Portrait

Pip Blom: Whelans Upstairs by Aaron Corr

I first caught Pip Blom earlier in the year supporting The Breeders earlier in the year in Vicar Street, and thought they were a deadly band. 8Radio championed them after that point so they kept in my mind, and I kept up to speed with what they were up to and awaited another Irish show. This finally came with one of the final dates of their own European tour.

Shrug Life

Shrug Life

Support on the night came from Shrug Life. Normally a three piece, this time Danny Carroll performing solo, and then a portion of the set with backing vocals by Naoise Roo.

Initially it looked like it would be a case of loud band playing to quiet crowd but people soon relaxed and got really into it. There may not have been moshing, but there was dancing by some, and enthusiasm with the whole room.

The lights were the same throughout, and were the usual pain in the arse to try and calm in the editing. After the show I hung around to try get a portrait with the band after they sold some merch. They were lovely and gracious in doing so. I took the portrait in the hallway between the room and backstage, using the ambient light. In shooting gigs I don’t bring flash with me, so you make do with what you got.

Click here for full gallery.

January In Photos by Aaron Corr

What a busy month this turned out to be.  The first act I was asked to shoot was Super Silly, the first of three shoots for GoldenPlec's Plec Picks 2017 I would cover.  I had all my camera & lighting gear packed, and ready to meet the guys in Temple Bar and take it from there.  When they arrived I started to get the lighting gear ready and frustratingly found that my Yongnuo flash wouldn't turn on.  It turned out a battery leaked and corroded some of the parts.  We had to do without and use what limited daylight we had.  

Time was of the essence, it was after 3:30pm in early January and it would be dark from 5pm.  We took some shots where we met, then in an alley nearby that they were interested in using and onward to three other quick locations that I wanted to use to create more variety.  My favourite is the red & white walls of Sin É on the quays.  I'd walk past the columns that front the pub from time to time and think from a certain angle they could make for a great photo with a band/solo artist.  It was tougher with four people to get the perspective exactly right so a little Photoshop was needed to fill in.  The shot of the guys from the chest up was inspired by a Anton Corbijn photo of New Order I had seen in a book of his work.

This whole shoot was done in an hour.  The band were great and willing to take more time on the shoot but any longer would have meant struggling to make a well lit portrait.  My flash being broken inadvertently led to more set ups, all of which resulted in pictures I love.

My second shoot was with up & coming urban singer/songwriter Soulé.  Her debut single on Spotify alone amassed over 178,000 listens by the time the article was posted.  The arrangement was to meet in the same area as Super Silly, but I had also seen that she had recently done a photo shoot in that area for another Irish music site, so after a little discussion I was offered to shoot the portraits in Diffusion Lab, the recording studio she would be working in that day.  

By this stage I had got my Yongnuo flash cleaned and back in action, and I had found my primary flash which I accidentally left in my work bag after Christmas.  I was primed and ready to do some strobist portraits using the studio.  There was some cool stickers/drawings on the window which I decided to try and incorporate in the first few shots.  I followed that up with some shots using a backdrop, provided by her producer.  I lit up the blank backdrop with a purple gel over the flash.  A further two set ups had Soulé pose in the vocal booth, and then by a couch with a large print behind it.  I was delighted again with the results, and to have been out of the cold for this shoot.

The first gig shoot of the year was one I couldn't wait for, Cage the Elephant with support from Declan McKenna.  I've been a fan of Declan's since seeing him on Jools Holland.  He was listed to be on at 8pm but came on at 7:45pm.  I'm glad i got there early to try meet friends, otherwise I'd have missed shooting his set, which opened with the awesome Isombard.  He played a solid 40-45 minute set which is impressive for a new act in a support slot.  I'm looking forward to his album and whenever he has time in his busy schedule to eventually come back and do a headline show.

