This past Thursday I had the pleasure of going to the Backstreet concert that was at the Woodlands Pavilion. As always, I had a blast but this show was a little more special than the ones previous. First off, I was lucky enough to get a pit ticket – which is the area closest to the stage. I’ve always wanted that (for any show that’s at the Pavilion) and I jumped at the chance to be in it for this show. (It wasn’t the cheapest ticket – $150 – but I’ve seen those go for $500+ on resale sites…so worth it!)
Anyway…Avril Lavigne opened for the Boys and was pretty good. I followed her back in the early 2000s when she first started but haven’t kept up with her.She was a great show and wonderful to photograph – mainly because the sun was still up and the lighting wasn’t so wonky…
Next was the main event…THE BOYS!!! Being in the pit area for the show has its advantages. Not only are you the closest to the stage…but you also get to interact more with the guys. I felt like a flippin’ teenager when I got to grab their hands – MULTIPLE TIMES!!! – and reach out and grab them. I was so close I could hear Nick and Brian’s sneakers squeak when they moved and I probably had sweat dripped on me at one point or another.
As a result of being in the pit area (or one of the ‘pit people’, as they called us), I had a lot of rear views for the night and my photos suffered. I opted a lot for my iPhone to take video and photos when they were technically behind me (and on the curved catwalk around the pit). However, I must say it was definitely worth the money, the aching feet and legs and the constant moving around to follow the boys. I’ve dreamed of that night since I was about 11 and it did not disappoint.
To be honest, I don’t think the younger version of me who sat in the nosebleeds way back during the Millennium and Black and Blue tours would have appreciated it as much as the current me. I certainly wouldn’t have remembered it or cherished the moment as much as I do now. There’s a perk to doing things when you’re older and wiser
After the show, the boys had an after party where they ‘partied’ with the fans and took photos and autographed things for the fans (while they could). I splurged and got the ‘diamond’ VIP after party package which included a photo with 4 of the guys (Brian doesn’t do these things, for whatever reason). I wanted to do the soundcheck party before the show but I work and I didn’t want to take off time (which ended up only potentially being 60-90 minutes *smacks forehead*) so the after party was the consolation prize.
I had photos from last year’s show printed out (at the last minute) since I heard so many people on the fan club forum saying how the boys will sign things if you bring stuff. Since I was VIP for the after party, I was allowed to be at the front of the pack and the stage when the boys finished the photos and started partying. Thanks to that, I accomplished part of what I had set out to do for the night. I got Howie’s autograph with little struggle early in the night. I would have gotten AJ’s if I had been more tenacious and went back in the crowd when he ‘mingled’ with fans. However I was so hell-bent on getting Kevin’s autograph (and non-existent selfie) that I stayed where I was until it happened. AND IT DID….or at least the autograph part.
There was a struggle with the silver Sharpie I brought – pretty sure it was half dried out – and he struggled with it for a minute, scribbled on the back to make sure it worked and then signed. I felt so freaking embarrassed. I kept yelling ‘Thank you!!!!!!!’ at him and he, from what I remember, gave me a pity smile like ‘This poor girl…’. But again, it was totally worth it. I even thanked him for the autograph and big hug I gave him before the photo via twitter and he replied. Kinda…but still. He tweeted me and that made the whole experience even better. 😀
I posted some photos from the show on my flickr account. I’m moving to that platform for posting photos because of the ease of upload and, let’s face it, flickr is more common and easy to use than what I have now. I guess you can say the photos there are easier to share and more readily available to view than they would be in a coppermine gallery. I’m keeping my gallery up for the ‘archive’ of past conventions and concerts – but I’m moving to flickr from now on.
I’ve learned a lot about photos and photography over the past several years thanks to going to cons. When I bought my ticket to my first con – a gold ticket to Chicago 2011 – I was so excited about taking photos and getting to share my experience with fellow fans. But it turns out, they were crappy photos. I went to the con with my first DSLR – a Canon Rebel Xsi – and my zoom lens and that’s all I thought I needed. I didn’t bother really learning or researching how to get a good photo. If I remember correctly, I went full auto and just shot photos. That wasn’t the way to go. They turned out gross and orange-hued and I couldn’t do much with them since I only shot in jpeg and didn’t know what RAW was.
I was so disappointed that I did research, learned the various settings on my camera and experimented. I asked people (family and friends) who knew about digital photography, listened to their suggestions, and practiced.
