Pyeng Threadgill, Hammer Museum

Photographed 8/11/2006
Photographer: David Arnspiger

Many of my opportunities in photography have come from nepotism. It's great to have a sister who works in the music industry and likes your work.

My sister asked me to come shoot a jazz-pop artist named Pyeng Threadgill that she was working with at the time. The setting was wonderful, the Hammer Museum in Santa Monica, CA. It was a warm summer night, the stage was well lit and the name of the museum was projected above the stage. A very relaxed and fun environment.

Now I was still new to concert photography at this point, but I came forearmed with the knowledge I had picked up shooting at The Cat Club in Hollywood. I knew what kind of setting I wanted to employ for the shoot, and I was confident I could do a good job for my sister. The problem arose when stupidity took over as I was shooting. I don't know how it happened, but I had my lens in manual focus for much of the early part of the evening and I could not understand why I was getting such crappy shots. I was doing everything by the book, my settings were good and I was following all of the rules, but my shots were awful. Why? I was apoplectic after about an hour of this.

I started to change lenses thinking my lens was busted, and I saw it. MF instead of AF. DAMMIT!! I switched back into AF mode and suddenly things started to click for me. I was moving all over the location and shooting from interesting vantage points and having a very good time with the shoot. This was the first time I shot in RAW mode at a show and I shot in Tungsten mode and it gave all of my shots a reddish cast. Luckily, I knew I could alter this in post if I needed to. The light was very yellow and red on the stage, so many of the shots still came out in these tones, but I was able to bring in a little more blue and white to many of them to get a more natural look.

So the night went on and I took about a thousand pictures. I do not know how to stay off the shutter button sometimes, although I am down into the hundreds rather than thousands of images these days. I got a lot of good shots of the band. Every member, some personality shots, group shots, and atmosphere too. I think I did a bang up job.

I know my sister liked the images, but I do not recall any of them ever being used for any reason other that my own self promotion on my sites. I was pretty proud of myself. I met my objectives and I felt good about the work, that was all I was going to get from this one.

The main lesson I learned from that night was to work on my shutter speed. I had not yet found the right balance between the amount of light I was letting in during a show and the speed I was shooting at. I was getting a lot of blur as hands and arms moved. I wanted crisper shots. I still needed a better lens to shoot with in low light, but I was getting better at it.

Enjoy the images below.