The only I caught Cage the Elephant live was when they supported Foals in the Olympia.  Foals wanted the last three songs snapped by photographers so I had to leave after shooting three songs of Cage and wait in the lobby until the end of Foals set.  I didn't know them well at the time but I was dying to stay.  On this night in the Academy they were superb.  I can't say anyone was going home with a bad word to say about the show, they were on fire.  Matthew Shultz is a fantastic front man and possibly the best front man I've shot so far.  He gives you some great opportunities for a great shot.  I felt bad for the rest of the band as he leaves you mesmerized and not wanting to miss another moment of action from him.

The rest of the show was a great example of missing out by not being able to take pictures later at a gig.  There was crowd surfing, standing and signing on the shoulders of the crowd, jumping from the drums and falling to the stage while still singing.  It was one hell of a show and it is the one that has to be beaten this year.  They've just been announced for NOS Alive in Lisbon so I'll be seeing them again this Summer.

My next shoot was of the band Beach for The Thin Air's 17 for '17.  I had a day off work for an appointment with the dentist that morning and I got dosed with plenty of anaesthetic for the procedure.   The shoot had to happen around one of the lads lunch break from work.  The pressure of limited time, coupled with my face feeling numb, and like it was swollen was not a cool buzz to do a shoot with.  I was genuinely struggling to think of where to use for a central location that wouldn't be too busy with people, given it was lunch time in a lively part of the city.  My head was not with it.  

We strolled over behind Whelans to see what it'd be like to shoot in the little, walled off garden area behind it.  We tried a few things, I wasn't crazy about the results, the band thought it looked a bit too boy band for the first few shots.  We meandered around some more and then went into The Camden Exchange and asked to use their closed smoking area.  The band joked around with the flowers and watering can, and this was what we liked the most when reviewing the photos after we were done.  They wanted the photo for the piece to show they weren't super serious all the time. 

The same night as having been to the dentist and doing the Beach shoot, I went to cover the Martha Wainwright gig in Vicar St.  My face was no longer numb and I felt better, and far less pressure than the earlier shoot.  It was a fully seated gig so I wandered around the crowd taking shots from afar, trying not to disturb or get the way of paying punters.  The most memorable part of the shoot was Martha forgetting how one of her new songs went and stopping the band in their tracks as she tried to remember how it went.

Pleasure Beach supported Bell X1 in the Olympia.  It was a case of low lights, red lights and uninspiring results.  They arrived on stage in the dark and the singer immediately went to the front of the stage to greet the crowd, guitar held in the air, not a light in sight.  It would have made a nice shot.  

Bell X1 was a similarly frustrating affair.  Lots of annoying blues, a light under singer, Paul Noonan, that cast a shadow on the microphone up his face for many shots that managed to focus properly.  The surrounding band members were very much in the shadows so it was definitely a case of the Paul Noonan show, as it was barely worth trying to snap the other band members.  

My final Plec Picks shoot was with Fangclub.  It was to be done on a weeknight and the weather wasn't looking good for the chosen night during the planning stage, so I paniced to find an indoor location I could use that would suit.  It was tough.  I settled on reserving the downstairs in one of my local pubs, The Black Sheep.  I was told it would be empty but when we all arrived there was a bunch of people dotted around the place, getting away from the busy upstairs bar.  The walls were plastered with craft beer logos which wouldn't have been a good look so I opted to use the blank walls by the stairwell.  As the feature interview took place I set up my strobist gear, starting with a gelled flash to light up the backdrop.

The corner of the stairwell was the darkest part of that area and worked the best, so I got Kevin, Dara and Steven to squeeze in and pose.  With the interview over I asked Bernard, from team GP, to hold the flash & softbox overhead as I snapped as it was easier than using the tripod, and keeping it stable on the step.  I tried a red gel for some additional shots before moving the guys out on to the street since the rain had stayed away.  I switched to the telephoto lens in order to try get a bokeh effect with the lights at the end of Capel St.    

During the final set up the cold was beginning to get to us so we finished up after a few shots there.  The biggest obstacle in post processing was editing the corner of the wall that was behind the guys.  Making the colour blend was the frustrating part.  It seemed like it would be an easy job at the time of shooting but it was a bit time consuming and headache inducing.  Overall it was another shoot I was satisfied with and brought to a close a busy January.

