Seeing Red

February 04, 2021  •  1 Comment

Blog 21 02 05 Seeing Red 1Blog 21 02 05 Seeing Red 1Copyrighted Digital Image

Photographing live music, particularly Jazz, is one of my special interests, although it only came about because I married Joan Minor, the Jazz vocalist (Look her up on her website and Facebook). Never previously a jazz aficionado, I came to love these events, which are a luxuriously intimate feast of: small venues, enthusiastic and expert fans, mesmerising performers and - of course - enchanting music.

This venue was the much-missed, St. Nick’s Pub on St. Nicholas’ Avenue in Harlem, New York, which closed in 2011 after making 80 years of musical history.

The one thing which disturbs me, but only because I am photographing performances, is the obsession of stage technicians with red lighting. I understand its widespread use for its emotive, moody, stage effect, but the optical impact is harsh and destructive to colour images, not to say ugly. 

Post processing process: No Crop

It is difficult to find a clear view of the stage or to be physically stable in small venues, among agitated, excited audience members and to avoid being jostled by servers taking and delivering orders. The event photog owes respect for audience and performers too, so I take care to not use flash, nor make camera noise at intimate, quiet performance moments. Choosing just when to capture an image is therefore frequently not optimal. That said, it is very satisfying to capture a close up, straight out of the camera, requiring no crop, as happened here.

However, the photo was virtually unusable. Here is how I treat such images. This is the original, with blown out highlights, poor detail and garish colour:

Blog 21 02 05 Seeing Red 2Blog 21 02 05 Seeing Red 2Copyrighted Digital Image

Conversion to Black and White

In my processing software, Capture One Pro 21, I ticked the Black & White conversion box and pulled down the slider 20% on the red channel. This restored the definition on skin, beard and textiles, gave the small ‘catch lights” extra clarity and rendered the image useable. It also enabled other minor corrections.

Heal layer: white spots on jacket

A few white spots were visible on the performer’s jacket. Although only a mild imperfection these were a distraction, so I applied a “heal” layer to 9 spots and they disappeared.

Sharpening layer

Since I never apply “in-camera” sharpening, some general improvement is always needed when shooting Raw. The shallow depth of field arising from using maximum camera aperture of f/2.8 on a zoom lens made this more critical. The camera’s focussing “nailed” the plane of focus on the eyes, but even so, I felt that capturing the full impact of the image required extra attention to them. I added a specific sharpening layer on the eyes only, which had the additional benefit of emphasising the small “catch lights”.

Finally, the lens/aperture combination threw the stage lights behind the subject’s head completely out of focus into a satisfying, abstract, soft, “bokeh” effect.

I was happy that “post-processing” had enabled a satisfying image, notwithstanding the actual environmental conditions.  

Settings

Camera: Nikon D300

Lens: Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8

Vibration Reduction: On

Drive Mode: Single Shot

Focal Length: 140mm

Focus Mode : AF-S

Auto Focus-Area Mode: Single

Aperture: f/2.8

Shutter Speed: 1/250s

Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority

Exposure Compensation: 0.0 EV

Metering: Pattern

ISO Sensitivity: 6400

Format: Raw

Hand Held

Place : St. Nick’s Pub, Harlem, New York

Year: 2008

 

Copyright Paul Grayson 2021 All Rights Reserved

 

 

 


Comments

Eric Bontemps(non-registered)
Quand je vois la photo initiale en couleur, je suis bluffé par le résultat que tu as obtenu en noir et blanc. Chapeau !
Par contre je suis dubitatif sur l'expression du chanteur. Je ne trouve pas qu'elle rappelle l'ambiance du jazz.
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