Break On Through

I was too young to have seen The Doors. But more than seeing John Densmore perform in Topanga, this was as close as I’ve gotten…and it was from my friend’s band!

 "Jim Morrison" Breaks On Through

My friend Brian formed Doors tribute band Break On Through in Los Angeles with singer Ray Porschien (Jim Morrison – Vocals), The Fish (Robby Krieger – Guitar), and Derek Smith (John Densmore – Drums), with Brian playing the part of Ray Manzarek.  The first time I heard them, I was mesmerized.  Ray sounded eerily like Morrison. I don’t often go in for tribute bands, but this was really something.  The crowd responded.  They knew they were seeing something special, not just people playing cover songs.

I’ve been recording them at Blueberry Buddha Recording Studios (I’m also a recording engineer…there must be some psychological reason for me always wanting to document things!) and photographing them when they play…if I’m not utterly entranced by them.

For concerts, I’ve been using a Nikon 50mm f/1.4 prime lens.  Good and fast and sharp.  But even with this lens, photographing someone who is constantly swaying, moving, leaping in very dark light is extremely challenging.  Now that I’ve since purchased a Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 wide angle, I’ll try that as well.

So how did I get this shot?  I was on stage.  If I can, I like to get as close as possible. Being on stage is really close.  Like those black and white photos by Charles Peterson, who shot Seattle SubPop artists such as Nirvana in the late ’80s and early ’90s, getting up close so you’re sprayed with sweat and banging into microphones is the best way to get visceral images of rock performers.

Now I need to convince other rock stars that I need to get good and close to take their photos!

Page Lee White G3 Guitar Gods

Photographer Ken Lee with Ronnie James Dio

….I meant on stage.  😀

Equipment:  Nikon D90, Nikon 50mm f/1.4D AF Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

Featured Photo: My Eyes Have Seen You, Let Them Photograph Your Soul

"Jim Morrison" with Break On Through, 17 December 2011

“Jim Morrison” with Break On Through, an amazing Doors tribute band, 17 December 2011. Nikon D90 with a 50mm Nikkor f1.8 lens, 1/100, f/2, 1250 ISO.

Break On Through to the Faster Side
There’s nothing like a nice fast lens.  I like shooting concert photos with natural light most of the time, and a fast lens always helps.  I’m using the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4, which at $300, is a pretty good bargain.  There’s another 50mm lens, the f/1.8, for scarcely more than $100, which is a steal.  Dark light?  With a big aperture, I can still shoot at 1/100 and “freeze” the action without getting too much noise (grain).

I like to wander.  I took the above photo of “Jim Morrison”, singer of the Doors tribute band Break On Through”, while standing next to the drummer on stage.  I really like the look of someone who is backlit.

The Legendary Pharoah Sanders

Who is the Pharoah Of Them All? The legendary Pharoah Sanders at the Catalina, this one taken with the same Nikon D90, but with a much slower lens, an 18-200mm VR, shot with a rather “low tech” method of minimizing camera shake! 😀

Take It As It Comes
Sometimes, you don’t always have what you need.  Here at this gig with the legendary Pharoah Sanders at the Catalina, I didn’t own the faster lens, and had considerably slower 18-200mm VR Nikkor zoom lens.  I got away with less movement by using the VR (Vibration Reduction) technology AND by squeezing the camera tight against one of the posts to minimize camera shake while shooting.  I still picked up a bunch of noise from having to bump my ISO quite high, so I had to spend a little time in Photoshop cleaning that up.  But my philosophy is that I’d rather get the shot with a little noise than not get the shot at all.  And this photo has been one of my most popular concert photos, and something I personally treasure.

Equipment:  Nikon D90,  50mm f1/4 (first photo); 18-200mm VR Nikkor lens (2nd photo)