August Photos by Aaron Corr

Steve Davis

Steve Davis

I began August with a random, last minute Friday request to shoot legendary snooker player turned DJ Steve Davis for The Thin Air.  My parents were visiting and staying in my apartment that weekend and were arriving off the train around the same time as I was needed for the shoot but I figured I could squeeze this in ahead of getting them.  Steve was in Dublin to play a DJ set that weekend and began with a short set in All City in Temple Bar.  There was free beer to be had but I had to miss out on that given my rush to get away.  After his DJ set he went outside for a breather and an interview with Hotpress.  In between being grabbed by other photographers and people looking to say hello I pulled him aside for the quickest of quick portrait shots in front of the store.  The other photographers had him pose by a wall, or by the barber pole that can be seen above so at least I wasn't getting the same shot as everyone else.  While I snapped this my dad was calling me on my phone.  He's a big sports fan and would have been delighted to meet him.

Windings

Windings

The first gig of August was catching the return of Grandaddy in Vicar Street, shot for GoldenPlec.  I first caught their reunion show at Electric Picnic in 2012, surprisingly this is only their fourth show since then.  They had support from Limerick's Windings.  Given my ties to Limerick I made sure to get there early to catch them in action.

Grandaddy

Grandaddy

Although it wasn't a completely sold out show, Grandaddy had a very enthusiastic crowd.  I wasn't expecting the buzz that was there that night and though I'm a fan of the band, it elevated my excitement for their performance as their set went on.  Shooting the show was ok, the pit was busy and tight to get around the other photographers.  Jason Lytle's face was always half cast in shadow from his hat, and his synths and keyboards around him made it that bit extra awkward to try get great shots of him.  Lighting was okay, not the best or worst and nothing that caused a huge amount of headaches.  I knew the band wouldn't be lively or jumping around for me to get cool action shots, they're just not that type of band, so I was happy enough with the results.

Hilary Woods

Hilary Woods

The next gig of the month was the brilliant Warpaint, supported by Hilary Woods (ex jj72 bassist) in the National Concert Hall for The Thin Air.  This was my first time visiting the NCH and I was amazed by the size and acoustics.  I need to see more concerts there.  Hilary was completely solo, with backing track and video backdrop creating a suitably ambient vibe to go with her music.  I was very impressed with her performance.  

In terms of shooting in the venue photographers are relegated to the sides and back of the hall since the front row seats leave no room for what would be usually the photo pit.  I pretty much kept my 70-200mm lens on for the full night.  The lights never changed so once I landed on my setting for the evening I never really had to modify it much.

Warpaint

Warpaint

I last saw Warpaint at Electric Picnic early into them touring their second album.  The show was riddled with issues with their new additions of synths to the live mix.  It looked like a frustrating show for them.  This was a breeze in comparison.  The band were a little thrown by the fully seated audience so by the third song got them all standing.  They were great to shoot, the only pity was not having a photo pit to capture them the same way one can capture them the way other venues would allow.  This was a small grievance since I wasn't exactly a 3Arena soundboard shoot distance away from the band.  Until next time.

Click any image to see full gallery.

Girlfriend Photoshoot by Aaron Corr

The Thin Air asked me to do a photo-shoot with the band Girlfriend for issue 15 of the magazine.  They are mainly based in Bettystown which is just under an hour's drive from Dublin.  Ahead of time they filled me in on potential locations about the town that we could use for the shoot, and given I was going to be travelling a small distance I figured we could take our time and do a few more set ups than a shoot like this usually needed.  This was their first band photo-shoot so it was a good way for them to get used to the process.  The only downside was that all four members wouldn't be present as their drummer, Lahela, was in the USA on a J-1.  I asked them to think about a way we could possibly represent her in a few photos.

