My last time catching John Grant in Ireland was somewhat of a disaster to say the least, both in terms of light as well as logistics. The previous time it had been dark, akin to a candlelit room making life very difficult for anyone who was there covering it for their respective publication. I also had a run in with my photo editor over this show because we had additional songs which were optional where he would feature guests. I opted out of that as I had a prior engagement. His argument was that our publication was the only one that didn't have the guests featured, mine was that I was there to cover John Grant, and that's exactly who I covered. In short, it was a balls-up on so many levels. So it was a wrong to be made right.
This gig wasn't supposed to happen either. I was earmarked for another show but dropped the ball and left it too late to apply for the pass. As luck would have it, the paper had contacted me later in the day and asked me if I was available for this particular show. Cross my palm with silver and all that, but it is proof that everything does indeed happen for a reason. The request was put in and confirmed in little to no time, and off to the races I went for my second attempt at photographing Mr. John Grant. The venue is Vicar Street once again, but this time it's standing and we're allowed up the front. The bad luck streak has ended.
Support on the night was provided by Holly Macve, a 20 year old singer-songwriter from Yorkshire. She wasn't accompanied by anyone else, so for songs 1 and 3, it was just herself and an acoustic guitar, moving over to keys for the second song. Lighting was fairly basic, mostly blue with white front light for the three songs, so it presented no significant problems. ISO2000 for tonight, with shutter speeds varying from 1/125sec to 1/160sec and apertures varying from f/2.8 to f/4 (are we beginning to see a pattern here yet?). Lenses of choice are the 14-24mm f/2.8 and the 24-70mm f/2.8
John Grant is up next, and blue is the colour! For all of the songs. Thankfully there is some white front light for the most part, however there are periods where the front lighting is also blue. The Smurfs make their triumphant return, thankfully it's for a limited time only. For the first song, John finds himself in front of a set of keys. This provides a lot of fun for everyone in the narrow pit in the venue trying to jostle for position. I went for about 2-3 photos of him behind the keys, and then moved to the opposite side of the stage to get some of John's band, mainly as I don't see the point in standing in the same spot for three to four minutes unlikely to get anything different.
For the last two songs, John remains at centre stage, remaining calm and collected taking occasional sit downs and water breaks. The stage is set up nicely for photographing with everyone spaced out evenly across the stage, almost everyone in clear view. I don't believe I had to adjust my settings that much for John's songs either. At ISO 2000 still, and shutter speeds of 1/100sec - 1/160 sec with the aperture of f/2.8 throughout all three songs. By comparison to the show at The Olympia last year, Vicar Street was lit up like a Christmas tree, although I did hear reports that the light set up was drastically different for his second show the following night. Further evidence that sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.
The wide lens really helped for this particular gig. It's one of the few times where it ends up being my primary source, with the close ups being secondary. That's just an old habit of mine, as I always had long lenses before I had the wide ones, so when the time came when I started carrying two bodies, out of force of habit, I tend to go for the longer lens first. But the 14-24mm, despite being manufactured in 2008 and not receiving an update yet is still ridiculously sharp. It's started to get a little more love in the pit as the last few months have passed by.
The end result was another successful shoot. One of the shots ended up in the Sunday Times Culture magazine just this past Sunday. A classic case of all's well that ends well.