Shooting soundchecks makes you work creatively with light. It’s rare to find the stage flooded with light. Instead, you have to make the most of those isolated pool of light, and use them to your advantage.

Often that’s from one of the house lights, shining down on the musicians or their equipment. But not always.

Shooting Iron and Wine back in 2006, I framed Sam Beam in front of the hard, bright light of a projector beaming it’s blinding glare from the mixing desk. And on tour with Buffalo Tom a year later in Belgium, The back of the stage presented another dramatic scene.

The band were in Ghent, halfway through a short Euro tour supporting their new album, ‘Three Easy Pieces’. The venue, Voorhuit, was a grand old concert hall a lot bigger than the previous few shows.

Trying to find a different vantage point, I wandered near the back of the stage. The lighting crew were checking the backlighting, and the streaks of light lighting up the dust and stage smoke sprang into view. Drummer Tom Maginnis sat in front of them, illuminated. I clicked off a few frames, and this was the best of them.

Confining this project to soundchecks, to shooting with only a pair of lenses, only with black and white film, no flash, forces me to find different angles and vantage points.

The pic is currently part of my exhibition at LOMOgraphy Soho, in London’s West End, which runs until 12 July. It looked good as a simple scan done at home; the handprint looks incredible. Shooting at 6400 adds incredible atmosphere, the grain gritty and intense. And it’s a perfect example of not underestimating one of the most important items in a photographer’s toolkit – your feet.

* This shot is available as a limited-edition 16×12 print. Drop me a line at for more details.

* See more pictures from Buffalo Tom’s 2007 tour on Flickr.

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Stephen Dowling
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8 years ago

Love this shot!