The Saturday that I drove to meet them was one of the hotter and sunnier days we'd had all Summer.  I drove past nearby beaches to find my way to the seaside town and met Hana, Lisa & Sophie outside the local arcade.  I was excited at the prospect of shooting inside it but I couldn't let the good weather go to waste first so we set up near one of the abandoned buildings nearby as they had suggested to start with.  They chose to represent Lahela with a balloon and taped a picture of her to it.  The breeze tended to get the better of the balloon so we would abandon the idea after we tried a few shots with it.

We moved from one unused building to another across the road which had graffiti on the door that said "death is around every corner".  This was a nice touch and something they felt would be apt, however the sun was directly in the girl's faces causing them to squint in many of the shots.  I didn't like how the shots were framed based on my limited vantage points in trying to fit the girls & graffiti in frame so I abandoned this set up to go around the back of the building and try something there. 

At the back there was more graffiti on doors, and the walls were covered in leaves.  I opted for the latter, mainly due to the fact that parked cars blocked half the building.  With the girls now in a little bit of shadow I used a fill flash, hand held off the camera and covered with a lumiquest softbox ltp.  I had brought a tripod and large softbox but kept them in the car until I felt I would need them, they never made an appearance.  By this stage I was ready to go try out the amusement arcade.

We browsed the arcade to see what was cool and what they'd be comfortable with posing in front of while the general public passed by.  The first stop was at the slot machines.  I held the flash off camera again, this time with no softbox.  Behind me were more machines so this was the widest I could go for this shot.  Sophie, on the right, was the hardest to keep lit as I held the flash aloft with my left hand but struggled to get an even spread of light.  I fixed this is post processing (frustratingly since shooting at Hell & Back not long before this shoot I forgot to revert my files to shoot in RAW, so my editing was quite restricted).  I have mixed feelings with the result as I wanted to get more ambient light from the machines mixed with the fill flash but I would have needed to give myself more time, and with paying punters walking by I didn't want to linger on too long in one place.

The next shot was simpler and more effective.  Using the lights of the pool hall and nearby machines I shot the girls in this neon light without any flash.  The main issue was the people playing pool in the background, but ultimately I found they proved no distraction in the end result.

Possibly my favourite shot of the day came from using the neon lights in the seated area of the bowling alley.  The effect comes across a little like that the girls are in a diner, and I love how they each look in the above shot.  I tried this from a few angles but having caught this shot in the first few frames, I knew I wouldn't beat it.

We'd got to the point where we wanted to use parts of the arcade that we'd better get approval on.  Having scoped out the place on arrival two areas had stood out, the bumper cars and this shooting game, complete with cartoonish background & characters.  Management gave me the go ahead so I gave the girls the nod to hop the barrier and enter the scene.  What we hadn't accounted for was the amount of dust on the floorboards and the height restriction.  I stood outside and again used the natural light of the game for the above shot.  I couldn't quite get the full skull in the picture while keeping in the sign above the game.  If I went any wider the gun station at the front would be in the way and be an unnecessary distraction.  The girls kneeled and sat down on the floorboards for the most part for these shots, getting covered in years old dust in the process.  My apologies ladies.

For the finale we made our way to the bumper cars and made sure they were not in use and that there was no queue.  We ended up asking a young girl at the entrance if we could use it for a few minutes, not realising she was just a passing kid and not an underage, underpaid staff member.  Again we got official approval to gain access and use the area.  What drew me to it were the mirrored walls of light that would flicker on/off and in different patterns.  We tried once more to use the balloon but it was not staying afloat and would turn the wrong way.  It was kicked to the side for a final time.  I had some cool wide shots of the girls in the whole bumper car space but I wasn't a fan of how the balloon looked in those pictures that I never gave it a full edit.  In my rush to get good use of the space I forgot to take a version of the shot without it.

I alternated between using the fill flash, and using just the lights from the wall to get a natural result I was pleased with.  The above image is what appeared in the magazine in the end.  Afterwards we sat with a drink in the diner, looking back over the results to make sure we all liked what we had taken.  Overall this turned out to be one of the best & most fun shoots I've run so far.  The band were great company and fun to work with.  I'm sure I'll run into them again some time in the future and catch them live.   

