Earlier, we introduced you to our 12 favorite music photographers in North Texas. We got more than 50 nominations, and our team of expert judges narrowed it down to these 12. Over the next two weeks, we'll be introducing you to each of the finalists in turn by having them share five of their favorite concert photos and answering a few questions about their process and passion. Next up is Bill Ellison, whose work can be viewed from his website, http://www.flickr.com/photos/billellisonphotographer/
Bill, what's the best thing about live music?
I think it depends on what you want out of a show. Maybe you want to hear your favorite song by that particular band. Maybe you like to hear them do an unexpected cover, or hear them jam a long version of a good song. Maybe you've had a bad week, and you want somebody to rock your blues away. It's just fun to be in the room when magic sometimes happens, and the band and crowd find a special place together.
What makes a great concert photo?
Well, to me a great concert pic can be any # of things. It could be a good close-up of somebody, so you can see the emotion on their face, allowing people that had to sit in the back of the room to see what they couldn't during the show. Or, if there's a great light show, a photo can capture all of the effects of that. Or maybe the band is whipping the crowd in to a frenzy, so a a good shot of the fan's reaction is important.
What's the strangest thing that has happened to you while photographing live music?
A few years ago, Dale Watson made me come onstage during his set to take a photo of all the drinks that the bass player HADN'T consumed. The fans kept buying the band shots, and he (bass player) didn't want to get drunk, so he just set them on the floor behind his amp, full of liquor. He must've had 15 shots back there! Dale and the rest of the band DID drink theirs.
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What makes a professional photographer as opposed to an amateur?
Well, some would say if you get paid, you're a pro. But I think it involves skill, gear, positioning, attitude, and knowledge about all of that and how to apply it to your work. a pro, whether they're making a bunch of $ or not, knows how to move around the room to find the shots. You don't want a mic covering up a face, you try to find the nicest angle of the lighting, you try to make sure you get the whole band in a group shot, etc. Of course, sometimes you SEE the perfect shot, but you're not in the right place to capture it. And if you try to get to it, it's usually to late. But if you're smart, alert, and patient, usually something good will find it's way to your lens.
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.
I love the photo of Monte Montgomery and Andy Timmons. It was Monte's most recent Granada show, and he had Andy come in to play a couple of tunes. Both are great players, and are good friends, though their styles wouldn't seem to go together in a jam. But once they started, you could tell they were having a blast. I felt like I could capture a great moment, as they were laughing and mugging around w/each other as they played their butts off. I made my way into the pit, and just waited. And it truly was one of those times when the magic happened, like I mentioned earlier. Some of the best guitar playing I've ever heard, and I've been around a while! They weren't competing w/each other at all. They were just enjoying what they were doing. I had to remember to actually SHOOT pics, because I was enjoying it so much.