Before the Thanksgiving break, we introduced you to our ten favorite concert photographers in St. Louis. We got well over fifty nominations, and our judges narrowed the field to these ten folks. Over the coming week-plus, we'll be introducing you to each of the finalists in turn by having them share with you five of their favorite concert photos and answering a few questions about their process and passion. Up first is Corey Woodruff, whose work can be viewed (and purchased) from his web site, www.coreywoodruff.com.
RFT Music: If you had to guess at the ballpark number, how many concerts would you say you've photographed?
Corey Woodruff: 150 to 200. I have only been shooting for four years though.
What makes a great concert photo?
To me, a great concert photo conveys a sense of what it was like to be in that room, at that moment, with that artist. That's my ultimate goal--to do more than merely document the event. It's hard as hell to do, but it's always in the back of my mind when I am shooting a show.
What's the best thing about live music?
It's live! Anything can happen, and a great deal of what happens depends on the energy exchanged between audience and artist. I've been a performing musician since I was 10, so I know how An exuberant crowd and a silent crowd can evoke radically different emotions from a performer, changing the entire atmosphere of the show. I love that give-and-take.
What's the strangest thing that has happened to you while photographing live music?
Oh man there are too many to count. I have been flashed by girls in the crowd, kicked in the head by crowd surfers, had beer dumped on me and my gear, seen people pass out, seen people get knocked out. One of my faves was when I shot the Monads at the 2009 RFT Music Showcase and they unleashed a truckload of toilet paper on the crowd. It was a fabulous mess. What makes a professional photographer as opposed to an amateur?
Three things come to mind: consistently delivering high quality work, knowing your gear so that you can react quickly to the unexpected, and conducting yourself as professionally as possible. That means shooting without flash, being mindful of other photographers and their sightlines, and staying out of the way of the fans -- they paid to be there!
Pick one of the photos you've submitted and tell us a little about it: Where was it shot, who is featured and (most importantly) how did you capture it? We'd love to hear logistical description or technical breakdowns or whatever else you want to tell us.
The 30 Seconds to Mars show was the first big concert I shot and my first at The Pageant, so I was driven to bring home some great images. But when the stage crew told us we couldn't shoot the band from the photo pit at the apron of the stage, I had to improvise. It turned out that the band had planned a dramatic curtain drop to open the show and it would be falling right into the pit. I talked my way past an usher into the balcony and camped out, awaiting the drop. I guessed at the proper camera settings given the previous band's lighting rig, triple checked everything, and framed up my shot. As soon as the stage lights fired a blinding white salvo at the crowd, they responded with a roar and raised their fists as the curtain plummeted from the rafters. My heart was pounding as I held the shutter button down, machine-gunning frames the whole time. I was handsomely rewarded with several great photos of that show but this one remains one of my faves.