Equipment used:

Metronomy Photoshoot by Aaron Corr

At the end of June The Thin Air gave me a great assignment to photograph Joseph Mount of Metronomy.  I'm a big fan of theirs and photographed them live on the main stage at Longitude last year.  They do that thing for me that LCD Soundsystem used to do every time I'd see them live, they'd make me giddy with happiness.  I don't know what it is but it's a rare thing for me to get at every show by one band, even with those who are my absolute favourites.

Joe was in Dublin for the bones of a day to promote the release of their new album, Summer 08, jetting in early that morning for a day of interviews before taking off again that night for more promo in Paris.  We had a half hour slot with him, meeting up in the Dean Hotel in Dublin city centre.  Myself and my Thin Air colleague, Eoghain, agreed to split it as 20 minutes interview, 10 minutes photoshoot.  This gave me quite a tight slot, especially when I did not know what I had to work with, where would be best to do the shoot in the location or how busy it would be with people, given the time of day it was happening.  

At the venue I decided upon using the smoking area on the ground floor as it had fairy lights on one wall, a tiny bit of natural light and a fireplace with multi-coloured glass and fire logs behind it.  The door to the smoking area is so close to the bar that you'd be forgiven for mistaking it for a staff door, which was to my advantage as it was empty inside, save for a guy on a video conference call on his laptop that left minutes before the shoot.

I tested the natural light with my camera and tried my pocket wizards with the flash, using Warner's very helpful rep as a stand in model, to see how it looked in the room.  Ideally I would have brought a bigger set up (tripod & a soft-box for better portrait lighting) but I sacrificed bringing too much for fear of over complicating things within the time constraints.  To get the natural light in the room I had to use a higher ISO than I would have preferred, combined with a slower shutter speed.  

Joe was taller than I expected.  The fairy lights would have made a nice backdrop for a straight on portrait but they were not high up enough on the wall to accommodate the look I wanted, so I asked Joe to sit on a chair so I could feature them in the background.  The first thing I noticed at this point was that he looked very tired.  This was emphasised more as I looked at the previews on the camera display.  This was completely understandable given all the press he had been doing.  To combat this I asked him to look slightly off camera, over my shoulder, up at lights on the ceiling or through a window depending on where I stood him for the shot.  I used photoshop afterwards to help ease things around the eyes.  I did three quick set ups with him.  

  1. As described above. 
  2. I stood him in a position where the one little gap in the wall that let in natural light, and cigarette smoke out, so I could use it to light him while again keeping the fairy lights behind him.  This is the main shot used for the feature.
  3. In front of the fireplace, making use of the lights overhead and the colours behind him.  This proved tricky in not trying to catch myself in the mirror's reflection, particularly in shots where I tried using off camera flash.

I was told that if I needed the extra few minutes that I could continue but I chose not to keep him any longer as he still had more interviews straight away, and a radio show to go present on TXFM before hitting the airport, so I decided to stick with my allotted time.  He was great to deal with, I chatted briefly with him in between shots about his visits to Ireland and such.  As we were saying our goodbyes I quickly remembered that I meant to ask for a quick photo with him.   I asked this of him & frustratingly said "Can I get a selfie?"  Nooooo!!!  Why??  I hate that word.  He graciously obliged and I took a quick snap on my phone and thanked him for his time.

Click here to read the interview with The Thin Air from that day and click any photo above to see the full gallery I posted.

Heroes in Hiding by Aaron Corr

Ahead of their slots at Electric Picnic this year I was sent to catch Heroes in Hiding in rehearsal for GoldenPlec.  The interview and feature can be seen by clicking the above image.  

As they set up for practice I noticed a little, warehouse like landing out in the backroom and thought it would be a good spot to take a few portraits since inside the rehearsal/recording studio was a little cramped.  

To see the full set of images click here.