture a glimpse of it (© 2007 Christos Stavrou. All Rights Reserved)

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Finally, few tips about shooting music concerts from my personal experience:

  • Go early to find a suitable place and view-angle
  • Use a lens hood to minimise lens flare and also help your precious glass from fingertips, liquids, etc.
  • Being polite and co-operative with the stage-crew might offer you the chance to use some otherwise difficult to access spaces and viewpoints
  • Use of high ISO will be essential, either in film or digital equipment. Concert pics with their many dark areas and their uneven lighting demand digital cameras with low noise in high ISOs and a rather high dynamic range. It is recommended, of course, to use fast lenses with large maximum aperture (my lenses used above had maximum aperture 2 and 2.8) to gain as much speed as possible.
  • Even if, however, you are stuck with slow lenses, (such as many current zoom-lenses) or your camera’s unworkable high ISOs, you can still achieve adequate results by concentrating at your technique: Use a monopod (which is helpful in any case!) and anticipate the artist’s movement, so that you can click at the right posing moment

Hmm.. and something else which might be helpful to film users. There are many good films out there, especially 400 B&W films, which could be exposed in a higher ISO, such as 1600 giving you at least 2 extra stops of speed. Grain and contrast would be of course affected but the results could be very satisfactory. Extra time in the developing stage will be required to compensate for pushing the film. To find out the exact extra time that is to be applied, as well as appropriate agitation techniques, search the internet or ask the manufacturer for initial info. Nevertheless, practice and experimentation is essential, after which you would be able to create your own charts in order to achieve a desired aesthetic and technical result.

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