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The Listening Room: Yama Warashi

St George’s Bristol have a new gig series called The Listening Room on Saturday lunchtimes, and I thought writing about the most recent one would make a good follow up to my previous post. The Listening Room features mostly Bristol-based musicians, and it’s a lovely mix of performance and interview, meaning that you get to watch the artists play while also learning more about their creative process.

The most recent Listening Room event featured Yama Warashi. I’d seen them once before and had really loved watching them perform; their music has such a joy to it, and I loved the energy they had on stage. So this time around I was sure I would have an opportunity to take some great photos.

The gigs are in St George’s Glass Studio; smaller than their main hall, in a room with (as you might expect from the name) big floor-to-ceiling windows on either side. Given that they’re lunchtime gigs, and that it was a bright day, I was expecting a lovely, well-lit room with light streaming in. I was all ready and excited to get some arty silhouettes!

When I arrived, I actually got something very different. To my surprise, the blinds were drawn behind the band, other than one space on the left hand side which was occupied by an open door. The only light in the room was coming from that door, and the windows at the far side of the room – quite a way away from the performance space. There was no stage lighting either. I was pretty surprised, if I’m honest with you, and even felt a little disappointed for the band.

But here’s the really exciting thing, from my perspective: despite how the space looked, I managed to get some really great photos. Remember in my previous post, I talked about how I’ve grown as a gig photographer by learning to assess and work with my environment? Well, this is one occasion where that growth really, really showed.

While looking around at the start of the gig to suss out the best angles to use, I noticed the way the natural light from outside was peeping in around one of the blinds. I moved over to a spot where I thought I would be able to use the light as a backdrop – and ended up almost lying on the floor at one point to get the exact angle I wanted! – and adjusted my aperture to give me a very shallow depth of field. By doing this I was able to blur the light behind the performer and get some shots which actually made the performance space look really dynamic!

Not bad to say that I only had some blinds and a wall to work with!

I’ve done a fair bit of editing to some of these photos as well. The white balance on the originals was horrendous, and when I started correcting it I initially gave the natural light a quite blue tinge. In the end I really liked how the blue looked, so I decided to keep it! Similarly, I’ve added a vignette effect to pretty much all of the photos since there wasn’t too much to work with in terms of scenery, and I felt like it made them look less flat. Not something I usually tend to do, but I think it worked really well for these.

All in all, I’m really pleased with how these photos turned out and how I worked with the space, and I’m excited to take photos of the rest of the Listening Room series!


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