What a Year – akgphotos.com

I love a list, as you may know already, so I’m going to pick my top five photos from the past year and tell you a little bit more about about them. The thoughts behind the setup and composition (the boring stuff) and the reason I hold them in such high regard.

The closing of February will mark the end of my first year shooting bands in live and sometimes behind the scenes settings. In what has been an epic journey for myself, which includes the bands I’ve seen, the people I’ve met and the things I’ve learned along the way – looking back on it only fuels me to make the most of the next 365 days!

From the challenges of shooting in the Garage Attic – where there are two lights sitting on the floor, pointing up to the sky in a kind of saltire shape making it extremely tricky to get that belter of a shot – to recently shooting Bowling For Soup and The Dollyrots in the massive O2 Academy with their production-grade light rigs. It has been a mind-blowing experience and I’m so happy that I’ve been able to share it with you along the way.

I also want to take some time say a massive thanks to anyone who has helped me on this awesome journey. Firstly, Nicola (my wife) for being patient and understanding with me and for sometimes being the subject of my experimental camera shenanigans. Gareth for helping bring the music and photo stuff together through allowing me into the Musicscramble family and pushing me to learn more about the tools of rat photography trade. Quite possibly most of all, to the bands who’ve either invited me along or allowed me to attend their gigs in order to ply the trade and leant lot of new tricks along the way.

Andy | Divides | Stereo

andy, who's a good-looking' photographer?

1/40 – f/2.8 – ISO1600

The photo that became a weekly meme for a while, with the original post reading “Andy says, don’t be a dick”. This photo remains one of my favourites, not only because it sums up one of the nicest and genuinely funny guys in the local music scene, in spite of the fact that he now supports Hibs but it was the perfect example of being caught on the hop in a live situation. While taking photos of Dave the drummer at 1/40 to get that blur of the sticks but keeping the face in sharp focus, Andy jumped in the way and struck this pose. So, considering the low shutter speed, this one turned out better than I expected.

Vikki | The Courtesans | Stereo


1/50 – /2.8 – ISO2500

I managed to get that sharp focus on Vikki’s face but managing to get the affect I was looking for on the crossing of the blurred, separated drumsticks with the low shutter speed. The one thing I would LOVE to remove from this photos is the big stupid floor fan, but hey what can you do when you’re in a venue that can get pretty sweaty very fast.

This was the second time I’d shot The Courtesans, a group from London who put as much of an effort into their stage presence as they do with their politically topical and hard-hitting glam rock.

Meegs | Coal Chamber | O2 ABC


1/80 – f/2.8 – ISO800

Miguel ‘Meegs’ Rascon is a firecracker of a guitarist. Constantly on the move and pulling faces across every inch of the O2 ABC stage, he was the perfect subject when it comes to Concert Photography, however, given the fact I was still a novice and working out how my camera worked with a new lens attached to it – a second hand Nikon 17-55 f/2.8 – I was in a state of panic as I fumbled through the first three songs before being turfed back out in the crowd to enjoy the rest of the gig.

The resulting gallery will prove that I had a bit of a mixed bag but this one image really struck a chord with me. It’s not perfect in any way, the focus is out, the lighting is harsh (but I do like it) and the composition is a little too tight and low. But, for me it captures the spontaneity of Miguel’s own performance. A photo that will always serve me as a reminder that imperfection can still be great.

Janine and Hamish | Vukovi |The Art School

hamish and janine

1/125 – f/2.8 – ISO6400

An impromptu snap session with my new D7200 at Glasgow’s Art School led to some interesting images. This one was a good deal over-exposed by normal standards but for me it just turned out great. I loved the static emotion of Janine in the foreground at the same time as Hamish’s intense action in the background giving contrast and balance to the image. There haven’t been too many occasions where I’ve been this happy with the use of backlighting and I have to give some credit to the lighting guy on the desk that night.

Looking back I wonder what those photos would’ve turned out like with an ISO of 3200 or even 1600, which I reckon could’ve been afforded given the power of the stage lighting. 1/125 is my go-to shutter speed when I start shooting at a gig. Usually I’ll take a few test shots then adjust from there but I had been out earlier that night with friends and had my fair share of beer so I didn’t stick to the usual routine. In spite of all that, this is an image I’ll never tire of seeing.

Andrew  | Arcane Roots | Stereo


1/125 – f/2.8 – ISO6400

One of the most gifted and technical artists I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet, Andrew Groves is the epitome of musical passion. He loves to talk about anything and everything relating to music. He lives it, breathes it and is consumed by it on a daily basis and this is no more evident than when he is up onstage performing it in front of a group of people who are just as passionate about seeing this trio doing their thing. From the undulating, finger-tapping riffs to the maniacal swaying that accompanies some of the heavier parts of his arsenal, in my eyes, there is just nobody else on the planet that comes near this guy.

I’ve been lucky enough to see Arcane Roots twice, after quickly falling in love with them at the tail end of 2014, and on both occasions I’ve left the venue buzzing with excitement for the next time. The photo above captures a serene and strained moment amidst the chaos and energy of a room that was filled to burst.

A combination of everything I’ve written about the situation that led to this photo and how it turned out are the reasons why this photo is my favourite so far. The sharpness of the subject and the lighting against the background, giving extra definition and contrast, just make it pop and that’s why this is my favourite image of my first year as a Gig Photographer. Here’s to the next one!!

All images © Alan K. Gray

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