Fast forward to DallasCon and ChiCon 2012. I’m shooting in RAW and using Manual mode, playing with the exposure and aperture. I was also closer (seat B25 & C6 compared to F6) and didn’t need to zoom in as much. The photos came out alright and I was able to adjust the settings in Photoshop after dumping them onto my computer. But with Photoshop (or at least what I knew then…), you could only edit one photo at a time. I had over 1,500 photos to edit. It was tedious.
I still wasn’t entirely pleased with my photos or how I edited them. I posted them as individual photo posts as well as a ‘master post’ with links to my gallery. I got some positive comments on the photos so I knew I was going in the right direction. Still needed practice with shooting as well as editing.
By the time DallasCon and ChiCon 2013 rolled around, my best photography friend enlightened me to the world of Lightroom for editing photos. I couldn’t be more thankful for that since it’s more user-friendly and quicker to use than Photoshop. Bulk editing (copying and pasting settings to a whole set, if the settings work for the whole set…) was a huge time saver. I needed (and still need) to scroll through the sets and spot touch various photos but the overall process cut my time down by hours. I also learned more about my camera and editing and practiced more over the year between cons which, in my opinion, improved my outcome (even if ever so slightly).
Over the next few months, I upgraded my camera. I researched and came to the conclusion that a Canon Rebel T5i was the next step for me. It’s a more quality, up-to-date, and quicker camera than my trusty Xsi. I got a lot of flack from relatives about this and was even asked, ‘Why do you need a new camera? You’re not making money off the one you’re using now. I don’t get it.’ That upset me quite a bit but it shouldn’t matter to anyone why I do anything. I guess my hobbies don’t get taken seriously if I’m not profiting from them. I love taking photos and I wanted a better camera. End of story. I’m quite pleased with it, to be honest.
I recently attended VegasCon and put my new camera to use. I’m more satisfied with the results than before – it’s an ongoing process, baby steps – but I’m still not there yet. I still had to play around with the lighting that Creation uses for their stage during the panels and events. Some panels were more problematic than others, as with any other con I’ve attended or will attend. The J2 lunch panel was my worst and least favorite panel to photo, given the lighting is always horrible and the photos turn out bad no matter how I do. it. But thankfully, there are no more ‘breakfast’/’lunch’ panels anymore, just extra panels in the main panel room. Score!
I took the bold step of tweeting out my gallery link to the popular fan sites and received quite a few hits, mentions, retweets, and recognition than I have before. I’m glad about this but I still think my photos need work. Something’s missing and I don’t know what it is. Maybe the post-photo editing in Lightroom wasn’t enough or I the settings I used weren’t up to snuff. Again, it’s a work in progress. You never stop learning.
One of the major things I’m working on now for future cons (next up: DallasCon in September then the planned 4-con marathon of 2015) is trying to minimize the blur factor – aka getting sharper photos – and reduce the amount of the backs of heads that I have in the lower portions of my photos. I don’t really know a good way around that since it’s dependent on where I’m sitting and who’s in front of me.
One thing I refuse to do is use flash. I attempted to use it during the breakfast panel at ChiCon in 2012 but I won’t use it again. I find it distracting and rude to fans and the guests on stage. Additionally, it’s unneeded for those sitting in the first 10 or so rows. I’ve had quite a few otherwise good shots get ruined by the flash of others. Flash tends to overexpose/blow out the photo and leave the subject of the photo look pale, lifeless. To others, this is preferable since it delivers a crisp shot of the actor and you’re able to see everything, right down to the sweat and pores on their face. It seems to be popular among the more well-known fandom con photographers and the fans love it. I don’t so I’ll agree to disagree.
So for people who ask me what camera I have or what settings I use: I have a Canon Rebel T5i and I tend to use Manual mode, floating between 1/20 and 1/80 for the exposure (depending on the lighting situation and how much I zoom), and an f-stop between 4.2 and 5.6. These settings don’t always work. I try to sort things out within the first few minutes of the panels. I shoot in RAW+JPG (takes up a lot of space but worth it) use Lightroom to edit my photos before I post and upload them. Again, the camera is a large part of the deal. But if you don’t take time to learn it and experiment with it and go into the con thinking you’re going to just get good photos, you may be in for a wake up call.
Now I guess I should also mention that I am in no way a professional photographer (if you couldn’t tell from my photos) but I am an enthusiast. I enjoy taking photos, learning, and sharing my shots with the fandom and world. I’ve received questions from time to time about what camera I use and what I do and use to take photos. I’m just providing my $0.02 on the issue.