"So, if Johnny jumps off the Empire State Building, does that mean you're going to?" I'm sure there are a million variations on this theme, but that's the one every mother in New York seems to use. (And, so sets the stage for today's post.)
Friday, I photographed The Led Zeppelin Experience, a personal musical project by Jason Bonham, son of the late, great Zeppelin drummer John Bonham.
When I was booked for the LZE show (at the Ogden Theater in Denver), I figured I'd be shooting alongside maybe one other photographer. So, imagine my surprise when I arrived to find 6 other photographers crammed into a tiny little space next to the mixing board, 75 feet from the stage. Thankfully, just before the start of the show, the head of the production crew asked, "Why are you all up here? Wouldn't you all rather be down in front?" "Hell yes," we responded in harmony, quickly gathering up our gear. But, just as my compatriots scurried off to stake out a position up front, the thought occurred to me, "Is up front really the best place to photograph this particular show?"
Like his father, Jason Bonham is also a drummer. Drummers, as most of you know, sit behind drum kits and are usually positioned in the back of the stage on a platform. As a photographer, that's a problem made worse by shooting from a low vantage point...say, for example, from the pit in front of the stage!
Keenly aware of my uncanny ability to guess wrong about...well, almost anything, I took a stroll up front to see if there was even one vantage point from which I could get a clean shot of Bonham on the drums. Conclusion: No. So, much as I hated giving up what was a better position for photographing the other members of the band, I couldn't imagine presenting a collection of photos from The Jason Bonham Led Zeppelin Experience with nothing but obstructed photos of the main guy...Jason Bonham!
So, fighting my natural instinct to get in close, I settled in back at the sound board, a traditionally less desirable shooting location.
The lesson I'm trying to impart, in my signature "what-the-hell-is-he-talking-about" style, is this: Always reflect on your INTENT before making other decisions. Intent drives everything! It's quite possible that the other six photographers had a different agenda that night than I did. If so, their positions may have been perfect. For me, my number one intent was to capture photos of Jason Bonham performing. Intent number two was to capture the band's energy on stage and some good individual shots of the other members of the band. You can judge from the pictures I've included whether or not I satisfied those goals.
The crowd is not always wrong, but they're not always right, either. It's hard to turn left when everyone else has turned right. I know. But, that's the only way to separate yourself from the masses. Remember this next time you see the Empire State Building!