Shooting Warsons – Metal Delight

I recently had the chance to shoot a concert by one of Hamburg’s underground metal bands, called Warsons. I got the opportunity because the bass player is also a colleague of mine. (You should listen to them on Spotify here)

I used to play in bands for around 15 years, I was socialized on metal by my brother, who, in the 1970s listened to Scorpions a lot – and I liked it. „You see ze microphones in the air, you see zem? We’re doing a live recording tonight!“ – Klaus Meine still rings in my ears, complete with his German accent.

Later on I listened to AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Pantera, Megadeath, Slayer – you get the picture, go to Spotify and get a whiff of that. My bands ranged from metal to surf-metal to funk-metal (sort of), but as I’m a workaholic who can’t get up from the sofa once work is over, I no longer felt I had the time or energy for bands. That’s a real shame, making music was my first creative love.

Now the drug of my choice is photography and so everything came sort of full-circle, when Björn said that it was ok for me to shoot the concert at the Headcrash club. I prepared by watching tons of videos on how to shoot concerts, what lenses to bring, how to set up the camera, how to behave(!) and so on. I’m very thorough. I actually bought a lens for the occasion, so that I had three prime lenses that open up to f1.8: 35mm, 50mm, 90mm (all equiv., I shoot on a 2x crop). I knew that I’d have to crank up the ISO, which is the only problem that my OMD-EM1 II has. Micro-four thirds cameras let in less light in total and have a very pixel-cramped sensor, so that ISO 1600 is my regular max and I go up to 3200 if I absolutely have to, but that’s about it. Any higher than that and I feel that my images fall apart in terms of grain. The only saving grace is that the grain is almost film-like and does not look too digital.

Anyway, when I arrived at the location I quickly found out that my lenses were really suited, especially the new 35mm one. The club isn’t huge, so 35mm really helped me capture full-body portraits from just in front of the space with enough space to think about composition. But once the concert started, the lights actually went down! So my plan of using 1/100th at ISO 1600 went bust and I had to settle with 1/20th to 1/80th at ISO 6400(!!). Thankfully autofocus tracking still worked under these conditions, but I was deeply worried about image quality once I imported them into Lightroom.

But while shooting I did not have the time to think about all of that too much. I had learned that running around without a plan would lead to disaster, so I had the plan to stick to one lens per song and divide the stage into four positions (left, right, centre, centre-back) that way I had something like one minute per position to find the shot and shoot. Then I would step up to the next lens, repeat until I had gone from 35mm up to 90mm and back down. After that, the set was over.

By the way: the concert was nothing short of amazing. The band rocked hard and loud and there was a generous amount of headbanging and grunting and growling.

In the end, I had 20 good shots and I’m going to show a selection all in Black and White, which has actually more to do with colour-grain that with anything else, but I think that the images have a very classic, 80s feel to them, which is just what Warsons is all about.